15
Jul
12

Paradox of the Day by Jordan Lapolla

This trip is going to change your life” quoted everyone who I told about my first trip to Cambodia. It’s true that I have never traveled so far from home and pre-departure I spent day and night predicting the events and hopeful fruitions of the coming weeks. Nothing could have prepared me for the encounters happening on the ground and as Lori is fond of repeating, “don’t be married to your plan” because nothing turns out the way that you envision. Aside from being fresh to the world of traveling, a whole slew of unforeseeable “firsts” have bombarded me since arrival. Never having lived in a dorm-like situation, I am now sharing a room with three vibrant and ambitious women whom I have quickly bonded with over late night and early morning chats. These past two days have also introduced me to the organization and implementation of teaching a class full of high school aged students, and alongside two of my peers, I have come out of our initial workshops with a sense of accomplishment and confidence. Instilled in me even now after this first week, is an improved source of trust in myself that I have previously found so difficult to grasp in my work as a student and volunteer. The beauty of this experience is overwhelming, but even so, fears and doubts are still consistently present (although it is comforting to know that some of my thoughts are shared by many others in this group). Mostly I worry because there is a constant knowledge that we are a part of this “development” world that we so often critique. The work that we are beginning to engage in contains a delicate balance between self-autonomy of a society and compliance of those with more resources. It is difficult to navigate these nuances in a way that is productive and beneficial to the groups that we work with, while simultaneously making a conscious effort to avoid inherent assumptions and Western arrogance so present in our world. Despite the discomfort caused by these contradictions in development work, I imagine that I will emerge from Cambodia with a better understanding of what it means to do this kind of work. And though Jas has confessed that after many years of experience, development work continues to be a complex and conflicting field, the alternative is to simply ignore the great inequalities and injustices in the world. Surely, I feel more comfortable on the former side and maybe some day I will be able to reconcile these differences.

Until next week,
Jordan

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