It has been a considerable gap since I’ve blogged. I did in fact suspect I’d take a while before posting something. My senses have been awoken by new experiences almost on a daily level over the last four months. Moving to a new city, starting a new job, beginning a whole new journey in this trip since I arrived in Cambodia.
Last August I got into a van with all my belonging and headed north from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap, the home of the infamous Angkor Wat – centre of the Khmer Empire. It’s a real privilege to live at the base of an empire that was one of the world’s most powerful. Angkor Wat is literally a bike ride away from my house and is at the core of nearly everything that revolves around Siem Reap. I quickly settled down – or better stated, geared up – into my new job at a peace and conflict centre working regionally from Siem Reap.
I have been fortunate to once again find myself in a new environment to explore. To have that sensation of newness over and over that I crave for at both the simple day-to-day level and the more deeply meaning-seeking scope of life. What an incredible learning experience thus far. I have moved from the noble and loud world of civil society advocacy to the more mysterious and underground world of conflict transformation.
Conflict transformation is essentially recognising that different groups or parties may have very complex relationships that make them at odds with each other. It goes beyond just trying to solve a problem and explores deeper root causes with the goal of transforming relationships in the interest of peace. The sometimes controversial part of it is that you must understand all voices in any given situation, including the perceived enemy. You need to emphasise with all actors in order to, at minimum, understand – and that might not go down well with everyone, like the Hitlers, Pol Pots, and Pinochets of the world. The ultimate goal is to end fighting, war, and conflict.
I have been working in Myanmar (Burma) and have had a true crash course on the peace process there. In 2011, the government initiated a nationwide ceasefire with many ethnic armed groups across the country – essentially bringing decades long war to an end.
I’m lucky to work with an amazing team of peace-builders, not only in my project but with the organisation as a whole. In such a short time I’ve been able to meet fascinating people, many of whom I work with on a daily basis. Developing new friendships and hearing fresh stories from like-minded individuals is like an injection into life’s bloodstream. I’ve rarely had the chance to work with such dedicated people that are motivated by all the real reasons to work in such a complex and risky field. I’m back in the world of research, policy, practice, and grassroots contact that I’ve so often strived to find in balance.
Myanmar is a beautiful country. The diversity of people is mind-blowing. Ethnic groups, languages, religion and culture are so varied, it’s hard to keep up. Much of the untouched scenery is breathtaking. The intellectual drive of citizens under decades of repression is astounding. It’s an honour to call Cambodia home but to work in Myanmar.