Times of Trial

Excitement spirals into exhaustion. Individuality becomes an affront to community. Joy and possibility degrade to sadness and guilt.


On 9/15, Phermsach and I went on our usual weekly village outreach. One visit was with a new family in a distant village. We were there to check on a woman who is unable to care for herself, but lives with her brother and sister-in-law. We delivered food to the family, and before visiting her Phermsach catalogued the personal information, healthcare needs for them and their toddler (HIV+, vaccinations needs, other medical complaints), income ($10 a week from recycling), and visited with many members of the community who stopped by (probably in part because they saw me walk in).

The brother then took us back to see his sister, which I was not prepared for. A mid-50’s woman with mental illness who has not been able to take care of herself for 20+ years. A situation that is taxing my spent moral fiber: humanity, morality, consumption, agency, victim, behavior, poverty, wealth, God.


Despite setbacks, Sister Mary’s health is continuing to improve. She left the ICU, but had a difficult transition to the medical unit. It sounds like her spirits generally remain positive, which seems like a victory when your 97th birthday is spent with respiratory problems and in a hospital. 

My health has come into question this week. After a night racked with back pain, I emerged Monday to push through the morning and become feverish by afternoon. Intermittent sleep and consistent fevers day and night gave way to significant abdominal cramping. With persistent discomfort I acquiesced to see the doctor on Wednesday. The antibiotics are working and I am on the mend. To my chagrin, the most threatening GI illness I have experienced in Asia, I may have given to myself.

Though modest, the bill and illness remind me of the burden suffered by those without an intact safety net.


Contrary to our prevailing narrative, the last month has been hard. My desire for knowledge and fitness eschewed real commitment to real growth. Mild frustration with additional time requirements could have been a yellow flag to the slippery terrain ahead. Transitions and goals and challenges and desires cloud judgment; muddy relationships. Growth: Together, Apart, or Parallel? Let the silt settle and we will again meet eye to eye.


The real sadness is that our fledgling community will never achieve extended flight. Melissa has heeded a calling to return home and it would be inappropriate for me to elaborate further. We wish her all of our best and we look forward to community Skype sessions to churn the waves of societal understanding and social change.

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