We are leaving soon. I am little sad. It's going to be hard to say goodbye to the Cambodian's family--for me, for her, and, I hope, in my own selfish way, for them too. Because it would be nice if they liked me as much as I have come to like them.
This trip would not have been the same without the Cambodians. Not even close. I could have come alone to New Zealand. I could have done the usual hiking,rafting and meeting of backpacker friends that seems to be the norm for young Canadian travelers here. It would have been fine. But I am infinitely happier knowing that I spent a good part of a month in the Auckland suburbs, being ferried from large Asian gathering to large Asian gathering, getting inspected, judged and reamed with food by a never ending gaggle of noisy little people.
It's been the interactions with them that have made this trip. They have been entertaining, educational and frightening in equal doses. They have showed me the comedic value inherent in a strong Cambodian accent. They have taught me a little Chinese. And they have instilled in me a deep respect for, and understanding of, that eternal truth which before I only had a vague grasp of. That is, don't mess with old Asian ladies.
When we leave I'll miss Mushroom auntie who introduced me to the world of illegal Vietnamese catering and has a way, somehow, of conveying affection through an insinuation of physical violence.
I'll miss Chinese auntie who, in those first few nervous days of me stumbling around the Cambodian's relations, distracted my worrying mind with delicious food and kindness.
I'll miss Chicken uncle and his infectious, thunderclap laugh.
I'll miss all the aunties and uncles and cousins who, one way or another, made this trip enjoyable on so many levels.
Of course, I'll miss the Cambodian's parents too. Despite their initial wariness, they have made a habit out of treating me with the greatest generosity. They have introduced me to the world of New Zealand meat pies. And have showed me how to bargain hunt and how to make beef fried noodles. Most of all, they have reinforced in me the understanding that cooking for a living is not hard or bad ass. Coming to a new country with no money, buying your own bakery and working at it for 16 hours a day, seven days a week, for the past 15 years-- that is bad ass.
Thanks to all the Cambodians.