Friday, March 22, 2013


I often read the blog A Life Overseas because it provides great insight and comfort that other people out there feel the same way we do here in Cambodia.  Earlier this week the blog posted a video about why people give their life to seeking justice.

You can check out the video here.  It's only 2 minutes.

We loved the video because it explains the connection we feel to the Cambodians that we live and work with day in and day out.

We each also just finished reading the book "Cambodia's Curse" by Jeff Brinkly, a serious of chapters on why Cambodia is a difficult place to find justice, freedom, fairness, and a quality life.

But my favorite quote in the book is from a UN Aid worker that worked in Cambodia for 1 year, "Cambodia is a dangerous place to go, you will fall in love, and it will break your heart."

Every day we fall in love with Cambodia, and every day it breaks our heart.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

To Be a Fly on the Wall

If only I could be a fly on the wall or have video taped our evening and sleep of Monday night...

As you often hear us say now, it is hot season, and the adjective "hot" does not by any measure encompass what the weather feels like for the next 4 months.  Having power during this season is vital to yes, I am going to say it...survival. 

Phnom Penh doesn't have the power grids to reach all of the neighborhoods and homes in the sprawling city, so everyday they shut off the power in areas and give it to another, and then switch it until everyone has had power for some part of the day.  However, we live in a neighborhood that never has power outages because we live near many government officials, so when the power goes out, a call is made and boom the power is back on.  We love our home, and mostly for this reason.  A fan is a must around here.

Many of our friends don't have this luxury and are out of power for 5+ hours everyday.  Yes, we are spoiled, and no we would never move.

But on Monday night, something went wrong and we didn't have power from 8:30pm to 5:30pm the next day.  Yup...21 hours of no electricity, that is longer than most hurricane Sandy victims (I love the efficiency of the US).  But I wish I could of been a fly on the wall or taped Chris and I's ideas on how to sleep through the 99 degree 89% humidity of Monday night without a fan or aircon.

Leanne's attempts:
8:30pm - Read by candlelight in our bedroom after opening the window and back door; apply 1st round of mosquito repellent.
9:00pm - Move to guest bedroom that has a better breeze coming through.
10:00pm - Take pillow and move to lying on the cold tile floor next to the bed.
11:00pm - Stupid dog won't stop barking and motos are still zooming by; apply 2nd round of mosquito repellent.
11:30pm - Can't handle the barking anymore, move to our bedroom (a little quiter) and lay on the tile floor with head inches from the back door to get a breeze coming in.
12:30am - Can't do the tile any longer, move to our bed and hope for the best; apply 3rd round of mosquito repellent.
5:00am - Wake up and take our perishable food from the fridge and go to Logos to shower (when the power goes out we also lose running water because it is on a pump) and eat my precious newly bought yogurt, cheese, and milk for breakfast (there is no way we are letting that food go bad.)

Chris' attempts:
8:30-9:30pm - Sit on the porch and watch the city turn on and off; apply 1st round of mosquito repellent.
9:30pm - Join Leanne in the guest bedroom and try to get a breeze.
9:40pm - Take pillow and mosquito racket to the porch and try to sleep outside.
10:30pm - Stupid dog won't stop barking and motos are still zooming by; apply 2nd round of mosquito repellent.
11:00pm - Decides he is super hungry and sits in the pitch black and blazing hot living room and downs a package of Ritz crackers and a zucchini muffin (yes he double fisted it).
11:30pm - Return to guest bedroom and with racket in hand kills I don't even know how many mosquitoes through the night and tries to sleep.
5:00am - Heat coffee on our propane stove (we love that it is not electric) and sit on the porch trying to recap the night.  Leave for Logos to start the day of work.

On our way to our shower and to start our day we laughed at our actions and our hilarious attempts to cool off and get some sleep.  But we are reminded that we do this rarely and our Khmer neighbors do this every night.  We are thankful that we have fans, aircon, and a fridge to keep perishable food.  Those around us don't live with such luxury.

Electricity pole and old hotel destroyed during the Khmer Rouge.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Ease of Travel

In honor of it being Spring Break time back in the States, we are going to do some catching up on our getaway from last October.  The "fall" slipped away from us, so even though this is dated we will still fill you in.

One of the many things we love about living in Cambodia is that places like Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia are in our back yard.  Vietnam is 6 hours and a $9 bus ride away, and Thailand is a place you choose to go to on a whim with your friends.

And that is exactly what we did last October.  We went to Koh Chang, Thailand for a 5 day holiday with our friends the Blaines.  On a Wednesday we decided that we all needed a break and hopped in their car and drove 5 hours to the Thai island of Koh Chang.  I baked some cookies and sliced some veggies for car ride snacks and we were off.

 Dinner with Sarah, Jesse, and their baby Clara when we arrived

We kayaked in the ocean and...

We kayaked on the river

We golfed a par 3 course (which I was terrible)

Visited the island's waterfall

And enjoyed this view from our hotel.

We love that this is easier than getting to Albuquerque from Denver, and costs a fraction (to say the least) of the price of a getaway in America.  We are thankful for friends like the Blaines who join us in our crazy ideas, and thankful for the things we have seen. 

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Fashionistas of Phnom Penh

I (Leanne) have never been one to be real good or keen on fashion.  I am a jeans and T-shirt kinda gal, and here in Cambodia I am a capris and T-shirt kinda gal. I am the person who always wants to buy a scarf but doesn't because I don't really know how to wear it.  Matching and knowing what type of accessories seems harder to me than learning Khmer.

Here in Phnom Penh I have now grown to be somewhat ok with my somewhat ugly clothes too.  I find that my lack of knowledge or really care to look in style has been a blessing for me in Cambodia, because fashion here is even worse than my sense of it.

Unlike other Asian capitals (Tokyo, Singapore, Seoul, Hong Kong) Phnom Penh is far from being noted as fashionable. Wealthy Cambodia deck themselves out in rhinestone covered mickey mouse sweaters and plastic heels paired with a "jegging" type of pants.  And those without the cash to buy the fake stones just wear their pajamas all day long.  To make it even better the matching collared, long-sleeve, pant set is always in either a cartoon print or some crazy hybrid floral-tidye pattern.  These women man their shop (usually which is in their home and they are selling anything from car parts, to tomatoes, to spatulas) never have the time, energy, or cash to care what trends are in or who is wearing what.

As much as I don't understand the cartoon printed clothes or the lack of desire to get out of pajamas, I kinda secretly love that fashion is non-existent here.  That I don't have to worry about what to wear, how I look, or really if I even match.  I kinda secretly love that when I wore a new skirt when we went out to dinner last weekend with some friends, the two other women said, "Leanne you look great tonight" for such a simple thing as a new skirt. It seems simple to me here.

Nonetheless, sometimes it is hard on Chris and I to feel not so put together as we head off to work, because we are used to dressing nice and professionally for our jobs.  However, in Cambodia that task seems hard to tackle when clothes quickly turn stained, smelly, stretched out, or just plain run ragged from the mass amount of sweat, dust, and mud that our clothes come in counter with each day.  It seems that no matter how hard we try each morning, we still never look that good.

Washing clothes is a whole other thing, as much as I love our house I hate that our washing machine doesn't have a center agitator.  Thus, I have come to the conclusion that I don't really think our clothes have been really cleaned in well... about 3 years.  But again this is nothing compared to the the millions who hand wash their clothes, or better yet the millions who don't have enough money to buy pants for their children, thus leaving them running around bottomless all day long. (Another thing I don't understand is why mothers choose shirts over pants when having to choose only one piece of clothing for their child.  Personally I would choose the opposite.)

All of this to say, I love the freedom of not knowing what is in style and what is not.  All we ever know is what we see in the markets, which usually is the faulty Old Navy clothes that weren't allowed to be shipped to the States.  But I'll take it, after all I love Old Navy, and I get even better deals out here than the clearance section in Colorado Mills.

What do you like more the animal prints, cartoons, florals, or PJ sets?

And in honor of getting my hair cut today (love the $4 cost) here is an example of a Khmer barber shop in the city, and then the one we found today outside the city on our bike ride.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Pitch Perfect

Soccer season has been in full swing for the past month and I must say this is the most fun that I have ever had on the sidelines. I have coached high school soccer for six years now and I have never been around a group of players who are as talented, motivated and driven. Watching them play is a simple joy and there are times when I believe that they could play with any team they oppose, regardless of the talent level.

Just three games into the season, we are 4-0 and have scored 18 goals while giving up just three which is an amazing stat when considering that we only play 40 minute games. But this team is not about their talent, they are amazing because of their motivation. They play together every day, they speak Korean and Khmer and English to one another depending on who is on the field and they want to get better each game.

This is a special group of guys and I am excited to report back how they finish the season. We have five more regular season games and four tournament games, so there is a long way to go.

Coaching is an absolute gift for me. It allows me to build relationships with the high school boys, it allows me to push them to be better students and it allows me to help them develop character both on and off the field. I learned so much from the game, how to win with humility and how to lose with joy. I hope I can express many of those ideas to my players and push them to be better on the field and off the field. We have a game tonight against the 2nd place team. Here we go, let's do this!