Saturday, June 9, 2012

My last day...

This will be my last post for my Cambodia trip.
I leave tomorrow to meet up with my old college roommate in Thailand to conclude my Asia trip. We will be staying in Bangkok for a few nights then in Phuket and then home!

I am so excited to come home to my family and my wonderful boyfriend. Just typing about them makes me tear up, I miss them terribly and I miss the comfort of home.
Though, I am not excited to come back to western attitudes, just recently I have seen a few American advertisements and it brings me back to the American culture. I feel like people are so self absorbed and I hate that. In Cambodia, it is about serving others, and demonstrating love and care for those around you. In the states, many people solely serve themselves; they do not know the beauty of helping others. Self absorption lingers in every corner of the states. I feel like so many people are superficial and I am dreading arriving at the LAX airport in California. That is not to say everyone is like that, but I know many people are and it deeply saddens me to see people wasting their lives on themselves.

This trip has been so wonderful. I have developed a love for this country and I will miss the little quirks that I have discovered in this side of the world. My last day at the orphanage was beautifully set up. I was showered with kisses and hugs all day. I even had an older boy miss school so he could be with me on my last day. All of the children were anxious to take pictures with me and they fought to hold my hand when we were walking around. One boy that I have become attached to gave me a huge hug and looked me in the eyes and said, “No don’t go”, I wanted to cry, I loved bringing a piece of happiness to these children’s lives. I will miss them so much and I really wish they could end the life of poverty that is set out for them. I had a translator tell all the children how wonderful they are and how important it is to study and follow their dreams. I told them they need to study very hard so they can come visit me in the states. They loved my “advice” and cheered in agreement after I spoke.
As I was leaving, some children blessed me and my travels, others chased my tuk tuk and ran beside the carriage while holding my hand. At this point I really wanted to cry. It has been such a great time and I will never forget these kids.

Yesterday, I went to visit the Toul sleng Genocide Museam (S-21) and I went to the Killing Fields. During this day trip I learned more about the Khmer Rouge regime and the happenings during Pol Pot’s reign. I was so disturbed by everything I saw at S-21, one building in the prison was left untouched and you can see blood stains on the ground and the tiny 5x4 cells that the prisoners were kept in. The stories were utterly devastating and I could not believe this mass genocide happened in the 70’s. Later we went to the Killing Fields and we were able to hear an audio guide in English speak about each station. Human remains still rise from the ground and the happenings at this place made me sick. I don’t even want to repeat the stories. I just pray that the families of these victims find peace through all of the sadness. It was good to experience these two places and I am glad I actually did. I am usually very frightened of crimes including physical harm and so it was difficult for me to accept these things actually happened. But, in order to become a more informed citizen, one must face the realities of the world.

Looking at things now, I am so blessed to be able to travel parts of the world and learn different cultures. I know that this opportunity is not set up for everyone and it is important to recognize the privilege it is to travel.  During this trip, I have learned traits I possess that I never knew I had. The amount of strength I thought I had… was far less than what I actually hold. When facing the world alone, you have to buck up, get over your sadness and find a reason for yourself. From this trip, I have learned different ways of viewing the world and found ways of incorporating different perspectives into life. I am more set in who I am and I have adapted to trusting my being and my conscious. I also now appreciate my country and the freedom that I have. I love the U.S…I really can’t deny that, the freedoms I am given are tremendous compared to others.
 I love the people in Cambodia. I will really miss the friends I have made here. My Cambodian friends want to come to the U.S so badly, they want to see North America and some even want to move there. I wish to see them again someday.

 I was told this country is truly a special place…and it really is.
It is an absolutely wonderful place and I hope to return someday.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Hidden sadness in Western fun...

This weekend the volunteers decided to take a weekend trip to Sihanoukville, which is a beach off of the Gulf of Thailand. It was a fun trip..but there was so much sadness surrounding us that people were unaware of.

I find myself becoming very irritated of normal cultural happenings.
For the last few days I have had a lot of stress weighing me down.Okay, some of this post will be me venting my frustrations, be prepared. I apologize beforehand.

First of all, we were told the bus ride was 3 hours long. After leaving an hour and a half after scheduled time, we arrived 6 hours later. Bus rides are not fun and you can never trust that it will take only a few hours.On the bus they played the most annoying movie that was all in Khmer. The voices were so high pitched and the acting was terrible. We did not have a choice whether we could have headphones or not to listen to the movie. You were just obligated to hear it no matter what. I had the worst headache ever and the sounds of the voices were stabbing into my head. I tried to use the Bose noise cancelling headphones to block the sounds out, but the pitches even were heard through NOISE CANCELING headphones while I was playing music! Then the lady behind me would randomly yell things out and it was very irritating. On top of this, it was a 6 hour ride that we thought was going to be 3 hours so we never knew how close or far we were from our destination.

Anyway, we finally arrived and set up our camp in bungalows by the beach. The bungalows were only $15 bucks a night for up to 4 people. They were quaint little places, accompanied by large mosquito nets and 1 electrical unit. In the morning it started pouring rain, so I woke up early due to the loud rainfall on the metal roof. After settling in we hit the beach! The water was very warm but extremely salty! I swear it was 100 times more salty than beaches in the states. We took lots of pictures, body surfed, swam, and just had a great time. That evening we went out to dinner and I discovered my favorite drink in the world! It is a coconut shake. They taste so amazingly fresh and they were only $1! I got everyone hooked on this shake and we ordered them all weekend.
There were westerners all over this town. I believe many people travel to this beach during the year so that is why there are so many western people. There are kids everywhere trying to sell bracelets, hairbands, and little things. Then there are women begging to give you pedicures/manicures and thread your legs (which is like waxing but removing hair with a thread). There were so many people trying to sell products or services. I tried to read a book on the beach but there was no point because you get interrupted every 5 minutes for people trying to sell things. One girl came up to me and was saying that I promised her I would buy something from her, but I never promised this girl and I don't even remember seeing her. She stuck around me for like 15 minutes glaring and was angry at me, she even hit me! I never promised anyone I would buy something! It was seriously annoying to be accused of promising people then have them mad at me for no reason.
Anyway, that evening everyone went out to bars on the beach. I was seriously not interested. There were a bunch of hippies everywhere, white people drunk trying to make you come into the bar, people messed up on drugs, and so was not my scene at all. But for SOME reason most of the volunteers think it is fun, and its really not, in my opinion. I did not want to walk back alone so I waited until a few other people wanted to go back to our bungalows. One girl agreed with me that the bar scene at this beach was ridiculous and not fun at all, so we walked back together.

The next morning we took a boat out to tour 3 islands, snorkel, and have a bbq on the beach! It was so nice. For the boat ride, snorkeling, bbq, and breakfast it was $15 and it lasted about 6-7 hours. We got to explore some islands and there were seashells everywhere! It was incredible, I wanted to take some home but they had they most horrendous smell and I could not figure out why, so I just left them. I tried to snorkel but it was scary! I think I am too scared of seeing fish and sea urchets (sp?) in the ocean to truly enjoy it. I saw the coral for about 5 minutes but was too scared to keep doing it. The coral was all bleached out white and for some reason it freaked me out.
The bbq was amazing, we a Khmer guide who grilled some chicken on the beach, we ate it with salad and bread. It has been my favorite meal since I have been in Cambodia.
We ended up back in Sihanoukville that evening and everyone wanted to go out to more bars after dinner. This was when things were exposed to me that were terribly sad.

I did not want to stay out at the bars, but again, no one would walk back to the bungalow with me so I had to stick it out. It is too scary to walk back at night alone so I waited.
There were people drinking everywhere, the smells of marijuana filled the air, I saw people who seemed to be messed up on drugs, there were prostitutes everywhere...literally everywhere. White old western men with prostitutes all over them. It was disgusting!  And that's not even the worst part...
there were still begging children out and surrounded in this environment. It was 11:30 pm and they were begging for food along with old men who were missing limbs begging. I was sitting outside of the bar, with a little boy eating a meal that was given to him, sick looking children begging for food, and a little girl sitting on my lap wanting to be loved...all while there was blaring music, prostitutes dancing, everyone drinking, old nasty men with women, and westerners everywhere. Why wouldn't anyone want to leave with me!? I still don't understand how or why anyone would think it was okay to stay there.

I was utterly embarrassed that my culture (westerners) were contributing to this environment by buying drinks, staying out at bars, and acting like everything was fine when it clearly was very messed up. A few of the volunteers thought it was a bad environment, but no one would leave.  Seriously it made me really upset. At this moment I wanted nothing more but to go home, back to the states, where I would feel my close friends and family would understand me and why I thought this was wrong!
Finally at 12pm some people were ready to go and so we went back to the place we were staying.

The next day we went out to the beach for a little longer then we took the bus back to Phnom Penh.

I feel so misunderstood here. I really don't feel like I fit in with any of the volunteers. It is here that I truly realize how introverted I am and how I would like to have close connections with just a few people. I did not come to Cambodia to drink every night, or party often, or indulge in either of those ideas. I came to work with the children. I came to serve others. I came to provide support, affection, love, and to teach. I know that it is okay to go out once in awhile, but if I feel uncomfortable in a situation how am I suppose to leave if no one will leave with me? I have left early from so many places. For instance, we will go out to dinner then people will want to go have drinks, and I leave early. Or we will be at a bar and people will want to stay, and I leave early. Or we are out dancing and people want to stay, and I leave early. It is like a joke now with the volunteers because they know I will always leave early. I feel obligated to go out all the time because everyone else goes out! But most of the time I don't want to.
And its not that I don't think it is fun, or because I am a "prude" or because of anything like that.
It is because consciously I do not feel good when I go out all the time when I came here to have a solid mind and to invest my energy into helping others...not serving myself. Plus, I like going out with people who love and support me, or who know who I am....these people don't know me or care for who I actually am. And its not they are bad people or anything. We just have different ideals and views of fun. I don't just gets hard.

Anyway, today is a holy day so I do not work at the orphanage, so I am just chilling at the guest house, reading and applying for jobs back home. I also really miss going to church, I haven't gone in 3 weeks and I have only seen 1 catholic church that was like 2 hours away on the bus. I have been praying to just keep my strength and to remain true to myself, and not fall into being what everyone wants me to be.

Well, I should go, it is my last full week in Cambodia, then I go to Thailand for a week with my old college roommate. That should be fun.