This blog post is from Chelsey Johnson. A Young Adult in Global Mission. Chelsey is a member from Christ Lutheran in Cottonwood.
The adventures, mishaps, and lessons learned in Chelsey’s YAGM year.
Suess Day! Hello!
Family, Friends, Supporters and Companions in Prayer,
It is so good to be sending my first newsletter your way! You have joined me on this journey to Cambodia in one way or another, and for that, I thank you. Jet lag has clouded my inspired writing, but I thought I would catch you up on how time has been going in Cambodia, before the bed calls me again, I have to admit, Jet lag does help you to enjoy a good mattress from somewhere like Leesa!
The short answer? Time has been flying.
I know, that’s something nearly everyone says…but my goal this year is to truly enjoy the small moments. I promise, once I get the whole slowing down thing accomplished, I’ll update you. But in the meantime, I’ll get you up to speed on what the last month has entailed.
One month ago, I was soaking up precious moments with my family. Much of my summer, in fact, was spending time and making memories with some important people in my life. I was beyond fortunate to get quality time with all of my grandparents, and somehow managed to find time to pack, too!
I was allowed to bring two 50-lb. suitcases, a carry-on, and one personal item for this journey. With a 10-page packing list, I was worried I’d be able to fit in all the over-the-counter medicines, hygiene supplies, and polos I was asked to bring, but your girl came in at under 75 lbs total! (Feel free to hit me up for packing tips, now that I’m an expert and all)
Two weeks ago, I landed in Chicago for a week-long orientation full of reviewing policy, starting new friendships, and examining the power and privilege we walk with into this year. Ninety-two other YAGM and I wrestled with questions of injustice with race, gender, and sexual orientation that we confront day-to-day in the States and that will arise this year. Thinking about these challenges in the context of not only my own experience, but also the experience of the 6 young adults joining me in Cambodia, stretched the capabilities of my brain and strengthened the demand for justice in my heart.
At 4:00 AM on Wednesday Aug 23, my six Cambuddies (the name we’ve given ourselves) and I met outside the orientation dorms and were encircled with goodbyes from new friends and prayers for safe travels. Stepping into our airport shuttle bus, we started the 30+ hour journey to Phnom Penh.
Yes, it was long. No, I did not get up nearly enough to stretch and walk around. Yes, I watched movies and ate the icecream they passed around in the middle of the night!
We arrived safely in Seoul, South Korea in the early morning hours of August 24, and then caught another 5–hour flight to Phnom Penh. I’m sure the bus ride from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap would have been wonderful but I had already reached my destination. While deboarding the plane, I instantly felt the engulfing heat and humidity in my first few steps in Cambodia. It’s a feeling I’m sure will become familiar in the coming months.
In-country orientation has been back to back to back to back. We’ve been busy, but there’s learning to be done, places to see, and new foods to try! A typical day in the life of a YAGM in Cambodia for orientation looks sort of like this:
5:30 – Wake up, because jet lag.
6:30 – Roll out of bed to start getting ready for the day
7:30 – Local Khmai breakfast of pork and rice
8:30 – Begin orientation modules OR six hours of Khmai language class
12:30 – Eat something delicious for lunch
16:00 – Feel alllll the jet lag and fight the sleepies with all my might
16:30 – Learn important orientation things
19:00 – Dinner at a cute, local shop
20:30 – Return to hotel, exhausted but ready to learn more tomorrow
Of course, I’ve scoped out a few cafes in the nearby area and am getting much better at crossing the streets in crazy traffic. I was sick for a few days after we arrived, but have fully recovered and suspect exhaustion and heat to be the culprits. I’m adjusting, friends. Some might even say thriving!
In about 3 weeks, orientation will conclude and I’ll head to my home for the year: the Lutheran Church in Cambodia (LCC) City Church here in Phnom Penh. There I will be living in community with Cambodian college students in a dorm-style setting and working with an AMAZING organization called Life with Dignity, which takes on rural development from a rights-based empowerment approach with local Cambodian leadership.
Uffda. I know that was a lot, newsletter readers – a bit about what I’ve been up to and what is to come. However, I hope that as I build relationships in Cambodia, my newsletters can focus on those interactions and share with you the stories I hear and memories created. Keep an eye out for my next newsletter around Nov. 1, and a blog or two in the meantime at chasingchelsey.wordpress.com.
Please, feel free to reach out to me with questions or concerns or comments or just a hello! I so deeply appreciate you joining me on this journey and walking with me as I start life in Cambodia.
Bye for now,