This is a different place without Evan. Evan was a volunteer when I was last at the orphanage in 2008. It didn’t take long before we became close friends through shared stories, travels, and chocolate shakes. He always made me laugh, and had a genuine heart for the kids. He died 2 months before he was supposed to come back home. Never woke up. Still don’t know the cause of his death, but it doesn’t matter. Knowing wouldn’t bring him back.
“Do you remember me?” I ask one of the boys who came to pick me up from the airport.
“Yes. Evan’s friend,” he says as he holds my hand.
I knew things would be different, but not this different. There are no volunteers, and I’ll be flying solo for the month of April. There are 63 kids now instead of 100. But this is good news too, I try to convince myself. A hundred kids is a lot of mouths to feed. And its good that kids are getting jobs and moving on. The staff no longer eats under the small pavilion next to the kids outside, but now dine inside to make the food preparation “more transparent.” I guess stricter health codes are good too as I reflect back on how meals were prepared last time I was here, but there are so many good memories of shared meals under that pavilion and I was hoping to make a few more.
The beautiful Lakeside district is now destroyed. Lucky 11’s Guesthouse had good food, interesting company, and provided a wonderful haven to reprieve from a weary day at the orphanage while swinging in a hammock overlooking Bang Kok Lake or watching a movie. It was special, and now it’s gone. Sold to Korean investors who filled in the lake with sand to make way for future development. Mike, the current Volunteer Coordinator, tells me it’s a barren wasteland now. The controversial transition literally forced people out, leaving behind their homes and businesses. The things we do for money…
I napped for a bit and went outside in the late afternoon as the sun’s retreat finally subdued the heat to a gentle warmth. Some kids remember me. They’re all speaking Khmer (ka-my) when I walk up. Language can be a difficult barrier. I sit with them for a while. I try other means of connecting besides language. I start hitting the volleyball with a kid. Soon two more join, and next thing I know we’re playing a game barefoot on the tile volleyball court with 8 others. I stopped to sit on the swings and watch while they continued. Evan used to do that. A young boy grabbed my hand and pulled me over to the TV to watch Tom & Jerry. Another means of connecting with the children besides language, I thought. We watched a few episodes before the kids went to eat dinner.
It will be different, and to be honest I wish it wasn’t. But things have to change you know, and all we have to decide is what to do with the time we are given (from Through Painted Deserts and Fellowship of the Rings). Where is your faith? I ask myself. Faith doesn’t hinge on circumstance. Its not up to me to decide the circumstance, those cards are dealt by God’s hand. It’s my job to do something with those cards, whatever hand I’m dealt. I’m not sad, I’m truly happy to be here. I’m just coping with the change in time, and the change in lifestyle once more.
It doesn’t take long before I start feeling welcomed here again. I’ve been trying hard to learn the kids names, and I feel loved by their inclusion already. I had a wonderful time playing with them the other night, from soccer to just hanging out on the steps. They made me laugh all evening. I truly love walking out of my door and into their presence every morning. Their love is like a rain that washes away the stale residue of disappointment. It shakes me from nostalgic longing into the present moment, reminding me of the miracle of life, the precious gift of the now.
I pray to be open to God’s will. For him to use me and the kids to understand his ways a little bit more over the next 2 months.
|Hanging out on the steps.|
|Nita and I put together a new classroom for our classes.|
|Students working hard.|
|The nights are a bit cooler!|