Today marks exactly 1 year since Mick and I embarked on this journey to Cambodia. Its been one whole year!?! EEEK! It sure doesn’t feel like it! It seems like it was just yesterday that we were living in our apartment in Camperdown, working in the city, spending our weekends with friends and family, exploring Marrickville and eating at the fish markets.
But it has been a year, and it has been a pretty great ride over here. We have already said farewell to some of our volunteer friends who have returned to their homes in Victoria and Queensland, another friend departs today to Western Australia. We have only one volunteer left with us who came over at the same time as us. Thankfully, we have expanded our friendship group beyond those who we came with or else it would be a pretty lonely existence here.
For me, this has been a big personal/professional development adventure. I’ve worked on a great project and although I have felt that my contribution is not that big, I am hopeful that the work I have been doing here will impact somehow. I have helped the organisation get grants with a couple of big donors which is fantastic for their long term work and I think my plans that I have developed for the team will be helpful for now and the future…maybe!
It has been a laugh working with these guys and girls in this little office of 5 (but more recently 6!) and there have been a lot of moments of confusion and bewilderment from both sides of the coin. Some of the highlights of these conversations include;
- When I had tonsillitis, my colleagues told me it was because I was eating a certain type of banana…hmmm
- When they found out Mick and I lived together but were not married…a lot of confusion about that one
- When they told me that a woman who has just had a baby must cover her ears to protect her hearing for the future….wha?
- When I got called into an office and asked whether DNA can test if a husband and wife are in fact, husband and wife….???
- When I got asked about the political process in Australia and what happens when the ruler gets voted out of the government, like how do they make sure the old leader goes away?….umm…it just works that way??
And what are the takeaway lessons from this? I have no idea! Choose your bananas wisely?
Beyond the workplace, there have been some really great things going on too. We have got some lovely relationships with locals including our local breakfast guy who just adores Mick and takes any opportunity to give his shoulders a rub, pat him on the back or grab his arm. Then there is the vegetable lady in the market who I always visit for my veggies who always puts a couple of extra shallots or chilli’s in my bag. And the pork lady who loves to have a chat and also is very generous with her pork cuts. And the tuk tuk driver who always calls out hello and smiles even when we don’t use him all the time. And the girls at the local cafe who like to chat to us and give us snack samples of their produce.
So what have we missed about Australia? People of course, our friends and family. Having access to green space like national parks, local parks and headlands. Fresh salty seafood from the fish markets. Pub gardens. Craft beers & ciders. Restaurants opening later than 9pm.
What will we miss about Cambodia? Definitely the markets – living opposite one we get to be a part of it all the time! We both love sitting back and watching life go by, being able to cross the road and get a steaming hot bowl of noodle soup or an iced coffee. Being able to get your bicycle fixed anywhere at any time. Cheap food and drink.
What won’t we miss about Cambodia? The steaming garbage piles on the roads at night that take on a life of their own. The visible fumes and smoke from cars and trucks that you have to try to avoid. The terrible poverty and disability that slaps you in the face when you least expect it.
So it’s bitter-sweet to be finishing up in the next few months. There seems to be so much that we haven’t done or seen yet, and yet we have done a lot. And the end of any era heralds the beginning of a new one, which means a lot of exciting new things to get involved in. We both really want to get stuck into more home cooking/curing/preserving when we are home to reduce our reliance on supermarkets (though here we don’t shop at them very often!). We want to get a garden happening if we can because although our little pots here are going well (lemon-grass, chilli, basil and aloe-vera) it would be great to grow things like beans, Thai eggplants and coriander! Where and how is still to be determined, but there is still plenty of time to figure all that out.
In the meantime its time to enjoy all the amazing foods here while we can (pork and rice for breakfast every day?! why not!), go on a few more adventures (more crab in Kep? YES) and start thinking about life back in Australia.