Thursday, April 30, 2009
(And as I enter my nostalgic Cambodia season, it is especially enjoyable for me to drive through the Cambodian countryside :)
In other news, my husband is an amazing photographer :) I love that he does such a beautiful job of capturing our time here. I wanted to share a few of my favorites that he has taken during this season.
Monday, April 27, 2009
Combine these ingredients with free wifi, a good book, and wonderful conversation with your spouse, and you have yourself a most perfect respite from the heat offered by the Cambodian outdoors. As much as we like painting outdoors on hot Cambodia afternoons, sometimes we welcome an indoor setting as a change :)
We found ourselves there this past Saturday after getting our car washed (and for anyone who wonders what a Cambodian car wash looks like, I offer the picture below. The scary part is always making sure you are aligned properly when driving onto the actual car wash area..).
Josh had picked up a copy of “Asia Life” Magazine and read part of an article to me entitled “Khmer New Year Games.” Often, when we are driving at night, we will see circles of teenagers gathered playing a game that works somewhat like “Duck Duck Goose,” except that everyone is standing, and you play in pairs, holding hands with another person while another pair of two chases you.
The perk of such a game is that, in a culture where even my husband and I don’t get to hold hands (we are so brave), kids of the opposite sex get to giggle and laugh and flirt in a very culturally acceptable fashion. :)
The article from Asia Life speaks to this exact scenario, and provides quotes from college age students participating in similar games for Khmer New Year, who say that games such as these provide a potential avenue for meeting a boyfriend or girlfriend. One of the games they play is a courting ritual of sorts that involves chasing and trying to hit someone with a cloth ball. If the chaser's aim is working for them that day, they get to ask the person they've tagged to dance with them or sing a song.
There is such a part of me, after reading this article and seeing these games firsthand, that hopes Cambodia is able to somehow maintain these aspects, despite the evidence we see here already revealing a Western influence. And I know that no culture is perfect, but there is something refreshing about these social activities that is largely lacking in our Western culture.
We lure in the opposite gender in very different ways (to put it mildly), and would more likely be prone to consider such cultural games as a throwback to what life was like before we discovered the joys of online interaction (and I say this as someone who is a regular Facebook user), and the advancements we are privy to which allow us both new opportunities and new distractions. I don't claim to have an answer or a bridge between the cultures, but I would like to be better at finding a balance between what appeals to me simply because it is "new and improved" and those things that might be worth holding onto.
Sunday, April 26, 2009
And honestly, I think it may have happened for the very first time today, after a year of being here. I have been what could be considered nearly “overly prepared” in my approach to Cambodia. I received insight from those living here ahead of time regarding what to expect from the traffic, the climate, the people, the food, the culture, the poverty….but perhaps, although this preparedness has been helpful in regards to adjusting, it has also brought with it a sense of being guarded in my observations, always ready for the extremes of what I might encounter. What I find now, as we have a specific time frame for our season here, is that perhaps my guard has come down a bit.
Sometimes being willing to see comes with a cost.
We recently had a guest from Norway in town who interviewed a young man, Thany, who is about 21 and living at our orphan home in Phnom Penh. Thany lost his parents at a young age and while he was able to live with neighbors, he was forced to fish with his two brothers in a nearby river in order to have food for the day (without the convenience a boat may have offered). He and his brothers were eventually taken by the neighbors to a Phnom Penh orphan home which did not turn out to be the best of situations because it found the young brothers out selling newspapers on the street in an attempt at providing their own income.
Eventually they came into contact with the orphan home they reside in now in Phnom Penh (Cham Chao) and as the story progressed, Thany became visibly emotional as he recounted how his life had so radically changed, both by having a healthy living situation, and by his encounter with Christ. He said that now what he is so grateful for is a bed to sleep in, food to eat, and the tremendous opportunity he has to go to college.
This is his reality.
I had a wonderful conversation online with Emily today, who is currently making the transition from 2 and 1/2 years of living in Cambodia to now living back in the states. Hearing about her own process of readjustment helped me consider what I might face in my own.
I think my biggest question is and will continue to be: How will I allow this reality to change me when I leave, when it is no longer directly in front of me? How do I maintain it?
I love the idea of going home, the conveniences and the familiarity it offers, but I think that what I most anticipated about coming here (A reality beyond what I had known) may perhaps also become my greatest burden. It is haunting in the way it attempts to overwhelm, and sobering in the way it can so easily slip from memory. In the end it is much easier to grow complacent.
My challenge for myself is to be wise with these emotions, to not allow them to simply overwhelm me with the vastness of the poverty and struggle so present in our world, but to invest them well.
So what can I do? I can partner with others who long to see the bigger realities. I can be not only a wise steward of my finances in a way that would allow me to give toward these needs, but also be a wise steward of my time by investing in those who will soon be in my life at home.
It is easy to allow our culture to shape us and think we have no say in it. (I will need to remind myself of this in about 4 months from now). But I think we have a voice and I think it goes beyond unbridled optimism. I think it simply means being available wherever we find ourselves. What is the Lord revealing about your situation? About the people in your life? I have seen great contentment within tremendous simplicity, and I have seen miraculous change within the seemingly impossible. I want this reality to be my own :)
(I have found that I become quite introspective on rainy, overcast Cambodia afternoons :)
However, never ones to disappoint the masses with our impressive cooking skills, we went to the grocery store yesterday and for the first time perused the mysterious “meat” aisle which beforehand had been elusive (or at least unnecessary).
We excitedly returned home with the makings of what would become our second and most fabulous of gourmet meals to be prepared upon our dingy green portable gas stove (how we love it).
Please, feel free to gaze upon the beauty of our respective creations.
Josh was responsible for the one on the left, a little something we like to call “Hamburgers.” A little ketchup, mustard, some meat tenderizer….I can print out the exhaustive recipe for those who would like to attempt it.
On the right is my own daring experiment (which I’ll be repeating once again tonight), involving a piece of chicken breast and something called “Frozen Vegetable Medley.” I am terribly exotic in my frozen vegetable choices.
Combine the above feast with an episode of "30 Rock" and you have yourself the perfect Saturday evening at home :)
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
We have discovered a small portable gas stove living quietly in solitude in our home, largely unnoticed and un-utilized. Yesterday, Josh went out on a limb by purchasing a box of Kraft Mac N' Cheese at our local mini-mart. He is a risk taker, my husband, we know this, and he felt confident that this very box of Mac N' Cheese (the cheesiest!) would indeed be our "second dinner" that evening. Actually, we agreed that our second dinner would depend on what they fixed here for our first dinner and how substantial that meal might be.
An hour and a half after Dinner #1, we were ready for the cheesiest concoction we could imagine.
So my husband walked across the gravel driveway outside, purchased a small gas can, and easily figured out how to make it work with our lovely green stove.
He not only is brilliant with assembling cooking appliances, but he is also no stranger to the kitchen. And he is now officially my favorite Mac N' Cheese chef of all time.
This is no small honor.
So we happily took our pot of macaroni, along with two bowls, upstairs as we watched a DVD and savored our new found Cambodia treat :)
In a related story, this stove has now opened up a world of possibilities for us!! This morning I made fried eggs and then toasted the bread in the pan. Look out Rachel Ray....
Now, I do realize that in the grand scheme of things these details seem small and possibly silly, but living away from home has made me incredibly grateful for the smallest of conveniences and these simple reminders of home that I miss :)
Next on the list? Pancake Breakfast. This Saturday. Bring it!
Oh it is a beautiful, processed creation :)
Sunday, April 19, 2009
Mark 12:42-44 “A poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny. Calling his disciples to him Jesus said, 'I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything – all she had to live on.' ”
This verse struck me this morning.
Enough even to actually sit down and process some thoughts regarding it. I tend to notice verses about orphans and widows these days, or hear them mentioned pretty regularly around our office. The Bible speaks frequently about this group of people, and they are one of the groups God fiercely fights for, loves, and longs to see cared for and protected. And He has invited us to share in these same attributes of love, care and protection.
I have grown pretty accustomed to the sights around me in Cambodia, the visible contrast of the affluent and the extended hand relying on the financial offerings of a stranger.
Cambodians in general are not financially wealthy people. The average factory worker working 6 days a week makes roughly $60 US dollars per month. The average teacher might make around $40 US dollars per month.
"She put in everything, all she had to live on” – I read this and it's hard for me to not honestly think that perhaps this is not the wisest financial decision she could have made. Shouldn’t she have kept back enough for her rent or dinner at least??
I am so prone to give out of convenience (both with my money and my time). I don’t know that I have ever truly given, whether in a tithe or otherwise, with the thought that perhaps it would prevent a purchase or payment or come at a genuine cost to me. But each week I see the local pastors and people at church here giving, both with their finances and in choosing to live their lives in a way that gives life and safety and care and protection to children who would otherwise have little reason for hope and to widows who are taken in as part of a family when they have lost their own.
And I am reminded that God is perfectly capable and trustworthy and delights in the moments when we believe Him enough to give everything. He knows what that looks like for each of us and I truly don't believe He does it to see how tough we are or how far he can push us or deprive us. I think He pours back into us far more than we could ever imagine because he values relationship with us and longs to see us grow in the ways He has designed for each one of us. My prayer for myself is to trust Him with that process of growth enough to actually see the change within myself.
(I stole this picture from George Butron of a few of our church members here in Phnom Penh :)
Saturday, April 18, 2009
And one that required a sizable amount of U90 paint.
We are enthusiastic team leaders. This cannot be denied. Let our expressions of joy and excitement be your encouragement while painting/scraping/sanding in Cambodia.
While I was seeking natural shade from the inside of a concrete building, others were outside in the direct sun to finish the detail work of this gate.
And in terms of detail, everyone was grateful that the gate at the second home looked like this.
And we want to be mindful of our time here, not simply rushing through it to reach what is next, but to realize what a privilege it is to be living and serving in Cambodia.
Friday, April 10, 2009
Step #9. Grab a cooler from the office area to temporarily store your food while you drive to purchase a new tiny deluxe gray refrigerator.
And the above, along with prepping for a team flying in tomorrow, and a pizza date, is how we spent our Good Friday :)
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
My problem is that I am uncertain of what I should purchase with this sum of money.
So far, I have purchased U2's new CD, a Leeland song, a Kaskade song, and a DeVotchka song (really enjoy them).
I welcome your suggestions :)
Monday, April 6, 2009
“Humility is knowing yourself for who you are in regard to who God is.”
“Whining is not emotions connected to God but feelings gone amok.” :)
Beth asked all of us in the room if we hear God. I don’t know that people are necessarily prone to shoot up their hands at the prompting of such a question.
“Should I admit that I do hear Him? Is that arrogant? Will the people around me raise their hands?”
“Should I admit that I don’t really feel like I hear Him? Can I be that honest?”
It challenged me when she asked, “How can we be in agreement with someone we can’t hear??”
If I’m honest with myself, I’ll admit that while I do pray, many times it is me telling God what I think people need. I look at their situation and assess what the outcome should be based out of my vast knowledge and wisdom with a handy “but Your will be done” thrown in for good measure at the end.
Beth talked a great deal about being in agreement with God. He will initiate, we agree, and the Holy Spirit will empower. I know I believe it, but how often do I really walk in this attitude of partnership with God, of humble service with Him? (Phil 2:5-11)
Beth’s challenge? Ask God what people need. Write it down. Let Him determine the outcome. Let yourself listen. Don't just give people advice, go to God for them! And go to God with them. It feels so simple as I type it out, but honest reflection and self-assessment tells me that it is not a quick-fix 10 step system. It is authentic faith lived out. And it is what I desire.
The miraculous happens when we humble ourselves enough to let the Holy Spirit work. I am realizing that if Jesus willingly humbled Himself enough to allow God to initiate His actions, then perhaps I should trust that my life should follow suit.
And sometimes writing it down helps me feel accountable to the necessary follow-up :)
Sunday, April 5, 2009
I am all about honesty and realism in my journalistic efforts, we all know this. In light of that, it is with a heavy heart that I say I have lost a dear, faithful companion who served me well over these past 11 months of living and walking the dusty roads of Cambodia.
It is the other half of what once comprised a most glorious pair of flip flops.
I bought them on a whim before coming here at the store formerly known as “G.I. Joe’s.” When I found out they sold more than action figures I was intrigued…
I walked out of the store with what would become the most comfortable and supportive (in so many ways) pair of flip flops I have ever owned.
Trouble, however, began with the innocent mistake of leaving them in the sun to dry for the morning (because the front right wheel of our car had settled much too far and entirely too fast into some deceptive mud the night before....but that's for another blog) and returning later to the scene of a crime.
A robbery to be more specific.
Now, it may seem like a careless mistake to leave your shoes outside when you live on a property with roughly 83 dogs (or so it seems), but this is Cambodia where flip flops abound on steps and in doorways and in various other locations where they are free to lie undisturbed! This is what we've come to expect.
But as we drove in from church on Sunday, after having searched briefly for the flip flop earlier that morning, Josh glanced over his left shoulder and caught a glimpse of something lying in the yard....
"I don't think you want to look. It's dead."
While we can't prove who did it, we do have a line up of some of the loud, unruly suspects we believe may have been involved...
We had lunch at the Java with their fabulous & reasonably priced sandwiches, followed by a trip to "City Mart," the magical land of high priced t-shirts, exercise equipment that I don’t understand, and rows and rows of flip flops not made for the feet of a 6 foot 3 American man (Josh, not me, just to clarify).
We hung out in a park, went to the waterfront, and enjoyed being touristy in a city that has very much become familiar to us (so much so that we overlook a lot of the photos we'd like to have).
When they still refuse to serve you after multiple attempts to get past their front half-door (hypothetically speaking), you settle for an intriguing small-ish Indian Restaurant next door.
And you do not regret your decision.
We topped off our evening with a trip to Pencil Mart grocery store (this is our form of entertainment in Phnom Penh) and "Happy Sundaes" at Swensen's :)