Tuesday, December 14, 2010

My final post

As I've now arrived back to Europe, I'm going to bring this blog to a close . I have now left the madness of Phnom Penh and Korsang, for the mountains of France, cold weather and snow.

I can't believe that the five month adventure of mine is over, it's been such a roller-coaster experience and I have seen things that I couldn't even have begun to imagine. In reality I think I've come back a different person (hopefully for the better!). It's hard leaving a place where there is so much poverty, where families live in desolate conditions,and may not be able to put food on the table for their families, to a place where all these issues are obsolete. During my time there I was taken in by these families, who cared for me like I too was part of it. I am still overwhelmed by people's kindness there and wonder if I will ever encounter anything alike in my future life.

I had no idea the impact I would make when I initially left for Cambodia, but with time I realised that something very small in Europe goes a very long way in Cambodia. The time I've spent here and in particular at Korsang has emotionally been the hardest thing I've ever been faced with; my mood has been up, down and all around. There have been times where I've definitely not thought that I could deal with everything I was seeing, times when I've thought that I should just do something easier. I had no idea how hard it would be to work with such a wide range of people: drug users, sex workers, HIV patients, the children of drug users. I believe working with these kinds of people is hard in any case but even more so given the conditions in Cambodia. I don't believe now, that I am in a position to judge the population who chooses to use drugs - having been assimilated into the local community I can understand why there is so much drug use. There have been times when people I know have just used drugs right in front of me, in a restaurant - it's so casual, but it hurts to see it so much, yet you know that there is nothing you can say, nothing that will make their living condition any better. Which is why organisation 's like Korsang are so important - to offer users the opportunity to stop.

I've realised here the true cost of addiction, how far people will go to fulfil their drug needs - chopping people with machetes, stealing from your friends, mugging passers by or even woman selling their babies.

I have been lucky enough to see many births whilst in Phnom Penh, but along with these many deaths have occurred. These were young people, people in their late 20s, some with families, some without. I'm still not sure which is most upsetting, the people who pass away and you wonder who cares or the ones who leave behind a wife and infant? I've carried corpses and babies alike whilst I've worked here, experiences which will remain with me forever. I've seen people inject heroin right in front of my eyes and babies on the verge just because of their mother's lifestyle.

Looking back on my experience I wonder how I coped at times, I hope I wasn't trying to be too strong. I've often not been able to understand the Khmer spoken around me, but I believe that what I have understood and been told has shaped me.

Leaving Cambodia was incredibly sad and it made me appreciate how lucky everyone including myself in the western world is. People have asked me if I will go back to Cambodia. The answer to that is yes, without a doubt. Having been a part of the population for 5 months there is no way I cannot go back, even though one person cannot make a large difference, it is still possible to have a significant impact on a few people around and that is all that really counts.

Thanks for reading my blog over the past five months and if you want to know anything about Cambodia or Korsang don't hesitate to contact me ;-)

Emotional airport departure - Smey, JB, Me, Vathna

JB's daughter, Hazel and me

Cremation the day prior to my departure