The hours are fleeting.
I have miraculously managed to make it into my second week here in Phnom Penh, and I would say successfully so.
Five days after my arrival and the day we came home from Mondolkiri, my mom and I viewed a house 100 meters from the apartment she lived in, signed the broken English lease and moved in. We each have our own bedrooms and bathrooms, a dining room for spaghetti, a living room crafted for discussion, and a patio with a tree full of bats perfectly in view.
Settling is something I generally take great pleasure in; picking out high thread count sheets to eat potato chips on and roll about, stocking the fridge full of cheap champagne and American cheese, finding places to hide my favorite dog-eared books and display disgusting amounts of taxidermy. I take pleasure in the errands, luxuriant naps when I get tired of hanging things, and frequent trips to IKEA (for vases but more so for meatballs). This move, however, has proven to be a very different creature.
Now, the feeling of a home comes in the form of the familiarity of an electrical socket, a can of pizza flavored Pringles, my softest vintage tee that I like to think I only know the feel of, and possibly falsely, the feeling of security one feels in the form of walls.
Since living here, the mention of precaution and safety has made it’s way into conversation countless times. Cambodia is a place where purse snatching, moto theft, and break-ins are remarked upon and/or experienced more than sports games. I’ve slept with a night guard outside my home for the first time in my life and more padlocks adorn the house than I have the patience to count. We reside in a “safe” neighborhood from what everyone tells me and the most noise I’ve heard past seven at night are the fat, healthy cats in heat that traipse along our razor blade fenced wall; I have not yet felt truly, physically, unsafe. On a night out, I still check that my baby can of Mace is on the outside of my purse or if I’m running out the door after dusk for a quick snack I’ll squirrel away my trusty Smith and Wesson pocket knife or slip on a double knuckled pyramid ring, but only because old habits die hard.
The fear that rests on my shoulders more than having my throat slit on a sleazy side street in Southeast Asia is a bit trickier. I wrestle nightly with having left my closest friends back home and the deafening silence between each iMessage being sent and received from Mills or Nikki or Moko or any other individual I adore. And with a fourteen hour time difference a deeper appreciation for my fellow insomniac friends has also increased. This is not to say I wish I were living back home because I truly, honestly don’t miss the United States (yet?). I simply, selfishly, would appreciate everyone I love to be here to do stupid things like take trips to the grocery, lazily kick over mosquito coils and drink martinis on a balmy patio.
It is completely disorienting, mentally, emotionally and even physically, to relocate to a place where you have no real social connections or friends who have seen you past braces (metaphorically, these canines came naturally) and training bras (again metaphorically, I never actually made it out of the training stage). With this, the internal walls I had built around the broken, secret and vulnerable parts of myself were abruptly forced to come down as soon as I stepped onto foreign ground. I would think it would be the opposite, that those psychotic screens and guards would fly up into place as soon as I set down in a strange environment but I was thrown head first into such a fury of complicated relationships between man and country that I simply did not have the time to tread carefully.
Now I face the decision of how high I want to rebuild those walls, and when I do, where to leave the gaps so once in a while someone may get a glimpse into the deepest and strangest parts. Possibly even leave a crack thin enough to fully break through.
Then I get a creeping suspicion that I just may be severely mistaken and incredibly stupid to think that I am the architect of these things.
I’d like to think that’s the case.