Tuesday, January 24, 2023

A chronicle post of random things I want to remember

Things keep changing!

Before the pandemic I couldn't visit the temple park before 5:30pm. During the pandemic I could buy a long term ticket so it was possible. Rather than just the 37usd per day tickets they had other options such as 6 months/12 months for 200usd.

Now they have a free pass for expats who have been here for at least 2 years.

Building, building, building (not my photo)

I spent a lot of time riding in the park between June 2020 and October 2022 and maybe I will again one day. But right now it feels like a whole different place. The tourists are back and local families have moved out.

First mango I've seen, it means hot season is on the way.

Another change is now we can get food delivered. Before the pandemic we couldn't really. Some local run cafes started to during the pandemic but now its even easier as at least one of the apps works for us, plus a supermarket type place. If only we had had that during red zone, or when we were stuck at home with medical stuff early 2022.

Finally took the kids to see the Christmas lights in town. Oops, its Chinese New year lights now.

Five years ago we could see the sunrise as we ate breakfast. Then we grew a shady tree, so for a few years breakfast was cool and non squinty. But this year the smell of the flowers on the tree was so bad it got its head chopped off. So now we can see the sunrise again, as well as the new shoots on the trunk.
And the wood turned out to be handy during the cold weeks of Dec and Jan. What used to keep us cool kept our neighbours warm instead.

Monday, January 23, 2023

Dear Newbie

 Dear Friend,

I’m so excited to hear you are getting ready to leave your passport country and move to my host country. It’s great to hear about all the preparation you’ve been doing over the past few years to get to this point. Now you’re at the point where you actually have to think about what to pack!

You asked what apps were good for language learning. Sounds like you are eager to get a taste of the local language even before your formal classes start. From the way you asked, it seemed like you assumed I would know. It took me a while to realise my answer:  I used cassette tapes when I was at your stage.

Read the rest over here: A Life Overseas- Dear Newbie

Friday, January 20, 2023

Loss AND rebuilding exist at the same time

This month's link up with A Chronic Voice, you can read the others over here.

Summarising 2022

Two big shocks. 

Out of the blue. 

That's my summary of last year. Within a 7-month period, we faced the possibility of 2 big losses.  Neither of them eventuated so that's good, right? Well yes, we are glad, but the stress around it and the lifestyle change resulting from both shocks is still worth noting. Gratitude doesn't cancel out the pain.

I get chopped down, but I get up again.

Jagged from being hacked, AND green from new growth.


We are not moving house, but many many local families around us have just moved over the last 2 months or are about to move. 

And over the last few years, many ex-pat families have also moved away from our town /country.

Rebuilding and expecting

After what happened last year our health habits are all different now. Our community is all different too. Some have left, but some.live closer. 

We're still working out how it fits together. So much to learn and adjust to for all of us. It is hard to know what to expecf as so many things that were normal over the last 5 to 10 years are different now.

Thanks for reading and don't forget to have a read of the other chronic illness linked blogs over here on A Chronic Voice.  

Thursday, January 19, 2023

I Used to Laugh at Ghosts


“Aren’t you scared while your husband is away?”

“I’ll lock the door at night, and the windows have bars on them.”

“Locked doors can’t keep out ghosts.”

I don’t think I actually rolled my eyes or laughed out loud, but that was my attitude. In my early years in Cambodia, we lived next to a house full of Christian women training for ministry. When my husband was away, they worried about me. They didn’t seem to believe that I was genuinely unafraid, and I could not understand why they were afraid.

I didn’t know if I believed in ghosts or not. But what I did know was that because of Jesus, I had nothing to fear. I told them that the God of the Bible is stronger than any possible evil spirits, ghosts, or demons. He is the creator of all things, and Jesus has already conquered death. I felt satisfied that I’d given them the right reasons for why they didn’t need to fear.

I’m not the only Australian who gives off vibes of disbelief when Cambodians talk about the spirit world. My Cambodian husband Soeun also faced this attitude. When he was in Australia, he tried to explain some of his childhood to an Australian seminary student.

Read the rest over here: A Life Overseas - I Used to Laugh at Ghosts.

Sunday, January 08, 2023

Dumpling Days book

 A nice way to ease back into #homeschool routine, reading out loud.

Also a fun way to learn about kids who feel a sense of #belonging in both America AND Taiwan...

and who feel they don't belong in either place.

I asked my son to find Taiwan on the map and realised the map was given to me by a lady from Taiwan. Who now lives in America and has a Cambodian child.

A German friend lent me the book, her family is also Cambodian.

Reading about Chinese food while not eating it is painful though.


Saturday, December 03, 2022

Snapshot of life without a fully functional pancreas (T1D)

The year we had Type One Diabetes (T1D) join the family is closing. 

These word prompts lend themselves to a description of our new life.

Treating low blood sugar events are a strange new part of life. 

It makes us laugh to think it’s normal that I wake my child at 4am and force him to eat some honey. 

I shudder to think of what must be happening to his teeth. 

And wonder what the effects of sleep deprivation are on a child’s development. I know its been terrible for getting schoolwork done.

If blood glucose levels drop too low for too long it is acutely dangerous.  We must keep monitoring and keep them up. We do our best to balance insulin, amount of carbs, exercise, and other factors so he doesn’t go too low. Some days, some weeks it works out. Other times we misjudge or for some unknown reason, it doesn’t balance. 

This is what a T1D person has to do every day. No days off. 

3min funny video on treating lows

Some people need to ration insulin, so thankful that is not us. 

We can eat watermelon or oatmeal or anything we like and dose insulin to cover it. We also use exercise and water to help. But if we weren’t able to use the right amount of insulin his levels would be too high for too long. This contributes to bad health in the future. 

“Keep the monitor reader near you!”

Some days feels like I’m always reminding our T1D child to carry the phone so it’s close enough for the low alarm to sound. 

On other days I try to do as much as I can, so he can be a child and not have to think about it. On one hand, we’re training him to look after himself, on the other hand, he is too young to have the burden all by himself.  One day it will be totally up to him.

My husband has spent the year embracing his role as a “Dadcreas” (Dad who tries to be a pancreas).

Our future is caregiving around the clock. I’m not feeling all of this at the moment, but it is helpful to read this, I’m too tired to work out how to express this myself: 

“HELLO, we are working around the clock over here to keep my daughter ALIVE. By ourselves. With no medical degrees. With no daily help from a doctor. WE decide how much life-saving medicine to give her all day, every day. And by the way, too much of this said life-saving medicine could KILL her! Try to wrap your head around that!” But then people look at her and see this vibrant, healthy-looking girl and they think I’m exaggerating, or worse, using my child’s illness to get attention. 

Friday, December 02, 2022

Christmas in Expatland

 Streams of uniformed children walked into school, trampling on the scattered grey snow. As I watched from my window, I couldn’t believe my eyes; it was all wrong and weird.

I knew well ahead of time that Christmas is not a public holiday in China, but I still felt surprised. School and cold weather should not be present on December 25th.

Christmas to me meant the end of the school year and the beginning of summer holidays. That was all I’d known, my entire Australian childhood. It was for family, church, and water fights.

“We live between worlds, sometimes comfortable in one, sometimes in the other, but only truly comfortable in the space between.” –Marilyn Gardner, Between Worlds

Read the rest over at A Life Overseas


Tuesday, November 08, 2022

Being sick is not a vacation

Things keep changing so quickly, it feels like there is always a lot going on. I'm using the word prompts from A Chronic Voice to capture some of our life at the moment. 

It is Water Festival/Boat rowing holiday here in Cambodia. The time of year when the river changes direction and people eat dried, pounded rice. The end of the rainy season is a great time to clean the mould off everything.

Soeun has taken a group camping for this holiday the last few years, but this year they are using our backyard for holiday fun. Lots of neighbors are busy getting ready to move, so he ended up cancelling the trip.

Finishing up an infection

It’s a relief, and kind of a surprise to say our child’s sickness is finishing. With chronic illnesses so much part of our family life, I forgot some pain could heal in a matter of days.

Our child has been in pain since Thursday. After a few days of painkillers, we went to the doctor and got some antibiotics. It's Tuesday now and the pain from the ear infection is gone. We haven’t given pain meds since Sunday.

We didn't do school last Thursday or Friday. I called in a holiday at the time, but now I'm renaming it sick days. We stopped doing school because health made it hard, not so we could be refreshed.

Easing back into homeschool after a forced medical break of many months

It's not like picking up where we left off from. That day in February when the doctors told us to rush our child to the hospital we dropped everything. We had no idea it would be over 6 months before we could get our school mornings back.

It has felt like starting from scratch again. We have not jumped into the maths program I was getting them started on at the end of 2021. In late August I had the children do half an hour each morning of a maths program we used in 2020- early 2021. It felt like going backward and forwards at the same time. On the one hand, at least we are in a daily deskwork maths routine now. On the other hand, we are not using the lessons I had planned we would be doing by now.

I was never trying to school them according to what grade they would be in if they went to school. I’m aiming to help them progress through maths and English skills, so we can't really get "behind" in school work.


Reading this book is comforting (and confronting).  If you are involved in Christian ministry, either yourself or as a supporter this is a great read, but not for the faint of heart. 

Wishing this was more obvious

Taking a medical break from school/work is not the same as a vacation/ holiday!

It sounds simple when I put it like this but I keep bumping up against this in the wrong way.

For example, we were in the hospital in February so we didn’t do homeschool that month. I was told the first little while with Type 1 in the family is intense so I thought a few months break from school was in order. March/April is our long school break/summer holiday, so we never do any school then anyway.

I tried to get started with school again in May, as that’s when I was going to start a new year anyway. But, it felt too hard. Not only were we still struggling nightly and daily with diabetes we also hadn’t had a break. While we had had a 3-month break from school, it was a time of high stress and not much sleep. I didn’t consider this when I tried to start school in May. We were exhausted, and not refreshed from our break.

I remembered back a decade ago when we were in the first years of my husband's sickness. Every break I had from work was super exhausting both physically and emotionally. For example, when I took a week of annual leave one June we had sickness all week. We spent the entire final day in the hospital, from dawn to dusk. It was a super scary day, which still impacts me even now. We got home late that night, and I turned around the next morning and went back to work. Ideally, I should have taken a break after that, but I didn’t realise that, and I don’t know if I could have organized it anyway. But I turned up for work drained. Walking straight from what I now recognise as a traumatic experience into a new term at work.

Being sick is not a vacation. I wish this was more obvious to sick people and society generally.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, October 25, 2022


Angkor Park


These goats near the airport are the only ones I've seen in Cambodia.

We came to the end of Narnia a few days ago.


Monday, October 24, 2022

My grab and go anxiety management tools


A bit of stress occasionally might not need too much thought to live with. But what if the stress bursts in suddenly and looks like it won’t leave anytime soon?  How can you keep getting through each day when every day is overwhelming?

Recently we entered a time that seems like it will be one of prolonged stress. 

Cue anxiety. It is hard to focus and breathe. 

It's pretty intense and looks like it might go on for a while. It's been 2 months already. What tools do I have that I can just grab straight away and start using? What has been helping?

Enabling- On Anxiety Management


In normal times I wait until I have a good amount of time to go for a bike ride. I need half an hour or more to make it worth it, enough time to ride to the other side of the park.

But with anxiety threatening to overwhelm I've been taking any bits of time I can. Even if it means only 5km, and even if it’s in a hot part of the day. Even a little bit of movement makes a difference.

On intense days it means I can feel it right away. On not-so-intense days I know it’s still important. If I’m exercising regularly anxiety spikes are less fierce.

And I'm riding through trees and past lakes/moats of water so the scenery is beautiful which helps too.


What if you could calm your nervous system for free, (almost) anytime and anywhere?

At first, breathing exercises made me dizzy, but now that I know how to do them, it feels like a superpower.

Deep breathing exercises centre your nervous system. In counselling, I learnt triangle breathing and another similar one. Box breathing is another well-known method.

I felt how much I had come to rely on breathing when I found myself in the hospital earlier this year.

After rushing our child to the hospital I started to feel anxiety building up in my body. Time to breathe! But, it didn’t work with a mask on and it wasn't an option to take it off. (It was the pandemic, and we were in the ICU of a children’s hospital in Cambodia. There were at least 10 very sick, very small children in the room.)

In that situation, all I could do was notice how I felt and deal with it later.

However, in our current season, I'm able to use breathing exercises to manage anxiety. 

Other tools that have been helping include:

Sleep, nutrition, guided imagery, and books.

More on how books have helped:

Reading Narnia out loud has given me a chance to focus on a magical fictional world. While reading I’m holding the physical book in my hands and having to articulate each word. My children and I really enjoyed it. We read all 7 Narnia books over the last few months. Coincidently we just started before this anxiety began. I wrote more about our experience in these 2 posts:
We are deep in Narnia
From the Dawn of Time until the Last Battle.

I was a bit sceptical when I heard about a Christian book on anxiety, was it going to quote "Do not be anxious" at me?

I was proved wrong when I heard the author interviewed on The Pastor's Heart. In fact, the blurb did quote Philippines 4 but in a way that attracted rather than repelled me.

‘Do not be anxious about anything' says the Apostle Paul. But Paul Grimmond says saying that to an anxious person is a bit like telling an ice-cream not to melt in summer.

NB- I haven't actually read this book yet, hoping to one day. It's helping me just by its very existence.  

When the Noise won't stop
A Christian guide to dealing with anxiety 
by Paul Grimmond


There is so much hype around the issue that is triggering my anxiety. I don't want to expose myself to unnecessary triggering. I’ve been trying to take in all the relevant information and bypass the rest. Not possible to do it perfectly but a balance to strive for.

I also have to be careful about the time of day I take in information. I know it will stress me out more if it’s later in the day. If there is some big news I need to hear, my husband knows to share it with me at lunchtime rather than in the evening.


Thanks for reading. What's on your grab-and-go list? 

Head over here to read what other chronic illness bloggers wrote for these prompts: A Chronic Voice October Linkup

Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

Friday, October 21, 2022

Broken Blenders

 See the blade twist to a stop

See the smoke rise after the pop

And I’ve broken another blender

Blenders keep breaking; I can’t bear to get another one. Is it that I keep buying low-quality blenders? Or is it the power surges and dusty, tropical environment? I can’t remember how many blenders I’ve been through in my years living in SE Asia. I don’t have one at the moment; I can’t bring myself to buy another one. I know it’s going to break.

Friends keep leaving; I can’t bear to get to know new people. Every new friend is an embryo of a goodbye. The expat community has such a high turnover. As an Australian living in Asia, I’m in a community with people from many countries. We all live here together as foreigners. Some stay for a few months, some for a few years, and some for a few decades. At any given time, I know of someone who is gearing up to move back to their passport country.

I was finally getting to know them
Maybe enough to be a regular confidant
Then they announce they are leaving
And they give their stuff away

I was finally getting to know them
Maybe enough to tell them where we keep the passports
Then they announce they are leaving
And they give their stuff away

I was finally getting to know them
Maybe our children will grow up together
Then they announce they are leaving
And they give their stuff away

We are a mosaic of everyone we’ve ever met, so they say. A mosaic is composed of pieces of different colours and shapes arranged together to form beauty. Well, I say the content of our house is a hodgepodge of many of the people we have farewelled. Our things are a jumbled, messy mixture of exited expats’ former items.

You can read the rest of this post over at A Life Overseas- Broken Blenders