Thursday, December 29, 2011

Food for the Soul

Redundancy can come as a bit of a shock, kind of like an electric zap when you least expect it. While I felt sad and hurt that it had happened, I also felt relief and excited at the opportunities ahead of me. I was fortunate enough not to have the burden of primary income earner for our family and the payout felt like a nice windfall to our bank balance. Redundancy not only awarded me finances but also time.

Time to reflect on what had happened and why, and also time to be kind to myself and do some things I wasn’t able to do because I was always working.

At my farewell drinks a couple of days later I was reminded of a team-building project I had been working on where I wanted to send a team of staff into Cambodia to build houses for a charity organisation. The project was only in its research stage but something I had been very keen on organising.

The next morning I booked my flights and made contact with the organisation who arranged the house builds. It was timely, the next group of 30 people were arriving the following week and I was allowed to join them. I loved Cambodia, I’d been there a year before on a work trip and fell in love with the people and the place.

I knew this would be a test to my confidence, being in a large group of people I knew nothing of and feeling the way I was feeling. I was hesitant, and a little nervous. This was truly throwing myself to the gods without any real knowledge of what was going to happen.

When I arrived in Phnom Penh I knew I had done the right thing, it just felt right. My first night was spent in luxury to treat myself and the following day I met my team of 30 new best friends. A little shy at first, I reminded myself of the personal commitment I made to be the most positive person in that group. I was keen not to tell my story of woe but rather what my plans were moving forward.

We travelled to a remote province south of Phnom Penh and built our 30 houses in unbelievable conditions. The heat was strong and the humidity high - to match our attitudes. It was hard work, I’d never held a hammer before in my life let alone built a house. The first fifty nails failed - who knew that hitting nails would be so difficult? I tried to be a Buddhist and become one with the hammer. The next fifty nails failed. So I decided to get angry. I named those nails. I’m not a hateful person; in fact I can count on one finger how many people I truly dislike. That one person got the privilege of being honoured with fifty nails. It worked a treat, my nails slid in beautifully. Sometimes anger is a good thing if being directed in the right way.

At the end of our week, we handed over the 30 houses to the villagers who had saved their pennies and waited patiently for seven years for this to happen. Its very hard to articulate the feeling you get when you do something like this, pride was certainly there but also absolute love that I was able to help a few families out because I had time to do it. And of course a bit of money.

After the house building, I travelled 4 hours with a driver to a small fishing village on the border of Vietnam and Cambodia, a cute little place called Kep. I rented a beautiful villa by the sea and sat in my little room writing, emailing and reading. I loved my new MacAir so much that spending time alone with it was easy. It had all my favourite songs downloaded, as well as photos of my family and my house building experience, and of course access to the outside world with the net.

Sadly my trip was cut short due to a family tragedy, however the time in Cambodia and the friends I met were everything I needed to know that I am a good person with a lot to give.

This was food for the soul. It was healing and gave me a new sense of purpose. Confidence restored.

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