This semester, Innovate@BCSW is following the experiences of four BC Social Work students who have embarked on international field education placements in Latin America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. This video diary and blog post comes from Krystalbella Murnane-Victorelli, who is working at the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
International travel is a great reminder of my powerlessness over everything, except for my own actions and reactions. I’m sure you have already deduced that my trip to Cambodia was anything but smooth. I already knew I was in for it, almost 70 hours of travel (I found the cheapest ticket possible) and thought I was prepared for it all. I had my comfy neck pillow, hotel booked and paid for in Kunming for my 24-hour layover, a wide assortment of magazines and books, eye mask and noise reduction headphones, and just about any other travel gadget you can imagine. I was ready for it all….
Until I wasn’t. My first flight out of JFK was delayed and panic set in as I realized I would potentially miss my first of three connecting flights, setting off an unpleasant chain of events. Gut instinct: freak out and demand that someone immediately rectify the situation, maybe there’s an app for that? Thankfully my next reaction was to sit back, relax, and literally enjoy the ride I was in for. I could go on in detail but I’m sure the condensed version will do the trick…
I missed the connecting flight, could not find my luggage for 12 hours, when I did find my luggage the wheels were broken off and there was a gaping hole in one (does not sound like a big deal, but please visualize me sweating profusely trying to carry over 100lbs worth of bags through an airport with no English signage while trying to make sure the contents of my bag do not empty onto the floor, quite comical in hindsight), I was unable to google anything (apparently you can’t do that in China, who knew?) had to adjust my Chinese visa and flights with attendants who I was unable to properly communicate with due to language barriers, I was sent back and forth to desks and gates multiple times (imagine a Mr. Bean sketch where desk A sends him to desk B and then B sends him back to A and then A back to B and so on), and finally I followed the wrong attendant out of the airport onto a bus to a hotel that I was not intended to go to (OOPS)! Thankfully I kept my humility (thanks Professor Lombe!) and sense of humor and someone finally had pity on my exhausted, sweaty, but still smiling soul and arranged for me to rest in a 4-star hotel for the next 24 hours and sorted my flight issue.
Once I had finally arrived in Cambodia I was grateful for this stressful and grounding experience. Maybe I did not handle my 4-day ordeal in the best most proactive manner but I had handled it with as much grace, kindness, and humor as humanly possible (and several WhatsApp calls to my mother, thanks Ma!). I have no idea what the next 4 months will bring, but I am confident that no matter what unexpected things await me in my new home and job, I will be able to handle them!!