Rob Appleby – Returning to Cambodia


This blog follows on from Rob’s previous post.


After nine months working poor jobs in London I got myself in gear and returned to Phnom Penh. It was initially going to be only for a few months before I moved on but over a year later I find myself still here, still loving the city and all it has to offer.

Whilst slightly apprehensive over how easy it would be to settle back in and whether it’d be the same as I remembered I still couldn’t wait to return to my adopted second home. I had some friends that were still around from my first stint in the country and they helped me instantly settle back in, meet the new crowd and even got me a job at a local school.

After the long travel back to Asia I pulled up to a hotel on one of the more favoured expat hangout streets. Before I could climb out of the tuktuk I heard my name being called, looking round I saw a couple of Cambodians I knew from months before and immediately I felt at home. That night I met with a friend I had lived with before returning home and she introduced me to the new crowd, consisting of a few familiar faces, as well as some new 2Way volunteers.


I spent close to a month looking for work while at the same time reacquainting myself with the countries provinces and natural beauty. It was fun to experience my second Christmas abroad and New Year on the same beach that I’d spent the last one. I decided to look for some short term teaching work before settling back into the development sector as it’s fairly straightforward to find. A friend helped me get a job at his school and though I had never taught before the experience has been extremely enjoyable.

After the first few weeks I began to feel comfortable with the classes I taught, and after a couple of months I had learnt most of the 200 names I taught, this made it a hell of a lot easier. Over the last year there have been good and bad students but all of them are remembered fondly when it’s time for them to move on to the next grade. Through this job I’ve learnt a lot about myself, the English language and developed a much greater insight into the Cambodian culture and mind-set. I feel that I’ve also improved on many of my personal skills, patience being at the forefront.

Meeting a completely new set of friends for the umpteenth time has definitely hardened me to the worst part of the expat experience; the transient lifestyle. So many people come and go, some have greater personal impacts than others but nearly every friend that leaves hits hard. After a while I stopped going to the airport to see off people either going home or on to their next adventure. Although it’s extremely hard saying goodbye to those who have made real impacts on your life you always know that more interesting people are on their way and in Phnom Penh it’s near impossible to be without friends.

Working only a 24 hour week at school has allowed me to dedicate the equivalent of a day a week to 2Way development. I currently focus on helping new volunteers settle into the country as well as touching on the professional partnership side of the role. It means a lot to me to be able to help other people feel at home in a place that I’ve come to call mine. When I first arrived the 2Way volunteers of the time took me under their wing, making the difference, and I want to do as much as I can to pass that kindness forward.


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