At the moment though, we are truly enjoying being back in Cambodia. It is wonderful to feel grounded again and surrounded by familiar sights, smells and sounds. Although that said, it is the season of festivals, public holidays and constant construction here - so things at times are almost too lively. Andrew is working full time at Pact as an anti-corruption consultant and I am combining periods of lady-like leisure with some consultancy work with International Development Enterprises, who I have worked with in the past and think are doing excellent work in Cambodia.
Our time in Cambodia and away has given us a bit of perspective, and I think has really shaped how we will work in development again in the future. Seeing the basket case that Cambodia is, with the excesses of international money, foreign consultants, corrupt officials and myopic outlooks can make anyone cynical. We are really looking forward to some time at home and opportunity for further study and experience.
For the moment though, Phnom Penh is great. Whilst some things are changing, much is the same. The Government has embarked on a huge civic beautification project running up to the election and have managed to make one of the most attractive monuments in South East Asia a grand statement to Khmer bling, (I wonder what Vann Molyvann thinks!) with fountains and coloured lights ringing the Independence Monument. There are more and more black Lexus four-wheel drives on the roads and some grand business and residential developments advertised over vacant lots.
I have discovered the joy of food markets before 8am (a stark contrast to 6pm after work and a full day of heat and humidity), and am driving Andrew crazy with my insistence to get up and buy fresh nom acow (sweet rice flour cakes) and fresh fruit for breakfast. It's also wonderful to see Ben and Bec again and resume our place in the house. At times, it's almost as if we hadn't left!