Sunday, February 22, 2009

The island.

Lately, we find ourselves slowly and sadly counting down the days until Emily’s current season in Cambodia comes to a close and she relocates back to the states. She, Josh, Kris and I have considered the typical things people do when someone moves away, like getting matching tattoos, sky diving together, or getting Best Friend necklaces.

Because we are too frugal for any of the above, Emily chose to let a group of us come along with her yesterday to an island just beyond Kompong Chnang to drop off some children’s ministry curriculum at our church homes there, as well as rent motos and ride around the island for a few hours.

(This was Josh's scenic view from the very back of Emily's car)
We left early in the morning to catch a ferry from Kompong Chnang. We had an amazing breakfast (the best chicken and rice I’ve ever had, and I have witnesses who will echo that this is no exaggeration), picked up lunch for later, parked the car in a shady spot where the nice police officer agreed to guard it for a small fee, and made our way down to the ferry.

Now, a walk through the market in and of itself to board a ferry doesn’t sound like much of an adventure. At least not for most people. But sometimes you will be walking to a ferry in Cambodia (and I think everyone can relate to this) and someone behind you will motion for you to move over so the guy balancing the bamboo pole on his shoulders with two large gasoline containers on the end can get by. Did I mention you are walking on uneven interlocking wooden planks??

Yes. You are.

And as you instinctively react by stepping to the side, your right foot gently descends into one of the softest, most absorbent piles of mud known to man (by current estimations).

The best part of this, aside from the added “adventure” to your day, is that even more people stare (and point) at you than is normal for a foreigner who strays out in Cambodia beyond the typical tourist spots. And we were definitely out there. And I was definitely a spectacle. Admittedly only briefly, but far beyond my normal attempts at blending in.

Needless to say, I kept my winning attitude and bright smile on the whole time, never openly sulking to my husband or telling him that I refused to ever blog about the incident that had single-handedly proven the sacrifices I make in doing cross-cultural ministry.

I am far too consistent and good natured for any bad attitudes to creep in, as the picture below would reveal (taken just after a very kind Cambodian woman offered me a bucket to rinse off my muddy foot).

We finished our ferry ride, found our motos (which incidentally marked my first time on a moto in Cambodia..I am slow to try new things sometimes) and prepared ourselves as best we could for riding in the dry season in Cambodia.

(This was before the right lens of Josh’s sunglasses fell out and he alternated between riding with one eye closed and covering his whole head with the krama (“I still have about 60% of my vision with this on.”)
We rode toward our destination of the infamous mountain that resides on the island. “Mountains” in Cambodia are apparently a pretty big deal. This is the second one I’ve been to now, and while it doesn’t constitute what I might normally refer to as a mountain (being from Washington and all), it does tend to come with a legend of some sort, which no one can resist.

Sophera attempted to tell us the legend of this island mountain as we sat waiting for lunch yesterday, but all I really retained from the story was that there was an abnormally tall mythical lady (a giant some might say) who fell in love (as many giants do), something went terribly wrong, we’ll say she fell in love with a mortal, like Bewitched because this makes for a better story, but then she got clumsy, fell over, and was petrified (not in the fearful sense but in the way that makes you turn into a mountain).

The end.

Actually, in the end for us, we ran out of time and energy to scale the giant lady-mountain so we scaled some stairs instead to encounter a large Buddha statue and views like this.

Also in the end we found out that the "island" itself is technically more of a peninsula apparently. It was a day of lessons learned, from the historical, to the geographical, to the practical (watch out for mud). We arrived home sweaty, dirty, tired, and full of random ice cream treats from Tela. A very full, satisfying day.

And now for some multi-media presentations from our trip...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Sand castles.

I sit here listening to the sound of rain pouring outside of the office and myself sniffling as I sit inside. We are coming up on the hot season here in Cambodia and the unexpected rain fall is a welcome reprieve. The unexpected colds that Josh and I are both fighting have not been as warmly welcomed :)

Today is a delightfully quiet day in the office with only the sounds of keyboards typing and the occasional phone ringing in the background. The calm and quiet are a stark contrast from last week when over 500 of our orphan kids traveled into Phnom Penh to stay at our Training Center for 3 days. They had times together of games, meals, worship, prayer and teaching as well as an outing for all of the kids to the King’s Palace.

For many of these kids, it was their first time to travel outside of their province so the trip alone was remarkable. What made it even more profound was that on the 3rd day of the trip the impressively large group of us loaded 13 busses at 5am for a three hour drive down to the beach where each of the children were baptized.

Sand in their toes, castles being crafted along the shore, salt water splashing around them, and hours to swim and play at the beach were another first for nearly all of the kids. It was a great experience for everyone who got to play a part and I pray that it would be an event that continues to hold much significance for the kids on multiple levels.

After the baptism, Josh and I got to steal away for a day to the beach and find some time to relax, eat incredibly cheap seafood (including barracuda…mostly just to say we did, but it now stands as one of Josh’s favorites), see a movie at a little theater (quite a treat! we watched “Slumdog Millionaire,” and we both would recommend it), rent bicycles, and participate in the sporting event key to any successful vacation….mini-golf!

And as everyone knows, there is no better time to mini-golf than mid-morning on a hot and humid Cambodian day. And no better mini-golf location available than the one where Tiger Woods trained and now personally endorses! (or so we can only assume from the poster).

Sunday, February 8, 2009


Cambodian irony (and Don Garberg can correct any improper usage of the term irony I might offer here) begins with spending a week at one of our orphan homes that has two squatty potties to accommodate everyone’s personal septic as well as general hygiene needs. The hygiene aspect involves holding a small bucket of water over your head, attempting to accomplish the goal of leaving the bathroom feeling freer of dirt and residue than when you entered…

This generally works. That is until you step out of the bathroom and walk a few steps, acquiring a brand new layer of dirt and dust. It’s an unbreakable cycle.

This makes the idea of coming home to a shower (and perhaps this is very un-missionary-like of me to admit) after 5 days that much more wonderfully appealing. Warm water that involves no scooping or dumping. Clean feet. Not having to be concerned with quickness in case a line of people has formed outside the door.

After a 6 hour drive back to Phnom Penh on Saturday, I arrived home with a car tan (the kind that only covers part of one of your arms), road trip snacks, and lofty expectations involving a mounted shower head and adjustable water pressure (again, I'm sure I should at least appear in writing to be more hardcore than I actually am, but I strive for honesty here).

The "irony" entered the story about halfway through when both water and patience were unexpectedly lost.

The end result? A little Cambodian ingenuity involving a bucket downstairs and the one faucet in the house that still had some remaining water left to offer.

So yes, the moral of the story here is of course that sometimes you can’t escape a bucket shower. It will find you.

In other non-hygiene news, it has been a busy 2 weeks as we have partnered with a YWAM team currently in country. They have come to do part of their DTS here and have served with incredibly willing hearts and attitudes (not to mention a great deal of flexibility). The week before last they helped us to paint part of our Training Center in preparation for the annual pastor's conference happening the first week of March.

This past week was spent with the team living out at one of our orphan homes in Banteay Meanchey. Pastor Samuel, his wife Srey Net, and about 15 amazing kids let us invade their home for a week to help paint their sanctuary, do some community outreach, and eat the amazing food Srey Net (who is beautiful, gifted, and now 4 months pregnant) prepared for us.

One of the projects FCOP (foursquare children of promise) has taken on is to put playgrounds in at some of our homes throughout the country. Playgrounds are not the common site here like they are in the states and they have proven here to be a great way to get kids from the surrounding neighborhoods connected with the church home.
It is hard to not become fairly attached to the kids after spending a week with them and wanting to break Cambodia legalities by bringing some of them home, like this little girl and her frequent hugs and over all irresistableness (because that is a word..).
During our stay we got to experience some of the finer methods of Cambodia transportation, such as the Toyota 4Runner. Originally designed to seat Cambodia used to transport 11 (if not more).
And my personal favorite, the "walking tractor," or mechanical cow.
I also got to live out my long-suppressed acting abilities by filling in last minute for a YWAM skit. The cross-cultural adventures never end :)
Pastor Sam took us to one of the Buddhist temples near his house, which sits atop a steep ascent of stairs lined with statues and small dwellings where monks come to live and study.

I live daily now within the reality of a Buddhist culture (with Hindu influence intertwined). I've been reading a book simply entitled "Buddha" by Karen Armstrong because I want to understand the foundation the culture has built their faith upon. As I understand it, Buddhism is largely concerned with escaping all suffering and building up merit in this life in order to contribute to the next.

From what the book says, Buddha had a wife and son, both of which brought him no pleasure, and so he chose to leave them in order to live an unfettered, "holy" lifestyle. He believed it was his attachment to things and people which bound him to an existence that seemed mired in pain and sorrow.

The author offers that the story of Buddha expresses our hidden acknowledgement that life is incomplete and there must be something better, fuller, and more satisfying elsewhere.

I agree with much of the above. Our suffering generally occurs as a result of the people we are attached to. The innate feelings we all possess of an "incompleteness" point us toward something outside of ourselves that we may struggle to define. The difference I believe here is where we seek the missing elements we cannot seem to obtain on our own. Is the answer to flee from all that causes us pain?

I see on a daily basis evidence of a culture attempting to be free of pain. This is found in the belts that the majority of people wear around their waist to ward off evil, as well as "Spirit houses" found outside many homes to ward off or appease spirits with elaborate offerings of food (which are then later consumed by those in the home or restaurant where the offering resides).

Habakkuk 2:18 "Of what value is an idol, since a man has carved it? Or an image that teaches lies? For he who makes it trusts in his own creation; he makes idols that cannot speak. It is covered with gold and silver; there is no breath in it. But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before Him."
Buddhism would also tell us that an orphan (or any citizen of low social status) is now deservedly living that way as a result of their previous life.

Isaiah 1:17 "Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow."

John 1:3 "Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it."

And in a last bit of exciting miscellaneous news for the month, I made my very first attempt at driving in Cambodia last week! As far as we can determine, no pedestrians, moto drivers, farm animals, or animated police officers (so many of them waving with friendly gestures at me!) were injured in the process...