We recently featured a post on things to pack when you move abroad, and it made me think about things I miss from home. I’ve been teaching in Siem Reap, Cambodia for 18 months, and there are some things I’m extremely glad I brought, some things I needn’t have, and some things that are physically impossible to bring with you.
To start with the first category…
A pair of good work shoes. Shoes are available in Siem Reap in Western sizes, but it depends very much on what the market has in stock at the time. Flip flops are easy to come by, but something that looks suitable in class takes a lot more searching. Bringing a good pair of classroom-ready shoes was a great idea!
Undies. Lots. It’s extremely difficult to find any in the shops that are larger than elf-size. Nearest good undies shop: Bangkok. Moral: bring some.
A Kindle. The bookshops in Cambodia sell a lot of stationery, toys and miscellaneous sports items, but not an awful lot of books. An e-reader is essential if you want to keep up to date with your favourite author, plus you can travel light when you take a short trip somewhere.
Toiletries. No need to go overboard and bring lots of shampoo, deodorant, razors, sanitary supplies, etc. There are lots of stores and supermarkets that sell all these items. They may not be the brands you’re used to, but they will do the job.
Small electricals. No need to cram your hairdryer into your suitcase. Small electrical products are easy to come by, and you won’t need to pack endless chargers and adaptors. Same goes for electric toothbrushes, shavers and so on.
Running shoes. I brought my running shoes with the best intentions of continuing my keen running habit. Unfortunately, I failed to take into account that there’s nowhere especially nice to run – up and down the river is the best bet, and some people do, but the pavement is in bad repair – and the weather is prohibitively hot unless you go at the crack of dawn. And despite my best intentions, I just cannot get up at 5:30am when I don’t have to. Result: Vibrams gathering dust. Alternative hobby: workout videos from YouTube, no shoes required.
Kiss it goodbye…
Long evenings. I love the long evenings of Northern Europe! The sun unceremoniously pops up or down every 12 hours in the tropics, with not much variation in the year. There’s nothing quite like those looooong days and lazy British barbecues.
Pavements. Walking anywhere is annoying in South-East Asia because the pavements are sporadic and you’re competing for space with bicycles, cars and tuk tuks. Not to mention being continuously exhorted to get in said tuk tuks.
Trains. Cambodia has no train routes to speak of. There’s something really nice about settling down in a window seat (Gregg’s pasty in hand) for a nice comfortable train ride, which you just cannot replicate in a sweaty bus on a bumpy road. I may be alone on this one, but I miss trains!