I'm happy to report that I survived yet another crazy week of meetings. As is often the case with these chaotic weeks, friends and colleagues from all over the world flew into the city. This time, Ratha, with whom I spent many tedious hours in the countryside of Cambodia, was in town to discuss her research on agribusiness in northern Cambodia. She came with news from Phnom Penh - mainly bad news. The small team I previously worked with faced threats of arrest from authorities (not surprising), but this time several staff were arrested, though eventually released. If I was still in Cambodia, I would certainly have been one of those arrested.
Ratha's arrival also gave me pause to look back. The picture above is one that she took during a challenging week of research in Sihanoukville. There is probably a filter on this picture, but I swear the sunsets I remember, especially on that coast, were always bathed in some stunning, unreal light.
This picture was taken during a very demanding, fast-paced month. At the time, our research team faced threats of arrest, so we moved our work to Sihanoukville, another province. The team, exhausted most days, bickered on and off, with a divide increasingly occurring between the Khmer and foreign staff. I stood in the middle. Days after that work trip, there was the elaborate Khmer wedding in the countryside, at the pepper plantation. And then a few days later, I joined others for a lovely weekend in Koh Kong, at the Rainbow Lodge Eco Resort, to celebrate a friend's 30th birthday. There was hiking and leeches, laughter, and sun-bathing. That same month, Ethan had left to meet his family in Europe. It was the longest time we'd been apart since we met. A few weeks later
Ethan would travel east, and I west, and we would meet in Almaty,
Kazakhstan. It took me three separate flights to get to Almaty. I remember it feeling like forever.