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This year is off to a great start: extremely fun and rewarding so far, a major contrast to what I've been doing in past years since graduating from college, and I'm so thankful for the amazing opportunities . I was able to visit Vietnam and Cambodia for the very first time, with my parents who haven't been back since the Vietnam War began; it's been ~40 years for my mama and 7 years for my papa (his last trip was in 2007). We were traveling for three weeks through the end of February, stopping in Hanoi; Halong Bay; Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon); My Tho; and Can Tho in Vietnam and then Phnom Penh; Battambang; and Siem Reap in Cambodia. In addition to our private commercial tours, we connected with relatives still living in the area (some of whom I'd never met before) and I got to hear emotional stories about a time before and during the Vietnam War/Khmer Rouge's rule. It brought back memories of discussions and materials that I had studied in my History of the Vietnam War course in college, and it was surreal to hear such personal recounts of the tremendous loss and suffering my relatives had to endure.
My favorite parts of Vietnam included Hanoi, meeting some cousins in HCMC (first time ever), and witnessing my mama's reunion with her eldest brother in My Tho. They haven't seen each other in nearly 40 years and barely recognized each other at first sight. He is now 84 years old and living alone in a two-room house that sits above the Bao Dinh canal. It was a very touching moment and I'm very happy that I got the chance to meet him in person, with my mama by my side.
My favorite parts of Cambodia included riding tuk-tuks in Phnom Penh; the temples of Angkor and the Landmine Museum in Siem Reap; along with meeting and conversing with my papa's friend's children who spoke earnestly about life as a privileged yet educated Chinese-Cambodian citizen. We had also stopped in Battambang and some rural village to track down my paternal grandfather's unmarked burial site. He had died under the Khmer Rouge's reign of terror and family members could only wrap him in blankets before burying him in the jungle, underneath some orange trees. My papa's relatives were able to find it and they are now in the process of finding a feng shui-type "teacher" to determine the possibility of recovering and cremating the remains.
So many stories from my very memorable trip recorded in my journal, but they're going to have to be transcribed into another blog at a later date. Because right now, I want to talk about being offered the SCA Marine Debris Ambassador Internship while I was traveling in Vietnam. The start date was set for March 3rd (less than two days after I flew back into Seattle) and I was afraid I wouldn't be able to complete the necessary background checks and forms in time, especially considering the shoddy internet connections in Cambodia and my iPhone's interface.
After paying a pricey visit to both the US Embassy and FedEX in Phnom Penh, I had my I-9 forms and identification information officially notarized and all sealed up in a cardboard envelope awaiting safe transportt to the US of A. I flew back into Seattle on Saturday night, packed up my bags some more on Sunday, and finished driving out to the Olympic National Park on Monday.
Upon arrival at the ONP Headquarters, I met with my supervisor (Heather) and fellow SCA intern (Anya). Anya gave me a tour of the facilities and introductions were made with a majority of the staff at the park headquarter. I completed some more paperwork with HR and had another round of fingerprint/background checks. Heather, Anya, and I sat down for multiple meetings earlier in the week to get me caught up to speed with the Marine Debris Ambassadors Youth Program and what to expect from the participants at Forks High School.
Slowly but surely, day by day, this week filled up with training activities, work-related reading material, errands that require my undivided attention, phone calls to reconnect with my friends. I'm feeling a little more grounded in my new house and work office now, feeling really ecstatic about this internship and the partners I will be working with. And my two housemates are hilarious and the whole living situation brings me back to junior year when I lived in the sustainability theme house.
I feel reenergized and am eager to start this new chapter of my life. It's been a hectic ride so far but it feels so good and just right where I belong.