On 19 December 2018 I flew from Adelaide to Brisbane to meet friends who were holidaying in Australia from Switzerland. Erika and Nadine flew from Melbourne to Brisbane and both flights arrived soon after mid-day. Erika booked an Uber that would cope with the 3 of us and all of the luggage for transport to the Hotel in the centre of Brisbane where we would stay for two nights. Check in was quick and easy with 2 rooms on the same floor and we were soon on our way to explore the city.

Brisbane’s recorded History dates from 1799, when Matthew Flinders explored Moreton Bay on an expedition from Port Jackson, although the region had long been occupied by the Jagera and Turrbal aboriginal tribes. The town was conceived initially as a penal colony for British convicts sent from Sydney….. Wikipedia

Brisbane is the capital city of Queensland -Australia’s second largest State by area. In addition to being the third most populous city in Australia, Brisbane is the largest of Australia’s six capital cities by geographic area and the third largest in the world. It is a green city with a subtropical climate. A river curving and curling its way around the landscape makes Brisbane one of the most unique capital cities in Australia.

The Brisbane River was named after the Governor of New South Wales, Sir Thomas Brisbane. The river is 344 km long and there are 15 major bridges. Traffic on the Brisbane River isn’t all about the modern City Cats. The city can be enjoyed from the river on Brisbane’s quaint old-style ferries. The Ferries Criss-cross the river upstream and downstream between Sydney Street and North Quay. This was our choice of transport on our first afternoon in Brisbane as we went to explore the South Bank precinct.                                      The  Story Bridge is the longest steel cantilever bridge in Australia. Its construction began in 1935 and it opened, initially as a toll bridge in 1940. The bridge connects Fortitude Valley to Kangaroo Point.

South Bank is Brisbane’s premier lifestyle and cultural destination. Located on the southern banks of the Brisbane River, the 17 hectares  of lush parklands with world-class eateries, beautiful gardens, stunning river views and events all year round bring locals and visitors to explore, unwind and relax. After strolling through the area where families were enjoying activities in and out of the water and a Christmas Market was in full swing Erika and I enjoyed a tasty meal outdoors in a great setting. The city was bedecked with coloured lights in celebration of the Christmas season.

More about Brisbane in DAY TWO post ……..


Keeping it ‘Riel’ (currency of Cambodia 4,000 riel = $US1)

So, we are one year on and as David and I reflected over Brunch this morning we thought it was important to be real in terms of what living in Cambodia means for us.

What is hardest?

Not being with our family and friends. It is challenging to be distant as people at home continue ‘doing life’ and we miss being part of it. The incidental conversations, time to ‘be’ in one another’s space, sharing in the highlights and lowlights, just journeying together. We have lovely people to live and journey with here……but it is not quite the same as those who know you so well that you don’t have to share conversation to be on the same page.

What is easiest?

Not much to be honest, but it is ‘easy’ in that we know that we are in a place and space where we can contribute in a real and useful manner. Having said that, things are only not ‘easy’ because many things are just a bit different from home. In reality we have a comfortable place to live; a fantastic workplace; access to good food; transport; a lively church community, opportunities to get out and about, a skilled hairdresser; someone who comes to clean our house; someone who will not only cook for us, but deliver the meals hot to our door for a fair price; and we are surrounded by caring co-workers and school families.

Highlights of the past year

  • Hosting family and friends to introduce them to our school community and our home town of Phnom Penh. Seeing our kids at Christmas was a particular highlight!
  • Seeing some good progress in various areas at work. David has made some amazing progress in different areas of the facilities,  building on (pardon the pun) the work of those who have gone before him. I have had the chance to refine various areas of our schooling approach, and I am pleased to see a stronger consistent focus on good teaching and learning. Student voice in the school is growing and care for the health and wellbeing of students and staff is at the forefront of decision making.
  • Travel opportunities:  we have had the opportunity to spend extended time in Thailand, Vietnam and Sri Lanka this year. For the first time in our working lives our holidays align. I have also attended professional training in Singapore and Malaysia. It is wonderful to expand our understanding of this part of the world.
  • Working with students, families and staff from around the globe.We are so much richer for the multicultural community we are in; we have learned new education language – task, cover, set… and the fact that I inevitably use Australian colloquialisms that draw blank looks; new food – river snails were not a highlight, new cultural traditions – Water Festival, Pchum Benh; new expectations and new things to laugh at!

And finally, keeping it ‘riel’ we continue to live a relatively wealthy existence. While we work at a mission school and receive a living allowance rather than salary, when I checked on the Care Global Rich List calculator this morning, our combined income continues to put us in the top 4% of income earners globally. We know that we are living far more comfortably than many of those in our immediate community as our life includes so many elements that are still inaccessible to many here in Cambodia:  we have electricity (and air con.), running water, a home which does not flood, access to health care without needing to pay before receiving service, access to three meals a day, and enough income to take holidays, eat at restaurants and pay for recreation.  We are indeed fortunate!



Cheryl Flight

Secondary School Principal

HOPE School.     


Why we like living and working in the ‘Kingdom of Wonder’.

Without the breadth of choice, which could be viewed as a frustration, there also comes a sense of contentment and satisfaction.

Circumstances force us to live simply and prioritise those things that are most important to us.

Cambodians are caring and friendly people. While I still have to use the phrase ‘mun jul dtee’(I don’t understand) all too often, locals will patiently push on, using their little English, and lots of gesturing and body language to work to a solution.

Our work is very rewarding. Sadly, at home, many young people take their education for granted. Although working with expat children, they understand that their parents have made a significant sacrifice to provide them with an education and middle and high school students don’t need to look too far to see that they have access to something that many local children do not. This means that they express gratitude.Their parents do also. Only this morning one of the dads stopped and just said ‘thank you for what you do’. Staff also share a common calling and fully support the vision of the school. They are not here for a job, but to offer a service that supports expat workers to do their good work here in Cambodia.

Community is core. We enjoy a diverse range of connections and friendships. As I looked around at church, westerners are clearly in the minority. Our social life is much more diverse as we spend time with people from many nations and age groups and I am sure we are much richer for it. We get to share in the lives of Cambodian people as we work alongside them.

We are presented with new challenges. We work with limited resources to provide an excellent education for the young people here. In life we daily navigate chaotic traffic, new foods, draining weather conditions, challenges to the senses and ‘tales of the unexpected’. Challenges build creativity, tenacity, resilience, persistence and a ‘get up, dress up, and show up’ can do approach, something we may not have always had to draw on in the comfort of Adelaide.

Our communication with friends and loved ones becomes very intentional. Having your nearest and dearest close by is wonderful (and much missed), but may lead us to become complacent in our contact. We now need to think of time differences and plan when we can speak. While we miss all that ‘by the by’ communication, we treasure hearing updates from home.

We only need a wardrobe for one season. While there are temperature variations, most of the year has ranged from 26 degrees upwards and daytime temps are low 30’s upwards – mostly upwards. Therefore, for us, it’s a summer wardrobe all year around.  Side note: we are heading into cool season here which is a lovely respite. Amazing when 30 degrees and a small breeze becomes such a blessing.

Mostly it is because we have a clear sense that we are making a contribution and can offer skills that are needed by the school. So for now, Cambodia will continue to be our home.

Cheryl Flight

Secondary School Principal – HOPE School


So what is it like to live in a country with rainy season? (especially for an expat. who lived in the driest State on the driest Continent!)

  • The rain is REALLY impressive. It is like someone is upending a bucket for sometimes hours on end. No light sprinkling here. I think the expression is ‘it’s raining cats and dogs’.
  • We wish we had a car (a moto is a challenge on the best of days)because getting soaked isn’t fun.
  • We are grateful that when we are soaked we come home to a dry house and a shower. Many of our dear neighbours do not have either of these luxuries. We have a whole new appreciation for town planning, gutters and storm water drains….. which are still noticeably absent in so many of the outskirt areas of Phnom Penh.
  • We are grateful that when our Borey was built some thought was given to these things. School staff living in another area quite close to school (an area considered somewhat more upmarket than ours) quite literally need to wade through water knee deep (or wear their gum boots) on afternoons after the down pour.  And it’s NOT pleasant as it collects all refuse and sewage.
  • Initially we were making decisions to ‘not go out’. We’ve now realised that, short of becoming house bound, this simply isn’t an option. Instead, we don the rain gear (my 2000 riel Poncho (69c Aus) has served me well) and get on the bike!! Just occasionally we book a Passapp – the local Uber like tuk tuk option …. but chances are we’ll still end up pretty wet.
  • The road to school is even more treacherous. During the dry season it is a dirt road full of pot holes, made worse by the cement trucks that use it as a cut through. During the wet season it is now muddy and full of pot holes…. which, after about half an hour of rain, become invisible. This meant that one morning we were part way to school when David hit an unexpected ‘hole’ and in one of those ‘slow motion but not slow enough to do anything about it’ moments we both ended up in the mud. On many other days we arrive at school with a liberal muddy decoration as passing vehicles are no respecter of those who are walking or on bikes. Two classic quotes from recent visitors:  A visiting book rep., an older lady, arrives and says ‘your undercarriage certainly needs to be intact to manage that road’, and a visiting girlfriend from Canberra tells me ‘You should have mentioned that I need to wear my sports bra when I come to visit your school’.
  • My walking to school days are over for now. I can’t jump puddles as big as the ones on the road. Some days a boat would be a better option!
  • I’m not sure of the origin of the expression ‘like a drowned rat’,  but the rain brings out the live ones, and we seem to have to clean up the dead ones more often. Thankfully, the closest they have come to our house is in the front entrance area; none inside to date.
  • The level of the nearby affectionately named ‘black stream’ rises and, with the higher levels, the fish and crabs ‘plop’ out on the road. David’s theory is that they’re using it as their chance to escape, but of course, they just become a more readily available dinner for someone!!

Mercifully the rain brings the temperature down somewhat. It is actually quite nice opening the window and using the fan to draw the air in.

As this is our first year, we are still not sure how long this season lasts but most tell us it could rain through until the end of October. Like the quote says ‘life is not about waiting for the storm to pass….. it’s about learning to dance in the rain’.

Here’s to the Flights learning to dance!

Cheryl Flight

Secondary School Principal – HOPE School


EXPAT REFLECTIONS: Same same but different

We eat out  – but we don’t have the variety we had in Australia. Our favourite local is Jars of Clay, a local NGO (non-governmental organisation)but we are slowly building our ‘favourites’ list and look forward to sharing if anyone wants to come to visit us.

We get take-away – in fact even more often than before. We have worked out that it is cheaper to buy meals prepared for us by a local – LIM – who is trying to establish a catering business than to cook for ourselves. We love her eggplant lasagne or chickpea curry, or fish amok and, at $3 per serve, we’re not cooking. (Amok is a traditional classic Khmer dish, a curry of chicken, fish or vegetables steamed in banana leaves topped with coconut milk). Noy Noy’s noodles has just opened so $2 for a dozen dumplings is going to be added to our menu.

We exercise…. but walking isn’t an option. It is hot, sticky, and somewhat dangerous with no footpaths in our part of town. Hence exercise is at the gym two or three times a week. It’s very western except that the clientele is mostly Chinese and Korean and it’s hot because the air-conditioning is set at about 28 degrees.

We go to work…..but now that we work together the work meetings continue over the dinner table. Our hours are also somewhat different. We usually arrive at about 6.45 and leave between 4 and 5 pm.

We watch AFL……on Australia Plus and enjoy having others over to watch with us. Last Friday we had an extra 7 adults and 4 kids to watch the Sydney game – a mix of Australians, New Zealanders, Cambodians and Canadians!

We watch Netflix (same same) and can recommend ‘Money Heist’, a Spanish series we have just finished.

We have friends….but miss those who have been such a regular part of life for such a long time. Our friendship group is diversifying, both in age and nationality. We have even managed to connect with some Americans:)

We have a social life….. but are usually home by 9pm.  This week we went to a Charity Concert at the Sofitel and we didn’t get home until 10! A VERY late night. Late because days start early and late because we are so far from the centre of town that drivers don’t want the fare to bring us home at that time of night. Our area is not perceived as being particularly safe. (And it’s not just us. Even the younger staff members are ‘done’ by this time).

We drink Cider…..Brunty’s is the brand of choice.  And David still drinks Coke.

We communicate with those around us…. but I am ashamed to say that for me if it is not in English, it is often limited to single words, or maybe three word phrases. I’m working on it.

We work with lovely young people….no difference there. Young people are young people the world over.

We work with young people in transition….bigger difference there, as kids have to learn to cope with different countries, living conditions, education systems, lifestyle, food and climate.

We drive places ….on a moto. This means we get hot, wet (it is now wet season so SOAKED is closer to the point) and have helmet hair.

We are getting to know our neighbours……. who, like at home, love karaoke. Unlike at home, many social events are held in the street so people are very quick to invite us to join. Last week it was a four year old’s birthday party.

We get to go on holiday…. but now, working together, we have longer holidays and at the same time. This means that in the coming ‘summer break’ (an ironic name because it is not summer here but it is somewhere in the world) we can spend a whole month exploring Sri Lanka together.

We miss home and friends and family, but there is enough ‘Same  Same’ in our life to keep us sane and here!

Postscript:  for those who keep in contact on Facebook. Due to a recent theft I am now without a phone and cannot remember my Facebook log in. We love to hear news from home so either ‘friend’ David Flight or email me (Cheryl) on  





SIEM REAP is the capital city of Siem Reap Province in north-western  Cambodia. It is a popular resort town and a gateway to the ANGKOR region.  There are many large hotels, resorts, restaurants and businesses closely related to tourism due to its proximity to the Angkor temples, the most popular tourist attraction in Cambodia. (Over 5 million tourists visit Cambodia each year).

Initially I was stunned as the road in from the Airport passes huge hotels on either side of the road with their beautiful gardens, swimming pools etc. (not quite what I came to see) but I soon learned of their importance to the Tourism industry.

Our Hotel, although only 2 years old, was down a dirt road near the Siem Reap River. This brought us into an area where locals live and we enjoyed being in the community. The young lads who came to swim in the river were always anxious to spend time talking with my brother – a time when they could practise their English.

The photos were taken as we walked one morning through a street market just outside the Hotel.


Living life as a ‘Barang’

This is the name that Cambodians give to Westerners. It goes back to the time of the French Protectorate. It is still used as a respectful way of addressing a person, as opposed to the quite pejorative ’youn’ used for the Vietnamese.

While we try to learn from those who have gone before; aka the Chinese proverb ‘Others’ experience is a lantern one carries on one’s back’ we have learned that expatriation is a game with no written rules. We try hard to not have “binary vision” leading to a view of two worlds, ‘ours and theirs’, but often we seem to fall unwittingly into the trap that ‘we know’ and we are constantly checking ourselves for perhaps harmless, but nevertheless insensitive, comments like commenting on the driving here ‘where Cambodians do everything against common sense’. Like the children I teach at school, there are some thoughts that are better staying inside our heads!

As Phnom Penh ‘Barang’ we are only partially integrated. It is still not unusual to see us head to a fashionable downtown cafe for a Saturday brunch treat.

While we do not live in an expat enclave, we are clearly in a middle class Cambodian Borey, as is reflected in the number of cars, home helpers and air cons! We love mixing with the locals at the market and happily spend our days with our Cambodian co-workers, but the reality is that most of our recreation time is still spent in the company of those who speak English as their mother tongue.

We have tried to learn some language, but I don’t think my string of random phrases cut it! For Cambodians, a foreigner who speaks Khmer is a person who is attempting to integrate into the community and therefore must be congratulated, hence I persist. One of the many complications learning the language (aside from a middle-aged brain that is over full at the end of a work day) is that you need to think Khmer to speak it. As a whole, Cambodians don’t call objects after their brand names, e.g. if I wanted to buy a can of Red Bull (unlikely, but serves as my example) I need to know that it is referred to as ‘Kor chul’ two bulls hitting each other… as that is the image on the can!

We live in a world of discrimination. There is clearly a ‘two tiered pricing system’ and we pay a higher price for looking like (and, in fact, being) foreigners. Our electricity bill is multiplied up to triple the rate of our neighbours, regardless of our consumption level, and we are charged more for rubbish collection. (All because they come in person to read the meter so know we are not ‘local’). Even our rent is inflated even though we rent from a Cambodian staff member at school. Our neighbours pay 40% less for an identical property. My only way to ameliorate against this is to build relationship at local stores and ensure that I continually go back for repeat business. ‘thly klang Nah’ – that’s too expensive, just doesn’t cut it.

Precision and time are notions perceived differently here. Time is there for one to take. As simple as that. It is time which is at the mercy of events, put on hold if needed and not the other way around. Therefore ’cham bontich’ (meaning – wait a little) does not necessarily suggest, as I initially thought, wait a few minutes. It may indicate a meeting has been cancelled, or, when at a restaurant, that they may have run out of what was ordered … but never fear, we will send a staff member out to find it elsewhere. At the local laundry it may mean they have given your clothes to another customer (not my current experience, but on a previous trip I did get back to my hotel to find that I had received carefully folded men’s underwear). In this instance it is a matter of avoiding a perceived conflict, which could lead to a serious and unforgivable case of ‘losing face’.

Australia meets Cambodia at a wedding – 

– Somewhat more Cambodian

Cheryl Flight