Negotiate a river by following its bends, enter a country by following its customs. – Cambodian Proverb
It’s been 7 months since we landed in Siem Reap and I still don’t feel ready to write about it, at least with any authority. The problem is I lived in Thailand since 2010 (if I don’t count the 9 months in 2009) and I feel like I need those kinds of years to have a voice that deserves to be heard. But when I read about this memoirist who is a mere 18 years of age, I realized that there is nothing wrong with capturing what (I think) I know at this moment of time.
// Learning Khmer is hard. I thought learning Spanish was hard. I thought Thai was insane, but now we have arrived at the final truth. Khmer is utterly insane. With some words that are similar to Thai, it’s just enough to confuse me: What language am I speaking?
Even though Khmer is not a tonal language, it’s got some tricky tricky sounds. Perhaps if I put a pebble or two in my mouth I’ll be able to produce the language. I’ve decided I need an additional brain.
// I have also discovered that after the rainy season, it’s the wedding season! I’ve been invited to 3 weddings already and I’ve only been here half a year. I’m not even social. The roadside white tents that obscure most of a road, blasting music intermittingly with monks chanting before sunrise is really just.too.much. It’s so over the big top, I’m foaming at the mouth, going crazy over how LOUD it is – and how often. *Not Narong’s wedding, of course…
// For Chinese New Year, I got a few days off so I flew to Chiang Mai, Thailand to see friends, family and go shopping! Chiang Mai is massive compared to Siem Reap and much more developed. So it was fun to go to big mega malls and see as many folks as I could squeeze in. Wish I had more time…
// Work is great, but I work too much. When I leave, this will be one of the big reasons why. They keep giving me horrible schedules. Currently, I’m working M-Sa at 6am. Yes, you read it right, six 6ams. I get up BEFORE the sun rises. I have to be at work before 6. I cycle in the pitch dark. I go to bed before geriatrics and small children. And yes, I’ve demanded a gentler schedule next term.
I like teaching though. I like my students and my colleagues. When my friends living in Thailand asked me, “What is the best part about living in Cambodia?” I readily replied, “The people.”
I wasn’t trying to sound like a cliché, but it’s true. Teaching techniques I could never try or pull off in Thailand because lots of Thai students are notoriously l-a-z-y, I can do here. Don’t get me wrong, Thais are nice. But as many expats and travellers will tell you, Thais are not the easiest to get to know. Some have complained that their warmth seemed “put on” for the sake of “face” and politeness. Cambodians, on the other hand, are much more likely to pull up a chair and tell you their life story. They’re easier to read. And overall my students want to learn, which makes my job pleasant and enjoyable.
// Honestly though, I don’t know how much longer I’ll be here. I feel like I could move again next year. SE Asia is a special place, but I want to experience someplace else, too. Oddly enough, in December we moved to a new apartment (next door) that is bigger and cooler. I decorated like mad and for the most part, feel at home. Yet…Cambodia is not without its challenges, just like Thailand, just like anywhere else.
We’ll see what happens. Sometimes I feel like by the time a post is read I will have already changed my mind…
Should I stay or should I go? 😉