When I first started this blog two years ago I thought about how great it would be when I would make my last post in country and talk about all of the exciting and interesting things I got to experience, but as I sit here and write what will be my final blog post, I struggle to find the words to accurately describe my time here. The more I think about it, the harder it becomes to explain. I’m not trying to sound all hoity-toity when I say you have to experience it to really understand it, but in this case it really is true. It’s not easy to explain, but I will try my best to help people at home understand when I talk to them about it. Being completely submerged in a new culture for 26 months is not something that can be described or summarized in a few quick sentences; its roots run deep and they have life altering consequences. It seemed that the more I learned about Cambodia, the more questions I had and the less I understood. After a while I was less interested in how you do something, but rather, why you do something. While I have a much greater understanding about Khmer culture than when I came, I will leave with many questions unanswered but that is just fine with me. If you had the answers to all your questions, what would be the point of going on?

As I come to the end of this journey, I do know this though, I am incredibly thankful for this one of a kind opportunity I was given. Cambodia forced me out of my comfort zone, it let me get to know people I would have otherwise never crossed paths with, it challenged me in ways I had never been challenged before and it completely changed the way I view almost everything. It gave me enough memories to last a lifetime and I can’t wait to share them with people back home. I’ve met some truly inspiring people, I’ve created  some of the closest friendships I’ve ever had, I’ve eaten weird things and I’ve discovered endless things about myself. Being genuinely accepted as a member of my host family will be something that I never forget. When my host mom said she was going to treat me like her own son, she really meant it. They have been amazing beyond all expectations and I love them.  Leaving them will be one of the hardest things I’ll ever have to do. The level of hospitality of the Khmer people is something that Americans should take a good look at and strive to achieve. A majority of the population has lived through unspeakable horrors and pains, but yet they stride on and find the time to get to know us, teach us new things and treat us like family. Sure, I came here to try and teach Cambodians things, but I’m leaving learning way more about myself than I ever could have imagined. Cambodia has forever changed me and its impacts will be felt for years to come. I hope everyone in America is ready to listen to me talk on and on and share silly/crazy/disgusting stories from my service. Please don’t be too offended if I’ve picked up some questionable social norms or habits, I assume they will go away after a while.

It has been a journey of ups and downs, exciting moments and dull ones but I am thankful for all of it. I want to express my gratitude and thanks to everyone, both back home and those in country, who has supported me along the way. Your words of encouragement and advice won’t soon be forgotten. Sharing my thoughts with the world has been a fun experience. Thanks for reading.

Through good times and bad, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, Cambodia has always been there. You’ve had me since your first hello kid. I will never forget you and you will always hold a special place in my heart. Goodbye

Tony Schwegmann

Peace Corps Cambodia 2011-2013