Saturday, May 31, 2008

The adventure begins.














My husband and I made our way back into Phnom Penh today after being out with our first team this past week. It was a wonderful way to start the experience of taking teams out to the provinces to do work on our orphan homes here. We had a group of 13 come in from Malaysia. It consisted of a husband and wife, their 2 children, and a group of college students. They had great attitudes amidst 7 hour rides in the back of a truck on bumpy roads, incredible heat, busses traveling for hours on even bumpier roads with no air conditioning, and the much loved squatty potties scattered through the land :)

We did a painting project at one of the orphan homes in a province called Bantamanchey. We got to interact with a bunch of kids, some who live in the home, and some who come from the community to learn English. I found that it was quite easy to find myself surrounded by an audience, even if I was doing the most simple of tasks, and even if I couldn't really communicate beyond the brief sentences I have now mastered in my time here. "How are you?" "How old are you?" "What is your name?"

Seemingly enough to carry on a conversation...

I can also say "one Coke please."

Necessity.

We finished up our painting project at the home and headed to Siem Reap which is a tourist town we will go to with most all of the teams. It was amazing. It was very fun for Josh and I to be able to ride around in a tuk-tuk experiencing the town together, walk through Angkor Wat and two other temples (incredible), and walk through the town at night finding enjoyment in escaping to a little pharmacy store. It's funny how places like this become so much more inviting and exciting when you're not living in America :) We marvel at cheap sunglasses, try on hats, and stock up on important items like tiny bottles of shampoo and Snickers bars.

We had a five and a half hour bus ride back to Phnom Penh today, dropped the team off at the airport (after eating at the fancy airport Dairy Queen with them), and will welcome our second team tomorrow morning :) This is roughly what our schedule will entail until somewhere around November.

This next group will be a team of 5 from Kompong Thom). I'm excited. The floor of the house continues to flood in the rainy season so we will be raising it up to prevent further flooding. I look forward to finally using my impressive construction skills.

Josh and I are unpacking and repacking and catching up on e-mails at opposite ends of our fancy desk (our gray fold up restaurant table) and are now headed out for a date night at our newest favorite Phnom Penh restaurant, The Pizza Company :)

As a post-Pizza-Company note, we had great conversation in the car and at dinner regarding how privileged we feel to get to serve in our present capacity. We realize that we aren't doing anything except praying to be available to what God has us, to partner with what He is already doing in Cambodia. We look forward to this season with a great deal of expectation and excitement.















The before shots.





















And after.






























Angkor Wat.

























Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Cambodia questions.

I've had some questions come my way about what life looks like for me in Cambodia at this point in time. I figured I'd field them here instead of in multiple e-mails :)

The first question is, do I have to cook?

The answer is, no :) Although Josh and I have a wild evening in planned tonight after work to make nachos (we splurged and bought $7 cheese today...a pricey indulgence here) and watch Seinfeld. So some food preparation will be involved there. But when we're here in the office we eat breakfast on our own (we also splurged and bought some milk and cereal today) and then the office provides lunch and dinner on the weekdays.

I have yet to try some of the more exciting foods (tarantula, duck egg, and the ever popular "dog.") I'm sure that day will soon come.

The weather is pretty hot and humid (right around 85-90 degrees). I don't really mind it (so far). I'd rather be hot than cold :) It's coming up on the rainy season (haven't seen a whole lot of it while I've been here) and my favorite part of this is the thunder and lightning :)

The people here in the office are great. The majority of the staff are Cambodian and then there's Ted and Sou, Josh, Emily (whose love of Starbucks in the morning has warmed my heart and filled my senses), Tabea (who is leaving in a week, sadly), and Chris (who can speak roughly 782 languages). They have morning devotions here in the office and church services each week are all in Khmer (this Sunday will be my first experience with that).

Speaking of Khmer, I went to my first language lesson today. Many people know that I had made some terribly impressive Khmer flash cards while at home back in February. I will be selling these on the internet. Learning the language is one of my highest priorities at this point in time. I can say "hello." I can say "this is a pen." And I can say "eyeglasses."

And all of this after only 1 lesson.

Oh, and today I learned (courtesy of my husband) that 1,000 "riel" is equal to a quarter.

You're welcome.

I am loving Phnom Penh so far. I had a profound moment of gratefulness today while driving with Josh into town to try to find a table for our room (unsuccessful), both for this new season, and for my new husband who I absolutely adore. I couldn't imagine anyone I'd rather share this journey with.

There are a great deal of "Western" conveniences I didn't anticipate here. Iced coffee, italian restaurants, a book store, a donut shop, Pringles, office supply stores (glorious).

Though we didn't find a table today, we did purchase a rolling office chair for me. Now we both have one in our room (for races and nerf basketball tournaments and such). Our room is great and also includes our first baby, a small Olympia guitar that we purchased to take out with teams and do worship. We're excited for this part :)

We take our first team out this coming Monday. They'll come in from Malaysia and we'll spend a few days painting an orphanage home not terribly far from Phnom Penh. We'll also get the chance to travel through Siem Reap for a day or two. It will be my first time there and I'm very much looking forward to seeing Angkor Wat. I also have yet to see the genocide museum here in Phnom Penh (the teams go there as well). Josh told me it was a school which was turned into a prison during the Khmer Rouge. Cambodia has quite the tragic history. I am grateful to get the chance to understand where these people have come from, and also to play even the smallest part in experiencing where they are headed and the hope that is slowly unfolding.

More to come as life here continues...

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Spontaneity.


Successful spontaneity involves buying plane tickets for Thailand the day you plan to go, securing those tickets, having 30 minutes to pack, remembering everything you need, and getting into Bangkok at 9:30pm with no hotel reservation, yet easily finding a place to stay.

Unsuccessful spontaneity involves writing in a journal (which I am taking this entry from) to commemorate an hour and a half (and counting) cab ride to a bus station with tickets you've acquired earlier that day for a departure time you will most definitely miss due to the stop lights in Bangkok. What they don't tell you in the travel books (as far as I know) is that at the height of traffic in Bangkok it takes 15 minutes (not an exaggeration) to make it through the majority of the stop lights...

I am tempted at this point (in my journaling) to hitch a ride on one of the motorcycles weaving effortlessly through the frozen traffic. The one plus of continually stopping in traffic is that it is conducive to writing in a journal. It is also a practical test of learning how truly patient and "flexible" you really are (apparently a requirement for missions, from what I hear). Josh also became convinced by hour 2.5 of being in the cab that our driver was actually the twin brother of the King of Thailand.

We never confirmed this possibility.

But we remain certain (Josh says if I say it was the actual King of Thailand I may be banned from the country. They love the king. They stand for him during the previews at movies. I am not that risky).

In the end, our cab ride took 3 hours to the bus station (should have taken less than 2). We missed our bus but ended up catching the next one. Good news!

The unfortunate news is that this bus (aside from not being as comfortable as the bus we would have been on) doesn't actually go to our destination. We left Bangkok at 8:30 pm and arrived at a town I was far too groggy to remember at 5:30am. We boarded a new bus at 8am and after our bus ride, a taxi ride, 2 ferries and trekking down a few flights of stairs, we descended into the tropical paradise of the island of Lanta a mere 24 hours from when we first departed out of Bangkok.

We have since gotten everywhere 3 hours early.

Learn from us.

The good news is that once we got to Lanta we were spoiled by a private bungalow, beautiful beach, excellent Thai food, and the chance to go on a half-day "soft adventure" (as the brochure advertised) that involved riding on elephants, trekking through the jungle for half an hour and exploring an amazing cave for 45 minutes. It was my first opportunity to legitimately have to wear a head lamp.

I could ask for nothing better :)






















Impressions.

I have to say that my new husband (along with Emily and Tabea who work with the organization here) did a great job of prepping me for life in Cambodia. In my limited experience of being here I would say that my favorite way to see Cambodia (or at least Phnom Penh) so far is through the scope of a "tuk tuk" (a covered bicycle taxi basically). We took one coming back from the bus station and it was quite the ride, weaving in and out of traffic, the passengers at eye level with life happening all around us...street vendors, pedestrians, cars, bicycles, motorcycles, busses, and the occasional farm animal.

This is traffic in Cambodia.

There are rules and there is even a semblance of order to the seeming chaos of it all as cars pass each other by entering the opposite lane (no mind about oncoming traffic...surely they'll know to move..) and honking to let the passee know that a car is moving by. Honking and flashing head lights take on a whole new meaning in Cambodia. Josh has told me that driving in Cambodia is largely based on assumptions. And for the most part it works.

It works the least (statistically speaking) for the people on motorcycles...

I pondered this as the bus we were on to Sihanoukville kept attempting to pass the over sized truck in front of us towing a swerving over sized vehicle behind it. In the midst of many failed attempts (and Josh's attempt to shield me should the vehicle gently slam into the large glass window next to me), I found myself grateful to be a woman who has (hopefully) reckoned with her own death. Cambodia is not here to provide me comfort. It is here to challenge the things I have held to (including self-preservation).


Honeymoons are a great excuse for a vacation.

We began our honeymoon adventure by hopping on a bus to Sihanoukville, Cambodia. We stayed at a beautiful resort called the Sokha which brought with it the exact ingredients that paradise requires; over sized swimming pool, tropical beach, and swim-up bar. Perfect :)



"For you a thousand times over....."

As we were waiting to catch a cab in Bangkok to the bus station, Josh and I wandered into a bookstore and I went out on a limb by spending $11 on "The Kite Runner." I tend to be a sucker for books that were made into movies (not my fault) and I thought it might be a good diversion for the plane and bus rides in my near future.

I was not disappointed. I flipped open the first few pages and was immediately drawn in, not only to the story itself (which is quite riveting), but also to the way it inspired me to write. I appreciate books like that (and songs). I think good art doesn't only seek to be appreciated, but seeks to inspire. That is what this book did.

I journaled more than I might normally be prone to because of this book and found myself capturing moments throughout each day of the past week and a half.

Josh and I had been married a full 3 days before stepping on the plane that would take us to Taipei and onto our home in Phnom Penh. We are now living in a house that is shared with a few others and have the third floor to ourselves in a large room that feels more and more like "ours." It has all of the essentials of a new home such as a bathroom, dresser, fan, screens on the windows, and a $3 nerf basketball hoop. We could ask for no more.



The beginning....

In lieu of updating my normal xanga web log (www.xanga.com/my_photo_blog), I decided to start fresh with this "blog spot" to chronicle some of my SE Asia experiences and adventures.

I never would have dreamed that I would be sitting at a desk next to my husband in Phnom Penh writing back home to friends and family to keep them updated on life and ministry overseas. But this is where I currently find myself, and I am quite grateful in the midst of it all.

To catch anyone up who may have missed the last year of my life....

Due to the organizational planning of my lovely friend Brenda (though she would never take credit for such things), I was introduced to a young man a year ago in March and my life changed considerably from that day on. Josh and I talk about writing a book to advise people on how to have the most unconventional, unpredictable, seemingly impossible relationship two people could imagine.

Somehow we found ourselves living out all of these descriptives for the past year, and two weeks ago we found ourselves exchanging wedding vows, saying goodbye to family and friends, and boarding a plane that would take us across the world. I have been living in SE Asia for two weeks now and I have been journaling, taking pictures, taking some video, and generally taking everything in as I settle into a new culture and a new life.