My most memorable experience abroad? Oh boy. I don’t know how to answer this question. The last four months have been a constant and fluid journey. Every experience added perspective on the last. I could say my most memorable experience was: playing with the elephants in Chiang Mai, or interviewing a sex worker in Khon Kaen, or spreading my father’s ashes amongst the fishies in Southern Thailand’s coral reefs.
Yet, I would have to say that the most memorable moment I have had abroad was my trip to a small clinic hidden in Luang Prabang, Laos.
I have always said that my concentration of study is Global Sex Crimes. Specially, sex trafficking in SE Asia (hence why I am studying here). When I came to this part of the world I thought that the issue was so massive that I needed to help. That was where I was wrong.
The clinic I visited specialized in HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment for female sex workers in the area. They had developed a system that brought the new infection level to almost 0.
They key to this system: An all female, Lao native, staff. There work was tremendous but what got me was that they were all open about having been in the sex industry before. All these women sitting across from me had left the sex industry and came back to take care of those still in it. They would share personal anecdotes to make the women they helped feel safe and build trust. They could connect to these women on a level that a foreigner never could. And in turn, they were successful in their ventures.
So, because I am me, I sat there listening to their presentation crying. They said that these women were their sisters and they were never going to stop helping them. I shared that I am a survivor and I have always felt the same about using my story to help others. I told them that what they were doing gave me hope for women around the world.
After that encounter, I decided I am changing my entire field of study. I am focusing on domestic sex crimes from this point forward. Women are taking care of each other all over the world, I saw it first hand. They inspired me to go tackle some of the problems happening in my country.