Saturday, July 30, 2011


Once again here is the proof that Chris and I did actually go to China.  From top to bottom:
Our bike/hike in Dali, Dali South Gate, wonderful meals in Kunming and Guilin, reading in Lijiang Town Square, walking around the town of Shangri-La, hiking Tiger Leaping Gorge, breakfast at the end of the hike, seeing the river at the bottom, and the limestone cliffs inYanhshuo.


(ABOVE PHOTOS FROM TOP TO BOTTOM: Nightly fires burning in Lijiang, a dog in a Lijiang alley, prayer wheels in Shangri-la, and a man smoking in old-town Kunnming.)

To end our wonderful summer, Leanne and I took at two week vacation to southern China.
Starting from Guangzhou on the southeast coast, we meandered by taxi, bus, train, plane and hitchhiking through the cities of Yangshuo, Guilin, Kunnming, Dali, Shangri-La and Lijiang as well as an epic day hike through the spectacular Tiger Leaping Gorge.

There were so many highlights, thoughts and analysis of China and our trip that it is difficult to explain it in a manner that would not come off like a long-winded lecture but I will try my best to keep it short.

Starting in Guangzhou, we did the customary stroll through the city which culminated in a two-hour Starbucks session and a walk through a market selling albino rabbits, baby turtles and giant carp.

From Guangzhou, Leanne and I tucked our lanky frames into small beds on a sleeper bus to the mountain town of Yangshuo. This riverside town was spectacular because of its early morning Taichi practitioners, Karst mountains and the best countryside bike ride we had ever taken.

After three nights in Yanshuo and on in Guilin, we boarded an epic 18-hour train to Kunnming. The train was over packed with Chinese tourists who were spitting, eating dried fish, drinking copious amount of rice wine and smoking cheap cigarettes. It was essentially a human rights violation in each of the cabs besides the sleepers that Leanne and I had/schemed our way into.

Our first five hours in Kunnming were terrible. No accessible public transportation, zero English and hotels full of Chinese tourists. It was almost dark when we stumbled into top-floor dorm room used by local university students. After a shower via an electric water kettle, we hit the city and fell in love with the same streets we hated just hours prior. A hip and active university culture and the best restaurant that we had eaten at all trip. Thank you Salvadore's for the burrito, Mexican breakfast, nachos and giant cups of coffee.

Another night train took us from Kunnming to Dali and, from that point on, an odd feeling that we were suddenly transported to Colorado. Warm, dry heat coupled with 75 cent meals and 50 cent beer was just what we wanted. We rented mountain bikes and had a makeshift meal of peaches, almonds and Kellog fruit snacks on a trail used by local farmers who laughed at us and offered us fresh mushrooms when they passed us on the trail. We read in cafes, ate grasshopper pie (the mint and chocolate dish, we must clarify while living in Asia) and enjoyed the slow vibe of the city.

From Dali, we took a 12 hour night bus through the mountains to the 9,500 ft town of Shangri-la which sits on the boarder of the Tibetan Autonomous Region. This town had everything you would imagine from Shangri-la. Weathered and tattered prayerflags draped from a 300 year-old monestary. Minority women dancing in the town square throughout the evenings and temperatures so cold that each morning we were forced to lounge under our down blanket until we could pry ourselves out only to be reheated by coffee and hot chocolate.

A two hour trip to Tiger Leaping Gorge was our next stop. TLG is one of the largest and deepest gorges in the world, at one point the Yangtze river flows 9,000 ft. below the trail but the sound of the water can still be heard as it churns and shifts through the canyon. We hiked for 8 hours and slept at the foot of 15,000 ft. peaks. We loved the feeling of TLG, the mountains, rivers and waterfalls flowing over the trail. At any point on the hike we could see nothing but farm houses, high peaks and wildflowers. No other hikers in sight, I guess the Chinese have not caught on to hiking yet.

Our last stop came after three wonderful Chinese men drove us from the end of trail to the city of Lijiang. Along the trip, we stopped for Rainbow-trout sushi, fish head soup and pork dumplings. Because we could not speak with out Chinese friends, they took the lead in the meal, showed us where to spit the bones (on the table of course) and continued to serve us plate after plate of fresh raw fish and steaming hot dumplings.

Our last stop was Lijiang which was best described to us by a Polish wanderer at the bottom of Tiger Leaping Gorge as "Chinese Disneyland." Thousands of Chinese crawled like sugar-ants through the stalls of cheap but apparently unmissable nick-knacks. At night, the labyrinthine cobblestone streets were filled with piles of burning logs topped with roses and sunflowers. The city glowed red with the smoke and Chinese paper lanterns that adorned every street. We loved and hated the city, I have never seen such beautiful streets but swimming though the crowds each night was frustrating and overwhelming.

Our 30-hour trip home allowed us to think about all that we experienced in China and we are still trying to figure out what all we saw and learned. It was a trip that was an absolute blessing because so few people have the opportunity to go to such a place. We loved the country, the food, the sights, climate and our time of relaxation and rejuvenation in an amazing and diverse country.

PHOTOS BELOW FROM TOP TO BOTTOM: Prayer flags at monastery in Shangri-la, a farm house outside of Yangshuo, a merchant stopping for a smoke in Guangzhou, woman oustide of Salvadore's in Kunnming, three old men talking in Lijiang)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

One Year Milestone

One year ago today we boarded a plane and moved our lives to Cambodia. July 12 was a bittersweet day of painful good-byes, yet our hearts beating with excitement thinking of our new life ahead. If we were to try to sum up the year it would be near impossible. We have had some of the most incredible days I could of ever imagined, though we have faced challenges that I couldn't of dreamed of. We have had extreme highs and extreme lows. Hours, days, weeks, even months that made us think we have the greatest life in the world, and then hours, days, weeks, even months that have made us want to board a plane and move back as soon as we could get ourselves to the airport.

In some ways, the year has flown by, and in other ways, it seems such a long time since we have been close with our loved ones. One thing is for certain–that God’s faithful, and has sustained us in ways that continue to astonish us. Yes, there have been difficult moments…learning to drive a moto, or missing dear friend's weddings or my brother’s school graduation. Despite those difficult moments, God has blessed us in ways more deeply than we can express–a house that truly feels like “home", a new community of friends that love and support us, our faithful partners in America that have loved on us through prayer, finances, and encouragement–without which, we could not be here, technology so we can stay connected to those far away, Khmer staff that we have become closer to every day…the list goes on and on.

We are truly in awe of God’s provision during this past year, and we eager to see to see what happens in the next year.

On a slightly different note, I’ve been compiling a list for the past year, of ways that our lives have changed since moving to Cambodia. I hope this doesn't come off as a list of complaints, but rather an interesting record of what has become “normal” for us. Here are some of them:
  1. Metric system. Still adjusting.
  2. Fan constantly on you…before you sit down, you turn on the fan…every time. And then we sleep with aircon every night.
  3. Hang clothes to dry–I always feel like a pioneer woman, even though this is a common practice throughout most of the world.
  4. No hot water to wash dishes.
  5. Power goes out constantly…sometimes for a few seconds, sometimes all day–especially in hot season.
  6. Almost all houses in the city are little fortresses – every door/gate has a padlock, every window has bars, and every fence has barbed wire.
  7. Grocery shopping takes several stops at both traditional outdoor markets and more “western” grocery stores.
  8. Being exhausted at the end of the day from just trying to talk and listen in Khmer to the people we work with.
  9. “New” things are rarely truly new and unused. Even if it’s wrapped in protective plastic.
  10. “Stop signs” exist but no one, absolutely no one, stops at them, and if you did, you would cause a major accident.
  11. Dusting and mopping every weekend so our house isn't a dirt pit, and sweeping everyday and each time having remarkably large piles of dirt, dead ants, and debris.
  12. We think twice before throwing something away, you never know what creative way we can use it again.
  13. We consistently make the comment "Is it real?" or "It is almost real."
  14. Praying before driving—to not get in an accident or get hurt…and really mean it.
  15. Becoming experts in anticipating the movement patterns of mosquitoes, rats, and cockroaches.
  16. If you don't get up and run at 5:30am, then it is too hot the rest of the day to go.
  17. Going out to dinner with friends and have sweat soaking through your clothes and you are not embarrassed or ashamed because they are in the same boat as you.
  18. Being in a formal meeting and not having shoes on because shoes aren't worn inside. I still feel odd because it feels like I am relaxing at home and not in a business meeting.
  19. Clothes shopping is something we have to gear up for, and make sure we both are in the right mood to take on the market.
  20. Forgetting Spanish words as Khmer is now the foreign language we know the most.
  21. Clothes are cheap, both in price and quality.
  22. Buying food (Stove Top stuffing and jars of gravy) for the holidays in June because we see it in the store then and it may be February again before you see it. Learning to really plan ahead.
  23. Having helmet hair everyday. Without a hairdryer, curling iron, or straightener, my hair is usually a disaster almost everyday, and the helmet doesn't help.
  24. Throwing toilet paper in the trash so our toilet doesn't get clogged.
  25. Pre-paid cell phones — We love this because there is no risk of going over on your minutes.
  26. No prescription needed for anything. Feeling sick, just go get what you need.
  27. Skillet handles and oven mitts don't protect your skin from the heat of the stove and oven.
  28. Rehearsing a conversation in my head before going and speaking in Khmer.
  29. If you don’t water your plants for a day, they will die almost immediately in the heat.
  30. Only passengers in the front two seats are required to wear seat belts.
  31. Termites eating our furniture…we watch for dust piles and then exterminate as needed.
  32. Many food products are in other languages…Thai, Chinese, French…It’s a complete guessing game as to what the food we are buying.
  33. Every time it rains, we both rush to several critical “leak spots” in our house–and try to do damage control.
  34. “Ant cabinets” in the kitchen – specific cabinets constructed to keep the sugar ants out. The legs sit in little bowls of flour–which supposedly deters ants. Ours is marginal at best.
  35. Putting anything and everything (food, make-up, soap, etc.) in a ziploc to keep all the bugs out.
  36. Getting really, I mean really, excited when cereal goes on sale.
  37. Learning to make everything from scratch since most things are not sold here. I wanted a graham cracker crust for a pie, so I made graham crackers.
  38. When coming home from being stuck in the rain asking one another to bring the other dry clothes to the door so you don't leave a lake-size puddle in the house from all the clothes dripping water.
  39. Having to de-worm every six months.
  40. Flip flops every day.
  41. Our toilets has a sprayer. Enough said.  The shower has no door and they are only 12 inches apart.
  42. White rice every day.
  43. Mosquito repellent nearly every day.
  44. No carpet…only tile floors (hard on the feet but easier to clean)
  45. It’s very dusty, so our feet get dirty easily (we wash our feel several times a day)
  46. When placing my hand into an oven mitt, I always wonder, “Hmm, I wonder if there’s a bug in here”, but then continue anyway.
  47. Becoming a blogger and facebook-er.
  48. Finding it normal to wait about 5-10 minutes for a 1-2 minute Youtube clip to buffer.
  49. Coke tastes better because it is made with pure sugar cane juice instead of processed corn syrup.
  50. You can get a full-course meal for $10–and that’s for two people.
So yes, life is a little different now…and we continue to learn more and more each day. Our normal is feeling more normal, and we are so thankful for that. We have had an incredible year, one of tremendous growth, and we wanted to say thank you for loving us from afar.

Today we are off to China for our summer break and we couldn't be more excited! Any fun trips you went on this summer?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Independence Day in Phnom Penh

Since moving to Cambodia we have gone overboard for the holidays.  But for good reason Christmas and Easter are not celebrated because it is a Buddhist country, and obviously Thanksgiving and the 4th of July aren't either.  So with that we do as MUCH as we can to celebrate the holidays we love with the same traditions we had at home.  Once again, we had an amazing time celebrating the 4th of July.  On the 3rd we went to the American Embassy for their giant BBQ bash and enjoyed ribs, BBQ pulled pork, corn on the cob, ice cream, and a few beverages.  We picniced with a few other American families, listened to music all about America, and even won a raffle prize!

Then on the 4th we headed to our friend's house, the Ohlins, for another BBQ.  I made a flag cake, and even splurged on raspberries for this one (berries are a once a year purchase because of cost).  And again we enjoyed amazing food, friends, and even some fireworks.  The holidays we have celebrated over the last year have been some of our favorites, and we are very thankful we got to spend all of them with visiting family or our new community of friends!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Photos of the last couple weeks...

Here are some photos of our work and play over the past two weeks. We had a chance to go to Siem Reap and Leanne's community of Prek Pneu with our friends. At work, Logos hosted two swimming days for the Cambodian kids who live near the school. Having over 90 dirty kids in our pool makes our facility staff work hard but they, like the teachers, love being able to have these kids at Logos. Enjoy.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Cambodia Bike Project

Over the last four months I have been working with Asian Hope to develop a new project that I am extremely excited about.

Cambodia Bike Project was an idea that came to me after I sat down with the director of a Cambodian NGO called Kone Kmeng. He explained to me that Cambodia children and their families can benefit from bicycles because it first allows them to go to school and second, because Cambodian school is half-day, bicycles allow families to access markets to sell their goods thereby making a a more supportive family income.

The more children here in Cambodia are in schools, the less likely they are to be trafficked as well as the obvious benefit of increased education. Also, families who can make a consistent income by commuting to markets are less likely to have a financial emergency that often forces families to sell their children in order to feed themselves or the rest of their family.

I love bikes and I own enough of them to substantiate that claim. To me they are an unending source of fun and recreation, but in Cambodia bikes can be a tool that helps parents and children make a life for themselves. This is a simple but substantial gift for these families and one that I am blessed to be able to help provide for them.

For this reason, Cambodia Bike Project has the goal of distributing 150 - 200 bicycles to kids in Svay Rieng Province, one of Cambodia's poorest, in January of 2012. Families who desire bikes are already filling out applications while community leaders, pastors and NGO's are working to find children and families in need of transportation.

To read more about the project, its goals and the partner organizations, visit the
Cambodia Bike Project Facebook Page.


If you are interested in purchasing one or more bikes for kids in Cambodia, follow the instructions below.

The price of one bicycle and school uniform is $40. If you are interested in purchasing one or more bicycles and school uniforms for distribution through the Cambodia Bicycle Project, use the information and follow the steps below:

Donations received in excess of Cambodia Bicycle Project distribution goals would be used at the discretion of Asian Hope for child protection, education and anti-trafficking programming.

To donate, follow the steps below
1) Visit
2) Click the "Donate" tab on the left side of the page.
3) Fill in the necessary information, and then in the drop-down box titled "Direct my Donations To" click CAMBODIA BICYCLE PROJECT.
4) If you have any special instructions or want to write a message, feel free to do so in the "Special Instructions" box.

I am so excited about this project, please feel free to email me with any questions at

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Visit From Our Friends

Four years ago Leanne and I had a chance to visit a family living in New Delhi, India. They, like us were CU grads, that had been living in Delhi for over 10 years and we went with our church at that time to meet them, visit their ministries and learn about India.

On that trip, we travelled with Amy and Jeff Youngstrom who were also closely affiliated with First Pres. Boulder. Leanne and I became close with these friends as we suffered through the nastiest bout of stomach flu any of us had ever experienced. We would have never imagined that our shared misery as well as an amzing trip would lead to such a close relationships.

Last Sunday, these two families came to Cambodia to see Leanne and I. We enjoyed incredible food in Phnom Penh (making sure to not miss the cookies from Java), visited the temples of Angkor Wat in Siem Reap and visited our ministry sites around the city.

Having visitors is always remarkably enjoyable. Laughing with people who know us well, travelling together, and catching up on a lot of time apart made for an comfortable, relaxing, and rejuvenating week.

We so appreciated the time that the two families spent with us here in Cambodia. The support they provided and the words of encouragement that were offered. Thank you to our friends. Each of you were a gift to us!

Sorry to Jeff who ended up in the hospital for a post-Asia IV after both India and Cambodia. At least you had the same doctor in the ER to help!

Pictured above: Tuk tuks around town, dinner at our place, Mike's Burger and walking home afterwards, the Angkor temples, and last but not least watching the Bachlorette!