|Workers at a school building, Siem Reap|
So it happened. I moved to Cambodia. After nearly four months without a moment's pause in the centre of the universe (or so it would like to believe), I shifted base to New York's complete antithesis overnight.
Where do I even begin? Where New York is a rambunctious labyrinth of shiny landmarks, languages and -- especially on public transport -- extremely well-coordinated limbs, Siem Reap is a loose assortment of centuries-old temples, sunburnt tourists and well...'strongly scented' marketplaces, all housed in the distinctive, pervasive red dust of a country caught in its own smoke trail as it tries to move forward. It is perhaps the first time in my life that I don't speak a word of the local language (at least I didn't when I first moved here a couple weeks ago), and no one seems to understand what I previously thought was universal sign language; 'You', 'me', 'yes', 'no', 'eat', 'read', 'drink', 'home', 'money' and most of what is a given in other parts of the world. Needless to say, much is lost in translation.
Nevertheless, it is a great reminder that no one will understand you the way you want them to, only the way they want to. Great for my personal learning, but not as helpful for everyday life.
So I am trying. I am trying to learn Khmer. I am trying to expend less energy and drink more water to cope with more sun than I've seen in years. I am trying to quell my more vegetarian pangs and appreciate the flavour of meat/fermented fish in every. possible. dish. I am trying to walk slower, see things slower and more thorougly, regardless of whether that means I end up circling the same block twelve times a day (there is not really that much more to downtown Siem Reap). I am trying to desecrate my inhibitive (and probably well-founded) sense of self-preservation around non-human living beings so that I am not the laughing stock of the farm I spend most of my days on. And I am trying to find a place that makes me a decent iced soy latte.
I am constantly reminded that this kind of change, this kind of work is what I wanted, that this part of the world is where I come from, and that this experience, like life, is both a blessing and an opportunity, but mostly that it will be what I make of it.
Much of it could have come close to not happening. I signed a contract less than 18 hours before packing up my life in New York and shifting here. But I'm here, and I'm ready to take it on for the most part, I think. I have the best of friends to share it with, the wisdom of the ancients, the internet at my fingertips and so much love from every direction possible that it's hard not to be buoyed by it all.
So here's to more of doing the things I love and learning crazy amounts from it. Come join me on my travels, won't you?