Cambodia, Expat, Personal, Phnom Penh

Reunions.

Jesse and Anna

I appreciate a good reunion.

It doesn’t have to be for me personally even, if I see a beautiful transaction between two friends or lovers (or owner and pet, whatever) reuniting-it strikes a chord. In the past week and a half, I’ve gotten to experience three (and a half, including one with my mom after a few weeks of distance) in Cambodia, my home as of now.

The first came on the 22nd when my family arrived in Phnom Penh after my mom taking a month-long trip back to the United States to visit relatives, attend weddings, and spend time with friends. She and Rachel then took a few weeks to explore Singapore and its gorgeous landscapes and intricate historical architecture, oh wait, I mean extremely expensive accommodations and sprawling shopping malls-and then onto Ipo, Malaysia, where Rachel was born and cared for at an orphanage two weeks before she was adopted. Amazingly, during their visit she met some of the women who received and took care of her when she first entered the world, so unsure of where they would find a home for her.  They then took the train to Bangkok where they spent days relaxing in their hotel room, continuing to recover from jet lag, doing a bit of shopping, and then finally made the last leg to Phnom Penh.

After not seeing my little sister after almost a year, it was strange and wonderful to welcome her little frame into my new apartment. She has changed in many ways, although I can’t pinpoint quite what it is. She still had the same choice of style and beauty as when I last saw her, it wasn’t outward appearance that had changed other than a slight copper tint to her hair and the weight of travel heavy on her shoulders. I suppose what I noticed were the transformations that everyone goes through, especially at the beginning of our twenties, as we learn independence, how life waits for no one, and the results and consequences of our choices and actions do in fact catch up to us; it can be taxing. It can be humbling. It can be embarrassing. It can be exciting. It all depends on what side you’ve found yourself on, at least on that day.

We’ve enjoyed nights playing charades and Scrabble with Duncan and Ritchie over tacos and whiskey, on the edge of our seats at horror movies at the theater with shrill cellphone talkers during a movie in teetering heels and mini dresses annoyingly calling for attention behind us, and sipping cocktails at some of my favorite locales. While her demeanor and overall choices of adventure seem different than mine in so many ways, I had hopes that Cambodia would capture and enrapture her as much as it did me and that she would see all that it offers in comparison to the small Eastern Washington town she now finds comfort in. Miracles happen, but I’ve released the idea that we may be reunited as Mischke women in Southeast Asia and let her go explore her current endeavors, as I’ve done myself.

A few days later, I had a few short but delightful hours with the a good friend (Ryan) of my best friend (Brooke)’s brother (Glen) and two of his colleagues during a short stay in Cambodia after a several months spent in Japan for work and then traveling around Indonesia and Vietnam. The last time I saw Ryan was at Glen’s wedding last summer and getting a chance to catch up was a delight and a small connection to Washington.

This Sunday was one of the strangest moments I’ve had since being in Cambodia and that’s saying a lot. I’ve seen a man showering outside a temple from some sort of rigged tin can set up, the magic of makeup in the form of lady-boys, a dozen pigs stacked on top of a single moto, and the equally confusing and shocking arrival of traveler’s pants. As I skimmed around a corner on my way to meet one of my best friends, Jesse, there he was ; standing at a corner stall, perusing cigarettes, looking just as he did at my going away party. There we were, at an intersection of 51 and some other side street, in Cambodia. With Ritchie driving the moto and Jesse seated at the back, I was sandwiched between two of the most astonishingly wonderful people I know-one from Scotland, one from Michigan-both in Phnom Penh.

That evening, the Cambodian election polls were just starting to come in and the riots were gearing up. I received message upon message to “stay inside, stay safe” from coworkers and friends, and while sadly there were fatalities among injuries, there has yet to be any sort of overwhelming uprising with the CPP’s supposed win. As we three sat in the living room that night, scanning the news for any mention of the cars we saw burning from my rooftop and the reported shots fired in nearby streets, I felt as if we were all exactly where we should be in the moment-together. After a delicious meal of pasta and steak (made, of course, by the apparent chef of the house: Ritchie) we ended up polishing a few bottles of Brut, Savannah Dry Ciders, Vodka Cruisers, and many a Heineken with heaps of laughter and reminiscence. Then Duncan joined and the bottles immediately piled higher. When it  hit two in the morning, it was far past my bedtime. I fell asleep to the laughter and voices of some of the most interesting, talented, and caring men I know. The kind of men my dad would have been friends with if he were thirty.

In the coming week, we’ll explore Phnom Penh, shoot film and photos of our surroundings, try to find shoes that actually fit his mid-Western foot size, and make our way to Siem Reap for whatever adventures lie there. After many taxing phone calls, Skype chats with my travel agent (who…ya know what? I don’t think I need anymore), overviews of my Cambodian bank account and annoying lack of International bank account, timing, dates, and everything in between-I’ve decided to postpone my visit back to the United States. It doesn’t come as an easy resolution, as the thought of meeting the newest addition to the Miller/Beach family was incredible, spending time in San Francisco with my best friend amazing, and coming back to visit some of the most important people to me-it was all very hard to let go. I have learned though that in most cases- things turn out the way they do for a reason.

Jesse and I discussed the dangers and pleasures of nostalgia, the thin and dangerous line between actively reaching for something in the past and appreciating the time for what it was. We’ll never forget our second night of a trip two weeks before I moved at The Rolling Huts as Brooke, Luke, AJ, Jesse, and I laughed until our stomachs hurt and ran through the forest in the night and sang and cried. We also know we can never have that moment again. As sad as that seems, it’s for the best, because of these moments were re-creatable, they wouldn’t be what they are-which are truly golden moments of our histories.

Now we create more of those moments: with additions to the cast, amid different settings, and years added to our timelines.

And this is how we will keep in touch until then.

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