Health, Life and Happiness: 8 Things Cambodia Has Taught Me

That Pseudo Ice Cream Vegetable Thing

Has it really been a month? It feels like I’ve been here forever… but at the same time, it feels like I just got here. It’s inconceivable that Sunday, I’ll be arriving in Wuhan, China. It’s weird for several reasons. For starters, I feel like I’ve already found my home here in Phnom Penh. I’ve caught the rhythm of a new routine, and I love it. Every morning, I wake up to some HIIT on my hotel floor, then head off to make copies at Sok Lin where Savan and I stumble through broken English and botched Khmer. The day gets rolling at nine with my smiling rambunctious kindergarten class at PPIS, and by eleven thirty I’m teaching idioms to teens and adults at the KO. All that is then left of the day is lesson planning and Mandarin lessons. I’ve even managed to eat fresh and clean while in a city with tantalising smells at every turn on the way to the market. Tantalising if you get passed Slum / Stink River, that is. I love it.

So what will I be taking with me from this stay? More things than I planned.

1. Live Consciously:  It’s the little moments that have had such a huge impact on me here. Little moments like the smiles locals give me when I try to chomp through a new Khmer words, and the way a smile can infect and open people up to say “Hello”.  Fleeting seconds that allow me to witness a Marady staff member bowing to a Buddhist monk as he blesses her during his daily walk around town. These tiny moments are endlessly available, but so easy to miss in a buzzing city of 2.2 million people. They are especially easy to miss  when I’m stressed about studying Mandarin, lesson planning, and trying to figure out how to get home. Choosing to live consciously makes me appreciate these little gems and stress less about the small stuff.

2. Time Management: Do the work early, or I’ll wish I had later. It’s easier for me to get isht done if I do these things when I have time— not when I have to make time. So simple, but so true. Pretty sure all of my teachers have been telling me this for years, but I learn by doing, failing, and doing… and failing… and doing… 

3. Eating Healthy Makes Sense: Duh, right? But seriously, it’s simpler and cheaper to eat healthy here. Why spend more money on something that I know I shouldn’t be eating? My wallet and my waistline would suffer. So pass on by the delicious, aromatic, fried sesame peanut buns, and deep-fried bananas, and go to that tasty looking produce stand. You know you want to. I save the “indulgences” for weird things I’ve never tried, like that psuedo-ice-cream-vegetable thing I ate earlier this week. Yum.

4. I Can Live Without It: Here, Western stuff is not hard to find, but it’s more expensive than going with the Khmer version. Example: Salad dressing is about $3-4 for basic Ranch, Thousand Island, or my favourite “American Dressing”.  Comparable to prices in the States, but  here $3-4 can buy you two meals of rice, vegetables, chicken, with tea water. I bought soy sauce to put on my salads because here it’s like $0.60 or less. If the locals can live without salad dressing, I probably can too.

5. If 2.2 million people can do it, I might not die: When I first got here I was immediately flabbergasted by the insane amount of moto’s and tuk-tuk’s that manoeuvre through the streets and sidewalks like the world is their playground. My initial reaction: “Ha! So much for walking. Not gunna become roadkill.”  Couldn’t have been more wrong. I just close my eyes and go. If 2.2 million people do it everyday, I’ll probably survive. And I did— walking to the market err-day, folks. Haven’t gotten hit once.

6. Instant Coffee isn’t so bad: Seriously. It’s cheap, and versatile. Only have five minutes in between class? Instant coffee with some soy milk. Protein, calcium and caffeine all in one. Need more caffeine than a cup of coffee? Use less water and add two packets for instant espresso! Yes. I feel like it’s a better option than those sugar-free-chemical-full-redbull-knock-offs I used to rely on in the past. Baby steps.

7. Chill out: It’s Cambodia. It’s a developing country that went through hell and back less than forty years ago. It’s incredible how far they have come in that time. So if I find my self stressing about the lack of internet reliability or the lack of structure in some aspects of life— I chill the eff out. If I couldn’t handle not having WIFI in every single place that I spend more than ten minutes in or not being able to find a good Western meal, I’d miss out on all the amazing-ness that is Cambodia., Don’t let silly little things like that affect your perspective of a place, because Cambodia is the isht.


8. Finding my happy: Teaching and immersing myself in new places makes me happy.  After finding my happy, everything just started to fall into place. Teaching makes me more motivated to be a better person in all areas of my life. It’s crazy that before getting here I was worried about things like staying fit, eating right, finding a motivating group of friends, saving money, etcetera, etcetera. Those things are just pieces of the puzzle that were easy to arrange once I saw the whole picture. Happiness brings me clarity, which in turn gives me confidence in myself and my decisions. I’ll keep following my bliss because everything else will follow. I love simplicity.


7 thoughts on “Health, Life and Happiness: 8 Things Cambodia Has Taught Me”

  1. Wow! Such amazing things to experience everyday. You’re an awesome person and I know you will go on to do great things. I can’t wait to read more. Keep the stories coming!


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