Monday, April 30, 2012

2Five2 Happenings

Over the past month we have had some exciting things happen with 2Five2 in Prek Pneu.  For starters, we had our Easter Celebration on April 6th, the last school day before Easter. The kids have been learning about the story of Jesus' death and resurrection for the whole month of March through a great Easter workbook all done in Khmer.  During the final week of Lent, Holy Week, a Chinese holiday also landed on the calendar.  The Chinese holiday lasted three days, and was a time when kids and their family went to the grave site of their dead ancestors and gave offerings and sacrifices to their bodies in hopes of having good fortunes and blessings.  It is a worship of the dead.  Many (umm..half) students were absent from school on these days, as they were in the provinces with their families.  But on Good Friday the day of our celebration we had 75 of our 100 kids present!  We celebrated a Risen King, a God who is alive and conquered death.  What a blessing to celebrate with these children!

Then last Saturday we hosted our 2nd Adult Community Workshop.  This time we invited the parents, caretakers, government teachers, and village authorities to learn about Child Rights.  We tried a new start time, which was a giant bust, because it was when everyone was shopping at the market, so after a 2 hour start delay we got going!  The training was wonderful with over 60 attendees, that ended in a hilarious game of dressing up adults in traditional men and women Cambodian clothes to essentially play a Child Rights version of pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey. 

Below is a few pictures of the game, and a video of the excitement (sorry for the vertical filming).  I will claim that when it was my turn to get dressed up I had the most cheers!

Today and tomorrow our staff and program are going through an external assessment and program evaluation.  It's tiring and makes for a few long days, but I am thrilled with all the positive feedback our staff is giving. 

Your prayers for this program, the kids, and the staff is still highly coveted and we thank you dearly for all that continue to pray and support us!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

30 Days

One month...until we board the plane and head to America. We can't even believe that when we look at that number it is a 1.  Not 23 months, or 2 years, or 702 days, but 1 month.  It has been a ride (to say the least) for the last 2 years, and we are more excited than words can describe to reconnect with our dear family and friends.

Baseball games (Rockies and HS ones coached by friends), BBQs, hikes, family vacations, country concerts, weddings, camping, fishing, birthdays, days at the pool, girls and guys weekends, cooking dinners, and that's not even the food!

For those who want to know, we fly into Denver at 6:00pm on Friday, May 25th on Frontier flight #414 from LAX.  It's during that 30+ hour flight that we are reminded how far we are from "home", that it takes us 2 days going over 200 mph to reach the ones we love.  But I don't think I have ever been so excited to sit on a plane for two days, as I am for this flight.

Though we will be tired and jet lagged, we will be armed with hugs and kisses (and tears for Leanne) from the moment we step off the plane.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Sumatra, Indonesia

For Cambodia's largest holiday, Khmer New Year, Leanne and I jet-set to Sumatra, Indonesia for the entire 10 days. This was an extremely timely break because it came after weeks of difficult and hectic work as well as in the middle of the hottest month in Cambodia. We were so relieved to get on the plane and say goodbye to Cambodia for a few days and welcome mountain temperatures, clean air and a break from the cultural stress we sometimes feel here. 

Our first nights were spent in Berestagi, a small market town that only has two redeeming qualities; the volcanoes that surround the city. We spent about 19-minutes walking around the town before we decided to hike one of the volcanoes, the activity we had planned on pursuing the next day. After our two-hour approach hike to the summit, Sibayak Mountain turned into the surface of the moon. Gatorade green sulfer came from vents and the crater itself was covered in a pool of water about 100 feet below the top of the peak. We were engulfed rain clouds, listening to the concussion of thunder above and smelling the sulfer from the mountain, it was an assault on all of our senses. On our hike down, we got hammered by a monsoon rainstorm and the dirt path that we were walking on turned into the slides from the Goonies, it was very entertaining to slip our way down the peak and into the hot springs that awaited at the bottom. 

Our next destination was Lake Toba, in the center of the island. The fresh-water lake is one of the deepest in the world and we stayed in a hotel with waterfront access, a diving board and a remarkable pool. Our agenda for four days included a lot of sleeping, eating and, when we could find some time, running, hiking and kayaking. Leanne and I both mentioned may times how we had rarely been in such a beautiful and quite place. We woke up slowly each morning, listened to nothing but the water against the shore and ate at nearly every restaurant on the island. Toba was a highlight destination for not just Indonesia but for all of our time traveling in Asia.

After the intense news of the massive earthquake that hit Sumatra while we were there, we were a little nervous to fly to the coast that the quake happened near. However,  thank God, there was very little damage on the island and our travel plans were not interrupted at all. We made our way from the lake down to Medan and flew across the island to see what it held for us.

Our last major stop was Bukittinggi, another small market town much like our first destination. However, in our only full day there, we saw the largest flower and learned that it only blooms a few days each year. Though I thought a big flower would be lame, it turned out to be a total highlight. The Raffleasia was about 3-feet wide and remarkably intricate. I also drank a cup of coffee in which the beans are actually collected from the poop of a wild cat before it's roasted. It was organic as it comes, I think I will open a coffee shop with just Coffee Luwak (poop coffee) in Boulder, Colorado and become independently wealthy.

We spent our last two night walking around Padang, resting on the beach and looking for other westerners in which we counted three in two days.We listened to the call to prayer and watched the men and women go to Mosque, which is an experience that far to few Americans get to have. It is one of the most striking memories I have of traveling in Indonesia.

This trip was exactly what we needed at the time we needed it. We rested, read, ran and relaxed for the entire time and we returned to Cambodia feeling rested and ready for the last few weeks of our time before we return to the States.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Logos Soccer Season

Last weekend we finished up the boy's and girl's Logos soccer season with the city tournament.  Here are the photo highlights...

Chris was the official coach for both teams and ran practice for each team throughout the season.
Games were played at the same time so Chris coached the boy's games and Leanne coached the girl's games.

The boys have historically been really good, and this year again they proved to be the better team during most games.  Chris has coached these boys for two years now and the players love him as much as he loves them.  The girls, however, before this year had never won a game, and they broke the streak by winning 5 of the 10 games, and ending in a tie 3 times.

The boys won the city tournament with dominance, and the girls got 2nd place with a heartbreak, last minute loss in the championship.  It was a wonderful season that many of the students, especially the Seniors will have many great memories of.  Congratulations to both teams, we loved the last several months with you!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Khmer Weddings

Last Sunday, Chris and I attended the wedding of Chanrith Moung and Sreyleak Nop.  This is actually the second Khmer wedding we have attended, but the first one where we really knew the bride and groom.  Chanrith is the Project Coordinator for Leanne's ministry, 2Five2.  Weddings are done so differently than in America, that it is such an extreme culture exchange from the get go.  Here is our evening play-by-play:

1.) Getting Ready:  We each ask one another, "What should I wear?"  Both respond with, "I don't know whatever you would in America, and just be ready to be stared at."

2.) Women's Make-up:  For weddings Khmer women wear so much make up that you honestly can't even recognize them.  After I finished putting on mine I asked Chris, "How do I look?"  He responds, "Well, your face looks different so that is good."  Great, but not so great...

3.) Driving: It is so hot that you don't want to drive in your full attire.  So once we got to the parking lot we changed shoes, Chris put on his tie, and I my shawl.

4.) Finding the Building:  At any given time there is a whole row of weddings on one street or in one place, so they put out these gigantic photos of the bride and groom.  Since you can't recognize the bride you have to do your hunting on the groom's photo alone.

5.) Proper Greetings: Upon arrival you properly and respectfully greet the bride and groom.  Then proceed to take the group shot photo.  The poor bride and groom do this with all 300+ guests and then usher them to the next phase of greetings.

6.) Greetings Phase 2: It usually is best to just keep you hands joined together and placed in front of your face for 2 solid minutes as you are escorted past key family members, wedding party, and then 15 more people.  Each person you must greet properly.

7.) Gifts: Cash only.  You give your money filled invitation to the guy at the door and wait for either his look of approval or disappointment to see if you have given the right amount of money.  It sounds like a game show and it feels like one.

8.) Dinner Seating:  You are taken to the next open table, because food is not served to the table until all the chairs are full.  You usually end up not sitting with your friends or even people you know, but with complete strangers.  Timing at weddings is key.

9.) Dinner:  One of the first thing we were taught in Cambodia is, "be careful with wedding food, it will make you sick."  So we take the necessary precautions and only eat enough to make sure that it looks like we enjoyed the meal, but then go home to have dinner.

10.) Music:  If you have ever Skyped with us you know that weddings that are 1/2 mile away sound like they are in our guest bedroom.  They are miserably load, I mean miserable.  You have to outright yell just to say something to the person who is 6 inches from you.  Makes for a difficult environment to speak and hear Khmer with complete strangers.

However, at the end of the evening we were very thankful for supporting Chanrith and his new wife.  We wish them all the happiness and joy together.  We also are thankful for the meaningful relationships we are building here in Cambodia.

 (Pictured above: 2Five2 staff, but the bright wedding lights washed us all out, and then the outside of the venue we were at)