Because for all of the time I spend attempting to format the layout so that the pictures and text line up just right (to perfection!), I will look over at my husband's computer as he's reading through and see things completely out of place. So please feel free to use your imagination in regards to what the page should look like if it is not aligning properly on your computer.
In other news, it has been quite the week for Josh and I as we watch the calendar days pass by and the one marked with "Josh and Michelle Depart" draw closer and closer. Pretty surreal.
And yes, that day is TOMORROW by the way! Wow.
In an important piece of news, I had intended to end my time here by maybe working on my tan a little this week before leaving (I have very clearly defined priorities), but rainy days combined with a general dislike of being in direct Cambodian sunlight (teams can understand this) have left me with one goal unfulfilled and potentially many "I thought you'd be tan" comments to follow :) It happens.
Back to this past week.....Josh and I began to enter a season that marked the first of many "lasts" for us.
Our last Sunday at the Cham Chao church where we said some preemptive goodbyes to the kids there and had the privilege of being called forward by Pastor Peter so the church could pray over us and our transition home. This was quite powerful and moving to the both of us as we looked out over the Cambodian congregation and felt the hand of Pastor Peter's mother rest upon us as she prayed aloud and thanked us for our service to the people of Cambodia.
My husband pointed out to me afterward the truly powerful picture this was of a woman probably in her 70's now who has been a Christian since her teenage years, survived the horrors of the Khmer Rouge, and has raised a son who now serves as the Foursquare President of Cambodia as well as another son who is one of our main staff doctors here. And this woman, who has so faithfully served the Lord and persevered through countless difficulties, with tears in her eyes, was thanking us for our service.
Humbling, to say the least. We will definitely miss this incredible church family! Along with all of the other congregations we had the opportunity to join out in the provinces with teams!
On Monday we decided to journey out to an exotic location (meaning, we went to the end of our road, turned left instead of our typical right, and then took a right at the market by the first fruit stand.....incidentally, this is also how directions are given in Cambodia.)
We started out with nothing but the open road, our cameras, and a handy R.E.I. compass keychain at our disposal.We quickly found what we were looking for, which was the chance for some last photos of the beautiful Cambodian countryside. I will miss it.
And clouds like these :)
And cool shots by my husband like this :)
We eventually ended up in the Kandal Province, which allowed us to say that we have now officially taken our little Kia Sportage out into the province and at the same time confirmed to us, via the bumpy roads that nearly tore the vehicle apart, why we do not usually take the Kia Sportage into the province...
After venturing back into Phnom Penh, Josh kindly indulged me in my very favorite little cafe/restaurant in Phnom Penh, The Java.
If you hit it right, you can manage to secure a seat inside the air conditioning to better enjoy their selection of pastries, salads, and sandwiches (my favorite is the roasted chicken on anadama bread with mozarella, cucumbers, tomatoes, mustard and homemade potato chips....oh my).
You can also enjoy a lovely cup of iced coffee as you peruse their art exhibits that rotate monthly..
....and which sometimes include scary Tim Burton types of artwork involving a terribly dark room with writing you can't understand and ominous trees stretching to the ceiling made of cartoon-like shards of plastic intended to scare young children and American 20-something women alike.
And sometimes it's the only way to the bathroom, so you have no choice. You are forced into the scary art :(
I realized as we were driving around this past week and I had my camera at the ready that there are certain things that don't seem so "foreign" to me anymore....and perhaps that should concern me?...the list includes...
"People Riding on the Top of a Large Vehicle."
"People Riding on the Top of a Mid-Size Vehicle."
"The Cambodian Road Flare."
"Pigs on the back of Motos."
"Motos and Live Chickens Strapped Onto the back of a Van with only a Piece of Rope"
"Weeds growing out of vehicles..."
Some non-road-related things include:
Little Gecko friends to keep me company while washing dishes (and occasionally accidentally being flung directly at me when I pull something off of a shelf...)
And of course GIANT gecko friends who freak us out when we walk out of our bedroom and they are directly on the wall in front of us, and who wake us up in the middle of the night with the unmistakable noises they make that reverberate off of every wall in the house. (And for those non-team-members who haven't had a chance to hear it, Josh does a giant gecko impression that could win contests, if such contests existed)
So for now, along with all of the above, we will also sadly say "Goodbye" to ....
"Amatak Driving School of Phnom Penh"
Based on the driving habits of 97.2% of Cambodian drivers, no one would believe you exist. And yet you do.
And while I don't know if this makes the fact that people still drive directly at us flashing their lights and endangering our lives any better, at least you're trying. So thank you.
"Tela Gas Station"
You have not only provided us with "Power for Energy" on numerous occasions but have also been a beautiful beacon of light when out in the province with teams in dire need of survival necessities such as chocolate covered pretzels, ice cream, and ice cold refrigerated beverages.
"Heng Cheng Bakery and Fruit Stand"
"Heng Cheng Bakery and Fruit Stand"
You not only have the sign outside featuring baguettes that look like a bag of french fries, you also became the landmark for finding the road to our house roughly 6 months ago when you opened for business.
Thank you Heng Cheng for your bright blue sign, your delightful raisin bread, and for inspiring the other 3 bakeries now either open or soon-to-be opening along this same street (because when you open a business in Cambodia, you can be certain that 3-10 businesses carrying the EXACT same product will be opening next to you shortly...we don't understand it, but we have found it handy at times).
"Random Street Sign with some Khmer Writing and the number 400 on it"
"Cambodian Mickey Mouse."
I will not forget you when I meet the American Mickey Mouse less than 4 weeks from now. Or at least I'll try not to...
"The Best Cafe"Located just across from the airport in Phnom Penh we've had many a team member believe that we were taking them to what we deemed to be "the best cafe" in all of Phnom Penh.
"ANZ Royal Bank"
I like your blue spots (the name they give to their ATM's), your nicely framed pictures of Cambodian government officials, and the fact that I get to feel cool when I say "A and Zed" bank.It took me a long time to warm up to you Freebird, but after a while Emily was able to convince me of your ability to make excellent coffee and I was then officially won over by your American style breakfasts that included both coffee and juice. I can't resist you. And I have the coffee mug and t-shirt as mementos to prove it.
Josh: "Because everyone is moving so fast."
You have given us comedic fodder, the smell of humidity mixed with fresh meat, and cheap prices when we have felt the time and energy to bargain.
"The W.C. (aka The Water Closet)" I liked you SO much that I recently bought a sign with you on it in Siem Reap for a buck.
It may be the first thing we hang in our future home one day...
"Junkit Cambodia Co., Ltd."
Obviously not contracted with the same marketing firm responsible for "The Best Cafe."
And yet I love you anyway Junkit Cambodia Company Limited. You are so brave in the name you carry if nothing else.
"Our Sweet Ride (aka our Kia Sportage)"
Yes, it's true that you don't always start on the first try.
Or the second.
Or the third.
And yes, it is also true that a few months ago the lock on the passenger's side door broke in half and it may take up to 7 tries of locking and unlocking from the driver's side to get the door to open...
And yes, it may also be true that as of Monday the driver's side door will not unlock from either the inside or outside, forcing the driver (in this case Josh) to crawl awkwardly (yet skillfully) out through my door at every stop....
And yet.....well, we like you, but the reality is that we are probably going to buy a used Rav4 or Subaru station wagon when we return home next week.
"Our Home in Phnom Penh."
While Josh and I joke that the tent we bought at R.E.I. with a wedding gift card was our "first home," in all reality you have been where we have spent roughly 3 days out of our 16 months together in Cambodia when we were actually in Phnom Penh and not out with a team. :)
I exaggerate...but this house has been great, our roommates have been great, and we have been blessed to get to spend our first year and four months of marriage based out of this property :)
And last but not least....
"Phnom Penh Post-Church Sunday Traffic."
Because sometimes the light at the intersection might be green.....but if you look behind you as you drive away, you realize that all of the lights on the opposing section of traffic were also green.
(he's sleeping, I'm certain..)