Two months. One year. Five weeks. Six months. Two rainy seasons. I occasionally feel like my life is measured in milestones, in the amount of time that has passed between one thing and another.
Volunteers want to know various things about my life, all of them measured in time. Unfailingly, someone in each group we host asks, "How long did it take you to get used to driving here?" The question used to irritate me because I'd answered it so many times, but now I just smile and explain: I started driving because I had to. Not much room for an adjustment process when you're handed the keys and told to go for it.
Cambodians want to know how long I've lived here. When I say, "Three years," they reply, "Oh, you can speak Khmer very clearly." Sometimes we have this exchange entirely in English.
People ask me about the last time I was in the US, and "how long before you'll go back?" I never know how to answer that one; the process of scheduling a visit can be tricky, balancing work and family visits, trying to leave and return when we're not so busy here.
A friend asked me yesterday, "How long did it take before you felt content in Cambodia?" I appreciated the nuance of the question. It's not "at home" or "comfortable" or "settled," things which I feel intermittently in varying degrees. Instead, it's contentment, something that I can (and do) feel now. For the most part, I have made a home here, I feel comfortable, and I am settled. Even after all of that, I still choose contentment, choose not to long for other places, things I can't or don't have.
At this point, the only question I can't answer is the one I'm asked most often: "How long will you stay in Cambodia?"
These days, I'm tempted to reply, "However long it takes."