Wow. I am still in shock that I am actually in Cambodia when I wake up in our guesthouse every morning. I have thought about the journey here for many months and now I have been here for a week. Such an indescribable feeling.
The journey began with a week of YAGM orientation in Chicago along with the other volunteers to the nine countries of service. The week was challenging, insightful, contemplative and so many other emotions. We had the opportunity to get to know other yagm in a small group setting as well as start to create relationships with the other individuals in our country group. Orientation covers topics ranging from privilege and power to accompaniment to logistics and safety. I left orientation feeling less sure and actually more disorientated as I was pushed out of safety and comfort to think about tough ideas and grapple with my own privilege, prejudice, and bias that I carry with me. But, I also walked away with an excitement about being part of the first year program in Cambodia and everything that goes along with being the first to serve in a site and being the initial group in a country.
During orientation there were many alums of the program that returned to to serve as mentors and at times calm the nerves of many. Since Cambodia is a first year country program, we did not have alums to help guide and answer our specific questions. Two beautiful alums of the Malaysia program were our go to alums about any questions relating to Asia, but they could only speak of their specific experiences (which was super helpful). Our group soon quickly adopted the motto “we’ll see” whenever someone would ask us anything specific about Cambodia, our placements, or the program itself. “We’ll see” embodies our commitment to try new things, take challenges as they come, and be present in every moment of the journey. It has become a running joke but I think it speaks to the attitude and overall greatness of the beautiful people in the Cambodia country group.
Last wednesday we boarded our flight from Chicago to Seoul after some terribly hard goodbyes. The 14 hour flight flew us over the north pole and we landed in Seoul/Incheon on Thursday afternoon. We boarded our flight to Phnom Penh a few hours after getting to Seoul and arrived in Cambodia Thursday night. The travel was long, especially with all of our baggage but we made it without any significant issues. For those of you that know about our lovely motorcycle helmets, all seven of the helmets made the trip to Cambodia (and they are super fashionable).
All is well here in Phnom Penh. We are finishing up our first week of orientation. We have about two and a half weeks left. The days have been full but we are learning lots and becoming familiar with the city. We have Khmer (pronounced ka-my) class almost every morning and we are all learning quicker than I could have imagined. We are learning some basic phrases to allow us to get around the city and communicate on a very basic level. The problem with knowing certain phrases is that when we speak we will receive a response in Khmer that we most likely don’t understand and have to embarrassingly ask for the English translation. But this is all part of the learning process I guess. We are also discussing Khmer history (pre-Angkor to present) and have visited Wat Phnom, the National Musuem, and the Royal Palace so far to supplement what we have learned.
Food has been wonderful and we are still trying to adjust to the heat. It is as hot as I expected although I did not know I would always have a constant glistening of sweat on my face. Traffic is really interesting as cars, motos, tuk tuks, and pedestrians all share the road – we get around town using tuk-tuks. I will hopefully post a video of this soon. We have had some free time to explore around the city on our own and have found ourselves at the market as well as joining a group aerobics class and many other activities. There is truly a lot to be discovered in Phnom Penh.
There are so many topics and ideas I could post about but wanted to write an initial post after getting here. I will talk about more specifics in future posts.
Thank you for supporting my journey to Cambodia and encouragement through it all.
We’ll see what the rest of orientation and the year bring, however, I am confident it will be incredible.
God’s peace to you,