Are you wondering what we do with ourselves, day in and day out? Living life as an expat always sounded so exotic. The reality is, you develop a daily routine just like you do at home. It’s just that the sights, the sounds and the experiences are so different — well, they are in this part of the world.
I know it might seem like we are on an endless holiday but there is plenty of work to do, although it is quite different to the regular jobs we had at home. Our days here are pretty busy and our social life is full.
The Journo has her fingers in many pies, so to speak. Here is how she spends her days.
The Journo tries to do a little bit of work on the blog most days. Sometimes this is just coming up with story ideas, sometimes it is editing photos or it might be out and about experiencing things we will write about later. The Joker plays a smaller role in the blog but tries to write an update at least once a fortnight. He gets a bit grumpy when the Journo edits his copy.
Conversational English class
Bruce, AKA, Mr Bean (because it is easier for Cambodians to pronounce) introduced us to Sothy, who runs conversational English classes at Wat Preah Prom Rath, one of the Pagodas in Siem Reap. He invited us to go along with him one day, so we both went. Sothy thinks it is good if his students can hear different accents so he invited us to read and to speak and to help with pronunciation. The Joker is a bit shy at reading and talks very fast with many colloquialisms, which are hard for the class to understand. But his all-round funny-man attitude was appreciated and they all had a laugh with him. Cambodians love a good joke. These days he rarely drops in as he is busy elsewhere. The Journo has been going regularly for about eight months. She tries to make it there at least twice a week for the two afternoon classes and loves interacting with the students, who are mostly young adults trying to get ahead. It’s a lot of fun and very rewarding and Sothy and the students always appreciate any help.
Together for Cambodia
We were introduced to Together for Cambodia through the Journo’s publisher back in Australia. He was inspired by the work Lidia is doing and the difference she is making to the lives of many children. The Journo worked with Lidia to provide an updated set of photos to be used for the organisation’s future promotional material, website, brochures, the cookbook and for the family photo album. She will be the official photographer for the launch of TFC’s new home — the Children’s Land — and will visit some of the organisation’s other projects, such as a program supporting grandparents. It’s a great organisation to be involved with.
Plastic Free July Cambodia
Plastic is everywhere here and while some water bottles are recycled, there is a huge amount of plastic waste littering the streets and waterways. When the Journo heard about Plastic Free July Cambodia and met the instigator, Sarah, she jumped on board, helping to promote it and educate about plastic use and alternatives to plastic. You can read more about it here and here. She is still a big supporter of the group, although is not actively involved at the moment.
The Journo also does some freelance work for newspapers and magazines and businesses who need copywriting or blogging expertise. She writes travel stories, news stories, interesting profiles and issue-based features. And she gets to meet some fascinating and talented people.
The Journo spent five months working in the library at Treak Community Centre, a small school in one of the local villages in Siem Reap. She volunteered two afternoons, taking over from the wonderful efforts of Chris, who made the library quite an impressive and very organised resource and supporting Sophal, the librarian who keeps everything in order. It was wonderful spending time with these lovely ladies.
The Joker’s days are a lot more physical than the Journo’s and he gets out into the countryside, interacting with villagers much more so he sees quite a different side of life.
Volunteer Building Cambodia
The Joker has made a long-term commitment to volunteer with VBC and gets out of bed around 6.30am every day to wander off to “work”.
And he is no bludger. He was on a shovel one other week, digging holes for a fence. And it was really bloody hot that week. Think mid 30s (Celcius) and high humidity. Despite the hard yakka he loves what he does. Providing basic, secure shelter for a family living with nothing is incredibly rewarding and humbling. The smiles and gratitude expressed from the recipients is worth more than any job can pay. And he is working with a variety of passionate and dedicated volunteers from all over the world, who all want to make a difference.
After work (he usually gets home around 1pm) he is generally exhausted and heads to the local (Two Dragons) for a beer or three. Or he falls asleep on the couch. Occasionally, we jump on the scooter and head out of town for a bit of a look around or catch up with friends. When it’s really hot we sometimes find a pool to lounge around in, although that has been surprisingly less frequent than we expected given the high temperatures here.
Not all work
But it is not all work – there is time for play. In the evenings we often socialise. We were part of a burger appreciation club and one night every week we, and a group of friends, headed to a different burger place in Siem Reap with the aim of finding the best burgers in town. It has evolved into a food appreciation group because, while we haven’t run out of burger places to visit, we are looking for some wider variety.
To be honest, we eat out more than we eat in. There are so many great food places and it ranges from really cheap to reasonable (or really expensive if you have the budget for top end venues). We often go for a drink or a meal with friends or just together. Sometimes we sit on our balcony with a glass of wine, or bourbon and perhaps a baguette from the baker who drives past on his motorbike every afternoon, and we watch the activity in the street. There’s always something interesting going on. Or we have a few drinks across the road at Two Dragons where we love to chat to the staff.
One week we went to a friend’s farewell and headed out to the gay bar for the lady boy show afterwards. Let’s just say the Joker was well and truly out of his comfort zone. It was all a bit of fun. We have also been to a comedy night, seen live bands, played board games at a cool venue and we sometimes take part in a quiz night to raise funds for local organisations.
We’ve had a few visitors — friends and family — who have come to see another country, check out what we’re doing and spend some time with us. It is fun taking them around our new “home”.
On weekends we try and get out into the countryside on the motorbike and see a few things. The Journo had a bit of fun with some girlfriends and did a day trip to Thailand to go shopping. And there are still so many things to see and do here.
Sadly, part of living an expat life is the many goodbyes. People come and go from places like this. Some stay for a few weeks, or a few months and some are here for years. But there is a frequent rotation and that means many goodbyes. They are always sad, but on the upside it means we have friends in many corners of the globe. There’s no doubt life as an expat is never boring.
Phew! That’s quite a hectic schedule. We keep pretty busy and life as an expat is very social. We have met sooooo many wonderful people and made many new friends. Have you lived as an expat? What was the experience like for you?