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:

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

Friday, November 12, 2010

A Changing of the Seasons...

Though the blog title might hint at a philosophical rant, the topic of this post is much more literal than abstract. I have finished my first season, coaching the LIS middle school basketball team to a 10 - 3 season record. Though we did not win the city tournament, we had a very successful season and the boys improved immensely each game.

Some of my favorite parts of the season:

1) Many of the players wear glasses, so even at the most intense times during of a game, if a kid's glasses were knocked off both teams would stop abruptly, pick them off of the ground and restart the game like nothing happened.

2) There is a distinct lack of a competitive edge here which is rather refreshing. Many times I had players unaware of the final score and other times I had players ask to go to the bathroom or to get some food when they were on the court playing.

3) Trying to mute my competitive side was extremely difficult. There were times when I wanted to run out on the court after a big shot or yell at the referee for making his 100th terrible call of the game. However, I had to realize that I coached middle school basketball and I should just be happy when all of my players collectively know if they are on offense or defense.

4) I love to coach. I get nervous before games and I love the feeling of winning, even in a non-competitive atmosphere. I learned countless lessons while playing sports and I know that many of these kids learned a lot throughout the season.

Here is the picture from our last day of practice.

As of yesterday I started high school soccer for both the boys and the girls. It will be a challenge coaching both teams at the same time but I love the game and look forward to seeing the kids become better players.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

MST Project, a Busy Weekend and a rash...

On Friday night, Leanne and I had the opportunity to volunteer with the MST Project (Men and the Sex Trade). The project's goals are to collect information and data on western men who are soliciting prostitutes, and engage in a dialogue with them on their perception of prostitution in Phnom Penh, and why it is that western men enter into such relationships. The program ultimately wants to educate men on the realities of the sex trade in Cambodia, the high HIV rates as well as to explain to them that the girls in Phnom Penh are forced into prostitution regardless of their situation.

The whole evening was challenging for me to say the least. I was uncomfortable approaching men who may or may have not been in the area to purchase prostitutes. I was uncomfortable with seeing in real-time, some of the social ills that I have only read about. Prostitution, beggars asking for money and food and teenage boys stumbling through the streets with glue in bags that they were using to achieve a cheap high. It was eye-opening, heart-breaking and fascinating at the same time. I learned a lot through simple observation as well as incredible conversations with two men.

Throughout the week, I have been reading one chapter by A.W. Tozer repeatedly. It discusses the idea of rest and meekness. He explains that "A meek man is not a human mouse afflicted with a sense of his own inferiority. Rather he may be in his moral life as bold as a lion... but he has stopped being fooled about himself.... In himself, a meek man is nothing, in God everything." Tozer then explains that "Jesus says,'Come unto me, and I will give you rest.' The rest that he offers is the rest of meekness, the blessed relief which comes when we accept ourselves for what we are and cease to pretend."

As I debriefed the experience on Friday with Leanne, I could not help but think about the need for people to become completely meek. Not an afflicted human mouse who is constantly walked over by society, like Tozer explains. But rather an individual who does not see their value in the need for drugs, liquor, a woman or man's company or any number of temporary pleasures. The Lord offers rest in meekness, knowing that apart from him, we are rarely fulfilled.

A little heavy but these are the experiences we hoped to have in Cambodia and an indication of what we are learning out here besides just the culture and the city.

We spent the rest of the weekend in bed, as Leanne has some sort of rash, either heat rash or some other reaction. We ran a 5K race on Saturday morning and both felt about as terrible as possible following the run. We think it is just dehydration and heat rash and are hoping it is not a sign of a different illness.

Lastly, I woke up this morning to see that CU had given up 35 points in the 4th quarter of their game against Kansas to lose 52-45. I think I felt worse about that than I did after running a 5k on three hours of sleep. We hope your weekend was great!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

In the Cambodian News... hilarious!

If there is one thing that I love here in Cambodia, it is noting the differences between how this nation operates compared to the United States. I have become much better at using the word "different" rather than "worse," because the latter implies that my culture and country do some things better than others.

These two news stories appeared in successive Cambodia Daily newspapers. They are hilarious in their own way and can definitely be describes as "different!"

Headline: One Officials Embarrassment Becomes Internet Sensation

If any of you are YouTube fanatics, you might have seen this clip. In just a few days, it has accumulated nearly 40,000 views in a nation where internet access is limited. If you have not seen the clip, it can be seen using the following link: Phnom Penh Roadrage .

In brief, a government official was arrested for running over a military official's moto while a police officer just watches the whole debacle. This is probably the most that all three branches of the government have worked together in recent years. However, as the official drives off, he takes the moto with him, a shot is fired by the military official and the police officer simply walks away. Knowing the streets, the driver continued for 1-2 miles before being stopped by police. Here are some quotes from the article. :

  • "The driver of the car, Mr. Than has retained his position as the deputy director general of the department of National Assembly-Senate Relations and Inspection."
Essentially what this quote means is that Mr. Than gets paid a lot to do very little and people in the government are not concerned about his day-to-day routine.
  • "In the beginning of the investigation, we (the police) had thought about sending him to the court but we found out that he is mentally ill so we will not... the court would look as silly as him."

I appreciate the officials honesty as well as his respect for the court system. Instead of taking this guy to court and seeing some justice, the Cambodian officials decided to just let him go and allow this man to jump back into his car. Sounds good.

  • "Mr. Than has worked for the government for 20 years, but his former staff pities him because he used to be a good man but has become like this... It has also been noted that Mr. Than no longer performs official duties but still recieves a government salary."

I have come to the conclusion that the smart one is Mr. Than. Pose with a mental illness and you can get away with driving over an officers moto, you have no expectations at work and you still get a check. Sounds like Mr. Than has an awesome pension plan!

We loved this article, the clip and the people who commented. That one for sure gives you an indication of life in Phnom Penh as well as the way issues are sometimes handled in the city.

Headline: Breaking out the Hoodies: Cool Weather May Last Until January

This article appeared two days ago. We have had INCREDIBLE weather in Cambodia starting last Friday. It was as if someone flipped the hot and rain switches off. It is cool and breezy and the weather really does make this place feel totally different.

However, it seems to be too cold for many Cambodians and here are some comments to support that feeling.

  • "Mountainous areas will be most affected, with temperatures hovering between 13 and 15 degrees celsius (roughly 58 - 60 degrees farenheit)... while lowland areas will hover between 16-18 degrees (about 60-65 degrees farenheit."

This is not cold, it is called awesome and I will take it any day over the 85-95 with monumental humidity.

  • "The temperatures could be around 14 degrees at night but it will not affect the soldiers in the mountainous areas... if the temperature gets below 10 degree (50 degrees farenheit) we will declare an emergency... soldiers have already been given heavy winter coats and improvements are being made to their camps."

50 degrees? An emergency? 50 degrees should be cause for celebration and jubilee. I have some jackets that to soldiers can wear, I will not need them as I will be outside enjoying the nice weather!

Great stuff from the Cambodia Daily. In all honesty, there are articles published everyday that highlight the often too present violence seen in this country and it has been nice to read the paper and enjoy a few laughs. Bundle up and enjoy the video clip!