Jetlag and Culture Shock

You can never cross the ocean unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.

I thought I’d have a sudden first impression, but my arrival in Phnom Penh last night is a blur. Eighteen hours on a plane will make one feel less than human, although Korean Air surpassed it’s expectation in being the nicest airline I’ve ever flown with.

Upon arrival and successfully obtaining a visa, I was met outside by one of the local coordinators for the organization I’ll be working with. It was dark, and I as I placed my suitcase onto the tuk tuk I realized it was finally real. The ride to the guesthouse was lively with moto traffic, buildings lit with neon signs and the unfamilar smells of street food carts on every corner. It was surprisingly quiet aside from the occasional echo of a stray dog’s bark. When I arrived at the guesthouse, everyone was asleep and I soon joined in having no problem falling into a deep sleep of my own.

As I woke up this morning to sounds of street traffic I realized that I wasn’t dreaming – I was finally in Cambodia – I also realized that there were no screens on the windows. Having a history of being a mosquito magnet I made it my mission for today to venture out in search of a mosquito net.

My first solo trip via tuk tuk was to the Russian Market – a huge covered flea market in the middle of town that sells everything from fishpaste to shampoo. And to my luck mosquito nets.

It’s day one and I think I’m coming off a bit of culture shock. Since my project doesn’t start until Monday, I’ve been left to my own devices for a few days – which basically means taking the title of solo female traveler quite literally. As I was walking through the markets today I found myself becoming insular, and self conscious, mostly out of nerves and fear of the unknown. But now as the evening approaches I am beginning to feel more comfortable, more ready to open my eyes to Cambodian culture.

It started raining a few hours ago, and I sat quietly on the porch, listening to the downpour on a tin roof, watching the city residents push carts of rain soaked vegetables down the street.

A bit of quiet time to contemplate my surroundings.


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