The Plastics. February 12, 2013.

They talk about this time of a young expat’s life, they being travelers who have decided to make home in this city. Where the comforts of a life lived previously have fled them and the labor of extracting something from a new place to make it their own has been self decidedly put on their shoulders.

It amazes me, the sharp turn my emotions can take within a short week. It isn’t that I’ve lost my admiration and desire for Phnom Penh, but that the gleam of it has lessened. I had thought I had escaped the dreaded “regret” of deciding to move to another country, picking up and leaving everything familiar and all those I loved and planting myself in the middle of a foreign place with nothing but an idea of what to expect gathered from various travel sites and secondhand information from my mother who, lets face it, would be experiencing an entirely different set of circumstances than I. Generally it had been said to me that the questioning of one’s decision came around month three, but about that time so many wonderful things started arriving in my life I didn’t have much time to really realize that time was still moving forward and that I was stepping out of the honeymoon stage of my relationship with Cambodia.

I want to be clear, I have no real regret of moving here and I don’t plan on leaving any time soon, my favor, gratitude, and amazement of the country and what it has offered me and the hopes of what I can ultimately give back still live strong within me. The thing that has become, uncomfortably and jarringly clear, is that although I may be on a new continent, human nature, both the beauties and terrors of it, run rampant. I have to admit to my reservations, that they are more apparent as the film is removed from my eyes, but to truly understand what life is now, I’ve got to take the good with the bad.

My mom cryptically warned me during my first week here after a rather unfortunate social event that left me questioning my sanity because of the pure frat-ness of it all was that a lot of young expats get caught up in a twisted, incestuous, and self serving lifestyle after living here. I dismissed her cautioning tale as a paranoid warning and hopeful excuse to keep me from going out, drinking too much, and socializing when I should be focusing on a career and meaningful tasks and relationships. Although encountered with numerous accounts of overzealous men, drunken episodes, and irritating social experiments, I felt the general social scene was welcoming and thorn-free. That is, until I witnessed the ugly face of gossip, jealousy, and overall middleschool-esque way that many people choose to operate here. I had gotten glimpses of the seedy and downright confusing relationship pretzels that had been borne out of insecurity and pure boredom, but was able to dismiss them as childish stints that were anything but commonplace. In the past month I’ve been faced with a menagerie of strange empty threats, stories with holes in them resembling a piece of Swiss cheese, and vicious bouts of gossip.

It was quite a shock, to be thrust back into a scene of nasty, childish talk and daggered glances. Although yes, this behavior is to expected anywhere there are humans, I was able to almost 100% stay out of it back in Washington. But in a city as small as Phnom Penh where you literally cannot go anywhere without seeing a familiar face, it seems to be near impossible to shield myself entirely from the bored, tired chatter of those less happy than me. One ignored interaction or false whisper can turn into a social apocalypse, the stuff of reality television shows and teen dramas.

What it comes down to is this: I want to stay out of that world. I like the bubble of bliss that surrounds me and I’ve been quite successful at keeping it strong. I constantly remind myself that those who find the need to “stir the pot” are the people with so little confidence, use, or positivity in their lives to occupy them that they feel the need to harp on those who really do feel fortunate, who do have the good stuff. I do miss my solid friends from back home, more so now than ever. I miss their strength in themselves and their own self worth and that they rarely, if ever, concerned themselves with anything less. I miss the acceptance of them, that you can’t always get what you want and that you make lemonade with lemons instead of trying to hurl them at anything sweeter.

In the theme of feeling like a highschooler surrounded by Catty McCatfights, I’ll quote Cady Heron from Mean Girls,

“Calling somebody else fat won’t make you any skinnier. Calling someone stupid doesn’t make you any smarter. And ruining Regina George’s life definitely didn’t make me any happier. All you can do in life is try to solve the problem in front of you”.

I suppose I’ll just continue on in my daydreamy world, pushing forward, and focusing on the people who love me, the triumphs and even failures that mold me into who I ultimately want to be, and the continual force of growing up and urging towards something real and fulfilling. With that, I’ll sit back in a pair of my most comfortable joggles, smoke another ESSE, and let the haters hate.


  1. You think PP is bad? Try smaller-town Battambang for vicious, incestuous gossip. I just try to avoid that crowd. There are some really fine people here and I have some good friends here. In short, I much prefer BB to PP.

    1. Hoo-boy, Ray! Sounds like you’ve got quite the handful in BB. Luckily I’ve been able to find a really excellent group of friends in PP, just dealing with the sneaks can be irritating. Good on ya for avoiding the drama!

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