I like maps. I’m also a big fan of knowing where I am on a map. It helps me feel oriented. I may be far from home and everything familiar but at least I can point and say, “I am here.”
Waking up in my guest house yesterday was more than a little disorienting. I knew I had made it to Siem Reap and I knew the name of the guesthouse but pulling out the map PEPY provided I panicked a bit because everything was so foreign and I couldn’t figure out where I was. I tried to remember the blurred tuk-tuk ride from the airport the night before. Feeling a little pathetic, I tried to sleep some more, knowing Jenna, another PEPY intern, wouldn’t come by to pick me up until after noon. When the room became too hot to sleep any longer I prepared myself for the day and had some serious one-on-one time with my map.
Slowly I traced my finger down every road until I spotted my guesthouse just outside the city center. I breathed more easily. Walking around the city with Jenna I visualized my map, matching sights with symbols, mentally plotting my steps.
In the evening the city transformed. Dodging motorbikes and tuk-tuks we snaked through the night market, crossing a light-covered bridge over the murky river dotted with colorful, floating lanterns.
Making our way down Pub Street I truly felt like a citizen of the world. With every turn, I heard a different language: French, German, Japanese, Khmer, and more I didn’t recognize. We had come from various points around the globe to this one spot, all seeking new experiences and adventures; most for a week, some for several months, and a few who may never leave.
My stomach still knots when I think about how long a will be here, but I’m reassured. In a matter of time, my nerves will settle and the bustling markets and nonsense traffic will become commonplace.
In a few hours, I’m going to look at a room for rent with only, “Meet me at the Catholic church,” for instructions. Turning to another map, courtesy of Google, I cross my fingers I’ve found the right Catholic church.