Interview with Mary: She Changed Life and He Moved in Cambodia

Last June I was in Cambodia, where I had the chance to meet Mary, a reader of my blog that changed life and moved to Phnom Penh. An evening in front of a plate of spaghetti and a friendship was born. I asked her to tell their stories in a post: it is never that, reading his story, some of you can find the strength to drop everything and come up with a new life.

My journey began in 2011 when, as a small country of Brianza province, I ended up in Spain.

I had just graduated in marketing management and I had just finished an internship in a major company in Milan: I felt it was time to take flight. It was also concluded a very difficult period of my life lasted two years and culminated with a loss of one of the great landmarks of my life. I always loved to travel, experience different cultures and study foreign languages. I so much wanted to study for a period abroad under the Erasmus program, but for family reasons I could not do it.

So I started to look for internships abroad and in January 2011 I left for Madrid.

Another internship, another large company in the travel and tourism industry. I was very excited, it seemed that life was giving me back the time and the experiences that I seemed to have lost. It was like taking a Erasmus, but paid. The first months were difficult, after all it was my first alone experience abroad, I did not know the language and I had to get used to my new life. The work environment was apparently all that you can – and I thought I -desiderare: solid and multicultural company, such professionalism, ability to insert at the end of the stage and stable life in the beautiful and bustling Madrid.

With the passage of time, however, I realized that I was more interested in the experience of growth that was doing that work itself. I started to wonder if the marketing was really my way. I went on with this doubt for a while ‘time, the days were becoming heavier and my motivation went down more and more. I tried to deny these feelings, but as always, it was then my body to throw the signals at that point I could no longer ignore.

That environment that seemed so perfect beginning to Starmie tight. For work, I used to travel a lot of people, I organized events around the world, but I remained glued to my desk. And so I started to travel. Every weekend I was in a new city in Spain, Portugal, Morocco. 19 weekend at the end of the stage, 19 weekend somewhere. The weekend I was feeling alive and regenerated, in the week I was turned off and no smile. It seemed to follow a road with no way out.

Every day I exchanged emails with suppliers and colleagues in South East Asia and the Pacific, and more often fantasized about those places which I was always in touch. I knew the opportunity to spend a year in Australia with the Working Holiday Visa, an experience that I was curious and one day in November, after months elapsed between doubt and fear, my heart yelled Australia. My first reaction was denial: No, I can not do it. I studied marketing, I have to work in marketing, right? But the crisis is drivel. What will I do there? Was the fear that knock.

After a few days, I decided. Visa required and booked ticket.

In the family the news was not accepted well, indeed. But there was no one to stop me.

And so at the end of January 2012 I left for Australia. A great loss to overcome, a job I did not like, a love one way. Perth, the most isolated capital city in the world, it seemed the perfect destination for me, far away from everything and everyone. I was not sure what I was looking at ‘era, I just wanted to leave. 16 kg backpack, passport and 4000 Euros. Plans: none

Down Under the first impressions were of freedom: this light so dazzling, these immense spaces, nature so majestic. Australia was spectacular, the starting point of my journey, but not the place where I wanted to stay. Dear and too neat for my chaotic mind.

I found a job (even though it took me three weeks) before the Outback as a bartender and then as a cleaner in a beautiful island near Perth. I did not earn much, but in fact not used to spend anything (provided my salary, room and board). This allowed me to cover my stay of three months in Australia.

Slowly, I began to feel the desire to know completely different cultures and, also because of a book by Terzani ( “A fortune teller told me”) after 3 months in Australia, I had my first contact with Asia: Bali! And from there Java East, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines for a total of five months in South East Asia.

I did couchsurfing in almost all countries, in alternate periods, and met great people. It ‘was a “shockingly beautiful,” as I call it forever. I had to confront great periods of loneliness, with my gray areas, what I feared, I had become friends with myself. I used to carry only instinct, I who so much loved bullets and everything that had to do with the organization!

All the people I’ve met have enriched me and made the trip an unforgettable experience, but there was one in particular that led me to where I am now, a woman who had taught 14 years in Bangkok, had traveled worldwide and with whom I had bonded immediately. After that meeting, seemingly random but I have already written in fate, I decided to take the CELTA for teaching English around the world (from the small to the question: What do you do when you grow always answered: the teacher and Madrid had taught Italian within the company where I worked, one of the most rewarding experiences of my life) and take the way back. Southeast Asia had taken care of the soul, I had found me in that logic chaos, where everything is the opposite of everything, but to live there, not really! That humidity, the incomprehensible language, no no!

I was really happy, the journey had become a routine, I not thrill me as when I was playing, I put together the pieces of my heart and I felt regenerated.

I wanted and needed to get back to what had been my home for 24 years, get back to basics because, as an African proverb says, “if you do not know where you come from, you never know where you’re going.” I had big plans, I just did not want to go even halfway around the world: I wanted to be a two-hour flight from Milan.

As soon as I set foot in Italy, I had to come to terms with the harsh reality. I was much changed and so did the people and the places that I had left. It was not where I wanted to be. After 6 months of ups and downs, I realized that what was more to do. I was supposed to go back in South East Asia, the natural continuation of my journey. I was very scared. It was not the “plan” I had in mind, I had no guarantee (to find work as an ESL teacher – a teacher of English as a second foreign language – must be in place), and even many money available, just over 1000 euro.

The big jump would be now.

These are the reasons that led me to Cambodia in April 2013: a book of Terzani, easy to get a visa and openness towards non-native English speakers (in other parts of Asia and the world is very difficult to find work as a teacher if it is not a native English speaker). The impact of this “Kingdom of Wonder” was not easy. Cambodia is a very poor country, totally different from neighboring Thailand and developed. Sometimes what is required of us is an act of faith and confidence “series Follow your heart and you will see.”

Once arrived in Cambodia, I got a job as an English teacher in an international school in Phnom Penh two days!

After a few weeks of adjustment, I started looking for an NGO (Non Governmental Organisation) where to volunteer on weekends. Cambodia is one of the world’s countries with the highest number of registered NGOs per person, but not all are good organizations.

And then, once again, the opportunity presented itself to my door. Almost by chance, I came in contact with an association that takes care of street children, the other side of Cambodia, and that, daily, provides them with a meal gratuito. They was looking for a teacher of Italian for the staff who have frequent communication with the Italian donors (Waltzing Around Cambodia non-profit organization), and i did not think twice.

Since September, therefore, teach Italian in Cambodia, exactly the last thing I expected to do here … not surprisingly this country is called “The Kingdom of Wonder”! It ‘a wonderful experience that is enriching me a lot and that maybe he’s holding me back here more than anything else.

In a week, I speak 4 languages: English in school, French with friends – the French community is extensive here in Phnom Penh-, Italian weekends and Khmer, I’m trying to learn. I do a job that I like, despite having bad days, and above all I wake up with a smile.

It seems to me that after overthrowing all the pieces of the puzzle of my life, is putting them in place gradually.

In Khmer the question “How are you” translates as “Sok Sbay you?” Which literally means “Are you happy?”. My answer is yes, I’m happy! Cambodia, for now, it’s my house. I have no plans, I always feel on the road even if they are physically stops and try to be as flexible as possible. Everything can change at any time and if it so, I will follow the flow of events as I have done so far. “Happiness is the journey, not the destination.”

Ps. Mary has just opened an interesting web site: Ciaoteacher, a blog dedicated to Italian language and culture.

If you are visiting Cambodia and you need to relax, discover more at kohrongislandcambodia.com

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