Expat Diary July 12, 2018 – Adam Skips Cambodia
Sometimes your instincts tell you to hold off. Though I had bought a ticket six weeks ago to head to Siem Reap, Cambodia, when my Philippines visa expires this week, I hadn’t bought the extra baggage, secured the visa, or gotten my lodgings for my planned one-month stay there. I was in Cebu earlier this week, with time running out, and was about to buckle down and get it done when a headline in a local paper about Cambodian elections caught my eye.
The elections had been on my radar last year but for some dumb reason I thought the consolidation of power and disbanding of opposition forces in that country, in which the upcoming election will certainly deliver a victory to the unpopular incumbent government (who are themselves increasingly beholden to China), was a done deal. As it happened, the election that would be the pivot point was to take place smack dab in the middle of my stay. Though it was likely tourist-friendly Siem Reap would ride out any unrest with minimal disruption, in a country like Cambodia you can’t really be sure. It seemed like a colossally bad time to visit. I would have been up for another month in the Philippines, but it was just a little bit too late to get my visa extended. I’d have to figure out another destination, and fast.
I put a number of feelers out on Facebook and, as I’d suspected and hoped, it resulted in a lot of suggestions and new contacts that I am really happy to have. But in the end, I decided the best thing to do was to just go back to Bali for one more month. It was the least adventurous option, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense.
I hadn’t been happy to leave Bali the last time. While I knew it was time to give the Philippines more of my attention – and that process has gone pretty well – the way the timing was going to line up would mean that I’d be leaving Indonesia for probably six months or more. Having finally gotten a handle on the language and (to some degree) the culture, it seemed a waste; and of course it’s the closest thing to home I’ve had in a while. There are a lot of friends there I was going to miss. Who knew what I would return to in six months’ time. One more month there would give me a chance to totally lock down the language and maintain my relationship with the place.
There were a few more reasons. It’s now becoming firm that I will return to the U.S. for probably two months in mid-September, to tie up some loose ends and probably do a little music work. To be in position for that I have to make sure my final month is in the Philippines, so this sets me up for a return where I can pick up where I left off looking for a good place to have a base of operations in Asia when I return in (most likely) November.
My original plan hadn’t really timed things very well in terms of the optimum seasons to visit the various places I wanted to go. I spent last December-January in Bali and being the height of the rainy season, it was the most dreary time to be there (and directly resulted in my broken ankle). On the other hand, it’s prime time to be in the Philippines, and January-March is a great time to visit places like Thailand or Cambodia. So laying it out in my head, if I continued the Indonesia-Philippines axis but just shortened the amount of time I was in Indonesia (thus saving substantial visa fees), I could hit Bali this month, back to the Philippines next month, back to the U.S. ’til November, then back to Bali until December, then Phils, THEN hit the Asian mainland, with all of the process I have integrating myself with the two cultures not being disrupted too soon.
Another reason was that after doing two shows in Cebu, and doing multiple plane flights hopping around, my ass has been thoroughly kicked. I wasn’t in the mood to grapple with a new culture – and I actually have quite a lot of projects underway that now need my attention. The process of figuring out how to sustain myself is starting to go pretty well. The most important thing for me to have in the next month is just one stable place I don’t have to think about too much to get the work done. I was really looking forward to going to Siem Reap, but I couldn’t count on stability. I hope I can get back next year.
The past month in the Philippines has gone about as well as I could have hoped. In terms of making preparations for having a stable base, it’s checked out pretty well. Both Cebu and Puerto Princesa had downsides but were workable for what I have in mind, and Cebu has the benefit of a thriving music scene where I already have connections (though the high taxi fares, required to get me around, give me serious pause). I do want to check out a few more locations however, which I will do in August-September. But I’m liking the idea of splitting my time more 50-50 between Indonesia and the Philippines or maybe even giving the nod to the Phils for the longer stay…and that will also give me an opportunity (once my cash flow is more stable) to travel around a bit more and see new things.
This all, of course, is subject to change by acts of God and also new opportunities that might come up. A friend of mine suggested I could go to Jogjakarta to look for local artwork and building supplies for her, which is a really interesting idea. Some of the music possibilities in the Philippines are intriguing. The hardest part, really, is making some kind of a commitment at this stage in the game. Locking one thing down always requires giving something else up, and I’m not quite ready to do that…but I’m ready to start thinking about it, seriously. The process of making a living is underway, and that opens up a lot of possibilities – once you put your intentions out into the universe, often surprising things come back. But for now, I’m headed back to Bali one more time. It’s not time – yet – to strike out in a new direction. But soon.