Monday, July 26, 2010

Khmer Rouge Tribunals and a little light reading...

As Leanne posted a couple of days ago, we have been reading and learning about the genocide that took place in Cambodia between 1975-1979. Currently I am reading a book titled Pol Pot: Anatomy of a Nightmare by Philip Short. Even though I studied history at CU, I tend to find history books to be big-time snoozers. However, this book is remarkably well written and is composed like a novel more than a thick history text. I recommend it to anyone interested in the topic or thinking about coming to Cambodia for a visit. We are learning that it is impossible to understand Cambodia's current situation without having a full idea of how the Khmer Rouge defined the last 30 years of Cambodia's history.

This fall and summer, Khmer Rouge leaders will be put on trial for the crimes that they committed during those years. Today, the first of the leaders was sentenced to another 19 years in prison for "crimes against humanity." On our visit to Toul Sleng, the main prison for the Khmer Rouge in Phnom Penh, I learned that the four main contributors to the genocide, including the man who planned the extermination of 1.7 million people, will be put on trial at the end of this year.

It is a tough time for Cambodians, as might be literally unrealistic to find someone in this country who was not impacted directly by the genocide. However, as a Cambodian professor explained to us today, it is time for forgivness and with forgivness comes progress.

Below is a link to a New York Times article about the tribunals and the first sentencing:

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Barbed Wire is the white picket fence of Cambodia...

As you may or may not know, Leanne and I were asked to take on another side project just weeks before we left for Cambodia. Asian Hope purchased a 6-room guest house with the intention of filling it with anyone coming to Cambodia to do aid work. We moved into the house this past week and are getting oriented to all that it entails. Multiple rooms, two cooks, two cleaners and two interns were left to us and we have been asked to get the project up and running as well as develop a meaningful internship for Rachel and Pov. These two are recent graduates of Logos International School and will use this year to apply for college and prepare for their transition out of Cambodia.

We met this project with mixed emotions. We are excited about the relational side of the house as well as creating a place where people working and serving in Cambodia can come to relax. However, this is also our home and it has been difficult knowing that we will be staying at the house until it is the right time to get our place. We know that there are huge possibilities here and the house will be great for Leanne as she begins networking and sorting through more of the details for her trafficking ministry.

As for the present, we know that there will be great things that are done in this house and through this house for those working in Cambodia. This is an abrasive place and just by walking down our own street, we know that there is a lot of need. It is also a beautiful place, with remarkable people who have endured much to get back on their feet.

Below are some pictures of our new home. Note the wonderful pink bathroom, our sweet new red T.V. and the killer barbed wire gate (mom, that does not mean we are in any danger, consider barb wire like the white-picket fence of Cambodia - something to be revered!).

Friday, July 23, 2010

Tuol Sleng

Earlier this week we visited Toul Sleng, the Cambodian Genocide Museum. This is a somber experience but something you can't ignore to understand the city and the country we live in. Toul Sleng was the former prison (called S-21) used by Pol Pot and his regime for detention, interrogation, inhuman torture, and killing of innocent civilians. This went on for 4 years from 1975-1979 where around 10-15 people were killed every day, with Pol Pot killing a total of anywhere between 1.5 and 3 million educated Cambodians. This museum is about as raw as you can imagine, being that it is the original site for the crimes that were committed by the Khmer Rouge. The rooms are still in their authentic form, even to the point of having the chains used to pin people to the ground still being something you have to walk over. As you walk through the rooms and rows full of 1x3 meter cells, you can't stop yourself from imagining what it must have been like to have hundreds of prisoners in each of these buildings. The rooms that display how the prisoners were tortured is not for the squeamish, as the torture devices and gruesome pictures give a clear idea of what happened there. After walking past mugshot after mugshot in the museum walls you can't rid yourself of the chill in your spine as your heart breaks for the victims and the many families who were horrifically affected by this regime. As we walked out of Toul Sleng it is hard not to look at all the Cambodians you pass and wonder who they lost to the Khmer Rouge. A Mother or Father? Sister or Brother? Son or Daughter? You can still see the dramatic affects of what Pol Pot had done to this country even today. One of biggest factors is that now 50% of the population is under the age of 25, and there is little to no skilled labor in the city. This visit also helps us even better understand why God has brought us here in the dreams of bringing hope to the people who are still recovering from such a dark history.

If you would like more info on Cambodia and Pol Pot we posted about that earlier in our blog history. We also recommend reading the tragic book called "They First Killed my Father" by Loung Ung, who writes about her family's story of living through the Khmer Rouge. But also as always please pray for the Khmer people here!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Driving In Phnom Penh

Here is an example of an intersection in downtown Phnom Penh. Needless to say, I as the driver, am a little stressed when trying to maneuver our moto through this traffic, but Leanne helps me navigate the city like a champ! Notice the people who are turning right are using the sidewalk as the turn lane, I think Americans could learn a lot from this policy.

Caramel Fraps and Mixed Fruit Smoothies

We have been told over and over that, in order to maintain our mental and physical strength in a developing country like Cambodia, it would be essential that we find the little things that make us happy and comfortable. Today we went to a cafe called T & C which was attached to a neighborhood gas station like all good restaurants here. T & C had perhaps the most delicious Caramel Frapaccino this side of the Mekong. If you were to give me a blind taste-test between the T & C Frap and a Starbucks Frap, I might actually pick the T & C - amazing!

Yesterday we had an incredible hamburger near our house (this restaurant was also attached to a gas station). It is not as if we are already craving these simple comforts, but moving on from here it is nice to know that, if we need, we can get a great cheeseburger and a caramel frap - while topping off our tank!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Cambodia: Week One

One week ago today we boarded a flight (a long flight) and headed for our new experience in Cambodia. I am not going to sugarcoat it, on our first day I was questioning our decision and wondering how we would be able to manage the chaotic streets, blanketing heat and different food. Perhaps I still have those questions, but just one week into this experience, I know that what we are doing is good and what is in store for us will be nothing less than extraordinary.

We purchased a moto, navigated the streets of the city, located where you can find deep-fried tarantulas (come to find out, they are found on any street corner), we purchased new items for our house, found a couple of great restaurants, took our drivers license photos, visited the oldest temple in the city and got over our oppresive jetlag. It has been a success, it has been a blessing and we are excited for what is to come.

These photos are of Wat Phnom, the oldest Buddhist Temple in the city, the first temple being built around 1350.

Moto Photos

Here is moto row, where we bought ours.

Our two helmets.

This is Ming, the moto guy, touching up the paint (and yes that is nail polish that he is using!)

However, after a few days we did get a flat and this is the repair shop we got it fixed at.
Now we need to get a license plate. Here are the short, simple steps we need to follow:
1.) Get a copy of our lease, proving we live here.
2.) Take the copy to Robert who works at the school so we can call "a guy".
3.) That guy will take us to the village chief to get a letter.
4.) Pay off the village chief so we can use his letter.
5.) Take the letter to Ming, so his brother can take us to "a building".
6.) Go with Ming's brother (who we also will have to pay off) to "a building" so he can help us fill out forms and talk to a government official.
7.) Wait in line, pay some cash, and bingo we have a Phnom Penh license plate!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Our First 36 Hours

It has been a rapid and frantic 36 hours in Cambodia. On our first morning we were picked up by an Asian Hope staff member and given the full tour of the entire city. As I tried follow our path on a map, our guide showed us all the places we will need to know to survive - the good restaurants, the best place for ice cream and pharmacy where we can purchase our anti-worm pills. We took photos for our drivers license in the back room of a roadside market and purchased helmets for our new moto. Leanne will look good in her bubblegum-pink and I in my replica Speedracer helmet.

This morning, we met Ming the Moto guy and purchased our scooter. In my mind, I would be driving a mean looking motorcycle, popping wheelies like a rapper in a DMX video. However, we purchased the more mundane and efficient Citi-Plus 100 cc scooter. Essentially it is a Prius on two wheels.

Our temporary housing is great. It has been without electricity for the last 24 hours but it gives us a place to sleep. This morning our water was delivered and as I helped the delivery man carry the jugs of water into the house I was sweating like a contestant on the Biggest Loser. Ridiculous. All in all we are doing well and are excited about what the Lord has in store for us here in Cambodia. Pray for our safety as we learn to drive our moto in this busy place.

Pictures will come once we can find a fast internet connection to upload them onto the blog. Peace - Chris


It has been several days since this has happened, but we thought we should still blog about it. We said our last goodbyes to many family and friends over the phone and in person for the last week. We wanted to thank everyone who so graciously came to our goodbye party last Friday to send us off with warm words of encouragement and support. We also wanted to thank the many of you who took us into your home over the past weeks. Kim and Taylor, Sky and Kristin, and Jeff and Amy, we can’t thank you enough for all you have done for us.

Then came the family goodbyes…we said bye to Tyler (Leanne’s brother) and his little girl Charlie last Sunday. This was a difficult one since we will not be able to see them for several years, but thankfully with the gift of technology we will be able to video chat and see Charlie grow over the next few years. Oddly enough, the best advice I have gotten so far is from a three year old, while saying good-bye to her. As Charlie said, “Don’t cry Aunt Leanne, you still have Uncle Chris with you.” And how true is that, we left the US with each other side by side and there is nothing more comforting than that.

Then came the airport good-byes…on Monday morning Dennis and Manetta (Chris’ parents) and Ginger (Leanne’s Mom) took us to the airport to see us off. Due to a one-hour long check-in at United (most likely because we are on a one-way ticket to a third world country) our time was short to say good-bye (which probably ended up being better). It was short but sweet as we said bye to crying moms and dads who support us greatly in this journey. We waved good-bye, blew kisses and disappeared into yet another long security line and began the journey. Thanks for a great send off and we look forward to seeing you in about 6 months!