Saturday, November 03, 2012

Our Expat Life in PP

The work I did in Phnom Penh, 10 years ago, could be pretty confronting, but the life we lived as expatriates certainly balancing things out.  It was, socially, one of the best times I can remember.

Four of us lived in this house, for my first few months in Cambodia.  This house was ridiculous - 5 bedrooms, 7 bathrooms.  It was all marble and tile downstairs, and In the neighbourhood the Khmers call "NGO land", our big house was within our stipend budget and surrounded by many well known development agencies, housed in buildings not too unlike our house.

We could walk to a local market, and most importantly to a cafe where we spent a hell of a lot of time!

We developed some pretty regular patterns during the week, with many of us finding our favourite weekend brunch spot across the road from the harrowing Tuol Sleng, but also finding happy hour on a Friday night after work at the Elephant Bar at Raffles and then at the FCCC.

It will be interesting to get back to PP and check what's new, and what is still the same of our old haunts.

Everyday at work, I would eat lunch with the girls and the expat staff onsite.  The Centre had several French staff members, a Sri Lankan, and would have the occasional group of volunteers passing through who taught French or English.  We would all sit at the tabled in the courtyard of the Centre, and share lunch.

The kitchen staff would have prepared the lunch meal for much of the morning, from the market supplies bought each week.  I would spend a lot of time with the women as they cooked, and helped with food handling training and anything else that was needed.

Getting around PP was mostly on the back of motorbikes.  I employed a day driver in addition to finding my night driver, to take me to and from work every day, from one side of Phnom Penh to the other.  My driver would weave us through the traffic, and the fumes and grit, every day.  As we left for the day, he would take me wherever I wanted to go - often caught in the regular torrential rains right on time as we had just left the shelter of the Centre!

Just a couple of windows into the life we lead over there, working as volunteers in Cambodia, all those years ago.

This post is part of a series marking 10 years since I travelled to Cambodia to work as a volunteer.

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