Phnom Penh

I find Phnom Penh really, really hard to spell. Makes me stop and think every time.

Most trips make me stop and think hard in some way, and this one has been no exception. There have been some things about this trip I’ve found tough.

The heat, for one. It’s been about 100F here, and the electricity’s been hit or miss – which is no small thing when you’re on the fourth floor of a tall, narrow, building trying to run a good workshop with 22 people packed into one room and the sun beating down on the roof.

Then there’s noise – the whole city thrums with it. Car radio’s, children shrieking as they play badminton on the streets at night by the weak glow of street lights top poles, cats desperate for some love, rats in the roof, and the dawn to dusk construction project right next door to this place.

And translation issues. I had a fantastic translator for these workshops – an inspiring young man who picked up much of his amazing English from Mormon missionaries. But even with a good translator there was so much I missed. Jokes by the participants. The nuances of questions. Some of the subtlety in what they were saying.

Especially when you are talking about stress and resilience, nuance and subtlety is important. Without it I felt a little like I was feeling my way forward into a dark room while wearing sunglasses.

This workshop process was not comfortable for me. But I am walking away believing it was worthwhile. I hope and pray the participants – 18 Cambodians working for a local NGO that combats sex trafficking – took something away, however small, to think over and to act on to better care for themselves. The work that they are doing is so admirable. And, in this region, so badly needed.

As a result of these workshops and many rides around the city this week in tuk tuk’s like the one above, I know I took away some things to think on. A renewed appreciation of the cross-cultural complexities of stress and thriving, and the acute challenges of caring for yourself in a context where viable choices are far more limited than the ones I have at my disposal. Gratitude for air conditioning and cold running water. And a deep admiration for the capacity of the people I’ve been here working with these last couple of days to laugh until they cry. Their laughter is a skill, a gift, and a blessing.

It’s 8:30am. I have an hour to shovel everything back into my suitcases and head for the airport. Only three airports, two long flights, and one US immigration official stands between me and Mike.

And to that, I say amen.

Thanks for stopping by,


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