Cambodia has been good to me. I moved here in 2002 and since then the country has inspired me and allowed to live in a way that I could have only dreamt about in the past.
However, living in any third world environment has its frustrations and especially since I have become a father these frustrations seem to be amplified.
I don’t know if you get to a point where minor annoyances become massive pains or does one simply get tired of third world living?
I only know a handful of people who have been here for more than 15 years and so I am constantly wondering if after some time one just has to accept that we, as foreigners, do not belong here.
I think that when I first arrived these small annoyances kind of amused me but as the novelty has worn off they have simply become annoying.
Living in Cambodia has generally been quite easy for me as long as I have followed these 3 simple rules – don’t get in anyone’s face, don’t think you are some big shot when clearly you aren’t and don’t think you can change the way the country runs.
However, it is the following small things that have started to grind me down and led me to think about other options for the future.
- Littering – so upsetting to see such a beautiful country constantly littered with discarded plastic bags.
- Driving skills – It seems that anyone can buy a car or motorbike in Cambodia, get in it and drive off without any formal instruction. Consequently there are so many situations you face on a daily basis of completely disastrous driving manoeuvres.
- Law & Order - A few days ago I was browsing the Phnom Penh Post and came across this article where a local military policeman in Stung Treng attacked his girlfriend in a drunken rage beating her in the face with his gun. His punishment was to be sent to headquarters for “a short time”. Sadly, stories like this happen regularly and I would say that only a handful even get reported and make the news.
- Power Cuts – Here in Kampot we still get regular power cuts often up to 2 or 3 per day. As you’d expect they always seem to happen just at a crucial time; after putting the kids to bed, as you’re in the middle of an important email. Talk of how the new dam & hydro electricity plant built in Kampot selling all its power to Vietnam instead of first powering its nearest town doesn’t help matters.
There are other things too that frustrate me but a lot of these are frustrations you’d encounter in any society; poor service, poor repairs, poor internet and poor local services.
This year we are taking a sabbatical from third world living and heading to France for 5-6 months in April at the start of the hot season. Luckily my business allows me to work remotely so we’re going to make the most of this opportunity while we can.
2012 will be a time of reflection for us to decide if we can maintain our lifestyle in rural Cambodia or begin a new chapter in our lives elsewhere.