Hello everybody. It’s been a while.
A whole lot has happened in the three weeks I’ve been here. It’s been such a great, but exhausting, experience doing this course that I haven’t really had downtime to sit and write about what’s been happening. I went from spending my time in a quiet Scottish town stuck in a familiar, comfortable routine to being thrust into a life full of noise, colour, stimulation and lesson plans. Goddam lesson plans.
Training to be an ESL teacher is no light matter, and as much as you’d think this would be about drinking beer, street food and backpacking (which there hasn’t been a shortage of by the way), work has had a prominence over play at times. We’re usually in school from 9-5 everyday, with a 90 minute class to plan and teach everyday. On top of this we’re getting Vietnamese lessons, homework assignments, journals to write, 1-to-1’s to organise and observations to carry out. Usually when I get back to my hotel room I feel well and truly drained. But then we all go out for food. Then beer. Then wake up feeling worse. It’s a vicious cycle of turning an education into holiday fun times – but that’s the beauty of it. We’ve all left our lives behind to forge new ones, and in the spirit of the young and the (not-so) free we’re constantly breaking in and out of responsibility and frivolity. And we get by. Just, sometimes, but we get by.
So what can I tell you about where I’ve been?
Even though now I’m in my mainstay of Vietnam, I’ve actually spent most of my time here in a completely different country. So for the sake of documenting this adventure, I’m going to write about Vietnam next time and focus on what went down in ‘little brother’ Cambodia. And if there’s anything you can use to effectively describe a country, it’s a ride through that country’s streets.
My plane landed in Pnomh Penh, Cambodia. The air was hot and dusty. The sun beat down hard on crowds of people chattering away. Sounds of engines revving, people talking, bells ringing and other indiscriminate noises hung around like a veil. Me and a fellow teacher (now in Thailand) were picked up from the airport in a tuk-tuk. Our bags were perilously hanging on for dear life as we rolled down the potholes with a few bits of road still left in tact. Entire families could be seen driving past, all piled on to a single motorbike (or motos, as is their SE Asian name). Dad sits at the helm, proudly steering his veneered chariot. Co-pilot Mum sits behind, multi-tasking. With one arm she cradles her two infant children. With the other she clings onto a massive LCD TV. People sit in plastic chairs on the side of the road, their wares casually placed beside them: glass pepsi-bottles filled with petrol, indiscriminate meat sizzling on spits, cigarettes, beer, bananas. People look pensive, sun-kissed. Life in Cambodia is casual, slow, breezy. Our hotel, The Marady, is an LC Asia mainstay, taking on new recruits every month. Here they offered us one free massage a week alongside our breakfasts, karaoke nights, tuk tuk rides to school and a luxurious view of a construction site. Our particular group of 24 was a vast mix of ages, backgrounds and personalities. After two weeks, we’d all split into our separate groups either staying in Cambodia or heading for Thailand or Vietnam.
Now, my adventures in Cambodia whizzed by with such intensity and action that the best way I could describe them would be through the following staccato paragraph. The writing style may not be for everyone, but it really does reflect how time passed here. Here goes:
Hot. The air is heavy, dusty, dirty, which explains why some people wear facemasks. Bumpy rides on broken roads. Marady sweet Marady, with your stodgy western breakfasts and shy wi-fi. First encounters, nice to meet you. Strangers become lifelong friends. Poolside angkors and story swapping. East meets west in myself, am I a Westerner or am I being given local treatment? Is that dog or chicken? Pineapple con-artists. Malaria tablet delrium gets you free hand massages. Tuk-tuk? Tuk-tuk? Tuk-tuk? The wonders of immodium. Being taught to be a teacher by a tremendous teacher of teachers. Feels good doesn’t it? Elephant pants can be for boys too. First weekend to Siem Reip and Angkor Wat. What, what. Spider kids. Guilt tripping little shits. Tarantula for lunch. Sunrise over heaven on earth. Stop, in the name of love. Ancient jungle temples. Leaving our mark, creating rock piles. Spiritual spaces, remnants of gods among us. Perilous steps. Hitting pub street. Flower girl whose going places. Rum chasers on the street. Rub n’ shove. Bus rides designed by satan. Dr Dom the mosquito assassin. Karaoke mayhem – teachers rocking the mic. Zombie chopstick killers. Dialogues are the worst. Happy pizza. Elaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaine. Russian market haggling: note to self, get better at haggling. Aquired mum’s first magnet. Feeling hot and bothered in the elevator. Hello Terrence the coconut. S-21: The hidden tragedy of a nation; never knew about the Khmer Rogue; never would have; is Cambodian history a blip to the west? Final nights living it up in Marad-ise. Weekend to Sihanoukville, beach central. Gulf of Thailand – azure waters, lush greens, cigarette-butty sands. Dolphin Shack. Booze cruises – hi mum I’m on BBC3! Salt-water skinny dipping, outlined by the light of the moon. Laughing gas pile-ups. Projectile vomiting. ‘Murca all around me. Goodbye, good friends, goodbye. Goodbye Cambodia. Good morning Vietnam.
Anyone whose seen anything in this segment that they’d like me to elaborate upon further feel free to drop me a message – some of it is probably sounding a little dubious!
A good friend of mine explained to me her thoughts on how life and the universe is governed. That things happen for a reason – not by some divine will but because things are happening around us all the time. I used to firmly believe (in Emersonian fashion) that man makes his own destiny. That the decisions we make govern our present condition. You put the power in your own hands. As empowering as this may sound, I am beginning to think it’s a little self-indulgent. We live in a world fizzing, bubbling and popping with life and vitality. And while we’re certainly not slaves to some grand design, we’re here and now part of the world. Contributing to the story.