Going To The Chapel…

While devouring every word on MovingToCambodia.com (and their book!), I learned what an enormous two-to-three day event Cambodian weddings were. I *had* to get invited and experience this cultural event! Two days in… I got that coveted invite! Well, truth be told, it’s not *that* coveted… the more the merrier is the theme with Cambodian weddings and foreigners get invited even if they have not met the bride or groom! Details 😉 I still felt special.

We were invited to my Cambodian friend’s brother-in-law’s wedding. This friend was my Angkor Wat tour guide in 2014, we kept in touch, I donated money to help him build a school to teach English to and volunteer taught English at this school in January. He feels like family now! Got the invite to the ceremony too late, so attended the wedding reception the next day.

I wanted to be respectful of the Cambodian culture, so read up on what to wear, how to act, etc.

All articles said it was a semi-formal to formal event. I brought one fancy dress, but it was sleeveless, and I didn’t want to be disrespectful by showing my shoulders, so opted for a wrap dress, which graced my knees, and I was insecure about that (another sign of respect – cover the knees!), but it was all I had so went with it.

We traveled 20km out of Siem Reap into the country and arrived at an elaborate tent filled with 200+ family and friends. We were warmly greeted by the ornately dressed bride, groom and wedding party. They immediately wanted to take photos with us, thanked us for coming and showed us to a table.

IMG_6614

Everyone smiled and stared at us. Not in a “what are white people doing here?” way, but in a “I felt like a celebrity” way. My friend introduced us to half the guests, people came up to our table and engaged in conversation and we were demanded on the dance floor! Everyone displayed so much warmth and kindness. I felt loved even though I didn’t know anyone!

IMG_6603

Had a blast dancing and showing guests moves, and learning moves from them. Everyone danced in the same direction around a table.

With each new drink (mostly beer), and when meeting new people, we would cheers our glasses (and say, “luek-tuk-chet!”)… and sometimes before each sip! And drink beer with ice. Always.

IMG_6604

It surpassed my expectations, I was once again reminded how warm and genuine Cambodians are, and I am excited for my next invite!!

 

Advertisements

A New Adventure Awaits!

LeavingLAX

I moved to Cambodia. Wow. Feels incredible to say! And scary as hell!

I’ve been wanting to live abroad for years, but was too scared to do it (and sad to leave family and friends!), so pushed the desire aside. And with each of my three trips to Southeast Asia, my crush on the region grew and on my last trip in December 2016/January 2017, a voice inside of me said, “Marisa, you gotta do it.” I had to listen.

Let’s back up… how did I get here? For multiple reasons, 2016 was my most challenging year yet. In November, I quit my job without a new one. I wanted to get away and contemplate my future. Pictures of Bali danced in my mind (never been before) and the decision was made: Bali for December 2016.

I had always followed the rules and went from school to school to job to job to job. I’d never done anything like this before. Friends joked that it was my “Eat, Pray, Love” trip. I was heavily focused on the eating and praying portion and jetted off with a sense of curiosity and adventure.

I had an incredible, liberating month in Bali. I continued to listen to the voice inside of me and next went to:

  • Siem Reap, Cambodia, to volunteer teach English for a week as I wanted to start 2017 by doing something good for the world (and had been wanting to do this since my first trip to Cambodia in 2014).
  • Koh Samui, Thailand, to work out at a fitness camp for two weeks as I wanted to do something good for me.

While I was focused on eating and praying in Bali, I unexpectedly fell in love. Guess my friends foresaw the future 😉  I went back to Bali to spend more time with him before we came back to Los Angeles together.

Being back in LA was a challenge. I love LA. I adore LA. But my heart was not there.  That yearning to experience life outside the US was burning hot and I heard the voice again, “GO!!”

With my last few adventurous vacations, I’ve felt alive discovering new lands and communities; have seen life from a different perspective; have reprioritized what is important to me.

I wanted to slow life down and do something more meaningful with my time. So, with all these new feelings, yearnings and love by my side, we decided to move to Cambodia. Why Cambodia? To me, this country and its people are special. So warm, welcoming and appreciative. I still remember riding my motorbike to volunteer teach English one morning in January 2017… I had a huge smile on my face and that inner voice said, “You are supposed to be here.”

I’m aiming to work for a non-profit, teach English or something that’s heavily involved in the community… a complete departure from my 14+ year career in digital marketing, communications and public relations!!

As of now, despite neither of us ever being there, we plan to settle in or around the Sihanoukville area, a coastal city in Southern Cambodia.

Excited for this adventure and hope you will follow along!