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.

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