On this day last year, I sat in my Portland apartment, frantically packing my bags for a last-minute trip to Beijing, scheduled to leave early the next morning. I had found very cheap airline tickets, and, needing no excuse for travel then, I was determined in Beijing to catch the Trans-Siberian Railway into Mongolia and Russia, eventually to St. Petersburg. In between jobs, I told myself I would take a few weeks tops, and then go back to my life in Portland. Quite straightforward.
But it didn't work out that way. I eventually made it to St. Petersburg and back to Portland, but not to stay and not to go back to my life there. Because on that epic train journey, many things changed. Out of that trip grew my decision to finally leave Portland (for a while). And, out of that trip grew the most peculiar decision to explore international human rights law positions abroad.
A year later, I find myself in Battambang, a sleepy town in northern Cambodia with an even sleepier river, flanked by decaying French architecture and wide palm-lined streets on which youth bike. This afternoon, I found myself wading through neon-green rice paddies, sludging through mud and trying to keep my balance, barefoot, under the weight of my bag, as I walked to the lake where, earlier this year, two children drowned while they attempted to collect clean drinking water for their evicted family (who should have been provided running water at the resettlement site!). This weekend, I will meet with families evicted, or soon to be evicted, by the Asian Development Bank-funded Railway Rehabilitation Program, a project aimed at rehabilitating Cambodia's 650+ km of derelict railways.
I've said this before, but I never saw this twist in the road. Even so, here I am.
So, what will October bring? Life these days, though stressful, seems full of so many possibilities. It is all very strange.