Yippee! I did it. It was tough and I realized how privileged I was in the process.
From May 2014 – Aug 2015 I was averaging a flight every 10 days.
At first it was fun. Hopping on UN flights to strange and exotic places. At one point I flew from rural Afghan to Istanbul to Toronto and then on to Trindad in less than 10 days. Insane. There were moments that it became overwhelming, especially when you find out turbulence wasn’t the reason your plane suddenly veered off course (actually it was because a drone almost hit the plane).
During this time I was only living out of one small backpack in a very small compound. I never really got to unpack the other one.
I started to worry about my carbon footprint. Sometimes there would only be a handful of us on a one hr flight. If I wanted to go to a grocery store one block from my house, I would need a convoy of two cars for a 15 min trek to buy peanut butter and cigarettes. In rural Afghan you burn wood to keep warm during winter. I could go on and on and on.
Then it all started to change. My weekly carbon footprint was becoming bigger and bigger.
So after a while of this, I decided enough was enough. And after some inspirational readings from http://www.outofedenwalk.com/ and a month walking the Camino. I made a big decision. Choose a lifestyle, job and a place to live where I could keep my feet on the ground for a while. This meant no flights for 6 months. Even if there was a $11 flight to PP (yes, they do exist) or a $20 flight on AirAsia to some place exotic. I would take the much longer night bus (which actually cost more) to PP or I just stayed at home. I even started to walk a lot more instead of biking.
It hasn’t been easy. It took a long time to slowly change my privileged lifestyle – but this fast was totally worth it. What I have loved is that I was able to completely slow down my way of life.
Lately I started to struggle with this notion of being called an expat. I came to this country as an NGO volunteer several years ago and now its home. Cambodia is home and I can see myself here for a while. Am I an expat? an immigrant? an inpat? an migrant worker? I found some articles but they tend to lean towards privilege vs reality. Our simple put – “rich vs poor” I wonder what we would call a Cambodian who moved to Canada?
Africans are immigrants. Arabs are immigrants. Asians are immigrants. However, Europeans are expats because they can’t be at the same level as other ethnicities. They are superior. Immigrants is a term set aside for ‘inferior races’.
A more current interpretation of the term “expat” has more to do with privilege. Expats are free to roam between countries and cultures, privileges not afforded to those considered immigrants or migrant workers.
“During my stay in Thailand I have undergone a transformation from starting out as a (short-term) expat to becoming an immigrant and then a permanent resident and I suppose the final destination would be citizen, but I don’t plan to change my nationality,” he wrote in an email. “When did the transition from expat to immigrant to resident happen? It is difficult to say since it is gradual, and it is more a state of mind than something physical.”
If you think about it, this slight difference is reflected in the narratives attached to each. Successful American immigrants such as Indian Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo or Ukranian Jan Koum, co-founder of WhatsApp, are heralded for “making it,” but they never fully shed the “immigrant” label or a mention of where they came from. With an Anglophone like, say, Rupert Murdoch of Australia or Tina Brown of Britain, their countries of provenance seem less relevant. In those cases it seems intention doesn’t as much matter as arriving from a former colonial superpower.
Or take an Arab Gulf country like the United Arab Emirates, where there are astaggering 7.8 million non-citizens out of a total population of 9.2 million. The vast majority of those foreigners are migrant workers building the shopping malls and luxury condos that make the country appealing for the small slice of affluent “expats.”
I witnessed something yesterday that I will never forget as long as I live. Maule Dhan Kulung spent six hours harvesting wild honey from hives that stretched five feet from end to end. The air was thick with bees and woodsmoke. He had no ropes save the homemade bamboo ladder that fell two hundred and fifty feet below, barely touching the ground. I did not know that humans were capable of this level of bravery and beauty. I'm still speechless. Such an honor to dangle in space with @renan_ozturk and @m_synnott and help document #thelasthoneyhunter #onassignment with @natgeo.
Its a tough job renovating a new house in Cambodia.
Now imagine renovating an abandoned 1940’s colonial shophouse with the following fun challenges:
No electrical – not even a socket in sight.
No running water – the former owners just collected rain water for the toilets, cooking etc.
No drainage to the city – just one massive septic tank but all the rain water was seeping in the foundation
No internal drainage – no modern pipes just an archaic 1940’s french drain around the exterior courtyard. This lead out to the back of the house. Unfortunately most of the neighbouring properties had houses built over the drains.
Damaged main beam in my bedroom– this wasn’t hard to repair but it initially worried the crap out of me.
Holes! Holes! and Holes! – those old tile roofs do break over time and their were leaks everywhere which just sucked on the one day it rained during construction.
Only 2 Doors and 2 Windows – Yup it only came with 2 doors and windows! Those we are the front. Who would have known that door prices can range from $80 – $300 USD for a single wooden door!
I will let the pics say the rest.
An abandoned 1940’s house close to river but far away enough from the shenanigans of Siem Reap. Its a gem and a rare fine in Siem Reap. There are only a handful left in the entire neighbourhood.
I moved in 2 months after I took possession. I am still renovating bits by bits but the major construction is complete. I am just super happy that after 2 years of being on the move I finally have a house and a bed to call my own for a long long time.
Will write another post – final post renovation. Excited to share the final results and share lessons learnt.
Stuck myself on an island for Khmer New Years with some great books and found these gems that I bought back to the mainland.
The Spirituality of Pilgrimages
“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart. And try to love the question themselves”
Rainer Maria Rilke
“To ignore evil is to become an accomplice to it”
Martin Luther King Jr.
“My heart is afraid that it will have to suffer,” the boy told the alchemist one night as they looked up at the moonless sky.
“Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second’s encounter with God and with eternity.”
Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls
“For an American, though, Australia seems pretty familiar: same wide streets, same office towers. It’s Canada in a thong, or that’s the initial impression.”
The Famished Road
“You are a mischievous one. You will cause no end of trouble. You have to travel many roads before you find the river of your destiny. This life of yours will be full of riddles. You will be protected and you will never be alone.”
Last year the Pope suggested I give up this:
Pope Francis’ Guide to Lent: What You Should Give Up This Year
I ended finishing Lent in Dubai which literally was the weirdest place on the planet to end 40 days of fasting on the indifference towards others.
This year I started lent halfway through and gave up beer, beef and botox. Giving up beer in hot season was challenging but I really felt like I flaked out and didn’t mentally push myself.
I wonder what will happen next year.