Monday, December 20, 2010

Merry Christmas


My mom arrived four days ago to Cambodia and has already jumped into the excitement of the city! We have taken her to the markets, to our favorite shops (where she is already having shoes made at one), out to get Indian food, to the tourist spots around town, and even to a Christmas church service of all the international churches. She has ridden the moto and volunteered at Chris' school. We still have many things planned for her time here, so the rest of her trip should be just as exciting!


Today we also received 2 great gifts. We wanted to say thank you for the wonderful Christmas package that was sent our way. Your generosity and thought brought tears to our eyes tonight as we opened those gifts. We continue to be blown away by the emails, Skype conversations, letters, and packages that so many of you generously give us. We miss all our friends and family dearly and it hits home a little harder this time of year, but the love we feel is unprecedented. We debated waiting until Christmas to open the gifts but quickly changed our minds because we couldn't wait! Thank goodness because those Oreo's are going to be eaten for dessert tomorrow, and Chris has already made some of the coffee!

We also had the chance to call both of our grandmothers tonight to wish them a Merry Christmas and it was nothing shy of "great." We miss all our family from grandparents, to siblings, to cousins, and we hope you all have a very Merry Christmas. To our friends in Boulder gathering sometime this week, we miss you a lot and hope to get a funny email full of stories from your night. To our other wonderful friends we think and pray for you often and miss you this holiday season.

On Wednesday we will celebrate Christmas with a traditional meal shared with 10 people, 5 Americans and 5 Cambodians. We are pretty sure the Cambodians won't like most of the food but we are still excited to spend the evening together. We will then continue by watching National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, and then opening gifts on Thursday morning. As we have mentioned before we have tried hard to make it feel like Christmas here, and truly it does, and we couldn't of asked for anything better...family, friends, traditions, the whole works. Then on the 23rd we are off to Vietnam for 2 weeks for a vacation.

We hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and a fun-filled New Years!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Traditions

Its beginning to look a lot like Christmas...We have been listening to Christmas music now for two weeks and this song is one of our favorites. The key word for us here is like. Celebrating Christmas in Phnom Penh has been different for many reasons, the weather doesn't drop below 85 degrees, we are away from family and friends, and mostly because 95% of population is Buddhist and doesn't celebrate the birth of Jesus. Because of the high NGO and foreigner population many stores do have trees out, hotels have put up lights, and restaurants are selling fudge, peppermint hot chocolate, and traditional turkey dinners (all of which you can get if you are willing to fork out the cash for it), but the majority of the Khmer people have no idea about the meaning behind Christmas. What is refreshing is while we celebrate with those on our staff, those we partner with, and other Khmer Christians the fluff of Christmas is somewhat forgotten and the true meaning of Christmas is brought back. Though we do find that encouraging, we do still miss the malls filled with huge trees, the red cups at Starbucks, and the delicious finger food that is at every holiday party.

Which has gotten me to think about all the traditions that we have grown to love over the years with our families. I think about my favorite Christmas traditions like lighting lumanarios, going to Hoffmantown, eating pesole, and playing our nativity game on Christmas Eve. Then Chris tells stories of watching White Christmas, having his grandpa pass out all the gifts to the kids, and eating pititsa on Christmas morning. I think about the traditions that we want to take from our families and continue on, and what traditions we want to create ourselves. This will be our 3rd Christmas together since being married and we will have been in Pueblo, CO, Albuquerque, NM and now Phnom Penh making traditions somewhat hard to maintain each year, but does create unique opportunities to make new traditions . We have been encouraged by others that have been living here for many years to try to make our traditions from home happen while living in Cambodia. Now that takes a lot of work, but I can already tell that the MANY trips I have made to the market will be worth it on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning. However, we do look forward to the time of having roots somewhere and establishing our own traditions even more.

As for this year, the past few weeks in Phnom Penh have been a wonderful blessing of many Christmas-ey type of things. A few weekends back we went to a Christmas fair at one of the fancy hotels, and then hosted a 20 person party where we decorated sugar cookies, baked pecan pies, and put up our little tree. This weekend we went to our staff Christmas party where we played in a hilarious game of White Elephant and enjoyed a dinner complete with chicken, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, deviled eggs, and even Mexican food! Then last night we went and got holiday lattes and walked around a boutique filled street that had every store lit up and playing Christmas music in the streets, it almost felt like a shopping mall in the States (well kinda...) Not to mention all the Christmas movies we watch and attending both the Logos Elementary Christmas concert and then the HS concert on the 18th. We are thankful for a wonderful Christmas season, and are now counting down the days until my mom arrives here next Friday!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Jog-A-Thon

Well several weeks have now passed since the Jog-A-Thon occurred in late November but with having Chris' parents here, Christmas (more to come on that), and now preparing for my mom to come out next week, we are just now getting around to looking at pictures from this event. The Jog-A-Thon is an annual race at Logos where students help raise funds for the school. This year the students raised just over $13,000 that will be used to help buy a new computer lab for the school. Here are some pictures of the race and video of the pre-run assembly in the gym lead by the 5th grade class.
video

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Date Night

The other night Chris took me out on a date downtown (though Phnom Penh doesn't really have a downtown, it is the best way to describe the area of town we went to), and the transportation to get there makes me laugh every time. He bought me a new dress a few weeks back and I wanted to wear it since we were going to a "nicer" Italian restaurant. When we lived in Denver we would make our date nights out to be something special -- dressing up, having a long dinner, and then usually doing something afterwards like a show, a concert, movie, etc. Well, here in PP all of those things seem harder to do. So I put on my new dress, got all ready, and eagerly awaited my non-rice dinner.

What always makes me laugh is when we leave our house I put on my pink helmet, (I don't really have to worry about helmet hair because I don't have a hair dryer so my hair is usually still so wet from my shower) and he his Speedracer helmet and we hop on our moto. Not quite the peace and coolness of our old car, I feel myself starting to sweat from the humidity that still has not subsided, and the heat from the exhaust of the cars and trucks around us. I only just hope my dress doesn't look too bad when we arrive at Le Duo.

It always makes for an interesting start to an evening out together, but Chris always helps me remember that I still look beautiful, and then we can enjoy our normal long date night dinner meal! We are still working on the post-dinner activities, but we are finding more and more in the city...

Here is a pic of Chris driving, though not us going on a date, but you get the idea...

Friday, December 3, 2010

Koh Pich Bridge Tragedy

We blogged a few posts back about the tragedy that occurred in Phnom Penh last week due to the bridge stampede causing a staggering loss of life from the crushing crowds on the bridge that killed an estimated 400 people. This week marks the seven day Buddhist funeral ceremony, where relatives put out offerings to appease their dead ancestors so their ghosts do not come back to haunt them. Because of their Buddhist and animist beliefs, Cambodians are now very scared of the many deaths that have taken place, and are afraid of the ghosts and wandering spirits that have not had a proper burial. Now what we see throughout the city are many offering sites with incense sticks, candle wax, and bananas, and then the authorities passing the buck so the blame does not land on them.

Many say the bridge won't be used anymore and that they should just take it down because of all the dead and the ghosts that will haunt it and the island that it was connecting. This is a very real to Cambodians, who for centuries have had these beliefs, so the underlying fear in the city is very evident. We now pray that the Khmer people will learn through this event, that God is bigger and more powerful than any evil spirits.

Our prayers are with the people of Cambodia, where such a useless loss of life could have been prevented. Though not the least bit surprising, with safety standards and crowd control as poor as they are here, it is more of a surprise that this has not happened before, or that the loss of life was not even higher.

Monday, November 29, 2010

And Finally Pictures of Sihanoukville, Cambodia

We stayed at an amazing resort called Sokha and enjoyed the huge bed, wonderful breakfast, clear blue water, and magazines that were sent over to us. We even got good Mexican food...It was true R&R!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A few more photos of our trip...Angkor Wat







As our last blog post explained, we are just finishing an incredible vacation in Siem Reap and Sihanoukville, Cambodia. My parents boarded the plane last night and 18 hours later they are still somewhere over the Pacific. We had a great time and Leanne and I both shed quite a few tears as we watched them depart. Luckily we had Dairy Queen and a relaxing Sunday to ease ourselves back into Phnom Penh and life as we know it here.



Friday, November 26, 2010

Water Festival Travels in Cambodia




So they survived.... Some moments that were overwhelming, shocking, comfort-zone altering, uncomfortable and unbelievable were mixed with moments of awe, excitement, hilarity and relaxation. My parents have been in the Kingdom of Cambodia for two weeks and they will fly out late tomorrow night relieved at having seen where Leanne and I live, the country itself and a completely different lifestyle than what is familiar to them in Colorado.

We have had such a wonderful trip with them. They spent a week with us in Phnom Penh seeing where we are working, living and the city itself. Last Saturday we loaded into a 12 passenger van with another great family and drove to Siem Reap, home to the temples of Angkor Wat. The temples were astonishing and it was the first time in a long time that I audibly said "wow" at what I was seeing. The detail, history and construction of Angkor Wat was remarkable and many times I literally could not believe that people were able to build on such a massive scale.

On Tuesday, we headed from Siem Reap and drove the length of the country down to Sihanoukville where we stayed at a beach resort called Sokha. The water was crystal blue, the rooms were unbelievable and we all left feeling relaxed, refreshed and a little sun-scorched. We were spoiled at Sokha with the private beach, incredible breakfast and free Spa. Not our typical vacation which made the experience even more enjoyable!

Spending time with my parents has been so rejuvenating. We have loved having them see our life here in the city as well as some other gems in Cambodia. They have experienced a lot out here and we are so thankful that they had the chance to see us.

On a more serious side. We were in Angkor Wat when the tragic stampede happened in Phnom Penh. The bridge itself is on the other side of the city from us, we were obviously not impacted nor were any of our immediate colleagues. There was an estimated 2-3 million plus people in Phnom Penh for Water Festival and the city is just not suited to hold such an influx in population. We thank all of you who reached out, checked in and offered your thoughts and prayers for us and for the people of Cambodia during such a tragic event.

If you haven't read about what happened last Monday night you can read about it here: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/24/world/asia/24cambo.html?ref=asia



Thursday, November 18, 2010

Enjoying Time with Family


My parents came into Phnom Penh this week and we have enjoyed our time with them immensely. Phnom Penh can be overwhelming to the senses with its traffic, pollution, sights and sounds. It is a developing country with many frayed ends and is a distant cry from the organization of the States. Though they are just a few days into their trip, they have done great. They have endured the heat in Russian Market, rode through the chaotic streets in tuk-tuks and have experienced may aspects of our life here in Cambodia. We are so thrilled that they are here and are looking forward to our week vacation. Starting Saturday, we will head to the temples of Angkor Wat in Siem Reap and then endure a brutal car ride down to the Cambodian coast and a town called Sihanoukville. Leanne and I are so excited to see new parts of this country and it gets even better knowing that we get to do so with my parents. So far, so good!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Chab Dai

I (Leanne) spent last Thursday and Friday in a 2-day training with 50 other organizations all working to end sexual exploitation and trafficking. The training was put on by Chab Dai, who 5 years ago created a learning community of organizations to better work together and partner effectively in doing this difficult work. There was staff there from organizations that work in prevention, intervention, and after-care. In the past months I have been able to network with these amazing people to learn more about what the needs are here in Phnom Penh, what is effective, what isn't effective, who we would want to partner with, and what Asian Hope's response will be. It has been a busy couple of months filled with both exciting and difficult conversations and meetings.

We are now looking into what community, district, or area in Phnom Penh we would implement an educationally focused prevention project. Please pray for God's leading in this, as over the next few weeks I will meet with village chiefs, pastors, and other authorities in the community.

At this training we had the opportunity to talk about the biblical framework behind the work that is being done here to end child sex slavery. It is awesome to see how loaded the Bible is on dignity, value, and image in Christ. Here are some of my favorites that we talked about:

  • "The LORD your God is with you. He will take great delight in you. He will rejoice over you with singing." -- Zephaniah 3:17

  • "Now if we are children, then we are heirs- heirs of God, and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in this sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory." -- Romans 8:17

  • "But God demonstrates his love for us in this: While we are still sinners Christ died for us." -- Romans 5:8
Please also pray for a safe and easy flight for Chris' parents. They arrive here on Monday and we can't even put into words how excited we are to show them the city and country we live in.


Chab Dai Group Photo