Monday, December 19, 2011

'Tis the Season

Here we are again, Christmas time.  The season of advent.  The season of celebrating the birth of Christ Jesus.  Last year, was a series of ups and downs as we missed snow, family, and our traditional Christmas parties with friends, however, we quickly learned that Christmas in Cambodia is a wonderful time to celebrate the birth of Jesus and be with those you love dearly without the huss and fuss of everything in the West.  So once again we are celebrating in Cambodia, and once again it has been nothing shy of joy-filled, fun, and authentic.  Below is us decorating our little tree, a real pine is not even a thinkable option, so we are just happy to be able to have a tree as the price tag on these puppies will make anyone gulp.  We still need to work on our skills for putting on the lights, every year we have to do it like 5 times before it is "good enough."  Any tips?

We have also made a tradition of going on a special Christmas date every year.  We have gone to plays, concerts, and stayed in fancy hotels.  Here is Cambodia we opted for a night on Street 240.  This boutique filled street that gives their best attempt at a Christmas-y environment.  We had a wonderful dinner out, a special trip to Gloria Jeans Coffee (closest thing we have to Starbucks) for Peppermint Lattes, and then out to go shopping.  Below is me with the Khmer Santa and his tuk tuk sleigh, --again their best attempt.  Love it.

A few weekends back we had our Asian Hope staff Christmas party at one of our favorite restaurants.  This evening is always a treat when we all gather together from 6 different ministries and celebrate with one another.  Below is me with Chenda Ban, (who Chris and I work with daily).  Love her.  Chris also was lucky enough to win a prize from the Lucky Draw at the end of the night.  Lucky Draws are incredibly popular here in Cambodia, and everyone waits anxiously to see if they won.  Two of my staff won, which made the crowd around me and Chris buzz with excitement.  Then when his name was drawn the uproar begun as he claimed his prize.  The excitement of the Lucky Draw as said by one of the teachers for 2Five2, "was so exciting he could barely keep his heart in his chest when I knew 3 of the winners."

Now to last Saturday, we hosted our Annual Christmas Cookie Decorating and Beverage party in our little apartment.  We celebrated, decorated, ate, and enjoyed the festivities with some of our dear friends.  We love when people gather together - laugh, tell stories, and enjoying the season.  It was great to have little kiddos running around and decorating cookies.  The only problem was when the 1 1/2 year old locked herself into our bedroom and we had to get the landlord to help us get her out.  This party has become a fun way for us to usher in Christmas Day.

And finally our Christmas church service, we attended the large joint Christmas service last Sunday as we got to spend the morning singing carols of the birth of Jesus, and hear of the goodness of God and the gift of His perfect Son.  If you are a Christmas card photo kind of person, here is ours...
An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:  “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).  -- Matthew 1:20-23

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Leanne's Dance Skills

We have another video to post (guess we really got into the video thing)... the catch-up school for 2Five2 is in full swing now, but this video is taken in the first couple of days when we just started.  The little First Graders are learning a fun Khmer song that is similar to our American version of "Singing in the Rain" (you know...I'm singing in the rain, with my knees together, butt out, head up, tongue out...singing in the rain).  Now the kids love the song, and sing and participate in all the motions every morning and afternoon. 

Kids in this community before coming to school were usually at home working, they helped cook, clean, watch other children, or for the older ones worked selling goods or fishing.  Songs like these are the first time they have just played and enjoyed singing and dancing like all children deserve to do.  I love watching them sing this song together.

Now that is is Advent season and we are celebrating Christmas, the kids are preparing songs, and coloring pictures of the story of Jesus' birth to be ready for our "Christmas Program" on the 23rd.  Please be praying for these children during this special Christmas season, as this is the first time they have ever heard the story of Jesus' birth and what that means for their life!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Angkor Wat 10k and Half Marathon

About a week ago, Leanne and I both ran a race through the Angkor Wat temples in Siem Reap. Leanne ran a 10k race through the 1200 year old ruins and I completed the half marathon.

The race itself was fantastic and memorable though, for both of us, very difficult. Leanne had been fighting a lingering cough and chest cold while I, devoid of excuses, suffered through a substantial part of the race. Leanne entered the race knowing that she would likely have to stop, cough, drink water and move on. She was a champ and finished the race with a smile on her face, knowing that her health had indeed got the best of her on that particular day.

I had trained, prepped, read, planned and envisioned and I still finished the race like a wobbly-kneed baby deer. I ran the first 17km strong, on my goal pace and with confidence. The last 4k seemed as long as the first 17 and probably took just as long. Like the Powerbar commercial warns of; I bonked. I had to keep my feet turning and many times through the race, I cursed my decision and foolishness for wanting to run a half marathon in Cambodia. Though painful at the end, I finished and once I got my clear vision back, I was very satisfied with my decision to train and run the race.

We had a wonderful time with the group we went to Siem Reap with and being able to relax for a full day outside of the hustle and bustle of Phnom Penh. Overall, it was a great weekend and a fine accomplishment for both of us. Now neither of us have to run for at least two weeks; that is the best part of finishing the race.

Monday, December 5, 2011

2Five2 Video

Below is a video for one of our ministries, 2Five2, the program that Leanne works with in the village of Prek Pneu.  Check out what we are doing with this amazing community...

"And Jesus grew in wisdom, stature, and in favor with God and man." - Luke 2:52

Saturday, December 3, 2011

A visit from the Williams

Our brave buddies Sky and Kristin Williams came out to visit Leanne and I in Asia and, as expected from all of us, our time together was nothing but fun, laughs and rejuvenation.

We met them in Bali, Indonesia and spent the better part of a week navigating the mountains and beaches in Ubud, Nusa Lembongan and Kuta, three idyllic vacation destinations.

We wandered the cities, went on bike rides, enjoyed the coastal waters, Bintang beer and the only mellow surf we could find on the entire island.

After our time in Indonesia, we travelled back to Phnom Penh with them. They were able to see, experience and learn about our projects and life in Cambodia as well as take in the history and social issues that are currently plaguing the nation.

Their time in Cambodia with us was such a gift on so many levels. We were able to spend time hearing their wedding stories since we missed the ceremony after moving to Cambodia. We shared our common and not-so-common experiences of the last 16 months apart and were able to share with them the highs and lows of living in Cambodia.

 Our time with them was a blessing. We so appreciated their willingness to visit, travel with and experience our lives in Cambodia. Just like the old friends we are, regardless of time and distance apart, we were able to pick up and continue our relationship in the same place we left it many months ago. Happy, simple and abundant.


Pictured above: Shopping at Central Market, Tuk Tuk rides, getting ice cream on the riverfront, Sky's thoughts on Khmer noodles for breakfast, leaving Russian Market, riding on the moto, breakfast at our house, walking through Prek Pneu, and helping in the classroom at the catch-up school.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Fall in Cambodia and Thanksgiving Dinner

One of the harder parts about living in Cambodia is that there is no seasonal change.  We live in never-ending summer.  Sounds great a first (well, at least better than never-ending Winter) but we each get a dose of seasonal depression when our internal body clocks says, "when you go outside you will need a coat," but after 17 months we still have not had that situation become a reality.  So in my epic battle to deal with the loss of seasons I do everything I can to possibly re-create fall.  Here are some of my attempts:
 Eating Texas chili, Brie and chive biscuits (so delicious), and pecan pie with the Walkers.

Making homemade pumpkin muffins (which I did burn them a touch, sadly, but in my defense my oven doesn't have temperatures just a small flame and large flame for your tempertaure gauge).

 A "fall craft" day with three sweet friends.  Jess hosted us and made these amazing pumpkin with cinnamon cream cheese frosting cookie sandwiches. We each made "Thanks" bottles that I got the idea from my friend's blog.

And then comes Thanksgiving...we had two meals this year.  The one pictured above was for the staff at Chris' school, Logos.  We enjoyed a pot luck with 50 other people as we gathered on the weekend after Thanksgiving.

Our main Thanksgiving meal was eaten on Friday after work.  The holiday starts off strange when you work all day Thursday and no one around you cares its Thanksgiving.  However, we were pleasantly surprised when we came home and our house help, Ohm, made Chicken Pot Pie that night.  She had NO IDEA it's Thanksgiving, so we couldn't of been happier with her meal selection that day!  Then on Friday after work we headed to a friend's house and gathered with three other families for the full thing.  We had a deep fried turkey (best turkey I have ever eaten), mashed potatoes, stuffing, sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, rolls, salad, and even three pies for dessert - apple, pumpkin, and pecan.  It was delicious.  The tables were decorated from every one's combined fall decorations and we even watched both the Lion's and the Cowboy's football games that had been recorded the day before.  We sat in a living room with air-con and enjoyed a taste of America for 4 amazing hours.  Happy Thanksgiving!

We all love fall because of the change in weather and the beautiful colors.  We don't get either of those here, but we once again had a great "fall" and Thanksgiving and are very grateful for everything we have been given!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Catch-Up School Begins

Last Thursday, the 17th we opened our doors to 72 kiddos to begin their studies at our catch-up school.  Most, if not all, of these children have never been to school before.  They don't know how to read or write, and their math, science, and social studies knowledge is very minimal.  This opening day has been in the works for over a year now, so we are estatic that today we have kids behind desks listening to their teachers.

It is a learning curve to say the least as the kids don't know how to sit in chairs for longer than 3 minutes as they are used to just roaming around their village without any purpose or structure.  Each day gets better and better though. 

We gave each student training on how to use the toilet and how to flush when they are finished.  Their expressions were priceless when they saw the water flush, as it was something they had never seen before.  Awesome.

They learned about washing their hands, and how to use the new water filters so when  they are with us they are drinking clean water from their new water bottles.

Now the building is loud with students repeating their teacher, little kids taking their breaks and running around outside.  As mnetioned, we couldn't be happier for the Lord's provision in this program and the beauty in watching these kids learn academically and about Jesus for the first time in their lives!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Bali with the Williams

Everyone dreams about being able to travel to an island paradise with those you call dear friends.  This is exactly what Chris and I got to do last week.  For 6 days we went to Bali, Indonesia with Skyler and Kristin Williams.  Chris and Skyler grew up together in Fort Collins, and like us, Sky and Kristin met at CU.  Over the years we have been able to share many wonderful memories together, life in college in Boulder, a trip to Costa Rice (where they got engaged), our wedding (sadly we missed theirs while living here in Cambodia), camping, hiking, and skiing in the mountains, and many more Colorado memories.  Even more importantly we have been able to share lives with one another, to grow in our faith together, and to learn from one another.  So all in all it was a blessing beyond belief to have this wonderful vacation with them.  Here is what we did...

We spent a few days in Ubud, the small artsy town in the middle of the island.  Intertwined within the homes and art galleries are bright green rice fields which we were able to enjoy while eating almost every meal.  We visited the Monkey Forest, which was more of a panic attack than enjoyment as aggressive monkeys sneak up and circle around you looking for food.  Sky got his hat stolen by a monkey, which led all of us in an epic one hour hunt down that had me and Kristin running around the monkey-over-taken temples in fear until we could finally leave. We also took a bike ride north of the town to visit some of Bali's biggest rice terraces.  We would all agree the bike ride was more than we asked for so a massage was next in line (and well worth all highly priced $4 of it). 

After Ubud we took a taxi, and small boat to a smaller island off the coast of Bali to get away from the tourist crowds that flock to Bali.  Nusa Lembongan was one of the most spectacular sights we have ever seen.  Shades of blue mixed together everywhere you look, and waves bigger than I could of imagined.  I guess that is why the surf spots are named, Lacerations, Shipwrecks, and Devil's Point.  We opted to hang on the beach, eat in restaurants overhanging the ocean, and enjoy our bungalows.  We took one morning to go snorkeling and once again it was more than we bargained for.  The boat ride out to our first stop was nothing shy of nerve racking as the giant waves crashed against our small boat, run by one Indonesian man who spoke no English other than "cold like Bentang" (Bentang - the countries main beer).  The snorkeling was filled with bright colored fish that we all have never seen before, and coral that gives the Caribbean a good run for their money. 

Our final stop was Kuta, and only for a day, so we could squeeze in some surfing.  This was the second time surfing for all four of us (first time was the trip we took to Costa Rica), but everyone picked it up quickly and was able to ride a few waves in.  The beach was crowded and the city was dirty but the day on the beach chatting with good friends and surfing in one of the world's famous surf spots was once a again a moment of realization of how blessed we are to do what we do with the people we love.

Now they are here in Phnom Penh with us learning about our life, our ministries, and the city we call home.