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Coming back swinging!

16 Jan

“Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.” 
Theodore Roosevelt

Returning stateside back in September was a very bittersweet moment for me. While it felt amazing being near my family again, I struggled with the fact that I had left China during a bad bout of homesickness, instead of giving it some time. The truth is I have held on to that feeling of regret ever since, causing me to face feelings I had never come up against before. I have never been one to hang on to regret, and I don’t like admitting that I let it get the best of me these past few months.

Instead of savoring my time with loved ones, I looked for ways to distract myself, and they weren’t always healthy. I spent so much time wishing that the clock would fast forward so that I could leave again. It did just that. Time rushed right past me, even though I yelled out for it to stop, because all of a sudden I wasn’t ready. My impatience was replaced by moments of panic, doubt, and the incessant “what if” scenarios that were increasingly becoming more frequent the closer my intended departure date got. I was, am, scared. Honestly, if it wasn’t for my family and friends, my mom especially, encouraging me and assuring me that everything will be alright, I may have let fear paralyze me and hold me prisoner in a world of “what ifs”.

I am tired of that nagging voice of doubt telling me that if it didn’t work out last time, then it won’t work out this time around. Regardless of what happens, I would rather fail than not try at all, simply because I fear things won’t work out the way I planned. But that’s life. We get not guarantees or warranties, we just have to throw ourselves out there and see what happens. The alternative, watching life from the sidelines, while that voice deep down in all of us asks, “what if….”.

True, my travel plans look nothing like they did a couple of months ago, but we have to learn to go with the flow and stop resisting ourselves and the universe. Believe me, I am the queen of resistance, and all it has brought me is unnecessary pain and suffering. But, at least for now, I am done fighting and am excited to see where I end up next. It’s sure to be an exciting surprise!

What or where is “Home”?

17 Oct

It has been almost one month since I left China and returned to the USA. Sometimes it feels like I was in Asia yesterday, and other times I wonder if I was ever really there. It almost seems like I never left Virginia, except that I have these new memories and ideas that I didn’t have 8 months ago. Time is funny like that. When I was gone I thought of this place as my home, but now being here I realize that it’s not true. Virginia is no longer my home, it is just a place where my family lives and where I have collected memories. I don’t think this idea of “home” really exists. It’s just a word to call a place where you live. If anything, I feel more like a stranger here than I have in the past 6 months or so.

The first couple of weeks were really strange. I had no idea what reverse culture shock really felt like until then. Some days it felt that I was trapped in some never-ending vivid dream. I was witnessing everything, but wasn’t really involved. I was, still am, very much inside my head because that’s what I got used to when I was a minority for half a year and didn’t speak enough of whatever local language to really express myself.

I kind of stayed holed up inside my father’s house, because I wasn’t ready for the outside world that was Hampton Roads. At first I thought I was avoiding old friends by staying shut in, but then I realized it wasn’t just that, but many of my friends had moved locations or just moved on. And honestly I feel that I’ve changed a lot and am not interested in many of the things I was once interested in. I knew this would happen and I am not upset in any way. Life is ever-changing and so we must be too.

Now I have all this extra time on my hands, which means I have more time to plan my next trip instead of living in the moment, and it’s kind of driving me crazy. I try to remember back to what I did with my time before I left, and back then I was busy juggling work, school, a boyfriend, family, and friends. I am still looking for more consistent work because two days a week making coffee isn’t really helping out much. I have had chances to start new romantic relationships, but to be honest I am just not interested. I’ve either been in a relationship or breaking up since I was about 16 years old and it’s exhausting and distracting.

I guess it just feels like a sort of limbo because I can’t start anything that requires long-term responsibility since I am just leaving again in about three months. But at the same time, I don’t want to just sit around and wait for February to get here, because then what was the point of coming back to Virginia? I am making an effort. I go for runs, spend most of my time with family, go to lots of interviews, join organized social groups, and work a few days a week. And yet, I still don’t feel like I am really here.

Have you ever felt this way after returning from traveling for an extended period? What do you do to ease back into the transition?

Closure.

8 Jul
Whenever we cling to negative thoughts and experiences, we create our own demons that will follow us to the ends of the earth. I know there will be difficult moments of doubt and loneliness, but I am choosing to see something beautiful in each day. Be it a smiling face, a moment of perfect stillness, or even a torrential downpour that leaves the city flooded. Every moment we breathe is beautiful and sacred.

I am happy that I had left Cambodia back in June. It opened my eyes in a way that would have been hard to do if I had stayed. Getting out for even a week gave me the different and fresh perspective that I needed. I am grateful for the strangers in Thailand who went out of their way to help me, the friends who lifted my spirits by showing me a good time, and those who helped me by making me face some hard truths about myself. I am forever thankful to you and I will never be able to express that fully.

      With that being said, I am also glad that I came back to Cambodia. I did not want to, as many of you know, because I was scared. Being back, however, has shown me that there is nothing to fear. I have been given a chance to fall in love with Cambodia all over again, and can now leave without regrets and with a light heart. Although I am ironically sad to leave, I am excited for my new opportunity in Phuket. It is always a little bittersweet to say goodbye anywhere, but that is how it will always be. I fall in love with each place I visit and always leave a little piece of me behind, but I also take a wealth of new experiences and ideas with me, so it is a fair price. I am sure that I will visit again, but now it is time to move forward. I am so lucky to have had this opportunity of closure and will always think of Cambodia fondly. Thank you for everything. ❤

        “If you are brave enough to leave behind everything familiar and comforting(which can be anything from your house to your bitter old resentments)and set out on a truth-seeking journey(either externally or internally),and if you are truly willing to regard everything that happens to you on that journey as a clue, and if you accept everyone you meet along the way as a teacher, and if you are prepared – most of all -to face (and forgive) some very difficult realities about yourself….then truth will not be withheld from you.”

Aside

Personal findings and opinions about women’s rights in Cambodia.

27 Jun

(This is just my opinion of situations I have witnessed and been told about. This isn’t backed with any professional research, and doesn’t apply to everyone in the country.)

I have never considered myself a “feminist” but I do believe in equal rights for both genders. We are lucky in the states that we do get fair treatment (I understand this doesn’t apply to all), because I have seen the other side of the coin, if only briefly. I know this may be a rule of thumb for all SE Asian countries, but I only have experience with Cambodia. Women here are not treated as equals. The men are free to go out and visit brothels, but god forbid a woman shows a little skin or just wants to go out dancing.  I understand that cultural differences aren’t a bad thing, but sometimes it is just so frustrating.

Sure, there are lots of issues out here, but what stands out to me the most is the violence against women and the lack of education about women’s rights and mental health. I have heard stories about men taking what they want from women, even if the women do not give consent. If you are married, it isn’t considered rape. The whole “face” part of their culture makes it hard to know exactly what is happening behind closed doors. I have however gotten close enough to a few women to find that self-mutilation must be quite common here. When I ask why they hurt themselves, they tell me that they are sad, think too much, and cannot make it stop. Mental health services, such as counseling, seem to be abysmal in Cambodia, because talking to a professional would be admitting that there is a problem.

Since I have been here my idea of right and wrong has become blurred and has changed. When I first arrived, the large number of working girls really bothered me, but I have accepted the fact that some (not all) made that life decision, and I respect their right to do so. It is the abuse and emotional pain that really gets to me. Violence against women should be fought against everywhere. Education, including learning about women’s rights and mental health, should be offered to everyone. But this is the problem. All of the “shoulds” in the world won’t make a difference.

How can I help???

Sorry for all of the grammatical errors and just all over the place content.

Stepping back and looking in.

18 Jun

I came to Phuket, Thailand with the intention that it was only for an interview. Yes, I did have an interview, but I don’t think that was the point. I’ve been here for four days and already I have felt something in me shift, and I wish I could identify this change or put a name to it, but it eludes me. I have had to face some hard internal truths on this trip and it has been painful but I know that it is good, because I am learning and growing.

I am not one to ever say that things happen for a reason, because I have just never thought in that way before, but now I am not so sure and it is an uncomfortable idea to deal with.  Leaving Cambodia has put something in motion and I am beginning to see a chain of events that may never have happened if I had stayed. I don’t know if I will go back. I wish that I did know, but now I don’t believe it is in my best interest because my well-being was being sacrificed.

A part of me wonders that if by leaving, I have failed. But at this point in my life, because of a pinnacle moment, I don’t know if it does more good or harm for me to try to “stick it out”. I have a lot of things to figure out and learn about myself and it is going to take a long time, maybe I’ll never be finished but I need to start before I get complacent again and ignore those nagging feelings.

I am looking at some volunteering prospects, so I will update you all soon with where I have decided to go next.

Until next time.

So much love.

23 Jan

I’ve always seen myself as a quiet, keep to herself kind of gal , who doesn’t mingle much outside of her family.  It’s on days like these that I realize that is no longer true, because somehow over the past few years I’ve come in to contact with some great people who I now have the pleasure to call my friends.

I’ve really been thinking about this over the past few weeks because when I set up a fundraiser for my trip, I honestly didn’t hope to expect much financial support, because I realize that my friends have to take care of their own financial concerns, families, etc. Which is why I’ve been overwhelmingly surprised at the amount of kindness they have all showed me.

I know now that I’ve come a long way from the person I was, and am so lucky to have such good, caring, and wonderful people in my life. I am forever grateful.

Enjoying the now.

14 Jan

I, like many others, have a hard time living in the “now” and just enjoying the present moment. Instead, I tend to focus on what happens next. So, naturally I am already skipping ahead a couple of months, and thinking about my trip to Cambodia, but what really stopped me in my tracks was when I started thinking about the trips I should take, once I’m there. Now, I don’t even live there yet and here I am researching other places I should travel to. I know it’s good to plan and have dreams, but I think maybe there is a line to draw at some point, otherwise we’ll find ourselves stuck in the dreams and plans in our heads, instead of enjoying the real moments surrounding us.

Just a bit of Monday morning ramblings to think about.