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Growing Back

When Rattana told me the events of her life, it took me a week to feel it. Rattana was living at an NGO for teenage survivors of human trafficking so I should have expected as much; but frankly, I hope to never to be so cynical as to expect what she has endured.

A week after Rattana opened up to me, I was on my yoga mat at home and city workers resumed their mission to rid Phnom Penh of all “oversized” trees—100 year old temple trees and jungle trees that had survived urban expansion up until now. That day, they started on the one that faces my apartment and the wheezing power saws and the groan of falling branches penetrated my home. I pulled the curtains but the sound of destruction forced its way in, destruction at the hands of men with bandanas over their faces blindly following orders, blind to the things that make life beautiful. It was to me the sound of the boys in this country raping my girls.

I learned the meaning of cynicism that day: I did not want to leave my house, I wanted also to be blind. My girlfriend came over and sat with me and held my hand. She didn’t say things to make me feel better, because there is no feeling better, there is only closing your eyes and not feeling, or keeping them open and living in pain. She led me by the hand back to her place after dark so I didn’t have to look at any human beings, or the raw, gaping sky.

Many girls since Rattana have told me their stories. I used to think that something could heal the pain girls suffer for being born into a poor society, and now I know that these pains never completely heal. As their teacher, I no longer try to heal them. Instead, I work with them and hold their hands until they feel safe enough to open their eyes, to venture out into the dark, to cry and to see their pain. And through their tears, they rediscover beauty and growth and the things that make life.

The tree outside my window is growing back, and the girls in my yoga therapy program are spreading their branches, also. And like the temple trees that persist upwards, these girls too will touch the sky.



Cara Lopez Lee's picture

Lovely Metaphor

What a sad, yet powerful, lovely, and hopeful metaphor you have found for the violated girls in your story. I hope all the survivors grow back strong and happy. Thanks for sharing that, Iskaburskis.

iskaburskis's picture

There's another version

This started off as a longer piece (I hadn't seen the 400 word limit yet), which i then posted in the Cambodia group (titled Holding Hands). I like the longer version a bit better, check it out! And hey, I appreciate your feedback, thanks Cara.

Fawzia's picture

Growing forward!

I am so touched by your essay and while reading about life, struggle, pain, poor societies moving to healing, courage and finding happiness... I remember my life!

My life was better but wasn't the best! I didn't live with a rich family as I lost my land, my land is occupied by israel now, and lived here as a refugee... although I didn't live in the best conditions of life but life had given me its best lessons, from suffer and pain we learn and we appreciate the hands that given to us. I love to help people now and I opened my life to the world with another eyes... I didn't want to surrender so I started to look at the world form different point. now I compare myself to those who are less fortune than me to appreciate what I have and learnt that success needs strong determination not just money! and of course some people understand this and try as hard as they can to give a hand and help... for me I found/ or this man found me and give the spiritual help I needed in my life and that is what brought me here to this community of solidarity.

Much love, peace & respect to all people of the world and here I say: there is not rich and poor people, we are all rich and will not allow the material life to separate us... by hands solidarity we are one!

Ammoura, Fawzia

JaniceW's picture

So Powerful

We cannot choose the country where we are born. But we can, and should, recognize that we are all part of one human family and can reach out a hand to those who live in less fortunate circumstances. By helping your girls become aware of their bodies, mind and spirits, you can empower them to reach high towards the sky, away from their fears. It starts by giving each other the support to pursue what feeds and nurtures our souls, just as you are doing with Rattana.

I look forward to reading more about your experiences in Cambodia and the impressions they have left. Best wishes,

Nusrat Ara's picture

Hope is what keeps us all

Hope is what keeps us all alive.


Fatima Waziri's picture

Thank you sharing you

Thank you sharing you beautiful story.


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