I've been thinking a lot about the concept of home recently. After traveling around Southeast Asia for 3 months, with at least 9 more months of worldwide vagrancy on the horizon, I've only felt like I was home one time...and that's when I was violently ill with food poisoning. I was so grateful to have my very own porcelain receptacle an clean sheets. It didn't matter that I was stuck in a dingy apartment in the middle of Phnom Penh, a city that feels comfortable in the same way licking the shower drain in a Detroit YCMA might feel comfortable.
Though Cambodia is known as the "Kingdom of Wonder," I prefer to call it the "Kingdom of Wondering," as in, why are you chopping vegetables over an open sewer? How long has that meat been flapping in the breeze? Why is there a naked, crying baby standing on the prep table? The answers to these questions, of course, can only be answered with more questions. Would you prefer for me to chop vegetables over the trash pile instead? How else do you expect me to display my butchering? Those flies are really just nature's sprinkles. And of course, where else am I supposed to put the baby? She lives in this kitchen.
I see these things, attempt to stop my mind from calculating how many health violation points each establishment would rack up in New York City, and then I head to the pharmacy for another dose of Imodium and prayer. There's no getting around this. We've all been sick, and according to more than a few expats who have been living here for years, "You don't get the full Cambodian experience until you've made love to your toilet for three days straight. Also, everyone is getting mugged."
And yet, it was during that vomitous lovemaking session that I felt the first twinge of home. No one was with me, so I was left with only my thoughts in between viewings of last week's lunch. I thought about how this is going to happen again. It's inevitable, because I don't get to go back to a life in which all of my food comes in a cellophane container from Whole Foods. I don't get to spend the day on the couch tomorrow, recuperating with Netflix and my dog. Instead, I'll wake up in the morning and be in a strange city with strange people, and I'll have to make that work because right now, I live here. I am home. In this bathroom, I am home. In this drain of a city, I am home. I'm in here. I am home.