I’m sitting in the Incheon Airport in Korea (which has free showers – be amazed!) about an hour away from travelling back in time to arrive in the States August 2nd, approximately 4 hours before I leave Asia. You have to love time zones. Before I set foot on US soil, I wanted to write what is my final post for this blog. I’ve left family and friends before, and I’m no stranger to good-byes, but saying good-bye to Cambodia was hard. Two years has definitely been long enough for me fall in love with a place, and it’s hard to go knowing that I will never return to the country I’m leaving. Even if I return to Cambodia someday, it won’t be the same. My hope is that for the most part that’s a good thing, and goodness knows it would be sad if I were to come back in 5 years and everything was the same. However, that knowledge hasn’t made saying good-bye any easier.
To everyone who has been with this blog from the beginning, supported me with your emails, your calls, your comments on the blog, on facebook, even financially in some cases, I can’t thank you enough! It has been wonderful sharing parts of this time with all of you, and I hope that you’ve enjoyed it as I have. I look forward to seeing many of you within the month or so!
Before I close this out, I’m including an incomplete list of things I will miss about Cambodia and my life there. It’s a list I’m sure has no definitive end, but I’m starting it here so as to remember.
- My amazing co-teachers and colleagues: from Sreymom, to Leakhena, to Bunda and Phallin (who made me an all vegetarian dinner on my last night and came all the way to the airport with me), to the Epic Arts staff, I have been so lucky to have met and worked with such kind and welcoming people.
- My yay and host-nephew: host family’s can be a mixed bag, but my dear grandma and her grandson were true friends to me and I wouldn’t have stuck out my host-family experience without them.
- Fruits! Durian, rambutan, bananas, pineapple, papaya, custard apples, mangos, dragonfruit, mangosteens…the list is as long as the flight many of these fruits would have to take to make it to the States. My yay made me eat an entire durian (no small feat) my last night because “you won’t get these in America!”
- The color of rice fields: I’ve never seen anything in nature so brilliantly green.
- The diversity of transportation on the road: car? Bus? Moto? Moto with cart? Moto with truckbed? Cart and pony? Bicycle? Elephant? If you’ve got it, you can ride it.
- Ankoi-laing: or “sit-play”, the time honored tradition of showing up and hanging out. Do it whenever, for however long you want, with almost anyone you want. I have the sneaking suspicion that if I sat down next to a group of Americans I’d never met before and tried to shoot the breeze for a few hours I’d get some awkward stares.
- The magical power of the moto: anything can be transported via moto if you try hard enough. Anything.
- Market-sourcing items: that moment when you ask the seller for an item she doesn’t have, but rather than telling you that, she tells you to wait, goes and finds it from someone else’s stall and then sells it to you.
- Public Singing: I wonder what students would do in the States if they were required to sing a song in front of their peers for being late to class. I’ve had students show up late on purpose.
- Awkward Dancing: I’ve never been noted for my dancing skills until Cambodia, where I’ve been given high praise for my minimal ability to walk around a table of fruit and vaguely mimicking the appropriate hand movements. Which brings me to…
- Getting massive affirmation for the ability to speak: this is a side effect of the unfortunate fact that so few foreigners bother to learn any Khmer, but I have to say I will miss being praised for saying things like “hello, I’d a like an iced coffee”
- Biking everywhere: I’ve been told I can keep biking in the States, but let’s face it, I’ve lived in Minnesota before. I’m not going to be biking year around.
- Going with the flow: Baby peed on you? People showed up late? It’s pouring rain? None of these things end the world, and it’s been nice being reminded of this pretty constantly over the past 2 years. Try setting your bag on the floor rather than a raised surface, on the other hand…
- Mostly knowing where my food comes from: I’ve recently re-delved into the various articles talking about the US system of providing and marketing food, and I’m already nostalgic for the food that came into the market in the morning and the fruit my family got from their fruit plantation.
- 1000 rieal (25 cent) iced coffees: who wouldn’t get a coffee addiction at those prices? Also, most of the time it comes with free tea.
- Vegetarian food lady: I ate at her stall 3-4 (sometimes more times a week). Without her I don’t know how I could have been a vegetarian in Cambodia.
- …everything else of which I’m sure I will be reminded in the days to come!
Thank you Kampot Province, Cambodia, all my friends and colleagues, and everyone back in the States. It’s been an unforgettable experience.