Grounding

Music at 5:30 am and more music till 9:00 am.  

Its as if this village never sleeps. It’s as if  nightlife in this rural village holds a certain level of significance. There isn’t much around.  The next property over from our commune is about 20-30 metres away and then it’s all rice field and lake for a while until you meet the next property.  

The way they listen to their music is intriguing.  They just blast it so loud so the whole village can hear.  The bass rocks the floor and you get these hypnotic tunes that put you in a trance.  A lot of them are traditional Cambodian melodies.

Their funeral music is extremely peculiar to me.  I can’t really explain it. Its evokes so much emotion.  It gives you a sense of the blues, and I said that before I knew what these pieces of music represented.  Provocative in nature, the darkness of them can send you on a downward spiral of sadness and grief.

Throughout my time in siem reap, I would always hear these types of tunes.  There was always a type of religious chanting going on, whether they were from the monks in the Buddhist temples, or the Cambodian Imams from the mosques.  Now that I have come to the village, I would like to know more about what music means to the Cambodian villager. If nightlife is an important part of life here and there is music constantly pumping, then what does that say about the people who lives in an environment like this?  

Out here, there tends to be a lack of stimulation, simple because there isn’t much going on.  Everything is so still, because it’s just land and long, hot days. I wonder what that does to the mind, body and soul?

Whether you live in a major city in a first world country or in a rural village in Cambodia, everyone needs something to ground them – an escape from reality, or a unity with reality on a different level, rather.  Music can alter your state of mind and it can manipulate your experience, internally. With a lifestyle like this, the Cambodian villager needs some sort of stimulation. Life is slow and lazy. Music is their stimulation when they are in need of some grounding.  Grounding to them comes in the form of action, hype and energy. For those living in major cities, their grounding can come in the forms of meditation. Meditation is another way in which we can alter the state of our minds.

When life runs at a slower pace, you need short hits of stimulation in order to keep you grounded.  So what do you do? – you pump your music at full blast and you get lost in the sounds.

What do you do when your body and mind requires some grounding?

I don’t feel all too well today.  The heat in the village is starting to weigh me down.  Its as if I’m carrying an extra 30 kilos of body weight.  The move I have made out to the village seems easy to me on the surface, but I’m starting to realise that adjusting to a new environment, especially one so foreign will catch up with you.  I think the honeymoon phase is starting to wear off now and the reality of it is starting to kick in.

Don’t get me wrong, I am loving the place.  It’s the people who make it all worthwhile, but the adjustment in lifestyle is starting to get to me.  I am trying my hardest to get back into my routine, but it’s just not that easy after you experience a complete shift in environment and lifestyle.  I got out of bed this morning after 30 minutes of procrastination and I attempted to go for a run before getting stopped on the side of the road by a man on a bike who wanted to show me his farm.  Being the only foreigner within a 15 minute bike ride radius, I am probably like a celebrity in this village. I was only 5 minutes into my run before getting stopped and taken to this pig farm that the man wanted to show me.  I was slightly frustrated with the fact that my run was disrupted, especially considering I had spent so long in a mental tussle with myself just to get my joggers on. I couldn’t say no, however. The genuine interest shown by Cambodian villager was enough to make me surrender to the fact that I was not getting my run done today.  By the time I left the man, the sun began to blaze and it was all too late. As I mentioned, it took enough energy just to get my joggers on. I was ready to throw in the towel after my encounter with the villager and his pig farm.

I spent most of the day in the village but there came a point where I just had to get on my bike and leave.  The heat became way too much. There was no escaping it. With no air conditioning in this commune, I had no choice but to ride my bike into town to sit at a cafe.  

Im feeling really moody today.  The adjustment to this lifestyle is starting to hit home now, and it’s taking its toll on me physically and emotionally.  With an abundance of time on my hands to sit around and think, my mind tends to wonder to places that I’m usually trying to avoid through distraction.  You know, I am the type of person who gets bored very easily. That’s part of the reason why I moved abroad in the first place. I was born and raised in Sydney and by the time I packed my bags to leave it, I was sick to death of it.  It was the same old Sydney I had always known and I was longing for something fresh, exhilarating and challenging. As bored as I can get, I’m slowly realising that I am a creature of habit and routine. It’s the reason why I always despised the disruptive holiday seasons.  Right now, Im lacking habit and routine, and it’s just throwing me off. I’m trying my best to pick things back up, but a transition like this takes time and perseverance.

I haven’t really started any work in the village yet.  We are still in the process of building a schedule and a job description for me.  Due to the fact that I have opted to stay long term, writing out a schedule and a job description has proven to be a little more complex.  

Im just feeling agitated and restless, I guess.  I think it’s because I feel guilty for doing so little, at the moment.  That transition from city life to countryside will do that to you. You find yourself doing so much less than what you did when you were living in the city and it throws you off.  You feel unproductive and lazy and the idea of that can be frustrating.

I know what I have to do. I have to keep my composure right now.  This will pass in time. It’s one of the many obstacles that I will face in terms of adjusting to a completely new environment.  Don’t get me twisted, however. As much as I want to pull out the minimal hair on my head right now, I understand the importance of riding with the waves.  I didn’t come here to feel joyous all the time. This is my way of running towards adversity, in the face of pain and suffering. I value adversity above most other things, as that is where all of the jewels are discovered.  

Reality As It Is

I’ve lost count of how many days I have spent in the village, so far.  I think it’s about 4 nights or so. Slowly, I’m learning what life is all about when living in the countryside.  Things can get awfully quiet and extremely slow. I have caught myself walking around the commune, aimlessly. I told myself that I would create a regimented plan for how I would like my days to be set out, but procrastination is standing between me and that routine I promised to create.  It is a detriment, because I am found wandering around, frustrated with myself. I don’t know whether to pick up a book and read, exercise, meditate, write, or just relax. I get fidgety and restless and then I start to feel guilty after looking at my clock, only to realise that hours have passed and I have done nothing.  

I can be a lazy bastard, sometimes.  I am just so confused as to what to do with my time, right now.  It’s as if I have come to the realisation that I have so much time on my hands, and my reaction has been to just freeze with overwhelm.  It’s good to have students and teachers around the commune. We have all of our meals together and we socialise, but a lot of the time, everyone is off doing their own thing.  

My showering arrangements have been nothing but interesting.  It’s an outdoor shower that pours out cold water. Most of the time, the cold water is not an issue because the heat of the day warms the pipes.  At night time, however, the water is quite chilled. Last night, I decided to take a shower at the last minute, only to find out that the water supply had run dry.  So, I had to grab the nearest bucket and pour water over my head with the supply that came from a tub of water in the outdoor bathroom that is usually used for flushing the toilet.  There is no flusher here and no toilet paper. You wash yourself with water, and water only. When you need to flush, you get a bucket and pour water into the bowel.

Surprisingly, my sleeping patterns are on point and I am so happy with that.  You find the occasional spider, frog or gecko hanging around your mattress, but I always remind myself that I’m Australian and nothing should scare me because the creatures I grew up around are far more dangerous than most things you will find here.  The mattress itself is another story. It’s so thin, I can feel the floor beneath me. My back is starting to pay for it. The mosquito problem is an issue, especially at night. There is a medium level of risk for malaria in Battambang, so putting guard on my skin each night is something I never forget to do.  

The days are scorching hot and they sap the life out of you. I tried forcing myself to go for a run, or at least a brisk walk today, but there was just no way I was going to get that done.  The heat is so dry and irritable. There is no getting comfortable here. You shower and 5 minutes later you are back to swimming in your own pool of sweat. Oh, the joys of the Cambodian countryside.

Is this experience for everyone, or is it only limited to those who are sick in the head enough to pursue something as outrageous and as far fetched as this?  To be honest, I would recommend this to absolutely everyone. You realise after a while that you really dont need ¾ of the shit you own. We live lives of excess and gluttony.  Naturally and understandably, we are so quick to forget just how much we have. We tend to take most things for granted – our cloud like beds and our fresh, warm water supply, just to name a few.  

We take things for granted, and that is understandable.  How are any of us meant to know any different? A life of abundance is all we have ever known.  I guess, it takes experiences like these to fully comprehend the scale of our circumstances compared to someone who lives in poverty.  I am impressed with the mindset of the young Cambodians, however. It’s as if they acknowledge the fact that there are many people within their own country and outside of their country who have more than them.  Their level of understanding in regards to the relationship between materialism and happiness is on point. For a lot of the young Cambodians who I live with in this commune, they know that happiness cannot come from an excess amount of stuff, but rather a life rich with human connection, family, health and contribution.  It’s just great to be surrounded by such brilliant minds. Although our minds are wired differently, I still feel as though I can relate to them in one way or another and I am so grateful to be able to learn from these impressive individuals.

A Good Space

The first night in the village was a complete success.  A commune of young students in their 20’s who dropped out of school due to the fact that they were unable to afford education, so they have all moved in to the commune to work and learn.  Everyone pitches in to prepare food, keep the property clean and to teach and learn from each other. This commune is like a boarding school for the people who have decided to join, so it is like one big family who all live together.  

After last night, I’m quite glad to say that I am now part of this family.  Everyone was so welcoming and the vibe is just nice. Everyone is there to learn and to help each other.  

On my first night, I slept on a thin mattress on the floor, under a mosquito net.  Surprisingly, I slept like a baby. Who would’ve thought that with such different living conditions, I would be comfortable enough to have one of the best night’s sleep I have had in a long time.  I guess, it’s not so much about the material things you have, but rather the vibe of the place and the people you are surrounded by. I woke up to the calling of roosters and the fresh scent that only a secluded village can offer. Cambodian style porridge was prepared and served for breakfast – a concoction of rice and sweetener.

I think the people of the village are still getting used to the fact that there is now a foreigner in town.  It was hilarious watching the people almost fall off their bikes at the site of my face. I’m an alien in a place like this.  

In terms of my mental state, I’m just in a good place.  I’ve been in a good place since moving to Cambodia. Never in my life have I been this motivated to get work done.  I’m waking up most days, ready to go out and get it. It’s the reason why I stress doing what you love. You got to do what you love, otherwise what’s the point?  

Mindset

I finally made it out here into the village.  I applied for this role about 2 months ago, and I have been patiently awaiting for my time to come.  

Where am I staying?  It’s like a small commune area in the middle of a village about 15 minutes out from town.  I first arrived while it was daylight and I was fine with it. I thought back to when I spent a month in a rural village as a first timer.  When I look back on doing that, I wonder how the hell I did a whole month as a first timer. That’s the type of person I am, though. When it comes to challenges like these, it’s either yes or no – chips all in, or no chips at all.  That is why I’ve decided this time around that this is going to be a long term stay. For what I want to achieve in terms of self growth and life experience, there is no other way about it. You go all in, or you just go home. For some, they may not look at it like this, but I do and so I have decided to go the full length.

These commune areas are pretty interesting, actually.  You have students and teachers living within the commune.  These organisations have a cult like aspect to them. The Cambodian family who I am staying with have openly admitted that they were once part of similar communes when they were growing up and they underwent major brainwashing.  There was an Indian psychologist who once came to Cambodia to create an education program, using learning the English language as a way to entice people to come. Once the kids joined the commune, there was very little learning English.  This psychologist who was awarded the nobel peace prize worked hard at rewiring the brains of these kids who seemed to be stuck in negative personal narratives – the types of negative narratives that are a result of being raised in poverty, scarcity and sometimes helplessness.  I never thought about it until hearing this story, but poverty not only manifests itself in our physical world. It can also manifest itself within the mind.

Author, Simon Sinek refers to this concept of personal narratives with a story involving a homeless woman.

Most homeless people are found holding up signs, asking people for donations. Essentially, they are selling goodwill.  People who give their money may feel good about themselves after they have gifted someone for a good cause.

Sinek set out to find a homeless person that would help him out.  He found that this particular homeless person worked 8-10 hour days and makes around $30 selling goodwill.  Simon changed her sign to say, “if you only give me money once a month, please think of me next time”. This new approach got the homeless woman $40 in 2 hours, compared to her average $30 in 8 hours. Once she made her $40, she packed up for the day and left.  Sinek says, this lady left after making more than $30 because in her mind, she only needs $30 to live – this was her personal narrative.

You may be wondering where I am going with this.  Well, you only have to observe the people who were raised through poverty or are still experiencing some level of poverty, and you can see that they lack a tremendous amount of confidence and self-esteem.  

Back to the Cambodian humanitarian that I was talking about, earlier.  She told me that she joined a humanitarian commune many years ago as a poor person who lacked education and basic life skills. As a result, she believed that she was only destined for a life of poverty and struggle – This was her personal narrative.  Through personal development training conducted by the Indian psychologist, she was able to change her mindset and she is now helping other people do the same, empowering them, mentoring them and proving to them that they are worthy and they can too defeat this cycle of poverty.  

I thought this story was quite extraordinary.  This lady is intelligent and incredibly confident.  She is now on a mission to establish more schools around the country that offer conventional and personal development education to the next generation of kids, working hard to help break this negative narrative, showing them that they can achieve more than what they could ever have imagined.   

Half an hour out from town, I set off on my motorbike heading towards the rural outskirts of Battambang.  The ride was stunning. The road stretches so far, displaying a variety of different settings. One minute, you are cruising along a stretch at 60km/p and you are surrounded by thick vegetation on either side of the road.  The roof of the trees meet above the road, making way for beautiful shaded areas that relieve you from the burning sun. Once you pass these stretches, you turn to hear the angry rumble of a truck, as it picks up speed after spotting an open road.  That’s when you give it some gas, and you soak in the breathtaking open roads and grasslands – vast and dry. This feels like the epitome of a farming town in Cambodia, with huge steel rice mills and random gas stations that sit besides extravagant Cambodian style mansions.  

My first attempt at getting out to the school was a failure.  The data on my phone began to cut out as soon as I hit the outskirts of town.  That’s when I knew we were going pretty rural by this stage. I ended up taking a detour back into town, had some lunch and coffee at a nice cafe in the heart of town before setting back on the bike to head back out to the village.  I am already loving this town for what it offers. It is said that the town of Battambang is at the forefront of the modern day art scene in Cambodia. You can see how that may be the case. There is an abundance of French influenced cafes and restaurants where you find paintings on the wall, sometimes with a price tag on them.  You never fail to spot that token white person sitting at a table, immersed in whatever it is they are doing from their laptops.

After a half an hour trip down this big countryside road, I found the school.  I was the only foreigner in site, so you can just imagine the attention I was attracting.  I entered the school where I was warmly welcomed by some of the students who were either hanging around their classrooms, or outside.  This experience took me straight back to that month I spent in a Thai village a couple of years ago.

I had an interesting discussion with one of the founders of the HDLF school earlier this morning.  HDLF stands for the ‘Human-Resource Development & Language Foundation’. After this discussion, the name of the organisation began to make more sense to me.  This organisation encourages young Cambodian adults who aspire to be teachers and educators to volunteer with their organisation and in exchange for their time and efforts, the organisation funds their university degree so that they can obtain qualification in the field of education.  When I heard this, I felt so good about the fact that I was going to be working with such an organisation. I am really passionate about empowering the people, treating them as embodied agents of change. Donating money to a community or a cause is great, however that’s just one aspect of philanthropy.  Solutions and processes that ensure long term sustainability; these are the aspects of philanthropy that I value highly.

We have discussed what my arrangements will be and I will be based in a different spot to where the school is.  My place will be at the headquarters, about 20 minutes away from the school. That is where I will do most of my work.  The type of work I will be doing is on the business development side of things. This fits well with my current skills and it is going to teach me so much about how social enterprises work.  

Okay, I’m pretty damn excited right now.

I learned a lot during my time spent working alongside a team of Cambodian millennial professionals.  I was impressed with the vast group of young, open minded individuals so eager to build a portfolio of skills that could be applied to this new age of thinking.  I worked for a Cambodian company called eOcambo Hospitality Group. My main role in the company was digital marketing for hotels and for a volunteer program. Throughout my time with this company, I observed many interesting trends that played a huge role in shifting my perspective on how we obtain and apply our knowledge in today’s world.

I was so keen to find out where this thirst for knowledge that the young Cambodian’s showed came from.  It’s a thirst quite different to that of a millennial from the West. In Australia, we have some of the best Universities on the planet.  Not to mention, the access to a free flowing supply of educational content from individuals and companies who release digital content on a daily basis.  This access to information is insane and it is starting to create an abundance of opportunity for those who engage in such material.

My teacher and student, Jerric. We worked together on topics like marketing fundamentals, content marketing, social media marketing and branding. Jerric and I are going to do some work together in the future. He has a passion for graphics design and will be creating some digital artwork for ‘This is Philanthropy’

As I continued working alongside these Cambodian millennial’s, I began learning more about the country and it’s horrific past. The Khmer Rouge genocide in the 1970’s resulted in the death of half of the Cambodian population. Along with the destruction, all forms of education was obliterated, stripping Cambodia down to an agricultural society with a main purpose to ‘start over’. The highly educated were targeted first, resulting in the murder of many of Cambodia’s teachers, doctors, scientists and artists.

Besides the death of half the population, the destruction of their education lead to one of the most devastating crisis’ in the history of Cambodian society.  Since then, Cambodia has spent the last 40-50 years trying to rebuild an education system that is relevant and sustainable. With the help of many Western funded and operated non-government organisations, more and more children are gaining access to better educational resources.  That is just one aspect, however. It seems as though basic, conventional education no longer holds the title as being the main source of learning anymore – welcome to the age of digital dominance.

Marvin – HR Manager at eOcambo Hospitality Group
Marvin has a university degree in human resource management but is not thinking about stopping anytime soon. We discussed a few online education platforms that he can expand on and pick up new skill sets.

Once you look into the past of Cambodia and you connect the dots to the present, you then start to beg questions about the future.  How has technology changed the game for these young individuals of contemporary Cambodia? The increase in connectivity has seen a rapid rise in employment opportunities in Cambodia, with now ⅔ of the population in work as of 2012.  It is now easier for young Cambodians’ to reach larger audiences when branding their businesses or themselves. Cambodian’s now have access to educational resources from countries all over the world. With the sharing of information and this rise in connectivity, this may be the beginning of many good things to come for the young Cambodian’s of today who stand at the front line, striving to build a better future for their nation.

For most, growing up in a nation where poverty, illness and violence is prevalent, it is natural to find many individuals who have a strong sense of necessity.  Being products of an environment where scarcity is ubiquitous, it isn’t a wonder why some of these young Cambodian’s are so thirsty for knowledge. I was extremely impressed to find out that some of my peers had access to the same online information as what I had.  It is now as simple as purchasing a $12 course from online education platforms like Udemy, Skillshare and Shaw Academy, in order to learn a new skill. We are so connected now that we are able to learn from some of the most influential people of the modern day, and they don’t even need to know that we exist.

This opens up new doors for Cambodian educators, students, employees and entrepreneurs.  This new trend in technology has seen innovative concepts like Cambo Market – free online food delivery service, and PassApp – online tuktuk service which operates like Uber, come to life and they are thriving.  The fields of digital marketing, graphics design and web development are also becoming increasingly popular among many young University students, as the trend in online services continue to flourish.  

Lunches with the team at eOcambo Technology

One of the responsibilities I have taken on since noticing this trend in technology is to share as much information as I can.  Coming from a place where education and information is in abundance, I have tried my best to share as much knowledge with my peers as possible, introducing them to Western online sources on topics like digital marketing, graphics design and much more.  

I am interested in learning more about how we can use technology to help us move forward personally and collectively. I feel as though the internet is a representation of life, itself. The internet is and will continue to become a separate reality from that of the physical world. This begs the question – are there any lessons we can learn from our physical experience that can be applied to our digital one?

If we observe our physical world, there are certain things that we learn through maturation such as, you are what you eat.

Is the content on your Facebook newsfeed for your mind, like food for your body? If our lives are becoming increasingly more present in this digital reality, it may be important for us to be conscious of what we are feeding ourselves, personally and collectively.

Many believe that we are at the very beginning of the digital revolution; that we are living through the years that will one day be referred to as the internet’s infancy.  So, how will this rise in connectivity and information transform humanity as we navigate our way through this never ending series of problems that we are required to solve?

Up at 7:30 am, I had to get my bicycle to the nearest hangout spot so my friend could pick it up.  It was one of the many possessions I handed over to the friends who I was leaving behind in Siem Reap.  I made my way to my favorite cafe where I said my goodbyes to the friends I had made there. A farewell coffee and the exchange of small gifts gave me a warm sense of comfort. Then, it was to the bus depot. My morning was structured and well planned. I guess, I had planned my exit from Siem Reap well because I knew if I hadn’t, I would put myself in a deeper state of emotional overwhelm.  

About 4 hours later, we arrive in the town of Battambang and that is when the nerves began to really kick in. Having gone from a busy, tourist town like Siem Reap to a small country town like Battambang really threw me off.  It wasn’t only the shock caused by the change of environment, but also the fact that I knew I was leaving behind a life that I have worked hard at building for the last 8 months. It was a life that took time, care and responsibility, as I had to fend for myself for the very first time in my life – survival wise.  

I slept after a decent sized cambodian dish – beef curry. I thought, “maybe the pain will subside after a short nap”. It only intensified when I woke up. I spent 30 minutes on my bed, crying with a pillow over my face.  I then took myself to the bathroom where I cried for another 20 minutes and then the deck chair by the pool where I just sat, lost looking at the reflection of the water – tears rolling down my eyes, profusely.

Why was I so emotional?  What was it that I was feeling? I realised, it wasn’t fear, at all.  It was grief. I was in a state of grief for the life in Siem Reap that I was leaving behind.  So many memories were created there, so many deep connections and so much comfort was built and developed over time. Siem reap became my life. That shift in environment and lifestyle always throws you off.  It’s the grief you experience for the old life you once clinged to. Everything becomes familiar and comforting.

It was around 9pm when I decided that I had released as much emotion as what was required, and it was time to move on with things. This journey will go on, and when things need to be left to the past, as hard as it is to let go, it is a must. With the help of a few whiskey and cokes, I felt relieved.  I promised myself I wouldn’t drink until I had surpassed the eye of the emotional storm in my sober state of mind. I didn’t want to numb my pain because that would truly defeat the purpose of all of this. I never embarked on this journey for the sake of experiencing pleasure, and only pleasure. I came here to embrace everything for what is.

At first, you waltz in ready to save the nation – guns blazing, and all.  You are a naive rookie.  You have no idea what goes on here.  Everything is romanticized.  You are in this foreign new world, one that you have been searching for a long time.  Your long search has come to an end; you have arrived at your destination.  What a feeling that is.  You are on top of the world. 

After a while, things start to piss you off.  Small things like the road rage that you have crippled yourself with must be contained because you know you are no longer at home.  These rules aren’t yours to judge.  Fuck, that is tough to navigate your way through.  Thank fully, my defensive riding skills have kept me safe, but I won’t lie, there have been some close calls. Sorry, Mum.

Things that are completely unacceptable in Sydney are made part of the norm on these roads.  You have people crossing big intersections, running through red lights and people pulling out in front of you, completely unaware that you are cruising at 40km/h.  They don’t even look back, so it’s up to you to see them and dodge.  If you don’t take responsibility, you ruin the day for the both of you.  As raged as I was at first, I had no choice but to keep my composure and ride proactively. 

Once the romance dies down, reality kicks in.  There are no more big celebratory nights.  It’s basically just you and your work colleagues.  For me personally, I love alone time.  Alone time is my most valued time of the day because I know if I give it to myself, I will be better off for myself and for those around me.  But, I was not expecting this type of alone time.  Alone time gets too much, so you immerse yourself in work.  It’s not an issue for the first few months, if anything its enjoyable.  It gives you something to do and when that work involves your passions and your self-growth, you give it all the love in the world.  It’s an obsession more than anything else.  You get to a stage however, where you begin to feel a little empty.  You are happy and you love your work and you feel as though you are on the right track, the track that you want to be on, but then you start to wonder what else life may have to offer.  I came to learn through my loneliness, that there is a lot more to life than your work and your passions.  That’s all part of the ego.  I’m talking about love, connection, laughter and support.  These are far more profound concepts.

The upside to all of this is you now start to build new social networks.  They can’t be compared to the ones back at home.  However, they hold a very valuable place in your heart.  When you are out here and life feels so intense on the inside and out, it’s always good to know that you have good people around you.  The friendships I have made here are nothing but genuine, honest and supportive.  I have no time for anything else.  If someone shows genuine concern for me, I make sure I keep them close and I look after them just as much as they look after me.  I have Australian friends here, I’ve met a fair few expats who live here and I have a lot of Cambodian friends.  These are people who let me in their houses and the kitchens of their restaurants.  I’m part of the family and I get invited to all family occasions. 

After a while, you start to really settle in.  You begin to learn the ins and outs well enough to go into semi auto pilot.  This is one of the most interesting parts.  This is when reality really starts to hit home.  You realize how rough life can be here.  I never really understood what human suffering in the third world was actually about.  It’s interesting when I witness this type of suffering and then I think back to the suffering back home.  

After building connections with people, you start to become emotionally invested in them.  What went from chaos in which I felt so detached from now becomes a personal.  It’s as if, every time I hear about the suffering that occurs here, I start to feel it in my bones.  I feel it for the people and most of all, I have started to feel the pain of my friends.  It hasn’t always been this way.  In fact, I have spent months trying to reconcile with the fact that seeing poverty has had no real impact on me, emotionally.  I have met people personally who are living in some of the poorest conditions, yet those moments were never enough to have me as emotionally invested as I am now.  I guess, being emotionally detached can be a good thing out here.  If you break down and lose your composure, you will pay for it.  For what you witness here, it requires a strong stomach.  There isn’t any time for dwelling.  It’s all about getting down to work.

Now days, my connections with certain people have become so strong that I feel the pain.  I witness the everyday struggle and it has started to wear me down.  I feel for my friends.  This has become personal for me now.  To be able to witness life here in the depth at which I am witnessing it right now has been my fuel for achieving as much peace as possible. 

You can’t save the world – it’s that simple.  Sometimes, that is the hardest thing to accept.  However, you begin to notice the nuances.  Something as simple as spending a couple of hours mentoring someone can go a long way.  Those moments of one on one mentoring have been the most fulfilling yet.  If you can just make a small difference to someone’s life, then they can go on to do the same for someone else. 

People are so grateful for the fact that I have given my time and energy to help them.  I tell them that it comes at a cost, however.  That cost involves using the knowledge that I have shared with them to bring someone else up when the time is right.  Ambitions and aspirations of the young people are quite different here.  It seems as though career goals have more to do with helping the community rather than buying a beach front property with a 10 car garage.  That’s the beautiful thing about the people here.  Never have I felt a sense of community like this one before.  This is on another level, and I guess it has to be that way.  It’s a matter of survival.

I had experienced some pretty good times throughout my childhood and my early adulthood.  When we were 15 years old, I helped stage an amateur home video series.  There were 6 of us embarking on an artistic journey.  We were a pure rip off of the iconic ‘Jackass’.  They were the dudes we were looking up to at that age, and there still remains huge level of respect for these guys.  They created an empire that spread across the masses. 

By age 19, I was re-telling stories in a black journal that I had purchased.  I wanted to document all of the stupid, crazy things that we got up to during our partying years.  I have considered burning that book on multiple occasions.  I think I will be forced to one day, but I’m just going to enjoy it while it lasts. 

I took that trip to south East Asia at the end of 2016 and before leaving, I made the commitment to journal every day of my trip.  I stuck with it – I was impressed with myself.  I have never opened it.  I feel as though the memories are far too fresh.  I don’t know when I will open it – my intuition will tell me when the time is right.  On returning from that trip, it was about a month after getting back home when I had an ‘uh-huh’ moment after answering a huge question that popped up in my head.  Why not write your whole life out?  So, I began journaling pretty much every single day.  I have been doing so for 2 years now. 

For me, it is an art form; however it tends to go much deeper than that.  Viewing from my lenses of reality, although I’m painting paper with words, I am also painting time in the present and the future.  The habit of journaling has completely transformed my approach to life.  It’s like, all of my actions and decisions are motivated by the fact that I know I have to come home and write about my day.  Moving abroad to embark on this journey was inspired by this motivation to write a good story.  If life is my blank canvas, than I want to paint something inspiring. 

Slowly, I’m learning more and more about the life as an artist.  There are obstacles and I’m learning that it takes a tremendous amount of authenticity, courage and resilience.  It’s a tough game and it’s so hard not to get caught up in all of the background noise.  This requires deep work.  Deep, deliberate work.  Since reading the book, ‘The War of Art’ – by Steven Pressfield, I have become aware of what some of these obstacles are; the procrastination, the frustration, the gut wrenching fear. 

A quote that has stuck with me since reading Steven Pressfields, ‘The War of Art’ is, “If you were born to overthrow the order of ignorance and injustice of the world, it’s our job to realize it and get down to business”.  Pressfield refers to the artist as being one who has been given the responsibility of sharing their work with the world.  It is a reference to this notion of self-sacrifice, responsibility and duty – a duty to serve others with the work you have to offer. 

If you have something to put out into the world, put it out.  I feel as though there is more to this than just expressing oneself through good writing.  There is an altruistic stance to be taken here.  If the expression of yourself, your imagination, your visions, your ideas and your beliefs can pave way for positive change, then you owe it to the rest of us to put your work out there.