Monday, August 27, 2012


In the middle of torrential rain storms and searing sunlight that punctuate the rainy season,  I've been watching the coconut palm at the corner of the school assembly/basketball court  go through a growth spurt. The palm extends a single spear high into the sky and as the days progress, the frond will unfurl from its tightly wrapped javelin.      Since May, I’ve been bound up and agonizing over what would emerge after my contract at this rural school ended in late September. I’d applied for jobs on the internet, considered staying here and mulled over a return to Alaska.   There were questions from my mother, discussions with other American teachers here in Thailand and the deep dark questioning in the middle of the night.
Last week, Michael Dooley’s daily email from the Universe arrived in my email box:
“You'll know when you need to know, Ellen, and not a moment earlier.  That's how it works when the answer you're looking for depends on other events that must first settle, new players that need to be gathered, and serendipities that are still being calculated.”

I'd taught the vocabulary word "draw", but the student unwittingly added an e and switched the W upside down!
I'd taught the vocabulary word "draw",
but the student unwittingly added an e and switched the W upside down!
In the end, the answer emerged as many have others have over the years: by simply putting it out there. The night before my skype interview, a huge, five-inch long dragonfly came into the house.  Through a series of flipped  light switches in the bedroom and living room, he finally flew back outside.  I took this as a good omen.    

The process of uncovering the next step was a product of connections between new and old friends, initiative and following the golden thread.   A phone call and some emails later, I’m now making plans to move to Phnom Phen on the day my Thai work visa expires.

I’ll be dedicating a few months of pro-bono consulting work to Cord, a UK-based organization that works closely with local partners in Asia and Africa to create a context for peaceful co-existence.  Cord’s Asia office responds to invitations to build the capacity of local NGOs in Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar to effectively manage at the program and institutional levels.  I’ll be doing a variety of projects relating to my previous efforts in fund development and grants management.

I am excited about offering service to this relatively small, diffuse and effective organization. Volunteering will give me some flexibility to learn more about the international development landscape join family and friends on forays this fall and provide something meaningful to do through the Christmas holidays.  I’ll have lots more English-speaking people around for connections and friendships. In a country where it doesn't cost too much to live, I’m making an investment in learning and growth. The hope exists that a job will emerge next.

This morning, while mulling over the myriad of details needed to be dealt with over the next six weeks, I thought about the millions of people who are unemployed in the US. Many of them are hanging on to the framework of their formerly employed lives, struggling to maintain the house and the normalcy of family life.  The young colleagues from October’s large teacher orientation have returned home to low-paid summer service jobs and living with their parents.  Are they attributing the months of unemployment and failed efforts to find work as all part of the Universe’s plan?

All I know is that my circumstance- traveling alone with an adventurous spirit and a chunk of savings to ameliorate the worries - has opened up opportunities. The feeling of going with the flow and tapping into the networks reinforces the purpose of this journey.  However, there are times when the sense of being adrift in a vast open sea is lonely and scary. At those moments, I'll try to  focus on the compass point on the horizon while also being  steadily steeped in the journey. Whatever I end up doing, I need to make sure it reinforces good health, builds a meaningful career, develops connected and heartfelt relations and fosters spirituality. I have enjoyed my time here in Thailand and am grateful for all the lessons, but it’s time to weigh the anchor and sail on.

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