Thursday, 8 October 2009

Counting Down...

So, there is about 4 weeks left until I finish my placement and leave Cambodia, 6 weeks until I arrive on British soil once more. I CAN'T WAIT!

It's a funny time as I really begin the count down. On the one hand I am really excited... and on the other I'm quite low. I've been busy winding things down, updating my CV, browsing jobs in the UK, buying gifts and souvenirs and generally getting ready to say goodbye, finish up and leave this significant part of my life behind. It's exciting to think of the next adventure waiting for me back at home, new opportunities and the next chapter of life.

But... it is also really emotionally draining; waiting, counting down, mentally and emotionally cutting ties, preparing to leave, downsizing my possessions again. It's also a time of reflecting over the past 2 years, recognizing achievements, seeing all the missed opportunities, passing things over.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Getting on a bit

My birthday swung round AGAIN this month - the third birthday I have suffered in Cambodia! Ha ha! The last two birthdays have really been ones to remember, both mainly involving boats and beer! So this year, as I turned 31, I decided to do something a little more refined and booked myself into a wonderful spa in Siam Reap.

The day started in Phnom Srok where I met Daney and Vuthang for a typically Khmer breakfast of noodles and pork - yummy! I then bundled into a taxi, along with 5 other passengers (not including the driver!) and set off to Siam Reap. I managed to get a dip in the hotel swimming pool before meeting Elise for a poolside lunch and birthday cocktail - I definitely won't be able to recreate that in London! Then I took myself off to Visaya Spa - it was bliss - and probably something I may never get the chance to do again on my birthday. Accustomed to finding a bargain, my birthday was no exception and I managed to find a spa which allowed me to use the Herbal Steam Room, swimming pool and jacuzzi for free as well as my back and shoulder massage! The massage was the best I've had in Cambodia and I had all the facilities pretty much to myself! As I sat sweating in the Steam Room, it did occur to me how ludicrous it was to do such a thing in this tropical climate and I wondered what on earth the spa attendants thought of a barang paying to use a room which filled up with hot steam! - pretty stupid I'm guessing! I mean, you can experience the same effect sat on the side of the road in the heat of the day here! I guess the difference is the feeling of being CLEAN! I did feel like I'd experienced a deep cleanse - what a birthday present!

The day continued along the same vein of special treats; meeting friends poolside, opening gifts and eating a gorgeous dinner in the evening. My post even got delivered to Siam Reap (albeit a day late!) so I could open Percy Pigs to my heart's content wile sat in the beautiful garden of the hotel and some of us managed a midnight skinny dip to finish off the day!

Thanks to everyone for messages, cards and pressies! I cannot tell you how much I'm looking forward to seeing you all again in a few months!

Friday, 28 August 2009

Home Sweet Home

It was an absolute pleasure to return home to Phnom Srok after another long stint out of the district and I had certainly been missed! My landlord was almost jumping for joy when I pulled up on my moto (either he was trying to distract his baby son from crying or he was relieved I was back to pay my electricity bill!). Actually I've made some progress with the baby son, who I've known since birth, as he now waves when he sees me instead of turning his face to find his mother in absolute horror! My puppy (now pregnant with her second litter) ran to me when she heard my moto, as always happy to see me and get a tickle behind the ears!

It was really lovely to moto around the village, waving to people and calling in on a few families I've got to know, and despite the office being closed every afternoon I've been pretty busy! I called in on Daney's family to say hello and have a little chat. Daney has landed herself with a new job working for RACHA, a local NGO, which is excellent news. I'm sad she won't be working as much with the DOE as it could really do with her skills, but I am thrilled for her. She'll be able to transfer her facilitation skills to train village people in creating community banks and the like. It's sounds fantastic! I was glad to reconnect with this family on this particular day as I heard sad news from the family later on the same week.

Later in the week I popped in on Mr Sophan's family. He was away but his wife welcomed me in and there was soon a little group of women and small children sitting around trying to make sense of my Khmer and hear about and see the photos of my recent travels to Kampot and Kep. It was there that I saw a baby with a black smudge of soot on her forehead. I knew this baby had been ill a while ago so I asked whether the child was still ill, expecting the soot on the forehead to be part of some traditional method of medicine. The baby was well but there had been a death nearby so the soot was to protect the baby from bad spirits. I was relieved the baby was well as I had met her along with her anxious parents at the village health centre a month back. I inquired about which neighbour had died and learn that Daney's cousin had returned from Thailand very ill, too late to see a doctor or be taken to hospital so she's died that morning, bleeding from her mouth and 24 years old.

I made my way round to the funeral the next morning to pay my respects and see Daney and her family. Tough times. The family had experienced a double tragedy as the night before another cousin had learnt of the death and set off from Sisaphon to get to Phnom Srok for the funeral, only to suffer an accident on the road and later die in hospital. He was also in his twenties. Half the family therefore travelled to Sisaphon to attend his funeral. Sadly, this type of news is not uncommon here and death is always quite close.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

A Future Not Our Own

It helps, now and then, to step back
and take the long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of
the magnificent enterprise that is God's work.
Nothing we do is complete,
which is another way of saying
that the kingdom always lies beyond us.

No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection...
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about:
We plant seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted,
knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything
and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something,
and to do it very well.
It may be incomlete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for God's grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results...
We are prophets of a future not our own.

Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador