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.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Catch-Up School Registration

Earlier this week we held our catch-up school's registration to get all the kiddos ready for school to start on November 17th.  The morning was a fun and joy-filled time as kids were able to collect the school supplies they need for class.  In true Cambodian fashion the morning was once again very chaotic (reminded me of just days earlier when we did the rice distribution) but somehow it all worked out.

Families started by coming into our building to sit and listen to our Project Coordinator, Chanrith, explain the importance of education and how they can be a part be helping their child and student.  After that they went to register with our teachers and fill out the necessary paperwork.  Most of the parents do not know how to write so this process takes awhile as our teachers had to fill out the application for them.  After all the thumb prints were taken and forms filled out the kids got to proceed forward to being fitted for a school uniform.

The organization making the uniforms for us were 2 hours late, making the morning stressful (and as Chris said did you expect anything else but for them to be 2 hours late) but it all got done.  After the fitting they each received a backpack, notebook, and pencil for school.

At the end of the day our staff was tired, but each of us drove home that evening with a sense of hope as 80 children will attend school for the first time, starting next week!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Rice in the midst of the flood

As we have mentioned before the flooding was really bad in Cambodia for the past 2-3 months.  Much of the country had lost their rice crop, making rice, and food in general, a little more expensive.  Costs like this are something that families in Prek Pneu can just not afford to face.  With that said, last Wednesday we did a rice distribution of 356 10-kg bags of rice to the families in the community.  We worked with the village chief on this distribution, where she gave out a coupon the days before that allowed them to come into our facility and receive their bag of rice.

So it happened, we chaotically gave out all the bags and helped families with a few extra meals. It was a cultural experience at its finest with hundreds of Khmer people pushing, shoving, and scooting their way closer and closer to the rice bags as myself, Chris, and other Khmer staff pushed the opposite direction and gave our best attempt at crowd control.  It was a hot, sweaty, and ripe smelling afternoon, but at the end of the day we loved what we got to do, and again count our blessing for being here.

We love getting to put our new building into use!