Guest Post: The things I’m going to miss about Cambodia

Another guest post from Semester 23 volunteer Anand. He’s back on the road, now in Turkey, after his 3 months with us during our February – May 2012 semester.

 

Turkey thinkin’: The things I’m going to miss about Cambodia

 

Despite first impressions, it turns out that Turkish night busses are ideal environments for personal reflection and evaluation. The bus company offices are plush and luxurious. Their advertisements promise personal TV screens, acres of legroom and free wifi. Transfers between bus stations and your final destination are generally free and bus attendants promise to take care of your every need during the journey.

In reality, however, all of the TV programming is in Turkish, the wifi is only enabled on the busses used for the short aforementioned transfers (as opposed to the 14 hour journey in between), the seat-back tables are too flimsy to support a laptop and the only need that the bus attendants see to is your need to be bumped by their hip every 41 seconds during the journey as they career up and down the aisle for no apparrent reason.
So despite the promise of things to occupy me for the entire journey, I was left with only my thoughts. A place where things can get kind of crazy. Oddly enough, my mind drifted to my time in Cambodia, which I can safely say was the best three months of my life so far. I got to thinking about all of the things I’m going to miss about that place and, by the time we reached to outskirts of Istanbul, the content of this post was firmly entrenched in my mind. Enjoy!

The things I’m going to miss about Cambodia:

  • Using the coolest currency in the world, Cambodian Riel, followed by the second coolest – US Dollars. And not very much of either, too.
  • Forgetting what hills look like.
  • Walking out of a nightclub called Pontoon at 7am, only to have my glasses fog up at the abrupt temperature change from 16 to 35 degrees celsius.
  • Feeling like another member of Rathanak’s family during Khmer New Year celebrations in Pursat province. Pursat City forever, brother.
  • Planning my lessons for the first day … and never planning again.
  • Sok sabay? Sai sabok?
  • Hugs and semi-awkward cheek kisses from Mr. Chheang, the best hamburger chef in the world – not the mention the hamburgers themselves.
  • Pork and rice (bai se chiru); the world’s best breakfast.
  • The genuine warmth and affection of every single person at Conversations With Foreigners.
  • Setting an alarm on my way out of the house for a night out, reminding me to ride home before the police start manning their checkpoints at 7am.
  • Wearing business shirts, jeans and shoes in the stifling heat, both because we were used to it and to distinguish ourselves from the tourists, whom we despised.
  • Drinking more coffee than ever before – despite coming to Cambodia, in part, to break my hopeless addiction to coffee.
  • Drinking beers at our local … petrol station?
  • Guesthouses where it is not only allowed, but expected, that one park their motorbike in the lobby, for safekeeping.
  • Traffic police corruption, combined with their total unwillingness to chase me if I didn’t stop and pay a ‘fine’ for an imaginary offence. This made every day on Phnom Penh’s roads an intricate game of traffic chess.
  • The instant mood-boost of a completely random and genuine smile from a Khmer stranger.
  • The infectious enthusiasm and genuine respect that my students so graciously showed me.
  • Pausing a lesson and marching my entire class outside to watch the sunset from the school’s third floor balcony.
  • Being enthusiastically handed little packets of disgusting biscuits as change when my petrol purchase was just below a round figure.
  • Randomly slipping the fact that I never needed another teacher to take my classes for me into unrelated conversations (and blog posts).
  • Making the eternally hilarious joke whenever shop staff checked the authenticity of a large denomination U.S. dollar note: “Its real … well, no actually its dollars.” Killed every time.
  • Playing chicken on my motorbike with convoys of enormous SUVs on Street 51; Phnom Penh’s nightclub and murder district.
  • $4 beer towers:
  • Stealing WiFi from either the internet cafe behind our house or the European Union aid office down the street. Also the smugness Elliot and I felt when the rest of the house complained at the speed of the shared tin-can-on-a-string internet while we were spoilt for choice in terms of superfast internet.
  • These guys (and everyone else) :
  • Openly embracing my descent into alcoholism.
  • Wondering why only petrol and pizza were priced similarly in Cambodia compared to the west.
  • Parking my motorbike on Jelle’s shoes. Every. Single. Day.
  • Becoming good mates with most of the Indian restaurant staff in Phnom Penh.
  • Mekong Lounge. Reggae Bar. Heart. Pontoon. The local. The Local. The Local II. The new local. Waterwheel. Riverhouse. Gasolina. Equinox. Top Banana. Memphis. Cotton Club. Oscar. Do It All Bar. Zeppelin Bar. Walkabout. Red Fox. The minimart. And the other minimart. Mr. C’s rice wine shop. And thousands more.
  • The sense of complete freedom that only Cambodia can provide.
  • The feeling that Phnom Penh was my home.
There are thousands of other things that I’ll miss about Cambodia. And I’ve got a few more long bus trips coming up, so stay tuned.

Keep up with Anand’s travels on his blog.

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