I’m back to the blogosphere for one last stand. Part of the debriefing time was about finishing the internship well, which should implicitly include this blog. But I’m shooting for mediocrity instead.
I realized I haven’t written anything since Sunday October 24. I’m going to try and get through the last few days in Cambodia, transit to Calgary, battling jetlag, debriefing, and intern retreat. Hopefully I’ll throw in some deeply profound thoughts and reflections of the last six months, but don’t hold your breath. I might write some heartfelt John Mayer lyrics and no one will know the difference. John Mayer can do the reflecting for me*.
The last weekend in Phnom Penh was quite similar to all the other weekends I spent there. Except this time I decided to be intentional about appreciating the city and the people. To do this, I woke up early and went to the riverside to see the sunrise. And my goodness you should have seen that sunrise with your own eyes. Cambodia is really pretty, and I almost forgot. I took some pictures and enjoyed the pleasant morning heat. I went to a cafe and my favourite used bookshop and did some other random stuff (aka work) before calling it a night.
On Sunday I went to the Russian Market as per usual. Except I walked. No one walks in Phnom Penh. It was weird. I went a few blocks before a nice guy from Thailand asked me where Russian Market was. So we walked together and had a friendly chat about random stuff. Then I shook his sweaty hand before continuing on to buy an assortment of cheap stuff. I spent the rest of that day napping and working in a cafe. I finished the day by watching Transformers 2 and working on a powerpoint presentation for the workshop. That movie sucks.
Monday was my all day workshop with the staff. All I wanted to cover were some new monitoring indicators, Formstack, and iPods. I had some things planned, but I left lots of time for questions. So I get to the conference room to find that the projector I thought was coming never came. So instead of using the presentation, I improvised and asked them to follow along with the iPods.
Whats funny about this is that a someone said “a projector would be useful for this”. I responded with “I know”. Then one of the managers dropped by and also noted “Jeff, I think maybe you should use a projector”. I told him “yes, I know”. Then Viriya comes into the workshop and says “Jeff, you should have asked for a projcetor”. I told him I did ask. Then I felt bad because Sitha (the guy I requested a projector from) is going to get yelled at, and I love Sitha. He’s hilarious. The entire day just devolved into the staff playing with iPods. Which, in all honesty, was probably a good thing to do while I was there to answer questions.
That night we went for dinner to a nice restaurant and ate banana curry, which immediately blew my mind all over the place. Tuesday was spent working at my favourite cafe in the morning, and finishing up at the office. Then the staff threw us (Andrea and myself) a party. It was awesome and catered by a restaurant fifty feet down the street; which was funny because they walked all the food down. There were also very awkward speeches, one was surprisingly given by myself (I know, Jeff Seaman and awkwardness are not normally associated).
The staff even gave Andrea and I a card and a gift. The gift was a scarf with “Pray For Cambodia” embroidery, and a banner with a bible verse. Mine was a verse from the prodigal son story, Andrea’s was this obscure verse about prosperity and womb fruit. The funniest thing were the cards they gave us. I was told that the “words were from their heart”. I opened the card to see that it was addressed to Andrea. I figure that the cards got switched up, so I trade with Andrea and open my card to find that it was also addressed to Andrea. I felt appreciated. As my act of revenge on the staff, I bought them a fruit basket and Andrea framed an awesome picture of us being awesome. This picture is big papa Viriya giving me the gift in a very staged photo.
I went home, packed my bags, unpacked my bags, repacked my bags, watched a terrible movie entitled Letters To Juliet and slept for the last time in Cambodia. The next morning I exacted my revenge by delivering the fruit basket to the office and saying goodbye. I got my stuff, went to Mama and Papa Chee’s, and ate pancakes. We got a ride to the airport and left. Just like that. Here is an assortment of things I will miss (off the top of my head).
Stinky canal road (except not really at all).
The guy that cut my hair. The first time I went in, I pointed at the only picture that wasn’t an asymmetrical Asian pop star haircut. It was also the only picture of a white guy. I’m very stereotypical. The interaction was pretty much like this.
Chinese Noodle, the restaurant I went to at least three times a week.
My moto driver who can’t speak English.
My iced coffee guy, who has the self-proclaimed “best iced coffee in Phnom Penh”. Its true. He is the best.
Cafe Yejj and their devastatingly good breakfast special.
Riding my around my old school roadster bike without being a hipster.
White dragon fruit.
Meat on a stick.
The nod of acknowledgment I got from the Mormon’s who also ride bikes, and wear helmets and white collared shirts. The only thing that made me different was having no name tag. That, and not being Mormon.
Catching locals off guard with one of five Khmer sentences I could speak pretty well.
Smiling at people. Because its nice, not creepy.
And the people. I miss them. I’ll probably remember more things later. But lets get back to the shenanigans in Taipei.
Our flight plan was Phnom Penh to Taipei to Vancouver to Calgary. We had a seven hour layover in Taipei that was super boring, except when Andrea realized she left her bag somewhere. Luckily she had her passport, but we spent a good hour or two looking for it. Andrea then made peace with the loss of her iPod, camera, credit card, and cash. After eating overpriced food, we were walking to the departure gate when some dude stopped us and asked if we were missing a bag. Turns out, Andrea left it at security. She was excited, Naomi was excited, I fist pumped, so you know I was excited.
It gets better. The plane wasn’t full. There was an elderly Chinese guy in my row, and we were on the same page. He gave me a nod, and promptly commandeered an empty row shortly after takeoff when no flight attendants were looking, leaving me with a row to myself. It was amazing. I had a decent sleep, and watched Predators. Adrian Brody should not be in action films. He was just terrible.
So we land in Vancouver, and through Facebook chat, I met up with my friends and Vancouver residents Lindsday and Jono. We got coffee, before I realized my flight was boarding and I was not boarding. So I swear loudly in my head, go through security and run to the gate where I find that no one had boarded yet. I love how tardy Air Canada is.
I made my storied return to Calgary late Wednesday night and promptly froze. I slept quite well that night. The days afterward were spent feeling terrible on account of jetlag and the steak I ate on Thursday night. Apparently Alberta beef wages war on my bowels. Who knew.
We began the official debrief on Monday, which was a whirlwind of meetings and presentations and writing reports and what not. Team Cambodia was signed up for three presentations on Tuesday, and another Wednesday morning. I winged at least one of them. We didn’t have a ton of time to prepare, so our presentations were like a freaking clinic in mediocrity. The quality of work that we did all week wasn’t great, it wasn’t bad, it was satisfactory. And I’m okay with that.
Team Cambodia went for a delightful hike in Kananaskis on Saturday, where I got blister and wouldn’t fix it right away because I’m a real man. That, and the med kit my parents gave me was what some would call “Bush league”. But I’m comparing it to the med kit Samaritan’s Purse sent with us to Cambodia, which was full of assorted drugs and enough supplies to perform open heart surgery. It was that good. Birds then proceeded to land on me. Canada rules.
The intern group went on a retreat for a few days at Kingsfold, which was supposed to be a time of reflecting and what not. Here is the thing about Kingsfold, its awesome. Its has facilities geared towards being quite and contemplative. But all of us get along really well, Marley brought Dutch Blitz, Charlie Cook (Ambrose professor/intercultural expert) was dropping bombs of hilarity, and it was Carolina’s (regional project manager) birthday; so we ended up getting a little crazy. Its cool though, we made friends with some other retreaters there, and they didn’t hate us by the end. So you can run and tell that. Home boy.**
Then on Wednesday, I finished my last report signed my life away to Samaritan’s Purse Canada for another five weeks. Which means I’m on contract until mid-December. So that’s pretty neat. The internship is officially over. And it weird. I’ve been telling people it feels like 6 months just didn’t happen. It seems like May was last week. Another intern put it well by saying that other people are more excited than I am to be home.
I’m not entirely sure how the whole experience has impacted me. I’m still not entirely sure what I think about about the developing world, but there isn’t a disconnect between the Western world and the developing countries anymore. Here are a few things that I do know:
People live really happy and fulfilling lives; and have such a greater sense of community and relationship than we do. We (the Western world, as it were) are so disconnected from each other, and it sucks.
Lots of beggars and kids asked me for money. An ethical dilemma was presented. I have the means to meet a need (money), but by doing so I am perpetuating a system where I (as a white foreigner) rob people of their dignity and value. I had a really hard time with this.
I didn’t take as many pictures in villages as I wanted. Most of the time I felt terrible pulling out a camera that costs the same amount as some people make in 5 months. If only they knew I was carrying a laptop and three iPods in addition to the camera.
My attitude towards money and material stuff has changed; but I don’t want to be the guy that plays the “developing world” card all the time and guilts people into not buying things. But thinking about money in terms of how many water filters one could buy happens fairly often.
I use semicolons far too often without really knowing how to properly use them; but I don’t care. It makes me look smarter.
Development is tricky.
I think I’ll be able to make sense out of this experience with more time.
But hey, thanks for reading. This is the last post, and I think it was a textbook anticlimax. I’ll make the entire blog it into a PDF if anyone wants a copy. I’ve been asked about doing a slideshow or something. If people are interested, I would be more than happy to oblige. If you have any questions or comments, please send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org). I’ll answer it. Unless the question is “How was your trip?”. I won’t answer that.
I leave you with this epic quote that gives me shivers every time I read it.
“I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me. A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day. An hour of woes and shattered shields, when the age of men comes crashing down! But it is not this day! This day we fight! By all that you hold dear on this good Earth, I bid you stand, Men of the West!”
Anyways, if any of the following people read this thing, thank you very much. In no particular order: Steve+Jodi Chee for being the amazing, Nathan Chan for giving me a room and making bagels with me, Pool McKnight for hanging out (I lost your book in Kampong Thom, sorry), Jesus, the people from the house church I attended sporadically. The Clear Cambodia staff (specifically Mr. Viriya, Mr. Savath, and Mr. Heng).
I hope you enjoyed this mediocre final post. Be strong and courageous.
* You probably thought I was kidding about the John Mayer comment. I wasn’t. Lets play a fun game of “find the John Mayer lyrics”. Embedded somewhere in this post is a line from a John Mayer song. The first person to email (only emailed entries will be accepted) the correct line and song will win a prize. I’m serious. It will either be fake sunglasses, a tobacco pipe, or a hammock. You can choose. If you are from outside of Calgary I’ll even send it to you.
** inside joke; google “bed intruder song”