This time last week, we were sitting on a plane on our way to our new lives in southeast Asia.
This afternoon we are meeting with a rental agent to start looking for a place to live.
Each day becomes a little easier. I find myself getting up in the morning with more realistic expectations than those I had when I arrived. I know to expect stifling heat. I am feeling more comfortable looking into strange pots of food on the side of the road. I know it will be a challenge to cross the road.
I also know there are other people I can talk to, other than Skip, and that the other volunteers (and former volunteers) are having similar experiences of becoming accustomed to a new and strange culture.
In our volunteer training yesterday, we talked about finding ways where we could become comfortable with the uncomfortable and how everyone at some time underwent moments when they wanted to run away and hide.
For me it is about taking one day at a time, as well as finding little oases in the wilderness. It is also about seeing some of the lovely things hidden beneath the dirt and grime. The beautiful temples down by the riverfron, the wide-eyed children gazing out from motorbikes where they are jammed in between two adults. Our regular tuktuk driver (Som On) who smiles when we walk onto the street in the morning.
There are lots of smiles. And there are lots of places named “Lucky”. There’s Lucky’s Market where we have discovered some familiarites among the bok choy and fishpaste (Betty Crocker brownie mix, freshly made wraps and Doritos are among them!).
There’s also the Lucky massage parlour and the Lucky printing shop which yesterday reminded me of my youth when I grew up in Bahrain and went to Lucky Stores — a little restaurant on a dirt road where my girlfriend and I perched on barstools and drank milkshakes. We thought nothing of living in a strange and foreign land back then because it was all we knew. Camels walked past our front door and donkey carts delivered water to our homes.
It also made me realize how far I have come from those days. How the comforts of airconditioning, fluffy pillows and clean streets have become normal for me. And I realize how I have become softened over the years.
I am not planning on living as a local or renting an apartment in a dirty stinky road where we have to walk up five flights of stairs and steam ourselves to sleep.
But I can see myself getting pleasure out of racing through the streets in a tuktuk, eating at hole-in-the wall Khmer restaurants, learning how to speak with the locals, shopping in crowded markets for vegetables and relaxing into an appreciation of the life I am now about to lead.
It’s already starting.