11 years in Cambodia

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I rarely write personal posts, but will make an exception this time since yesterday was the day I came to stay and marks 11 years in Cambodia. I thought I was going to stay just a few years, but things turned out differently and I’m still quite happy here. I happened to have arrived on the day after my birthday and Sopheak threw a party for me at the hotel where we were staying. Last year I was going to have a party, too, but ended up going to Sonya Kill Memorial Hospital in Kampot to have my appendix taken out. I made up for it this year with a lovely party on the beach.

Cambodian guests at my beach birthday party

It was my 70th birthday, so I came here the day after my 59th birthday. I was a lot fitter then, but had to spend a few years adapting to life in Cambodia. It seems normal now and I can’t imagine moving back to Australia. I have a family here and a good life. In Australia every day would be a struggle because it is so expensive there. Here I spend about US$3.00 to $6.00 a week on petrol for my motorbike and my dinners cost around $3.00 or if I go to a fancy restaurant, they might cost up to $6.00. In Australia, I would probably have to take public transportation and that would cost more than my weekly petrol budget for just one trip.

The one thing I’m a little disappointed by here is the growth of Sihanoukville. Apartments, high rises and casinos are springing up everywhere: mostly Chinese investments. It wasn’t that way just a couple of years ago, but the growth is phenomenal now. That’s why we’re moving to a more rural location on the fringes of Klang Leu. It takes about 15 minutes to get to the road that takes us to our land and another 10 or 15 minutes to get to the land on a fairly decent dirt road. The land overlooks a lake and you can only see green hills in the distance.

Sunset at my beach birthday party

I guess I’m looking back on 11 years in Cambodia. It hasn’t always been easy, but it’s always been enjoyable. That may seem like a paradoxical statement, but it’s true. We’ve had our hiccoughs, but we’ve always pulled through and life doesn’t always go smoothly anywhere you live. That’s true whether you’re rich or poor. I know, everyone in the west thinks being rich will solve all your problems, but I’ve seen too many photos of rich men who look unhappy to believe that. In my opinion, happiness is a state of mind, not a matter of wealth versus poverty. I’ve seen well-off retirees here who always look miserable. I’m still working, but I like my work as a freelance writer and it gives me something to do.

A rare selfie with kids at my birthday party

Anyway, I don’t plan on leaving here any time soon. It will take some adapting to on our new land, but I’ve lived in rural areas before and liked it. I was young then and got bored and moved to San Francisco and then Australia, where I rediscovered surfing. When things were good in Australia our little beach town was like heaven to me. At my age, I’d have trouble finding a job in Australia and the pension they offer would barely cover my basic expenses. Here my income allows me to do almost anything I want. I’m happy here and don’t intend to go anywhere else. Now that I’m older, I’m fairly content doing whatever comes up or doing nothing at all. Turning 70 has its perks.