You Know You’ve Been Living in Cambodia for Two Months When…

• You are no longer offended if someone answers a phone call in the middle of a meeting, a speech or the night. Or when someone spits noisily out of a window.
• You finally understand who is related to whom in your host family.
• You automatically check your dinner for ants before eating.
• You have planned the date of your wedding and first child for the benefit of curious neighbours, despite intending to have neither.
• You have now set up a black-market trade in hand sanitizer, baby wipes and phone chargers with your fellow volunteers.
• You are no longer indignant when people laugh every time you say “hello”, “goodbye”, or any other word in Khmer for that matter.
• You have established a rudimentary conversation with your host family, which mainly consists of “how are you?” (nek socksabai dtay) “it’s hot!” (k’dow), “wind” (howee), “I’m hungry” (khnyom kleeun), “eat rice?” (nyam bai?) and “delicious” (chnyang).

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A standard dinner at our host home

• You are now famous around the community from that one time you danced at the pagoda.
• You greet the frog that lives in your bathroom upon entering.
• You have promised your host family that you will dance for them before leaving because they missed that one time you danced at the pagoda.
• The owners of your favourite cafe now prepare your iced coffee when you sit down before you have even asked for one.
• You have experienced the highs and lows of living on a volunteer allowance, but have still not learnt that food should come before second-hand books and bags made out of rice sacks.
• You have finally caught a gecko after two months of chasing them across walls.
• You no longer consider situations like clutching ten trees and a set of shelves whilst riding home in a tuk-tuk strange.
• It no longer unnerves you to see the neighbours’ dogs wander through your garden at night looking for food.
• You can now open a tin of condensed milk using a cleaver.
• You have learnt that anything can be strapped onto the back of a bike using the right amount of string.
• The fight for the power socket has become a daily struggle.
• The smell of your own sweat has now become comforting, like the presence of an old friend.

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Me with my host great Aunty, host nephew and counterparts Mony and Franzi

• You have grown to love Cambodia and are sad that in twelve days you will leave the country and the lovely people you’ve met here when you finish you placement with VSO.

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