May 21, 2017
The title of the post seems ominous. What does it mean, the final 30 days? It simply means I have 30 more days* in Cambodia before I move back to North America (*To be totally honest- I actually have about 60, but will be randomly selecting 30 of them, because I don’t trust that I will write 30 posts in 30 actual days when it comes down to it). That fact seems so simple when I condense it into a sentence. However, the truth is, it isn’t simple at all. As vast and expressive as the English language is, I still think it wouldn’t be vast and expressive enough to break down all the emotions and thoughts that twirl and swirl in my brain when I think about Cambodia and the past 3 years here. Although the language (and any language) has its limitations, I will still attempt to put into words what ‘s up.
I’m writing for the next 30 days for a few reasons. The first reason is: my general sanity. Words help me express, breathe, and process. This blog series will allow me to work through and process events as they happen instead of pushing them down (which is where emotions too big to handle usually get put). Reason two is also for me. I think it will be sweet to look back and remember these experiences in greater detail. I often experience so much, even on the daily, but don’t have the capacity or time to jot them all down. It will be fun to make it a priority to write down the hilarious moments that happen everyday as an expat in Phnom Penh. The last reason i’m writing this is- for you, especially if you are someone who is going through something similar (having recently gone through reintegration, or about to). I’m also planning on cataloging my first 30 days back in the states, as those 30 days may turn out to be even weirder and harder than these 30 days (although who is to know). So here I go, without any expectation, or hope, other than to copy down the words in my brain. Day One.
Before I get into the prompt of each day, I will paint a picture of what is around me.
Location: Joma Coffee Shop, Toul Kork (in the north part of the city, which has been my home base all 3 years)
Who is around?: Well If you live in TK you know it is nicknamed lil’ Korea, so obvs lots of Koreans (always so well dressed), there are Cambodians, which make sense cause it’s Cambodia. There is a particular table of Cambodian women in front of me who are all four on their phones, and are doing the ancient ritual of selfie-ing (everyone selfies here so constantly, even with mundane tasks, that you would think it was built into their very core as an ancient practice). They just got one of all four of them, and mid-glance I caught myself in the picture too, with a large bite of cinnamon roll (who takes small bites of cinnamon rolls anyway?). I think I have probably been in 1,678,900 Cambodian selfies (with or without my knowledge).
What else is happening?: It is pouring profusely outside. So badly that some Cambodians on motos have come up under the awning to seek cover. That is how you know it is raining bad. I have a caramel latte (with some impeccable heart shaped latte art might I add) to join my lonely cinnamon roll. I find myself switching between writing this, and applying for a job in LA. Why am I doing this? Not really sure. Kind of in the mentality of put all your eggs in all the baskets, and hopefully one of the eggs won’t crack. Also I may have put in my cover letter something about muscles from scooping ice cream at Baskin Robbins (hopefully they get my sense of humor?), and I also just applied to a job in Germany (my German is pretty awful). What? I don’t know. Like I said, all the baskets.
So back to the relevance of this series-
Today’s prompt is: What does Cambodia mean to me?
Cambodia has not only been my home for the past three years. Cambodia has been: my first adventure into adulthood, the place where I have felt the most epic highs and the most devastating lows, a place of adventure and fun, a place of extreme growth and self-discovery, and ultimately many other things. It has been nearly 1095 days of literal blood, sweat (so much sweat), tears (so many tears), and laughs upon laughs. So many seasons here I have felt the relevance of Tubthumping by Chumbawumba. Because I have gotten knocked down so many times, but each time i’ve gotten back up again. Each time may have taken a different amount of time, and sometimes getting back up was easy, other times I only got back up with others hands who held me up as my knees wobbled. Sometimes it was literally getting knocked down (like when a robber tried to steal my bag and the moto toppled over and I fell on top of my friend), sometimes it was a mental knock down, which always seems longer to recover from than when you physically fall. While the wise words of Chumbawumba had their place, I also felt the relevance of songs that talked about sunshine, rainbows, and butterflies. So many days I felt like I glimpsed into an otherworldly beauty. There are so many moments that I hold precious in my heart. Memories that I can’t believe I was so privileged to experience. Some of those moments look like this: A smile from one of the girls I worked with, the first time someone used their creative talent to design a bar of soap, swimming with an elephant in a river in Mondulkiri, hiking a volcano before sunrise in Bali, participating in a city wide water gun fight in Bangkok during Songkran. Each of them is seared in my memory, and each of them brings such joy to my soul. I can’t help but think of even with the lows i’ve experienced (at some later blog I will share more of my story and what those lows were, and are) they don’t even come close to touching my highs. My high points made it all worth it. The beautiful people I have met, the beautiful things I have seen…all worth it. And even with the low points I have learned so much, grown so much, understand so much more- that my life has only been positively impacted from this. So, what does Cambodia mean to me? It means everything. It has made me, me. It will forever be a part of me, forever occupy a piece of my heart, forever take residence in a corner of my brain, it will forever shape the way I see the world. It will forever serve as a reminder for me. A reminder that the world is at once big, and small. And that every life is precious, every life sacred. I will be reminded that this patch of land will always be another home, no matter where I roam.
Until next time,