Cambodian Craftiness

The Angkor Handicraft Festival came to town a few weeks ago, so being obsessed with all things sweet, handmade and Etsy-esque, I of course went, twice. Cambodia has some amazing handicrafts organisations, many of whom work with local people, empowering them to learn a craft and make a sustainable living for themselves, while also re-introducing traditional techniques and art forms. Sometimes living in Cambodia, where everything is so cheap, you forget the amount of work that goes into each and every thing we buy – whether it’s a sandwich or a dress, someone had to sow the seeds, reap the crops, process them into materials and put the product together. I don’t often think about that, so it was nice to be reminded and see some of these processes in action.

Sorry for the delay in sticking these up, my internet died, then my computer died, then my internet died again.

Beautiful stonework

I think this was made of bronze

I love how the dried rice and lotus as used for display

Clay tea-light holders

I don't really know what this is for, but I like it

Coconut beads

Local textiles

A Mekong Quilts mobile

Leaf art

And this little piggy...

Lacquered elephants from Thean's House

Desk duck

A whale of a time

Crafty keyrings

I love these Goel Communuty teddies

Is it a bear or is it a cat?

The owl and the octopus...

Paper-shredder purses

A woman from Grace Gecko making a purse from water hyacinth reeds

The finished product

Skinny silk worms

Fatter silk worms

Boiling silk worms

And finally some silk voila

Some of the organisations included in the pics:
Artisans Association of Cambodia
Mekong Quilts
Il Nodo
Grace Gecko
Theam’s House
Artisan’s d’Angkor
Senteurs d’Angkor


An Irish Christmas and a Cambo New Year

How do I love three? Ireland v Cambodia

So we’ve been back in Siem Reap for about ten days. It was odd coming back because it wasn’t odd. Like arriving back in Dublin in December, it felt like we’d never left, like we were coming home. I instantly went back to enjoying sunshine, eating curry and cycling my bike as swiftly as I snapped back to working layers, eating cheese and driving on the left in Ireland.

At the moment Marko and I are pondering our next plan of attack, deciding where the adventure will take us next. I’m pushing for Burkina Faso, he’s egging-on Boston, but we both have a bit of a draw to London too. As unexotic as it seems after a year in South East Asia, I think it would be nice to be closer to home for a while, somewhere I can speak the language. At the same time it’s one of the most exciting cities in the world and there could be amazing career prospects.

Luckily we don’t have to make a decision just yet (and all suggestions are welcome) but in the mean time here and the pros and pros (I’m not a fan of cons) of life in Ireland versus live in the Kingdom…

Irish Pros
1. I can understand (almost) everyone when they speak.
2. I can get (almost) everyone’s sense of humour.
3. You don’t have to shake out the toilet roll every time you use it, for fear of what might bite you in the rear end if you don’t.
4. Milk tastes like milk.
5. Cheese.
6. Ovens. And their ability to melt above cheese and bake cake.
7. Superquinn sausages.
8. Tayto and Cadburys (I’m sensing a food theme emerge).
9. Penneys and other stores where the adults clothes don’t come in children’s sizes.
10. The radio.
11. High heels.
12. Nights out – they’re just not the same without the aforementioned heels.
13. No mossie bites.
14. The utter lack of things crawling on me.
15. The utter lack of paranoia about even scarier things that could crawl on me.
16. Wine abundance – you can get it here, but the beer is so cheap, and so are we.
17. Duvets.
18. Being able to just call people up for a chat without fear of it being 3am.
19. Taking deep breaths of air – particularly of the sea or mountain variety.
20. Scarves, cardigans, tights, jackets – I’m a bit fan of loading up on layers.
21. Sandwiches (back to food).
22. Make-up and the ability to wear it without looking like a waxwork that stood too close to a bonfire.
23. Calling to our parents when we’re too broke to cook dinner.
24. Long evenings that stay bright ’til 11.
25. Being able to see my family and best friends whenever I want to.

Cambo Pros
1. I have a constant reminder of what the sun looks like.
2. Even when it rains, you know you’ll be dry again in minutes.
3. Monks. Still a novelty every time I see one.
4. Children. Kids in Cambodia scream hello when you pass. Kids in Ireland scream abuse.
5. The beer is really good, and only costs 50c.
6. The cocktails are really good and only cost $2.50
7. The curry is really good and only costs $3.00
8. Everything is really cheap.
9. Getting to wear flip flops every day.
10. Drinking sugarcane juice from a bag.
11. We have a swimming pool. And it’s hot enough to use it.
12. We can go out for dinner whenever we want.
13. We live ten minutes away from some of the most incredible temples in the world. (And ten minutes away from monkeys.)
14. Everybody smiles and nobody talks about the recession.
15. I can get mani-pedis and massages for less than a tenner. Not those kind of massages.
16. It feels like we’re on holiday most of the time.
17. We get to meet awesome people and make incredible friends.
18. We are constantly amused by Asian oddities. (Today our supermarket cashier made us enter a lucky dip. We won a bag of crisps. )
19. I have no idea what’s in fashion at the moment, and I love it.
20. I haven’t applied fake tan in seven months.
21. I take Friday afternoons off, because I can.
22. Happy hour is legal.
23. Happy hour lasts all day.
24. I cycle almost everywhere and there’s no wrong side of the road.
24. I get to have “holy crap” moments. Every time I realise I live in Cambodia.

P.S. My blog has just reached 2000 views (can I get a woop woop?). I know at least 1990 of them are my parents, but for the other ten you you thanks for reading. I know I’ve been patchy with the upkeep and shady with the writing, but I’m getting the hang of it now so the only way is up. Right?

Pic from thebigharumph on Etsy.

Belated Snapshots

Living abroad, it is of course the people you miss first. But after that the next big thing is all the little things…the crunch of toast only Brennan’s bread can provide, the smell of the coffee percolator around Christmas, the taste of Superquinn cocktail sausages that no one else on the planet has managed to master, the way my Dad, so pedantically, hangs the decorations just so.

I thought I’d be in Asia for Christmas, so when we made a last minute dash home, I decided to wreck my parents’ heads and capture every little detail in case I’m away next year. Here are some of pictures I took from around the house on Christmas morning…

The cards…

The table…

The presents…

The Cambo elements…

The decorations…

This last one is pretty special, it was made by my friends Niall and Trish in Japan

Home (bitter)Sweet Home

So it’s been six weeks since I’ve blogged.
Sorry about that. (New Year’s Resolution #52: Be a better blogger.)

In that time I’ve been back to Ireland for a too-brief stint. Also in that time I entered and won an Expat Advisory emigrant experience writing competition, the winnings of which will go straight into the pot for the trip.

It’s been amazing to be back and I’ll go into more reflections on my sabbatical in the motherland soon. But in the meantime, here’s the piece which also doubles up as my explanation for the impromptu journey home…

Ten Thousand Kilometers

Last week my mother told me she has cancer. She lives 10,000 kilometres away. On Tuesday my mother was poked, prodded, scanned and operated on. She lives 10,000 kilometres away. Yesterday my mother told me they don’t think they got it all. She lives 10,000 kilometres away.

I’m new to this expat lifestyle. I’m only six months on the job. And I was finally getting good at it. From initial months of homesickness, house-hunting, job searching, friend making, acclimatising – then acclimatising again once the rain went away – I had finally found my stride. “Check me out, I live in Cambodia. Those 10k km? They ain’t got nothing on me.”

I’m a Skype pro, a Facebook fiend, a Twitter addict and a resident on Gchat. I’ve got that whole trans-continental-communication thing down. I don’t let time difference get in the way (I’ll happily wake you up at 6am) I’ve worked out the most flattering web cam lighting (on the sun-soaked balcony for extra effect) and I end up telling my family the local news I’m so abreast of it (“Oh you didn’t hear who’s getting married?”).

But this past week, simultaneously the longest and the shortest in my life, with all its new emotions, revelations, mini victories and massive defeats, has brought it all home how far away from it I really am. Those ten thousand kilometres, may as well be a million for all the good I can do so far away.

“Sure you’d only be sitting here looking at me” my mam says when I apologise for my, in hindsight, ill-timed move – though that’s probably more of a reference to my poor Dad, who I can imagine has spent much of the last week doing just that; sitting, and looking at her. But that’s what you do on such occasions. Just be there. Make endless cups of tea (or is that just Ireland?), make small talk about the weather (just in Ireland again perhaps?) all the while avoiding, never mentioning, completely shoving under the carpet the gravity of what’s really happening (okay, that one’s definitely just in Ireland, right?).

I can’t make the tea over Skype, but I can chit chat about the weather and waffle on about everything but what really matters. But that point that eventually comes, the bit where the wall collapses, when the sadness, the anxiety and the sheer fear comes spilling out, that’s the part that Skype can’t really transmit. No one wants to be a blubbery face on a computer screen. Staring at another blubbery face 10,000 kilometers away.

So instead, the nattering about nothing continues. Until we make our excuses, say our goodbyes, press the little red phone at the bottom of the screen, hear that funny hang-up sound the computer makes and then, once we’re sure the line has dropped, once we’re sure there’s no need to hold it together for a second longer, we break down in tears. Simultaneously, equally, but 10,000 kilometres away.

My mother doesn’t say I love you. It’s not that she doesn’t think it – or at least I hope not – it’s just that gushing emotions aren’t really her style. “It’s a bit American” she reckons, akin to seeing a therapist, having a boob job, or getting divorced. She’s a strong Irish woman, and saying such things is maybe frivolous and unnecessary.

My mother has said I love you at least a dozen times this week. She doesn’t realise, this is utterly disconcerting to me. It shows me she’s petrified, and it makes me petrified too. It shows me she’s sad, and it makes me sad too. And it shows me, she’s not just my mam, she’s a human too. And this is the most heart-breaking, gut-wrenching part of all.

Because all I want to do is give my mother a hug. But she lives 10,000 kilometres away.

Operation Take-Better-Pictures

As I’ve mentioned, I’m in the (rather slow) process of teaching myself photography. I really couldn’t be in a better place for it, what with all the saffron-clad monks, magenta flowers, emerald paddy fields and eh, white margaritas. Cambodia is indeed a feast for senses, and a feast for my shiny Canon SLR too.

So with the fact that I haven’t been snapping very purposefully – too many pictures of me drinking those margaritas – and the knowledge that I was spending too much time clicking on the Portrait and Landscape settings rather than the manual one, I figured I should get back on track with my self-education.

I did take a photography module in college, but wasn’t a big fan of the lecturer and seeing as the class was on a Wednesday morning (and Tuesday nights we’re particularly boozey in the SU bar) I pretty much did the bare minimum to get my grade. So this time I’ve been taking my cues from websites and my favourite photographers.

I’m lucky enough to include many mighty talented snappers among my friends (see Gary and Spence). One of my all-time favourite photographers just happens to be a lady I worked with at STELLAR HQ, Nathalie Marquez Courtney. In fact, we’re actually kind-of-but-not-really related.

Nathalie’s got a similar passion as me for the cuter things in life; buttons, ribbons, teapots, cupcakes, stationary, basically anything you might find on Etsy.

Her pictures are incredibly candid, always flooded with light, she can make a beer can look pretty and has blurring down to a fine art. So do I but that’s mainly due to my inability to hold the camera still.

Two themes she’s particularly awesome at shooting just happen to be a pair of my favourite things, food and travel. Whether it’s a taco or a building, she manages to make you want to swallow it whole. But what I love most about her style is how intricate her shots are, she only captures a tiny part of the picture, but in doing so, manages to show so much more detail.

So with this in mind, I set myself a little photo project. I want to stop snapping blindly like a tourist and start shooting the minutiae of life here. Capture the pretty features and gorgeous moments. So when I visited Wat Phnom in Phnom Penh two weeks ago, I figured it was the perfect place to start.

A predominantly Chinese-style Buddhist temple, it’s loaded with little details. From the man selling the birds outside – you pay to set one free but rumour has it, they’re trained to come back again – to the bundles of incense clustered everywhere and the tacky but-in-a-good-way adornments on the shrines; there’s plenty of photo-opps.

So here are some of my for-beginners pictures à la Nathalie, let me know what you think…

Before Sunset*

So we’ve been lucky enough to be having some incredible sunsets lately (and one sunrise – I don’t usually see that time of the morning). I’m not sure if it’s our proximity to the equator (there’s no 4pm to 11pm nightfall extremes here), the time of year aka “Winter”, or the fact that it’s been dry for the first time since we arrived in Asia, but dusk at the moment is a rather spectacular affair.

It’s only now that I realise why Asian sunsets are so renowned and why many bars, restaurants and hotels here market their sunset status. Our tribal hut in Kampot boasted two balconies (for sunset and sunrise) while the rooftop and balcony bars of Phnom Penh’s buzzing Sisowath Quay are crammed by 5.30pm with hoards of tourists hoping to catch the closing of the day. (The Quay actually faces East though, so perhaps they should market it as a moonrise location instead.)

While I could get all poetic about the caliber of Cambodian sunsets, no one wants that. Plus, with all the ramblings about amber hues and autumn skies there are in the world, words never quite seem to capture the sense of calm you get from watching a burning ball of orange turn the sky all manner of shades from cerise pink to pale lilac before darkness descends. (Okay, so that was a pretty transparent attempt at wordyness.)

Anywho, throughout all this loveliness, we’ve been making at stab at snapping the sky in all its glory. Maybe these pictures will do the Great Cambodian Sunset even a shred justice…

Here I am, taking in the sunset from Natalie's Siem Reap balcony

I think this sky looks like heaven. Well, what heaven looks like when someone paints heaven. Does that make sense?

This picture is Marko's handywork from aboard a boat on the Tonle Sap

Sunset over a paddy field in Kampot

Before sunrise*...

Nearly there...

Here comes the sun (do do do do)

The view from bed in our Kampot tribal hut

Oh dear, I very nearly forgot these ones. Sunrise from inside Angkor Wat. Absolutely magic.

Despite promising no poetry, seeing as we’re in “The Orient”, I’ll leave you with a Haiku I stumbled across:
Asian Sunset by Sonny (parents with a sense of humour) Rainshine

Pollen from saffron
blossoms and pink silktree blooms
tinge the western sky.

Eh...My attempt at being arty. Along with the Haiku of course.

* P.S. Anyone else love those films? I don’t know if I prefer Before Sunset or Before Sunrise more. Just me then? Okay.

This Little Piggy Went To The Market

Bad news: I’m a pants blogger. Good news; it’s because I am getting lots of paid work, so unfortunately the blog has had to take a back seat for a while. As I grow steadily better at the ‘ol time management though, I’ll hopefully master doing both.

In the meantime, here’s a picture post with some snaps from Psar Leur, I can’t remember what the name means but something like “main market”. It’s the biggest market in Siem Reap and sells absolutely everything from bread and vegetables to gold and fabric or shampoo and toys. It’s ma-hoo-sive. I absolutely love going to the markets here because despite the smell (just avoid the meat section) it’s the best place to really soak in Cambodia. Living in a nice apartment, online all day, mostly eating and drinking in places surrounded by other Westerners, it’s easy to forget where you are.

My favourite moments here are the ones where I look up and think, “Jesus, I’m in frickin Cambodia.”

Narrow walkway at the back of Psar Leur

Baby mandarins, absolutely gorgeous and about 75c for half a kilo (and that's the "barang" (Westerner) price)

"Fresh" has a whole new meaning; these chickens are tied down but still alive

...And here's some they made earlier

This is how a tin of Heinz looks in Cambodia

Locally made baskets

Swapping some English for Khmer with a pair of lovely gents from a fabric stall

My button obsession had a bit of a meltdown with this one

Beads; Cambodians love a bit of bling

I think these are bird feeders, lots of Khmer houses have them hanging up outside

Mushrooms, lentils, and what looks like jerky

This place has everything

The Khmer version of a butcher's shop

Live crabs

This slippery fish made a last leap for freedom. Alas, he was swiftly caught again and chucked back into a bucket with his pals

Fish laid out in the sun to dry

Piles of rice; the price of which has soared since recent flooding

Baby bananas, you can't seem to get the full sized variety here

Pumpkins; smooth and orange is out, green and wrinkled is in

The lovely stall I got scammed at - somehow paid a dollar for a carrot and an onion

And all that is just outside, here's what the inside of the massive building looks like

So comfy and only a dollar a pop...really have to work out a way of sending some to Ireland

Carnivorous Feast *veggies look away now

The other week I ate five different meats for dinner. Oddly the chicken was a bit gross.

After months of passing them in every second tourist restaurant in town, we figured we’d try out the traditional Khmer Degustation Barbecue. A metal steam plate is placed over hot coals in the center of the table, there is stock around the sides in which you cook noodles and vegetables, while the meat is cooked on a raised part in the centre.

It all starts with a hole in the table

Pork fat in the middle - gross but delish

We choose to dine at the aptly named Cambodian BBQ on The Alley. It’s a bit swankier than the other barbecue joints, but the food always smells good as you pass, and it’s always pretty busy which tends to be a good sign, even in a tourist town like Siem Reap.

For about $15 we chose five meats and got all we could eat of the noodles, steamed rice and vegetables. We went for snake, crocodile, ostrich and then beef and chicken -just in case the rest didn’t go down so well. There was also the option of goat, frog, pork, prawns and squid – being so far from the sea though, we tend to stay away from seafood around town (especially the generic “river fish”, if you saw the colour of the river, you’d know what I mean; kind of like the Liffey minus the trolleys).

All-you-can-eat crunchy veg

Dipping sauces on the side

Accompaniments boiling in the broth

A waiter comes over first to help you get started. He chucks the noodles and vegetables to cook in the stock then asked us which meat we’d like to try first. We opted for the croc. Though giving it was flooding and there were lots of rumours of crocodiles escaping from the many farms around town, I was a little worried that this was the definition of bad karma. But hey, you have to try these things at least once, even if it does get you comeuppance-attacked on the way home.

He dutifully dipped each piece in some egg-yolk and left it to sizzle over the coals.

The crocodile before I chowed down

The crocodile was really tasty, a pink meat it had a bit of a bacon hue (though that might be attributed to the mound of pork fat it was cooking in) it was tender, not gamey-tasting at all, definitely something I’d try again.

We went for the chicken next, just to break things up, unfortunately it wasn’t the best part of the bird – but we’ll put that down to more elaborate fare being the restaurant’s specialty.

Next up was the Ostrich. Cambodia doesn’t strike me as an Ostrich-suitable habitat though, so I’m not sure how “native” this one was. Nonetheless, it was delicious, I think my favourite of the night; I was expecting something like turkey, but the red meat is like a really nicely marinaded piece of fillet beef, tender, light, but packed with flavour.

I didn't know birds could have red meat

We decided we’d finish with the beef, just in case the snake was awful and we needed to get the taste out of our mouths. But in fact it wasn’t so awful. The closest thing I can pair it to is a chewy pork chop. Though by the time we’d reached our fourth and fifth meats, we were on our own. The waiter had abandoned us, and given we’d never cooked snake before, it may have been overdone. Some parts were quite tasty, others too elasticated to eat. Perhaps snake is like squid, it needs to be cooked just right or the texture and taste are ruined?

This was the one that got to me the most though, the one I could actually picture as a living creature, slithering about. Picturing my dinner in a field is something I, as a guilty meat-eater, try exceedingly hard not to do. Lamb anyone?

Snake...looks good enough to eat

All in all it was a pretty awesome dinner. While it was pricey by local standards I loved the novelty of watching it cook and I’m sure we’ll head back if we have visitors throughout the year. I also think those kind of meals are great for helping you digest, as there’s a gap between each “course”.

For me trying new food, as much as I enjoy expanding my palate, is more about the bragging rights than anything else. I can now scratch snake, ostrich, crocodile and beetle* off the bucket list. Next up tarantula, and by the end of the year, I might have been ballsy enough to sample one of the fertilised duck eggs they sell all over town.

More off my culinary bucket list

Can you spot the fried intestine with ants? Maybe some day...

*I ate one of these suckers at the Baray a couple of months ago, feel itchy just thinking about it, but it was actually pretty good.

One Cambodian dish I won’t be trying is dog. I know it’s an animal like all others, but I hope to own one some day, and I want to be able to look it in the eye.

I’m still alive…

…I just suck at this blogging lark.

Thigh deep - and it got even higher after that...

Following my last post (which seemed to worry a few people, sorry about that) I had another few days of being sick, followed by a day or two moving house, followed by a week or so of mammoth work catch-up, which still seems to be ongoing. All this was interspersed with lots of flooding to slow things down even more – hence why I’ve been a tad AWOL.

I do promise though I’ve some cool posts in the making, and will turn them from draft status to published very soon. Until then, that’s a picture of me during the second round of flooding, making my way to Marko’s school. No, I’m not standing in a river, that’s normally a road.

While Flood One was lots of fun, Flood Two, a little restricting, and Flood Three, just a bit shoe-wetting, by Flood Four we’re all getting pretty ticked off. Marko has taught just seven full days of school in the past month, (I’m cheating a bit there, he did have a mid-term in the middle of all that, but it’s still pretty bad.)

But far more important than the inconvenience it’s causing around town, are the lives that have been lost and devastation caused during what has been the worst flooding in a decade. The death toll in Cambodia now stands at 206, and this will only increase as the dengue fever season creeps on and crops fail throughout the country.

If you want to read more about it, here’s a link to the Phnom Penh Post and for some incredible images, check out The Guardian.

MOAN!(And a few words on homesickness)

My thought for the day (pinched from the very lovely

So this week I’ve been under the weather. So far under the weather, I’m practically lying face-down on the ground – I think they call that planking?

You see I don’t get sick very often. In fact, since I stopped using the daily services of the fabulous people at Dublin Bus a few years ago, I’ve barely been sick at all – not in the blow-your-nose kind of way anyway. But what with last week spent wading about town, going from wet to dry to wet again several times a day, I picked up a germy combination of tonsillitis and the common cold. But when you live in Cambodia, there’s nothing common about it.

I try my best not to be a moaner on the internet, and aside from the odd Facebook update, it’s a healthy habit I hope will transfer to the rest of my life, (over the past 12 months, I’ve become one of those positive-affirmation-visionboard-loving-Secret-reading types). However recent days have just taken the biscuit – biscuit of the gross, non Jacobs/McVities/Irish/UK variety.

You see I sometimes like being sick. After all, it is your body’s way of telling you to stall the ball. A guilt-free few days of wandering your house draped in a duvet, obeying the gospel according to Oprah, taking a mid-morning nap before Loose Women, and catching up with some Aussie soaps late afternoon. You’re practically drip-fed tea and toast, and if you’re really lucky, your mam might offer to pick you up, take you home and make you dinner. (If you’re really really lucky, mashed potato might be involved in said dinner).

All in all, it’s a sweet deal in exchange for a sore throat and red nose.

Here, it’s an altogether different kettle of tea. Firstly there is no tea. None that competes with the holy combo of Lyons pyramid bags and Avonmore milk anyway. Secondly duvets don’t exist, and if they did, it’d be too hot to wear them. And thirdly, I’m self-employed now, so that means any sick days I take our at my own expense. Days like the last two, where I couldn’t think straight on account of the atomic sinus pressure and bag of blades I have for a swallow mechanism, have to be kept to a minimum.

Then to top off “the week of a million tissues” our house flooded last night. Not too badly (though I haven’t been home since this morning) just our kitchen for now. There’s about 10cm more before it gets into the main house, so here’s hoping we’ll be safe.

So the point of my moany rant – if you’re still with me? – is to address something I’ve really wanted to write about. Homesickness. An illness that’s altogether more consuming than streptococcal, and takes a good bit longer to shake off.

In the midst of all my nose blowing this week, I received two amazing deliveries. One from my folks, and the other from my bestie Ciara. Between the two there I was sent about 20 chocolate bars, five bags of sweets, my all-time favourite belt (I somehow accidentally left at home), my all-time favourite hair product (Body Shop Brazil Nut Define and No Frizz – USE IT), my runners (I WILL exercise over here), a load of new knickers (Penneys’ finest) and Ciara and John’s wedding DVD.

While getting post is one of my favourite things in the world and all these goodies cheered me up no end, they also helped to spur on my ever-growing yearning for home.

Leave anyone sitting on their tod for eight hours a day and they’re bound to feel lonely. But add my under-the-weatherness, watching a video of my parents, best friend, and all her family on an incredible day just before I left, and going to ring someone for a chat and realising it’s 4am back home, all culminates to feeling rather underwhelmed with the whole living-on-the-other-side-of-the-world-thing.

(Man-I’m-using-a-lot-of-this-today. Sorry.)

I’m in no way ready to go home, and I am still so happy, excited and grateful to have the opportunity to live and work in Siem Reap and I know I’d be disappointed if I didn’t stick out at least a year – in fact, I’m kinda disappointed at myself for feeling these doubts so soon – but just over three months into the adventure, I’m finding a real longing to see my parents, my sister, Marko’s family, all our friends, my old work friends and eh, tea.

I’m sure it’s just a phase, and that a week on the couch is no good for anyone’s mental health (unless it’s that sort of couch). Pangs for home are inevitable, as too I guess, are more prolonged periods of homesickness, but I’m hoping they’ll become less frequent over time.

I really felt I had begun to settle in once I started working, the last few weeks had been going really well but suddenly I seem to have hit another wall. It’s such a horrible feeling to be homesick, one I can only really compare to a break-up; no-where near as awful as a death, but heart-wrenching and tear-inducing all the same. I’m sure I’m not the only person who feels this way, but in all the people I’ve met here, and all my friends who have gone abroad, it’s something that’s rarely discussed. One friend of mine mentioned a “seven month wall” she hit during her year as a back-packer – perhaps mine has come early. Another said it took her almost a year for a pang of homesickness, and at that it only lasted a night – maybe I’m a complete wuss. While a third pal said after emigrating, it took her six months to get settled, and after that she never looked back – I’m hoping I fall into this category.

I think I need to keep in my head that this is what I want, what I’ve always wanted, and I’m not alone here at all. I have Marko, who is unrelenting in his patience with me and we’ve made some awesome new friends here. I have the kind of lifestyle I’d kill for at home. We’re moving into a new place next week (it has a swimming pool – how fancy?) and I think that will be a mid-fresh-start, fresh start. (Does that make sense?)

Until then, I’ll wallow in my pile of tissues, flooded kitchen, chocolate bars and thoughts of home, friends, tea and duvets.

But for the record, despite all my smashing new pals, smug poolside status updates and sporadic ability to stay in touch, I’m missing all you lovelies back home and around the world bigtime xxx