Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Busy times!

Well, I finally feel like I'm in school! It's weird having so many assignments due for the same week. But I can do ALL THINGS through Christ my strength. So it'll work out!

Last Monday (not yesterday), a bunch of us went to a beautiful beach called Cape Kiwanda. The water is too cold for swims, but the view is simply amazing. Here are some pics :

Then the rest of the week, and up till now, most of it has been spent in blitzing through homework. book reports, learning Greek, and working. I'm feeling a little bit tired, but it's all good. God's even blessed me with a physio grad roommate who gives amazing back massages!!! It's fun to be challenged in learning like this. I may be a geek, but essays and book reports and learning new stuff is actually quite fun. I never thought I'd be going to school at this point of my life, but I'm really not complaining about it. There's a time for everything under the sun, and I'm grateful for God's provision in bringing me here in this season.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Camp, The Pacific and Back to School!

Getting settled in a bit more in my new home and environment, I actually, looking back, haven't been here all that much yet.

After being in Portland for a little over a week, we packed our bags and headed off to camp out East, in a valley in the middle of the desert. I'd never been to the desert before. It really is dry, and you don't realize how quickly you can get dehydrated. But this camp was a man-made Oasis in a valley, surrounded by big brown hills, and felt surreal. Pictures can't quite capture it, though I've tried.

A deer coming to eat from the rich grass and leaves in the valley; there were 4 : 2 moms, and 2 babies. They came as close as a couple feet from me! I guess they figured they needed to compromise with human presence in order to get the goods. You can see the dry mountain in the background. That's what the area looks like for miles around there.

Here's a view of the valley from half-way up the hill I climbed I sunrise. The lake and the pool and the green grass are visible, and you can see the difference between the lushness of the valley and the dryness of the hill I'm on. Got up at 6 am for this trek.

The area had been built by the Rajnishi, followers of this Indian guru who tried to take over the government in the 80's. However, they got in trouble with the law, and ran away, leaving some well built structures and a beautiful oasis. It was later bought by a Christian businessman who converted it into a Christian camp. It's now called Wild horse Canyon, though I saw more deer than horses...

We had chapel time every evening after dinner. Each session was very good and challenging, and we had Pr Jude Fouquier and a few of our own pastors from City Bible Church speak. There would always be some activities after chapel, like night-time in the pool or the rec centre, with wall climbing, games and volleyball and basketball courts would be open. In the morning, after breakfast, we'd have either another teaching session, or small group time, etc. Lunch, and lots of afternoon free time. We had ziplines, aka flying foxes, etc, volleyball courts, a swing that reminded me of a mini extreme sky flyer from Canada's Wonderland, some big jumpy things called The Blob, and the pool and some more activities in the lake. There was always something to do.

Every year there are camp olympic with relay races, human hog-tying, belly-flop competitions, synchronized swimming, etc. I didn't really participate, cause being my first year, I didn't really know what was going on, but it was quite entertaining to watch - and our team won.

This is an attempt at catching pics of the Zipline. That "thing" on the water is someone splashing in. That was me a few moments ago.

The blue water of the pool is starkingly bright compared to the flat colors of the hills. This was one of the games during the pool olympics. Our team won - all from my cheering ;)

On the last day, I got up a little earlier to catch a bit of the sun rising over the hills. I went for a walk up a steep hill, quite the work-out. On the way to the path leading up the hill, I spotted the deer that were happily at breakfast. Such beautiful animals!

Though I really enjoyed all of camp and was very challenged by some of the teaching sessions, and will now take proper steps to apply some of what I've learned to my life, I think what I enjoyed most from camp was getting to know some of the people here a little bit better.

I admit it's been a bit difficult adjusting. I don't feel quite as independent and confident as I did 5 years ago when I took off to Brazil all by myself. Sometimes I've been getting discouraged. But then I began to pray about it, and remind myself and my silly mind that God's with me here like everywhere else, that He's got a good purpose for this year, and that others need my friendship too. It's easy to get focused on your poor self, but really, pity parties ruin everything. I've really been taking a stand against discouragement, and it's been getting better and better.

In order : Rachel, Mary, Shalane, and me, in front of Shalane's house and a giant something or other with a specific name that I forget. Lovely beach house though, about 20 minutes drive from the actual beach.

Saturday, Rachel, my roomy, and Mary and I headed to Longbeach, Washington, on the West Coast. I'd never been there before, and it was so exciting! Very chilly and cloudy all weekend, but still very much worth it.

Rachel and I in front of the pacific ocean.

Mary, Shalane and Rachel. Mary and Shalane graduated last spring. Shalane was preaching at her church that Sunday, and did a great job.

I'm a ballerina!

Getting arrested by Shalane and taken into the police station... I've never seen a police station look this rustic, so I had to take a pic.

The world's longest beach in America! something like that...

Now we're back to routine. I've been thoroughly enjoying my classes, and even my assignments, though I wrestled with one of them today. We have an assignment due tomorrow for our homiletics course; it's an outline of a sermon on how to be born again. See, I can sit with someone and explain the message of salvation, the Gospel, the cross, the history of mankind's sin and restoration to God, no prob. I love talking about it, taking it as closely as possible from the other person's point in life. But how so you put it into a sermon without over-simplifying it, or giving it the "accept Jesus and you'll be happy" swing, etc. I fought with this assignment all day, wanting to give a clear picture of who God is, what it means to know Him, and what Jesus did on the cross.

Finally, I just threw in the main message of it and a bunch of scriptures. I'm not sure that's exactly how I'd preach it, but it's a start. I'll see what my professor says about it, and learn from it all. All in all, he really just wants to see our ability to draw out an outline.

Another thing that's been really neat is, sitting in Lanny Hubbard's class on Hermeneutics, exploring the history of interpreting the Scriptures and how it's been done, what's influenced it, etc. I love listening to Lanny. He's such an endless fountain of knowledge and wisdom. And history is so fascinating, and he knows it so well. I love seeing the patterns of philosophies and culture that have affected our theology and thoughts as a society and as Christians. I know it may sound dry coming from the reader's end, but everyone here enjoys it. It's the same kinda interest that's peaked sitting at tea with John and Susan Boyce.

So I'm quite excited about this upcoming year. It seems to me like I'll be learning a lot of head stuff, history and such, but also heart stuff. I already have been.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

God's provision

So, I mentioned already how I'm working on campus. It's a 20 hr a week job, doing custodial. So far, this whole trip, I've seen God taking care of all of my needs, big and small. Firstly, there was this job, of course, which I'd originally been told would not be available, but found out things had changed by the time I got here. Then, there was the man I met when I arrived.

I was waiting for the suitcases to come out on the carousel, and randomly, a guy made a mention to me of how long it was taking. I agreed, half mindlessly, only thinking of how I'd get to school from there (no, I had not worked that out before departure). So I asked the gentleman how to catch a taxi here, and he explained. From there, he asked me where I was going, and we chatted for a few minutes. During this time, I discovered he was a Christian, and his wife's family had been involved in founding PBC in its early years. In the end, he offered to drive me to the school if I didn't mind! So I got a taxi ride for free!!

The next day, as I registered for courses and paid for my semester, I found that it cost less than I expected.

Then, there's also the fact that I haven't had to buy much at all here, as far as blankets, or towels, etc. We have a freebee pile here in the dorm, from things left behind by past residents.

And then this morning... Yesterday, after purchasing an online library software called Logos, I found I couldn't upload it into my computer. My built-in CD player was broken... I'm assuming that was from those Cambodian DVD I watched on it. I was really frustrated, and simply said "God, I don't know what to do about this... please help me!" Then I moved on. I only mentioned it once later in the evening when I hung out with some of my new co-workers.

This morning at breakfast, I introduced myself to one of the guys I hadn't met yet. When I said my name, his response was "oh, you're the girl who has the Mac problems..." It just so happens that he works for the Mac store!!! One of the guys told him about my problem last night, and he just so happened to get up early and have breakfast this morning, at the same time I did, and just happened to sit beside me... that's really cool. And now he's going to help me solve this problem!

Before I left, I got a little nervous about finances, to be honest. The severance pay I'll be receiving from work hasn't come in yet. Fortunately I'd been saving up, so I had enough for this semester. But I didn't know how things would work out.

But, once again, God's proven how much he watches over me, over all of us, even in those things we don't think are worth that much attention! Oh, I'm so glad! It's so reassuring to know that wherever you are, God is always with you!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

My first week of school!

It's late afternoon on a Thursday night, my first Thursday of school at PBC, and I'm sitting in the shade, enjoying the soft breeze of Portland on this lovely sunny day. As always, a few of my fellow students are playing a game in the open lawn in front of the dorms. There's a frisbee involved, but it doesn't look like extreme frisbee, and I'm not sure it'll last for long... In a couple minutes, Nami will come join me to do some reading. I've adopted the habit of doing my reading and studying outside. I would hate to stay cooped up in my tiny dorm room... Fortunately, when winter comes, I'll be able to use our really cool open common area in the dorm. There are comfy couches, rugs and colorful decorations. There's even a fireplace in there, but we can only light candles in it. The dorms date from the 1930's. They were barracks for army. Some of the other buildings on campus are more recent, but they've kept the same style of construction, so it looks pretty good. All except the sand colored church building int he shape of a giant dome; during a short discussion with some co-workers earlier, we agreed that electric blue would be much more becoming for the place.

I had my first day of custodial work today. Portland is a city of about 2 million, and it's pretty spread out. Plus, there are neighbouring cities, like Vancouver, Washington. City Bible Church, which is the church attached to the school, has a "one church, several locations" vision. So they have campuses spread around the city which use simulcast for services and communication. My work today was at the Mill Plain campus, where I cleaned bathrooms, washed floors and cleaned out the garbage, along with my fellow co-workers Dylan and Nate. Nate is a highschool student at City Christian School, and Dylan is a graduate from the school, a surfer dude Australian. Many of my other co-workers are also international students: Canadian, Nepalese, Indian, Brazilian, Japanese, etc... Though cleaning work is never glorious, it needs to be done, and it's a job (20 hrs a week), and we do it as team work, which makes it quite entertaining. Today, I found some playdough, stamps and finger puppets... no, I didn't rummage through the garbage; they were in boxes of kids curriculums that were being thrown out, and we thought it was too bad cause I'm sure some pre-school programs would've considered them treasure!

My classes have been taking up most of my time. They've been really really good. Wisdom literature is looking at the books of Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon, the wisdom you can glean from it. Hermeneutics is study tools for deep Bible study. Homiletics is about preaching and teaching, communicating God's word basically. Mentoring Epistles is about mentoring, obviously... looking at a few of the epistles and what we can learn about them for better coaching, pastoring others, etc. Local church is looking at the role of the church in history and today in the world. But that quick overview really doesn't do it justice. I so appreciate that each course, teacher and class is so balanced, so down to earth, realistic, and inspiring. in class discussions are very open, and students aren't afraid to raise questions, and teachers not afraid of discussion and questions. They're humble too, which is awesome.

Right now, a handfull of girls are sitting nearby and singing together. One of them is playing guitar, and the other, violin! It's so lovely, I may have to join them right now... in fact I think I will...

So, that was fun :)

And we just got some homemade deep fried delicious chicken given to us... This studying (well, blogging right now) outside deal is quite beneficial!! The cook is a jovial black guy who reminds me a lot of Pr Hughe! And now he's singing along in good ol" black gospel style to "trading my sorrows"... awesome!

Oh, food, that's another thing about here. We get breakfast and lunch provided. I expected some stale or mediocre cafeteria food, but I was so wrong! There's always delicious full meals available. Then there's a whole make your own salad bar, and a vegetarian foods bar, and a make your own sandwish bar, and delicious homemade desserts, and homemade breads, and iced tea and lemonade, soft drinks, tea or coffee... all you can eat! The lady in charge used to own a bakery! I'll have to be careful; I've already been gaining weight. Fortunately, a couple of the girls and I have started a running routine at 6:30 am three mornings a week before classes... One of them is my roommate, Rachel, so I won't escape it, I hope!

Rachel is a Kiwi. She's got the whole accent and mannerism too! It's great! She's mature and serious and organized and clean, very studious, owns a Mac, and loves to wear bright red shoes! We get along really well. Last night her parents and grandmother, who have been touring the American and Canadian West coast took us out for dinner, and I got to know them a bit. I asked a lot about New Zealand, and it sounds like a lovely place. Apparently there are no wild animals other than birds on the Island, at all!! Also, Rachel is 24, which is really nice. There are several girls in our mid to late 20's. I don't think there are as many guys our age. Not on campus anyway. There are older people in classes that are not staying on campus as well. But I'm glad to be on campus. It's a really nice atmosphere. Kinda like home, but like having everyone living in a comppund. That would be really nice, I admit. But it's not real life, I know.

I do miss home. I miss everyone. I miss the long lasting friendships, the inside jokes, and everyone that I love... I'm feeling better now that I've been here for a week 1/2, and I'll probably feel at home even more after camp this coming week. But nothing can replace those I've left behind. Though this first week has seemed fairly slow, I'm certain things will speed up and it'll be Christmas before long...

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Hello from Portland Oregon!

Well, upon request from a few people, I've decided to update my blog. It's lunchtime right now, so I won't write much, but soon I'll give you a description of my surroundings and my experience here so far at PBC. It's a lovely place, and I'm blessed to be here and have this opportunity to study. But yes, I miss home... I hope everyone is doing wonderfully :) Much love and 'till soon!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Mondulkiri - The Adventure!

The way there

So, I’ve been able to see some pretty cool things so far during my Cambodia stay. Angkor Wat was amazing, and the beach breathtaking. But this time, the Mondulkiri tops it all.

It all started at 7:00 am this past Monday, Khmer New Year’s Eve, as Amber, Sopheak and myself boarded a tuktuk with our 3 suitcases. We were meeting Eileen, Kim and Jaymie at the bus station. We had the slowest tuktuk driver in the world and thought we’d miss our bus. Even a little moto pulling a cart full of fat jiggly cut-up pig passed us. But when we finally got to the station, we found out that our bus had been delayed and would leave around 8:30 (an hour from original plans). So the three of us ordered breakfast from the little station restaurant. Mmmm noodle soup with meatballs… Not the cleanest of places, but we didn’t care. It was a fit start for our adventure.

So here are the characters : Eileen is Canadian, from Manitoba (so are Kim and Jaymie). She’s teaching grade school at an international school. Kim, her roommate, is a nurse with an NGO called Daughters of Cambodia. She works with women that are being abused. Jaymie, whom I met that morning, is a bit younger, and she works at Daughters too. She teaches the women photography. When she returns home, she’ll be doing expositions to sell the work her students have been doing. Amber, Sopheak and I are roommates. Amber is American, from Oregon, and might get married soon. She’s Pr Jesse’s admin assistant. Sopheak is dating an American, and they plan to get married when they’re done school and found an orphanage. And then there’s me.

So 8:30 ish, we get on the bus, and a provincial woman sitting next to us somehow mistakes Kim for a Chinese. Not sure how. Kim is as un-chinese as anyone can be… But for the rest of the ride, this woman and her daughter, about our age, decide to adopt Kim. They blow her kisses, touch her arm, knees, face, and spray perfume and hairspray on her. Finally we land in Snuol.

The bus was going on from there, but that was our stop. Middle of nowhere Snuol. We needed to find a taxi somehow to take us the rest of the way to Mondulkiri. We asked around, and the villagers directed us toward some fruitstands at the intersection coming into town. There we asked and were told the bus would come around soon. So we waited, went to the washroom (that was an adventure too) and were told that the bus had arrived. Only this was no regular bus. It was a pick up truck, already full and overflowing. The back of the truck was packed and bulging. We were to sit on top of all the stuff there. And it would cost us $10.

Ya. No. There’s no way. But the fruit lady there assured us that it would be the last ride into Mondulkiri for the night. We couldn’t believe it! Even the fruit lady was in cahoots!

So we decided to wait it out. We’ve all been in Cambodia long enough to know not to take those statements seriously. Eventually, a nice Cambodian man called his friend who has a taxi service to Mondulkiri. It would cost us each $6. The bus ticket to Snuol, which was more than half way, had cost us that much. But that was the best deal we could get. And we knew it. So much for there being no other way, Mrs. Fruit lady!

The taxi driver arrived. Soon, we nicknamed him Tiger. He drove us in his old standard Toyota Camry, and packed us 6 girls in there. Then we took off. Sopheak asked if there was any way for him to slow down, but he replied that he was planning on making the drive back that night, and that be wanted the way to be quick, in case it rained. We later found out why.

So we zoomed across the red dirt road through the jungle, not sure at what speed – the speedometer was broken. And so was the gas meter. And so was, we discovered later, the e-break. We drove past a large monitor lizard, and saw beautiful colorful birds, and the trees and scenery were simply breathtaking! God’s creation is incredible! But man doesn’t always do a great job…

After zooming on for a while, we came to a jungle traffic jam. Road work is going on right now, aimed to be finish in about a year or so, and a large semi carrying a huge block of cement had lost footing and drifted off a small cliff, blocking the road. An alternative road had been built in the meantime, but a truck packed with pigs had gotten stuck on that one too! A crane was trying to push the pick-up along from the back, hence was pushing against the pigs and scaring them in the process. There was a line-up of other cars, mini-vans, pick-ups and a full size bus waiting to go through. And our driver was letting several of them pass. I admit I got frustrated after a while, not knowing we had no e-breaks. The blockage was in a deep dip in the road, and Tiger wanted to go down and up that kill as fast as possible. But communication was a bit of an issue at that moment.

Eventually the way was cleared, and on we went. The road was treacherous. All dirt, with construction all along the way, constant ups and downs. At one spot there’s a guard rail – made of bamboo. I would not want to cross that jungle in the rain or dark.

We landed finally in Mondulkiri. The sun was about to set, but “Tiger” dropped us off right at the guesthouse, so we were set. We would all 6 of us share a cabin where there was a double bed and a single bed. The guesthouse guy that spoke English had dropped off an extra mattress for the other people.

There was an army of bugs waiting for us on the balcony. We learned to leave the balcony light off for the rest of the week. But the bugs had taken over our little mattress, so it was quite the ordeal to get rid of them. We had a few pet crickets and flying ants for the rest of the week because of this.

So in the end, we had 3 people sleeping sideways on the big bed, Sopheak and I shared the small bed, and a couple of girls rotated on the thin, folded over mattress on the floor. Except for the first night, where I was actually very cold for lack of a blankets (something I had yet to experience so far during my stay here) we all slept very well.

Dinner was quite the thing. We soon realized that waiters in Mondulkiri do not like to write down orders. So it took a while, and a couple of things got messed up, but in the end it was still delicious. Khmer singers came on and we had to shout to hear ourselves over it. I found out that in Cambodia, when something is called “happy”, like happy pizza, or happy soup, or happy shake, it actually contains marijuana. Jokingly Amber asked the English speaking guy what a happy shake was, and he casually, and honestly, replied “sorry, no happy shake, out of marijuana”. I don’t think it’s illegal here.

We finished the evening by deciding to go hiking to a nearby waterfall the next day. It would be Khmer New Year then, and should be a vacation day for the Cambodians, and the waterfall wasn’t supposed to be more than an hour’s walk away. So it sounded like a good idea.

Day 1

We had a slow start the next morning, which got slowed down when our breakfast order got all mixed up. But then we headed out. Everything is so beautiful and rural in Mondulkiri. The air is pure and fresh, with beautiful rolling hills, and a lovely mix of lush greenery. Most houses are built on stilts and made of wooden planks. We got some great shots during our hike. I especially love the ones of the Cambodian roadside beauty salon, the convenient store, and the gas station. The people are very sweet and helpful. We walked and walked and walked, and enjoyed all the beautiful and particular sights and sounds of the place. Then, we were in the middle of nowhere, and were still walking. No waterfalls. Still walking. Still no waterfalls. Still walking.

Finally, we arrived, exhausted and foot sore but still thrilled at the adventure. We swam and explored a bit around the waterfall. It was small, but lovely and refreshing.

But several of us didn’t want to walk back. I prayed that God would help us get home somehow. It was Sopheak who, after several failed attempts, finally got the response from a French Cambodian guy “sure, we’ll take you!” They were 9 guys who had rented a pick-up truck for the day and they let us soaking wet and non-stylish girls squish in with them! As we drove off, the asked if we wanted to join them on a tour to the top of a nearby mountain. We were a little cautious at first, but accepted. They were very friendly and so helpful, and so much fun. Finally, just before sunset, they dropped us off at our guesthouse. We offered to pay for gas, but they would have none of it. We were so blessed that none of them tried to flirt with us or show any bad intentions. I think it was a blessing straight from God.

We got cleaned up and showered, and then decided we wouldn’t have dinner again at our guesthouse. So we headed out walking in the pitch dark toward town, not sure where we would eat. We expected a motodop to stop and offer us rides, like they do in the city, but no one did! We later found out that Mondulkiri has no motodop service. But a couple men on motos did stop and accept to drive us for hire. We sat 3 girls on each (so that’s 4 adults per moto), and drove up to the small town centre.

There we settled for a nicely decorated restaurant called The Green House. But as we were getting comfortable, a hippy looking Cambodian waiter with long hair came over to us and said “I’m sorry, tonight, we have no food left”. Of course, if was Khmer New Year’s day, and what he meant was no meat left. But it sure gave us a few giggles. We finally did get dinner though. Then, we got a ride home with the same moto drivers who’d driven us earlier.

Day 2

We woke up earlier that day, as we had booked an elephant tour. Some more mix-ups relating to breakfast, time, and prices. But we eventually made it by pick-up to the small “minority” village where we were to board our elephants.

It’s quite different there. They still have some homes that look like little huts with large thatched roofs. There was a sow feeding her piglets, and small gardens all around. And children, all with short hair and clothes discolored from wear and lack of spares. The little girls all wore traditional skirts. There was one man riding an elephant, waiting for us.

Then, from behind a few huts, came two more elephants, waddling along with their big legs and bodies. Small children were riding on them in baskets. And 2 small boys were “driving” them. These 2 boys would end up being our elephants drivers, along with one of the boys’ dads and the other man. That would be the coolest summer job ever.

We boarded our elephants by walking from a little stair tower onto their heads and into a large basket that is saddled onto the elephant’s back. Eileen and I went first. Then Kim and Jaymie, and Amber and Sopheak. They’re the 2 smallest of our lot, and they got the smallest elephant. Eileen and I’s elephant, we discovered, was around 100 yrs old!

Riding an elephant is an adventure to itself. It’s quite bumpy. And then, doing it through bumpy jungle trails is even more exciting! We walked up and down the sides of jungly hills, through patches of cashew plantations, and past small solitary huts that dotted the landscape. We walked through creeks and ducked for branches. The elephants feasted along the way, taking down whole banana trees in the process. Our young elephant drivers led us along at a slow pace. Finally we arrived at the waterfall, which we nicknamed Red River Rapids. The water was muddy looking because of the red soil flowing in it. It was actually small rapids, but pleasant to swim around in, and quite refreshing. Our elephants had been let loose and were munching away somewhere in the jungle, but after a couple hours, our guides brought the back for their own swim. Our guides themselves had shampooed earlier in the same water.

The elephants were scrubbed and washed. They went completely under water and seemed to enjoy the routine. Then they were re-saddled and we got back on for the trek home. We took a short cut that went up a path climbing very steeply to the top of a hill. We realized it was actually dangerous when Sopheak and Amber, now at the front, warned us that their driver was very nervous. But we eventually made it to the top, and the main guide asked if anyone wanted to ride on the elephant’s head, like the drivers did. I jumped on the offer, and had a very interesting ride from there on. It felt like sitting on a moving, spikey leather couch. Elephants have little hairs on their thick skin, and they’re quite coarse. I wished I’d worn something other than shorts.

When we’d returned to the village, we sat and waited for our ride back. We saw a man from the village walking completely drunk. It was 3 pm. We had also smelled alcohol on one of the drivers earlier. And in retrospective, we found our two little boy guides to be very solemn. I don’t think they get treated very well. Beating and abuse is part of life in Cambodian families. But especially in this remote village, where the men have little more to do than getting drunk, it seems even worse. When the men were away or asleep, during our hang out at the waterfall spot, the two boys played and laughed like 8 year old should do. But other times, they were solemn, overly serious and had an absent look in their eyes.

When we got back to the guesthouse, we decided to try a small restaurant called Bananas. But we found the owner/cook completely drunk, rude, and offering to seat us at a table with a bunch of sketchy looking foreigners. I was late coming, so didn’t see the scene, but apparently the girls came running out of there. We settled for the greenhouse, where there actually was food that night, and enjoyed our meal there.

A few guys from the church had decided to go to Mondulkiri as well. They came a day later than us, and we ran into them that night at the greenhouse. They’d had their own adventure. They’d rented a couple motos to drive out to Bu’sra waterfall, the most popular one in the area (which we didn’t end up seeing). On the way back from the falls, one of them got a flat tire. They had to walk the moto back to a nearby village to get it fixed. And it was no short walk.

Day 3

This day we decided to rent a pick-up truck and drive around to a few plantations. But first we wanted to get breakfast at “Nature Lodge”, and get our bus tickets back settled. We were all tired that day, so had a bit of a lazy late start. By the time we had breakfast it was lunch-time, and we wound up combining both. Nature Lodge is a lovely place, and it’s earned its name. It’s an eco-tourism spot where you have to bring your tent. The bathroom has no roof and both stalls are surrounded with pretty flowers (one of the guys commented this was not such a good idea – snake bites on the bum would not be pleasant). The restaurant is beautiful, all built around a tree, a bit like a tree house, with hammocks hanging around and tables made from tree chunks. They have a couple horses that walk around, sometimes into the restaurant (which has no walls), and the most beautiful German Shepherd in all Cambodia (most dogs here are quite ugly). The place is owned by a tree-hugger looking couple who were very helpful and nice. They seem to communicate a lot with NGO’s and people coming in to help Cambodians. One girl that was staying there teaches women with AIDS how to sow to make a living, and recycle old shirts and materials to make fashionable unique clothes.

We eventually got our bus tickets booked, after being told there would be no buses running on Friday, and any taxis or anything going back would cost $130, and so on. But in the end it cost us each $12 to book room in a 14 seater mini-van.

We visited a coffee and pepper plantation, and saw how pineapple is grown. We drove around and got some nice views and pictures. Then we ate in a little Khmer restaurant, and went home for our last night there. We got to bed really early, as we were all quite tired and had an early day coming up.

The ride home on Friday was pretty eventless. In the end, our trip cost no more than $120, including food, stay bus and all our crazy activities, and was worth every penny and every minute of it.

Amber, Sopheak and myself came home by tuktuk at around 4ish. We arrived to find out the electricity had been out again, for 2 days. Apparently, a drug dealer in the slum nearby got in a fight with his parents, and set the place on fire. The fire spread through the majority of the slum. A 3 yr old girl was caught in a room and burned alive. Innocent people often pay for the folly of others. In the end, the fire was stopped and the rest of the neighbourhood was saved. The slum is in ashes though.

The house was really hot that night, especially after returning from Mondulkiri, which has weathee similar to Canadian summer. Normally we have fans to cool us down, but not this night. So we came up with another plan.

Amber has a small balcony where she keeps beautiful potted plants. We placed her mattress there, and her mosquito net. But the net was making it warmer, so we opted for spraying ourselves head to two with Off, and going without mosquito net at all. I think it did the trick. Amber, Sopheak and myself laid sideways on the mattress so we wouldn’t be close together and therefore warmer, but that also meant our feet were sticking out from the mattress. Mine, being the tallest, were about half on half off. But I slept great. The cool breeze was nice and refreshing.

Saturday - Thunderstorm

It seems it’s the beginning of the rainy season already. This afternoon, Sopheak and I went for some last minute Russian market shopping. We got caught by some serious rain though, and couldn’t leave. It had been heavy and humid until then, but now it’s nice and cool. It poured and winded for over an hour.

Amber wanted to go to the night market, so I tagged along for the ride. Sopheak drove the moto with Amber and I behind her. As we got to the road close to the market, we found it flooded. We tried to pass through, but the water kept getting deeper and deeper, so we decided to turn around. But other cars were causing waves, and turning a 3-seater moto around just ain’t that easy, not in a couple feet of water anyway. The moto tipped over and we stalled the engine.
We called around for help, and eventually Hak came over. He’s amazing. He was at a restaurant about to have dinner, but he left to come help us out. He walked Amber’s moto to a roadside mechanic shop (literally a truck with the bed open and tools to do the work) and then left us once all had been explained and settled. It took about 15 minutes to do the work, and around $10, and then us three girls walked over to a nearby Vietnamese restaurant for noodle soup. After all that, we found out that the night market wasn’t even on tonight! But we had a good time and got to escape the warm electricity-less house. Still no power now. Hopefully tomorrow it’ll be fixed. Apparently it was supposed to be back on today, but because of the rain it got postponed till tomorrow. We’ll find out soon!


BTW, it's now Monday and our power still hasn't come back on... The church has been raising funds and goods to help those affected by the fire. Vimean, the kids ministry leader, runs a children's joy club as outreach in that slum, so he knows the children and knew the one that died.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Night out at the market

Tonight was quite eventful. After a swim workout with Amber, we met Kim and Eileen, two Canadian girls (from Saskatchewan I think), for dinner. Kim is a nurse working at a clinic called Daughters. It’s a ministry that reaches out to women and girls that are being abused, either in their marriage or in the sex trade. Eileen teaches 6-8 year olds at an international school. They’re both great fun and I’ve really been enjoying getting to know them. They’re coming with us to Mondulkiri.

We had a great time at the Mexican restaurant where we met. The food was good, and the humor was awesome. Then, we headed over to the night market.

I needed to take out some money first. Amber drove us to an outdoor ATM. The concept itself is fine. But there’s a light right above the machine, and it very much attracts bugs. I walked up to the ATM, and within seconds I ran away squealing. They swarmed me! They were in my shirt, in my hair, all over my hands and mouth and eyes! I went back for a second try, and managed to slip my card in, but I just couldn’t stay! I tried another time, and another, and another, but the swarming was terrible! It felt way worse than it looked (or sounds)!

Finally, we gave up and Amber took me to an indoor ATM down the street. We shopped around for a while, and I got a couple cute things. I ended up spending $5.50 (which was so not worth braving that bug army!). As we were getting ready to leave, a young Cambodian girl walked up to Eileen to ask her a question. Eileen had bought some earrings from her booth earlier, and seeing her again, she came to ask “excuse me, do you have time to teach English?” Eileen said she didn’t have time, so we piped in about New Life’s Office Skills Training School (where I’ve been teaching, at the church). We told her it’s a free school, and we do have foreign teachers. Her friend walked up to us and heard the conversation, and both of them stepped back in amazement. They couldn’t believe there was an English school with foreign teachers, for free! Someone mentioned it was held at the church, and the girls looked a little uncertain, which shows me they are most likely not Christians. But they were so excited at the idea of coming. I invited them to join my classes for my last week, and gave them details about times and such. I included the times of Moo’s class and Jason’s class (Jason is from Hamilton – he’s Angie’s husband and basically oversees the foreign staff, but also teaches in the afternoon). They were so happy and excited that they gave us each a fancy little hair-tie from the shop.

We were so excited and amazed at this encounter. God’s hand was so over it! We walked away thinking “wow, that means a couple families that will be reached for Christ!”

By the time we left the night market, it was much later than we meant it to be. It’s not safe to be out alone at night, especially girls on a moto. I was leaning over and talking to Amber, and was not paying attention to my purse. I should’ve had it on my lap, between Amber and I, but I was carelessly holding it on my shoulder. However, my arm was bent, and I had both hands holding onto the bags containing our purchases. As I leaned forward, in the middle of conversation, I felt a violent thug on my arm. When I looked up I realized what had just happened.

In Cambodia, often at night, a couple guys on a moto may try to steal another moto driver or passenger’s purse or belongings. They’ll drive up really quickly and come close beside their victim, and then grab at whatever they want. It can be very dangerous, especially if the owner doesn’t let go. They can get thrown off of their moto and hit by oncoming vehicles, or simply get seriously hurt in the fall. It actually happens quite a bit.

But tonight, maybe because of the way my purse is made, or maybe because of how my arm was bent, they didn’t get anything from us. They just gave us a little scare. All I have now from the experience is a small bruise on the inside of my arm.

God’s protection is with us all the time. I can see His hand over all that happens. Not that it always makes things easy, but in the end it all works out somehow. A couple days ago, in my English class, I asked them what they thought the difference between “difficult” and “impossible” was. That was the same day I had the really cool lesson. I’d gotten my students to act out the story of Jesus walking on water. My little script ended with the disciples crying out “You really are the Son of God!” One of my students asked what that meant. So I explained the trinity, as simply as possible. That led to a question about us having a body, soul and spirit. Then another student asked where demons come from. Then “so, when a person does something bad, it’s because a demon made him to it?” After which I explained all about lucifer’s fall, and mankind’s fall, and Jesus coming on earth to identify with our sin, and then dying on the cross to pay for the penalty of our sin. All this in an ESL class… not bad. I think God just knew how tough of a month it’s been for me, and wanted to give me an extra boost and show me some of the early fruit of our work here. He really is such a wonderful, loving Father.

Well, anyway, the difference between impossible and difficult. Well, it’s simple. But in life, we confuse the two. The Bible says that with God, nothing is impossible. But when we face difficulties, we (or at least I) tend to get angry at God and say “why are you putting me through this??” So often I’ve thought “God, I really can’t make the next step this time!” But then, I look back, and I realize I really have done it, with God. Nothing is impossible with God.

And tonight, it was totally Him watching over us. I’m surprised the thieving attempt wasn’t more serious (silly me, I wasn’t wearing my helmet). And I’m surprised that the girl approached us about the English class. I really hope they come. If you guys can pray for them, that would be awesome! And also pray that I can remember their faces. It’s actually hard here. People do look the same! Their eyes, hair, height and skin is usually about the same… But I think it would be extra special for them if I do remember when they come. Hopefully this week! I’ll keep you posted!