I breathed a deep sigh as I plopped my over-sized carry-on in front of my feet, shoving it under the seat just enough to make the stewardess calm down. I aimlessly gazed out the tiny window, watching the humid air hold a still frame of Phnom Penh while I mumbled my mental prayers. “Please don’t let us crash, please make this trip worthwhile, please let me find what I’m looking for, please keep my family safe from harm’s way, please let me survive this dreadful 20 hour trip, and please please give me some wine asap.”
The newlyweds sitting next to me cant get enough of one another, grasping for safety and solace in each other’s fingertips. I smile at them, unsure of what version of “Hello” to attempt in this unknown territory of Cambodian soil, Taiwanese plane and American destination. The glowing Misses replies to me in impeccable english, “How are you?” and I chide myself for my preconceived judgment. I buckle in to embark upon what could be the most introspective and enlightening experience of my life, or what could be the biggest waste of time and money I have ever invested in.
I cant help but wonder what challenges lie ahead. 3 months. 3 months since I last obeyed rules, 3 months since I wore a seat belt, 3 months since I drove a car, 3 months since I drank a Chai tea Latte, 3 months since I saw my family, 3 months since I weathered sub 70 degree fahrenheit weather, 3 months since reality occurred to me. The realization that I will touch down in a land that I was once embarrassed to call my own, is now that which is lead by someone I respect and idolize hits me like a football to the chest. The notion that my niece will be running around yelling coherent words at me floors me immediately. The hope that I might meet someone who can change my world, or help me change theirs, crawls up my arm and clutches at my heart. I know I need to do some soul searching, or in my case, passion searching, but for now I swallow hard on the veiled vision ahead.
Culture shock. ‘Shock’ is a bit extreme, considering 3 months isn’t exactly a lifetime away from “American civilization,” I prefer ‘culture confusion.’ Being the most powerful and developed country in the world, I am confused by the lack of structure that lies in our country & culture. There is no culture in America with an underlying set of rules; elders, rich poor fat bald skinny handsome disabled athletic, come first; money is treated with respect; happiness is an abundant virtue. I wonder to myself in 5 short minutes of disembarking that dreadful plane if there are people in this country who see the world the way I do, whose education has not tunnel visioned their passion to greed, and who are willing to give all they’ve got to solve the puzzles of the world.
Today I found 130 of those people. I found people from Nepal, New Orleans, Liberia, Hong Kong, India; people who’ve travelled; people who are CEO’s and people who are volunteers. I found people with visions and people with ideas to make the world a better place. I found people with passion.
I come away from today with a spark lit inside me that screams at the top of its lungs, “This is our moment! Carpe Diem.” It is possible to spark change and to be that change if we can harness the skills that each of us have been endowed with and capitalize on those complex understandings of the world to solve the most difficult questions out there. Just how much are we willing to commit to this cause, the cause of the people in this world, to seize the passion within us and solve the puzzles that lie in absolute disarray?