Phnom Penh, Cambodia
So have the first of 2012’s fifty two weeks (almost) come to an end and it feels good being a small but hopefully somewhat significant part of this last episode of the current Mayan era (yea it won’t be the end of the world just because the Mayans never invented the “number zero” and therefore have to start their calander over…).
2012 will take us into the Year of the Dragon (more specifically the Year of the Water Dragon, which will start on January 23) in the Chinese zodiac (also applied here in Cambodia); it will be my second year as a resident of Phnom Penh and part of the local Forum Syd staff; it will be the year of Cambodia’s third commune-level elections (the first held 2002 and then every fifth year, the fifth parliamentary elections is to be held in 2013); and, it will be a year of many many great happenings with good friends, ones of which I can presently only guess.
Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.
George Bernard Shaw
After having served a year at Forum Syd; after having done my first twelve months as a development worker; after having learned tons of new acronyms (some useful, other not) and more than a fair bunch of terms – many to me not knowingly used anywhere else; after having seen Cambodia from a more free state, and for an extensive period of time – more than while “trapped” in the cultural exchange program of YPD, filled with succeeding culture-shocks – I believe that my view of this country – which is increasingly becoming a second home – but also how I view “my own country” and “real home”, has come to be more consolidated, relaxed and may it be sober but also, as a contrast, in several aspects altered, sometimes in ways I could not have imagined at a time when 2011 was still an infant, and with a world population ignorant of what was going to happen in countries around the world later known as the Arab spring, just to make an obvious example. (apologies for a ridiculously long sentence)
Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising, which tempt you to believe that your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires courage.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
At forum Syd it has been a terrific year, and I do feel, especially when talking to people not heavily, or at all involved in what I have come to realize is an enormous apparatus of development aid and international cooperation, that I have learned quite a bit. It has been challenging from time to time – anything else would be odd… – but most of the time I’ve found ways to take one part at a time, one challenge a day and one cultural difference a week, carefully choosing to keep the “important’s” while screening “do-and-get-rid-off’s”. That way I has not been as overwhelmed as I probably could have been entering this new world. Apart from work assignments and tasks I’ve been given, I have got many new friends at the office – Forum Syd Cambodia is like a big warm caring family – but also in other organizations and institutions with which we collaborate in one way or another.
There is an ecstasy that marks the summit of life, and beyond which life cannot rise. And such is the paradox of living, this ecstasy comes when one is most alive, and it comes as a complete forgetfulness that one is alive.
Further, and apart from work, 2011’s Cambodia has offered many interesting, funny, some sad but mostly terrific moments, evenings, nights and weekends with friends at restaurants and in bars, at pool tables and on balconies, at the coast in Sihanoukville, Kep or Kampot or far out in the jungle where 7.30pm felt like midnight after a full day of hiking and where half a liter of Khmer white wine was brotherly shared.
People have come and gone. Soon more will leave soon, others will arrive. Some “old” will stay, among them me, at least for another year.
I have great expectations for 2012, both in terms of work and out of the office. I hope that I will deliver, and that the Chinese Water Dragon (regardless of whether it is of the swimming kind or shooting water instead of fire; or both) will show its support to the fullest, making 2012 an awesome lap around the sun.