Saturday, June 7, 2008


A good friend wrote to me yesterday and said, “Heather, if life were an orange, you squeeze out more juice than anyone I know!” I think that was a compliment. I’m choosing to take it as a compliment. Either way, it made me laugh.
I’ve been thinking much about this year: the good and the ugly. I have noticed humans in general, but myself indefinitely, tend to dwell on the bad instead of the good. For example, to sum up my time in Cambodia it sounds like it has been an eternal dark, grey cloud. With the help of depression and a mental illness or two, it has seemed like little else. But I know better.
It is the rays of hope that have kept me here. But it is also the rays of hope that have been shoved to the back of my mind whenever something else is thrown at me. Negativity is a defense against hard times. When they come, instead of being thrown for a loop, I started expecting them so they were easier to deal with. So if I brace myself for the tormentors waiting on the street, it is easier to bear. But often I brace myself expecting difficulties, and they never come. But instead of rejoicing or being grateful, I just hold my breath expecting a harder blow.
My time in Cambodia has been many things: ‘easy’ is not one of them. But this time has been important, crucial, and necessary. I have learned. I have stretched. I have grown.
When I first arrived, the Scotts welcomed me with open arms and have continued to support me better than anyone here. They’ve been a listening ear, a source of wisdom, a help, a comfort, friends. I have had a great place to live: clean, safe, comforting, and a refuge from the chaos. I have met some incredible teachers at CAS. I connected most with those closer to my age. JC, for example, said I looked miserable and he had to help me! That he did. He helped with the loneliness by getting me out on the weekends and, in turn, I was adopted by his own friends. I had somewhere to go on weekends when I was truly lonely and that meant so much. We don’t always understand each other, our cultures are so different, but we have learned.
Teaching was torture. I had no idea what I was doing or where to start. I’m not sure what I taught or what I did those first 4 months. I figure I was a very sad looking zombie. This is where my kids came through. At first, they were the enemy. Now, they are friends. I can think of about a dozen fellow classmates in high school that I would have hated to teach. They are not here. These kids helped me along, forgave me when I didn’t know the answers to all of their questions, and basically, they taught me how to teach. Their humor and easy-going attitude made class less scary and more so, something to look forward to. When I was having awful days, and home was the only thing on my mind, I was forced to put that aside, walk into the classroom, and be present with them. They eased the homesickness by being the laughter and the smiles I needed.
I have had the privilege, no honor, of meeting and learning from people from all over the world: New Zealand, Pakistan, England, Malaysia, Australia, India, Vietnam, and even Greeley, Colorado! I have listened intently to their stories hoping to gain just an ounce of their wisdom that far exceeds my own. Stories of flying bricks, fires, anti-Christian movements, and true persecution will stay with me always. They’ve taught me what pain really looks like.
The Cambodian culture has been a source of stress all year long: the way they are, the things they say, the things they do. Yet, I have been forced to examine my own culture. We aren’t perfect either and am I really doing all I can to make it better? What am I expecting of them? That is a huge task not easily accomplished. I’m still learning to relax and take it easy like they do. Road rage is not an issue for them, but nearly every time I go out, I want to hit someone. There are still things to be learned.
I have been blessed with even more. The fact that I can use Skype to simultaneously talk to my parents in Colorado, my sister and Ben in Nebraska, and my brother in England, still amazes me each and every time. I have been able to receive encouragement and strength via email from people I never expected would notice I was gone. But the letters come, the postcards come, and I have received more packages than any other SM Fay has ever seen. You have helped me raise over $8,000 dollars for Cambodia Adventist School and Khan’s Vietnamese school where I tutored. That is a huge amount of money! I am proud to give the acknowledgment to very supportive friends and family back home. Thank you.
I have not contracted any vicious diseases; bird flu didn’t get me. Yahoo, I’m vegetarian! I could have really been injured badly when I was hit by that car, but I wasn’t. I could’ve been physically harmed just about any time I took to the streets, but I haven’t been. I could’ve never met Polly. I could’ve never met Stella. I could be poor. I could be an orphan. I could be so many things, but I am not.
I write this more for myself than anyone. But I post because I continue to get encouraging emails from home, in response. We are all still learning. Isn’t it an incredible cycle, the way in which we learn from each other and the information is just recycled, waiting to be passed on to the next person? Shouldn’t we run out of jokes? When will there be no new information to learn? Nope, the process is flawless. We live, we learn, we die. You can tell a child to pull your finger and they’ll still do it. Ah, perfection!
So for whatever it’s worth, this is where I’m at right now. I know at least 2 friends headed out to be student missionaries next year. Part of me wants to say, “Don’t do it! It’s gonna hurt.” But the human soul buried deep down inside of me says, “Go”.