When we arrived in Phnom Penh four years ago, we certainly didn't foresee still being here today. But here we are. Four years…48 months…nearly 1500 days later.
Much has changed in this span of time and it runs deeper than the more obvious transformations – like going from a family of two to three, changing jobs, moving house.
Our idealism, and assumptions, our sense of entitlement and certainly our faith, have shifted. Deeply.
We came to Cambodia hoping to change the world. To use our education and privilege for something more profound – more meaningful.
But of course, Cambodia has changed us more than we could ever change it!
We are more confused now than ever before about the role of foreigners in a developing context. (We know we are part of a "third class" in the country. Our nationality, skin colour and experience sets us apart – always. Knowing we'll never be Cambodian, we'll never really "belong" in this context, so how then do we live?)
We're more confused about poverty and international development and the best ways to move a country forward (Aid? Social Enterprise?)
We're less sure now about the pros/cons of globalization. (We just know that it is ubiquitous and we do love to partake in the many Western food options in Cambodia)
We're torn about what the best embodiment of the church (and way more critical than we should be) in the local context.
We have felt our prejudices and assumptions about safety being confronted. We've had our sense of entitlement and Western "rightness" undergo a serious reality check. Our understanding of development and power – even our sense of purpose – has been challenged.
We've been thrown into the role of "student" once again. And realize that we really don't understand much. (Hopefully, as Socrates said, this will metamorphose into wisdom someday: "The only real wisdom is knowing you know nothing.")
Being learners once again and realizing (and articulating this out loud) just how much we don't know, don't "get", has actually been the beauty of Cambodia for us.
We've found great hope and relief in the words of Jean Vanier: "To be human is to accept ourselves just as we are, with our own history, and to accept others as they are."(Becoming Human)
What we do know, is that over the past four years, we've grown to deeply love Cambodia and the greater Southeast Asian region. (Of course we love the incredible opportunities for adventure and travel and cheap food and drink, but it does go deeper than that too…)
The idiosyncrasies and complexities. The messiness and contradictions. The stories that tear our hearts apart and the vibrant glimmers of hope. We are made to laugh by the quirks and the marvelous sense of humour and resilience Cambodians carry with them. And how our family – including Aya – has been fully embraced with love. We live in the tension of wanting so much more for this country, and yet experience how this is constrained by many, many realities.
We grieve and celebrate with this incredible country and our friends here. Cambodia has firmly embedded itself under our skin!
In facing inequity and poverty and hopelessness and corruption and ever-present frustration of knowing but not ever really knowing a culture, we've also had to face our own brokenness. And in that, have found a powerful hope.
"To be human means to accept history as it is and to work, without fear towards greater openness, greater understanding, and a greater love of others. To be human is not to be crushed by reality, or to be angry about it or to try to hammer it into what we think it is or should be, but to commit ourselves, as individuals, and as a species, to an evolution that will be for the good of all." (Jean Vanier)
Let this be true of us, wherever we end up in the coming years!