Monday, August 30, 2010

The Good and the Bad

In the last two days we have had some great things happen, and then also some sad things happen. I will start with the good: We have been looking for a church here in Phnom Penh and that has been a difficult task. Last Sunday we headed to a Khmer church called New life Fellowship that offered English translation. It was an experience from the minute we walked in the door. But what we found so great about this church was the time they spent in worship. It was such a beautiful thing to sit back and watch so many Cambodians worship Jesus. I couldn't stop the tears from rolling down my cheeks as we saw a sight that we have been longing to see for weeks now. I didn't try to sing, I didn't try to join in, all I wanted to do was hear their voices praise. It was a blessing to be there that morning.

Now for the sad things: We have an amazing house help here who cooks us dinner every night. Her name is Ohm. We also have someone who helps with our laundry and keeping the guesthouse clean. She is the daughter of Ohm, and her name is Bon Chenny. On Sunday night, Ohm's husband died of an illness. We learned of the news quickly, and found out the funeral would be on Monday. I (Leanne) was able to attend the funeral, with several others who also knew the family, in hopes to offer support to the those who are grieving. We spent the day out in the Provinces with the family, and it was a pleasure to be there. When I saw Ohm and Bon Chenny with tears in theirs eyes, and a look of shock on their face as they saw me step out of the car, I knew it was good for me to be there. I gave them each a hug, and in my terribly spoken Khmer I told them I was sorry, and prayed that our love would be known through my presence there. I am so thankful I was able to attend, and help them understand that we care and love for them, especially in a time of need.

Please continue to pray for these two things: calling a church home, and our two house helps we see each day that are in a time of loss.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Rain Showers are Stronger Than the Actual Shower

Right now as we are writing this post we are looking out on one of the rain storms that hit Phnom Penh each day. When we say rain storm it is not what we were used to in CO, but one that just dumps buckets and buckets of water on the city. Raining season here is from May to October but the heaviest of months are August and September. In our time here we have seen streets flood more than we have seen them not (well at least it feels that way when we are driving).

Last Sunday we blogged about having more and more of a mundane life (which is true), but right after we posted that, we left for the store to go get some groceries. While shopping the rains came and started to pour down as usual. We finished shopping and decided to wait it out for about 30 minutes, however, there seemed to be no lessening of the rain. So we decided to leave and starting driving because the streets were only filling up more each minute that passed. Not but just two minutes after hopping on our moto, did we get stuck in the water and have to get off and push the moto. At this point we are mid-calf, and at some points knee deep in water, (and by water I mean the mix of the rain and the elements of the street that are floating in it making it a far from clean dark brown) wondering what we should do. But we found higher ground, hopped back on, and drove home safely. So the mundane life was lost last Sunday, but in the mean time we love how the rain cools off the day.


This is the street right outside our gate.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Different, Exciting, Mundane

I have come to the conclusion that no matter which continent I live in, work is still work. As a teacher, I still have to plan lessons that will not bore my students to death, I still have spend Saturday afternoon grading papers and I still have to read the AP textbook so I can convince my students that I have some idea of what I am talking about in class.

As exciting and different as things may be here in Phnom Penh, we almost look more forward to the mundane. Coffee in the morning, delivery pizza on Fridays and playing games with friends on the weekends help us feel like we are really home. I was talking to a friend of mine here about what it will take for us to really feel like Cambodia is home. We concluded that we may never feel that way, nor shall we strive to ever make Cambodia more comfortable than the U.S.

No matter how long Leanne and I live in Cambodia, I will still have pasty white skin and be a foot taller than the average Cambodian. It is because of this reality, that Leanne and I have been pushing for the implimentation of things in our life that are comfortable and normal to us. Working for the past two weeks has given us a normal schedule, and that makes the chaotic nature of the city seem more managable and somewhat ordinary.

This week I started coaching the middle school basketball team. I run that team like Gene Hackman in Hoosiers. No Kobe-like fade-away jump shots. We focus on defense and practice 10 bank shots like it is our job. Imagine me running the 3-man-weave with 15 middle school aged Cambodians with an average height of 5 feet. Amazing.

Leanne has began to network for her trafficking ministry. She is working hard to get Asian Hope incorporated in an organization here called Chab Dai, which unites all of the organizations working in trafficking and helps them move in one uniform direction. She has meetings set up with some of the largest organizations in Cambodia like World Vision and World Relief in hopes that those organizations can help her create a foundation for her ministry and the start of an Asian Hope women's ministry.

Life is really great. We are healthy, happy and learning a lot about Cambodia, ourselves and what the Lord has in store for us here. We often miss Colorado and think a lot about the people we love at home. We love and miss you all!

These pictures are of the Phnom Penh night market and a scavenger hunt I did with some of my students this week in class.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

First Week of "Official" Work

We wanted to give an update on our jobs out here since they are in full swing now:
School started at Logos (the school Chris is teaching at) this past Monday. He is teaching three different HS History classes including an AP World History course. One of the things that is so different for Chris teaching here is that these students are very aware that they are very blessed to be at this school and take their studies extremely seriously. One student has even taken the opportunity to read not only the course textbook this summer but also the AP version just so he is prepared for class. Something that didn't happen for Chris is the US. However, there also are some challenges these students face, such as poor written writing skills, and lack of critical thinking. One thing that is difficult for Chris is that even though the school is probably one of the nicest buildings in Phnom Penh, it still regularly loses all power, meaning that he loses aircon (which is precious here) and the ability to type, save, print, copy, laminate, or even see. You quickly learn that if you got half way through your TO DO list that you feel very accomplished! All in all, the first week at Logos was a good one, and yet another transition that we feel like we are doing well with.

I (Leanne) am also chest deep into my work. My schedule is more scattered and we knew that would be the case when we came into this. I spend my days working and training two Logos grads who are in an internship at the guesthouse that Asian Hope opened this Spring. I take for granted the fact I was taught many lessons at my first job at Hallmark when I was 16, and this internship is set up for them to learn those lessons. Things like showing up on time (or even just showing up at all for that matter), and making sure they are dressed and prepared to come to work for the full day are things we have gone over in the first weeks. One other major battle I face in helping these kids learn about the working world, is that when they face a situation they don't know how to handle that turning and running away is not an option (again the critical thinking piece). Rather I am trying to help them learn how to take the problem one step at a time in order to find the solution. Again, small steps I am making with them, but steps that I find give me a lot of purpose in helping here.

The other side of my job is working with trafficking, and researching a women's outreach project. I have been researching and talking with a lot of NGOs here in Phnom Penh that are currently running prevention based programs. Over the last week and the weeks to come I am meeting with these people and learning what they do, how they do it, and seeing if there is a niche that Asian Hope can serve.

Please pray for patience for both of us as some of these things like learning about culture and the people we are working with can be draining and yet fulfilling all at the same time. Also pray for the relationships we are starting to build with students, interns, and other workers here in PP.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Things that make us laugh!

Before we left for Cambodia I was advised to document all the things that made Cambodia funny to me because, as my buddy explained, “After a few months, they will no longer be funny to you.” So, I compiled a list of sights, sounds and activities that I find comedic about Cambodia. Perhaps this is not for you to enjoy as much as it is created so that I can remember the things that at one time were hilarious about Cambodia and which will inevitably become simply annoying or ordinary.

1) Multi-use motos: The moto is the family coupe of Cambodia and really is more of a utility than any SUV in the U.S. We have seen motos carrying 50 alive but bound chickens on their way to a hot-broth party. Motos carrying three mattresses balanced on the seat, forcing the driver to hop down from his padded throne in order to shift or hit the brakes. Motos carrying a family of five with the toddler between his father’s legs, the mother behind the father, the middle daughter behind the mother and another child standing on the tail light, holding sister’s shoulders. We have seen a moto operated by an eight year-old who was graciously giving his three year-old brother a lift to school. Also, Leanne looks pretty awkward on a moto, but that might just be funny to me.

2) Synchronized Dancing: Working out for Cambodian’s is a bit of a blunder. Many Cambodian’s run, albeit in jeans and polo shirts. Some walk, again with the jeans and usually with a facemask protecting them from the smog. However, the best form of Cambodian work outs are the public synchronized dances (see video). Each morning and evening, groups of Khamers gather to dance to electronic music. The temperature is cool, the jams are hearty and the company is rockin’. These are not work-out’s as much as they are socials for those who like to dance to instrumentals of Lady Gaga, Beyonce or the Black Eyed Peas. Needless to say, I fill in the lyrics over the instrumentals.

3) Cambodians being Cambodian: If you are a baseball fan, you have heard the phrase “It is just Manny being Manny.” Cambodians, like Manny Ramirez, are unique in their own way and culturally as different to Americans as could be in many ways. Staring is okay, traffic lights and lanes are optional, boys sit on the top of family vans if the cab is too full, bus drivers stop to eat a sit-down lunch in the middle of their shift and pedestrians cross the street without looking as if daring me to hit them. The Police expect money when they pull you over, getting a license plate is more difficult than throwing a perfect game and trying to find a place to get colored copies is more difficult than getting a license plate. Bananas and spoons are really small. Waiters hover while you look at the menu and grocery store employees follow you around with a look that guilts me into purchasing some item that I didn’t want in order to not disappoint them.

All of these things make Cambodia unique to us. It has been essential for us to realize that Cambodian culture is not wrong, it is simply different and just because we do certain things in certain ways in the States, does not mean that they cannot be done differently here. It has also become important for us to learn to laugh at these differences. The oppressive traffic, the smog and the buckets of rain are all things that could frustrate us but it has become important that they entertain us instead.

Paul wrote in Ephesians that God serves his creation lavishly and abundantly, missing no detail and planning everything out so that his creation may be filled with great enjoyment no matter where they live. Regardless of how different life here may be, the reality of God’s lavish abundance has never been so clear and so enjoyable.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

A Few More Photos From Kep

These images are of the pool at our hotel and of the crab market in town where we ate our meals.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Just a Few Notes...

These are just some funny things that have happened in the last few days:
1.) We have not yet decided if I can run without Chris yet, because of a few factors: stray dogs don't really run after 2 people but might go after 1 person, giving more time to learn our neighborhood, and just being a female. So I (Leanne) have chosen a few times to run sprints right on our street. Today while doing shuttle runs back in forth, a man not far away waiting on his moto for someone to hire him out for a ride (called a moto-dop) kept yelling, "ma'am, ma'am, I drive you, I drive you." I couldn't help but think, "does he think I am lost, and that I threw in the white flag and decided to run as fast as I can back in forth to solve the problem? Or is that he thinks I want to go somewhere and don't know how to go about it, and again just gave in and started running up and down the same street." Who knows what he was thinking, all I do know is he probably thinks I am crazy for not getting anywhere and just running back and forth, and back and forth.

2.) I enrolled in Khmer One yesterday at Logos and my first class is on Tuesday. I will be taking the class with mostly elementary schoolers and some teenage foreigners. So I have asked Chris to pack me a lunch and send me to school with a kiss. I hope to speak at the level of a 4-5 year old when I am done. It should be fun...

3.) We counted today and so far we have only had one day that we have not eaten rice!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Kep, Cambodia

With work beginning this next week, Leanne and I decided to take a trip to the coast of Cambodia and stay a couple nights in a small town called Kep. Known for its seafood and mellow atmosphere, this place was as opposite from Phnom Penh as possible. We ate at a crab market, rode a couple of rusted-out Japanese bikes and sat around the pool all weekend. It was not tough.

When we came back to Phnom Penh, it was the first time when the city felt like home and we enjoyed coming back to a place that is comfortable and familiar. We did not expect to feel like we were coming home and that feeling surprised us. We have been in Cambodia for three weeks now and feel great in our adjustment to a new city, a new culture and simply changing jobs. Things here have been wonderful and that blessing that we cannot deny.

Hope you are well, here are some pictures of our trip.

We also wanted to give our biggest blessings to Britt and Bob as they celebrate their beautiful wedding today. We have been thinking and praying for you all weekend, and we dearly wish we could be there with you. Miss you and love you! Leanne Send pictures soon...