Mid-year musings #12: Final thoughts

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At the riverside for Water Festival

Mid-year musings has taken us to 9 months on location–we’re a quarter of our way through our first 3 year term. Wow! I can’t believe its gone so quick! While we have been 9 months on location, in another way we are only 3 months through this year. Our mid-year reset means that we are dealing with multiple time periods–9 months into settling in, 9 months until our next big break.

So where are we, head wise? Well, in many ways we feel settled here in Cambodia (this earlier series explores some of our experience of settling in this year). But in many other ways we still fail to understand many things about the culture. In other words, we’re settled in a place where we still feel like, and are, outsiders (and will always be in some way). As we live here we do grow in our sense of what it is like to be an insider. Some of that insider knowledge has come from our expat saddle, yet as our language and relationships increase, we know that more of this insider knowledge will come from insider’s themselves.

The funny thing about the insider/outsider dynamic is that, as we get more insider knowledge, we will seem like insiders to new outsiders as visitors come and stay. One of the things I look forward to as visitors come to stay is seeing how they deal with things and being reminded of all the ways that I find Cambodia normal. Whether I’ve gotten used to, in some way, the heat or the traffic or the dirt. My senses will have adjusted to life in Cambodia, but visitors will give me a glimpse into ways that I have settled, that may not be obvious to me any more (oblivious to my own settling in). This insider/outsider dynamic, with new outsiders visiting, reminds me of my description of missionaries as a bridge between two different cultures.

Our settled-ness also relates to our choices and decisions about life here. While there has been a decision decrease, I predict that there will be new set of decisions to be made soon. These decisions will be less about transport and more about language learning. That is, what will be my approach to language learning after I finish up at our language school?

However, one of the biggest factors for our settled-ness relates to our children. The first six months were a great ‘test run’ at the new school, with this new school year providing a quicker settling in for them with many more known quantities in an environment that they are spending most of their time at (school). They are developing friendships both at school and in our neighbourhood. By far, the biggest factor to our children settling in is me (or us as parents). The fewer melting moments we have, the less they will have. While we are not completely responsible for all of our kid’s issues, we do take the burden for some (or many, depending on the day) of those episodes.

To me the picture above encapsulates in many ways where we are up to in Cambodia. We’re certainly settled (see Joel’s locally acquired outfit and our presence at a major Cambodian festival). Our attitude is one of exploring (see Spiderman) and yet that exploring has its difficulties (climbing up the slope). We are present at the festival with more questions than answers about what is going on. Yet our presence at this year’s Water Festival attests to our comfortability on location, which would not have been the same 9 months ago. So, 9 months in… we’re travelling pretty well.

Where to from here? In terms of the blog, I’ll have a break over Chrissy as I work on a new series, starting early next year. My early thoughts are that it will be reflections following our first year in Cambodia. Stay tuned…

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