Sunday, May 30, 2010

FIVE things I have learned after FOUR days in Phnom Penh

1. People in different parts of the world have a different approach to traffic slash driving, and perhaps this can be used as somewhat of an analogy for different approaches to life
- Unlike Australia, Cambodians drive on the right hand side of the road... in theory. But really, sometimes it's just much more convenient to drive on the left hand side of the road.
- The death statistics when it comes to road accident are higher than I care to mention on this page, given the fact that my mother already has slightly elevated blood pressure.
- Despite this, Cambodian drivers are remarkably cheery in their disorganisation: no-one appears at all ruffled as a car drives towards them in the wrong direction, and multiple moto drivers quite often head for the same turn in the road at the same time, just loko at each other quite blankly, and then sort themselves out semi-awkwardly like year 8's at a social.
- A modified Simpson's quote can aptly sum up the general feeling:
Moto driver: I'm going to go like this...(drives motorbike on various sides of road)... and if you get hit, it's your own fault.
Car driver: Fine, I'm gonna start driving like this (starts turning across traffic because the desired street is more easily accessible that way)... and if any part of you should fill that air, it's your own fault.

2. I am not yet a master of Mindfulness
- I went to a meditation session with five of the other girls the other night at Wat Lanka
- We had be told that if we wandered in at 6pm looking like we didn't know what we were doing, a monk might be kind enough to show us the ropes, so to speak.
- We entered, definitely had the no-idea look going well, and voila- a very cool, chilled-out looking monk took us outside the beautiful temple, sat with us in the balmy evening, and talked us through Meditation 101: The Basics (a good start for all those "Hey! I've totally come to Cambodia to become all zen and stuff, so liiiiiike, can I get Zen To Go? K thanks!" travellers).
- One of the main points that stuck was this concept that nothing is permanent- not the good stuff, not the bad- so it's best to allow things to happen but look on them, rather than letting them affect the way we feel- there needs to be some sort of neutral state that doesn't get altered or phased too much.
- The physicalities of meditating were explained to us, then we ventured inside to give it a bash for the remainder of the hour. Should it be so hard to focus on my bloody diaphragm going up and down? Because I would not stop thinking about pretty much everything else apart from that, and that was all I really needed to do. "Hello, my name is Claire and I feel like my often-denied Type A peronality is holding me back from focusing on my inspiration and expiration."
- But I'll keep at it. If only because the chance to sit in a beautiful room with an evening breeze floating through and just chill out for a bit seems like a good thing.
- More diaphragm updates to come.

3. Nothing can stop a keen runner
- Not a distinct lack of green, run-friendly spots.
- Not a soupy, sticky, carbon-monoxide rich environment.
- Not motorbikes to manouevre around and tuk-tuks to
- Not being the only person (let along tall white girl) running in a busy city.
- Not various eager Phnom Penh-ians joining me for a few metres every few minutes and saying. things like "Very good! Hello! How are you?" (actually if anything that's a pretty fun addition to any run).
- Certainly not 100% humidity, causing run to be slowed to snail's pace despite heart working overtime.

4. Some people in this city live in really small houses, some people live in really big houses, not many people live in really middle-sized houses
- It's like you're either Papa Bear or Goldilocks, and Mama Bear doesn't even get a chair
- These two extremes can exist quite literally next to one another, with nothing but about 67,586 tons of concrete fence (complete with fancy gold ornate detail) separating the two.
- Corruption, especially involving the police force, is still rife, despite Cambodia generally being much more stable than previously.
- There are a lot of people with missing limbs, polio- healthcare doesn't often exist as a concept for them.
- I start work at Veterans International tomorrow and and not sure what to expect but looking forward to learning and hopefully lending a hand.

5. Fun people are found all over the world
- The volunteer crew here (currently around 17-20 across the four apartments) are really happy, enthusiastic, skilled, party-loving and excitable people from America, France, Canada, The Netherlands, Ireland, Japan, England and Denmark.
- There have been many shared beverages, shared stories and shared tuk-tuk rides already, and many more to come.
- But nothing beats a home crowd. I am missing Mile End times, family fun, McEvoy cook-ups, riding around the city; the amazing, the all-star, the always-in-my-heart Adelaidies-and-gentlemen.

Claire in Cambodia xox


  1. Brilliant! Keep us up with your adventures, Claire Bear! xx

  2. what an adventure your already having. That breeze in the temple sounds divine!!!
    I look forward to many more blogs....
    love always Leesha xxx

  3. Miss C, Your adventures already sound so exciting.

    Your comments on meditation and diaphragm action gave me tea-snorting moments.

    Good luck for your first day on the job - it is sad to hear about the lack of healthcare, but you are sure to make a difference.

    Think of us, but make sure you get lost in your adventures - that is the best part. :) x

  4. Claire,
    Your adventures sound amazing already.
    Can't wait to read more.
    love you muchly

  5. A great read! Give up acting and become a travel writer :-)