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Wednesday, 25 August 2010

The way home?

It took me so long to feel a part of it here, that now going home is just a week away I’m really starting to feel, well, sad.

It’s so strange, wanting to go home and not wanting to leave at the same time. Every time I see a cow in the middle of the road, of a child clinging on to the back of a motorbike, I can’t help but think about the everyday images that I’m going to miss. Going outside and looking at the palm trees, riding on the motorbike and going for dinner with friends. The ex-pat community is so small here, and everyone is so accepting – there’s no pretense, and we’re in it together.

At work, I’ve found some projects I really love, they stretch my job description a bit, but as I tramp about in half a foot of mud up in Tmar Puok, I suddenly realise what my expectation and image of working in Cambodia was. Part of me really can’t help but feel bad that I’m leaving, there is still stuff to do and everyone that has become a part of my Cambodia will carry on without me. They will moan about about 3.30am wake-up calls, cockerels and cows without me. Is this the point at which someone throws in their Western life and stays? Or do you say ‘thank you very much, have a nice life’and waltz off home?

I don’t know. I very much want to go home. I picture living a life with my boyfriend, being cosy, going camping, wearing nice clothes and (heaven forbid) showing a shoulder without feeling weird about it. I want to see my family, torture my little brother, go out with my friends and tell everyone about it. I want to take my first piping hot bath in 365 days. I would like to get a good job, go to ASDA and go to the cinema (also for the first time in 365 days). I want to be able to understand the world around me, not worry about mice, mosquitoes or malaria. I would like, very much, to feel clean.

But I am really going to miss Cambodia and a very real part of me would like to stay. Perhaps that means it’s the perfect time to leave, but it kind of feels like I’m about to miss the end of the story.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Top 10

Things are drawing to a close, and although it hasn’t quite sunken in yet, in less than one month I’ll be sleeping in the spare room at my parent’s house. As time runs out, and I’ve finished watching all the DVDs I own (I should get a medal: 6 series of House, 5 series of Spooks, 3 series of Gossip Girl and 1 series of Glee, is no mean feat) time is a tickin’ and I can’t help I think about what I’m going home to, and exactly what I’m leaving behind.

So in light of this, let me introduce Jen’s top 10:-

… things I will miss about Cambodia …
1) Waking up to a blue-sky, knowing it will be as sunny today as it was yesterday.
2) Driving my moto round the countryside, looking at the green of the paddy fields and skillfully dodging the cows.
3) Art class and my friend Remy.
4) Having my daily iced coffee with condensed milk and Ovaltine.
5) Being told I’m beautiful by almost everyone I meet (Khmer’s love a bit of white skin and a big nose).
6) The instant diet potential of life in Cambodia.
7) Floating home after a successful day at work (such rarities should not be taken lightly).
8) Life, and the network of fellow volunteers – I’ll miss you all!
9) Living in a world where anything is possible. Especially if you have a moto and enough string.
10) A good meal at Cow-On-The-Mountain and Red and Yellow Chairs place.

… things I WILL NOT miss about Cambodia …

1) Cockerels.
2) Mice, especially the rotten ones under floorboards.
3) Returning home from a hard day at work only to find that your ‘Bum Gun’ has exploded and the lower floor of your house is half a foot deep in water.
4) Washing my clothes in a bucket.
5) People that cannot drive and look at you with a blank face after they have almost killed you.
6) “Laydeee wanna tuk tuk? / Pineapple? / Moto?”.
7) Ants on my washing line, and correspondingly, in my pants.
8) Loud speakers, Khmer music and 4am.
9) Living in a world that is not designed for people over 5ft, and the back-ache that comes with it.
10) Actually, I can’t think of anymore.

... and then there were three.

With just four weeks left to go, my family has finally decided to brave the boarders for a flying visit to the land of Cambodia. Well, two of them did, anyway (Dad and brother).

Flexing my tour guide muscles and practicing my very best Khmer, we began our trip in Siem Reap. Taking in the temples, swimming pools and markets, I tried hard to convince my family that I am indeed ‘roughing it’ in Cambodia – nevermind that I am on first-name terms with the staff of my favourite hotel. It was great to show them everything that Siem Reap has to offer, but I did find myself secretly disappointed that they a) seemed to want to sample the local cuisine, when I am now very much craving steak, and b) as men, didn’t find the shopping in the Night Market nearly as exciting as I do.

From Siem Reap I bowed to requests for a slice of ‘the real Cambodia’, so we headed off to Sisophon for a surprisingly enjoyable three days of da-laying (aimless wandering). Without much effort at all, I got my dad to ride on the back of my moto, and with my brother following on my push-bike we were an unstoppable force. Well, that is until people decided that ‘the real Cambodia’ is in fact far too hot and sweaty, and that the locals seem to like to use chop-sticks and eat chickens eggs with fetuses in them. So we finished the holiday with some four star, $30 a night accommodation in Battambang.

Fortunately, my dad is much easier to convince to do stupid things than my mum is, so whilst in Battambang we rode the precarious – if not ingenious – Bamboo train and then took a tuk-tuk out to the Battambang Circus in the middle of a monsoon. An adventure that was well worth it, where else can you see some 15 year old boy do a handstand on top of 10 creatively stacked wooden chairs?

And now they’ve gone, and I have three weeks left. I’m glad I got to the opportunity to show-off my Cambodia, and give them an insight into what I’ll be talking about when I get home. But for now, it’s a weird feeling. A little empty, perhaps.