Thursday, December 3, 2009

Leaving Cambodia.. for real this time..

Ok, I know this blog has been sleeping for a long time. (I haven’t.) I also know that I wrote about a year ago that we were leaving Cambodia and I never quite got round to writing that we were not leaving after all. But this time it is true. After four incredible years here we are flying home for Christmas and not coming back. At least, not any time soon. So of course I have to write. I can’t imagine anyone visits my blog now it has been such a long time since I last wrote, but I need to write anyway, for the girls and to relieve my heavy heart. Oh, and for my mother. I know she will be reading. :-)
Cycling home last night through Phnom Penh at dusk, having spent the afternoon playing yoga games and creative arts with a team of Cambodian counsellors and social workers who are in great need of some Time for Me (as the project is called) to release stress and trauma and to learn to support each other, I was ready to cancel our flight booking. However much I long for the green hills of Herefordshire and however much I am excited for our new life in the countryside, I still cannot really imagine saying goodbye to this extraordinary city and its wonderful people. Last night the streets were madly busy, the uncovered sewer, or black river, was especially pungent, the sun was huge and red in the sky, weddings blocked off whole streets on my bike route, and the air was its usual warm, damp, musky self, with that unmistakable Phnom Penh smell that hit me the first time I stepped off the plane and which I will never forget.

There was a time, three years back, when I would have been so ready to leave here. Now, although I know leaving is the right thing for us to do in many ways, it feels as though time is slipping through my fingers. I don’t feel ready to let go, no matter how much yoga I do for the 1st chakra!

What has been incredibly moving, and also quite surprising, over the last few weeks, is to see how Cambodians become very emotional and expressive when it comes to goodbyes. I am used to the smiles that mask the real feelings within, when it comes to most of my Cambodian friends. However I am beginning to understand how goodbyes trigger off subconscious memories of previous endings - endings which, for most Cambodians, have been deeply painful traumatic events. I can honestly say that not a day has passed in the last week or so when someone has not welled up on seeing me or the girls. I totally understand of course. I fight back the tears (or let them flow forth actually) several times a day at the moment, at the market, in nearly every yoga class I teach, and especially when hanging out or working with one of my dearest friends and yoga colleague in Cambodia, Mindy, and her son Ivan, Bella’s best friend. Seeing my girls with their friends, lovely children who have come to mean so much to me, many of whom are also my little yoga students, is probably the hardest thing of all. It is at times like that when the urge to stamp my feet and shout “No, I can’t leave them!” comes upon me. But I was not prepared for the sheer amounts of love and expressed sadness from the Cambodians in my life. Bella and Jemima’s teachers, our beloved nanny and house help Sophy, her daughter, her daughter in law, her daughter’s friend…. It is overwhelming, exhausting but it is so honest and real that I would not want it to be any different. A friend reminded me that the pain of leaving honours the deep relationships we have built here. If it were easy to leave what would that say about the last four years? I never thought I would feel at home here, but right now this is the most at home I can imagine feeling anywhere. The fact that it is not our home is one of the main reasons we are leaving I suppose. To go back to England and put down some roots. Once we have a home back in England maybe one day we will feel free to move overseas to live again, knowing where we came from and where we will go back to.

Jemima is very excited of course. She keeps looking at the school menu in the local primary school she will go to and talking about uniforms and white socks and black shoes. Bella is altogether much harder to imagine in England. She is deeply settled and happy here. She is naked about 99% of the day. She is loved and adored wherever she goes. She has a touchingly profound friendship with Ivan, who is absolutely her equal in everyway – from naked bottom wiggling to non-stop conversation to butterfly catching and everything else… you should see them feeding each other raisins and caressing each other’s faces. When Bella is upset and I cannot console her, she knows who can. With a look of anguish on her face she will plead me with “I NEED Ivan, Mummy. I need to go to his house and play with him now!”

How will Bella be received in her naked splendour in England? (If you are thinking what I think you are, yes, I know but Bella likes to be cold. I think she will go sledging in her bottom given half the chance.) What will people say when she sheds all her clothing in the middle of the supermarket and sighs loudly and sensually “Ahhh, I got my botty. I love my botty.”? How will she feel without the constant company of Tuk-Tuk drivers, friends and general bustle around her? Cambodia is so full of life and there are people everywhere. Herefordshire, how ever much I love it, is rather quiet, let’s face it! While I can imagine Jemima curled up in a corner of the house looking at a book or lost in a game of make believe, what will Bella make of those long hours when her sister is at school and she is stuck with me at home?

I guess I will find out soon enough. In the meantime I plan to live every moment of this Cambodian life until the minute we board the plane. And probably the next time I write will be from the freezing hills of Herefordshire. It is currently 7 degrees Celsius, which I know thanks to the setting James has added to my desktop. Every time I log on I have to be reminded of the fact that we are leaving the constant warmth and light of the sun behind. It has been three years since I experienced a dark winter morning in England. 7 degrees?? I wonder what Bella’s beloved botty will make of that.

I am off to teach my little 5 year old yoginis. Today we will explore how it feels to say goodbye.


maddy said...

Oh George. Sad to hear your sadness about leaving. I have had my fair share of goodbyes and find that thinking of them as farewells makes it a tiny bit easier and not as final.
Am excited at the prospect of meeting your girls though who, through this blog, I feel like I know a bit already - maybe we can get some sledging in in the hills of Herefordshire!
Sending you lots of strength for the next couple of weeks. xxx

Jeanette said...

I'm still reading.
Wishing you well with your goodbyes.

Georgie said...

Hey thank you Maddy and Jeanette! Yes farewell is much better you are right. I just did something with little kids on saying goodbye. One sweet little girl 4 years old said at the end of the game when asked to reflect "When I said goodbye it made me feel funny but when I said hello it made me feel all warm" Big wise words from little tiny people!

Hana B said...

Argh, sob! I remember when leaving the UK my yoga teacher said that goodbyes are like little deaths and we should respect them accordingly. Mourning is good for the soul. SIGH! And no we so haven't forgotten you!! I just came to look for some comforting words on tantrums. Job done. You are so my fave online parenting resource.

Have I mentioned that you NEED to get published...

So looking fwd to your breath-of-fresh-blogs from the beautiful British countryside.

Georgie said...

Wow! And you must be my fave reader right now! I have quoted you for my comment of the month - the last one was yours too! (for about 6 months!)

Thank you for wise lovely words and vote of confidence. Getting published? Hmmm it used to be such a dream now I am loving working n a different way and helping mothers and children and everyone through yoga and meditation. But yes I am sure I will keep blogging and who knows, one day I may pursue writing for publication once more too. I still have my book. Thank you for reminding me that people are interested in it. I definitely need to write more about leaving Cambodia so watch this space and good luck with tantrums! It is a good sign - that they have a strong will and a safe space to express it without suppression and with support and love and help to process deep feelings xxx

Anonymous said...

It is hard leaving a lovely county like Cambodia, it will never ever leave your memories.

It will take a while to settle in back home in the UK but you do in the end. You feel like you have grown more as a person after the Cambodian experience.