I am going to be honest. This has been the hardest month of my year thus far. After language frustrations, cultural learning curves, missing holidays and big events in the states, aching to do something rather than just be, and slowly learning to explain what this year is, I thought the hard part was done. And then came June 7th, the start of my last month. There is so much to think about right now, and my brain begins to forms cracks of separation between Cambodia and the United States like an earthquake disrupting the land. There is so much to feel right now, and my heart overflows from the joy and grieving and hope and strain and love flooding into it. A close friend in college once told me that my heart was a confusing thing. She said it was too big because I left the door to it wide open with room for everything to enter and since pain can creep into even a crack under a door, my heart was ridiculously susceptible to it. But my heart also seemed to have the ambition of growing even larger for the beauty that was yet to be discovered or the love that did not yet have a home, despite the hurt that may accompany all the good. Times like these remind me of that. With about three weeks left in placement, I continue to take each moment for the beautiful bitter-sweet time that it is. I do not deny myself from feeling anything that I do during this time, because preparing to leave is a strange thing.
Last week I attended a youth camp with six other LCC staff members and one youth from the Tang Krang congregation. Many times during the camp I would close my eyes and just soak in however I felt. Frustrated, joyful, comfortable, tense, reminiscent, thoughtful, emotionless. It was good to open my eyes again and remember that these strong emotions make it clear just how impactful the places and people here have been this past year. It feels nice to know there is still some time left. Time to feel anything and everything that comes along. Throughout the week I was reminded of the Ashley that stepped off the plane in August. She knew about five (very badly pronounced) words in Khmer, she only could say for sure that rice was one important food, and she knew she got to take her shoes off a lot. But now, ten months later, she has grown so much from that place because of the people here. The Ashley that will eventually get off a different plane is both strikingly different, and very much the same. Same, same, but different.
At the end of the week I had to start my goodbyes to people who have been important during my time here, even if only for moments few and far between. When the time came for some of them, they looked at me and said one of the most common Cambodian phrases I have come to love: “See you when you see me.” And then they left, and that was it. There was not a hug, nor even a real goodbye, just a reminder that someday, we will see one another again. It was nothing like I pictured it, and yet exactly what I expected. Some of the tension I had been holding over the week as I approached the first round of goodbyes was dispersed, and I found a strange peace in knowing that my goodbyes were over, if only for a little bit. As my days continue to decrease, and are filled with both memories to cherish and moments of loss, I consider myself increasingly blessed. This feeling can only truly be explained through one of my favorite Winnie the Pooh quotes: