The other day, Sreyneang, my friend and colleague asked how I was adjusting to life in Cambodia and mentioned it must have been difficult to move to a new place knowing no one. A month and a half in to my time here it would be easy to brush off the first week or so and claim to have transitioned smoothly. Honestly, I spent my first few days sitting alone in my guesthouse room trying not to move because I had just showered and didn’t want to immediately start sweating and they were anything but smooth sailing.
Like anyone undergoing a huge life change my mind echoed with thoughts like:
What have I done!?
I’ve made a terrible mistake…
Why can’t I stop SWEATING!
Gradually though acquaintances turned in to friends and the voids that once were my weekends filled with (rather athletic) activities.
“I’m probably a little too busy now,” I told Sreyneang.
Not even joking, this past week I used the excuse, “I have to wash my hair tonight.” and meant it.
Even though I probably haven’t been in Cambodia long enough to reach official “expat” status I do have a job, pay rent, and wash my own clothes (Which I’m getting better at doing, by the way; my clothes are actually starting to smell clean rather than just not dirty…) so I’m going to consider myself one. And as an expat, your friends have a way of becoming your family. More often than not you eat dinner, discuss unusual digestive situations, and celebrate holidays together.
Last week we all donned white shirts, those of use without motos hoped on with those who did, and together journeyed to our friend’s home in the countryside for a ceremony commemorating 100 days passing since his father’s death. The back roads were slick from the recent rain and Sreyneang and I nearly toppled into the mud. Once we arrived we crowded around a small table. Unlike at a Khmer wedding, guests give money before they eat rather than after. A man with a microphone chanted blessings over us while we pushed forward to put our wad of bills on the table. After we were blessed everyone took a packet of noodles before being ushered to a table.
Similar to the housewarming party I went to last month the whole event was an assembly line of commotion. Finding an empty table in the back we immediately dug into the food provided. The minute our food was gone our plates were cleared and we filed back out, stopping to greet our friend’s mother, to make room for incoming guests. Slipping back down the road we must have looked like some strange biker gang, a long line of motos full of people in matching shirts and bright “PEPY” green helmets.
Later that same evening, after Ariel’s first-night-of-Hanukah celebration a different sort of ‘biker gang’ formed to make sure we all got home safely.
Maybe I’m just feeling all warm and fuzzy because it’s the holidays and we’ve started playing Christmas music at work and last week my PEPY Tours team found a pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving even though I’m the only American in the office…
Whatever the cause may be, I’m grateful for my family abroad.