Our last all K4 PCV training has come and gone. We celebrated on a boat that went in circles on the Mekong. I think in most of my major life experiences things come to an end with a graduation. A day where everyone tries to forget all the teasing, bullying, and gossiping that went on and we all pat each other on the back for making it this far. This conference was partly like that. While this conference did affirm that I know some truly understanding and kindhearted people it also showed me that sometimes we all just tolerate too much. Sometimes people are just real assholes and the only way to stop them is to just stop associating with them. But, I think that's a step most people hesitate to take.
It's good to be nice to people. It's good to have patience with people. But, if you're nice and kind to people that blatantly use and discard other human beings like they're trash then you're condoning that behavior. I just can't pretend to be comfortable with that kind of behavior anymore.
On an unrelated topic, one of my friends is doing fundraising for an event to raise awareness about violence against women (actually not totally unrelated). She tabled outside one of the largest and most popular supermarkets in Phnom Penh and had some interesting encounters. A few of her stories really struck me because they were really unexpected. The basic progression of these stories is like this: person is passing table, friend asks person to donate to help her cause, person says that they worked in Cambodia for x period of time already or they volunteered and they don't need to donate because of that. When I heard that I just thought "what??"
As a volunteer, who has lived and worked in a small village for 2 years, I still actively donate to my friends projects and charities. I supported a friend biking for HIV and I donate to local NGOs that I think have great potential. It's always small, definitely no more than 20 dollars, but I feel good doing it. I choose my donations extremely carefully these days so I know it will have an impact. I have never thought that volunteering in Cambodia would somehow exempt me. It impacts how much I donate, but I've never thought "Oh, I've helped enough."
One moment that sort of highlights the attitude of these individuals is the point in the conversation where my friend shares the little tidbit about how she's lived here for two years. While there are some expats in Cambodia who have lived here many years, the majority of volunteers and development workers will probably not have been here as long as 2 years. It's at this point of the conversation where the proud smile of the person who has just declared that they've worked here for 6 months or volunteered every summer crumbles. Time for them to eat some humble pie.
I think it's ok to be proud that you've lived here for 6 months or volunteered for a long time. But there are some people who come here and feel like they're the next messiah and then there are people who come here and remember that they're here to help people.