Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The End

Many apologies for the lateness of this post! I am now back in the U.S., safely reunited with my family. I didn’t tell anyone when I was leaving Cambodia because I was surprising my mother by coming back in time for her birthday. But after nearly a week in the states, I’m almost fully recovered from my 40+ hour-long trip home, so I thought I’d tell everyone that I am still alive! I had written this post while still in Cambodia, but never got around to publishing it. Even though I’m no longer overseas, I hope you enjoy my musings just the same.
"I can hardly believe how little time I have left in Cambodia. As I wrap up things with my students, finish last minute shopping, and take advantage of my finals days of yummy fresh fruit and spicy noodles eaten on the side of the road, I realize how much Cambodia has become like a second (or third or fourth) home for me. I’ve been so blessed to be able to live in several different places. I know when I was in France, I grew so accustomed to speaking French and living a typical European life that it was hard to readjust to America. I will always have a special place in my heart for France, and will probably never be able to order Café au Lait in a restaurant without my brain immediately trying to switch into “French speaking mode”. :)

Even India’s culture has impacted me in a lot of ways. After spending nearly 5 months in Mumbai, I notice how self-conscious I am to wear “Western clothes” such as shirts that stop at the waist or anything that might hint at revealing my knees. And I still find myself using the typical and frustratingly ambiguous Indian “head waggle” rather than a nod to show agreement. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, pop in any Bollywood film and I guarantee you’ll see it within about 30 seconds. Otherwise, I’ll demonstrate it to you all when I see you in person!)

In the same way, a lot of Cambodia’s culture has rubbed off on me in the 4 months I’ve been here. I know I will have a hard time shaking hands with people in the U.S. and will probably begin to bow as a way of greeting everyone -at least initially. Likewise, I’ve gotten very used to never pointing at things, removing my shoes any time I enter a building, and always using both hands to give money or other objects to another person. Those cultural courtesies that I initially struggled to remember have now been engrained in me to the point that I’m going to have to work to undo them!
I guess you could say I’m a big melting pot of different cultures and customs. Sometimes that confusing mixture of American and foreign behaviors can be embarrassing and make me feel out of place. But I wouldn’t trade my experiences abroad for anything in the world. Because while in some ways my travels have made it harder to relate to other people, in many ways, it has opened doors for me to understand and interact with people that I might not otherwise . It’s nice to know that I can find something in common with almost any person I meet- no matter where they are from. And learning how incredibly diverse cultures and customs around the world can be has made me more aware of how I can be sensitive and respectful of those around me with divergent backgrounds."
My plans for the future are to spend the next year in the U.S. finishing up my Masters in Social Work at UT Arlington. After that, I really have no idea what the future will hold. These past 9 months overseas have definitely taught me not to make any assumptions about the path God has planned for me. All I know is that I have every intention to be involved in international work for the rest of my life. Only the Lord knows how that involvement will manifest itself. But I am not worried. Wherever He leads me, I have no doubt that it will be an amazing adventure and one that helps enrich and bless my life. Thank you so much for your faithful readership throughout this journey. It has been so fun to share my experiences with all of you. May God bless your life and help you to find the path He has in store for you!

Here are some pictures of me with my students from my last week in Cambodia:
With Nimol after she finished the first 3 books:
With Sary:Ya getting his 1st certificate:Ly eang and me:Mouyteang took me to eat on my last weekend in Cambodia:

5 comments:

David and Olivia said...

Wow... great thoughts and I know you have a million others in your mind now. Cultures are amazing, but every time you make another "home," it's hard to leave. So, you'll certainly be in my prayers as you live with pieces of every place you went in your heart! I'm thankful you're home safely, but pray that God continues to bless your journey as you serve Him. Love you, girl.

Jeanette said...

This post nearly made me cry. It could be because I'm tired, it could be because I was in the DFW airport today longing for an international trip, or it could be that you are just so darn amazing...welcome..."back" ;)

Mike and Lucy said...

Jill,
I am glad you made it back safely, though it must have been a bit of a grueling 40 hours! I hope you enjoy flying and airports! :)
Your post made me reflect a bit on the 3 foreign countries I've lived in as well. We are so blessed to see such points of views of the world from so many different angles/perspectives with each new peoples and lands. I think it is awesome you want to continue in international work. I love it too! And I know that no matter where you are, you will always be a shining light of the Lord to those around you.
Hope your adjustment goes well there, that you re-adjust to the States much as you adjusted to India or Cambodia. It takes practice and effort to re-adjust back to "home" when going back. So, you will be in our prayers.
Love you. Hope you see you someday again. If you are ever in our neighborhood, we have a spare bed in Canaan's room!
Lucy

anniekatejones said...

I really enjoyed your post and the pictures of some of the people you worked with. Thank you for all of your advice and I'm praying for you! Love,
Annie

Jeanne said...

Wow, you have done so much and adapted to two very different areas over this past year! It has been a joy to follow your blog and see all God has done in and through you! Thanks for sharing your journey with us all.