Things have not exactly gone smoothly since arriving in Phnom Penh two weeks ago. On only my second day of work, I went home sick with a stomach bug from some uncooked vegetables at a suspicious vegetarian restaurant (here, one has to be cautious of uncooked vegetables given the kind of fertilizer often used). That Saturday I spent the day walking around Phnom Penh, which so far is always 97-100 degrees, and became severely dehydrated. The dizziness, disorientation, weakness, vomiting, and difficulty remaining conscious resulted in an expensive and completely ineffective visit to one of the few medical clinics here for which they did not give me an IV, but instead wanted to pump me full of various nausea and dizziness medications to treat my symptoms (to which I said no). Then all of last week I had a sore throat and congestion.
Yet, on Saturday I was feeling really comfortable living in Phnom Penh. I had developed a routine and was familiar with the area. The staff at the guesthouse was very friendly; they offered me good advice, Khmer lessons, and even a mango. I had found a trustworthy tuk-tuk driver to take me to and from work each day.
On Saturday evening, I upended it all. My William & Mary colleague and I finally found an apartment, so we moved out of the guesthouse and into a new neighborhood. Within hours, I began regretting that decision. The apartment is furnished and provides linens, and I made the mistake of assuming they would be clean. To my dismay, they were not. When I pulled back the comforter to go to sleep on Saturday night, all manner of stains speckled the sheets. Fortunately we have a washing machine. Unfortunately the landlords had moved it to the kitchen where it had no water or drainage access. Assuming the washing machine was meant to be there, we had no clue what to do with it. On my way to see my landlord, I bumped into my next-door neighbor who mercifully helped us with the washer and gave me sheets to use for the night while I washed my own.
Yesterday morning, it seemed as if things would improve. We shopped for supplies at the grocery store (though we forgot and/or could not carry many of them), and found the area of the city where bicycles are sold in plenty. By biking to work everyday, we could save a significant amount of money, but perhaps I should have realized that my very dusty bicycling skills coupled with the chaos of the Phnom Penh streets would not lead to a happy result. On my way to refill the minutes in my cell phone, a tuk-tuk driver got too close and knocked me over. Today, I am covered in bruises and quite sore. After two weeks of illness and missteps, I am very much hoping that things will start looking up.