I am always in awe of the expats who have lived in Cambodia for 5, 10, 15 years; even 2 years has proven to be utterly taxing. Not because of the dusty streets, the grime that rinses away when you step into the shower, the harried and hectic traffic, the miscommunications and culture gaps- but because of our expat cohorts. It hasn’t been the first time I’ve noted that Phnom Penh seems to draw some real characters: from the slightly confused to the absolute deranged, there is not shortage of “wtf“.
I was speaking with a close friend of mine (one of the very few I have here) and was discussing recent events that have put him in quite a scene. Not of his own doing, but the unprofessionalism of other parties and lack of proper communication have heaped onto his already brimming plate yet another thing to deal with. He said as we discussed on the phone, “it truly is the Kingdom of Wonder because I constantly am wondering what the hell people are thinking.” And it’s true. And it gets to us. When people are constantly bombarding you from every side it becomes difficult to trust, to open up, and to allow people in. Especially after seeing some of the best ones go and worrying that your new close friends will eventually pack their bags and move on to greener pastures at some point- and they will.
Not only are there the ones “out to get you” through cruel (and usually untrue or twisted) words, cyber bullying, gossip, and passive aggressive behavior, add to the mix the overall sense of entitlement that so many have. The thought that with a little bit of God-given talent they can just have whatever they want dropped into their laps is abundant. The people who I feel have some of the most talent here, and I quote myself speaking to one of them “you are one of the most talented people I know. Stop fucking up and do something with it”, tend to be the ones who waste it most. Blame it on laziness, blame it on lack of experience, blame it on fear or insecurity, blame it on immaturity or selfishness or just plain stupidity in other areas of life but there’s only so much I can hear before I just want to take a Sharpie and scratch them out of my life.
After chatting with my friend last night I flopped onto the couch to eat an egg and cheese sandwich, watch some bad American television, and nurse a glass of whisky with Ritchie when the subject came up. He was open, understanding, and in full agreement of the individuals I was specifically frustrated with and the way the social pool here has changed me, my outlook, and my overall character to some extent. Even just talking about it for a moment gave me some clarity: that I am no longer the same person I was when I left Washington. I asked “when have I ever been this jaded, this judgmental, paranoid, and angry?” He wouldn’t know, because he’s lived here for the past six years and only known me since I moved here coming up on two years.
I could complain for days about how warped life can be here, but instead I’ll force myself to look past the drama and deep down count my blessings because ultimately, they are abundant. I recommend for all my friends, whether in Phnom Penh, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, or Seattle- do the same. Even write it down. Maybe in a few years you’ll look back to that notebook and think “wow- those are the things that got me through the day?” or “WOW! I am even more fortunate than I was then.” or “wow…I might be somewhere dark now- but things can get better.”
So a few things that I’m blessed with:
A more than comfortable, lovely home where I can kick me feet back up at the end of a rancid/fabulous day
A handful of truly wonderful friends and people that I can trust, admire, and count on in Cambodia
More than a handful of amazing friends and people back in Washington who will always, always hold a strong grip on my heart
Waking up in the morning to kittens sleeping on my head and refreshing myself with a fresh coconut first thing at the office
A stable work environment and the happy ability to shop when I want to
Family who I not only love with every molecule of myself, but who keep me grounded at the same time
A strong head on my shoulders. While I may have my moments of weakness, I know that I am strong.
Holidays stacked on top of each other for the upcoming year! Scotland, Ireland, Thailand, Bali, Tokyo, the US…I forget what a wonderful place I am for travel
The beautiful, warm faces I get to see every day at the same stalls or when going to the same drinking and dining haunts
Bosses who aren’t just bosses, but confidants and understanding people who are generous, caring, and mentors
Walking down the street to Russian Market to find trinkets for the house
Sitting on the back of a moto, feeling the wind in my hair and closing my eyes just for a moment to remember the sensation
The music that makes me happy, that will always be there for me. To take me back to a place or to speak to me in the moment
Deep down knowing that everything always falls into place, and in the best ways possible
So while things may be tough right now, or even mind-numbingly painful: count your blessings. It may feel like you don’t have any, but in a world riddled with heartache and despair you may begin to put things into perspective just by writing down what made you happy that day. Or even, what made your blood boil; again, you might look back one day and think “wow“.