Saturday, April 4, 2009

Flashbacks

Thursday night, Fay called (as in Fay whom I lived with in Cambodia). We talked about my life now and all the incredible things I've learned since I went to Cambodia. She asked about the eating disorder, my health, school, God, Jeremy. I'm doing well, that she was glad to hear. I could hear the motos grumbling outside the internet shop, the men yelling on the street, and the thick, dust of Phnom Penh nearly seeped into my dorm room through my cell phone. Life is different there.

I feel like the whole experience never happened. I never went to Cambodia. A few weeks ago, someone asked me where I went as a student missionary. I said, "Um...Africa," and then to ensure looking like a complete liar and flake I said, "Oh wait, Cambodia. I went to Cambodia. Yeah."

Now, this might seem so strange because, Cambodia changed my life, forever. But with not a single person in my life now, who shared the experience with me last year: saw what I saw, felt what I felt, walked where I walked; I end feeling like I am making all of this up and it never actually happened. I never went to Cambodia according to most of the people I come in contact with every day because they just don't understand.

Imagine a time in your life when you went somewhere; college for example. Whatever you were in high school doesn't necessarily matter anymore, especially if you went to a college that none of your high school friends attended. While everyone else is joking with their friends about a prank they pulled sophomore year, you don't really have a sophomore year because you have no one to talk to about it. So even though I was an athlete in high school, I would have to tell people or create a new identity without it. You have no one to joke with, remember stories with, or relate with. So I end up thinking, Oh, that one time in Cambodia... then usually saying nothing at all, because my past ceases to exist when it feels like I'm recalling a dream or telling a tall tale.

"Well, your 8th grade students sure are menaces this year. I don't know what happened," Fay tells me. "And Kagna and Leeta are doing well, ready to graduate. Did I tell you last week our house flooded while Tim was gone? Oh brother, I still need to get to Psa Monaung before Sabbath, mangoes are in season again--," she trails off. This world feels so far away and talking to her on the phone, being taken back to the sounds, the sights, only confuses me further, because I still do not understand how Phnom Penh, Cambodia and Lincoln, Nebraska exist at the same time, on the same planet, without much regard for eachother at all.

Yesterday I headed for class and realizes I was wearing the black skirt I wore nearly every day last year to teach at school. I remember sitting at a picnic table last year, while the 11th graders completed a test. Kagna walked up to me laughing and said, "Ms. Bo, you need to learn how to sit in a skirt!" because apparently cross-legged is not the way to go. That took me awhile.

In Creative Writing class yesterday we sang from songbooks and "He Will Carry You" caught my eye, a song we sang over and over again last year. I can still hear the Laos students nasally voices, belting out the words, as the strum of the guitar echoed off of the stone walls and tile floors.

The Golden Cords vespers was last night. I wasn't anticipating much. The service isn't anything remarkable. How could my 10 months of experiences possibly be signified by connecting dots on a map with string? I was surprised at how important it was for me, most likely because being recognized is nice, but also because so rarely is the subject brought up, it was awesome to be surrounded not by people necessarily, but people speaking on a global level. Powerful. It was the exact same vespers last year that I was the SM who Skyped in to talk to Pastor Rich. I was sitting half-way around the world, in the heat, in the exhuastion, begging for money from the audience who tossed in $20's or $50's and never thought about it again. One year.

It made me proud to have gone as an SM. I remember saying, "I want to be able to say I went as an SM, but actually doing it, well this is painful." So didn't I get what I wanted? I can say it now. I hung my cord. I did it.

It's more than that. It's the aftermath, the working through, the struggle to remember, the hope that I don't forget, the realization that I might, and the journey to continue even when I don't have it all figured out, and maybe never will.

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