Saturday, January 29, 2011

Wins and Losses

When I first started teaching at Logos I signed-up to be the soccer coach for both the high school boys and girls. However, I was not told by my administrators that the seasons were played simultaneously. Starting in the first week of November, I have been holding practices for the soccer teams on Tuesdays and Thursday with games on those days or Fridays. One team at 6:30 in the morning and one team at 3:30 in the afternoon. Though only a couple of days per week, I have felt the strain of this practice schedule on my teaching and other school responsibilities and I can see a clear manifestation of this schedule in the amount of papers that have yet to be graded this semester.

With this said, the boy's and girl's soccer season ended today with a round-robin tournament. Being the head coach for both teams, there were inevitable scheduling conflicts so Leanne did much of the coaching for the girls team (she has been helping me coach all season too).

The girl's season started off like a Disney movie about a rag-tag group of players and their overzealous coach playing the other team that was seasoned, fit and talented. At our first game, the opening whistle blew and before I could find my water bottle, we were down 1-0 - my watch reading 17 seconds into the game. The next 40 minutes of the game were no better, as many of the girls struggled with the rules and movement of the game. We lost our first game 8-0, our second game 5-1 and today we played the same team (there is only one other team for them to play) in the tournament. The girls heroically held their opponent to a 0-0 score at half and with 5 minutes left, they let in just one goal, losing 0-1. Honestly, and amazing improvement. Because of odd scheduling, the girls did most of their training in the morning, showing up on time and practicing before school. Coaching them was incredibly enjoyable, they were energetic, optimistic and hardworking all season. I loved coaching them.

My boys team was a different story all together. I was blessed to coach 13 remarkably talented soccer players and friends who would get together each for practice on Tuesdays, Thursdays and kick-arounds on Saturdays and play until they were unable to run any longer. We had a very successful season. We went 9-1, were scored on 3 times (2 own goals) and scored 29 goals. We won the tournament today with little doubt of who was the best team in the tournament, winning our first game 1-0, our second 2-0, our third 2-1 and the championship match 7-0.

I do not say this to flaunt or brag, I say it because my players were remarkable today. The practiced hard, ran hard and wanted to win and they made it happen. I have not coached for long but I know that the group of players that was on the field today was special. They played and beat teams that are competitive with the best teams throughout South East Asia, did not let down once and dominated their tournament. Congratulations to them!

Knowing the talent level I had with this group of boys, I challenged them this season be a "great team" and not just a "good team." Great teams play their game all of the time, never playing down to the level of their opponent. Great teams play with class and never disrespect or devalue the other team. Great teams have no division amongst them, each of them realizing that they are better as a group than they will ever be as individuals. Since losing a game three weeks ago, I challenged the boys to prove that they were not just good but great, and today they proved their point.

Each season I learn a lot more about coaching and not just the x's and o's of the game. I am learning how to coach different players, who I can push and who I need to approach with care. But most importantly, I am learning what it takes to cultivate a team full of quality people. This season, more than wins and losses, my players learned how to respect their opponent even when the game is long over, how to support their teammate even when they sitting on the bench and how to win and lose with class.

I learned a lot of lessons playing soccer that have transferred to my adult life. I had coaches that I respected and others that I knew cared more about the final score line than the players on the field that produced the goals or made the saves. I hope to coach for a long time, but more than coach for wins and losses, I hope that I never take the numbers on the score board too seriously or care about them more than the players who produce them.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Boulder Steel Yards

3 years ago today we got engaged! I know this doesn't have much to do with our life in Cambodia, but this day (and of course our wedding day) will always be special to my heart. God has given us a wonderful marriage and has been faithful to us in our 7 months here in Cambodia. We will always continue to be thankful for that. Here are some pictures of our engagement day. It was a windy cold day in Boulder on January 25, 2008, nothing as to what the weather feels like here today.

To our friends getting married in the coming months, Jess & Bryce, Kimmy & Jesse, Kat & Tavo, Dave & Charlotte, Brittany & Joe we hope you enjoy this unique and wonderful season of life!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Winners and Losers

A good buddy of mine writes me emails in the format of "winners" and "losers." I cannot take credit for the idea but I know he, thanks Gus, will allow me to borrow it to update you on our last couple of weeks in Cambodia.

Because I am an optimist, I will start with "Losers," as to end with the best parts of our last couple of weeks.

  1. Cream Cheese: Last week Leanne and I went to a friend's house to watch the NCAA football national championship game. It was a week old recording and we all know the score but we enjoyed it nonetheless. Anyway, Leanne wanted to make chocolate cupcakes with cream cheese, easy. After 18 hours, five grocery stores, a few minor expletives and a curdled and rotten block of Philadelphia (which was placed back in the package, resealed and put back in the refrigerator by the store owner... typical) Leanne finally found her cream cheese and made excellent cupcakes for the party. I wish I could say that this event was the first time that an ordinary product was non-existent in Phnom Penh.
  2. Sarpino's Pizza: A new pizza place opened up in Phnom Penh so we naturally had to try it. Now, I preface this loser with the fact that Phnom Penh has an incredible number of excellent restaurants, but this one has yet to make the list. The pizza was mediocre, the wait staff was overwhelmed by the eight people inside, our friend's ticket was wrong and the place was filled with bugs. Our experience was tough, but apparently the next day they got their act together and had a great grand opening. Sorry Sarpino's, we will stick with Pizza Company. Pizza Hut, get it together and open like you are supposed to!
  3. Illness: Leanne and I took our 6-month anti-worm pill last weekend and my stomach feels incredible. Leanne and I are constantly battling sickness. We take copious amount of Vitamin C, daily vitamins and other supplements that help us stay strong. This week I have been battling a typical cold, coupled with yelling at soccer practices and games, my voice sounded like a scratchy recording of Louis Armstrong. My students could not take me seriously in class and laughed each time I gave directions... they won't be laughing when they get their updated grades.
  4. Working Cross-Culturally: From trying to buy cell phone credit, to ordering food to working with Cambodians, we are often frustrated with communication. We often feel like all of our plans are solid, organized and ready to go and then they will fall apart. This goes for Leanne's work especially and it has been a good lesson in patience as well as the clash that is American culture and Cambodian culture. It has been amazing to see how hyper-productive we tend to be as Americans and how much our satisfaction comes with the amount of items we can check off of our to-do list. That is not how Cambodians operate and that can often lead to immense frustration.
Now for the winners from the past two weeks.
  1. College Sports: Leanne and I are huge sports fans and, though we have not watched many games live, we have enjoyed staying connected with our Alma Mater and other sports. As mentioned before, we watched the Auburn-Oregon game as well as the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl (both live, both awesome). Also, the CU men's basketball team is surprising many people with their play and are no longer the forgotten little-brother of the Big 12. Perfect timing Buffs, thanks for waiting until we moved to Asia to no longer be awful.
  2. Phnom Penh: The longer we live here, the more we like the city. Yes, it is rough around the edges. Yes, driving around our neighborhood at night is often a lesson on injustice and inequity. However, this is a city with deep scars and one that is progressing through its recent history. Just last night, we had dinner with friends (Chicken-Fried steak, mashed potatoes and a 75 cent beer at a restaurant called Cadillac which is owned by large-portion advocate from Texas), then went and played cards at our favorite coffee shop. We sat outside, under a fan and enjoyed the tropical weather. This city is good and the longer we live here, the more places we discover that make it feel more like home.
  3. The Weather: As mentioned above, the weather has been remarkable. Cool mornings, sunny days and perfect evenings, this has been the best 6-weeks of weather we have had. We are undoubtedly adjusted to the humidity, but even then, the weather has been excellent. We know that hot-season is on its way, but we will ignore that for now and enjoy the weather despite the impending heat.
  4. Familiarity: We have been in Cambodia for six-plus months and we feel very much like this is home. We know some language, street names, directions, where to find the best food, where to hear live jazz, where to buy the city's best coffee and where to go when we need a break from Cambodia. We have adjusted well and feel good about the life we are making here in this country. We have friends, colleagues and relationships with students. This familiarity will make the rest of this year seem so much simpler.
There you go. A quick snap-shot at our life and the winners and losers of the past couple weeks. We hope you are well. Next time you buy cream cheese, think of us.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Two Sides of the World

One foot here, one foot there. This is how I have felt for the past 6 months, meaning that I have one foot in Cambodia and one foot in the U.S. As time goes by I think I will never be able to completely take my one foot out of the U.S. and have both standing here in Phnom Penh. For those who have followed our blog and for our family that have been able to visit they know and can see that we feel without a doubt that Cambodia is where God has us, and we are nothing shy of overjoyed and grateful to be living in Cambodia, however, I can't lift that foot away from the people that remain in the states. A piece of my heart will always be with those people. I think about my niece who had her first day of school, some of our closest friends who got married, and then those who got engaged, our family members that have had to undergo emergency surgery, or those friends and family who became parents, homeowners, returned to school, or moved to another state. As our dear family and friends progress and change in their lives we grieve the loss of not being there with them. I think of the words in Philippians that say, "mourn with those who mourn, and rejoice with those who rejoice" and it aches me to feel distant in that. The blessing is we get to mourn and rejoice with the incredible people we have come alongside in Cambodia. For those of you who read this we are forever in debt to the love we have received from the families and individuals we share life with here.

With all that said, there are amazing things like Skype, emails, and phone cards that make communication so easy and something that helps us connect with our loved ones thousands of miles away. However, it can still never replace the hug you can give your mother, or the coffee date you cherish with your closest friend. Those are things we miss daily. We also as people desire and seek to be understood. That desire is hard to accomplish here, when there is no one who feels the same as you, not even those I have connected with the most. This is nothing new in moving to Asia, as we all see, hear, and feel things in our own unique capacity, but for some reason that feeling of being isolated in your emotions is amplified. You always feel like no one completely understands you, or the life you are living here.

We feel exceptionally grateful that we have already had both families visit us in just 6 short months of being in Phnom Penh. They got to witness and become a part of our everyday lives, and those stories we tell now are heard so much more clearly back at home. The down side of those visits, is the painful good-bye on the last day. We are just fresh off a good-bye from my mom who had the chance to visit for almost 4 weeks, so I have no doubt that my thoughts are running rampant due to that. As both visitors leave you feel that distance lengthen between you and the U.S. as we won't be taking that half-the-world-away flight for another 18 months. I asked several people to pray for our time of good-bye with my mom, and it was answered so perfectly. We still shed some tears, exchanged kisses on the cheek, but left the airport with a sense of peace that only the Lord can provide in a time of such extreme emotion. God is so sustaining.

I have been reading through the letters the apostle Paul wrote to the churches he visited, and through his words I can relate to how he feels. He often in the same sentence writes things of, "I am saddened I can't be with you, but pleased to hear of your lives." That is how we feel, saddened to say good-bye to family and to have not seen friends in months, but grateful to have been able to spend time with them in Cambodia, and in some odd technology way, still be a part of those lives back in the U.S. We are created to be relational, but more than ever I feel like I have been whipped and tossed around on a roller coaster of emotions thinking about the people we get to share life with. Relationships. They are so rich, yet at times so difficult on the soul.

We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you have become so dear to us. -- Thessalonians 2:8

Monday, January 10, 2011

Photos from our trip

We hope you enjoy seeing a glimpse into our wonderful Vietnam trip. These are of our Christmas in Ho Chi Minh City, the Cu Chi Tunnels, War Remnants Museum, the Temple of Literature and meals in Hanoi, hiking in Sapa, the women in Bacha market, and our days in Ha Long Bay.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Vietnam for the Holidays

With Leanne's mom in town and two weeks off from work for the holidays, we headed to Vietnam to see and experience some of the incredible sights that the country has to offer.

We took a bus to Ho Chi Minh City on the afternoon of the 23rd after celebrating Christmas in Phnom Penh. For three days we took in the history of the city including the Cu Chi Tunnels occupied by the Vietcong during the war and the Vietnam War Remnants Museum. The history of the Vietnam war is pervasive throughout the southern part of the country and all three of us felt like we gained great perspective and knowledge during our time at these sights. Ginger took a day trip to the Mekong Delta and Leanne and I enjoyed some time watching live bowl games on ESPN. Amazing!

From Ho Chi Minh, we flew to Hanoi and were in awe from the instant we touched down. If you have never been, I believe Hanoi and Northern Vietnam are a must-see. The tight alleys, incredible street food and bustling Old Quarter must be experienced. I have never seen a city that is so traveler friendly yet still seems wholly authentic. We enjoyed the lake, went on some runs, saw the sights and ate bucket-loads of Pho Ga, chicken soup with rice noodles and countless other ingredients. Both nights in Hanoi were capped off drinking Bia Hoi, a cup of local beer that costs about 8 cents. Hanoi was already a unique experience but much more was to come.

We took off from Hanoi on our third morning there and headed to Ha Long Bay. Being from Colorado and New Mexico, Leanne and I both miss the outdoors and open space living in Cambodia. Ha Long Bay afforded us the opportunity to trek, bike and kayak in and around the endless limestone peaks that shot hundreds of feet from the green water. We stayed on a small boat for two nights and enjoyed the silence - a rarity living in Southeast Asia.

After returning to Hanoi from Ha Long, we quickly showered, ate a New Year's Eve pizza and boarded an overnight train headed for the mountain town of Sapa, which is just a few kilometers south of the Chinese boarder. Sapa is just like Boulder, Colorado minus the pretense and ego. It was about 35 -40 degrees in the evening and we had to stoke the fireplace in our hotel to keep warm at night. We took a guided day trip to a distant market that was unlike anything I had ever seen. The market was flooded with the colors of local H'mong women buying cloth for their new outfits and men looking to purchase new farming tools, water buffalo or horses. Both Leanne and I had to take a seat for a minute just to take in the sights and sounds of the market, it has been a long time since we were both so overwhelmed by a travel experience.

From Sapa, we took a two day trek through the ancient rice terraces that surround Sapa. Our descent on the second day was the muddiest experience of my life. We trekked through inches of mud for three hours, slipping throughout. I had a face-to-face experience with a local farmer and his eerily ill-tempered water buffalo as we battled for the last piece of solid ground on a slippery path. I knew I was in trouble when the farmer yelled at his kids to hide in the bushes to the side of the path should the buffalo lose its footing. There was about a three second period, after I was given a solid shoulder bump by the buffalo that I thought I was either going to be gored, trampled or a nasty combination of both. Luckily, I have cat-like balance and I was able to avert danger by falling on my side and sliding right past the legs of the farmer and his animal.

We departed Sapa and headed back on the night train to Hanoi. We spent one final day eating street Kebabs for lunch and an amazing Vietnamese meal for dinner. It was a relaxing way to end a trip that included bikes, boats, trains, buses, taxis, kayaks, motos, cars and cyclos.

Leanne's mom is now in Siem Reap, spending the next two days at the temples of Angkor Wat. She was such a trooper on this trip, doing and eating everything we did, often times with more gusto and energy than either Leanne or myself. For Leanne and I, it is business as usual, we are already busy sorting through the accumulated emails, taking down the Christmas decorations and planning for classes and meetings starting in a matter of hours. At the same time we are trying to process all that we did and saw in Vietnam.

We hope you all had a very merry Christmas and a great New Year's celebration. Do not give up on those resolutions yet, maybe wait until the second week of January for that. Here is to 2011!