I went to Siem Reap for the first time in March 2018.
It was kinda cool and stressful for me. I casually rode my regular tuk tuk to a nearby town I've near been before. We literally waited for an hour to track down the right bus going to Siem Reap. The tuk tuk guy helped me bargain the bus price so I was able to get there with $5. It was stressful because the bus stopped way too much. Every time someone needed to use the bathroom or buy some snacks, they would stop. Once we got to Siem Reap, the bus wouldn't go into the city so I had to use a tuk tuk to get to the hostel. Thankfully, the guy knew exactly which hostel I was going to.
By the time I walked into the hostel, I was exhausted from the week, heat, lack of sleep, and bumpy and multiple rides. The One Stop Hostel staff warmly welcomed me and showed me to my room. I got there one night before my friends did so I reserved a bed in an all-female room. It was my first time staying in a hostel by myself too. The second I walk in, I met a very friendly roommate who's from Slovakia. We got along very well and talked for an hour before I headed out for dinner. She told me that we have another roommate who was from Australia.
When I got back from dinner, our Australian roommate greeted me eagerly and started asking me questions. She felt bad after realizing that she's been asking me questions nonstop as soon as I walked in. but I totally appreciated it because it gave me a sense of familiarity. I enjoy chatting about traveling and volunteer work, which I haven't been able to do as much these days in the village. Moments later, our Slovankian roommate came back and joined in on our conversation. We started talking around 6:30pm and continued til almost midnight. Before we went to sleep, I told my roommates that I would be in the city for the weekend and that they're welcome to join my group of friends. Our Slovakian roommate unfortunately had a bus to catch the next day so we parted our ways. However, our Australian roommate, Kat, said she'd be interested.
Once my friends arrived, we just hung out and chill in the morning and early afternoon. Kat joined us for the afternoons, evenings, and late nights. It was super fun and exciting to have Kat around. She got along with all my friends, and it didn't even feel like she was tagging along. It felt like she was already part of the group, so it was just so easy and nice to have her spend time with us. On our last night, we were having a group dinner, and it goes something like this (paraphrased, of course):
Kat: I loved hearing about your work!
Me: Yeah, I loved sharing too. I'm so glad you're so interested to hear about it. If only there was enough time to plan, I could have asked you to come visit my village.
Kat: Yeah, that's a shame.
Dallas: No, she totally has time to go to your village.
Me: *rethinks* OMG, yeah, she actually does! Kat, if you're done touring Siem Reap, do you want to come to my village with me tomorrow? You'd be coming back to Siem Reap alone but I'd help you with lodging and transport of course.
Kat: That would be awesome!
The next day, Kat literally woke up and bought the bus tickets. The entire process was so easy! We rode a tuk tuk, bus, and another tuk tuk to get to my village. I also went into my tour guide mode and randomly keeps showing and explaining things to Kat as we pass by different sceneries or stop at a couple of places.
Once we got to my village, I showed Kat my health center, high school, favorite Tuk Umpow (Sugar Cane Juice) place, and the rice fields near my home. We also went to eat some grilled pork sausage at my friend's house. Being able to show someone my village around and the work I do to someone is such a rare opportunity that I am also so appreciative of Kat's genuine interest too!
Later, my students came by and met Kat at my house too. They had a great conversation about Kat, Australia, and the kind of work Kat does back home. This was their first time seeing an Australian, and it was Kat's first time seeing rural Cambodia. Their excitement to see each other was sooooo apparent, and I felt so happy being able to be this bridge for them. Unfortunately, the meeting was cut short as the tuk tuk driver arrived to pick us up to take Kat back to a bigger town to sleep the night. Unfortunately, the guest houses there was fully booked so we tracked down a torry (public minivan) for her to ride to Kampong Cham city. She spent the night and the next morning there before heading back to Siem Reap.
It was such a whirlwind visit, but it was sooooo much fun! It feels as if I've known Kat for a long time even though we literally just met. My mind was so blown on how well receptive she is of everything I was suggesting for her. She not only went with the flow, she did it with a smile too! She's currently in Myanmar exploring the country in ways I haven't even done so myself even though I am Burmese.
I'm just still soooo touched by her visit, the way she treats everyone, and how we were able to get along so well! Even though our time together was brief, I can feel it in my heart that we will meet each other again in the future!
Until then... <3