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
Friday, October 21, 2011
maybe dreams come true sometimes...
This week was a tipping point for me. Launching out in a radically different direction is filled with both hope and apprehension. There is hope that things will work out as you dream or envision based on what you know. But there is apprehension about the fact that you don't know what you don't know. I've been to several foreign countries for varying amounts of time. Although I enjoyed some aspects of every country, I never felt "at home." This move to Cambodia seems to be different.
We have been working in our jobs for awhile, past the first impressions and into the real work with real people. Our Khmer is coming along slowly. We have our favorite restaurants and have enjoyed some of the entertainment available in the city. I have my own personal tuk-tuk driver who waits outside my apartment complex and drives me to school every Wednesday. Stephen's staff wash our car every week and take it in for any repairs it might need. It's beginning to feel like we have much of what we want from the Western lifestyle but also get to enjoy the unique benefits of Cambodia too.
Coffee shops are a good example. My two favorites are Gloria Jean's Coffee, an international coffee chain based out of Australia, and Brown Coffee which is a Cambodian company and has three locations: two near our apartment and one near my school. Both have great customer service and excellent coffee. I love coffee and I love coffee shops. Where ever I am in the world, I seek out the good coffee shops. Phnom Penh has a pretty awesome coffee shop culture. For sure many of the customers are expats but just as many are Khmer. The other day I was correcting papers at the Brown coffee near my school. Country music and pop Christmas carols were piping through the speakers and at every table around me a variety of languages were being spoken, mostly not English. In the middle of this mix of the strange and familiar, I experienced a moment of peace and contentment.:)
I've described how comfortable our living arrangements are in previous posts. Having comforts doesn't always translate into actually being comfortable, though. And this is how it was for me up until this week. But after what will be 4 months next week, I'm starting to settle into this new life. It's starting to feel good. And good without qualifiers. It's not just good for an international experience. Or good compared to the time we spent in South Africa. Or good despite the heat.
Yesterday I was lying on my couch looking out my living room window when I realized that from that angle all I could see were tree leaves set against the blue sky. No buildings interrupted my view. We live in the city and yet I can experience the expansive feeling and beautiful colors of nature. That pleasant view triggered a realization that there are many good things about my life now. So many of my dreams are coming true. My job, Stephen's job, my health, learning a second language, my art, this whole experience of living abroad...
Of course there are things we do miss from our life in the states. There are no good microbreweries here like the McMenamins pubs in Portland or Hale's Ale's in Seattle. We don't get to kayak in clear water or ride our bikes on trails specifically made for bicycles. I don't drive our car and I love to drive. The leaves don't change to orange and then red in the fall and there is no snow in the winter. And we are thousands of miles away from all our family and old friends.
But in just under 4 months, Cambodia has shown us a life where we actually might be living in the middle of our dreams.