Two weeks after returning to Beijing from Australia, I spent another week in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. A girl in my youth group was going to visit with friends for a week; her parents weren’t available to travel with her and asked if I could accompany her. They provided my plane tickets, a hotel room, and spending money. She stayed with friends and they all had such a fun time I hardly saw them – so it was basically a bonus holiday week for me. I realise that their family was very thankful for my willingness to help them in this way, but I still feel I got the better end of the deal. It was a wonderful, unexpected blessing.
Christina had just returned to Cambodia after her own summer travels, so we were able to spend a lot of time together catching up on everything. I also had plenty of alone time, enjoying the AC and watching TV. The hotel had a rooftop area with a great view over the city was amazing. On several occasions I took a book up with me and sat in the shallow cool-water jacuzzi reading – it was heavenly!
I was able to meet up with a family of three lovely ladies who recently moved to Phnom Penh from Beijing. It was a fun treat to see their lovely new apartment and spend time with them. The girls came to the rooftop pool with me and we drank chocolate milkshakes while sitting in the water – a pretty great way to spend an afternoon!
I really love being in Cambodia – and a good thing, too, since my 9th trip is scheduled for January next year. Cambodia is, for me, the perfect blend of familiar and foreign. I speak survival Khmer – enough to get around on my own with some confidence, but not enough to actually converse. It’s the only language I’ve learned in “real life” only, never in a classroom – which is interesting for someone like me, with a very visual memory! One time while trying to remember how to say “u-turn”, I tried my normal technique of looking at the word on a page in my mind. Since I’ve never SEEN khmer words written down, I obviously have no visual memories to fall back on. Instead, I ended up playing video in my head, watching Christina and Chris saying the phrase at other times. Was weird, but it worked!
August is rainy season in Cambodia and there was rain most days, and quite a number of thunderstorms. On a few days the rain was heavy enough to prompt localised flooding. One day I was out in a tuktuk just after a major storm so I took photos of some of the flooded backstreets we travelled. We had to turn around a few times as the water was too deep for the tuktuk to drive through. At one point I saw a woman laboriously pushing a tall bicycle through water more than half way up the tyres.
My favourite photo is second from the bottom on the right. It is a polystyrene box of rubbish floating down the middle of the road. I guess it must have been waiting for collection by the roadside when then water came and stole it away…
It was a wonderfully relaxing week and exactly what I needed to help me launch into the new school year. And launch I did! In the week since I returned to Beijing, I’ve signed a rental contract on a new apartment, packed most of my things, and booked a moving company for Friday morning. I’m excited about my new place – and especially excited about living on my own for the first time in 3 years. I know this is going to be a BIG year for me – and now I’m ready to jump on in!