a blog about the cultural experiences my husband and I have because of our work abroad...what's delightful and beautiful about different countries and cultures...what we have learned from living and working in countries other than our home country...and how those experiences have changed us

Monday, April 25, 2011

Asia: a new continent a new adventure

We're doing it; we're moving abroad again! And not just to a different country, but to a whole different continent! In July we are moving to Cambodia, in southeast Asia. (See maps in the sidebar.)

Finding a position abroad is surprisingly (to me anyway) difficult and finding a great position is even more challenging. But somehow it seems we've managed to land something that's a perfect fit for us. For the past year Stephen has been working for Medical Teams International (MTI) and several months ago he started talking with his supervisor and others in management about our relocating back to the field. We first thought it would be Africa again, but then when Cambodia came up and we started thinking about it, the more Asia seemed particularly appealing. I spent a month in Thailand as part of my Master in Teaching program and had the most wonderful experience. Cambodia borders Thailand and their cultures are similar. And the climate of course is very similar.

Stephen's new position will be Country Director of Cambodia for MTI. In February he flew out for a three week trip to gather data for a grant application he led, meet staff and local partners, and generally survey the potential for more programs. The trip was a good one and he came home excited about the work that he could do there. When the Cambodian staff learned that Stephen was going to be their new country director they were happy: from spending just a brief time with him, they already feel a sense of kinship with Stephen because of his Japanese heritage, fellow Asians as it were.

I too am excited about the work I will do in Cambodia. I'm going to paint and learn the language. We learned a lot in our first international move to South Africa and one of the things I've decided I will do differently this time is not try to teach English right away. I want to learn the language first. Fortunately for us, Cambodia only has one language other than English: Khmer (pronounced: ka my). Since we will be living in the capital city, Phnom Penh, finding a tutor who speaks both English and Khmer well will be easy. Finding a tutor in rural Tugela Ferry who spoke English and Zulu well was quite difficult.

Ease of finding a language tutor is only one of many differences from our last international experience. Living in the capital city will make grocery shopping quick and easy instead of a major ordeal, though the food choices will be very different. And should we need an escape or a reprieve we could simple walk up the street and check into a luxury hotel. But escape will likely be less necessary in Phnom Penh as we will live in a western style apartment with good quality air conditioners. :) And perhaps most critical of all, Cambodia does not have restrictions on my medicine the way South Africa did. So getting my medicine in country should be routine instead of nearly impossible. I had my 3 month appointment with my doctor today and she told me that I am doing so well she only needs to see me once a year with labs every 6 months! That's really fabulous news and means I'm starting this new adventure to Asia in a much healthier place than how I started our Africa adventure.

So over the next two months Stephen and I will do all the tasks of preparing for an international move. We will pack up and store the majority of our belongings, sell our car, cancel cell service, and read as much about Cambodia as we can. We are even more excited about the adventure we are about to embark on than we were for South Africa. And this time we have that experience to draw on which takes a considerable amount of stress out of everything and makes the adventure more enjoyable. :) We are still trying to be those bold rhinos. And the metaphor holds: there are rhinos on the Asian continent too!

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