In just 4 short weeks, our time in Cambodia will be finished. We will pack up the 12 suitcases we brought (2 checked, 1 carry on per person), head to the airport, and cross the big blue back to the land we’ve always called home. There is so much that makes me sad as I write that. I don’t like being sad, though, so before I get mushy and post about all the things I will miss in this great Kingdom, let’s start with a fun list of what I will NOT miss. Hopefully taking the time to write them down will put me in a better mood! And keep you from jumping on a plane and wanting to move here (until that next post...)
Ten things I won’t miss about living in Cambodia:
1. I have to start with the weather since I’m sweating as I type this inside my house. It’s so hot. We arrived in June, at the start of the wet season and I remember that when people asked what I thought of Cambodia so far I replied, “It’s beautiful. But so so hot.” They always, without fail, mentioned something about April. I dreaded April for that reason, and now it’s here and it is miserably hot. We can’t even cool off inside because so few places have A/C and the ones that do aren’t running it because of number 2:
2. The power outages. There isn’t enough electricity to power the whole city at once so they shut off portions of the city at a time every day. Thankfully, my apartment is in the “rich” part of the city so we have been spared from many of these outages. Not all of them, though. We often lose power and resetting my clocks is the least of the problems that come with that! It’s fairly common for me to be out shopping at the local supermarket or eating at a restaurant when all the lights go out. Just because I am so used to it I don’t even jump now, I don’t think I’ll miss it one bit.
3. The meat section at the grocery store. The meat section at the local Cambodian market is fascinating and makes for great photos and educational lessons for the kids. I have not, however, been brave enough to buy it for our family to cook at home. I shop at the grocery store instead, where you can find almost as much variety. In addition to the “normal” meats, I often see things labeled as: chicken feet, pig brain, pork intestine, fetal duck, and more that I pass right on by. Until the other day. I accidentally got to the register with “pig stomach,” thinking I was checking out a pork roast. Oops. I won’t miss that section. I’d rather just not see those things when I’m shopping.
4. Ironing. Every item of clothing. Every day. Enough said.
5. The smell. It doesn’t always smell bad, but when it does, it does. And the puddles on the ground that I sometimes accidentally step in and cringe. They smell and make me smelly.
6. Riding in a tuk tuk – which basically amounts to a open walled trailer with a roof – on the reverse side of the road because my driver thinks it is easier to get somewhere that way. Nope. Not going to miss the sight of cars coming at me head on each day. Though God will probably miss the prayers I send him during those times.
7. The Riel. That’s the local currency, though they more often take US Dollars. It’s just confusing because there are no coins here and the conversion rate varies from $1/4000R to $1/4200R. Counting out change is always a challenge. We pay the higher amounts in dollars and receive riel bills as change. It makes my brain tired always trying to divide $1 by 4000 or, worse, some number like 4120, depending on the merchant’s conversion rate. Its either that or pile up a giant stack of Riel at home. The good news is the smallest bill, 100R, is worth about $0.02 and yet still makes a great reward for the kids! To them, money is money!
8. The water. Here in the city the water is supposedly clean, but no one actually drinks it. They have more a philosophy of “fix what’s broken” and tend to do massive water treatments when there is a problem but then let it go for months before another treatment. We make sure not to swallow it in the shower, the swimming pool, while brushing teeth, or anytime. In fact, my kids have heard “Don’t drink the water!” so many times that I saw them watering a plant on our balcony this week with our drinking water. When I commented that plants can have sink water to drink, my oldest informed me that if it isn’t good enough for him, then our plant shouldn’t have to drink it either. Pretty good point, kiddo.
9. Yes means no. I will miss these people so much but I do get a bit frustrated with this cultural difference we foreigners refer to as “saving face.” Many people do not like to say no, so to save face, they will say yes even if the answer is no. For example, I may get on a tuk tuk and ask him to take me to a certain destination. When I ask if he knows where it is, he will always say yes. Sometimes, however, he will turn and drive in the complete opposite direction. Only then do I realize that his yes meant no. Stephen has his own stories of working in an environment such as this.
10. The bugs. They’re everywhere and I’m certain a few will make the journey over the Pacific while exploring our luggage. We can’t help it because they invade everything. I would like to live in a place where bugs reside outside my home again.
Yes, home. I don’t even know what “home” will look like after this. We're still waiting on God to give us a glimpse of that. One thing I know... life will be forever different. I think I'll label phases of my life "before Cambodia, Cambodia, and after Cambodia" because life's going to look that different from here on out. As I look back at these things I labeled as ‘things I won’t miss’, I find many memories that bring warmth to my heart.
I always knew it would be an adventure. And it’s not over yet....