Thursday, February 26, 2009

Did I say unpredictable?

Yes, things can be quite unpredictable around here.

For example, in the middle of the night, I started to get unusually hot. I started waking up, feeling suffocated. Normally, at night, I sleep with my fan pointing at me directly, and it keeps me cool while I sleep. I hadn’t realized how much of a difference that little breeze makes until last night. Our power went out. Completely. And stayed out.

Sometimes here, power can stay out for days if the city needs it somewhere else. The only way out of it is if you live near a rich home. They never get their electricity cut out. But our home isn’t that ritzy; we even have a slum nearby. Moo told me they’ve had their electricity cut for a day ½ before. And yeah, the food went bad, but that doesn’t seem to concern the city much… That’s why families here usually go to market early every morning. Most families have a mom who stays at home and cooks for everyone. She’s also the one who goes to market at 5am to get the food for the day, as the others are getting ready for school and work.

Second thing : my 8:15am class was supposed to last only 3 weeks, as I’m covering for a Filipino missionary who had to go home for a family funeral. But, we just learned yesterday that he’s been delayed, until end of March! Talk about God timing, huh! So I’m keeping both classes. I was looking forward to a break, but I guess God wants to stretch me some more… so now I’m happy about it.

Oh, and the worship schedule… I found out today that I’m supposed to be on worship this Sunday playing piano… Except I’ve already planned to go away! This weekend Moo and I and Leap are heading out to Siem Reap to see Angkor Wat, the famous historical site. Fortunately, Pr Pisit said a switch would be no problem. At least, though it may be unpredictable here, it sure is flexible!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

It's gettin' busy!

Monday Feb 23

Phew! Monday’s not even over yet, and I’m exhausted! But it’s a good kind of tired, like that feeling you get after a hard workout.

The day started with a bit more editing for Moo, and then my 10am English class. We did adverbs of frequency today. Some of the questions they ask leave me speechless though!

I got to play piano a little before lunch, then Moo and I walked over to this Chinese home restaurant we know of and had lunch there. When I came back, I carried the keyboard up to the baby cooking room (that’s gonna be my new name for it from now on). That was 3 flights of stairs (although it didn’t help that I felt like wearing a skirt today, and therefore also had my high heal sandals on). Srey Mech and I had a lesson there. Then I left her to practice. At this point is was around 2:30, and hot as can be. AC still wasn’t working. I managed to get a fan for my 4pm lesson with Sopheak – she came to the church, cause she usually doesn’t come home till 9, and we figured it’d be easier that way.

Went back to the AC cooled office at 5 when Sopheak left. I sat and did a little bit of work, but at 5:30 I decided to bring the keyboard back down, and the fan back to where it belongs, across the street from the church. It was still really hot then, and I was exhausted once I finished.

6pm Sophea, my next student, showed up. In the middle of the lesson I left her to practice while I ran up to eat dinner. Then I went back down to see how she was doing. Wut, one of the guys from the church, watched me finish my lesson, and I ended up teaching him some of the piano basics as well. At this point I was beginning to feel like a broken record!

Wut did tell me a really cool story about Srey Mech though. She’s his cousin. When she was born, her mom had to leave her with his mom because the company she worked for didn’t allow children to come to work. That’s the norm here usually, it seems. I haven’t really heard of daycares. Children go to work with mommy, or they stay with close relatives.

Anyway, as the years went by, Srey Mech lived mainly at her aunt’s, and mommy came to visit whenever she could. Then, several years ago, her mom got shot. Srey Mech's not sure why it happened, she never asked. But her mom was brought to a hospital, and after about 4 months, since she still wasn’t well, she agreed to be taken home. They didn’t have the money to keep her there anymore. Her sister, Wut’s mom, cared for her but she didn’t get better.

During her stay in the hospital, Srey Mech’s mom heard the Gospel as people from the church came to read the Bible to her and pray for her. I guess Wut was already a believer at this time. She eventually accepted Christ.

Then one day, she said she saw dark men standing around her bed, telling her she had to go with them. She told them no, and to go away. They did. When she shared this with the family, Wut prayed “Lord, if she’s got to go now, don’t let her go that way. Open up the door of heaven for her, and let her in”. Later that night, at around 7, once it was dark, she was sleeping, and Wut says suddenly he saw a part of the sky light up very brightly, and then next minute Srey Mech’s mom had passed away.

I love hearing cool stories of people’s faith and testimonies. That’s what makes being a Christian so exciting. And here, they seem to have such a childlike faith.

For now however, I have to switch my focus over to lesson planning. This should be my last week with my big class, and I think I’m supposed to give them a test… eek…

Tuesday Feb 24

Lessons went well today. I was particularly excited about my second class, the smaller one. I got to explain the Gospel using Genesis 1:27. I did an object lesson using my camera to show that we’re made in the image of God (we’re not God Himself, but are meant to be like Him is several aspects), but that sin distorts that image. Jesus came to restore the image we’re supposed to have. It took the whole lesson, explaining words and concepts across both culture and language. But I think they understood.

It’s repetitious explanation of different aspects of the Gospel that leads the students to faith. We never do altar calls or press people for decisions, but simply explain and set up the stage for questions and discussion. It’s really cool.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Here's a pic of a monk. They all dress the same way; you can see them walking the streets asking for offerings.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Starting to feel at home…

Feb 21

It’s the subtleties of living in another culture that cause culture shock – usually, not so much the different types of foods, or the clothes, or transportation, but it’s when you get past those obvious things, and into the subtler worldviews that it gets more difficult. I’m not there yet, obviously. Culture shock doesn’t usually set in until after at least 6 months. To me, this is still just an adventure, sometimes awesome, sometimes really difficult.

One of the tough things for me is not feeling free to go where I want, when I want. It dampers my usual independence. I’m pretty much relying on Amber and Michelle to get around. I did try the mototaxi the other day, but I’m still really shy cause I still can’t speak the language. And I still don’t know my way around the city. But Amber and Moo are awesome. They're great at driving their motos, and they're always happy to take me as extra luggage.

Today, Amber and I went shopping for some furniture for her apartment. We headed out on her moto. The shops are so different here. It’s a little bit like China town, and a bit like Brazil too… but you really need to know where you want to go for what. Then there’s the white tax… because you’re an obvious foreigner, vendors will try to get the most possible out of you. So, once Amber found the furniture she was looking for, she bargained. I was outside waiting (today was hot), and a tuktuk from across the street called out to me. He wanted to offer his services. I knew we needed a tuktuk, so I nodded to him. He threw the stuff in the carriage part, and I sat back there too. Amber called a Cambodian friend to explain to the driver where we wanted to go, and what we wanted to do. And off we went, me in the tuktuk and Amber driving her moto alongside us.

Finally we came home with stuff in the tuktuk, and a shelf unit roped up to the little roof of the carriage. This driver was particularly kind; he even carried the large furniture all the way up to Amber’s apartment, which is on the 5th floor. He got $4.50 out of the whole venture.

Then there’s the dirt. When we got home, I cleaned my face with a little cotton pad, and it was filthy. At night, in certain parts of the city, they burn garbage piles. The smoke from it helps ward off mosquitoes. But it also leaves a thick unhealthy cloud at ground level. At least that doesn’t affect daytime hours.

Certain things here bring to life Biblical principals. In Proverbs, for example, when it says that the Lord hates dishonest scales. Here, at the markets, that actually happens. Vendors will tamper with scales so that buyers simply don’t get as much as they think they’re getting. And there’s the bribing system. You can bribe a teacher to pass your exam. Or doctors may ask for a bribe to give proper care to a patient. These are cultural impacts of war and genocide.

I guess in a system like this you can really tell when someone is a true believer. They treat others with fairness and integrity. How precious godly character is!

Being here is a daily adventure. These challenges can be frustrating, but they make little things rewarding. And some parts are just plain fun.

Tonight, Amber, Moo, Hak and Jenny, and Sopheak and I went out to eat after the Youth Outreach party (one of Moo and I’s students, Raksmay, who is not yet a believer, came out to Y.O. He’s also wanting me to teach him piano lessons. He seems very open, which is exciting!). We all went back home on 2 motos. It was so enjoyable, a lot like what we’d do back home, except for the moto part. BTW, riding a moto is a blast.

Amber, Moo and I live at the house Sopheak’s parents own. Sopheak also lives here with some of her siblings. She used to work in an orphanage, and that’s where she met her American boyfriend. They’ve now been dating long distance for over a year. He’s a Christian, and his parents have adopted several Cambodian children. He and Sopheak are currently studying and getting ready to one day get married and then found an orphanage, a school and an old age home.

While working for the orphanage, Sopheak got to go to the dumpster slum a few times. That’s the lowest of the lowest of lifestyles. Workers sometimes go there to bring some food and try to help. Interesting thing is, even though the government’s tried before to get some of these dumpster dwellers out of there and re-house them somewhere else, to many, the dumpster’s their home and comfort zone. They’ll actually refuse to go anywhere else! That boggles my mind. How can they seriously prefer that lifestyle, full of diseases, stink, etc.

CS Lewis said it best : "If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered to us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased."

In the end, Sopheak, Moo, Amber and I came home. Moo went to bed, but the rest of us played Dutch Blitz. Then Amber and I swapped 15 minute massages, and that was awesome. For the first time since I’ve gotten here it felt a bit like home. I even thought “I think I could live here, if that’s where God directed me, as long as I can have my own moto…” But then, I’d also have to bring quite a few Canadians back with me…

Feb 23

Yesterday was also lotsa fun. After church, Moo and I took some of our English students out for lunch. Moo had invited them on Thursday, saying “We’re taking you out for lunch, so meet us after the second service at the church”. Most of the ones who showed up already are Christians, but Raksmay isn’t, so that was good. I think he’s really close though.

It was a good lunch. We got to know our students better, and I think it’ll make teaching them a bit more fun.

I had to be back at the church for 3pm for my first piano class. I forgot to take down the names, but I had around 7 students there. Moo stayed for the class too, and it seems that she’s gonna join us for all the classes. Most of students are from the children’s church ministry.

Raksmay and another one of our students also joined us for Cell Group time. I’m getting used to not being able to understand what’s going on… Now I understand how Deg feels when we’re at my parents’ church in Quebec!

By the end of Cell Group, I was exhausted. The heat really drains you. But now I’m ready for a new week, with lots more piano lessons, meetings, editing, and English teaching. God is good!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Here's a pic of me teaching my class of 80 students up on the roof. You can see that it's covered, but has no walls. It's nice 'cause of the air flow, with it being so high up and under a metal roof and all, but you can hear all the street noises (dogs fighting, construction, motos driving by and honking their horns...) It makes for interesting classes...

This is little Rachel - she's our office mascott. She comes into work with Mommy Sopha every day. She's 4 years old and speaks English and Khmer. She definitely brightens up the place.

This is our bathroom. See, the toilet, shower and tap all fit in this small room about the size of a closet. But it works for us. You just have to keep the toilet paper really high up on a hook, so it doesn't get wet...

I'll have to put more pics on later... this is all I could get through at this time...

Oh summer...

It’s getting hotter and hotter everyday. Now, the cold water from the shower is a welcomed blessing! I could start taking longer showers again… but I won’t. Water is not as readily available here. Usually I’ll shower in the evening, and a little in the morning as well, if there’s water.

My English classes are going well, but I’m still in need of new ideas, especially for my bigger class. I’m looking through “Dave’s ESL Café” right now, which is an online resource I’d heard about while doing my ESL course. Hopefully I’ll find stuff there…

I’ve started teaching piano now, to one student, Srey Mech. She’s a really sweet girl, and teaching her is fun. She’s actually the host on a Christian music TV show (kinda like MTV I guess) that’s on every week for ½ hour. It’s been a scramble getting started though, and right now she’s practicing upstairs on the roof. The roof here is covered, and part of it is used for the English classes. That part is all open, and even though it gets hot in the afternoon, there’s still a breeze. But there’s also a part that’s closed in, for the kids’ church offices, and for the nursery. AC doesn’t work well in that room. That’s the room we’re using right now, cause it’s the only one that’s available. But it actually feels like a stuffy closed in attic, with no airflow whatsoever. It’s kinda suffocating. And usually my lessons are in the afternoons (my English classes are in the morning, so I wouldn’t be able to do piano then)… eek.

Other than that, things are still pretty relaxed right now. I’ve been editing some of Moo’s documents. Her job is Donor Relations. It may sound boring, but she’s actually the one who communicates with donors, writes up reports of how the support is being used here, and articles to encourage people to keep giving. It’s cool cause she gets to hear all the testimonies of what God is doing, and tell them to others overseas. It’s more like a reporter job, so it’s actually quite interesting!

Oh, and I caught a tropical disease… it’s called “the attack of a bloodsucking mosquito army”. Amber, Moo and I got a good laugh out of it. I was watching a movie up in Amber’s area a couple nights ago, and it was so hot that I was just wearing a thin short dress. I never felt a single bite. But the next morning, it looked like I had a terrible case of chicken pox. Becca may remember the night we stayed out chatting in the backyard, and how ugly my feet looked the next morning, all polka dotted. Well, it’s kinda like that, but all over my legs!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Buddha prophesied Jesus!

So I just found out this cool tidbit of info ; I asked Pr Jesse and Soar if there was anything in the Buddhist religion that pointed to Jesus or the salvation message at all. There is! Buddha had spoken a prophecy about a Lord of Mercy who would come one day, and abolish all injustice and such! No joke! One booklet Pr Jesse saw a few years ago went as far as saying that this Lord of mercy would have scars in his hands. But that fact isn’t as commonly known. Truth is, some Cambodians have even been waiting for this Lord of mercy to come. Here, out in the provinces, when encountering someone who is deeply Buddhist, evangelists will use these facts to bring in the Gospel! Ravi Zaccharias wrote a booklet called the Lotus and the Cross which compares Buddhism and Christianity. Basically, I bet you Buddha would’ve become a Christian had he met Jesus. The Gospel is really what he was longing for all along.

Unfortunately, the majority of Cambodians are not so Buddhist as they are animist and superstitious. Many wear a guardian spirit belt, which they’ve acquired by bringing sacrifices to a witch doctor. Most Cambodian homes have shrines where they worship ancestral spirits. Here, deliverance from demons comes hand-in-hand with salvation. Pr Jesse knows a fellow missionary who came here as a Baptist, but soon realized he’d have to learn to cast out demons, or he’d get cast out himself!

The Buddhist monks are another story altogether. You can see them walking in the streets, with shaved heads, long orange toga-type robes, and a shade umbrella. They stop by homes and businesses, and wait for the owner or inhabitants to come out and donate money. Then, they’ll mumble a blessing and walk away. But in truth, the monk society here is actually a welfare system for singles. If a single person is very poor, he can sign up to be a monk. Then, he gets shelter, money and food. Buddhism is supposed to be about detaching yourself from all material need and attachments. But many of these people, as they gather money, start going to school and building their wealth. They’ll walk around with cell phones, use computers, sometimes put on a disguise and sneak into dance clubs. And when they’re back up on their feet, they drop their toga and walk away. I’m sure some are sincere. But this seems to be the norm here.

Total subject change : Friday and Saturday I went to the worship team retreat. It was really cool. The spot was gorgeous. I shared my cabin with 6 other girls, and the mattress was so comfy. It was out in one of the provinces, up a mountain. Beautiful site! I got a chance to meet some of the young people of the church. It’s so hard to remember names though! Some of my new acquaintances : Srey Nikt, Srey Meng, Ata, Mata, Hung Lee, and others I can’t pronounce. One guy’s name is Nate, so that one I remembered, cause it sounds like something I’m used to. His story is really cool actually. He is Pr Mara’s younger brother. He used to be a Buddhist, living out in the province with his family. Then, about 12 yrs ago, Mara met the Lord, probably while he was here in the city studying. Pr Mara is a fiery evangelist. Eventually, the rest of his family also started coming to church, and they’ve now all met the Lord. Nate is now one of the main worship leaders.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Bible classes!

It was so much fun! This morning, I decided to do both of my Bible classes the same day, as I don’t have classes tomorrow. I’ll be heading out with Pr Jesse and a guest speaker to the worship team retreat that’s currently going on. They’re picking me up at around 7am. I don’t think a lot of “expats” are going, but a lot of the worship team people also speak English, so I think I’ll be alright.

Things are so unpredictable here. When I arrived this morning (my first class starts at 8:15), I was going to stay for staff prayer (which is from 7:45 to 8:30) only for a bit. But all the worship team members had left for the retreat, and no one left behind could lead worship. So I volunteered. Anyone who plays piano would know how painful it is to play a little keyboard without a sustain peddle. As soon as I can, I’m buying a peddle to carry around with me wherever I go, just in case! Anyway, no one seemed minded. Worship time here is very spontaneous anyway. I sang in English, and Pr Mara sang along with me in Khmer. Then, at 8:10, I snuck out to make it on time for my class.

Oh, side story : as I was waiting for the sound people to set up the keyboard, I saw a little creature bumbling along on the stage a few feet behind me. It took me a few seconds to make sure I was seeing correctly. But I was. A cockroach about the size of a small mouse is apparently part of the sound equipment here. Cambodians really don’t mind them. No one made a move to kill it, even though they saw it as plainly as I did. In fact they were teasing me a little for my reaction. On the other hand, apparently they hate geckoes! Weird, huh!

For my first class today, I started teaching them Jeremy Camp’s “Beyond Measure”. I had to do it acapella, but they didn’t seem to mind. We got through the first verse and I sang through the chorus a few times. I talked about the poetry and imagery behind the song. Then I shared a testimony of when God really blessed me. It’s so cool to know that a lot of these people don’t know God, and this is their Bible exposure time.

For my small class, I pulled out 1 Cor 13 about love. We started looking at the scripture itself, and the vocabulary. That took a big chunk of the class. I did it like Small Group format, with discussion questions after, and it made me think a lot of back home.

Oh! I just saw a tiny gecko walking on the carpet in front of me! Awww. It was really cute. As long as it’s a gecko and not another cockroach, I’m ok.

An adventure in town

Until you’ve tried it yourself, this may not sound like such a big deal. But, when you consider the language barrier, and the fact that people here are eager to make a living, and will try to take advantage of foreigners if they can, this is quite a feat.

So, a couple of the “expat” girls here wanted to meet at a coffee shop at the mall near our house where there’s wi-fi internet access. They invited me to join them. Moo would have liked to come, but she has to do her work at the church as her computer doesn’t have wireless access. So that meant I had to go there on my own. Walking it would’ve been no more than a half hour, but nobody walks here. The city is full of moto-taxis, or motodops, which will assail you if you try to walk, especially if you’re alone. Plus, I had my trusty laptop to carry, which can get heavy after a while. So, moto taxi it would have to be.

I got some of the words I needed to be able to communicate where I wanted to go. Then I set out on foot. Just around the corner, a moto taxi driver stopped (whithout me needing to signal to him or anything). I asked him how much he would charge me to go to Sovannah mall. He asked for $1, which is way overpriced (yeah, crazy, huh), so I said no, I wanted lower. As we were bargaining (and picture it while taking the language barrier into consideration), another taxi driver stopped by hoping to get me instead. Finally, the first driver and I agreed to 3000 riel (which is still a little overpriced, at 75 cents), and I hopped on side-saddle. It’s actually quite comfortable and steady. You don’t even have to hold on. I would never do that at the back of Moo’s moto, where I usually ride, cause the seat is too small and she’s still a new driver. But the motodop guys drive around all day, and have seats large enough to fit several people. I have to take pictures to post onto here for you guys to get a better idea of all I’m talking about!

In the end, I arrived here safely and was glad to discover I had exactly 3000 riel to give him. Here, 4000 riel equals $1 American. When they give you change, instead of coins, they give riels.

On another note, my classes went well this morning. I went in better prepared and knowing more what to expect. The prep time is a little stressful for me, cause you never know exactly how the lesson will go, and our resources here are rather limited and unreliable. Still 80 students in my early class, and then 11 in my later class. So I’ll take that to mean I’m doing alright. I taught my early class about pass progressive and we did some activities concerning that. Then I did a game and looked at some pronouns and possessives with my second class. Saying all that makes me sound smart, but I’m almost learning these things as I go. Some of the students know more grammar than I do. It’s more practice and exposure to the language they need at this point. And then, other students can’t speak a word of English.

Hopefully I can start piano lessons soon. I have at least one student lined up, but I have yet to talk to Pr Pisit (who is in charge of worship) or to get access to the keyboard.

I did find out however yesterday afternoon a bit of what Pr Mara wants me to assist him with. He wants help setting up a better system to provide pastoral care to the people. Yeah. It took me a while to understand how on earth I can help him with that. But we’ll see.

Other than that, my days so far have been pretty simple : get up at 6, shower and such, time with God, eat a breakfast of bread, fruit and yogourt, and head out to work with Moo on the back of her little moto. I teach my classes, then Moo and I have lunch somehow (we’ll either go out or order lunch from Pakhaday’s mom). In the afternoon, it’s hunting time as I try to figure out what to do and how to do it. I’ve also been trying to help Moo do some of her work, which is keeping clear communication between the church and donors here. It’s actually much more interesting than I’d imagined before I came here. At around 5pm, we head back out on Moo’s moto and figure out things for dinner. At some point in the evening I work on my lesson plans. Then I’m in bed at around 10pm.

Oh, one thing Bri and Stacey would be shocked to know: my longest shower her lasts 10 minutes. The secret? Cold water. Literally. I’ll have to post a picture of our washroom here too. We do have a north American toilet. But showers here are not in a separate little cubicle. The washroom is very small, and it all comes together in the same little room. It is different. I’ve been showering in the mornings, but the water seems to run very low at that time, and it’s colder too. So I might change my schedule a little.

Tonight we have mid-week service at church. It starts at 5:30, so I should wrap things up. Prayer requests : God’s grace and creativity on my lessons and lesson planning, and good health. Also, that I’d be able to get things organized for Pr Mara and help the school along a bit…

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

First day as a teacher

So, I’m finally an ESL teacher… To try to explain a little better how things are here, I have to go back to yesterday however.

Yesterday was a Buddhist holiday. The school here was closed (as many students don’t know Jesus yet), but the office was open. So I came into the office with Michelle to get my material for teaching from the teacher coordinator, and get familiarized with my new environment.

First thing in the morning, I went to see the coordinator, and asked him about my teaching materials. So far, I’d been told that I’d be teaching one English class in a small room from 10 to 11 am. When I walked into his office however, he said “can you teach an 8:15 am class?” The teacher had to leave the country on emergency, and they needed someone to replace him. “It starts tomorrow”. Ok. No prob. Understandable. Then, I asked for the material for both courses. Uh… ok… not sure… And so it went. Finally, I got a couple books out of him. One turns out to be for a classroom of 80 some students! That wouldn’t be so bad, except that the material in the book really didn’t relate to anything 80 Cambodian students wanting to learn English could understand…

In the end, everything worked out well. So I came in this morning and faced my 80 students… yeah, overwhelming? Just a little… Especially when the largest ESL class I’ve ever taught had no more than 20 students… Yes, it does make a difference. Especially when you’re teaching on the roof of the building, and there’s a demolition project going on below next door!

Fortunately, the students are all very sweet. They were excited to have a new Canadian teacher, and are always all smiles. Prayer request however : creativity with my lessons and good ideas for teaching students as best as possible.

I also have my 10-11 am class, but so far there are only 7 students in that one. Apparently, though, seeing that I have white skin and a long nose (which are the 2 main requirements here according to Cambodians for you being a cool foreigner), the class may grow quickly; the thought saddens me a little, but at the same time, if it can reach more for Christ that way, then so be it.

I now have a little desk just outside of Pr Mara’s office. I’ll find out in a half hour what kind of work he’d like me to do to assist him while I’m here. Apparently he’s quite disorganized, and his wife Leah is the administrative one of the family. She works nearby for Samaritan’s purse, but I’ve already warned her that I may call on her aid for what I’m supposed to do around here to help the most.

I also offered my help in maybe organizing things a bit better here in the school coordination department. I have NO idea how I’ll do that… But something needs to be done, so we’ll see what we can come up with. If anyone has any ideas let me know! ;)

I miss everyone from home. I am starting to settle in a bit though. My health is not great right now, but with God’s strength somehow I’ve been able to go through the classes without a problem this morning. Maybe I’m already climbing up out of it.

If anyone from back home is actually reading these updates, know that you’re constantly in my mind and prayers.
Lotsa Love!

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Update on a first few days in Cambodia

Feb 6th

I made it! After over 25 hrs in the air, I am finally in Cambodian soil. I’m also 12 hours ahead in time of everyone else back home. It’ll take some adjustment, but I think I’ll adjust.

The rest of my flight was pretty steady. I spent a lot of time reading. On my last flight, the 5 hr one from Seoul to Phnom Penh, I sat near a very talkative Cambodian man in his 40’s who has been a trucker in the US for 25 yrs. His name was Hi-Way! ;) seriously! He was a teenager during the reign of the Khmer Rouge, which means he survived unimaginable horrors… He said his family was split up during that time, but met up again when the Vietnamese came into Cambodia in 1979. They went to Thailand as refugees. Eventually, after about 5 years, he was sent off to the US for a new start in life. Surprisingly, most of his family seems to have survived all the hardships of the civil war. That encounter made me realize again how much people here have gone through. The people around my age wouldn’t have lived this, but older people would all have a story to tell. They’re all survivors, who lived against all odds.

This is really an amazing country. I’m looking forward to going out this afternoon and seeing some more of it. Right now I’m feeling a little shy to do that, and I’ll wait and go with my new roommate Amber this afternoon. I met her last night after giving Moo the big hug and love from everyone back home. Amber is the other girl who lives here. She’s 27 and has been here working at the church now for about a year.

I tried to sleep in this morning, but despite the fact that Amber actually sacrificed her bed for me to do just that (I don’t have a bed in my room yet), I woke up a little after 6 with no hope of sleeping more than that. Still need to adjust to the new time zone. I was also feeling rather homesick and needed some time with God. But now I’m trying to settle in and get my room prepared for the furniture I’ll get, probably this afternoon. I also discovered I have a little friend living in here with me. Ghekos here are bug eaters, so I’m glad to have one to protect me! It’ll be a good partnership.

The other thing my room comes with is a lovely view… of someone’s bedroom! The way this house was built, the floor I’m on is smaller, and the floor beneath has a bedroom with cathedral ceiling… and of course, my room has a window; it looks out over and into this Cambodian family’s bedroom! Can’t say I’ve ever encountered this predicament before… So I need to get curtains for privacy as well.

Today at 2pm I’m heading over to the church to find out what I’ll be doing while I’m here. Apparently it’s been carefully planned out. I’ve heard rumors however of teaching English and piano in the morning, and assisting Pr Mara in the afternoon. We’ll find out soon!

Feb 7

It feels like I’ve been here for a week, but really, this is my second day, and I’m still getting over the last little bits of jetlag… Yet I wonder what I can tell to best describe my Cambodian experience so far…

Maybe with yesterday afternoon’s adventure on Amber’s moto : I needed a mattress to sleep on, and there happens to be one just around the corner from out house. So finally, early afternoon, just before my meeting at the church, we headed out on her little moto to look for one. But then, I had to bring it back. So guess how that worked! The sales guy folded the mattress for us, and then we set it right in between us on the moto, and drove home. It is common here for people to carry way too much on a little moto. I haven’t seen this yet this week, but sometimes you can spot a family of 7 on a little scooter!

This morning, Moo and I went to Russian Market to buy sheets and towels and other essentials. Jenny, Moo’s Cambodian friend, was our guide, and she not only drove us there, but also bargained with the vendors and guided us along the crowded market isles. There's no Canadian comparison to the market here. I'll have to post some pictures when I get a chance, to really describe it properly!

She drove us back to the church, and as we were debating what to do for lunch, a couple girls in a tuktuk waiting there struck conversation with us. It was Sarah (who completely looks Cambodian but us actually Australian), and Leap, and Leak. Leap reminds me a lot of Lucivane…

In the end, we ended up joining their tuktuk party and headed out for a quick lunch and an afternoon at the pool! I’m suffering for Jesus ;) And I’m starting to get a tiny bit of a tan!

Tonight, we went to the Youth Outreach meeting at the church. They had worship, games, and a very short word. It’s an outreach meeting, and a lot of young people that don’t yet know Jesus come out, so they keep the message very simple and evangelistic. I met a girl who has been coming to the church for over a year, but has only known the Lord for about 3 months.

Their evangelism method here is different from back home. Cambodians tend to include Buddhism, Animism and Spiritism mixed in with a good dose of superstitions. And if you give them Jesus, they'll just add Him to the pile unless they really understand. Usually the process of gaining that understanding is rather lengthy. So there's a lot of focus here on clearly explaining the Gospel and the Bible to people before ever inviting them to accept Jesus as their Lord. The good thing is that when they've got it, it's for good.

Part of my role here with be gospel exposure. All English teachers pick a class a week where they focus on the Bible and teaching a Bible story. I'll get that privilege too!

Oh, also, sidenote, it's funny how, when you travel, you'll see people you "know". And by that, I mean I've seen a Cambodian Lucivane,and a Cambodian Kevin Lippert... and that Aussie Sarah girl that took us to the pool, her name it Sarah Chia! Yes, I laughed alone at that one...

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Vancouver - no snow!

Vancouver Airport - I wish I had time to go out for some fresh air... indeed, there's not even a trace of snow out here! I do have a bit of time though to get something to eat (I found fruit! yum!) and get a little update in. Another hour till my next flight, which will then keep me in the air pretty much till I get to my destination.

On the flight here, I sat beside this sweet little Korean woman named Zhin-Yong (at least it sounded that way). She had been visiting her 2 younger sisters in Canada for the first time. She stayed 3 weeks and saw TO, Ottawa and Quebec city. I admit I had the thought "I wonder if she's ever heard of Christ... This may be her only opportunity to hear of Him, and here I am tempted to cocoon in and read my book"... So I kept chatting with her instead. And then, it turned out she's already a Christian! Praise God! Plus, I got plenty of time to read too! Zhin-Yong is also on her way to Korea right now, but I was disappointed to find out she's on a different flight from mine. I wonder who I'll sit with during the next couple flights... It's funny how traveling alone highlights that need for companionship, even from a stranger - at least in me it does...

And now here I am, in Vancouver, quietly watching the mix of humanity around me. Airports are so cool that way. I don't think you could find a more eclectic mix of people in one place (except in Heaven I guess - where yes, there will be lots of Caucasians, but tons of other people too ;). I even saw a little Amish lady walking around in her conservative blue dress and little bonnet.

I'm kinda missing home already... but this is day 1 of a 2 months trip, my longest so far in fact. Only God knows the adventures that lie ahead!

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Going to Cambodia!

Well, it's now January 2009, and so much has happened in the past 2 years - some of which I'll keep unposted here until its proper time... It has been an adventure, as life always is with God.

And now I'm heading out tomorrow for Cambodia. 2 months! I remember the days when that would feel like an eternity. But I've learned by now that really it'll skip by. So I'll be updating this blog both to keep time from slipping by too fast, and to keep in touch with my loved ones back home...

I'll be writing again soon... from the other side of the world!