One thing that I have experienced since being here that caught me a bit off guard was during one of my morning runs. (I ticked that one off the list the first morning I was home. I totally didn't care that I didn't get home until 3am. I got up and ran in the morning!) I was out running one morning around 7:30, and as I was running through town, I kept thinking how strange it was that no one was outside. I mean no one. I was out running for over an hour, and only a handful of cars passed me (I'm from a really small town, folks) and didn't see a single person outside in their yard. It wasn't super early. So, for nearly an hour I pondered where everyone was.
Then, it hit me.
I remembered. People don't spend their lives outside here. People do not get up in the morning have their breakfast and then sit on their front lawn enjoying the cool of the morning. People don't get their haircuts or buy eggs on the streets. People don't swing their children in hammocks to take naps on the front porch. Instead, people stay inside.
You see, in Cambodia everyone is always outside. Between 5 and 6 every morning, people emerge from their homes. They set up plastic chairs in front of their gate, bring their breakfast outside, hop on a bike to go down the street a block to get a haircut, drive their moto to the market to pick up some fresh meat for the day, and sit down to chat with all of the neighbors as if something exciting has happened in the 8 hours that they were sleeping.
The community and social environment in which the Khmer people live is beautiful. And, I love it! (Well, except for when the wedding music starts at 5:30am) I think it is amazing and encouraging how friendly Khmer people are, how everything is about community, how things are shared, how conversations are struck up between complete strangers while sitting at a corner restaurant or even a stoplight. I love how even those who are privileged enough to have a television practically move it as far as they can out of their house, so they can be nearer to the excitement on the street. I love that people and relationships take precedence over stuff and selfishness.
I had prepared myself to face a lot of things. I had anticipated the difficulty of choosing toilet paper and the huge shelves filled with cereal. I expected to miss the wind in my face when riding on the back of a motorbike. But, I had not considered how much I would miss buying a diet coke from neighbor's corner store or being asked by another neighbor's daughter what my name was every day while she rode her bike back and forth between our gates. I did not realize how normal it had become to see men getting their haircut on the street or the familiar red and yellow tent with pink and yellow ribbons indicating that a wedding would be taking place in the middle of the street that day.
It makes me wonder who really has things figured out...