Friday, October 29, 2010

An Untold Story

The other night Chris and I were talking about moving out here, and the amount of work it took to just get us here. That lead our conversation into how much we love living here. We talk almost everyday about how much we like living cross-culturally and getting to know the Khmer people in our day to day. But back to the first part of the stress and work it took us to get on the plane and move to Asia. The months before departure where full of preparation tasks and thoughts of "what will our life look like." The days before departure were full of emotional swings of "I just can't wait to go" and many tear-filled byes to our loving family and friends. I think back to the day we left and saying bye to our parents at the airport and how surreal that day was, and how hard that was on my emotions.

So now for the untold story...I threw up on the flight over here! Not once, but twice. When we got our first (of many) airline meal, I thought "you know what I am going to have a celebratory glass of wine for the excitement of moving to Phnom Penh." I don't know if it was the wine at 20,000 feet, the emotions I was going through that morning, or the anxiety of what was ahead, but the combo of the three made for an interesting flight. Just for future reference, I would not recommend to anyone who is moving to Asia to have a glass of wine on the plane, it obviously did not turn out well. I tell this story because as we talk about our life here, we talk about it in ways that are full of joy and peace in knowing that God is using us here, and still has big things in store for us over the next 20 months. I tell it because all that anxiety and stress is now gone, and we feel very confident in where God has us. So I guess this would be the more appropriate time to have the celebratory glass of wine...

There is a student back in Boulder, CO that I have come to know pretty well over the past 4-5 years since I met her when she was a freshman. She always asks me if I have gotten sick out here, and I always respond with, "Not yet." So, yes Melissa I have thrown up, two times, and it was on day one!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Some of our thoughts

Life is moving on as usual here, so we don't have a lot of stories to write about, or haven't had many new experiences over the past few days. But here is short list of the things we both talk about:

1.) We still feel like it is June because the "summer" weather has not changed. Without having a fall (the weather, food, football, pumpkin patches, etc.) or a change of seasons it seems hard for us to believe that there is only two more months left in 2010. The ability to process time is just more difficult.
2.) We read a lot. Classic novels, books on Cambodia and the genocide, new novels, and books that challenge our faith. The books we were supposed to read in HS and college and never did. I guess that is what happens when you don't have a TV anymore (who would of thought).
3.) Our life is pretty simple here. Before we moved our plate was full with each of us working full-time at our jobs, Chris finishing his Masters program in under 2 years, and Leanne doing the fundraising to get us here. Our days were full of errands, papers, phone calls, and trips trying to spend as much time as possible with family and friends. So here in Phnom Penh we have the ability to rest and relax over the weekends, something we have not had in years.
4.) No one in Cambodia can seem to give you a confirmation or a guarantee. Aircons that are supposed to be installed on Thursday might be finished by Saturday (only if you make several phone calls that the job has to be done because Monday is too late). Or a travel agent who tells you she will book you a flight for $50 until the 20th, and then on the 19th you call to only find out that she just no longer will acknowledge the previous deal. A driver who gives you a receipt for the services he will provide, but then calls the day of and cancels just because he can't anymore. A deal here just isn't the same as a deal back home.
5.) We love sugared crackers as a snack. And eat Ranch that we brought from the US almost everyday.
6.) The rains are ending and the weather is actually very pleasant (well to us at least).
7.) Entertainment takes on new forms. Below are some pictures of us at an amusement park (if you can call it that) on Diamond Island where you can ride the Ferris Wheel and play dart games. However, the prizes at Diamond Island are rice cookers, serving trays, knives, or flip flops. They also have a wedding photo walk, that we took the liberty to use and thought the red heart photo stop was the best for a bride and groom.

Thanks for all the thoughts, prayers, emails, skpye dates, and packages that so many of you have sent us that make us feel so supported!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Poipet, Cambodia

I (Leanne) just returned last Friday from a short trip to the city of Poipet. This city sits on the northern border of Thailand, and also is known for its prevalent poverty. These two factors combined allow for the Khmer children in Poipet to be highly vulnerable for child trafficking. I went there to see what some other organizations are doing to protect children from being trafficked into cities like Bangkok, Chang Mai, and other large Thai cities. It was a trip full of learning experiences, and new sites. Though we are not looking into setting up a border protection program, we can still learn from the things this organization does like non-formal education (school on a mat), Kids Clubs, vocational training, and anti-trafficking curriculum. All in all, it was a successful trip.

The only difficulty we faced was the mass flooding that is hitting not only Phnom Penh but also this region. It is heartbreaking to see these people's homes, businesses, and school be washed away in the days of unending rain. Though we like the coolness of the rain, I think we will be happy to see it go come November.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Chris has an amazing ability to capture photos of the people and places we see while traveling. However, here is the proof that we actually did go to Vietnam and that the photos we already posted are his and not stolen from National Geographic. This is our moto ride to Can Tho, breakfast at the floating market, and our speed boat back to Phnom Penh.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Cluck if you want chicken, moo if you want beef...

Over the Pchum Ben holiday, Leanne and I decided to take a trip to the Mekong Delta in southern Vietnam. The trip was not without adventure, wrong turns, interesting interactions and wonderful experiences.

At 3:11 on Wednesday, Leanne and five Cambodians picked me up from school. Four men sat in the front seat of a late-model Toyota Camry and we sat with a lovely Vietnamese man in the back. Nearly an hour into our trip, we noticed a sign for a city that was not in the direction we were supposed to be heading. After a furious phone call to our "travel agent" (the fifth one of the day) and some discussions with our driver, we realized that we were headed to Ho Chi Minh City and not the one that we intended. This mistake turned out to be a blessing in disguise as our travel was much easier with HCMC as our city to launch from.

From Ho Chi Minh, we took public buses to My Tho and then to Vinh Lang. These towns are located along the mighty Mekong and both had beautiful river front areas. We ate dinner with an hilariously idiosyncratic Swiss guy by the name of Jean Pierre who ordered our food for us by clucking and mooing to indicate our desired dishes. We then left for the city of Can Tho on the back of motos with two great drivers who helped us immensely on our trip. This town was one of the most remarkable towns that I have seen while traveling. The streets were clean, the town organized and the people were outwardly friendly and ready to help whenever needed. We ate remarkable wantons and spring rolls at a restaurant called, suprisingly enough, the Mekong, whose specialties included fried frog, stingray and snake wine. We took a trip from Can Tho to a floating market in Cai Rang and through some small tributaries that went along the banks of Vietnamese hamlets. This was one of those surreal experiences in which Leanne and I had to keep reminding one another where we are and what were were doing.

Our last stop was Chau Doc along the Cambodian - Vietnamese border which was more like Cambodia than Vietnam. Loud, busy and chaotic, it was a good transition city to ready us for the realities of Cambodia again. Needless to say, we ate a quick curry dinner and retired to our room where we enjoyed our free air con and a few hours of week-old NFL football games, The Hills and Jersey Shore. We planned on vacation and cable TV was part of the package!

After banana pancakes this morning, we came back to Phnom Penh on a speed boat from Vietnam. I listened to CCR, Buffalo Springfield and The Doors, which allowed me an adequate soundtrack to visualize what took place on that very land and river not too long ago. It was a wonderful trip, full of memorable experiences and images, some of which I have left here for you.

Lastly, if you are interested in viewing more of my photography I will again be starting my blog at if you are at all interested in seeing more images from our trip to Vietnam and from our lives in Cambodia.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Let the Wedding Celebrations Begin!

Tomorrow we leave for Vietnam for some much needed time off, and we couldn't be more excited for this trip and some time out of Phnom Penh to rest, relax, and see a new place. However, while we are gone we are also missing two very special days back in Colorado. We are missing Skyler Williams and Kristin McCullough's wedding in Vail this Saturday, and then Erin Marston and Blaine Bogar's wedding in Boulder on Sunday. (Pictured above is both couples at our wedding.)

We know that both of these weddings will be nothing but beautiful, as we can't even put into words how deeply we love and respect each of these couples. Sky and Kristin have been some of our closest friends for the past 6+ years (and over 12 years for Chris and Sky), and Erin and Blaine have become a couple that we quickly learned to admire as we have gotten to know them more and more over the past 5 years through our bible study and nights out in Denver.

We will be celebrating from a distance this weekend, and wishing we could be there to hear you say your vows to one another before God. We love you guys dearly, we will be praying for you all weekend. Enjoy the celebration of your marriage! To the bride and groom....

Some pictures from a recent trip we took to Costa Rica with Sky and Kristin.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Weekend Review

Our time in Cambodia has been defined by ups and downs. There are days and nights that both Leanne and myself find extremely difficult, whether it is our jobs, the transition to a new country, or simply the same issues that would frustrate us at home. This weekend was no different. We went on a wonderful hike, fixed broken water coolers, felt oppressively tired, hosted 25 high school juniors at our house, we watched our beloved Buffaloes go to 3 - 1, had an incredible meal with new friends, and ate delicious frozen yogurt at a new place called Tutti Frutti. It was a weekend of ups and downs, exhaustion and rest, frustration and bliss.

I think our time here will be marked by these undulating emotions. Times when we miss home, the mountains, snow, and the friends and family that we love. But there are times here, when a disco-ball lightning storm is raging over Phnom Penh, or when we find ourselves witnessing scenes of rural Cambodia that take us back hundreds of years in history when we realize that what we are doing is unique, special, and rich with experience. We are at a crossroads of sorts, when we are realizing that Phnom Penh and Cambodia are now are home, and not just a place that we are visiting but where we run errands, buy groceries, work, and play. It is a great realization to have, but in some regards it is overwhelming to know that we are here, while it is exciting to think about what we will have learned, done, and seen after 24 or more months in Cambodia.

These pictures are a just a small indication of our weekend. We have photos of our hike to a waterfall in the provinces that we took on Saturday, some of my students who came over, and an advertisement for our new favorite Sunday Sundays (we eat ice cream Sundays every Sunday afternoon) called Tutti Frutti.