Having arrived, and here for one month already, I am facing the challenge of realism: what am I here for?
Despite all the preparations, being here is always different from ‘thinking about being here’
I believe this is the same for wherever “here “ is
During the preparation months I did ponder and try to be ready to arrive, see my post Ready to arrive
As soon as I stepped out of the airport, as soon as I step out of my apartment every morning, as soon as I step out anywhere here I am confronted by “here”. I am bombarded with the sounds, sights and smells of here. It is very confronting. It is so very different from my home city of Sydney, Australia.
I have been here many times before during the past 11 years. Staying for varying durations: days weeks months and even years. At one stage we lived here for 2 years. So I had planned this visit well.
I believed I was ready to arrive again. Ready for the work, ready for the assignments, ready for the people – meeting new people and catch-up with friends. I was looking forward to the bombardment of “here” and in fact I thought I was ready for it all. Reality can be a shocking experience – in a good way.
Oh how different it is in reality. There has been so much change.
It is different because my view of the place and people is still based on the last time I was here.
Thought this experience I have realised two significant points for all travellers to be aware of.
These are two issues to face when travelling to visit places and people for the first time and especially with re-visiting.
Realism in the circle
The first is a very important lesson we were taught and experienced many years ago during training for an overseas assignment, a long term assignment. The principle applies generally when the absence is for more than a week or two, and seems to apply especially if the travel is for work and people are not following your holiday escapades.
Your circle of people will close as you leave. Either the gap you leave will be vacant and the circle closes-up, or the gap you leave maybe filled with someone else. This happens in your home place and it happens in places where you go and meet new people and make new friends.
Be prepared for your personal experiences of changing circles.
Realism on arrival
There is an old expression, “go with the flow” – which is to say ‘take it easy’ and don’t try to get the new situation to fit the model, the lifestyle, the attitudes, the ‘ways of daily life’ that you bring from elsewhere. I have friend here in Phnom Penh who says it like this, “it’s where we live”. This attitude helps put realism into situations and circumstances that are “different” from the way we are familiar with and ways that we are comfortable with.
Going with the flow means fitting-in with the local flow. At the same time we must bring our own person, integrity, ethics and morals and sense of self. It does not mean we lose ourself. Each of us must find how we can fit into the flow
Like the traffic here in Phnom Penh, it flows in a strange kind of way. There is a lot of manoeuvring, pushing-in, trying to squeeze through the gaps between trucks, cars, tuk tuks, buses, luxury vehicles, SUVs. It appears to be chaos to the uninitiated and new arrival, but there is a flow.
Living in the realism of the place you have just arrived is about finding your flow.