About three weeks ago, a friend returned to Australia for a job interview. The plan was: two weeks in Sydney, then back to Cambodia for a few weeks before he and his girlfriend return to Australia permanently.
We said goodbye one night at a bar following a poetry reading, where I happened to read a poem about saying goodbyes. I thought of giving him a hug, but didn’t; I would see him in a few weeks anyway.
Then two weeks became three and now it turns out he’s not returning.
I wish I’d given him that hug. Continue reading
A few days ago, a friend took me outside of Battambang. We drove along dusty roads, past rice paddies stretching to the horizon. Looking over the fields made me miss Canada, and the wide expanses and open skies of the Canadian prairies, where I was born and raised.
It’s been over a year since I’ve been out of the country, which is the longest I’ve ever been away, and while I love Cambodia, I miss Canada.
A Canadian flag in Barcelona.
Life in Cambodia isn’t always easy. Sometimes you’re waging war against rodents, sometimes friends are insulting your cooking, and sometimes power outages interfere with charging your iPad.
Fortunately, I was raised on a farm in rural Canada. The Canadian prairies have some surprising similarities to Cambodia, making me uniquely equipped for life here.
You’d be surprised how this environment prepares you for Cambodia.
Things are starting to disappear from my apartment. Small things, like a piece of banana here, some mango there.
They re-appear as mouse droppings.
Realizing they have found the home of someone lazy and complacent, the mice become bold, darting around my feet when I am cooking or sitting at my desk.
“I can see you!” I yell at them as they run out onto the deck, then withdraw back beneath the wardrobe, their home base. A smaller one pops out again and I think for a moment, ah, it’s kind of cute- NO DON’T HUMANISE IT IT IS THE ENEMY. Continue reading
The other day as I enjoyed an afternoon snack of chilli on unripe mango, it struck me that I was enjoying chilli on unripe mango.
Not something I was in the habit of doing in Canada.
I’ve lived in Cambodia for nine months. Given this is enough time to gestate an entire human being, to form someone else’s toes and eyeballs and spleen (not that I have, Mom, I swear! There is still only one spleen in my body) it’s definitely enough time for living in a foreign country to change you.
Here are some ways I’ve changed.
This post originally appeared as part of a series on learning from diversity called What I Learned at Djibouti Jones, which features a lot of great thoughts on living abroad.
I’ve lived in Cambodia for over eight months, in a small city called Battambang. It feels even smaller than it is when you’re limited to interacting with other expats and the Cambodians who speak English.
That’s one of the appealing things about Battambang; its small size makes it easy to get to know everyone else.
Yet that doesn’t mean it’s easy to establish a diverse group of friends that includes Cambodians.
In 1975, the Khmer Rouge seized power in Cambodia. The foreigners in the country at the time were shipped to the Thai border.
In 2014, a French film crew arrived in Cambodia to shoot a film about when the Khmer Rouge seized power. The foreigners in the country at the time were called upon to be extras.
Here’s what being an extra in a film about foreigners being kicked out of Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge regime has in common with actually being a foreigner kicked out of Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge regime.
fi left today
she gave me two sets of keys
the taxi waited on the street
sam appeared just in time
it was the final goodbye
i made a stupid joke
if people passed i can’t recall
If you have been living in a world where there is only one New Year and it coincides with the changing of the calendar year, you are missing an opportunity to celebrate all the other new years.
In addition to “International New Year,” as I heard it called in Battambang, there is Chinese New Year and Khmer New Year.
So many new years, so many opportunities for new starts.
The hardest part of a long trip is returning home.
After traveling for five months, it is time to return to Canada, though I will only be there for about three weeks. Then it’s back to Cambodia, where I have decided to live.
I finish my travels in Venice and return to Ottawa with a layover in Heathrow, where something goes wrong.
The lights in the terminal are bright and the people loud. Everything is too shiny. I feel panicky. I take deep breaths as I sit at the gate. Before I board my plane, I take out my journal and I write: “I am crazy.”