Ho Chi Minh: Day 4

Today has been the Ultimate Food Day, wow!

Starting the day with a morning roll (something new from the local bakery… could not say what is was filled with). What began as an ordinary day of a simple breakfast, pho for lunch and a coffee afterwards turned into a FANTASTIC evening with a deluxe food tour by a local guy from the hostel. I AM STILL AMAZED.

So, from this evening’s local food tour here were our courses:



Ho Chi Minh: Day 3

Day 3 of the food tour. Had two of my favorite dishes, Banh Xeo and Pho with some Vietnamese iced coffee with condensed milk (not for the faint of sweetness)!

One way I’ve measured the authenticity is how how many foreigners are present… so far I have been one of the only ones. Accurate or not, it says something

Banh Xeo for lunch
Iced coffee with milk…for snack
Walk back to hostel this afternoon and I see some of my first flowers!
Beef Pho, delicious!
Simple dessert on the street: cake in the middle and thin pancake on the rim

Ho Chi Minh: Day 1 & 2

Dinner last night: crab noodles
Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica
Lunch: beef pho. This is only the beginning
Coffee break (with a side of mint ice cream) and sustenance for the long walk back to the hostel.
HCMC traffic. May not look like much but crossing this very much feels like a game of Frogger!
Walking back to my hostel. Hello Kitty fans, you may want to visit HCMC.

Leaving Cambodia

I have made it to Ho Chi Minh City. And it is now hitting me, as I was gathering my luggage from the bus, that I am no longer in Cambodia…and that I should stop saying “Akun” to everyone.

This is my second-to-last move with this luggage (my life in bags). The next time will be to the airport in HCMC, destination: Dallas, TX.

I not in Phnom Penh. I am not driving my moto or speaking Khmer (the little I know). And I am not surrounded by the close group of friends I’ve been with for the past year.

Now, I am drinking my tea, soothing my exhausted body int eh silence of the hostel room. As everyone else’s night has begun mine is gloriously winding down. I have space to be still, think, inhale and exhale. I’m not in a moving bus or in traffic. I’m stationary for the moment and soaking in the stillness and quiet (with the exception of the occasional dogs barking, but it’s become like white noise to me now).

My time in Cambodia is hard to succinctly describe. It has been a remarkable experience living in Phnom Penh (outside of the US in general) and quite the journey. I miss my friends and the city that was my home. The culture, food and transportation, each taking time to adjust to. And once I gained more experience, more time living there, my understanding grew of the city which comprised the people, culture, food, language, and yes, traffic. I have deep affection for this place: Kampuchea.

I believe there are seasons in our lives of change, consistency, challenge, comfort. A past co-worker from IJM Cambodia shared a verse from Isaiah during my last day in the office and it has stayed with me:

For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you”.

-Isaiah 41:13

To my dear friends in Cambodia and international family, may God be with you and may He bring us back together again.

Here are just a few of my favorites from this year…

Elephants in Mondulkiri
Fourth of July in Cambodia
Khmer class in the market
Kate’s farewell
Christmas in Cambodia
My farewell with Maggie driving behind my tuk tuk

A drive to the suburbs of Phnom Penh

The Aftercare ladies that we work with wanted to have the interns and fellows over before we departed from Cambodia. We spent the morning playing games then eating Khmer style (sitting on the floor and sharing dishes… usually going back for seconds, thirds and even fourths!)

During the drive to our friend Sopheap’s house this morning I was able to think about my time in Cambodia. I’ve done some of my best thinking while driving lately. Being on the moto provides space and time needed to process: what I’ll miss about Cambodia, the anticipation to be stateside, what makes me nervous in my return etc. This is of course possible because I’m becoming a little more use to the “wall wall” (crazy) traffic.
With last day in the office quickly approaching (next week!), I have been thinking a lot on what re-entry will look like for me: re-connecting with friends, changes while I’ve been away, the unknown struggles. Many expats say re-entry to your home country can be more of a struggle than moving abroad. I am not sure how true that will be for me but I’m not going to wait and find out without some preparations.

For one, I am trying to enjoy my last weeks in SE Asia. It’s easy for me to be in planning mode and think of “what’s next”. The beauty of the future is that it is inevitable and will unfold as it should. The past can’t be returned to so soaking up Cambodia–my friends here, the culture, food– is irreplaceable. Secondly, preparing emotionally that, yes indeed, people’s lives back home have continued in my absence and that returning I’ll be catching up and adjusting to the new present. It is hard to feel the tug of two lifestyles: rooted in one place and exploring new places. There is a time for both and I am actively reminding myself that I am right where I need to be.

Back to the present. I’ve found myself being more irritable to little hiccups throughout the day. Things that i would normally brush off have stuck with me, like toilet paper stuck to your shoe, that I cant shake. Is this typical before leaving somewhere? I’m not sure. I love the life I have in Cambodia and for better or for worse, I have made it my own. There have been plenty of challenges (no rose colored glasses here) but they have been outweighed by the goodness in friendships and new experiences.

I will miss this place. I cant say goodbye because that is too concrete and, to be honest, I don’t know what the future holds. So I will remain hopeful that I my path will cross with the sweet friends I have gained here and I’ll return to SE Asia and Cambodia, my first international home.