A beautiful end to a difficult day.
My alarm went off at 7am. That meant it was time for work. I turned over in my bed and realised I couldn’t do it. It was just one of those days where I had to listen and surrender to my body. I have been exhausted and emotionally drained.
The last few weeks have been so difficult. I’ve had loads on my mind; the storm that hit the school in Battambang, getting this school built in Sala Lek Bram and just some internal personal things that go on through my mind.
I live quite a different lifestyle to a lot of those back home, yet it is all relative. We all deal with the stresses of personal and career strains. I am 10 days into my smoke free rehabilitation journey and I think the pressures of my nicotine withdrawals are adding extra weight.
The sun will go down and tomorrow will be a new day. The construction of the school will go on and it’s going to be a challenge of my own to get up and continue on with the mission.
Journal Entry 📔 – 29/04
Another one of those scorching hot days in the village. Temperatures reached up to 38 degrees Celsius.
Doing labour intensive work in this heat is physically exhausting, but there is an emotional element to it as well. I really didn’t want to be here doing this stuff today. The whole day I was wishing to be anywhere else.
The school is said to be finished in about 2 months. I feel exhausted and I cannot wait for it to be done so I can take a small break.
I’m just not feeling it today. The Monday blues, perhaps? – who knows? I’m just glad we got to knock off for now.
When I first arrived in Cambodia, I had no clue as to the horrific events of its past. As I went on, I learned more and more about it’s history of destruction and chaos and as I learned more about that, my eyes opened further on what I thought I knew about human suffering.
If I had never made the decision to move to Cambodia, I wouldn’t know human suffering to this extent. Do I value my new learned knowledge, or is ignorance a bliss?
I beg the question as to whether it was all worth destroying my own innocence and naivety just for the sake of my own curiosity. It’s too late now, there is no turning back. You build a home, you make friends and you see suffering and so you become hooked.
Since being here, I can say that there isn’t much that pulls on me, emotionally. A lot of the contributions that I have made are emotionally detached and professional. But, every now and then you get hooked on to something, emotionally.
Being there to witness the storm destroy the kitchen of the school last week was one of those moments that made this experience a little more personal for me. Improving the living conditions of the people in that school is no longer a professional pursuit for me, but rather a personal one. I can’t move on knowing there are people who I know personally who live in conditions like that.
Part of my mission with ‘This is Philanthropy’ is to change the way in which we contribute to the lives of others in order to make the world a better place. This approach is more personalised, placing choice in the hands of the giver and building a rapport between the giver and the receivers.
In the fundraiser that I am going to start, I am going to list the things that are needed to improve the conditions of this school. It is up to you as the giver to select where you would like your money to go and to watch the progress as conditions improve.
It would be much appreciated if you could donate. Even the smallest amount would mean a lot.
I love this picture.
It was taken a day after the storm hit. Channrong painting some bamboo.
It signifies to me a sense of restoration. The colour green is known to represent harmony and freshness. This image captures that. It’s the calm after the storm and it’s time to start over and move on.
Bamboos include some of the fastest growing plants in the world. I feel a sense of resilience appearing from the shot – a fresh start.
This is what the kitchen looks like after the storm.
It’s such a shame to see people living like this. Once the storm hit, I moved myself into town as I felt my safety was at risk, but I’ve returned to the school everyday to check up and have meetings with Sova about what we can do about this new problem.
Having stayed in this school for weeks at a time, I can now see how tough things can get for the people living there. The students and teachers do their best to pull their weight around, helping to build, cook and help raise the younger kids.
The conditions can get so rough. The students sleep on the floors of the dorms and wake up to study each day.
After the storm struck the other afternoon, I began to re-evaluate whether or not this was a safe place for me to be staying at the moment. There is a line you must draw sometimes, and this was it.
I really began to feel for the people of the school after the storm. I realised how much struggle goes on in there. Everyone works so hard to make it all work for the students. It’s a lifestyle of bare necessity for the sake of helping underprivileged students get out of the poverty cycle as much as possible.
It wasn’t until after my stay in this commune was when I realised, shit this is no way for people to live. I probably romanticised the whole experience a little too much while I was living there. Plus, it was only during the later days of my stay was when I realised the true reality of this kind of living and it can be quite confronting.
I try my best to constantly remind myself that no amount of money, no level of achievement and no external situation is going to make me happier than the happiness I cultivate within myself.
Sometimes, you wish for more. During those nights of discomfort, you wish you were living in luxury. During those lonely moments you are wishing for love and those moments of pure passion and motivation, you are striving for high levels of achievement and impact.
But, this attachment to these external things can only do so much. They bring joy in the short term, but it’s a known fact that once the novelty wears off, you go back to the same place you once were before you attained these things.
Happiness, love and impact begin from within.
I’m loving the gift I was given by Thea from HDLF.
I formed a close connection with Thea while I was living in his village. A 37 year old Khmer with a family of 4 and a big vision to build a school for the kids of the village.
We had many moments, sharing our fears for the future, our goals, our values and some of the stories of our lives.
Thea has a big mission ahead of him. It’s crunch time for him now. The school is on its way to being completed and he is feeling the general pressures and fears. “Is it going to work”?, he asks himself continuously.
Going in with fears and doubts, it reminded me of some of the situations we face when there is a huge challenge ahead. When there is risk involved and we are forced to make calculated decisions according to that risk. The thought of a long term commitment for work and pain.
You always tend to go in with the doubts and the fears. But, I once heard an extremely inspirational concept that put it all into perspective for me.
There is no such thing as fearlessness. That doesn’t exist in situations like these. However, courage does exist and courage is what we call the will to move in spite of our fears and doubts because there is something bigger than those fears and doubts waiting on the other side.
If the Buddhists are correct with their assumption of interconnectedness -that we are one with everything, then is it true that by dousing each atom of our make up with peace, wisdom, positivity and tranquility, then those same elements that surround us also become to cultivate the same sense of peace we carry?
Einstein held the views that of a pantheist, where by reality is identical with divinity, or that all things compose of an all encompassing immanent God.
If we are composed of the same elements that surround us, that we are interconnected, then how can we hack our physical and emotional realities from a place of internal bliss?
If we work hard to develop an internal foundation of peace, wisdom and spirit, what impact would this make on our external realities, our social interactions, our spiritual experiences, our monetary fortunes and our contribution on the world?
As humans, we have this burning desire to find the answers to the mysteries of this life we have been given.
Our cognitive ability gives us the tools to beg questions about the cosmos. We hold this notion that there is an infinite amount of answers out there amongst the stars. Yet, our physical bodies act as a barrier between what we can imagine and what we can accomplish, hindering our ability to answer some of these existential questions. It’s as if our minds are trying to break free from the limited potential of the physical body, as it knows there is much more to our existence than what we witness before us in our everyday lives.
This is one of the greatest tragedies for human kind.
If you look at Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs, in the West we have fulfilled the bottom two; food and safety. Due to our natural burning desire to solve problems, the absence of problems surrounding our food supply and our safety begin to throw us off balance. We begin to look for other problems to be solved.
If you think about the multi billion dollar industry of contemporary western society, you will see a common theme. They say, “be present and enjoy the moment”. We have introduced an abundance of meditation and other spiritual practices that assist the mind in developing more of a sense of presence.
This could have been a detriment some hundred or so years ago when food and safety wasn’t as prevalent in the lives of those who lived in times like those. The mind was required to be switched on in order to fulfil our most basic needs.
Yet, we still carry this hardware. It has been biologically passed on and has remained quite the same. Yet, the problems we are required to solve have changed dramatically. Is this why we are told to be more present today?
So, where does this leave us? What do we do with all of these ideas that continue to burn us from within?
It’s good to be back home in Cambodia.
I returned to my favourite cafe in town and I was greeted with a standing ovation by all the staff.
It’s moments like these that make all of this worth it. Sometimes, it’s not the impact that you make and things that you achieve here, but rather the smaller things that you tend to cherish.
This little guy didn’t know how to respond when he saw my face. Watching the kids try to process the face of a foreigner is quite comical. They go through a phase of shock and distress. Once they overcome their initial fear, they become entranced with curiosity.
Apparently, I’ve put on a lot of weight after going back to Australia. The Cambodians aren’t shy about letting you know.