5:45am. 3 weeks in.
The road is dry and broken, a bricolage of red dirt, stones, and fallen debris. The sky overhead is a deep aqua blue, countless openings for the unfettered imagination. The thick morning air holds the promise of rain. One foot in front of the other, my feet move rhythmically against the ground with a sort of meditative spirit.
And I think.
I think of the constant stream of ironies we settle into through our daily exchanges with the landscapes of Cambodia.
I think of the boundless questions my students ask in an attempt to understand themselves and the world in which they live.
I think of the very real struggle for food security.
I think of the multiple lines of accountability that channel through the creation of this program—from ourselves, to our partners in Siem Reap, to the communities we work alongside, to our university back in New York.
I think of the ways we empty places of a history.
I think of how broader discourses of development frame the way we enter our work here, even while we are conscious of them.
I think of our experiences of learning Khmer and what this tells us about the way we understand our purpose.
I think of how we collapse time and distance so this feels like the only place in the world.
I think of the numerous instances in which my students have surprised me (in good ways) and challenged me to consider new vantage points.
I think of the very real struggle for clean water.
I think of the idea of choice.
I think of many different faces.
I think of all the things we think we understand.
I think of the silence that ensues when none of us can find words.
I think of what redistribution and recognition mean in the context of power.
I think of the inherent strengths in a war of position over a war of movement.
I think of the very real struggle for paid work.
I think of my students’ reactions to the leader of a missionary organization describing the role of god in the work of development.
I think of the immense graciousness in our human interactions, big and small.
I think of the lack of basic medical care and the spread of disease (that is preventable).
I think of the emotion that rises to the surface when my students speak.
I think of our complicity.
I think of all we have learned.
I think of the distance we have yet to travel.
–Jaskiran Dhillon, Faculty Director