I thought I would start a series of posts called the ‘Phnom Penh Files’, which will be a monthly recap of my time in—you guessed it—Phnom Penh. The following is just a stream of consciousness, so please forgive my babbling.
Okay, this post is late because I’ve literally spent the last couple of weeks cooped up inside trying to complete a project before I head to Penang tomorrow to reunite with the hubby (yay!). This involved cramming 3 weeks of work into 1.5 weeks, so, yeah, you can say I’ve been a smidgen stressed and sleep-deprived—and, more importantly, behind on GOT! No spoilers please!
But alas, here I am, work submitted and boy am I looking forward to Penang—but I suppose you’ll hear all about that in August’s recap.
While my first month in Phnom Penh was peppered with questions and spent adjusting to my new surroundings, July was all about settling into the rhythm and groove of the city. I have my favourite cafes to work in on a rotational basis; and a friend and I started a freelancing group and book/film club (okay, she started the groups; I was the cheerleader on the sidelines). Interesting people kept cropping up, but I also found time to listen to podcasts (I’m obsessed with ‘Invisibilia’ at the moment) and indulge in ‘me’ time. I went on a street art tour, watched 10 things I Hate About You (still one of the best 90s films everrrrr) at the moonlight cinema, attended my first boat party and hit the karaoke circuit.
It’s been busy, not busy, and all things in between.
I spent a relaxing week in Luang Prabang, Laos, which was a pleasant surprise, and I had to ask myself why Laos hadn’t been on my radar until now. I was not expecting the country to be so incredibly beautiful and serene, and I left enamoured, vowing to return to explore the rest of the country. I have so much that I want to say about my time there, which I haven’t managed to put down into words quite yet (and who knows when I will, considering I still have posts about Peru that I want to write).
This month, however, I’ve really come to realise the transient nature of Phnom Penh. A couple of friends are leaving to return to Europe, and honestly I did not expect to be saying farewells so quickly. It’s funny how this kind of environment pushes you to develop relationships with people within such a short amount of time, although it certainly shouldn’t come as a surprise—people here are on short-term contracts for internships, passing through before the next destination, or simply taking each day as it comes. I’m doing a bit of travel myself, flitting in and out of the country, and heading home at the end of the year. It’s only a matter of time before people move on or go home. No one is fixed here. Everyone comes and goes, forges intense relationships and then moves on; and let’s be honest, it’s most likely that we will never see these new friends again, except via intermittent Facebook updates.
When I first arrived in Phnom Penh, I chatted to a girl who has lived here for 3 years. She said that the first question she asks people she has just met is how long they will be staying here for. If it’s not for over 6 months, then she doesn’t bother initiating a friendship (I guess I didn’t make the cut). This might seem a bit extreme, but for her it was justified because she had been to too many farewells over the years and it got tiring saying goodbye—particularly to people you really like. And you know, I can understand that, even if that means that you might miss out on meeting a lot of exceptional people along the way.
At the end of the day, everyone is living their own lives. People come here for myriad reasons, they stay for myriad reasons and they move on for myriad reasons, all the while forging their own truths and writing their own destinies. These quick and intense lust-fuelled friendships may not be based on anything more than being in the same place at the same time away from the familiarity of life as we know it, but sometimes that’s all you need before you bid your own farewell.