Today is a day of remembering. One year ago I boarded a plane and left the country that I called home for almost 3 years. A place I expected to stay much longer than only 3 years- but curveballs happen. While I have experienced many good things in moving back in Canada that are worth celebrating, it has also been a year of grieving losses and missing all I left behind. This is a post of reflection- move on if you can’t handle a four feeling all the feels. haha. Don’t worry I think I kept it fairly surface without too much drama.
Cambodia, how you changed me. It wasn’t an easy season of my life, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. While there was a lot of difficult and hard times, there were and are many good things that I’m grateful for have come out of that season.
When I moved to Cambodia I had no idea that I would deal with more infections and ongoing sickness there than ever before. That I would struggle so much in language school. That I would face mental health struggles bigger than I could handle on my own. That I would feel the sense of loss so intensely in many ways and it would leave me feeling stripped and vulnerable.
But what I also didn’t know was how much I would grow to love my life there. The connections and community I gained while living there are ones that I will cherish and remember forever. The personal growth and deep heart work that happened within me and the questions I was forced to wrestle with while living in a community where exploitation wasn’t just some idea or theory we spoke of in an abstract way but where I saw it daily, up close. Those things broke me and wrecked me as I begged for answers of what to do. It made me look injustice in the face and without running away or settling for an easy answer, it forced me to ask what can I do and where/how can I best serve in a wholesome way, even if it costs me.
This past year of re-entry has been an extremely difficult year, one I’m not ready to share about publicly yet. I hope to someday, but for today I’m looking back and counting the good memories and the gifts of connection. It’s a day to think back and remember my friends and family across the world, reflecting on the beautiful things that have come from my time there.
I miss the familiar, noisy bustle of my street, the kids calling at the gate, the dogs barking, the mobile street vendors coming by the house announcing their arrival with a crackling loud speaker, the motos, cars and overstuffed vans going by, honking at the narrow corner alerting oncoming traffic, the kids playing in the street, the neighbors’ karaoke parties. (Mind you I don’t actually miss the noisy dog fights in the middle of the night, and the karaoke parties that could make a head ache for silence. But somehow, I miss the familiarity of it.) I miss bajsakcruk for breakfast (pork and rice) and mango season and fresh passion fruit. I miss taking my moto out across the city. I even miss the evening rush hour traffic in some sort of strange way. I miss the red dirt roads and palm trees, fresh coconut water and the too sweet iced coffee.
But most of all, I miss the friendships I found there. Yes, we can do video chats and connect on Facebook but it’s not the same. I miss my girls. My loud and noisy bunch of kids in youth group. Even- especially the ones who took extra patience and energy. (Maybe the why behind my hair loss could be found right here) I miss impromptu cooking parties on Sunday afternoons, and birthday parties with cupcakes and sprinkles and balloons. I miss teaching English to some of the brightest and coolest kids I’ve met. Dang, I miss their hugs, and their questions, and their laughter.
Because of my time spent living in Cambodia, I am enrolled to study psychology/social work at university this fall to work towards a degree. This feels like a daunting but right step for me to take in preparation to work in anti-human trafficking whether locally or abroad.
A friend and I launched herhopeshop.ca after returning home as a result of what we saw and learned there. We have utilized our connections there to bring survivor made goods to Canada. We endeavor to focus on and celebrate hope and courage to combat the darkness and exploitation in our world while also creating awareness of conscious trade.
My passion for justice and calling to serve the vulnerable is only more clear and has been carved into my heart with a deeper conviction to follow through wherever this leads no matter what and no matter how overwhelming and unknown this looks and feels at times. I live the in tension of both excitement and fear when I look at my future.
I could go on and on. But most likely I’d bore you. So I’ll close off with this- Cambodia was a place where I faced some of the hardest darkness and brightest hope. A place where I had the opportunity to meet some incredible people. When I think of my friends and connections there, I think of resilience and strength. Of beauty and redemption. Of restoration and miracles. Thank you, my Cambodian friends and my team for teaching me so much about life and love and beauty. For these things, I am forever grateful.
(But while I miss so much of Cambodia, I confess, I still haven’t missed the abundance of ants, or the stifling heat, or dengue carrying mosquitoes, or durian. I can’t imagine missing any of those any time soon.)
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