My First Time in Asia

Updated on February 8, 2018
Eastward profile image

Eastward left behind the confines of a Fortune 500 company office to explore and experience Asia. He hasn't looked back since.

Stepping into Another World

Previously, I wrote about leaving the cubicle of my midwestern office job behind and preparing to move abroad. With those stories covered, I'd like to tell you more about my first time in Asia. I arrived at Phnom Penh International Airport, jet-lagged and excited, made my way through immigration, baggage claim, customs, and made my way to the front doors. I stepped out in eager anticipation of what I would find.


Where's the Dairy Queen?

I was in Phnom Penh to meet with my school for TESOL, Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, certification. I was instructed to look for the Dairy Queen. So, in my inexperienced fashion, I began scanning the skyline for a familiar pole sign. I wandered around the front of the airport for a while before nearly stumbling on the sandwich board style sign. This Dairy Queen was quite unlike any I had seen. In addition to the ground-level sign, it included a few patio tables and chairs and a cooler full of products. While I was about to explore more substantial cultural differences, this experience spurred my mental shift.

After standing near the Dairy Queen sign for a moment, I spotted a young Cambodian man carrying a sign with my name. I was a bit surprised the English-speaking staff of the TESOL company I had been communicating with online hadn't arrived to greet us but I could see another student was already getting into the tuk-tuk. The driver smiled and motioned me over. I grabbed my bags and climbed aboard.

Splashing through the Streets

The other student aboard and I introduced ourselves. He was a Marine with some free time before undertaking pilot training and was planning to study the TESOL course and then find a job in Thailand. The TESOL company offered different paths to finish the course. We were able to complete 4 weeks of training in Cambodia and seek job placement there or divide our training and complete the last 2-week portion in Thailand. I had also chosen the latter.

The driver hopped on to the motorcycle and we were off. We splashed through the significantly flooded streets hurriedly. Flooded streets alone were an interesting sight for me. Floods weren't common in my hometown and the only serious flooding I remember seeing was during a trip to Kentucky when I was in elementary school. I remembered seeing the aftermath in the form of mud covered houses and vehicles, mostly from my viewpoint in the back of our family van.

We took in our new surroundings as the tuk-tuk created waves alongside us. It wasn't long before we arrived at the gate of our residence. There, we met our other roommate, he had a background in law and working for the U.S. government, and made our way inside.

A Foot in the Door

Our driver showed us the house we would share during the two weeks of our training in Phnom Penh. It was tiled from floor to ceiling, there was a couch, TV, small bathroom with a western toilet and shower. We each had our own room, however, the door on my room seemed to be locked and the driver didn't have the key. He didn't speak much English, but clearly understood the problem and motioned that he would make a phone call.

My roommates and chatted for a while and got to know each other. We were all exhausted from the trip though and needed to retire for the evening. We needed to get some rest as our training would start early the next morning. The driver had left and never returned. However, my bedroom door was still locked. I placed my foot against the door and pushed until I felt the lock pop. It was clear the lock hadn't been doing much in the first place, and at that point, I'd have been happy to cover the cost of a new lock.

I opened up the door and set my things next to the bed. The room was simple, just a bed and a small area around it, but I was glad to lie down and drift off to sleep. I didn't sleep long as I wasn't used to the schedule being opposite that of back home. It was good to take the edge off though and I stayed in bed to relax a while before getting up to shower.

The Morning Process

Once my roommates and I were ready, we went out in search of breakfast. We found a gentleman making a fried egg dish on the street who was accepting payment in US dollars. He put our fried egg into a Styrofoam container, and happily accepted our dollars. We also stopped at a convenience store to pick up some basic necessities. To our surprise, the store was staffed by children.

I picked up some shampoo and toothpaste and went to the counter. I gave the young girl at the counter the smallest bill I had. She stared at the $20 for a moment in frustration and then gathered the change for me. I realized that they weren't used to bills that large and using them was an inconvenience. So, I made note of trying to break bills at larger businesses.

We returned to our accommodations, enjoyed our breakfast, and waited for our driver to arrive. He showed up, with no mention of the room key, and motioned for us to climb aboard the tuk-tuk. It was time for us to see what this TESOL course was all about.

I'll be writing about my TESOL course experience and more on that subject soon!

© 2018 Eastward


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    • Robert Sacchi profile image

      Robert Sacchi 

      2 years ago

      I can imagine.

    • Eastward profile imageAUTHOR


      2 years ago from Bangkok, Thailand

      Thanks for your comment, Robert. It has been quite an adventure with ups, downs and sideways days!

    • Robert Sacchi profile image

      Robert Sacchi 

      2 years ago

      You are very adventurous to drop everything and travel to the other side of the world. You make a good point at how even the familiar things have differences that let you know you're "not in Kansas anymore."

    • Eastward profile imageAUTHOR


      2 years ago from Bangkok, Thailand

      I appreciate you reading, Eurofile. Thanks!

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      2 years ago from UK

      This is a well written and interesting account of your experiences.

    • Eastward profile imageAUTHOR


      2 years ago from Bangkok, Thailand

      Thanks for the comment, Mary. It is a wonderful place. I hope you get the chance to return soon!

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      2 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      We are often in Cambodia on consulting projects so your description is very familiar. I don't know when we'll be back but really enjoy it there.


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