Last week I had to say goodbye to one of my best friend’s in Cambodia: my former flatmate and tv watching buddy, Ruth. No I’m not talking about myself in the third person, we just happened to have the same name. This blog post is my way of honouring our friendship by remembering some of the best things about our time together in this amazing country.
Ruth and I met through an Expat in Cambodia Facebook group before I’d even arrived in Phnom Penh last summer. We were both looking for a place to live and agreed that if we got on well when we met up, we’d look for an apartment together. Ten days after my plane touched down last August we were living in our wonderful apartment. We lived there for six months before she moved to take over a friend’s lease and I moved into a different apartment with several friends.
Living with Ruth was awesome! She would always make me cups of tea (I haven’t drunk one since moving out because I’m too lazy), her tolerance for dirt was a little lower than mine so she always cleaned the apartment (I now have a cleaner), and we also got on really well. As we were both British, we bonded over various things from back home. I even arrived in August with several things from England for Ruth, including a jar marmite which I know for a fact she never used!
Ruth helped me revive Fish Friday. This was a tradition I started with one of my best friends, Mandy, back in 2012. It involved a barbecued fish from a street stall by the market, French fries, cake, and alcohol. It’s basically Cambodian fish and chips (plus cake and wine). Every Friday after work, I would invite several friends over to our house for this meal. We’d meet in our favourite coffee shop, order the fries and the cake, walk to get the fish (and salad), return to pick up the cake, nip next door to buy alcohol, and walk home. We had the routine down to a fine art. And Ruth was a wonderful co-host of this iconic Cambodian dinner! It was so nice to unwind after a long week with some great friends, great food, cheap alcohol, and some lighthearted films. I’ll miss our Friday fun, even if it has been months since Ruth has actually attended a Fish Friday (grrrrr.)
My weekends in Phnom Penh tend to revolve around my Saturday nights. There’s always a house party, birthday, or leaving celebration to attend. Ruth wasn’t quite such a party person but I managed to drag her on two nights out in the entire six months we lived together. Actually the second one was New Years Eve so that doesn’t even count! The first one was our way of celebrating us moving in to our new apartment. To be honest, the less said about that night the better but here are some delightful drunken pictures of us together! Oh and it was also the night we met Jess who’s become a great friend to both of us, despite the questionable first impressions we all made …
Ruth and I also went on holiday together. Koh Rong is an island of Sihanoukville and we went there for a long weekend with two friends from Phnom Penh. It was a wonderful, relaxing trip which revolved around poker, kayaking, swimming, and sleeping. We’d only lived together for about six weeks at the time so it was also a great time for us to get to know each other better. There’s a more detailed blog post about our antics here: Pchum Ben = Beach Party.
I will associate Ruth most strongly with two things: Jars of Clay and television shows. Jars of Clay is my favourite cafe here. I now live just two blocks away but when I lived with Ruth, our apartment was a whole nine blocks away. I know, it was an effort! It’s actually where we met for the first time and where we had our last meal together. We were both such regulars that the wonderful staff there wanted to know our names after a while. Unfortunately for us both, Ruth is a difficult name for Khmer people to say as their language doesn’t have the “th” sound. So we compromised and were known as “Ru” and “Lemon”. Most weekends when we lived together, Ruth and I would have at least one meal in Jars. Even after we stopped living together, we would regularly meet there and even more regularly bump into each other in Jars.
It might seem strange to many of you to associate a person with a television show. Well anyone who knows me will tell you I watch a hell of a lot of television! Ruth and I decided we wanted to watch a show together so I introduced her to my new favourite: Once Upon A Time. To say Ruth was sceptical was an understatement. She was convinced a television show about fairytales and magic was not going to be her cup of tea. Oh how wrong she was! She may not be quite as obsessed as me but it is definitely true to say Ruth is now a big fan of Once! So much of a fan in fact that we sped through all of the seasons and had to start watching another show. This time I chose one of my all time favourite cop shows, Rizzoli and Isles (Rizzles for short). Ruth had accepted I have awesome taste in tv shows by now so she was more than game for another binge watch. It was great to look forward to coming home after work and watching a show we both enjoyed so much. Even after we stopped living together this tradition continued. Every Monday was Ruth and Ruth’s TV night when I would download the latest Once and Rizzles episode and we’d catch up together (if I’d managed to wait and not watch it before Ruth arrived that is). I’m currently sat on my bed, on a Monday night, not quite sure what to do with myself. Ruth, you are missed already!
Ruth was a big part of my life in Cambodia. We settled into our jobs and our apartment together, we established our routines together, she was the one who poured the glass of wine when I found out I couldn’t graduate in January, and together we tried every single type of cake Jars of Clay has to offer. I knew she was leaving for a long time, and I’m really excited for her as I think her future plans to go back to university are fantastic, but I still miss her! I will no longer half expect to see her in Jars. I will no longer have my co-host for Fish Friday, I will no longer have someone who laughs at how hysterical I get during tense television episodes.
So farewell my lovely Ruth. I wish you all the best for the future. I know you’ll excel at university, and I think you’re a fantastic writer so I can’t wait to see what you produce! And everyone go and read her blog, she’s much more eloquent than I: These Young Old Days.
Love you millions. I’m also very much looking forward to seeing you again at Christmas when I come home to visit!!!
P.S. While the first part of the blog title is clearly a play on Charles Dickens’ novel, it is also very similar to the title of a Once Upon a Time episode. The second part is a title of a Rizzles episode. Yes, I’m that uncool!