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.