On July 15, 2015 we moved from Chiang Rai, Thailand to Siem Reap, Cambodia. Yippee! Right? Wrong!
First of all, there was no honeymoon phase for me. As you might remember, it was looking for a place to live straight away and starting work.
And work was an uphill slog. Most of it had to do with adjusting to a brutal schedule and a new way of doing things (not to mention being in a different country), but experience kept me climbing, kept me pushing though. Now, it’s rather amusing to look back at how hard it was to learn my students names! Back then it was just another one of those micro-adjustments that made me feel like I was holding the world up on my shoulders.
During my most depressing moments (6 days a week at 6am, anyone?), my b/f would console me with the reminder that the classroom hardships was making me a better teacher, but I didn’t want to be better, necessarily, I wanted things to be easier. I was tired of feeling tired all the time.
Despite the challenges though, I recognized what I liked – my colleagues. I liked who I worked with. I liked working with Khmer staff and teachers, as opposed to just expats which was what I was used to. I know this is going to sound like a contradiction, but I had to admit, scheduling aside, I liked my job. Hopefully, I don’t regret saying that!
I also believed that where we lived, while was the best choice at the time, played into feeling like everything was a struggle. We lived in a light industrial part of town complete with invasive noises from blaring wedding dance tracks to funeral wails, from big rig trucks honking to a metals shop that sometimes started banging and clanging as early as 6.30 in the morning.
It was also incredibly hot in our apt. We cooked in full afternoon sun. I swear you could bake a pizza on the bed, fry an egg on our walls and start a Panini press on our deck.
And even though Siem Reap has city garbage pickup, burning is still a popular form of ‘getting rid of waste’. These are not the fireplace smells of a cold winter’s night, but a, “dear god what are they burning?” Is that a mattress? Are they burning plastic? Medical waste? Why not?!
While it was a difficult place to live at times (frequent power cuts- burning- hot-smoky-dusty-where are the roaches coming from?), we liked our landlord and her family, it was close to work and we felt very safe there. It was a year I’ll not likely forget. I mean, I want to forget it, but it is inevitably tied with our first year here. No, insulated expat enclave for us!
It was no surprise then that I wanted to leave Cambodia. We had many talks about where to go next, but essentially I just drove my b/f bat shit, airing out my grievances and frustrations. He was having a gentler experience, but we could agree on one thing, neither of us wanted to return to Thailand. No matter how much more convenient it is to live there, day to day, it’s still a visa/immigration nightmare. It’s a political minefield (hello, military junta) and frankly, I’ve done it already! I wanted to try something new.
So, eventually I told myself that I needed to see out my work contract and accept where I was. I had to stop dreaming of the next place. I moved away from gazing longingly at the fence and declaring how much greener the grass was on the other side and stopped fighting over what I thought my life should be, and started to enjoy myself. You don’t say!
We’ve started to discover more places to eat, specifically, cheap, tasty and Thai. We realized joining the gym did more for our bodies than exercise; it helped us feel pampered and got us into a green environment as the pool is surrounded by trees and plants. We did a lot of talking about what we wanted and needed. We explored more and finally, finally, found a new apartment.
The latter is really huge. Since moving, I feel like a tourist again, checking out new places to eat, walking along the river with renewed contentment, nesting and spending time just looking out at our new views and enjoying our little space. Initially, we were worried about moving from a two bedroom to a one bedroom, but it is turning out that we don’t need as much space as we thought we did.
The move was also easy because we did go minimal with our big move to Cambodia and I’ve been careful about spending money on frivolous items. I hope living in a smaller space helps us to keep clutter down (down, clutter, down boy!). Because I must say, there is nothing like packing and unpacking to make you appreciate having less crap.
We’ll see. In the meantime, I’m in cautious love with our new digs and neighborhood. Our second (dare I say it?) year should be smoother and a whole lot better.
What about you? Have you ever lived someplace that took some adjusting and getting used to?