Heading into the last week of my internship, my mom (who has never left the country) arrived in Phnom Penh. Since I only had a week after my internship to travel in Southeast Asia, we immediately left the city for a weekend trip before returning to Phnom Penh to work. I took her to Kep, a low-key expat weekend getaway that will likely be one of my favorite places for life.
Kep is a small town spread out along a small stretch of coast on the Gulf of Thailand. Caught between the sea and a handful of mountains, the town itself is the definition of picturesque. Famous for its crabs and crab market, Kep has amazing food. We stayed in a bungalow, and except for meals, we didn’t venture far from the pool. Backed right up to a mountain, and with a view of the gulf in the distance, Kep was the perfect place to get away from the city and for my mom to be introduced to Cambodia.
Last week of work
This past week was my last and eleventh week of work at ODC. I spent the first few days finalizing details for my web pages, ensuring that my capitalization, punctuation, and data visualizations adhered to the organization’s style guide. At night I took my mom to my favorite restaurants, most of which were conveniently located near our guesthouse (an intentional choice). As a result, we didn’t venture far Street 308, a small street packed with amazing restaurants and a handful of intimate bars.
On Thursday ODC invited a few Cambodian lawyers to a brown bag lunch to discuss my work and to make suggestions and edits. It was the first time I received feedback from local lawyers, and the discussion was fascinating. There are nuances to land issues in Cambodia that research just cannot capture; their experiences offered new and intriguing perspectives. Friday I spent the day integrating their edits into my pages, but took a break at lunch to buy the office the best cupcakes I’ve ever eaten (it’s in the icing) and that were a huge part of my weekly routine while living in Phnom Penh. Apparently I shouldn’t have bought the cupcakes, because they were preparing to buy me a cake. The office gave me a lovely send-off, complete with an ODC polo, Apsara statute, and a thank you card that nearly made me cry.
Leaving the office was incredibly sad, but I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to work for such an amazing organization. The work I was assigned was far more substantive than any other internship I’ve ever had; they treated me as they did any other employee, and for that I am grateful.
Today is my last day in Cambodia. On Friday after work, my mom and I took a night bus to Siem Reap, the site of Angkor Wat, to take in the beauty that Cambodia is best-known for. With only two days in Siem Reap, we had to maximize our time (I have to head back to the U.S. soon to start the Public Policy Program). After a quick nap following our 5:00 am arrival, we went to Angkor Thom, Ta Phrom, and Banteay Kdei. Ta Phrom in particular was an incredible site. The temple is not as well-preserved as the others; many of the galleries have collapsed and stones are piled throughout the temple. Enormous trees grow among the stones and on top of the temples themselves. As beautiful as Ta Phrom is, Angkor Wat is infinitely more remarkable. The sheer size alone would be enough to impress, but the detailed carvings on nearly every stone, faded after 900 years, are mesmerizing. As quickly as we visited the other major temples, we moved much more slowly through Angkor Wat, making sure to see the entire structure and taking in every detail.
Tomorrow I fly to Thailand, and I wish now that I wasn’t. It didn’t happen right away, but I fell completely in love with Cambodia. The culture, food and people are amazing. For as much as I dislike cities, I really enjoyed living in Phnom Penh. With it’s early morning bustle, small streets, easy transportation and infinite food choices, Phnom Penh is a surprisingly comfortable and wonderful city to live in. I cannot wait to come back.