**The following entry is solely founded on personal reflections, thoughts and insights. It is no way indicative or representative of the group as a whole, nor is it a means of explaining or defining the trip for any other person other than myself.***
It's rather difficult to assess what defines a particular trip or a particular moment in time. For some it's a compilation of all the stories heard, all the people interchanged and all the roads paved, within a particular time that begins to define the life spent in one particular locale. Yet for others, the definition lies within the symbolism they find in the nature of the land, the spirit of the people, the work, both unrealized and successful of board members and grassroots players alike, and the empathy within oneself, as they slowly find a way to dissect everything that a populous has lived through and all they are able to learn about themselves in that time. Even for others, it is not enough to journey to unfamiliar territory and attempt to embed oneself in the life and culture of the place around them, but more so, there must be a time to reflect, ponder and assess all the little things that slowly filtered into one another that laid a foundation for a truly defining excursion to land unfamiliar and a people foreign and new. However, whatever the journey means to one person most likely than not, like most things in this life, it simply does not mean the same to another.
Similar to most defining instances, although two people cannot truly occupy the same space, two people can experience the precise and exact same moment in time and the same second of action or inaction, yet come out the other end with two completely polar perspectives, reactions and definitions of truth, justice, reconciliation, and reality. Therein, we are left to dissect this journey to Thailand and Cambodia (even Vietnam & Korea) and find a way to define not only what it has meant to each of us individually, but also, what is has meant to us collectively. Even far greater, we are left to dissect what it has meant for us as both human beings occupying space in this world and what it will mean to us professionally in our quest to secure our foothold in this vortex we call life.
As I reflect on the journey and what I am able to take from the trip to the Southeast, I am still at a loss for what this will mean for my future: will it be a defining mark on my professional journey or simply a reflection on time spent in a Southeast Land during my academic career? One the hand, there is the very real possibility that this trip with all its’ frustration and education alike will simply be a small spec on my personal journey that will be a token of reflection in regards to a trip I took during my last few months of school. Yet, on the other, there is heartily the potential for this to be a stepping-stone of professional recognition and direction, in whatever capacity and avenue that may be, that I needed in order to channel my energy in the direction where I find myself to be the most useful. The hope, of course, is for the former to become realized.
In retrospect then, I have come to realize that this trip was much more than shopping, tuk-tuk’s, monks, palace, slum evacuations, tribunals, government officials and NGO meetings. It was more than a testament to personal will and preservation in calculating how long a person is able to go without screeching out in frustration over recycled clothes, tangled and oily hair, lack of personal space and sleep deprivation. If anything, and in the purest of terms, this trip was. Even in it’s simplest terms, it was under the veil of an educational case study designed to present us a coversheet perspective of both the successes and failures of peace-building from the bottom-up and vice-versa and the preserved and broken relationships embedded within that umbrella. It was a trip defined by the caveat of “let nothing surprise you, but hope that some things still shock you.” And ultimately, it was trip that will forever be left to us to constantly redefine and reassess.
As we all begin to reintegrate ourselves into a semester of reading assignments, presentations and midterms, we will come to a sense of perspective about what we choose to take from such an endeavor. Whether we see it as an educational experience for which it was intended, i.e. an opportunity to grasp the challenges of peace-building, or whether we see it as small foothold in the greater picture of what professional direction we choose to follow, inevitably it will mean something to us all. And, only we can answer those questions. As for me, I have yet to devise a game plan for what parts of the trip I will use and what simply are. In my mind, I must truly understand, comprehend and evaluate the trip as a whole in order to understand what role it will play in my broader scope of professional existence. But, as I reflect and attempt to assess and evaluate such a daunting ideological stance, I am simply left with the idea that perhaps neither today nor next year will I truly comprehend the place this trip has for me.
Ultimately, whether that message is vocalized or not, I have faith that in the most convenient of definitions and in the simplest and most influential manner possible, that the true vision I need and blueprint I hope to devise, will avail itself in either in collaboration or in competition with this trip. In the end, I hope to somehow and someway have a secure foothold, either with a pen or shovel in hand, or possibly alternating between the two, as a result of the days spent learning and listening to the voices and the echo’s of the Khmer people, evaluating and questioning those who choose to find a way to impact these lives, of walking away from the stale aroma of dried blood in S-21 and the killing fields, and for better or worse, day in and day out, of being reminded of how the other half of the world lives and in what capacity they are still able to find their smile and the personal fortitude to rebuild their lives.