Today marks one month since I've been home from Cambodia. In this month, I have been to Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, and St. Louis. Most of me is happy to be home and reconnect with these places and friends, but another part of me is holding back and doesn't want to fully embrace being here because it means letting go of Cambodia.
I just don't want to forget everything I learned about myself and about Cambodia and Thailand and about my students and teachers, and, especially, about my host family. Despite my fight to hang on, my body seems to be letting go by adapting to normal life . . . and food again, slowly but surely. For example, my digestive system wanted nothing to do with American food for a good week but now it's back on track craving all the sugary goodies of the season. As uncomfortable as I was that week, I was also happy to hold on to that little part of Cambodia. The part where I rejected anything that wasn't fish and rice everyday. The part where I shared a bowl of mango salad and red peppers with my co-workers. The part where I bought a whole pineapple for $0.50 and shared it with the housekeeper on long, hot afternoons. The part where Lyly and I would eat huge bowls of noodles and soup every morning after exercise. The food was so delicious and natural and pure and didn't make my body hurt (except the abundance of rice may have made me feel really bloated all the time) but I'm having to let that go now because nobody is selling fresh fruit on the side of the street, Om isn't drying whole fishes in the sunlight that is seeping through the holes in the ceiling, and nobody knows just how to cook noodles in this town. I miss the food, not just because it was rich and tasty but because of who I shared it with.
I really miss those people. I hate "missing" things, though. I'm getting tired of it. It's painful and exhausting. I think the best way to stop "missing" someone or something is to make it a part of your life. So, who do I miss? My driver, Mara; My host sister, Mony; My neighbor, Lyly; Om, the housekeeper; Srey Eang, my student. There are too many details to try and sum up and frankly I don't think I can do it via writing, but the one thing all of these people have in common is devotion. Not to me, although they were devoted to me, but the idea of me. They are devoted to anyone or anything that is kind, respectful, good, fun, etc. These were my true friends. I can count on them to remember me and hope to see me again for the rest of my life. From Mara, I will learn to be accountable and counted on. He always took on not only his own tasks but anyone else's who wasn't meeting the challenge. Oh and also to be ready to love a total stranger and hope that they marry you and live with you on their farm one day. From Mony, I will learn that family is most important. Even when your family members are not your best friends, they are your mother or sister and they are yours to love and care for forever. And also how to open a coconut with a meat cleaver. From Lyly, I will learn to never hesitate for a single moment to invite a friend to family dinner or a party, never hesitate to make someone's life a little more comfortable or exciting. Also, I won't freak out if my kid pees in the middle of a store and takes his pants off. No, I won't even react or scold him—that's life. From Om, I will learn that you don't have to speak the same language to get to know someone. You just have to look and observe and listen and treat them all the same and put others before yourself. She also taught me that, in the meantime while you can't speak the same language, you can always talk to yourself for company. From Eang, I will learn to be the best, most excited student. I will learn that even when my parents and friends are gone or suffering, I can trust my teachers to love and teach me. I will ask them questions and rely on them for what I need them for. I will also give the best spa treatment ever, because that's what people deserve! I love these people.
I also miss sharing time with myself. I had a lot of time to myself, especially at night. Ever since I've been back in the country, I haven't had that same time, nor did I know how much I cherished it. I've always been a people person, gravitating towards conversations, groups, and parties, but my time abroad really gave me the chance to learn to love hanging out with myself. And NPR, of course. When there was nothing else to do, no one to hang out with, and I was tired of feeling sad and alone, I started to draw, doodle, write poems, but mostly read and write in my journal. Write stories. Look up words in the dictionary. Write postcards. Write. I learned that when I have the time, I love to write. I don't write anything exceptionally insightful or transcendant at all, but just writing for myself. Writing about my thoughts, recording events, asking questions and answering them, writing to people, writing about people. I haven't written so much since I've been home, and I feel it. Something in my life is lacking and it's the "me time." The hour to read, think, and write. I'm grateful that Cambodia helped uncover some puzzle pieces in my life. If it weren't for my time there, I wouldn't know this about myself—that I need to be alone sometimes, well, a lot of times, and that I need to write and read and think to myself. I wouldn't know that that makes me really happy. Without Cambodia, I wouldn't know that I find happiness in me.
I'm afraid of the distractions of normal life. There are too many and I'm letting them impede my groove. It's not really going to be possible to have hours to myself again, but I need to have at least one hour or so. Everyone should. I really reconnected with myself mentally, physically, and spiritually. For the first time in a long time, I was getting plenty of sleep, showering regularly, taking care of my skin, hair, and nails. Yes, I was glamorous in a third world country. I felt beautiful. I, also, felt spiritually alive. I felt more open to inspiration and able to progress in my faith. Yes, I still wanted to rebel against every typical thing my institute teachers were saying, but it kept me reading scriptures and pondering in my own way. I just came to understand that there are people in the world who totally and fully rely on this man, Jesus Christ. They believe Him and His Father are the source of everything they have, and I believed them. Because I saw what they had and it was not much, but their perspective was in one place and I don't think it was misguided. It kept them very happy and grateful and giving.
Ok, so this has been good to write. The more comfortable I get in this life, the more I feel like I'm letting Cambodia down. I wanted to write and give life to these people and experiences in my memory. I think this blog post is a form of closure for me and I love closure, just ask my Xboyfriend, who is patient and understanding. Hmmm, there are so many stories that I want to tell but I don't know where to begin. I suppose experiences like this are meant to be rationed out at the right time and place. Yea, that way you'll never forget and they'll truly be a part of your life and conversation later on down the road.
Ok. This past month hasn't been so bad at all, after all.