I went to Cambodia with my old roommate last week and had a few adventures. It wasn’t exactly a fun trip. For her it was a business trip, to make contacts for Liz Alig. For me it was an ultra-budget vacation and a chance to see another developing country.
Things I have learned:
1. I have been a confused expat for so long, I accept help faster than most Americans. We stayed with friends of a childhood friend I haven’t seen in 10 years and never knew well, I had no qualms accepting their help. I will help the next wayward traveler, because that is how it works.
2. Faced with a day that included getting up at 4:30 am, losing my phone, getting lost multiple times, sitting outside in 100 degree weather, dragging luggage through the streets for 8 hrs and having my nail polish confiscated at security (Midnight Shimmers really IS a dangerous combination, you know), I was mad. Mostly I was angry about getting up at 4:30 am and not having my nail polish. Priorities, you see?
3. When I ate out at a mid-level Japanese restaurant in Phnom Penh, I paid more than most Kmer people make in one day.
4. While we still call Thailand a developing country, Phnom Penh was just rough. Half of the streets of this city, the nation’s capital, are unpaved dirt streets. During hot season, when we were visiting, the AirCon units barely work. In Bangkok, every shop has AirCon, on at all times. Only half of the shops in PP even have these units, and sometimes you can’t tell if they work.
5. I’m utterly addicted to third culture. One of the highlights of our time in Cambodia was the morning I separated from my friend and visited with our hosts, meeting a selection of their expat friends. In one room, we had 5 different nationalities and at least as many languages. It was wonderful, like slipping back in with my favorite Bangkok crowd.
6. I had it easy in Bangkok. Mostly-always flushing toilets, toilet paper, 7/11s, educated locals, local money, acceptance of visitors, a peaceful past – it was so much easier than the Kmer past. In Cambodia, an entire generation of education was wiped out, there is no old money, many people struggle to survive, the government is corrupt, there are few creature comforts, and hope is coming but slowly.
7. I absolutely adore visiting developing countries, I like raw beauty. And I don’t know if I want to commit to living in a developed country for the rest of my life.