Suasdey (hello) friends!
My name is Kelsey and I am so honored and STOKED to be a part of your instructor team for Cambodia this summer!
I am writing now from Tucson, Arizona, a vibrant city not far from the US-Mexican border. With excitement brewing for our Cambodia adventure ahead, I find it hard to put into words the spirit and generosity of this resilient and beautiful country. The best way to learn about Cambodia is to experience it yourself – a brave step that each of you has chosen to take with us. I thank you for your courage and curiosity and for committing yourself to this experience and our community. During our time together, it is my hope that you learn more about yourself, the place on Earth you call home, and the home inside that we all carry with us everywhere we go.
A bit about me: I grew up in the countryside of Northeast Ohio, falling in love with the flow of the seasons and the muddy and life-giving Earth beneath my feet. I lived in Colorado while in graduate school, studying mountain ecosystems, water resources, and climate change, and falling in love once again, this time with the giant, humbling peaks and valleys of the Rocky Mountains. I am a nomad these days, having spent most of 2018 in Asia working for Dragons in Cambodia, Laos, and China, and trekking in Nepal, studying yoga and meditation in Bali, and working on a community farm with fellow Dragons instructors in Thailand. When not working, I yearn for discovery and connection. I spend my time practicing yoga and meditation (bring your mats!), writing and reading, and biking around the honest and mysterious Southwest desert, loving the butterflies, lizards, and fellow communities that make this place a home, not unlike the small Cambodia village where we will be spending our homestay. In a nutshell, I am in love with Mother Earth.
The photo above was taken last year by a Dragons student on the Tonle Sap Lake in Cambodia, the largest lake in Southeast Asia. Each year during the rainy season (Jun-Oct) the flow of the Tonle Sap River connecting the lake to the downstream Mekong River REVERSES, sending flow back into the lake and creating an ecological oasis and fish production powerhouse. As water levels fall into the dry season, flow switches back, carrying tons of fish, water, and nutrients to downstream areas of Cambodia and Vietnam. Nowhere else in the world does a flow reversal happen on this scale. Millions of people today rely on this lake for food and irrigation (and it also supported the world’s largest pre-industrial human settlement, the Angkor Civilization!). Today, the health and function of the lake ecosystem (and Cambodia as a whole) is rapidly changing due to upstream damming and development, countrywide deforestation, overfishing, and pollution. In exploring the relationships between our human society, our values and behaviors, and the natural world that sustains it all, Cambodia is the greatest teacher – for those willing and wanting to learn. Cambodia’s natural identity, experienced through it’s ecological wonders and organic rhythms, and it’s spiritual identity, explored through the philosophy, practices, and values of this Buddhist country (95% of Cambodians are Buddhists) – and learning how we are a part of it all – that is what I want to share with you.
In preparation, leave expectations and assumptions at home. Pack light. Things worth doing often aren’t easy, and it is at the end of our comfort zones that life truly begins. As your instructor, it is my duty to provide a safe vessel for our voyage and to repair any leaks in the boat along the way.
Seavyi, Brendon, and I eagerly await our journey! Please feel free to reach us here on the Yak Board with any questions. I can’t wait to read your introductions here on our Yak Board too!
Jom rieb lea,