This wasn’t my idea but I thought it was so good I’d steal it anyway. A friend of mine, who has been in Cambodia for many, many years, shared her coping strategy with a group of us. She turned her life in Cambodia into a continuous role-player game. The aim of the game was simple: earn experience points. The best thing about the game is that every kind of experience earns you points, whether negative or positive. If you had a really amazing day, where you visited somewhere particularly breath-taking, you’ve earned points. If you’ve been chased by dogs, splashed by a passing bus and over-charged by a tuk tuk driver, you’ve also earned points. As this game is a solo endeavour, you get to set how many points you gain.
However, games often now make the use of badges too. These are particular achievements or successes, or when you’ve reached a certain status. Here are some badges I thought you may be able to reward yourself with.
Dr Livingstone, I presume?
You’re an intrepid explorer, adventuring to new places. Whether it’s local eateries or sites or far-flung rice fields, you’ve been trying them all with nothing but a Lonely Planet guide and a tourist map.
Whether it was just a couple of directions for your tuk tuk driver, or a whole conversation about your family, you’re feeling pretty good about your language skills. Move over Noam Chomsky, there’s a new expert in language acquisition.
Awe and wonder
You’ve experienced some awe-inspiring things. Maybe it was the spectacular site of Angkor Wat or an impressive thunderstorm, there are plenty of amazing things to see and do in this wonderful country, and you’ve taken the time to appreciate them.
You’re taking the time to learn about Cambodian culture. You’ve been listening to local music, visiting important sites or simply researching traditions, etiquette or social values, but you’re feeling more and more knowledgeable about this fantastic country and connected with its fascinating people.
Pick (Yourself) Up Artist
So, today didn’t go as planned. If the truth be told, it was an unmitigated disaster. But you’ve learnt to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start again. Resilience is your middle name.
You have no idea what is going on or the situation is becoming unbearably frustrating. But you’ve learnt to grin and put up with it. You now have a gormless smile plastered across your face at all times. “Just smile and nod” has become your mantra and it seems to be working.
The Yoga Instructor
You need to make a last-minute change to plans? You have to do some quick thinking to solve a problem? Perhaps you’ve been left waiting for a ridiculous amount of time. No problem. You’re flexible and easy-going.
The Walking Wallet
They saw you coming. When they see your face, they just see a giant dollar sign. In fact, you might as well go out wearing, crisp one-hundred dollar notes. Not only do they see money, they know how to make you part with it too. Due to your desire to avoid confrontation, you just hand the cash over.
The Lamb to the Slaughter/ “Come Meet My Daughter”
You have no idea what is happening. You are being shepherded around by often well-meaning, sometimes cunning, Khmer. You passively accept whatever is happening, despite a growing sense of doom. You’ve found yourself in many awkward, difficult or frustrating situations as a result.
The Taste Tester
You’ll try anything once, and that often means anything. You’ve had food of dubious origin, quality or hygiene. Even when you know what it was and that you shouldn’t eat it, you gave it a go. However, more often than not, it was worth it. You’re starting to love Khmer food and you feel there’s something missing if your food isn’t served with some sort of rice.
Maybe because of your taste tester status, you’ve become very intimate with the porcelain. You’ve been staring into that bowl like a miner panning for gold. Make sure you take your hand sanitiser with you next time you go out!
The Flash in the Pan
There used to be a school-yard rhyme that contained the simile “like a bullet from a gun”. Well, now you know what it meant: your bowels are quicker than The Flash. Remember to drink plenty of water, mixed with rehydration salts.
Object of desire
Whether it’s the dollar sign above your head, or the Khmer obsession with western appearance you’re suddenly being asked to go on dates or hooked up with people you rather you weren’t. What makes it all the more confusing is that you’re in a perpetual state of sweaty, disgusting distress, but this doesn’t seem to put them off. Unfortunately, for women travelling or living in Cambodia, this can be quite intimidating. Make sure you’re being careful.
The Honey Trap
Insects love you. They especially love your blood. You’ve become the buffet cart for the local mosquito, sandfly and ant population. You’ve probably got worms, too.
What badges should I have included? If you’re currently in Cambodia, which ones should you be awarded?