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Published: August 21st 2011
Well, I am here in Cambodia. There were times in that Starbucks back in KL that I didnt think I would escape. I left high on caffeine and covered in mocha, after having swamped Carl with Sype phonecalls. I even completed my Karl Pilkington book already!!!
We landed at the airport, very unsteadily and over shot the runway. "This is it" I thought. I manage to survive the flights but at the last hurdle we crash in to a ball of flames. This obviously didn't happen, thank God but I did get a rather nasty bump on my forehead as it smashed in to the window upon the rocky landing.
The strangest part of my day happenes next... I walk in to the airport and need to go through to collect a visa for work. The man hands me a piece of paper and then starts tapping away on his blackberry. I struggle alone completing the form as he tap tap tap taps away. I finish and hand it back to him. He does not look up "photo"? he chirps. I hand him a passport photo of myself for their records. Tap tap tap tap tap. "Thats $25". Tap tap tap. I get the money out and hand it over. "Not pay here" Tap tap tap tap. Not once did he look at me. "Pay over there" (nods with head).
I follow the general direction of the head nod and hope I get it right. Everyone behind the cramped counter (all 14 of them) look at me briefly but all look back down at their desks. Working probably. I near the sign that tells me to Pay here and a man looks at me, puts a piece of paper and my passport on the desk and says "25$" Then looks back down. As I peer over the counter, every single one of them had their phones out and were texting away like it was a matter of life and death. I pay and go out through passport control. Even the security guard is tap tap tapping away and barely looks at me.
So I wait outside, I imagined CWF will have someone waiting for me with my name on a piece of card "Miss Jessica". Eagerly I am approached by half a dozen or so men shouting "Tuk Tuk"?, "No MY Tuk tuk", "Cab? You need cab? I give good cab price". I reply "No, I am being picked up". I find a seat and am still pestered by them. It's hot, there are flies everywhere and i'm carrying a bag which feels like it's been cruely loaded with rocks. It takes all my energy not to tell them were to go.
So I wait. and I wait a bit more. There was no man at the airport with my name on a card waiting for me, so I figure, they'll be along shortly. Or maybe they missed me and are still waiting for me to come out. I figure that I'll wait for everyone to leave and pick up their loved ones and it will be me and the driver left. Then it dawns on me how vaguely familiar this situation is, this happened before....After I graduated I worked in France as a kid's courier and flew over to Northern France, Normandy. I imagined my name on a card back then too but there was no one there at the airport to pick me up. I wondered how the lady picking me up would be able to tell I was her new recruit but didn't dwell on it, I just found an obvious place to stand and wait. Time went on, the crowds dispersed and I was left standing alone like the last child to be picked up after a party because the mother has forgotten them (my mum did this once to my brother). Afer about 2 hours, a woman comes up to me and asks if I am Jessica, I say I am and it turns out she has been here all that time sitting over there...she points to a pillar I can't see "this pillar" she supposedly sat, at a seat that no one could see. I think she was lying, she was late. She probably thought telling a big lie would be more believable, like the time I told woolworths, my employer at the time, that I could not make it in to work that day because my house mate Simon had fallen down the stairs and I had to go to hospital with him. Big fat lie. I wanted to go to the beach but couldnt say something simple like "i'm ill" =, it's lame and everyone knows you're pulling a sicky.
So thoughts of abandoment flash through my mind, panic creeps in and I decide that I wont leave it two hours like last time. So I walk over to a white couple who look English and ask them if they can help me. Turns out they are French and live here. But they help all the same. They phone the company for me and all is revealed: I've been forgotten. Great.
Twenty minutes later and we are hurling down a dusty road big enough for three cars but they manage to find space for 7. It's hot, busy and was close to death at least 6 or 7 times. We also nearly killed 6 or 7 people. Cars, mopeds, push bikes all come in different directions. There is only one rule here - Get to your destination as fast and as dangerously as you can. These people really live on the edge. The lady in the tuk tuk who collected me tells me they have push bikes we can use at the volunteer house. I smile and nod my head but think not on your nelly am I getting on some pushbike. I need a tank.
The main road is lined with tall 3-4 storey houses, tired looking but beautiful in their own rustic french way. The street seems to be lined with shops, stalls really I should say. The lady tells me these people live in the houses and turn their front room in to a shop or a garage or even a cinema!!!! I saw three kids watching the simpsons on an old TV sitting on garden chairs all lined to give the feel of a cinema.
It's a lot to take in. We arrive at the guest house where I will stay for two days (i'm early for once) until we move to the volunteer house. I'm shown to my room. It's basic but i'm glad it's not a dorm room. I have a double bed, a TV and a shower/toilet room. I unpack, i wash, I try to re-pack but it won't fit in. I throw a fit and realise I am tired. I have not slept for donkeys years but I can not rationalise this fact. Instead I lean against the cool wall and cry. I feel a million miles away, I can't get the internet to work, I can't phone home because it's 3 am there ( I can phone but tell myself I shouldnt) My stuff wont go back in the bag and I contemplate throwing it all out the window therefore solving the problem. I cry and think what the hell am I doing? Why am I here? Why have I gone to this crazy place where I am alone? I could be at home in bed with Carl. I could be close to food and eat stuff that I know what it is because I can read what the label says. I imagine what people would think of me if I got a flight back tonight and seriously consider doing it. I feel hopeless. So I sit on the bed having shoved everything violently in to the stupid flipping rucksack and tell myself I'll have a nap for an hour. That should help me make more sense.
Four hours later I wake up. It's now 3:30 in the afternoon but I feel a bit better about being here and decide I need to phone home, tell Danny Happy Birthday and phone Carl. Stupid phone won't phone Carl, Internet won't connect, stupid laptop, phone my mum thinking it wont ring but thank God that it does. It's reassuring to hear her voice and I know that I will be ok.
It's so easy to say "Right, I'm going off to travel the world" I've been saying it for nearly ten years. But now I am actually doing it, I am here, in a strange place with a language I don't know and can not even remember what the basic hello or thank you is. It's bloody hard. It could just be the tiredness still but I think I am in shock. I can't believe I am here and it is lonely. I am trying to be brave, and I hope things will get better, and I am sure that they will but right now, at this moment right now I feel so far away and so alone and am desperately seeking the reasons why I am here.
On a brighter note, it is raining outside. Heavily. Carl told me to bring my rain mac, but i brought a brolly instead. My reasons were two fold; one, it's too hot here to wear a mac and two, The rain is so heavy during the monsoon season that the rest of me would get soaked. The roads are flooded already and it's only just started! Look at the silly people on their bikes soaked through their shorts and t-shirt. I was going to go out and find what they call the russian market but decided to write this instead - Jess = 1, Cambodia = 0.
I think I'll wait a bit before going outside to see the sights. I need to sleep, I keep seeing things floating about and I keep convincing myself it's a mosquito. I really don't want to get bitten. I think I shall inspect my Lonely planet guide book to Cambodia and find out what this Russian market thing is.
Toodle pip, another day tomorrow and a new volunteer should turn up soon so I wont be alone. I hope someone turns up. I want some company to take my mind away from things.
They seem to wear full length rainmacs. Maybe I will invest in one tomorrow.
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