10 Days

November 21, 2013 | Kaitlyn, DVM, WUSC, Cambodge, ICC University of Technology

This morning I woke up, far before my alarm, which is normal for me here. I’m not sure if it’s the temperature, how refreshed I feel, or that maybe I don’t need as much sleep as I do in Canada; perhaps it is because I look forward to the days more than I did back home.

This morning was more special than the rest. Today was the second day of the Water Festival, and although the celebrations had been cancelled due to the nationwide disastrous flooding, it was still a national holiday. In spirit of the celebration, I had travelled to the South of the country to get my water fix; I currently lay in a small wooden shack only 10 metres from the edge of an island. It is incredibly serene to listen to the waves pounding against the shore just after sunrise, but at the same time I am incredibly heartsick and torn. 10 days is all that remain of my time here. 10 days; just 10. Because most people can only afford to spend a week on vacation, I can almost hear them saying 10 days is quite a lot. But it’s not, when you’ve grown a second heart and life somewhere else. It is the end of the end and goodbyes and destruction of part of who you are remain imminent.

Cambodia has ensnared my heart, my passion and I will be leaving a large piece of my soul in this country. It’s lucky that we have forced re-integration training at the University after an internship, because I have a strong suspicion that mostly everyone would not return if it was not mandatory; such is the lifestyle, pain and reward of an internship.

I will miss everything about Cambodia; both the good and the bad. The saying that you need to experience highs and lows to appreciate both extremes personifies my sentiments exactly. Garbage in the streets, but understanding that most of it is neatly packaged so the garbage men have an easier time rounding it up demonstrates the kindness of the people. Dogs of all shapes and sizes, of mixed blood and purebreds are everywhere, but are not sold: they are taken in out of need for either a guard or more simply, because the dog needs a home. Cambodians have large, accommodating hearts that extend far beyond their own needs and they often push aside their own goals and standards if it means helping someone else.

I will miss the freshest most exotic fruits available, simply purchased by walking down the street. I will miss drinking freshly squeezed sugar cane juice out of plastic bags, that in my entire three months, have never once broken. I will miss wild tropical storms and searing dry heat. I will miss the mountains in the north, the beaches in the South, and the jungles in the East. I will regret not spending more time here and seeing more things, but relish everything that I have seen and experienced. I will safeguard the beauty, wonder and sacredness of the temples in my heart and vow to pilgrimage to them once again. I will miss the people; their smiles and children’s excited, high-pitched ‘hellos!’ because that is all they know in English. I will miss my guesthouse and the family who offers me small waves as I leave and return from work. I will miss the beautiful orange robes of the monks, the wailing of the death ceremony at the pagodas and the flamboyantly decorated outdoor wedding receptions.

One of the other interns mentioned that after this type of experience, you never really have a ‘home’ again; there is always something missing, a glimpse of somewhere else whispering in the back of your mind. She has managed to put it more eloquently than I could ever hope for.

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