Sunday, November 30, 2008

I'll Be Home For Christmas.

As the calendar officially changes to December and sounds of Amy Grant singing "O Come Let Us Adore Him" come from Emily's computer behind me, I am creating an iPod Christmas music play list (complete with a little classic FigTree21 - - check it), and beginning to form a running list in my head of all the many things I look forward to this Christmas. I always love this time of the year, but it seems especially wonderful after being away from home now for 7 months :)

These are a few of my favorite things about going home for Christmas:

-The song of the same title takes on new significance (even after singing it over 11 times in a row...)
-I get to see the people I love!!! :)
-Repeated viewings of the movie Elf. "What's a Christmas-gram!? I want one!"
-Cookies! Banana Bread. Pumpkin Pie.
-Egg Nog Lattes
-Christmas Music

-Charlie Brown holiday specials on TV
-Christmas Day parades
-Getting to hold my husband’s hand in public without feeling scandalous :)
-Fleece blankets.
-Fire places.
-Christmas lights.
-Snow! (even if we have to drive to find it)

The official Cambodia countdown to going home is now at 3.5 days!..... :)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

How I spent my Thanksgiving holiday.

It is Thanksgiving Day here in Cambodia, which for the American staff equates to exorbitant amounts of turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, green beans, cranberry, homemade rolls (by Christal) and amazing apple and brownie desserts (created by Emily).

For our Cambodian staff the holiday equates to all of the above, overshadowed only by the addition of pizza. Just like the pilgrims first ate at Plymouth Rock.

Our day began like a normal day for us in Phnom Penh. We got ready, stepped out of our house, greeted our turkeys (who apparently did not meet their fate on this day of thankfulness), and went into the office for a few hours. The day became decidedly more “festive” promptly at noon when we followed the smell of pizza and turkey (a beautiful combination) and ate some snacks before filling up our plates (the first of multiple times) with ridiculous amounts of good (and I like to think entirely good-for-you) food.

I love Thanksgiving.

I'm there..if you look for me.

As the eating slowed down a bit and people were beginning to feel that familiar discomfort of having eaten far more than your system can reasonably consume, shouts of delight and glee (depending on your interpretation) could be heard for miles around as each Thanksgiving Day participant was gently accompanied to the pool for an afternoon swim.

Fully clothed.

Just like at Plymouth Rock.
There were rumors floating around that one of our brave F.C.O.P. leaders may have led the charge on this pool-side
Thanksgiving tradition, but unfortunately we have no photographic evidence to confirm or deny this claim.

Incidentally, for those curious on our respective entries into the pool, Kris and Emily, who had watched nearly dozens of attendees go for an unexpected swim, determined they would not be coerced into this burgeoning Thanksgiving Day tradition. In a rebellious display of independence, they ran and simultaneously threw themselves into the water. Their courage will not be forgotten.

I, on the other hand, was standing in the kitchen by Christal commenting that I would normally take my afternoon swim at this time, so maybe it wouldn't really be so bad after all. I looked out to see my husband being carried away by 4 young Cambodian staff (he would later recall the glory of his struggle and the way he kept them at bay for nearly a minute before succumbing to the mob). I then looked to my left as Christal (mumbling something to the effect of "I'll go peacefully") was escorted away by two staff.

A very soaked Ma Sou (who had been invited for a swim by her husband whose anonymity I will protect here), attempted unsuccessfully to hide me in the laundry room area. I heard the words "maybe she's in here" coming from a male voice and I knew my afternoon swim was undeniably inevitable.

I can't really complain though because I had the pleasure of being carried by a very strong, attractive taller man I normally am not permitted to touch in this culture (my husband, for those not tracking..) A Thanksgiving Day miracle indeed :)

We finished up the afternoon by continuing to watch unsuspecting guests be "ushered" (we'll say) into the pool for a swim, drying out afterwards in the sun, and realizing that sitting at our desks a good 5 hours after eating, we are still completely and entirely full.

Except for Josh who is wondering what's for dinner :)

Happy Thanksgiving!

And for those of you counting along with us, the official countdown to when we board the plane for home is now at 7 days!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Target here I come....

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Same old same old.

While I tend to equate the word routine with something that people fall into, grow tired of, or attempt to avoid, I have found it to be quite comforting during our time in Phnom Penh as we are now post-teams and pre-Christmas vacation. We wake up at the same time each morning, which for me has been 6:15, though we don’t have to be in the office until 8. I don’t know what Cambodia has done to me.

We have lunch at (nearly) the same time every day. I have an hour to read in the afternoons out on our balcony with the sweet sounds of birds chirping and plastic bottles crunching at the recycling factory that resides next door. I have an afternoon snack of either fruit with peanut butter (it balances out…or cancels each other out..either way..) or leftover Fullkorn crackers from the Norway team (cardboard has never tasted so good). We exercise before dinner as Emily swims laps, Josh runs to nearby cultural museums, and I fulfill my dreams of becoming a backup dancer/martial arts expert courtesy of an infomercial DVD purchase 3 Christmases ago (I’m a sucker for a good infomercial). It’s called Turbo Jam. And it is even better than the video with the guy who teaches you N*Sync choreography (so I hear...)

After our swimming, running, and jamming, we eat amazing food prepared by Ma Soki who we secretly (or not so secretly now) plan to take with us back to America one day so we can open a restaurant. We are entrepreneurs.

After dinner, Josh and I have made a little tradition of walking around our complex, hoping that the frogs jumping out of our path (or into our path) aren’t the ones that spit poison in your eyes, and enjoying the Cambodian “winter” weather consisting of cool evenings and stunning lightning displays. We dream about going to REI, Target, and Red Robin, as well as contemplate what the next year might look like for us.

We finish off our evenings by watching an episode of The Office (we finished season 3 last night), enjoying our recent purchase of a $6.80 dart board from the office supply store, doing our respective victory dances depending on who won and what music is playing, having some Bible reading time, and going to bed at the late hour of 10pm to enjoy another day of routine.

Love it.

The reason that this is so glorious to me is that life with teams is routine to a degree, but it is also a constant flow of new faces, new projects, new provinces, new wake up times, and new opportunities for growth and flexibility :) I am praying to be content throughout and within all of these seasons and not simply strain toward the next one.

“Godliness with contentment is great gain.” - 2 Tim 5:6.

“In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” – Proverbs 16:9.

And some specific verses encouraging to me in this season in Cambodia.

”Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed.” – Psalm 82:3

“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy dwelling.” –
Ps 68:5

“Seek justice. Encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.” –Isaiah 1:17

Helpful hints.

Some helpful Cambodia Travel Tips courtesy of the bathroom wall at Angkor Wat:
No smoking.
No standing on the toilet.
No chopping your feet off.
No showering.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

20 days.....

Here are 3 of the approximately 8,762 things I am most looking forward to in going home for Christmas a mere 20 days from now!! :)

(Briell will be there in spirit)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I like the water better over there.

I am currently sitting at T & Coffee World, otherwise known as the “Starbucks of Cambodia” (according to the internet). I recommend ordering either the iced coffee or mixed fruit smoothie. I also recommend choosing the more comfortable chairs on the left side of the cafĂ©. Josh recommends not ordering the $1.50 bottle of water that you could get for $.30 downstairs at Lucky Market. This little world of comfortable furniture and expensive water has become our office away from home as we reflect back on the past three week stretch that marked our last two teams of the year.

The first of these was a medical team from Norway (and a nurse from the Philippines) who came to serve the community within the province of Svey Reang. They worked tirelessly and selflessly over 5 days and were able to treat over 1,000 people. These were people who may otherwise have no access to any sort of health care. They were able to be treated physically as well as have a chance to hear the gospel and get a tract that we are fortunate enough to have as a resource. We were talking the other day about what a tremendous resource this small book is because it is written all in Khmer and presents the gospel in a way that is directly related to the Cambodian culture, faith and individuals.

On another cultural note, I was introduced to some of the finer Norwegian delicacies during this time with the team such as “bacon paste,” “Bixits,” and "Fullkorn." We also have the offer of a place to stay if we are ever in Oslo. We like to make friends with people in as many countries as possible :)

The second team which left on Tuesday was a dental team comprised of folks from both Iowa and Oregon. They blessed Josh and I tremendously not only in their musical giftings (serenading us with an ode to themselves on the last night at the airport), but also in their humor, their attitudes, and their willingness to give us free dental cleanings :) No cavities.

We traveled to the province of Kratie to do dental work for 4 of our orphan homes over the course of five and a half days. This team, much like the Norway team, worked diligently and selflessly, blessing our kids and church home staff members, many of whom had never before seen a dentist.

The view from our hotel in Kratie.

Some of our favorite Cambodian staff and favorite Iowa dentist.

Over the course of these last two teams and doing teams in general the past six months I have been stretched a great deal, learned a great deal, and will hopefully grow a bit as a result of this. I have also (sometimes hesitantly) admitted to myself that the growth doesn’t always find me in the form I would prefer. I read this passage out of 2 Kings a few weeks ago and (perhaps embarrassingly) could very much identify with it.

2 Kings 5:10 (Elisha speaking to Namaan the army commander who had leprosy) “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed. But Namaan went away angry and said, ‘I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than any of the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?’ So he turned and went off in a rage.”

Okay, honest moment.

I like predictability.

I like my expectations to be met.

I like to ignore the fact that perhaps I become more concerned with the end results than the way those results are achieved. I genuinely want growth, and the ability to love wihout agenda, along with strong leadership skills. But then I find my plans are changed mid-way through the day, or the timing of events doesn't fit with my opinion of how they should fall, or my selfishness is challenged (so unfair). And I come away angry at the injustice of it all.

I want the nicer water.

It's warmer and less abrasive, less stony and slightly more shallow. Couldn't it just as easily (and more comfortably) produce the same results??

I am a slow learner in this regard. It's a daily process of wading in and trusting that the water will take me exactly where it is meant to.