Cambodia, Personal, Phnom Penh, Travel

Written on October 24, 2012.

I’ve joked, as uncouth as it surely is, with a few fellow expats since I’ve gotten here about us all having the disposition of a Romanian orphan; absolutely terrified of abandonment.

Up until recently, I had dismissed the theory that as an adopted child I may have some deeply seeded, uncontrollable and incurable fear of abandonment. I thought it a massive load of bullshit that some doctor had decided to propose in the hopes it would create for him a fortune and that adoptive parents would submit to this theory because their children happened to have “issues”. Issues that the parents, after entering adulthood, forgot are entirely normal and that they probably had the same ones themselves.

Adopted or not, detachment from someone or something is rarely a pleasant one as I’ve concluded firsthand and also after month long discussions with people on the subject. My first week in Phnom Penh I spoke with my current employer about her social circle and who she has found herself closest to. She fairly bluntly responded that in this city, you’re simply better off not connecting with anyone on a deep level as a temporary expat, because eventually: they will leave. Crushing, to say the least, as I looked back on leaving almost every person crucial to my social fulfillment back in Washington only 48 hours prior. Buddha’s teachings that attachment is the root of all suffering came to mind and that was only slightly devastating. As much as I enjoy solitude and that withdrawal is something that comes naturally to me, I still find myself latching onto things with similarly to that of a marmoset to a ripe banana.

This whole notion of unhealthy attachment or lack thereof has stuck with me as I come in contact with each and every individual that I find myself attracted to in any way.  I am, unfortunately at times, a daydreamer and a daydreamer of the worst breed. I sometimes take on the stereotypical role of a moony eyed young girl connecting a man’s last name to her own first in the first ten minutes of meeting, imagining the white picket fence (or The Broil King Sovereign grill, because that’s actually way more important) and the names of our four children (Scout, MIlo, Evelyn, and Dean) or envisioning the places my cohorts and I will explore while in Israel or Tanzania or Spain. I also hold the mind altering psyche that plans so far into the future that it makes it almost impossible to focus on and enjoy the present. The present which is gorgeous and infuriating and terrifying and by all means perfect, because it’s the present. It’s like I break for myself every promise of something good for absolutely no reason.

I’ve made a few wonderful friends in Phnom Penh that I have quickly gained comfort with, but I must continually shake off the imminent fact that they will eventually leave. That I will eventually leave. That it’s not personal, that we will inevitably grow apart,. Whether that means we distance ourselves to New York, Australia, Vancouver or Boston, we are bound to part ways. The part that I struggle with is that these losses, these painful subtractions, are healthy, good and entirely necessary. It’s also ridiculous how my best friend from the second grade (I’m talking to you Allison Kuester) who I haven’t seen in ten years will be moving four hours away from me in Southeast Asia and that her work will bring her straight to my doorstep every three months. Oh, those curveballs.

Birds leave their nests, cubs from their dens, because it’s part of their natural world. We grow, we expand. If I were to be enveloped in the company of every person I have loved, we would smother each other to death, more likely literally than figuratively. If I try and get down to the basics of our evolutionary cores, I realize that the importance of leaving ones you care about and vice versa is a crucial step to a life well lived. I now envision myself scribbling on a window with a whiteboard pen talking to my seventeen cats, and I’m sometimes glad no one actually really reads these entries.

As the time after leaving every man in a relationship I’ve been with hurt, as the time my father died and it felt like God had a sick sense of humor,  as the heartbreaking months my soulmate of a friend and I were forced out of speaking terms because of my own dumb actions, I now know they were all crucial. They were what created this broken, strong, terrified, confident paradoxical person I am in this moment.

If I have to spend a few days and nights of longing, sadness and regret to continue on to these places of growth, then I volunteer.

As if I have a choice.

There will be someone, other than the revolutionary Brooke Miller or my unrivaled mother or sisters or my nephew Luke, that I spend my life with and the only thing that will force our departure from one another is death. I can handle that. I can absorb every good thing, every terrible thing, that comes to me between now and then with acceptance, even a smirky knowledge that things will continue to end, and there is the absolute possibility that they may end well.

*post note: There was an exorbitant amount of wine involved when writing this entry. Sorry I’m not sorry.

Cambodia, Fashion, Food, Personal, Phnom Penh, Travel

October 13, 2012.

It never ceases to amaze me what our bodies can endure.

I think back on my regimented sleep schedule in Washington (wake at the same time, religiously fit in my toddler nap at 3:30 pm, and be in bed covered in fur blankets by 11pm unless working at Marrow), my inability to not throw up after a night of imbibing and my no-nonsense allowance and choice of drinks (strictly potato vodka, Fireball if shooting, no red wine, and my rigid dirty martini with 3 olives). I may have regressed to my first hours out of high school, running off 5 hours of sleep, three iced coffees, and the promise of pizza. I can proudly say vomiting hasn’t been part of my nightly drinking activities and my body has had less reaction to histamines. I don’t mean to sound like a lush, I’m just in wonderment of this re found ability to live without so many self inflicted rules. In reference to my last entry, maybe I’ve just knocked off the chip on my shoulder and shed the stress that possibly affected me so much back at home. We all know the studies that state that stress can be one of the biggest causes for health issues both physically and mentally, it is possible that this newfound Khmer calm is just making it a whole lot easier to eat, sleep, and drink without worrying so much about the aftereffects, resulting in…well, no aftereffects.

With these extra waking hours, ability to sip a glass of Malbec without breaking out in hives, and general freedom of a night time schedule I’ve met some really, truly fantastic people. It would be possible to write about all the memorable individuals I’ve come in contact with here, but I’ll stick with three women I’ve had the honor to connect with.

Hana Cook may be one of the kindest people I’ve ever met and one of the first friends I’ve made since my arrival. She’s lived in Phnom Penh for three years and has resided in Canada, a neighboring island off Sihanoukville and her home, England. I get to see her for few hours a day at .BEYOND (more on this in a later post) as she’s the design team manager at the firm. Hana has managed to bring me iced coffee almost every morning for the past two weeks, donuts on an especially hungover day, and has had the wherewithal to keep a smile on her face even during a week long stint in the hospital from Dengue Fever, getting her phone and purse stolen, dealing with jerks, and placating difficult clients. Not only is she a skilled furniture and interior designer, she runs a graphic design company called “We Made This” in Phnom Penh and is co-owner of a guest house called The White Rabbit. She appreciates a chorizo pizza and pack of ESSE cigarettes as much as I do, and at the risk of sounding like a complete sap, I can see this turning into a lasting friendship.

The unforgettable Amy Derek Dorrah was the first gal who’s style I could truly appreciate since I’ve gotten to Phnom Penh and that would make complete sense; she owns Kampuchea Vintage, a vintage import and export company based here. The girl has some serious talent in the hunt for good vintage (which seems pretty damn difficult in Cambodia) and business savvy that’s going to take her to and from Australia for her Kampuchea Vintage. The lady leaves for home (AU) in a few weeks and it’ll be sad to see her go, but a real treat for when she comes back for more vintage scouring. Not only does she have personal style that actually shines through the terrible throngs of Angry Bird tee shirts, backpacker cargo shorts, and sexpat sleaze but a sunny disposition, fresh outlook and smarts that I truly admire.

Before moving to Phnom Penh, I scoured the internet for an interesting blog aimed towards daily life in Phnom Penh to give me a vague idea of what I was getting myself into. I assumed they would be abundant, but was proven wrong after coming across only several backpacking sites and a whole lot of parenting blogs. Finally, I came across the gem that is “Our Dear Lady Expat: All about living a lovely expat life in Phnom Penh!” It didn’t take me long to click through the entire thing, following her travels, style inspirations, and the things that she generally likes in this great city. On a whim, I sent her an e-mail the first week I got here to let her know how much I enjoyed her blog and we ended up corresponding and planning on meeting for dinner (we aimed for Chuck Norris Dim Sum, but it turns out THE PLACE IS NEVER OPEN WHEN WE WANT TO GO THERE), internet dating style. Wonderfully enough, the awkward first meeting didn’t stay awkward for long and I found that, not surprisingly, Dear Lady Expat Ashley is just as interesting and fun as her writing. She’s got a personality resembling candy floss, absolutely darling and sweet but topped with a solid brain and book references that a gentleman and scholar would cheer. Her ability to keep up on her writing all while working long days teaching, having a full social life, and bein’ in love with PIC (her man and Partner in Crime) is admirable and I tip my hat to her talents.

These three e-introductions to these bad asses barely even touch the unforgettable individuals that I’ve been lucky enough to meet, and I’m so grateful for the chance to maybe make a memory or two with these ladies. All I can say is this: although I left behind some of the most amazing friends and family back in Washington that I will always love more than anything, Phnom Penh is proving true the age old phrase “make new friends but keep the old, one of them silver and the other is gold”.

Cambodia, Food, Personal, Phnom Penh, Travel

October 7, 2012.

These past several days have been a whirlwind of events, sleep schedules, sobriety (or lack thereof), and incredible individuals. My blogging inadequacy stems from my ridiculous self-inflicted agenda, not disinterest.

This week was a sad one for my electronics. My iTouch and Blackberry went missing from my desk drawer (I suspect an installation crew) and my iPhone and wallet were thieved through a friend’s window when I was a bit distracted. If one knows my temperament at all, they would know that generally in situations like this I tend to..what’s the phrase…fly off the handle. A whole basket of “fucks”and “damnits” are thrown around and a vase or bottle of wine may get knocked over in the process, so the calm I exhibited during the whole situation surprised no one more than myself.

As I deliberate over these events, I try and peel apart the situation and understand my failure to react in my normal state of aggression. The only thing I can come up with is that during my one month stint (hey kids back home, I hope you lost your bets. I made it past a month) in Cambodia, I may just have mellowed out. Slightly, let’s be real. I’ve been schooled heavily since my arrival.

I’ve learned to accept that I might be late to things, and that others might be late to things and it’s not a reflection of their care or regard for me, it’s just that things happen that we don’t have control over that will inevitably effect us: a slow tuk tuk driver, no tuk tuk driver, ankle deep rain water blocking any way out, flash diarrhea, lost keys, et cetera.

I’ve learned that you can’t hold on too tightly to things, or people. Nothing belongs to you in the end, we will die alone without our silly things and that could be either very depressing or very freeing; you simply decide for yourself which. Witnessing several break ups, make ups, hook ups, and everything in between I see that nursing love as an expat abroad is a task only for the tenacious. This isn’t to say that it is impossible, as I’ve met some of the most admirable, gorgeous couples here (some apart physically, some here together) and I raise my glass to you dear lovers, you defy the odds.

I’ve learned how important days off are to me. Now that I’m down to one day off a week, I idolize every hour like it’s a chunk of brie wrapped in puff pastry. I’ve learned that it’s okay, actually necessary, to spend some of those hours in solitude to balance my social agenda. I’ve learned that it’s also really fantastic meeting new people and that one can be both anti-social and a complete extrovert symbiotically.

I’ve learned how delicious it is to see someone across the room you had hoped to see and how satisfying locked eyes and a nod can be. I’ve learned how thrilling it is to wade through filthy street water when the rain just refuses to let up. I’ve learned how good a cheeseburger tastes at 3 in the morning when it’s been ordered and delivered straight to the door. I’ve learned how important it is to have a relationship with your mother that knows no bounds, where secrets are a strange idea and that a mutual respect for each other’s space and time is just so necessary. I’ve learned how important it is to keep drawing, reading, and listening to good music even if you’re melting into the floor from being so exhausted. I’ve learned not to jump down stairs because I’ll eventually end up black and blue. I’ve also learned how badly Bactine stings when putting it on scrapes from jumping down said stairs. I’ve learned that my beliefs are important to me, and although I will respectfully listen to other’s, they will not be swayed. I’ve learned how important it is for people to be honest with me about their opinions and histories right off the bat. I’ve learned that I can be jealous to a fault but tender towards real pain.

And I’ve learned that I fall more deeply in love with this country with each passing day. I’ve also learned that although I may have to leave one day, that’s no reason to stop myself from falling hard.