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Photo by Sampor Burke, Mekong Semester.

The Last Post in Asia

As we prepare to wrap up our three month of traveling up the Mekong, we wrote some reflection pieces. Here are our answers to the two prompts:

In Asia, I…

  • I found my closest friends, explored beautiful caves, ate the best food, and made incredible/unforgettable memories.
Explored many different places, cultures and landscapes learning more than I can quantify. I have seen trac rush around in Phnom Penh, the sun setting over the Mekong in Thailand, dark caves in Laos, and large snow capped mountains shrouded in clouds in China. All along our journey the Mekong was our path, a common natural feature winding through many different lands.
  •  I fell in love. I fell in love with sticky rice, papaya salads and mango shakes. I fell in love with strong Khmer eyes with the sound of bells and with praying wheels. I fell in love with learning, and learning how to learn best with asking the right questions, or in fact, any question. I fell in love with the world, and it broke my heart too. In Asia, my unconditional love for life grew, and I have a feeling that it will keep growing everyday I am alive.
  • I went on a journey through 4 very different countries. I grew a lot and had lot of trials and tribulations but I also had an amazing time. I’ve seen half flooded caves experienced Buddhist ceremonies and overall had a life changing perspective shattering experience I will remember for the rest of my life
  • I’d more than just learn about different places and customs. Rather, I experienced ways of life that are fundamentally different from my own. I saw how people can be happy without the things that the U.S./Western culture values, and I questioned what I actually need in order to live a fulfilled life.
  • Watched lanterns float to the sky like angels. I felt beautiful when I celebrated my 19th birthday. I held babies with mesmerizing dark eyes. I swam through watery, mysterious caves
  • I explored bottomless water caves, slept on songtaus, discovered that humor and kindness don’t require language, ate too many chilies, almost won a game in a local volleyball tournament, took care of a horse, unsuccessfully smuggled knives into China, spent nights in 21 different places, became immune to motion sickness, danced the Macarena to death, caused a few problems, solved few problems, and watched more beautiful sunsets than I can count.
  • Fell in love with caves, discovered my favorite food is mango sticky rice, become a tea fanatic, experienced sustainability in new cultures, laughed a lot with 15 new friends, mastered the Macarena, and learned the true meaning of generosity from my host families
  • I learned an emended amount, ranging from 4 languages to development and what that entails to the feasibility of going organic. But outside of this “classroom” setting, I learned a lot about building and maintaining relationships. I traveled with 15 other people for 3 months, experiencing their ups and down, while navigating my own emotional roller coaster. Relationships are hard but I learned that speaking the same language is not a requirement. In fact, I made stronger relationships with those of different cultures and languages than with some who share my own culture and language.
  • I lived my life.
  • Learned a lot about Khmer, Laos, and Chinese culture and language and their lifestyle. I will never forget the great moments I had with my friends.
  • I made lifelong friends, ate the best mangoes of my life, learned how to say “delicious” in four different languages, participated in local weddings, swam in the Mekong, got a sandal tan, and did more personal growth than I ever thought possible in three months. I can’t wait to share more experiences with you all when I get back!
  • I immersed myself in different ways of life that I never would have experienced a home. I lived with my host family that cared deeply about their relationships with their family, community, and environment, and welcomed me with open arms. I was made aware of the devastating effects of the Khmer Rouge and Secret Wars, both of which I knew very little about previously. I also learned tremendous amounts from my peers and instructors, saw some of the most spectacular sunsets, and ate some delicious mango sticky rice. All in all, I grew more than I believed imaginable.

As I prepare to leave Asia, I want you to know…

  • I might be overwhelmed when I first return home, but I’m excited to share my stories and experiences itch yip while we enjoy tea together 🙂
  • That Asia is more than just Beijing or Bangkok or Tokyo. There are so many amazing communities here that have such rich cultures and welcoming people. There’s more to it than the Khmer Rouge or Mao and his communist regime. There is so much to explore here and so many valuable lessons to earn from the locals, perhaps even changing your perspective on life.
  • That much of what I have learned will take some time to process and reflect on, but that I am looking forward to sharing these life-changing experiences at my own pace.
  • That I am thankful I got this opportunity to go on this trip and have a fantastic time. Danke.
  • I feel a moral and personal shift in my life, and a responsibility as a global citizen to create change and positive impacts no matter how far away. I’ve been inspired and shown how to live a global lifestyle that might vary from a normal projected path, but I’m so so excited to share this knowledge to spread inspiration in the many things I find fulfilling.
  • That I’m so beyond excited to see you and share my presents (and presence) with you so so soon! It’s been a lot of take in in only three months, though, so forgive me if I’m still processing it all in these next few weeks. Get excited for some crazy stories and a magical tea ceremony! Xoxo
  • That on some of life’s major issues and questions, my thinking has changed. Back home, I may question things that I once just assumed were normal. That said, I really miss you and can’t wait to see you.
  • That SE Asia is very defined by its past but is quickly changing as it leaps into the 21st century. That researching how to respect cultures is extremely important before you visit. And that naps, reflection time, meditation, and hobbies all have their place in a balanced life and happiness.
  • How grateful I am to have been home, how eternally grateful I am to have had this opportunity of so much growth. Thank you for planting the right seeds on me as I grew up, and giving me the freedom to water them around the world. Being here has made me more aware of my surroundings and the impact of my actions, and I don’t think that’s “Asia’s magical powers,” but instead the crazy amount of love and care I have been raised with, slowly flowering in this past the months. I owe my family everything I am whatever I become.
  • This was a beautiful experience that greatly enhanced my gap year. I learned unique lessons to reflect upon years to come. I’m not sure how to express my gratitude for supporting my decision to come on this semester, and I can’t wait to hug you hello. Los quiero mucho.
  • That I’m so grateful for this experience and for all the friends I’ve made.
  • That I can’t wait to tell you of all I have learned. It will take much time to tell you of it all. Many dinner conversation to come!
  • That I have plans. So get ready.