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.

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4 Responses to “Cambodia Update”

  1. Patricia said

    I’m glad you’ll be sticking around longer! AND you are not lame, you have great character, and I’m happy for you! I’m glad you figured this out before you left. Can’t wait to talk with you again, whenever that may be.

  2. Elizabeth Schrader said

    So, my sister read this and said, “Elizabeth, so you’re not going back to Cambodia this year?” I re-read my blog and thought, oh, I see why she asked me that question.
    There is still a chance I may return, I’m just choosing to delay my decision for the next month or two as things work themselves out. That’s all.
    Sorry for the drama. Thanks for your patience.

  3. brooke said

    you are delightful, my friend. really. there is no judgement here for you. you are learning how to hear and obey His voice, and sometimes that gets a bit messy. but He keeps you, He keeps you.
    and i, for one, am glad you’ll be around a bit longer, for sunday morning breakfasts, evening prayer, and such.

  4. Judy Morvak said

    I’m glad you are taking time to be with your family & I know your future will unfold according to God’s great plan. Be patient & know that I support you 100%. All my love & prayers.

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