(I found this little video, for those who require some images of Phnom Penh. Including the most recent Cambodian Top 40 hit as its soundtrack. Start it up and continue reading below) 🙂
Recently, someone wrote me about how jealous he was at my life in Cambodia. I felt highly honored. But his writing also made me reflect on this life of mine again, in this remote, tropical warm East-Asian country.
Life is very pleasant, especially if you do not like dark days and winters. In Cambodia the average temperature is 33°C/92F during the day. This differs only seasonally in humidity. Sometimes it is 33 degrees and dry and sometimes it is 33 degrees and very humid. Occasionally it gets a little cooler, with extremes to 19°C/65F in the morning, which was mid-January. That feels weird, with Cambodians wearing winter coats and me seriously wondering whether I should wear a scarf over my shirt. And then the air conditioning is turne off for the first time at night, which is normally set to my usual comfort level of 26°C/78F degrees. 25 is just too cold for me.
And here I have dealt with the direct paramount difference with the western world where I originate from.
Cambodia is also a country with a rather █████ democracy. The current Prime Minister has been in power since 1985 and has announced that he will remain until his death. Elections are very █████ and eventually he wins █████ █████ again. As long as you’re not bothering him, nor █████ insult the guy online, you can survive pretty much anything else here.
And then we have two English-language newspapers here, the Cambodia Daily and Phnom Penh Post, which are published every day. Proper papers, I have to admit, however I sometimes miss the depth of Dutch and British newspapers in the culture or books section, but that is not the fault of the media, but the fault of the genocide by the Khmer Rouge, which took place between 1975 and 1980.
Culture was burned, intelligence murdered and what was left were poor country peasants. Generation after generation is doing better and with now even better education. Not too great, but better than anything before. Just know that currently, half of the population of Cambodia is under 21 years of age! That promises something for the future.
Art museums are scarce, there is hardly contemporary ‘Cambodian literature’ (unless it is about the genocide and –hurray- wars) and shows off yet preferably with painted art where either the Angkor Wat temples or Buddha sets the tone.
And we have the internet, it is no shortage of that (recently we even got Netflix). For US$ 12 (US dollars is the valid currency that comes from the ATMs, and the Cambodian riel is mainly used as small change) you can get a 1Mbps ADSL connection and for $35 per month they throw a fiber optic cable from the other side street to your house and you are connected within one day at a speed of more than 60Mbps. When that happened the first time, I did not believe my eyes and ears.
For my income, I run my online travel agency Kilimanjaro Expedition and I am the manager of The Flicks Community Movie Theaters. The latter I took over in 2011, patched it up and made it rather popular under the huge group of foreign (English-speaking) population in Phnom Penh (the expats). Eventually two other venues were added within three years.
And thanks to volunteers from around the world, especially young people who are traveling, these movie houses run without me having to be there everyday. I slowly took steps backward to do a little bit less and am now only responsible for technical affairs, marketing, logistics and distribution of the films and the supply of one of the three locations. Meanwhile, the volunteers get free accommodation and drinks in return and they love it.
And because of that setup I need no longer stand behind the bar daily to sell movie tickets: a whole new world of social life opened up! And I discovered the joy and benefits of Crossfit.
People who do CrossFit, always talk about CrossFit, and that’s the truth. CrossFit is a daily intensive workout in a class setting with a coach and a daily new Workout Of the Day (WOD). With this I not only found a sport (a combination of all kinds of sports: gymnastics, running, rowing, weight lifting, jumping ropes and kettebell training) which finally – I am now also 39 years – gave me a healthier body and keeps me healthy as long my passion for healthy cooking, eating healthy and a fit life style is fully awake again. And I even got myself the Level 1 certification to be a trainer in the future!
And at the warm, indoor and hugely crowded markets in town you can buy everything from fresh cut meat and all vegetables, the spices, seeds and nuts that I need in my sugar-, milk-, cheese-, bread- and pasta-free diet too. Today I bought three huge bags of fruit and vegetables and didn’t loose more than $5. At the larger supermarkets I often score some extra meat and stuff that I can’t find anywhere else.
There you go, a nice update of my life in Cambodia, with more time for leisure, contemplation and a rather healthier life. Of course you can live here and eat out every day and enjoy 75 cent beers, but that’s a choice I do not prefer to make.
I currently live in the apartment under the original first movie theater, The Flicks 1. This apartment consists of a newly renovated mini apartment for myself and three bedrooms for the volunteers who keep the cinemas going. There was a quite cramped kitchenette in the back, but I have recently transformed an unused space into a modern kitchen with a marble counter top and western height (Cambodians are fairly small) and even kitchen cabinets (unknown in Cambodia)!
Meanwhile, the entire business venture is for sale! Three locations of movie theaters, including that apartment, plus all the furniture, technical stuff and what more, is for sale for $ 65,000. With the sale I wish to pass on the five-year-long running weekly movie schedules, distribution and marketing of films and locations. It’s time for fresh blood for The Flicks and for other challenging options in my life.
And I am going to keep you up-to-date of all that. About that life of me here. Just to keep that jealousy from abroad sharp and clear and for myself, to continue to realize how terribly amazing I have it here. See you soon! (Stay up-to-date automatically and sign up for the mailing list at the right)