Almost exactly one year after my first visit it was time for me to return to what I remembered as my favorite country in the SE Asian peninsula. I was eager to revisit people, places, and memories I had created here before, and as a bonus, I was going to be able to share a week with my brother and his girlfriend. I wasn't returning to Cambodia just for the hell of it, I'd actually made arrangements to teach yoga in Kampot, but decided to give myself a few weeks of travel before doing so. When I arrived back in Phnom Penh I felt a certain level of comfort, happy to be returning rather than learning how to navigate the city for the first time, but that doesn't mean the crazy traffic and busy roads didn't still amaze me. I had two days before my brother arrived and spent them doing mostly nothing. As I wandered the streets for those two days, anticipating my brothers' arrival, I began reflecting on the city (and the country), how much did I really love it?
Given the excitement of my first few weeks back in Cambodia, time with visitors and unplanned accidents, I was ready for some R&R in Kampot, oh wait I was meant to be working. Still, I had a place to unpack my bag, make new friends, reconnect with the old and settle myself, at least for the time being. My settling was taking place at Banteay Srey Women's Spa where I'd be the new resident Yoga/English teacher, sound perfect? You're right.
Upon settling myself in Kampot I had mixed feelings about my new placement, sure I had friends, a place to unpack my bag and a room to call my own, but I wasn't sure if I really wanted to stay. I toyed with the idea of breaking my contract and leaving early but decided that it was just my first-week jitters and that I should really try to stick it out. As I arrived the previous volunteer was saying her goodbyes and I could see tears forming in her eyes, I gave the situation a slight eye roll and thought that won't be me. The whole time my focus was on the yoga classes I'd be teaching while I gave little thought to the English lessons that would soon fill my days. The English lessons which gave me countless hours of bonding time with the girls, time I would learn to cherish.
Being in the wrong place at the wrong time, bad luck or bad karma, I'm not sure what to blame it on but these last few weeks in Cambodia have been a test of my endurance, both physically and mentally. Starting with my broken computer a few weeks ago, my injuries in Kampong Cham and now a little bit of thievery while settling into my new home in Kampot. The fact that I'm blogging about these events from my private [yoga studio attached] bedroom, after finishing [a home made] dinner just goes to show that things must not be that bad. Current situation aside however these last few weeks just go to show that travel isn't always full of rainbows and butterflies [or rather sunsets and cocktails].
After jetting about Asia for another three and a half months it was finally time for me to settle myself in the little town of Kampot and transition back to being a teacher. This time the role was a little different, although I would be teaching some English lessons the main hat (err leggings?) I was to wear was that of Yoga Teacher. Obviously, I knew what I was signing up for, but when it came down to it, the day before my first class, I was petrified. Aside from the three people I taught at my training last April, a few friends and random travelers in hostel common rooms, I hadn't actually taught a class yet. Lucky for me though this women's spa in a chilled-out town in Cambodia is the perfect place for a teacher to dip her toes in the water.
Well, every trip is bound to have at least one adventure, I just didn’t expect it to happen in the first week of my travels. I guess I was getting too lucky with my first few days of traveling from Korea to Phnom Penh, via Kuala Lumpur, going so smoothly. After a few days in the city, I decided it was time for a change of scenery and booked a bus ticket to Kampot. Referred to as a sleepy riverside down that tends to kidnap its inhabitants I was intrigued by what I would find there. I went middle of the road and booked a bus ticket for 9:30 figuring that if all went well I’d arrive sometime in the mid-afternoon, but when does anything ever go according to plan.
When I first arrived in Phnom Penh my host Greg started talking about all of these great NGO’s in town and how they support different programs. I didn’t think much of it and was still not impressed when we visited a few of the shops, to be fair though I was working on maybe 4 hours of sleep. Now, after having been to Kampot and seeing various businesses set up there I understand what Greg was talking about. It’s heartbreaking to walk around and see the children begging for money or trying to sell trinkets on street corners, but it’s also hard to know which ones will benefit from your money and which are being used. That’s what make these businesses so cool, you can know where your money is going and who’s going to benefit from it, and even better it’s money spent on things you’d be doing anyways, I mean you do eat, don’t you?
Only recently has this country shown up on the SE Asia tourist route. With a dark, harrowing past it's amazing to see the smiles spread across the locals faces. I've met travelers with mixed impressions, but if you're lucky enough to connect with a few locals I'm confident you'll fall in love.