Well I've been in Phnom Penh just over a month now and it feels like ages. I don't feel at all homesick and I'm hoping to stay for quite a while. I've already become a regular at Dosa Corner, and I get texts from my tuk tuk driver saying that he hasn't seen me in a while (that'll be a week Ra!) I can walk around the local streets and see people I know. Frank and Leonie called out to me from a passing tuk tuk as I was out walking yesterday. Then ten minutes later I ran into Phil strolling past The Golden Gate, and saw Kathy from school a few minutes later. I have lunch on Monday, Wednesday and Friday with Tikei, Tim and Vicki at the Khmer restaurant opposite the school, and I have opened a local bank account. I feel at home and I have a social circle, something I was worried about when I first got here.
This is now home then.
I'm still making schoolboy errors! This week I needed to buy shower gel and, despite carefully reading the labels, I still managed to buy one that was 'whitening'. I don't want to be whiter! I've spent years damaging my skin so that I can go brown more quickly. I also left an empty can of Pepsi on the floor overnight and had a plague of ants again the next morning. On the plus side I have acquired a gecko. I've called him Dai, short for diarrhoea, because he's brown, he's fast and he mostly lives in the bathroom. He's a nice little fellow, and he eats mozzies so he is welcome in my home.
The city looks so different in the daytime to the night. When I travel to work in the morning it is bustling with motos, tuk tuks and SUVs, and all of the businesses are open. At night, when I leave, suddenly it is full of neon lights, and food stalls have sprung up on all of the pavements. I love reading the neon signs advertising the local restaurants: Good Beef Soup seems straightforward enough, but Golden Cattle Seafood Restaurant may have come out wrong in translation! On every other street corner there is a little moto repair place, and somehow even the tuk tuks look more picturesque at night-time. I love the city at night, and on Friday night it feels like everyone is out, and the bustle and energy is heady.
I have to work on Saturday mornings, so I save my partying for Saturday night. Yesterday I met Anh and we went for a massage. My goodness, those women have strong fingers. I think they could crack a walnut between their opposable thumb and forefingers! Instead they mostly cracked me! I think they broke me in a couple of places. At one point I appear to have survived a Vulcan Death Grip. It's weird how something so painful can also be relaxing. It's so cheap for spa treatments here, and I decided that a facial was the order of the day this morning. It's been a gloriously sunny day, just the sort of day to spend lying in a darkened room with a pot of yoghurt on my face. Or for standing in a dark bar watching the All Blacks almost snatch defeat from the jaws of victory!
I wandered down St 278 yesterday, which is full of bars and restaurants, and lined with tuk tuk drivers waiting for a fare. Every two steps someone shouted 'tuk tuk Madame?' or 'Moto?'. I usually just smile and say 'no thank you' but it was wearing a little thin by the end of the street. A Western guy passed me and joked 'tuk tuk Madame'. He was quite cute so I managed to laugh. My regular tuk tuk driver had 'problem' Saturday night so he sent his brother to fetch me. It was a shame because Ra earnt $3 last week for dropping me around the corner, Ra's brother earnt three times that driving me to the outer-spiral arm of the Western Universe, or wherever it is that Tikei lives. Up on the Roof ( I think there's a song about that!) there's the Saturday club which is mostly a bunch of ACE teachers drinking beer and listening to music on the laptop. Anh and I stayed for a bit and then took a tuk tuk back to town, grabbed some food, and went to listen to live music at Memphis. They have an excellent Cambodian band playing covers of Western songs. I've been twice now and I really like it there: could my clubbing days have returned?