The Final 30 Days:: Day One

May 21, 2017

Photo on 5-21-17 at 4.51 PM

The title of the post seems ominous. What does it mean, the final 30 days? It simply means I have 30 more days* in Cambodia before I move back to North America (*To be totally honest- I actually have about 60, but will be randomly selecting 30 of them, because I don’t trust that I will write 30 posts in 30 actual days when it comes down to it). That fact seems so simple when I condense it into a sentence. However, the truth is, it isn’t simple at all. As vast and expressive as the English language is, I still think it wouldn’t be vast and expressive enough to break down all the emotions and thoughts that twirl and swirl in my brain when I think about Cambodia and the past 3 years here. Although the language (and any language) has its limitations, I will still attempt to put into words what  ‘s up.

I’m writing for the next 30 days for a few reasons. The first reason is: my general sanity. Words help me express, breathe, and process. This blog series will allow me to work through and process events as they happen instead of pushing them down (which is where emotions too big to handle usually get put). Reason two is also for me. I think it will be sweet to look back and remember these experiences in greater detail. I often experience so much, even on the daily, but don’t have the capacity or time to jot them all down. It will be fun to make it a priority to write down the hilarious moments that happen everyday as an expat in Phnom Penh. The last reason i’m writing this is- for you, especially if you are someone who is going through something similar (having recently gone through reintegration, or about to). I’m also planning on cataloging my first 30 days back in the states, as those 30 days may turn out to be even weirder and harder than these 30 days (although who is to know). So here I go, without any expectation, or hope, other than to copy down the words in my brain. Day One.

Before I get into the prompt of each day, I will paint a picture of what is around me.

Location: Joma Coffee Shop, Toul Kork (in the north part of the city, which has been my home base all 3 years)
Who is around?: Well If you live in TK you know it is nicknamed lil’ Korea, so obvs lots of Koreans (always so well dressed), there are Cambodians, which make sense cause it’s Cambodia. There is a particular table of Cambodian women in front of me who are all four on their phones, and are doing the ancient ritual of selfie-ing (everyone selfies here so constantly, even with mundane tasks, that you would think it was built into their very core as an ancient practice). They just got one of all four of them, and mid-glance I caught myself in the picture too, with a large bite of cinnamon roll (who takes small bites of cinnamon rolls anyway?). I think I have probably been in 1,678,900 Cambodian selfies (with or without my knowledge).
What else is happening?: It is pouring profusely outside. So badly that some Cambodians on motos have come up under the awning to seek cover. That is how you know it is raining bad. I have a caramel latte (with some impeccable heart shaped latte art might I add) to join my lonely cinnamon roll. I find myself switching between writing this, and applying for a job in LA. Why am I doing this? Not really sure. Kind of in the mentality of put all your eggs in all the baskets, and hopefully one of the eggs won’t crack. Also I may have put in my cover letter something about muscles from scooping ice cream at Baskin Robbins (hopefully they get my sense of humor?), and I also just applied to a job in Germany (my German is pretty awful). What? I don’t know. Like I said, all the baskets.

So back to the relevance of this series-

Today’s prompt is: What does Cambodia mean to me?

Cambodia has not only been my home for the past three years. Cambodia has been: my first adventure into adulthood, the place where I have felt the most epic highs and the most devastating lows,  a place of adventure and fun, a place of extreme growth and self-discovery, and ultimately many other things. It has been nearly 1095 days of literal blood, sweat (so much sweat), tears (so many tears), and laughs upon laughs. So many seasons here I have felt the relevance of Tubthumping by Chumbawumba. Because I have gotten knocked down so many times, but each time i’ve gotten back up again. Each time may have taken a different amount of time, and sometimes getting back up was easy, other times I only got back up with others hands who held me up as my knees wobbled. Sometimes it was literally getting knocked down (like when a robber tried to steal my bag and the moto toppled over and I fell on top of my friend), sometimes it was a mental knock down, which always seems longer to recover from than when you physically fall. While the wise words of Chumbawumba had their place, I also felt the relevance of songs that talked about sunshine, rainbows, and butterflies. So many days I felt like I glimpsed into an otherworldly beauty. There are so many moments that I hold precious in my heart. Memories that I can’t believe I was so privileged to experience. Some of those moments look like this: A smile from one of the girls I worked with, the first time someone used their creative talent to design a bar of soap, swimming with an elephant in a river in Mondulkiri, hiking a volcano before sunrise in Bali, participating in a city wide water gun fight in Bangkok during Songkran. Each of them is seared in my memory, and each of them brings such joy to my soul. I can’t help but think of even with the lows i’ve experienced (at some later blog I will share more of my story and what those lows were, and are) they don’t even come close to touching my highs. My high points made it all worth it. The beautiful people I have met, the beautiful things I have seen…all worth it. And even with the low points I have learned so much, grown so much, understand so much more- that my life has only been positively impacted from this. So, what does Cambodia mean to me? It means everything. It has made me, me. It will forever be a part of me, forever occupy a piece of my heart, forever take residence in a corner of my brain,  it will forever shape the way I see the world. It will forever serve as a reminder for me. A reminder that the world is at once big, and small. And that every life is precious, every life sacred. I will be reminded that this patch of land will always be another home, no matter where I roam.

Until next time,

Chyanne 

The Atoms That We Are

An effort, a reminder, to say that when we focus on all the things we have in common, rather than our differences, then we can see things as they really are.

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There is only one of me
There will never be another
Even compared to those who are similar like a brother
But my traits, bones, and atoms cannot be mimicked
And to pretend otherwise would be living a gimmick
There will only ever be one
Like me who lives under the sun
Just as every human I meet
Will always occupy a seat
At the table of humanity
Because to ignore them is insanity
Because to say my life is important
Comes from a place of favor and fortune
And with it comes a reminder
That we all come from the same minder
Of men and that each life is one of a kind
And that our blood and humanity unites us, it binds
There atoms, traits, and bones
Remind us that we are never alone
Because we are all flesh and blood
And we survive tornado, thunder, and flood
Just so we can take another breath
And with air in our lungs we escape death
And every footstep we take
Is an imprint we make
On this earth and the people around us
So step mindfully
And to those around you act kindly
Because we all board the same bus
To the same destination
So while you wait at the station
Enjoy the journey and every part
From the start
Because where you are going matters less
Than every breath you experience, whether joy or mess
Appreciate every atom that you possess
And remember you are perfectly you, nothing more, nothing less

Chyanne

The Human Condition

The world has always been a pretty messed up place. Whether you believe the world was created in the span of 7 days, with a big bang, or something in-between- there has always been chaos. The chaos of life was chronicled on walls, in caves, on stone and parchment. It was stored away in jars and tombs. Its remains scattered riverbeds, and continents- embedded in layers we now consider ancient. However, everything that was once hidden and stored away was revealed in time, and parchment and stone were replaced with other means of record and communication.  Although the past reminds us that chaos has always existed, we must acknowledge that our speed and ability to communicate in the technology of today presents a philosophical question related to the human condition. The technology of today puts the worlds chaos in the palms of our hands. What will you do with the information you hold?

You can ultimately choose two different paths, with little crossover in-between. You can be apathetic, or empathetic. Translated – you can choose to do nothing, or you can choose to do something. Example: you see a picture of a child buried under rubble, and you feel sad, you tell your friends how sad you feel and they knowingly and sadly nod their heads in agreement. Your sad pow-wow ends there, as one friend brings up a picture of a hamster jet-skiing to bring some positivity back in your lives. You forget about the picture, and maybe in a couple weeks you see another article and you feel sad again, and the cycle repeats. You are apathy disguised in empathy. Because when life and death are at stake, you acknowledging with words the plight of the world does nothing. You might be able to switch to a picture of a jet skiing hamster, or drink your expensive coffee, but what about the people under the rubble? They require action, or true empathy. Not everybody can be the person to lift rubble off of them, or even be the person to donate money to the doctors who will try to save the lives of the people under the rubble. However, you can not ever say there is nothing you can do. Under any circumstance, there is always SOMETHING. Maybe that something is calling a person in congress, volunteering at an after school program to tutor refugee students, or possibly even crossing the ocean to use your talents in various capacities. Maybe it means sacrificing some of your time, or resources to focus on helping someone else in any context. I recently overheard a conversation in which two teenagers were talking about their social media lives. At one point the girl asked the guy, “when you use snapchat, do you have to get that perfect picture before sending it to people?”, he replied, “yeah, it has to be perfect, i’ll keep taking it and taking it until the picture is perfect… but only like 600 people see it anyways.” I thought to myself- ‘what if all these seconds, minutes, hours that were spent on social media, perfecting an image, focusing on oneself, were instead spent on focusing on others?’ It isn’t an original thought, but it is one that I feel I need to continue to project. Social media in that context and the narcissism it breeds is just one example of  people not utilizing their potential to change lives. You could decide to give up your fancy lattes, or choose not to buy that dress that you may only wear once. Instead you could donate the money to a person, or a cause. There are so many ways you can use your talents and resources to help people. If you need another example, you can look at how I ended up in Cambodia. It all started with lotion making in a village and the desire to employ and empower survivors of trafficking. Change happened from a little bit of lotion, and a bar of soap. If a bar of soap can change the world, then anything you can do will also change it.

Ultimately, empathy requires action. And empathy is not a one and done transaction. It is truly caring. You cannot mark it off a checklist of doing good, or reassure yourself that you don’t have to feel afflicted by cause b,c, or d, because you give to cause a. You can’t limit your love, or hide yourself from the reality that the world is a messed up place. You don’t have to spend every waking moment thinking about the plight of others, and the chaos that ensues each day. That is a burden nobody is able to or should bear. However, you should try to acknowledge the fact that you possess something called comfort. Comfort looks different to everyone, but the true sign of comfort is the ability to simply click the ‘x’ in the upper hand corner of the tab that was giving you the news. Comfort is knowing, even after you click that ‘x’, that you can continue on with your day, without feeling the true fear that comes with living out the headlines of the news. Knowing you possess that comfort, you can work towards feeling compassion to those who lack that comfort. And soon apathy, or empathy disguised as such, will turn into true empathy.

When the humanity of today is studied in the future
Maybe they will write about you
Or people like you
And how they chose to put people before things
And with great empathy they helped the dreams of people fly as if it had wings
How when the chaos was at the tips of their fingers
They chose to wrap their hands around the problem
Realizing that the same fingers they use to swipe and scroll
Are the same fingers that belong to their brothers and sisters of different places and races
And for those who saw the chaos, and washed their hands instead
Although they may have not directly killed anyone, by doing nothing they accepted the bombs and barriers that increased the number of the dead
The world will continue to be a rough place
But if we choose empathy, then we give grace
Grace breeds hope, and with hope around
Love will abound
Love cannot answer every question
Or stop the plight of someone who may suffer
But a burden carried together
Is a burdened lessened
And from this we can learn
That the blood we bleed is all the same
And its only when we unite that the world can change

Chyanne

Breaking The Spectrum

My arm hung languidly out the window as my hand drummed along to the vibrating wheels of my brothers truck. In between Rihanna’s voice and the sound of symphonies he began to tell me a story about Jax. Jax’s mom went to pick him up from the daycare at the gym one day, and one lady who was watching him asked “Is there something wrong with your son?” his mom stared blankly as she continued, “He never stops moving”. Here is wrong in all its forms:

ADJECTIVE // not correct or true
ADVERB // in an unsuitable or undesirable manner or direction
NOUN // an unjust, dishonest, or immoral action

VERB // act unjustly or dishonestly toward (someone)

Before I continue, let me tell you who Jax is. He is my almost two year old nephew. He loves to run. If toddlers could participate in a 5k he would surely outrun all the other babies. He doesn’t speak yet with words, but he speaks in many other ways. He yells out “Ba” just to hear his own echo. He talks through his smiles and the way he purses his lips when you put glasses on his face. He loves to climb things, pick things up, and twirl. He loves if you chase him into his room (in which he will shut the door and try to bar you from entering). He loves wheels, details, and pulling things apart and putting them together. He loves rocks, clapping, and chicken nuggets. He has a belly like buddha, and the amazing laugh that only small children possess. So in response to the worker who asked if something was wrong, i’ve put my reply in a poem, a song:
Jax started therapy because they say he isn’t exactly like you and me
They gave him tests and said there were things he could not see
That he missed a marker or two
Measurements that he missed as he grew
But if you ask me who Jax is or is not
I will say he is something so precious, more precious than anything bought
It doesn’t matter if at 3 he gets a test
and they say that he falls on a spectrum compared to the rest
It doesn’t matter that you assign him a label
Because I can tell you now, he is more than able
He is perfection and nothing less
And this is a point I can’t more strongly stress
There is nothing wrong with Jax, he is a gem, a pearl
The only thing wrong is the way you see the world
Wrong implies bad
And to compare him to a subjective normal is just sad
Because an orange can never be an apple
And a water can never be a snapple
All I know is he has a smile thats electric
And a pace of life that is hectic
And what he can or cannot do
doesn’t make him any less true
It doesn’t encompass or define his soul
And this statement I would like to hang from every pole
With your words and the way you say them be gentle
Because every person has a soul thats sentimental 
You never know what someone is dealing with
So if you don’t possess understanding I ask you to plead the fifth 
Everyone is different, so don’t expect ‘normal’ 
Because normal is subjective in the formal
sense of the word
and to think of a 2 year old as wrong is just absurd
So unless you want to tell me you love his smile
Or the way he loves to run a mile
then your words mean nothing, nothing at all
Because I shouldn’t have to explain that in everyones eyes he should stand ten feet tall
Because someone is only as tall or small as the world makes them feel
And everyone should live to hear a toddlers happy squeal 
So as long as my heart beats
I will continue to chase him through the streets
Speaking to him through tickles and smiles
Praying the world doesn’t place him into files
Based on what they may think
Because he can’t be defined
Confined, or combined
To look like anything else than what he is
A precious soul, A precious gift
Chyanne
I hope this brings comfort to anyone who has gone through a similar situation. The only thing that makes me sad about Jax has nothing to do with him at all. I only feel pain when I think about how the world doesn’t always try to understand, and that is what prompted me to write this. The truth is he is only two, and one day he could easily fit in to all the standards that society sees as normal. He could pass all the man-made tests. But many people remain different, and we should celebrate differences. Not see them as ‘wrong’. Because in this discussion, the word wrong doesn’t belong.

Traveling Malaysia / PANGKOR

I’m about to tell you a story about a small troop of coconut stealing monkeys, and why the place they call home is worth visiting. 

I was on a trip to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and craving some beach time, so I consulted my trusty friend google to find that there was an island by the name of Pangkor just a 2 hour bus/ferry ride away. I did little to no research before departing on my bus from the KL Sentral Station, but figured that if there was a beach then the rest would be ok. What I failed to realize is that Malaysia was in the midst of a National Holiday. When I arrived to Pangkor, the island gave off a sleepy vibe, as the majority of the island was away celebrating. While many of the human residents were gone, the animals of the island had stayed behind to stake their claim. With no desire to pick a fight with a monkey, I averted my eyes as I walked to where I would rest my head for the next couple nights. After dropping my bag,  I left the clean, simple room behind and walked along the road until my toes collided with the sand at the beach. I strolled along the beach for a long time, until it ran into a cliff with interesting figurines and statues along the top. Curiosity drew me up the cliff, until I realized the figurines were part of a restaurant that was closed for the holiday. I slowly made my way back down and headed towards some shops further back from the beach. I passed a group of monkeys lazily hanging from trees, and a couple who was attempting to take a picture with one (nah, thanks). I found a small convenience store where I picked up some pineapple cookies to munch on as the clerk told me in broken english what I should do over the next couple of days. I followed her words as she traced out what was open despite the holiday. I headed back to my hotel, and figured if anything I would be able to make a lot of progress in my kindle over the next few days. Turns out by the end of the trip I would still only be at 10% in to the book I was reading and here is why…

I woke up the next morning with the convenience store as my final destination. Mixed with my protein bars, the store ended up supplementing my breakfast every morning. I glared begrudgingly at the pancake stand that was closed for the holiday but still tempted me with pictures of fine breakfast foods I could not have. I rounded the corner to the sight of two people frantically flapping their arms as if they were wings . I saw one monkey with a coconut and another monkey staring intently at the coconut in the other girls hands. As I got closer the girl with the coconut in her hands set it down like an offering and backed away. They turned to me in their British accents and explained how yesterday they had also had their coconuts taken, but they were trying a new route today to avoid losing their precious goods. We busted up laughing at the fact these island monkeys were all ruling our lives in one capacity or another. I never found myself with a coconut during my time on Pangkor, instead deciding to indulge in items the monkeys couldn’t take away. That included taking a loaf of bread to snorkel with my new friends and a ton of tropical fish. It also included waking up the next day to kayak in the ocean by myself, feeling overwhelmed by the vastness and beauty of the water I  drifted through without a soul in sight. Each night I headed to one of the only establishments that was open, Daddy’s Cafe, to indulge in western style food at reasonable prices. Daddy’s was nice for three reasons, (1) It was the only real meal I indulged in each day, and the food never disappointed. I particularly loved their cocktails while watching the sunset (2)  It was right on the beach. It was the type of seating that oozes romance (3) It attracted all the other foreigners each night for dinner (as it was one of a few places open that wasn’t a street stall) so it was like a watering hole for making friends. One night I played bananagrams with a French family who were also living as expats in Cambodia. The next night I met American missionaries from India who were doing a visa run. For two nights in a row I met up with them to play card games and listen to John Mayer as the sun twinkled out over the ocean. Pangkor was equally memorable for what I experienced on the island, and the people I encountered.

I think the monkeys on Pangkor have a pretty cool home, and not just because they can steal food from unsuspecting tourists. The island was sleepy when I got there, and sleepy when I left, but I felt it only added to my adventure (except still bummed about that pancake stand). It was interesting to walk around on what felt like an almost deserted island, hearing the jungle pulsate and the waves clap hands with the sandy shore. Zooming around on a moped with empty streets and the taste of salt on my lips. What I enjoyed most about Pangkor is that it felt untouched, and a different way of life that I had seen in other parts of Malaysia. If you find yourself near Lumut, I would definitely recommend taking a quick ferry ride to see the island with amazing snorkeling and beachside dining. Just remember, avoid any coconuts and look out for the monkeys.

daddys

Dessert at Daddy’s Cafe on the beach

snorkel

The tiny island near Pangkor that we snorkeled off of

Happy Travels! 

Chyanne

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TRANSPORTATION // Bus and Ferry

I went to KL Sentral Bus Station (Jalan Stesen Sentral 50470  Kuala Lumpur) the day before leaving to grab a ticket, just to ensure they wouldn’t be sold out. You could easily go on the day of to grab a ticket, as there are multiple companies to choose from. I recommend going to the actual counters inside and not purchasing tickets from the people that are hawking tickets outside. It was about $10 each way, and the bus ride was very comfortable. For the bus ride back I purchased my ticket right before the bus left. The ferry was cheap and nice. From the bus stop in Lumut you walk over to the ferry station (you can just follow all the people who are doing the same), and wait for the next ferry to come. They run fairly regularly throughout the day. Depending on where you are staying in Pangkor will decide if you need to rent a moto while on the island. I stayed by the beach and was able to walk to a lot, but did take a moto for a day just to whip around the island. Moto rental was around $5/day and you could also get around by taxi. I also realize the number of times I mention “monkey” makes the island sound like planet of the apes, but they really just hung out in certain areas near the beach. The monkeys wouldn’t bother you if you were just walking (coconut-less of course).

Donut Crumbles

It is 3 a.m and i’m wide awake
I suppose I have jet lag to thank
Traversing the pacific is no small feat
And the time change has got my body beat
I feel sad when I think
About all the changes that can happen in a blink
In a flash of a moment your world can be changed
It can be misshapen, shook up, or rearranged
You can lose or gain
Or maybe stay the same
Even if you feel twirled and swirled
With the right line of thinking any problem can be unfurled
Its not what happens
But how you react
And that is just fact
You can choose joy or sadness
Tears or madness
And maybe one precedes the other
And maybe its all of the above
As long as the emotions take you to where you need to go
Then around them you must not tip toe
As I think these thoughts
I remember something I’ve bought
A donut once whole is now crumbled in my hand
Uneatable it is as the crumbles have become like sand
Let my wasted pastry be a lesson to you
Don’t get so caught up in your thoughts
That you forget what is right in your hand
Whether it be donut or a piece of land
Anything that keeps you grounded
Maybe it’s another person’s soul who makes you well rounded
So remember to focus on the present
The past is behind and on the future you can’t get bent
Because you can’t predict what will be sent
If your thoughts get lost in a cloud
You may too fly away and become a shroud
A cloaked and veiled version of who you are
And to all those you’ve ignored it will leave a scar
They may not crumble like a donut because flesh is stronger than that
But if you’ve forgotten to focus on them you’ve treated their soul like a mat
And if you put your brooding before a human
They may choose to crumble
And even though you mumble
I am present now
It’s too late, long ago they took a bow
You forgot to show gratitude
And now they will always be the longitude to your latitude
Maybe your north will pass their east
But that time is limited to a lease
You can’t own a singular moment ever again
So focus on the now and realize the donut in your hand
Before you understand the donut is everything you ever loved and it is turning to sand

Chyanne

Humans: So much more than what they appear to be

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When I was younger, twenty three seemed so old. I figured by the time I was twenty three I would have my life figured out. I would know a lot, be secure in who I am, and know where I am going.

Being twenty three seems far from the expectation that my younger self had, but then again…in those days I thought thirty was old. Now I don’t really know what I find old. My body will age, but I’m always going to want to dance when a good song comes on, and no matter what my metabolism thinks, I will enjoy a delicious guacamole laden chipotle burrito. I realize that even though my expectations didn’t ring true in all ways, I am happy they existed. It reminds me of how much I do not know (not that I necessarily needed reminding- living in a foreign country rubs that in my face everyday), and in that place I find some bliss. There is so much more to explore, so much more to learn!

I think it is so interesting that every single person on this planet knows something, or a unique collection of somethings that nobody else does. It could be how to mamba, and make a mean gnocchi. It could be knowing every shortcut in a city, and every species of wild fowl. It could even be where your best friend is ticklish, and how your mom loves to have her hair braided. It is all valuable information. This is one of the many reasons that every single human is beautiful and unique in their own way. Every single person matters, and is worth valuing. We can easily accept that at its face value, but why do we throw that out when the going gets tough? Why do we forget this when someone cuts us off in traffic and we use disparaging words? What in our brain slips when someone in need comes to us on the streets and we turn away in un-comfortability? Why do we so often place judgement and give people names that don’t uplift them up? Why is she a slut because of what she wears? Is a douchebag all you see when you look at him?

Sometimes we forget the value of people close to us, but mostly it is strangers. We forget they have stories too, that they are not less important, or more important than us. Every single person here is equal- it doesn’t matter your position in a company, or how much money you donate to people. We are all the same- trying to make it day by day on this beautiful earth. You could be the person that turns someones day around. So celebrate what you don’t know, and celebrate what you do know. Don’t take yourself too seriously, and don’t take others too seriously. Life is meant for living, and living is done best when it runs horizontally with grace, love, and laughter (Unless you hate laughing, then this is not applicable to you).

At the end of the day you can only go forward, you can’t turn back
Even when the odds against you feel stacked
So focus on the present, and each moment that follows
And if you have sorrows let them out, but try not to wallow
Connect with others, your sisters and brothers
We are all humans, we all suffer, and we all gain
But what is true is that when we go at it together we feel less pain
So disregard malice and forget division
Because all you need to remember is you + me = a beautiful collision
Of different backgrounds and thoughts
And the connection we can create can’t be bought
That is the power of love and humanity
That we need each other for the sake of sanity
So like a dog greets its owner
Don’t ever make anyone feel like a loner
Remind them how special they are
And the distance between your two beating hearts will no longer feel far
Because you will realize you were both created under the same star
And no matter where you go and what you see
The fact is you are both human, and that is all you both can possibly be

Chyanne