Saturday, March 31, 2012

Pure Joy

Remember going to Disneyland when you were a kid?  The anticipation of getting to the theme park, the nervous excitement that almost made you want to throw up, the giddy energy running through your body?  Those same feelings were felt last Saturday by the kids and students at 2Five2.  Over the course of February and March students were asked to have better behavior while in class and to listen and respect their teachers more.  For those who did those things, their reward was a morning at Logos to use the swimming pool, play on a grass soccer field, and use the amazing playground.  Thankfully we were able to take over 90 students last Saturday for their morning of fun, and I have never seen such pure joy packed into 3 short hours.

The kids swam in a pool for the first time in their lives, (for some even the van ride to Logos was an event as they have never been in a car before), and the playground we showed them they could use was something that made their little jaws drop.

It was chaos.  Wonderful chaos.  We had kids running so hard they wouldn't stop to breathe. We had to remind them that they had the whole morning, so make sure to rest a little and drink some water.

Below are some pictures of the kids playing soccer (please note the green underwear uniform, which is my favorite site of the day) and kids on the slides.  Also we have two videos, one of the morning prayer before we got started (some were so excited and eager to get going they took off their clothes before even being told when it was going to be their turn to use the pool), and then the epic amount of kids on the slide.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

With the Beans

As mentioned, Kimmy and Jesse Bean came to visit at the end of February and they were wonderful.  Kimmy and I were in Bible Study together for about 5 years, and Chris originally met Jesse through YoungLife in Boulder.  They are great. Kimmy and Jesse got married last summer, which we sadly missed, but were Skyped in for.  It was such a treat to once again be with friends and spend a few weeks laughing with one another.

They visited our ministries and saw our lives in the city, but also got to do some site seeing in Phnom Penh.  Below is a video of Jesse bargaining for a copyright version of a popular book here in Cambodia.  Jesse lost the exciting best out of 3 game of Rock, Paper, Sissor...

Then came the rest...Sri Lanka.  We traveled great with the Beans, and enjoyed our holiday with them.  We played cards, read books, had long chats, enjoyed the beach, and sampled Sri Lankan tea...

(Pictured above: airport arrival, slam packed in a tuk tuk, cards and our wonderful porch where we stayed, Unawatuna beach, the Galle Fort, and our last night in Colombo)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Sri Lanka: I Win!

Earlier this month, the wife and I traveled to Sri Lanka with our friends Kimmy and Jesse Bean. Before describing Sri Lanka, I just want to clarify one thing, they were all naysayers. Leanne for sure. She did not want to go, had no expectations and doubted what she called "your pick" on vacation destinations. I had always wanted to go to Sri Lanka, for no reason other than I had never met anyone that had ever been there except our old next door neighbor who looked like the kind of guy who took "spiritual yoga retreats" to this random piece of land south of India.

Turns out, my pick was awesome. Sri Lanka was beautiful, interesting, peaceful and unique. We flew into Colombo at 8 am, an hour-and-a-half time difference from Malaysia and had to wait on the plane while they sprayed it down with some odd aerosol can that was similar to what soccer players get sprayed with in Europe when they are hurt.

After those two odd introductions to Sri Lanka, we were on our way. We headed straight from the dirtiest capital city I have seen in a long time to the southern coast and to our home for the next four days, Unawatuna Sri Lanka.

The southern coast of Sri Lanka is excellent. Clean, Gatorade-blue water, cheap curry houses and friendly people made this one of our favorite places we have visited during our time in Asia. We spent our days visiting the city of Galle ( say ya'll minus the y and plus a g where they y was), on the beach and in our house that overlooked the whole bay.

We ate curry, drank cold Lion beer, napped and read (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, buy it), it was exactly the break we needed after such a long stretch in Cambodia. It was a retreat in every sense of the word. Restful, interesting, unique and slow; the country was remarkable.

Sri Lanka is a gem, a place that feels distant from anywhere else; where you look at the ocean and realize that there is nothing between you and Antarctica but the Indian Ocean. That is quite a feeling.

To those naysayers. I win.

(Pictured above: Sri Lankan tuk tuks, buses, Leanne walking in Galle, a snake charmer in Galle, Colombo, Sri Lankan curry, and the Galle Fort)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Change in Behavior

Over the last two days at work I have noticed a change in behavior in the kids at our catch-up school with 2Five2. A change for the better.  When we first started there was the natural fear of "who are these people and why are they in my village?"  Over the course of 6 months the kids have come to love their teachers.  They hug them when they arrive at school, and recently our Grade 1 teacher has been asked by more than three of her students if she will visit his/her home for dinner.  This breakthrough in relationship is monumental.  It is now a relationship of trust, care, and love.  The relationships we have been working to create.

Then yesterday while the power was out (that is whole other post about how terribly hot it is here with no aircon or fans) I went outside to study Khmer.  As I was studying the Grade 1 class was let out for a break and I had 5 little kiddos cuddle up to me to laugh at me speak Khmer to them.  They were so excited to study with me that one little girl even asked if she could write the words hello and yes in Khmer for me.  I was excited she knew how to write the words in Khmer (only with a little help), and now I have the precious gift of her new writing skills in my book (maybe that will keep me motivated to continue studying. But again, they are no longer scared, but rather longing for the hugs, affection, and care we want to give to these 100+ children.

I think my favorite part of the day is the start of our afternoon classes.  The students wait patiently outside the building until we open up the doors for school to start.  When we open the doors their little faces beam with excitement and their smiles come out in full force.  It will brighten any one's bad day.  But my favorite part is when they all starting yelling at one another, "Jol Rian" meaning "school is starting."  They say it in a way of, "hurry up, don't miss it, the doors are open now, come quickly."  I love it.  It truly is a blessing to see these kids everyday, to watch our Khmer staff build relationships, and to get little gifts of writing in your book.  Life is sweet!
Students with their teacher at break time.
Students lining up for school to start

Sunday, March 18, 2012

A lot to debrief...

Unfortunately, in the last two weeks Chris and I have dealt with the death of two different people.  One we knew, and one we didn't.  One was a celebration of a life lived well, and one was a destructive loss.

Two weeks ago we followed the news of the Chris' high school YoungLife leader who quickly lost his life to cancer.  He was diagnosed with Leukemia early in the week, and by Friday had slipped into a coma and passed away shortly after.  As I sat and listened to Chris speak of his influence on his life, I couldn't help but cry at the life this man had lead.  Sam Sinclair was a steadfast follower of Jesus, who gave his life to helping young teenagers come to know Jesus and know Him well.  We read the thousands of messages of thanks and gratitude that people left toward him.  A man who many see as one who lived life well and lived to the full.

Then last Friday, while driving home from work, after feeling accomplished for finishing another day and week in our ministries, I drove past a terrible car accident.  Often in Cambodia people are killed while driving due to the lack of law enforcement, and rules for driving.  Truth be told we already have seen many fatal accidents, but this was far more harsh.  A child was in the road and was hit by a large truck hauling construction materials.  I drove past the child only minutes afterwards, to see a sight I never wish upon myself again or to others.  In Cambodia, after accidents bodies are not covered, a crime scene is not made, and the poor have no way of knowing they have lost their family.  I gained enough composure to just drive away a few minutes to manage the emotions I was feeling -- anger towards the driver who didn't stop after, bitterness towards a country that is so corrupt that police and ambulances can't respond to a tragedy like this, and sadness to know that this child died with no dignity and his family to never know the truth.

Both young and both happening too quickly, but one a celebration of a life of service to Christ, and the other a bitter taste of some of the realities of this country.  However, the one common thought we had was, "this is why we do what we do."  Through both of these people we see the parity in death; of a life well lived, and then life that we hope for all Cambodians to know- a life knowing Jesus.  We believe and are encouraged by Sam's life, one devoted to God's love, grace, and goodness, and we also believe in the need for the work we do in this country to help Cambodians know of His forgiveness, mercy, and peace.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Shanghai, China

Last weekend I had the opportunity to participate in an Advanced Placement teachers conference in Shanghai, China. It was an incredible chance to learn about the World History class that I teach and different strategies to use in the classroom.

Besides attending to the conference I had two full days in Shanghai to see the sights, drink Starbucks and eat fast food. It is amazing to spend time in a city that is so developed and advanced in so many ways. I forget about sidewalks, crosswalks and subways. I often forget about dress pants, sweaters and of course, snow.

China was a great chance to enjoy cold weather (25 - 30 degrees) and some of the amenities that I have not had a chance to partake in since visiting Singapore last March.

It was a great opportunity to grow in my teaching profession but also enjoy some hot drinks, cold weather and salty food.