Cambodia Update

December 28, 2009

Wow.  This is all so weird.

For those of you that did not receive the lovely mass email directly, I thought I would post a new blog entry.   Possibly with a little more and a little less explanation.  Yes, that is entirely possible.  My email focused on one aspect, and this blog will focus on another.  Cryptic?  Possibly.  If you have a question, just shoot me an email.  Geez, look at all the suspense I could be creating.

OK, I have decided to indefinitely postpone my return to Phnom Penh.  There are at least 2 large reasons, and I will focus on one of them.

I think earlier in a blog about Apple Cider Vinegar I mentioned the ways in which volunteer organizations warn their volunteers about the emotional and mental phenomena that occur once one returns home.  Now, I honestly didn’t take it too seriously.  I’m a little flighty, but if there’s one thing that I keep in very good touch with, it’s my emotions.  (Yes, yes, my friends.  You can stop laughing now.  That statement is all too true.)  Anyway, let’s just say, I had a slightly delayed reaction.

As I was leaving Cambodia, I was already writing letters to ask for support to stay (which a month after I returned, a very wise person recommended I take a few months off of life, get a fun job, and then decide if i want to stay in this line of work.  I should have listened to him.).  Anyway, I loved it there.  I took some time to try to figure out what the pull was, and I will be honest when I say that it was not the work.  But, I also want to be clear that I thought God was calling me to stay.  I loved the people.  I loved the style of life.  For the first time in my life, I wasn’t thinking “what should I do next?”  In Cambodia, I learned how to live and interact as part of a larger community.  It was beautiful.  And though God was guiding the work we were doing, as He always does, it truly wasn’t work that resonated within the core of my being.  So, I come home in April.  Before I leave, the director of the program looked me in the eye and said, “Now Elizabeth.  I recommend that instead of going home and trying to come back, you stay a few extra months on the remaining money you have.  Most volunteers say they want to come back, but they go home, start grad school, and move on with their lives.”  I thought, pish-posh, Kristin.  I am different.  Plus, I would have no idea what I’d go to grad school for anyway.

So, I go home, and I’m caught up in my body adjusting to the temperature (a frigid 60 degrees F compared to the normal 95 or so!) and my biking skills adjusting to the more organized, less attentive traffic situation around me.  So caught up, in fact, that I do not even begin to process emotions about returning home and stuff. 10 days after I return, I take a 5 day road-trip out east to DC with Jennie.  It’s fun, it’s great, it’s world hope, and my processing is delayed.  I get back, and my little sis graduates from high school. Family pours in.  It’s great, it’s fun, it’s crazy Schrader/Windmuller family, and my processing is delayed.  Then, two weeks later, Jennie (my fellow white Cambodian) gets married.  It’s great, it’s fun, new friendships are formed, and processing is delayed.  Then two weeks later, I head out to NY to work the summer.  It’s amazing, it’s fun, old friendships are revitalized, it’s autism, and I start to doubt the return to Cambodia as soon as I got a job description from World Hope.  I cannot tell you how confusing it is to have two conflicting things within you.  An absolute love for children with disabilities, and a love of a previous experience that you were quite confident was going to continue.  So, I ignore it.  Ignoring important things is not always the best idea, i’m learning.

I move to Madison and learn Khmer and connect with friends early on in the fall.   The whole emotional processing thing was starting to happen.  I was starting to feel displaced and confused about life direction and sad and all of that.   I’m continued to remain conflicted but refuse to look at the situation.   I noticed a change in my prayers from “God, get me back to Cambodia however” to “God, if you don’t want me to go, please don’t provide funds.”  You see, I was afraid of backing out and disappointing people and even myself.  Let’s just say, honesty, particularly with oneself and God, is always the best policy. 

So, as I was feeling this way, some friendships dissolved (yes, many of you who know me are also laughing at my casual, generic sentence… thanks for letting me be vague:), and that was (and still is) really tough stuff.  But strangely, God used that to allow me to look at everything for what it was.  He took away the things that I had been attaching myself to and through some very specific experiences helped me see what I kinda knew was always there–He has given me a love and passion for people/children with disabilities, and I do believe I need to pursue this.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the girls in Cambodia and the people–I will never meet such beautiful people as I have met there.  However, psychotherapy/music therapy is not where my strength and passions lie.  So, I am intending to begin pursuing a master’s degree and teaching certificate in special education possibly as soon as this fall.  I was hoping to return to Cambodia sometime this spring, but i’m not sure how/if/when. And as I look back at the last 3 years of my life, I realize that I have spent little-no time with family and those important to me.  This time is currently difficult for my family in many ways, both sides, and I feel the desire to remain here somewhat indefinitely.

So, this is incredibly humbling and humiliating and strange.  I do hope to return to Cambodia someday, but the timing of it seems much less clear now.  I also hope to return in a different capacity–working with kids/people with disability.  But, only God knows.

It’s amazing how we make plans, we feel a certain way, we hope for certain things, and God kind of has a different agenda.  I mean, I guess He should know–He made us:)

So, please address me with questions if you have any.  I’m feeling particularly lame about this, so rude comments or criticisms are welcome.  I agree with you completely if you want to attack my character.  I’m not even kidding.

Note to myself:  Do not write particularly sad/humble blog entries while listening to Tchaikovsky’s Pathetique Symphony (#6–check it out!). 

Much, much, much love to you all, particularly those who have supported me since my return home.  It’s been a ride.  Though I love rollercoasters, I’d be much happier at this point with a carousel.


Meet Octavious!

December 25, 2009

Ta da! It's Octavious!

No, I did not have a child.  And did any of you think I would actually name my first-born Octavious?  Well, maybe I would.  Not a bad name, but just think of the nicknames!  Oct, Octy?, Octopus, Octagon, Tave, Vy, Us… Not sure about those.   I’ll have to think on it.  I certainly got time… 

And no, I didn’t get a pet.  I may consider it now that it looks like I’ll be in the country a bit longer.  Any ideas?  I’ve always loved turtles… And I’ve heard good things about hermit crabs and hedgehogs.  I should probably start slow though.  Goldfish might be the best idea… 

So, yes, Octavious.  Octavious is my new friend.  He spontaneously grew from an enormous snowball that my brother, mom, and I made.  We basically rolled it until we could physically roll it no more.  It stood close to four and a half feet tall (before we built on it) and was about 14 feet in circumference.  Beautiful, beautiful thing.  Yes, a large, dirty snowy ball in the middle of our yard is a beautiful thing. 

So, mom and Kevin decided that we absolutely must make it into a snowman.  I tell ya, I was satisfied with just a big ball.  I mean, throw some coal on it, stick some sticks out the side, what more do you need?  Apparently, most snowmen call for a minimum of 3 segments… like ants… or something.   So, we rolled up the rest of the snow in our yard to create another ball that had a circumference of 9 feet (is that right, Kevin?  where did we put the measurement list?  yes, we are nerds.)  This wasn’t well thought out, as we created this ball we didn’t consider the fact we wouldn’t be able to physically lift the sucker on top of the other one.  My ingenious, hopefully someday engineer (making the big bucks) brother, Kevin, came to the rescue with a plan to build a ramp upon which to roll the ball on top of the other one.  We tried a large wooden plank-it bent.  We tried reinforcing it with snow–too steep.  So then we made a ramp over 9 feet long with an incline of about 13 degrees.  (Wanna check my triangle?  It’s been a while, so I’d appreciate it 🙂  OK, the two known sides of this right triangle are 112″ and 25.”  So, yeah, use the pythagorean theorem to find the missin side and the cos of the angle A business… I think…)  Anyways, it was quite the construction!  Wish I had a better picture for you! 

fuzzy ramp, other angle


Anyway, once we got the belly on, mom and kevin started constructing the head.  We got out some step ladders and buckets to stand on to make sure we could reach.  The thing had serious facial deformities, but we worked really hard to make him into a beautiful Roman god–complete with plants on his head.  Our perennials would have to make due for the lack of olive branches… I do not remember the rest of the face.  It all happened so fast.  We basically got stuff out of the fridge and cupboard and kept sticking it places.  All we need is a top hat and it should come alive, right?  At least that’s what we were singing about at school last week…



Yes, that smile is a banana and his button nose is broccoli!

So, this is how we spend our snowy holidays in the midwest!  That and a little Garrison Keillor.  And a little yulekaga and lefse.  What more could you ask for?

Changing the toilet paper roll.

Chances are that if I have stayed at your house for more than a day or two, I have changed your toilet paper roll for you.  Maybe I tend to go through it quickly, but that’s not my point.  Just think, this is the only chore you can complete in less than 10 seconds while actually going to the bathroom. 

It’s amazing.

That’s all.