Closure to Cambodia

I must have lost my words on the way out of Cambodia because I cannot find the ones to adequately describe our last week as volunteers. Either that or I’ve temporarily misplaced my source of usual inspiration (which is more likely). I thought it might have been laziness caused by the insane heat that had intensified to the point of unbearable discomfort; or the week of sleepless anxiety from having flashbacks of poor Theo’s limp body in my arms (a clear sign I’ve led a far too painless life when the death of cat becomes equally traumatic as the time I found a dead body on the beach). Maybe I lost my words when I learned I was accepted into a Masters program at the University of Washington and turned my attention to the future instead of the present; perhaps they have disappeared into my recent restlessness, or were forgotten in the moments of indefinite goodbyes.

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I suspect it is all these things, but regardless, the words are escaping me so all I can say about our last week at the Trailblazer Foundation is: it was good. Good because it was a week of closure. We celebrated the hard work of other departing volunteers with a Cambodian-style picnic at West Barray reservoir (a local swimming spot about 15km outside of Siem Reap). For the last time, we gnawed on quail bones and drank beer over ice with the man who started the whole project, Scott Coats. One last time, we played with children whose smiles could light up the night sky and swapped stories with new friends.

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At work, we found closure by completing an order of water filters that had taken two weeks to construct. On the day we left, there were over 35 water filters on their way to be delivered. In the garden, ripe edamame was harvested and sold, and new seeds were planted.  The batch of mushroom stock we had made was ready for spawning. And lastly, the awaited shipment of 500 smokeless stoves had made it through customs and were ready for their pilot test with the villagers. 

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Our eight weeks in Cambodia were incredible and I wouldn’t trade them for the world. At the same time, however, we were ready to leave; ready for a change of pace and an escape from the heat. Although we would miss our cosy air-conditioned afternoons of watching way too much NatGeo Wild, our five o’clock foot massages, and the way the boy at our hostel would ask “how are you tomorrow?” and then send us off with a cheerful “see you yesterday!”, we missed the adventure of traveling more. 

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At 12pm on Friday, we said our final goodbyes and left our bikes as a donation to one of the staff member’s mother and sister.  Despite the excitement of having our bags packed for Laos, it was still sad to leave. Even without all my excuses I wouldn’t be able to say enough good things about the Trailblazer Foundation as an organization or their dedicated, hardworking staff. Never have I worked for an organization where my little effort amounted to so much reward. I am so grateful to Trailblazer for providing me an opportunity to make a lasting difference in the world. 

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