Yes, my job in Cambodia can be frustrating at times, hence throwing myself into yoga and over spending on low quality chocolate chip cookies. But if things weren't challenging, if they didn't get to the heart of me, then we would have a problem. Either money was wasted in sending me halfway across the world for no evident purpose or I really didn't care enough to give this project my best effort.
So what am I doing here?
That's a question that has riddled my mind for the past three weeks, but each day I find a little piece of the puzzle that helps me solve the enigma.
I came into my current situation having been given the title "International Project Coordinator," hired by Ohio University to assist in the development of the Asia Leadership Center at the University of Cambodia. My actual purpose couldn't have been more vague, and explaining that to people has been a real challenge. (I've confused many a Cambodian, I'm sure, handing them an OU business card, telling them I work at UC, but am working on a story for CW. Sometimes, I even confuse myself.)
But as I've had time to contemplate -- and believe me, my time to think has been both infinite and overwhelming -- I've identified three objectives I'd personally like to achieve having been brought into this position:
1) Contribute to the quality of leadership in Cambodia
2) Learn about Cambodia's media and general communications structure
3) Help raise awareness of gender issues in Cambodia
I see goal number one as the main reason I was brought here, though, I've had the most difficulty figuring out how to tackle this issue because my time here is brief. This week I've had a few moments of clarity, and some projects came to fruition. First, I'm working on management and marketing for a leadership workshop coming up in October. I've also made some contacts for lecture speakers (a main focus of the ALC at this point) and Dr. Kao wants me to put together a lecture week, bringing in leaders from different career fields, to possibly take place in November.
Of course, as far as my second goal is concerned, I've worked with the Cambodia Weekly. But learning about communication here means more than learning about media. In a lot of the letters and documents the ALC has to create, I've found you can't say anything negative, which has made writing the problem statement for the ALC's strategic plan a challenge. And you must pay strict attention to formal addresses when writing letters because titles here hold great importance. It's also been put on me (and Bandol) to revamp the UC Bulletin, the university's newsletter. So I've been working on creating a new look for it and gathering school news.
In communications here I'm wearing many hats: reporter, editor, public relations representative, marketing manager. Its a lot to juggle, but it has showed me my strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes about the field.
The third goal is something I've just sort of run with. One of the secondary objectives of the ALC at this point is to develop a network of organizations focusing on women and youth. I especially became interested in women's issues because human trafficking is an evident problem here. I also found through research that talking about gender equality is difficult in Cambodia because there's no word in Khmer for "gender," so for many people, there is no issue to combat. I'm hoping to use the lecture series as a way to get the women's perspective heard. I hope to provide not only a masculine perspective on each topic, but a feminine one as well. Of course, these are all just thoughts floating around in my head right now. We will see how this all comes together.
I'm not really limiting myself to these objectives I've created because every day I'm learning something new, whether it be about economics, politics, administration or culture. My eyes are always being opened to something new. But right now, being able to focus on those three things sort of grounds me and helps me to actually accomplish something.
So for everyone out there who was wondering, "What is that crazy girl doing in Cambodia?" there's your answer. And thanks for giving me the opportunity to put it in words -- to see all my thoughts in writing helps convince myself that there's a reason I'm here.