I meet the best people at Immigration. I really do. From my trip to Laos I am still in contact with a few people and wouldn’t mind visiting someday.
Poipet, Cambodia was no different. I stood in line behind a curly-headed woman speaking French to her two children. I assumed she was French, but was wrong. Instead she and her husband were Americans from DC, who decided to live abroad so their kids could see the world is bigger than America. She is fluent in French and speaks only French to her daughter and son, aged seven and nine. They respond in English, occasionally in French. Always with excellent manners. Right now she is a teacher at an international school the kids attend, her husband is doing his master’s degree from Liverpool online and they live in Bangkok.
We got along, alternating between ignoring each other as we each read, reminding the kids that we were ALL bored, chatting about life abroad, sharing food and water when we found it. We agreed that the only way to help change the system was not to pay into. So we stayed in line for 4.5 hours, watching as the clock first signaled the departure of my bus, then theirs.
We met at 3 pm. By 6 pm we were swapping travel options as their daughter colored pictures in my notebook. We decided that no matter when we got through immigration, who was first or if the kids helped them scoot ahead – we would stay together. If I had to take a taxi or unknown bus home, I was doing it with them.
We got through. At 7:15 all five of us had passed through, been stamped back into Thailand and free to find a toilet. Which we did. Then off to dinner. Those plans were interrupted by being offered a ride in a private taxi to Bangkok. Yes. We would take it. The private taxi to our doorsteps turned into a 13 passenger van at a BTS stop on the other side of town.
We were not pleased, as we ate our seaweed pringles and prawn-flavored peanuts for dinner. In fact, my friends got out of the van at one point, as the final destination kept changing and everyone was tired, hungry and fed up with scams. In the end, we stayed in the van for the 5 hour trip to Bangkok.
Our driver was a minor maniac, who drove like a fifteen-year-old boy in a mustang, drinking frappucinos, when in fact he was driving 12 people and luggage at night across windings. Everytime I drifted to sleep, I was whiplashed awake.
In the back, the family was snuggled together, grateful for being given the one full bench-seat.
We made it back in 3 hours, with two stops, passports stamped, new friends in our phones.
As I stood stretching at a gas stop, I realized while everyone else traveling with us had been at immigration, the five of us were the only ones staying to live in Bangkok. No one else was collecting people, and it surprised them to learn of how we met. That quick, but wonderfully necessary closeness that joins expats looked so natural from the outside, and we hadn’t even noticed.
“So, you’re traveling with your family I take it?”
“No, we met today.”