Saturday, 31 March 2012

I wish I'd never come to Cambodia...

Sometimes I wish I had never come to Cambodia that first time, never experienced what I had. Sometimes I wish I could be comfortable in my own little world, oblivious to the trials of a country such as this. Sometimes I wish I had never seen. For what is seen can never be unseen.

For Cambodia has taken a piece of my heart. It has captivated me, captured my heart.

Having seen, I have now moved across the world. It's not easy. I left behind friends, supports, family. I left behind my dog, my car, my favourite places. I left behind my world as I knew it.

Yet I couldn't have not come. I couldn't ignore Cambodia calling my name. Having seen Cambodia for the first time, I knew that I was meant to be here. I cannot walk away from that.

So sometimes I wish I'd never been here. Because some days I miss Australia, I miss my best friend, I miss late night chats with housemates, I miss great hugs. Having never come, I could have comfortably stayed there.

So at this time in my life I cannot imagine being back in Australia, living as I was. I can't imagine not being in Cambodia. I would feel like something was missing. I would feel like I was away from home.

My heart is here. My passion is here. And now I am here. Difficulties and trials. Homesickness and new experiences. Cambodia has stolen my heart.

Friday, 30 March 2012

Heartbroken

Living in a third world country has its share of hilarious moments. Like when one of the staff try explaining that one of the girls has a lamb in her nose (instead of a lump), the hunt around the office to see if the mosquito racquet will also kill flies, along with the various tuk-tuk journeys, language barrier fails, and all-round wet-your-pants funny times!

Yet here in Cambodia there's a sad, serious side. And what I have had my eyes opened up to in the past few weeks is the impact of corruption and an unstable government. Some of the moments are funny. Like when you pay the police officer a few dollars for a coffee to get out of paying a driving fine. But unfortunately the corruption doesn't stop there... It keeps going to the point where the beautiful little girls I care so deeply about are the ones who are suffering.

Corruption in Cambodia allows a perpetrator of horrific crimes to pay his way out of a jail sentence. A judge gets some extra cash in his back pocket and a girl lives in continual fear, knowing that her perpetrator is still in the community. Government systems fail and children are put in unsafe environments.

This breaks my heart. And even more so that I know it doesn't only happen here. I know that the systems fail in Australia too. I've seen it. I know they probably fail in almost every other country too. It breaks my heart because it's the kids who are suffering and sometimes there's nothing I can do about it.

So tonight I am angry at corruption. I am angry when governments ignore their people. And I feel lost when I'm in the middle of it, watching it, unable to change it.

I don't know what the solution is. Poverty has no simple solution. I know that corruption and these government systems don't have a simple solution either. I just pray that those involved will see the faces of those who are affected, see the tears, see the results of their actions. I pray that the individuals will not be forgotten.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Appreciating...

Today I'm learning appreciation.
Not of everything going well,
But of people who sit within the mess.
Not needing to clean or fix.
Just sit,
And be.
I'm learning to appreciate the moments in life,
The ones I would probably rather ignore.
I'm learning that these are shaping me,
Growing me.
I'm learning to appreciate pain.
I don't like it,
But I can look at it,
And know that it has a story,
And that story is one of survival.
And I'm appreciating vulnerability,
The scariest mission I have ever gone on,
One of the most uncomfortable journeys I've ever set out on.
Yet it is bringing me to life.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Courage

I'm great at distracting, ignoring, avoiding. I've always done this in so many ways that it's almost become a way of life. Sadly defences are never helpful forever. There's always a time when they begin to hurt more than they help. If only it was easy to unlearn those defences. Sadly, for me anyway, they have already become habit, normal. Another way of living is forgotten and unknown.

So now is my time to stop avoiding. To remember that I am strong enough to face things. To remember that others are there to help me along as well.

I've learned that defences never only effect me, even if I can't see it. I avoided telling friends and family when I was going through one of the hardest battles I've ever faced. I wanted to avoid the shame of imperfection and keep it all hidden until I was fixed and better again. I avoided the hurts of my past until they grew into a monster that began eating away at me. And sometimes I avoid simply because I don't feel like I have the capacity to face life in that moment.

This avoidance worked for a time. It kept me functioning. It did its job. But I kept going, growing and maturing, and avoidance came along for the ride.

Sometimes I ignore how I feel for the fear that I may be overwhelmed. I avoid telling others that my world isn't all sunshine and rainbows because I don't want to burden or worry others. I avoid the vulnerability because it has never seemed safe. It's scary and everyone else seems to avoid it too.

But I'm at the place where I can't do that anymore. I want to be real, with myself and with others. Yes I may get hurt, but I might also have the most incredible, honest, authentic relationships too. It's not easy, but then again what worthwhile thing is easy?

So this is my new mission, my challenge. I will be real with myself and with what I'm feeling and what I need. I will be real with others with where I'm at. And now, posting this for the whole world to see, I will have accountability.

I will accept imperfection, both my own and others. I will see vulnerability as courage. I will tear down my walls, brick by brick, and let both others and myself see me, accept me, care for me.

This is the most honest post I've written and pressing that little publish button is my first step of vulnerability (aka courage). There are many who have inspired, influenced, and encouraged me towards this point and for that I thank you. You know who you are xx


Edited: This blog post was also inspired by this talk by Brene Brown: http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_listening_to_shame.html

Sunday, 18 March 2012

The things you actually need to worry about when in Cambodia!

Appreciating the little things...

Today I woke up to hear the sounds of birds chirping outside my window. It was the most precious sound, one which is not heard too often in Phnom Penh. Dogs fighting, horns beeping, and karaoke into all hours of the night are the standard sounds of the city. So I just sat there and thanked God for this little moment of beauty in my morning, just simply listening to the birds.

Living here is so much about learning to appreciate the little things. A beautiful smell of flowers pierces through the smell of sewerage for a fleeting moment, a few stars in the sky on a clear night, the power coming back on, finding Cadbury in a random corner store. These tiny things are so precious here. Much less is taken for granted. I am beginning to be thankful for things that seem so strange to be thankful for, but those moments carry you through.

And that's not saying that the rest of Cambodia is not to love. The insane, no road-rules traffic still seems fun to me. Realising that what I thought was a cat is actually a rat still makes me laugh after I've gotten over my shock.  The banter with the tuktuk drivers is usually lots of fun. And then there's the beautiful community feel of this nation. My favourite moto drivers on the corner who wave to me every morning on my way to work. The people on my street who always bring their kids out to say hello as I'm walking past. The girls at our favourite cafe who will sit down beside us for a chat if it's a quiet night. These thing are so far removed from what I'm used to, from what Australia is, yet these are the little things that I fell in love with. It is those little things that make here feel like home.

It's the little things that get us through the day. It would be so easy to become completely overwhelmed here: reading case files of the most horrific situations, walking past brothels every night, being approached by endless amounts of kids begging. The struggles of this society seem overwhelming; it would be easy to question how I could make a difference at all.

But for me I just look at the faces of our girls. They are what matters. I can make a difference for them. I look at our staff and envision them growing and excelling. I remember that it's all about the ones.

I continue to smile. I continue to laugh. I see the funny side of the language barrier. I giggle when the power goes out in the middle of my shower and I run into numerous walls trying to get it back on. I am still amused about the fact that a moto is Cambodia's version of a family car - five people on one is no problem at all. I laugh at myself when my Khmer is completely wrong and I have no idea what I've just said.

I'm determined to make a difference here. I'm a fighter, a carer, a listener. But I'm also a smiler. And I will continue to be. I will continue to appreciate the little things. I will continue to smile.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

KONY2012: My thoughts...


Did anyone else log onto FB one day and think who the heck is Kony and what have I missed? I did. I was sitting in my room in Cambodia wondering what was going on in Aus that I had no idea about!

(If you’re reading this and are still wondering who Kony is, I’m guessing you’ve been living in a social-media-free cave this week so go ahead and Google and YouTube it and see what it’s all about).

And then just after this influx into my Newsfeed of KONY2012, there was a wave of people standing against the KONY2012 campaign and condemning it. People seemed to be going to extremes either way. So here are a few thoughts of my own about KONY2012:

I love the fact that KONY2012 is bringing awareness. That is what Invisible Children do well. I love that it wakes people up to the reality of the world outside their safe little first world boxes. I like that it gets people passionate and questioning the injustices that are faced by so many every single day.
But at the same time there are some huge dangers of this campaign.

One danger is that we are hearing one voice, whereas out there are thousands of voices waiting to be heard. KONY2012 is presenting one story, one man. We must never forget that this is a single story, a single voice amongst the thousands affected.

Everywhere around the world there is injustice, trauma, and hurt. Even in your own backyards. It’s easy for us, coming from a first world nation, to look at the injustices of other nations and think of ourselves as superior to them. Want to smash that worldview? Look up the sexual abuse rates of children in Australia. Look at the discrimination all around you. No I’m not saying Australia is currently experiencing anything like the torture and horrific abuses like those living under Kony, however our nation faces its own shortcomings too. Never forget the ones in your own backyard. They are crying out to be heard too.

Another danger of the KONY2012 campaign is the tendency for Westerners to adopt a rescuer complex. The theory that we are saving someone by liking a status or putting up a poster. I’m not against those things, but remember the extent of what you are doing. Follow through with your actions. Sponsor a child, given to an organisation that is empowering the people. Empowering is always greater than rescuing.

And final thoughts are will we remember this…. Will we continue to fight against injustice? I am in a third world nation, fighting against injustice every day. It’s easy to stay focused on that here because I see the circumstances, hear the stories every day.

But I know that back in Australia it’s harder. We busy ourselves with our own lives, our first world problems. Or we become blinded to and desensitised to what happens… It seems like a far away problem. Sometimes it’s hard when you don’t see the faces and hear their cries. Sometimes it seems overwhelming, unsure how to play your part. Poverty is never easy. The solution is not simple. I just know that I need to do something. So maybe your something is posting a KONY2012 status. That’s a start. I encourage you to continue though. Talk to people about it, continue researching into what is happening in our world. Keep going. Don’t stop at a status.

And finally I want to say thankyou. Thankyou to Invisible Children for making voices heard by us in the West. Thankyou to those who brought awareness through social media and posters. Thankyou to those who sponsor the kids. Thankyou to those who encourage me whilst I am immersed in stories so similar to this. Thankyou for doing something. 

Monday, 5 March 2012

Getting naked with God


I am a Christian.

However I still hurt. I still struggle. I still question. I don’t deny that this world is full of pain and injustice. Sometimes it’s hard to see a God in all of that.

I carry around scars. Scars from a time in my life when, yes, I was a Christian. Yet I still fought a battle. I fought for the will to live. I fought to merely survive.

I fight battles every day. I doubt myself. Sometimes I question and doubt God.

I am not perfect and I never will be. No-one can be. I’m as broken, fragile, and imperfect as every other person in this crazy world.

I no longer hope to be perfect. Now, instead, my hope is that I can be authentic, wholehearted. I will ask for help when I need it. I will be honest when I’m struggling. I will be real with the world.

It’s time for me to remove the mask. It’s time for a lot of people to remove their masks as well. I know that I can no longer survive in my own little whitewashed world of perfection. Only through honesty and authenticity and brokenness can I truly relate and live.

Some say God is a crutch. I wonder what is really wrong with that. I know I couldn’t survive without him holding me up. Every day I see and hear need and tragedy and hurt. Every day I sit with people and wonder at how some survive their circumstances. I know there has to be a God in this somehow. I know for sure there is a God. I know because I am still alive.

I can’t give pat answers anymore. They don’t help anyone, me included. Sometimes there are questions that I don’t know the answers to. I just have faith that God does. I have faith that God is bigger than all of this. I believe He is authentic and genuine and that I cut myself off from that part of Him through wearing these masks, acting in this ‘perfection’.

So for me it’s time to be naked with myself, God, and others. No more hiding. No more covering. No more shame. Just grace, forgiveness, mercy, acceptance. Just me. Whole, imperfect, and created by God. That is all I need to be.