I’m sitting here on the porch of a rural family homestay in Angk Ta Saom, Cambodia surrounded by mango trees, coconut palms, and lotus flowers. The chickens are leading their chicks through the property while the three dogs are basking in the afternoon sun. A symphony of birds add to the faint whisper of the traditional music being played in a field nearby. To the right of me are two family gravesites, one of which was erected for a member of the family killed during the Pol Pot regime of the 70’s.
Earlier today Audra and I took a scenic bike ride getting lost amidst the rice farms scattered with happy cows that had been left to graze after the rice had just been harvested. As we rode past houses, kids would shout so proudly “Hello!” and we would respond with huge smiles on our faces. We passed a school just as the kids were leaving and continued riding with the “rush hour” of kids (2 or 3 to a bike) riding home for lunch as they too smiled at us and proudly demonstrated their English prowess.
We returned home to a meal of rice (grown here), soup, stir fried kale, fried eggplant (again grown here), French fries, and pineapple. The home cooked food here is so much better than the restaurants we’ve experienced. Later today, we’ll be learning how to make organic yellow dye with onion peels There are several weavers employed by the homestay which will use the naturally-dyed cotton to make colorful scarves to sell in Phnom Penh.
I can’t help but be reminded of my first time to Central America living with a family in a rural mountain town of Honduras. Or even the following times doing service trips in northern Nicaragua. The tropical feel, the agricultural communities, the hospitality, and the happiness.
But I can’t forget the history lessons I’ve learned either.
Ever since I was little girl, I heard epic tales of my Dad swimming with whales in Australia or sitting in cockpits of planes sixty feet (AKA 20 meters) under the water. I received my Open Water certification at the earliest age that I could, thirteen years old.
Kevin was certified in a cold quarry in the middle of October (and experienced extreme vertigo) in order to prepare for diving on our honey moon. It was basically an ultimatum to marrying me, but nonetheless he now shares a similar enthusiasm for diving.
Audra and I just spent 5 months travelling through parts of Europe. We ate, drank, and learned a TON along the way. We even wrote about what we learned. But Thailand… a whole different magical beast. In our month so far, we’ve experienced a completely new culture, foods to die for, amazing animals, indescribably beautiful beaches and scenery, memories with friends old and new, and had learning experiences the whole way!
Audra and Kevin Arendt: Digital Nomads, World Travelers, and Midwestern Americans. To learn more, see About.