It has already been one week since I was welcomed by some of the wonderful WR Cambodia staff in the Phnom Penh airport. Although I have visited Cambodia before, I have never flown directly into the country (I entered Cambodia by bus at the Thai border in January). This time, my daytime flight from Hong Kong to Phnom Penh allowed me to see the city from a bird’s eye view. Having spent the last seven weeks working for another organization in Hong Kong, I was used to a very different urban geography of towering skyscrapers coexisting with the dense green tapestry of the mountains and, of course, the abundance of bright, blue ocean views. The rainy season in Cambodia has caused the rivers to turn a muddy red and only a handful of skyscrapers stand out amongst the colorful rooftops. After years of traveling, I think this might be my first true culture shock experience.
Instead of the numbing effect that can occur from culture shock between one’s own culture and a new culture, this type of culture shock between two unfamiliar cultures has allowed me to see both cities through new eyes and heightened senses. Life in Phnom Penh is organic, and commutes under the sun by moto and bicycle are refreshing after two months of underground metro travel. I live in a home with a host family and they have blessed me with home cooked meals and afternoon trips around the city on the weekends. I am excited to begin my Khmer language class this afternoon, which will last for two weeks. Not only will language skills provide me with more independence, but I will also be able to strengthen my relationships with the staff and my host family and gain deeper insight into Cambodian culture.
One of my favorite things about the office is that each day is started with devotions and worship. On Friday morning, we discussed the power of trust in God and His timing, especially relating to the story of Esther (Esther chapters 3 and 4). God works in remarkable ways, and He continues to bless me with His faithfulness and providence during these first days in Cambodia.