Isn’t there something so incredibly therapeutic about the combination of the enormous beauty of nature and pure physical exertion? Today was wonderful. Twelve of us made the two hour trek up into the mountains of the jungle, passing through a village of larger-than-life Buddha worshippers, and into the dense trees and rickety staircases of Kulen Mountain leading to the most awe inspiring waterfall. Here we spent our morning climbing over moss-covered boulders, splashing around in the water and attempting to swim as close to the waterfall as the rushing tides would allow. This misty morning adventure proved to be not only a cure for some early rising stomach ailments, but also for the intense mental strain that goes along with these innumerable new experiences. Surely, it was a welcome release.
On the drive back home, sitting amongst my friends, I relished in the silence while absorbing the pure joy that the day’s events had brought. This feeling of euphoria brought back many of the happy memories of our trip thus far; our driver, Mr. Hong’s contagious laughter which none of us will ever forget; our Khmer teacher, Yeum’s ceaseless happiness coupled with hilarious references to popular US hip hop music; a friend amongst us whose out-doorsy demeanor causes her to forget her shoes when leaving the guesthouse in Koh Ker; a wooden platform at the dorms up north which breaks when a few of us foolishly decide to mark it as a bench and surely becomes an amusing story to the dorm kids for months to come about the nonsensical “barangs” after it is quickly repaired by a few resourceful boys; incessant laughter about “Dog Suit Screams” (youtube it!) screenings between difficult classes; and THE GIRLS… the girls from City Dorm.
These girls can never again escape my thoughts. Again I think of fond memories with them; when teaching a women’s health workshop, they hold up mutli-colored vagina diagrams as we praise them for their beautiful work and they shriek with laughter while teasing each other over whose is whose; tripping over myself in my clumsy way as they teach us their graceful way of dance; and finally, as another workshop ends, a rainstorm begins and they insist that we stay and share their dinner so as to save us from the rain.
Maybe us being here in Cambodia is not making a difference for these girls. Maybe they will lose these memories of us amongst the numerous others they have acquired around similar volunteers arranging similar activities. Maybe they will not emerge from these workshops with a new sense of leadership or empowerment or whatever else our ideal goals have been. But they have touched our lives, my life, in a way that will be difficult to forget, and maybe something can come from that. We all have to find the passion that we feel worthy of dedicating our life to, and maybe this experience is pushing some of us in the right direction. Maybe this can be the beginning of something meaningful, and maybe this is the meaning of this trip.