Monday, May 12, 2008


This weekend was important for me. I would even go so far as to say, ‘crucial’. This weekend I gained perspective and peace and hope and…well, I’ll just tell you about it.
On Sabbath, after awakening with a sore butt and some impressive bruises from getting hit by a car in my last blog, I wanted to do something a little different. I had nothing pulling me to Khmer church, sitting next to sweaty bodies, and feeling invisible. So I had heard about a prayer retreat through Polly’s church. That sounded like what I needed, prayer. So I braved the streets, with a helmet mind you, to seek out the location of the retreat. Indeed, it took two different moto drivers, more money than they deserved, and a few language miscommunications, “No, I said, ‘Bat shveng’ not ‘Bat sadam’! Chowp!” before I arrived. The location is called Potter’s Place. Basically it is a woman’s property on the edge of town. She knows the difficulties to find solitude, beauty, and peace so she opens the upstairs of her home, a small chapel, and the surrounding grounds to anyone who needs to get away. What a ministry! Needed and appreciated. There are many trees, shade, grass, and flowers, I repeat, flowers!
A 60ish woman named Jocelyn welcomed the 8 or so of us who had gathered. The day was to go from 9am to 3pm. I figured that was way, way too long and I would possibly last till noon. I was wrong. I needed some solitude by choice. I needed to show God I wanted to listen. I stayed there for 6 hours. We didn’t talk. We just read, journaled, drew pictures, relaxed, prayed, and thought. I kept wondering, “God, what do you want to say to me?”. I didn’t hear God. I kept hoping God would show up, though nothing short of him tapping me on the shoulder probably would’ve been noticed. Maybe I am missing something. Either way, I stuck with it, reading, journaling, thinking. Much of what I have been doing all year. But the same thought kept coming back to me, “How do I want this to end? What do I want the conclusion to be?” because this isn’t it. I often find myself bitter, overwhelmed, tired, restless, discontent, and pessimistic more than I ever could have expected.
So I hoped to awaken my artistic genius and headed for the paper and markers. The picture came easily. I drew a sort of treasure map starting from the beginning of life tracing my steps to the present and beyond. The important part here is, “beyond”. I have been stuck here thinking this will be my reality forever! There is no escape! I don’t have friends here. I must not be loveable. Basically, feeling horribly hopeless. It is good for me to think about the future, returning to more classes, papers, silly drama, and lame movies on Saturday night. Thinking about the future reminds me that what I am doing right now is pretty darn cool.
Drawing the journey helped me to see that there is life beyond Cambodia. I’m not sure yet what it looks like, but it is there and closer than it was yesterday. I illustrated each important step in my life with a new pair of shoes: barefoot at birth, cute tennis shoes in school, high heels beginning the eating disorder, flip flops now, and hiking boots when I get home, to continue the journey I have started here.
Seeing this experience as a journey helps me relax, because this hasn’t been what I had expected or hoped for. I can leave here very sad that I didn’t accomplish all I had hoped. I can leave here bitter about how I have been treated. I can leave here unchanged, stubborn, hurt, and angry. But I don’t want any of that. Instead I am choosing to see this as another pair of shoes, another step, another chapter.
This morning Souphea came to clean. She was wiping shelves in the kitchen and forgot about the large lizard that lives in the spice cupboard. She jumped and the bottle of red food coloring broke on the counter, on the stove, all over the floor, and all over Souphea. This is when I walked in very scared and confused about the seemingly bloody student standing in the kitchen. She was flustered but explained. I just laughed. Later, I got two girls out of the dorm and invited them home. I made them mango smoothies and muffins. I let them watch a movie on my laptop. We laughed, they poked my bruises and acted surprised when I shrieked, it felt natural to be with them, which will make it hard, hard to go.
I have school tomorrow and then I leave for Vietnam with Polly and Megan on Tuesday. I am excited to get away again. I think I have been horribly spoiled to travel where I have this year. I have seen northern and southern Cambodia, including the beach. I have seen the bustling streets of Bangkok, Thailand at Christmas and the secluded island of Koh Chang in the south, with my parents. I have experience Chinese New Year in Malaysia and stood under the towers in Kuala Lampur. I have fed kangaroos in Australia and strolled Sydney harbor at night. I have seen and done some incredible things this year, alone.
So a fabulous journey as it may be, I am more than ready to continue it with people, friends, family, and community. This isn’t a lesson I thought I needed to learn. But if we could choose our lessons, we would never learn anything worthwhile anyway.
Today, I sat in a cute little café in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The motos grumbled by, the sellers shouted their products, the pollution threatened my respiratory system, and a few Khmers tried to look up my skirt. Still I thought to myself, after nearly 9 months here, “I think this is real.” More real, I suppose because I can finally make some sense out of it all. Far from figured out, but at least more easily understood.


ashley said...

A large lizard lives in your spice cabinet!?!

It's going to take years, I think, to learn about all these things that boggle my mind. And there you are in the midst of it all adapting and learning and growing.

You're so beautiful, and so darn funny too.

Love you

Anonymous said...

Dearest Heather---I just want you to know that I am so thrilled to call you my FRIEND! You are and have faced things during the past several months that some of us will never face...and you're facing them head-on! I am just so proud of you and so inspired by your raw, honest fear and courage!
I Love You---Sandy