Going Home…

I didn’t think I’d be back so soon…but here I am less than three hours later. Soon after I went to sleep, Dad woke me up, and told me that my dear sweet Grandmom went Home.

And though I can’t help but cry, because I loved her so much, I am so happy she can finally go home. She told me often, “Oh Lori, I’m just ready to go Home.”

When Daddy told me how she started Home…one moment she was there, and then she quietly slipped away to the arms of Jesus…I thought of this beautiful song.

Going Home

Going home, going home,
I’m just going home.
Quiet-like, some still day,
I’m just going home.
It’s not far, just close by;
Through an open door
Work all done, care laid by,
Going to fear no more.
Mother’s there, expecting me.
Father’s waiting, too.
See His smile! See His hand!
He will lead me through.

Morning Star lights the way;
Restless dream all done;
Shadows gone, break of day,
Life has just begun.
Every tear wiped away,
Pain and sickness gone;
Wide awake there with Him!
Peace goes on and on!
Going home, going home,
I’ll be going home.
See the Light! See the Sun!
I’m just going home.

I just love these words.

I know this might sound unfeeling…or…I’m not sure what the word is that I want. But one thing I’m feeling sad about is the few pictures I have of my dear Grandmom. I had pictures, but just a little before we came over here, my computer crashed, and I lost everything on the hard drive. And I want to remember my Grandmom alive and happy like she was. So, please, if you have pictures of her, I would really appreciate it if you would email them to me.

GrandmomPlease pray for my Granddad, and our family, and my own family as we make plans to fly home for the funeral.

A New Favorite Place

Sunday, July 13 – a special day for a special young lady. Today Carissa turned eight! It’s strange to think that it was eight whole years ago that we welcomed that tiny baby girl into our world. I still remember Daddy exclaiming about how tiny she was, and taking pictures of her little hands with his big ones. But she’s not so tiny anymore, and was quite excited about her special day! Of course the all-important presents were opened right after breakfast, and then for dessert today after church, we had Carissa’s birthday cake. She was pleased as punch to recieve FOUR birthday phone calls this evening.

Carissa is a very sensitive, sweet girl. She’s missing her friends Anisha and Deanna who are in the U.S. right now, but she and Heather are good friends too. She loves playing with her ‘sticker paper dolls’, and she and Forrest have lots of fun together in their imaginary worlds. Moving to Cambodia has been harder on her than most of the other children, I think, and sometimes she just wants to go home, but I think she enjoys it too. I’m so glad God made her a part of our family, even though back then I thought I wanted a brother, not a sister. I’ve changed my mind since. =)

I guess I haven’t updated since Matt’s family left for the U.S. for a ten week furlough. We certainly miss them! Jasmine also went home to Canada for the summer, and so Veasna (who had been living with Matts) moved in with our family. Luke and Ryan are staying at Matt’s at night, just to keep an eye on things, especially since the recent robbery there.

I think the time we miss them the most is on Sundays. With Matt gone, that leaves Dad to give the main topic/sermon every Sunday, as well as to go teach the Bible classes in the villages. To give Dad a break, Luke now takes care of the songs, and Ryan teaches Sunday school. Sunday afternoons Dad and Sen switch off teaching in ‘Hong’s village’ and at the new Bible study we started in Bakong. It makes for a full Sunday, but we manage. And no, we don’t just miss Matts for the work they do around here…we got together almost every Sunday evening for a hymn sing, or just to have fun together. So Sunday evenings seem a little quiet these days.

This afternoon, though, Austin woke me up from a most delicious nap, and said to get up, because we were going to go to the mountain. Yup, there are mountains in Cambodia. =) This mountain is a very small one called Phnom Kraom, and is about a twenty minute drive from here. We never really knew about it, until one day someone was up on the balconey and suddenly noticed the big bump in landscape in front of them. I don’t know how we missed it for so long. I knew I wanted to go see it sometime, but that didn’t happen for awhile. In June, when the IGO team was here, Frank took one of the girls on a moto ride up the mountain, which she loved, and then we youth decided to get up early one morning and moto up to see the sunrise before the IGO youth left. It was hard to drag myself out of bed, but the gorgeous sunrise was so worth it! Since that time, we youth have gone up at least three more times to watch the sun rise or set. The younger children always wanted to go too, but it was hard to take them on the motos. So tonight we went all together on Dad’s trusty little mini-truck.

Forrest asked me on the way there if we were going “over there to the sunset”, pointing in the general direction of the mountain. I said yes, and he said excitedly, “This family is going to God!” =) This past month it has started raining at least a little almost every day, and I’ve loved seeing the land turn from brown, bare fields, to lush green rice crops, and it’s breathtaking to see that green beauty from so high up. It’s also amazing to see the difference in the amount of water all over…Frank tells us that in the middle of rainy season most of the trees you see in the pictures below (other than the trees on the mountain of course) will be covered with water. I can’t wait to see that. Most of the houses in this area of Cambodia are built on stilts. You can see the very muddy Tonle Sap lake in the distance in the second picture. Its water level will keep rising as rainy season progresses.

Once we reached the top, we all piled out and found a spot from which to stand and gaze. It was so neat to see the different weather from up there. On one side we could clearly see the rain coming down on the mountains in the distance, and on the other side the sun was shining through a break in the clouds, creating beautiful rainbow-like shimmers. It looked similar to the shiny, colorful spot gas or oil spilled in water creates. I couldn’t get a very good picture of it, but I’ll show you what I got. =)

It was so relaxing to just absorb God’s creation with my family.

That picture of mom and dad laughing has a story to go with it…one of the girls needed to ‘go’, but couldn’t find a spot to suit her. I told her to go one place in a little shrubby area, but after checking it out she didn’t want to go there either and continued her search. Forrest, however, thought it was a great spot, so he did his business, and was perfectly fine. The other one who needed to go was getting desperate though, and decided maybe that spot would be okay after all. She started going into the bushes, when Forrest exclaimed, “But I already went there and made it a boys’ bathroom!” =)

Due to the clouds, there wasn’t really a grand sunset, but we loved it anyways. We went home and had a yummy supper of biscuits and gravy. It was a lovely Sunday! If you come see us in Cambodia, we’d love to take you to our new favorite spot in this country.

On another note entirely, our minds have been in California a lot lately. My grandparents, (Dad’s parents) are temporarily there with my uncle’s family, so that Granddad can help my uncle with their ‘cage job.’ Grandmom had not been feeling well at all for a while, and the other night she was just full of fluid – she gained over 50 pounds from fluid. She was lethargic, and finally they called the ambulance. By the time the ambulance got there, she was pretty much out and unresponsive. Soon after they arrived at the hospital, the doctor came out and told Granddad and my aunt that Grandmom was gone. Then he went back in and checked a pulse point again, and there was a pulse! And they got busy again. Dad’s siblings flew out as soon as they could, and we were fully expecting to soon be flying to the states for a funeral. However, my grandma is a living miracle, and in my uncle Roger’s words on the tenth…”Monday mother was pronounced dead by the doctor. Today he says she is recovering by leaps and bounds! They are hoping to take the ventilator tube out this evening which she will be very happy to be rid of! She is progressing very well and recovering. We shake our heads in amazement.”

Tonight however, my uncle Vernon called dad and things are still looking a bit shaky. Again, Roger’s update…”Mother is still not out of the woods as they say. She goes from improving to not so good. Like a balance, trying to keep things on the level. Doctors are asking if we want the defibrillator turned off (my insert – the defibrillator is due to Grandmom’s pace maker) and if they should do CPR In the event she goes into arrest. Her defibrillator has been going off several times apparently. They asked mom if she wants defibrillator turned off she nodded yes. When asked if she wants CPR she shrugged shoulders. She is very much knows what gets said and can respond. She asks for ice – her way of getting water … Its hard decisions. Daddy comes in this morning, gets down close, holds her hand, kisses her and says I love you Honey.”

So yes…it’s hard to be so far away from someone so dear at a time like this, but there’s peace in knowing that’s she’s in the hands of the Greatest Physician that ever lived. He will do what is best. Please keep Grandmom and the family in your prayers.

I hope to soon post more updates about…well, about a lot of things you haven’t heard about due to my silence. But until then, here’s the link to some stellar photos by my cousin, Heidi Mast, taken during her family’s (epic) short visit here. We enjoyed having the Marvin Mast family here so much, and only wished they could have stayed longer. Oh yeah, with her permission, here’s the link… http://heidimast.tumblr.com/ You will probably need to scroll down quite a ways before you start seeing her pictures of Cambodia – but they’re all great! Thanks Heidi. Oh, and the credit for our new, more personal header image at the top of the page goes to Hans Mast. And credit for the brilliant idea for the silly picture goes to Marvin – it turned out way ‘cooler’ than I thought it would. =)

Happy Sunday to all you wonderful people out there. (but here it’s definitely a couple of hours into Monday now…whoops) Until next time…

-loridawn

Trippin’ With the Girls

Yup…here is the long-ago promised post about my fun little trip away from here with Jasmine and Theresa. I think I shall refrain from telling you the trip’s actual dates, lest you decide the news is too stale for enjoyment. Oh, and for this trip I decided to leave my big camera at home so I wouldn’t have to drag it around everywhere, hence the lack of good pictures. Okay, everyone ready? Let’s go! =)

During Theresa’s time spent here with Jasmine, she and Jasmine kindly asked me if I wanted to go on a little trip with them to Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. I was all for that idea. We set off for the bus station one Thursday morning, all excited about our upcoming adventure. Our excitement dwindled a bit when we saw the bus. Our (more expensive than they were supposed to be) tickets had been bought at the wrong place, and so the bus was of the dumpy sort. Our assigned seats were already occupied, so we resorted to the three empty seats at the very back of the bus and tried to make ourselves comfy. We soon learned that each seat had its pros and cons. Seat #1 was relatively comfy but had little to no fresh airflow. The bus’s tiny bathroom (whose door had no latch) was situated right next to this seat, and the most repugnant odors escaped the room and wafted to the nose of Seat #1′s occupant. Seat #2 had slightly more air, but this seat was equipped with a most bothersome bar with no apparent purpose other than to dig into one’s leg. Seat #3′s occupant had to deal with a window latch poking her shoulder, but the air con was closer to her than the others. The air con, which we had been forewarned could be quite cold, was almost non-existent. We, whose seats were right on top of the bus’s very warm engine, nearly roasted as the bus sped along, swaying frightfully and coming dangerously close to the steep ditches. Several long, sweaty hours into the trip the people seated in front of us apparently felt warm enough to open the window we shared with them, which offered some relief from the stuffiness. With the relief, however, came billows of dust, which settled on our sweaty skin in an instant orange-ish tan. Needless to say, we were quite happy when the eight hour ride was finally over and we had arrived in Phnom Penh.

But that was only the beginning of our adventures. A very interesting tuk-tuk driver took us to the Angkor Mithona guesthouse, loudly practicing his self-proclaimed “Californian” accent all the way. “Yo man! Wuts up man?” He was a bit too strange and bold for our liking, and the business card he gave us with many admonitions to call him if we need a driver found its way to a little stand in our room and there it stayed!

Then came the hotel drama. One of the other girls had booked a room for us beforehand, and had told me which guesthouse it was and what the price was. I looked for it online, and to my dismay the only room in the guesthouse which came out to the price she had quoted to me was a dorm room. I could only imagine what kind of people we might end up sleeping next to…oh shivers! Maybe I was mistaken. But no, the site she had booked the room on didn’t have a picture of the room, and when she read ‘dorm’, she was thinking that we would be booking the whole dorm. By that time, it was too late to cancel the reservation without incurring a large fee. We decided to try the room, hoping against hope that no one else would be ‘hard up’ enough give up their personal space and book a bed in a dorm room. Maybe we’d be the only ones in the room. Or maybe this was all part of God’s plan, and there would be some needy person in there that we could witness to.

All our brave aspirations fled when the hotel clerk opened the door to our room, and the first things Theresa and Jasmine saw were a pair of feet sticking off the end of one bed and three “Occupied” signs hanging from various bunks. Huh-uh! There was no way we were staying in there. Jasmine gave me a wide-eyed, horrified look, and I asked the man if there wasn’t another room we could stay in by ourselves. It took several tries for him to understand that we didn’t want to sleep with anyone else.

Finally he led us and our luggage up to another dorm room on the top story, this one empty. Exhausted, we told him this was good for now, and he left. After we caught our breath, we looked around a bit and noted that there was neither bathroom nor AC in the room, and the door to the room was paneled with windows, through which any curious person could peek at these strange young ladies. Nope. Not gonna do it.

With a sigh, Jasmine and I left Theresa to guard our luggage and trudged down the five steep flights of stairs to ask the bewildered man if there was an air conditioned room that we could have. Eventually we got our point across…we want a room to ourselves with a bathroom and an air con – that’s all. So he led us up to the top story, and showed us an empty, air conditioned men’s dorm room which we could have all to ourselves. Yes. Anything empty and cool looked wonderful. Back down the stairs to do the paperwork, then up to the top story again to get Theresa and our luggage, only to realize I had taken the wrong flight of stairs. So back down the stairs we went, then up the right stairs, then down, hauling our luggage, and up again. By that time my legs felt like jelly, sweat was running down my face, and I was close to tears. “Why?” you say? YOU try climbing forty-five long steep flights of stairs loaded down with someone else’s heavy luggage. I for one never want to try it again, and don’t understand why in the world that place doesn’t have an elevator!

After taking a cold shower and relaxing on our beds for a while, we got a good laugh out of our trip so far. It really wasn’t funny, and yet it was simply hilarious. None of us felt very motivated to do anything that night. After we felt we could conquer the stairs once more, we trudged down and ate a delicious supper at the guesthouse restaurant, then wandered down the street to a mini-mart for some snacks to take to our room. Sleep was heavenly that night.

After breakfast the next morning, we spent the day shopping and sightseeing. We went to a monstrous market in the morning, and then went to the Choeung Ek Memorial, aka the Killing Fields. This particular killing field is the site of the brutal executions of more than 17,000 men, women and children, during the Khmer Rouge under the leadership of Pol Pot. We took an audio tour of the killing fields, and spent a few sobering hours walking around, quietly observing the mass graves and the preserved human remains, listening in horror to the stories of torturous genocide. We were all lost in pensive thought on our ride back to the guesthouse. I simply cannot fathom the hatred that must have consumed the men that did those evil things to human beings. Learning more about what the people of Cambodia suffered during the Khmer Rouge helped me understand more clearly why Cambodia is the country it is today.

My family, along with Frank and Chum, ended up coming to Phnom Penh Friday afternoon then, as dad wanted to look for a mini-truck. That evening we all went to the Soriya Mall. Wow. I didn’t know how much I missed shopping in ‘real’ stores! That mall seemed huge after the markets and Lucky Mall in Siem Reap…a nine story mall is pretty big any way you look at it, I guess. We girls were delighted to spy a Dairy Queen while driving around in town, and knew we’d have to stop there. So Friday evening that’s where we went. Jasmine and I were quite content while our blizzards lasted. Ice-cream takes on a whole new meaning after living over here for awhile. Next time you go to DQ or Sonic, think of me. =) After DQ we went to the night market, where Jasmine got her self portrait drawn (that was fascinating to watch!) and finally back to our lovely cool room.

The next day while the guys went truck shopping, we girls and my mom fabric went shopping at Psah Thmai (New Market). That was quite the experience. Definitely the biggest market I have ever been to, or ever care to be for that matter. The hordes of busy people and the vastness of the market were somewhat overwhelming. We finally found the fabric section though, and had great fun. Fabric for $1.25 a meter…I think yes! =) It was here, though, that Jasmine had the misfortune of having her wallet stolen. That definitely put a damper on the day. When Carissa found out about it, she sweetly told mom, “Jasmine can have my wallet if she wants to.” I guess she didn’t understand that is was what was IN that wallet, not the wallet itself, that was so special.

A van driver had brought my family to Phnom Penh, and since the men did find a mini-truck to suit our needs, there was room for us girls to catch a ride home with my family instead of taking a bus. We started home around noon Saturday afternoon, and got home around 9 that night. Oh yes…I can’t forget to mention the delicacies we had at the place we stopped for lunch. Frank bought crickets and a fried tarantula for us to try. I refused to taste that big nasty creature, though the cricket wasn’t terrible. Dallas fed Alaina a bit of the tarantula’s leg (no, mom wasn’t looking) and she just made a face and took another bite.

All in all, our trip to Phnom Penh was…well…an experience, I guess you could say. I for sure like our little town of Siem Reap heaps better than the dusty, full of people, hustle-bustle, hot city of Phnom Penh, but it was a great change of scenery. Despite the somewhat uncomfortable beginning and the frustrating ending with Jasmine’s wallet being stolen, we had loads of fun. I’m already looking forward to taking our visitors-to-be there. Hopefully future trips will be less ‘eventful’ but equally adventurous and enjoyable.

Hope ya’ll have a wonderful night and sweet dreams as I head off for English class. =) Until next time…

-loridawn

On Eating Words…

Well, I guess this will be the first time on this forum that I publicly ‘eat my words’. After reading my previous post, Dad mentioned to me that he was concerned about my choice of words in the second paragraph. I wrote that “those days I shake my fist at God and ask Him why He ever brought me here. Didn’t He hear about MY plans for me?”

And if you’re like Daddy, you may well gasp at the thought of me shaking my fist at my God, the God who is only worthy of reverence and worship. After reading it again, it did sound much more literal than I intended it to, and I hope it did not offend you or make you think me to be on the verge of cursing God.

I guess the idea I was trying to portray was the ridiculousness of me, an itty-bitty speck on the earth, being angry with (or shaking my tiny, powerless fist at) an all-knowing, omnipotent God. The ridiculousness of me doubting His perfect plan for my life and trusting rather in my own.

And yet, in spite of the ridiculousness of it, I do sometimes feel angry at God. I doubt His goodness. I doubt His love. In my heart of hearts I know the truth, but in my weakness I do doubt, and yes, sometimes even cry in anger. I have so many things to grow in…I think of my struggles in comparison to those of Job. He lost everything he had, and yet, when Satan had struck the last blow, Job fell to the ground in worship. I am very afraid that I wouldn’t be able to do that. Help me Lord.

I hope I haven’t forever shocked you with my struggles. I hope you can forgive my blundering words, and that somehow, behind my clumsy weaknesses, people can see the life of Christ within me.

And, just for the record, I changed the wording in my “Honest Post” to something less severe. But those of you who view the post in your email rather than in your browser won’t be able to see the change unless you open it in your browser. So, I just wanted to clarify my feelings so you’re not left thinking something I didn’t mean exactly.

Blessings to you all today. Thank you for your understanding.

-loridawn

Some Days – An Honest Post

Some days, when the sky is blue and the breeze is cool and the people are kind…those days my heart bursts with love for this little country called Cambodia. I love to go to school and see the happy faces of ‘my’ children welcoming me back for another day of learning. I revel in the love they shower on me through gifts of mangos and sour fruit as I walk with them down the long dusty road to their homes. The satisfaction I feel when I see the triumph in the eyes a struggling student who has finally mastered a difficult exercise is exhilarating. On the days when the language comes easily, and I can remember the correct words in conversation, and the people understand me and tell me what clear Khmer I have, I could be content to just stay here for a very long time. Those days I thank my Father for bringing me here, for being the Master Planner of my life.

But some days, when the sun burns down and I sweat buckets of energy and feel like a smelly, cranky horse, and tempers rise and love levels lower and I feel as if I can’t do anything right…those days all I want to do is fly home and be cool and safe in my little circle of friends. When I hear that those dearest to me are moving on with their lives, and their dreams are falling into place like the last few pieces of a puzzle, I wonder why I have to be the one who is here ‘giving up my dreams’. I struggle to love that difficult, clingy student, to truly care about the people around me who are going through difficult times. Sometimes I just feel so empty and weary of giving and giving and giving some more. Sometimes I just get wrapped up in me. Those days I feel angry with my Father and ask Him why He ever brought me here. Didn’t He hear about MY plans for me?

I suppose it’s just the next hurdle in adjustment to a different culture, but I think we are all feeling a little more homesick than usual these days. Yesterday, I walked out of my bedroom and the smell of freshly cut grass wafted through the open window and met my nose. “Oh Mom…it smells like HOME!” I said, then rushed past her to hide the tears that suddenly clouded my eyes. I guess the newness and excitement is wearing off, and as we settle into our lives here, sometimes we just long for the comfort of friends around our table and grandparents down the road and cousins an hour away. Weddings hold a different bitter-sweetness, and funerals a different sorrow, because we can’t be there. The other day Forrest was very quiet all day because of a mouth full of painful sores. He was sitting on the commode in my bathroom, and suddenly said frustratedly, “Lori, why do we have to be here so LONG?” Time is speeding by in a way, and yet it feels like we have been here for years.

This summer is looking kinda long and lonely to our family, as Matt’s are leaving for a ten week furlough, and Jasmine is going home to do a missions medical course. We would welcome ANY visitors…now calling for all who have a case of wanderlust or ‘missallensitis’. This summer also looks quite different from my past three summers, and it’s been a struggle for me to be content with being here instead of with my friends in the North. The other day my ‘Wapekeka Grandma’, Greta, sent me a message on Facebook…

“A big fat hello to you my friend. I miss you everyday. Hope you are doing okay. Summer is almost here…this is the time of the year that I use to say…over 2 months till she gets here…meaning you…Lori I miss you…till next time…God bless.”

And my heart melted inside. Usually about now I would have received my PWTC acceptance letter and started counting the weeks until I could see my friends again. The youth of Wapekeka are facing some really tough times right now. An epidemic of bullying and suicidal contemplation and attempts has struck. I know God’s plan for me right now is to pour His love into the people of Cambodia, but sometimes I long to go give ‘my girls’ a hug, and let them know they are beautiful and loved and accepted. (If any of you young people don’t know what to do with your summer, there are some beautiful children up North that would drink up any love you would offer them.)

Though I struggle some days, I know without a shadow of a doubt that God brought us here for a purpose. Sometimes that purpose is just hidden. Though I don’t feel as if I’m doing a bit of good, I know that God can use me somehow, in spite of my weakness, if I will choose to look beyond myself and simply let Him have control.

Since we came here, a song the Wissmann family sings has become very meaningful to me. The chorus is Sharpied onto ‘my spot’ on the roof where I go for quiet time. (On cooler days, that is.)

I Am Your Shield – by Rachel Wissmann
My child are you discouraged,
by the sorrows of the day?
Does it seem that life is crumbling;
the skies have turned to gray?
Don’t forget I gave you promises,
to guide you every hour.
In the moment of your heartbreak,
let me show you my great power!
 
And I will be your shield, When the battle rages on.
And I will be your light, when the way ahead is long.
Just place your life completely in my hands.
I know it won’t be easy,
I never said it would.
But my grace will always be there;
My plans for you are good.
Remember that my weaknesses,
are perfect in my sight,
only when you give them to me,
can I turn them into might.
And I will be your shield, When the battle rages on.
And I will be your light, when the way ahead is long.
Just place your life completely in my hands.
And someday you’ll understand,
why I sent this trial
and someday you will see the end,
and know it’s all worthwhile!
And I will be your shield, When the battle rages on.
And I will be your light, when the way ahead is long.
Just place your life completely in my hands.
What a comfort it is to have a Shield in our battles, a Light in the dark, and a Strong Tower in the storms! And what a journey it is for me to completely place my life in His hands….

Please pray for us as we journey through this ‘new stage’. I And you seriously have no idea how much your calls, emails, and messages mean to us! Blessings to you all as you find contentment His perfect plan for you.

Of Birthdays and Busy Days

Yes! We’re still alive way over here, despite our temporary disappearance from the blog world. And, yes! We are busy. Somehow keeping up the blog gets shoved down the list of things to do when there are so many other good things to occupy my time. However…I am tremendously enjoying a little vacation from the daily English classes! Due to Khmer New Year the schools are almost all on break, and when the normal school is on break and parties are happening, the English students tend to forget that there’s English class and so the attendance gets quite low. It’s not very practical to keep on with class when most of the students aren’t there, so we’re taking a break. We had the last class on Tuesday night, and had the rest of the week plus the whole next week off too.

And so…I created a “To Do” list so that I might spend my vacation wisely, and today I hope to cross “update blog” off that list. =) (“Humph,” I think to myself as I proofread this four days later.) Maybe there are other ‘listy’ people out there that enjoy as much as I do crossing something off when the task is completed…

March was the month for birthdays around here. Miriam turned a year older on March 3. (She can tell you how old young that made her if she wishes.) Miriam is our practical lady…I love her straightforward, honest way of handling life and relationships. She adds such a cheerful note to our lives. To celebrate her birthday, we invited Matt’s family over for supper that evening. Despite the power outage for the first part of the evening, we had a great time and a delicious supper, topped off with homemade ice cream and a lovely cake made by Shaila. Shaila ‘surprised’ her mom with the cake – she and Jasmine ‘needed’ to stay home from the village that afternoon to work on her ‘Home-Ec’ project. Miriam said she knew something was going to happen by the cake-y smell of the house and the funny way the girls were acting when she came home from English class. Moms always find out somehow, don’t they?!

Somewhere in the beginning of March, Tim and Malinda Wentz and their daughter Joanna came from Matts’ area of PA to visit for around ten days. They are from Matts’ home church, so they stayed with Matts, but we enjoyed having them around as well. The men and boys seemed to really enjoy some deep Sunday afternoon discussions with Tim. Forrest and Jenna also loved having another playmate around – Joanna was right around their age. After telling Tim’s family goodbye the night they flew back to the states, I found Forrest sitting in a corner crying. “What’s the matter, Forrest?” “I just miss Joanna!” he replied. He has recently been telling me fairly often how he misses his friends, and he just wants to go home.

Jasmine was super excited when she found out that her friend Theresa was coming for a visit in March. Theresa arrived from Canada on March 12, and was here through the first week of April. I honestly don’t know what all those two did together…they had fun though – that I do know. Oh, and Jasmine got Theresa to bring me some of my all-time-favorite creamed honey from that part of the world! I was pretty excited about that. While Theresa was here, Jasmine invited me to go with them on a trip to Phnom Penh. I will tell you about our adventures there in a future update. =)

It was special that Theresa could be here for Jasmine’s twentieth birthday on March 18. Miriam planned a surprise party for Jazzy the night before her birthday. All the people that come to church were invited, and we had a grand time. At first when I met Jasmine, I thought she was one of the most somber people I had ever met. =) It didn’t take me too long to figure out that my first impression of her was pretty far off, because the fun, happy Jazzy I now know emerged once the “I-hardly-know-you-so-this-is-just-a-little-awkward” stage passed. Now I don’t know what I’d do without her friendship here. Jasmine does so much to make our lives more manageable here. A teacher’s job isn’t an easy one, and we thank you, Jazzy, for the many long hours you have invested in the lives of our little people. Oh, and Jasmine loves candy, hence the theme of her cake. =)

We had a good laugh at Jazzy’s party. Jenna and Deanna both wanted a lick of one of the large lollipops from Jasmine’s cake. Panith, Pila’s husband held the lollipop between them and told them to that he was going to count to three, and then they could both take a lick. “One, two, three,” he said, and as the girls put their heads in for a lick, Panith jerked the lollipop down. And Jenna and Deanna had a lick of ‘sister’. It was great fun just watching Panith laugh.

I had a birthday a few days after Jasmine’s, on March 21. It was a mostly ‘normal’ day, until the ‘Algebra class’ I was supposed to have with Shaila turned out to be a fun party with the school children. We played games, had a toilet paper mummy making contest, and had the most delicious-ful root beer floats! I taught my English class in the afternoon, and for supper mom made my favorite cake – Italian cream. Yum! Thank you to all of you who sent me birthday wishes…they really added the ‘happy’ to my birthday!

And the next day was Alaina’s first birthday. She missed my twentieth birthday by 18 minutes, and has been bringing joy to our lives ever since. This little lady LOVES shoes. She can often be found crawling around with one shoe on her hand and another on her foot. Well, make that ‘walking’. For several months she’s been standing up and taking a few steps, but just wasn’t excited about finding a new method of getting where she was going. Mom was unimpressed that Alaina was the first of her babies that wasn’t walking before she turned one. In the last several weeks though, she suddenly decided walking isn’t so terrible after all, and has been toddling around ever since. All the Khmer people love her, though she isn’t as quick to return the feelings. Chum especially loves to play with her. I think it’s because he misses his own little boy. (Chum’s wife lives with her parents in a village a ways off from here, and Chum goes to be with them on the weekends.)

Maybe you’re wondering by now if birthdays are the only things that keep us busy. Nope. Not true. Sometimes, though, I feel as if I could stay busy just being hot. It really has gotten quite warm the last month or two, and somehow the heat can just drain the energy right out of a person. At home I loved cooking, but here when we use the oven the kitchen itself becomes an oven. In fact, the icing for three of those birthday cakes just got all runny and wouldn’t do its job, simply because the kitchen was so hot. It’s been quite dry too, and there are some evenings when the clouds roll in and it looks like the rain will soon start to pour. Most of the time, though, no rain comes. I love a good storm, and it was always a little disappointing to see the clouds blow away with no refreshing rain. About two weeks ago, our family was out for the evening, and while driving home, suddenly here came the first real rain we experienced here. It was lovely. Somehow I felt like God was watering my thirsty soul, and I couldn’t keep back the tears that mingled with the rain on my face. (Yeah, I’m funny like that…who else cries over rain?!)

The next night there was a big thunderstorm. It was delightful to stand up on the balcony and watch the trees sway in the wind and feel the cooling rain. That was the first time in a long time that I’ve felt cold. Poor Ryan had been in a village quite a ways from here that afternoon, and got caught in the storm on his moto on the way home. He soaked to the skin by the time he got here, and his teeth were literally chattering from the cold. I wasn’t very happy when I came into my room and saw a big puddle on my floor. My door to the outside wasn’t latched and I guess it blew open and the rain blew in. Oh well, at least the area behind my closet got cleaned.

The last week of March Dad bought a mini-truck in Phnom Penh, and spent the next week building a rack and seats for the back. We have been thoroughly enjoying going places as a family now – we can all fit on, with room to spare. We couldn’t nearly all get on the tuk-tuk, and the truck they use for well-drilling usually has the drilling equipment on the back and doesn’t have a comfy place to sit. It’s just much more fun going places together again.

I called this post “Birthdays and Busy Days” but I haven’t told you much about the busy part yet. =/ I was planning on telling you about my version of ‘busy’ in this post – in other words, school – but I guess I’ll keep that for a separate time. In fact, I think I still have enough to say for at least three more posts. =/ So goes life.

Until next time…”May the potholes in your road of life be filled in and smooth, and may you always have a cow’s tail within your reach to pull you along when the going gets rough.”

-loridawn

Of Finances & Floating Villages

One day in February, we (Matt’s, Mike’s, and our family) piled onto the truck and headed for a village (of which I know not the name) about an hour from here to take a boat ride tour of the floating village. Well, the village wasn’t really floating…we were doing the floating. It is called a floating village though, because when rainy season rolls around the houses are very nearly floating since the water level rises so much. I’ll let pictures tell most of the story today.

If you would rather view the pictures in a slideshow format, just click on one and you can see the larger files and descriptions.

 

We floated up the river all the way to a lake called Tonle Sap. I was amazed when we got there – the river widened into a huge body of water. The captain took us out a little ways, and it felt just like being out on the ocean. The water just blended into the horizon. 

On the way back down the river we stopped at a riverside restaurant. It wasn’t just any riverside restaurant though…the labyrinth support system was mind boggling. The restaurant was all outdoors and from the main platform there was a long, winding pathway built way up. We walked for probably ten minutes until we came to an abrupt end. The long poles were in place for a continued walk, but it’s not done yet. I saw a big structure out beside the lake with poles like those and I think the completed pathway will go all the way to the lake. All in all, it’s a charming little place, and sometime for a special occasion I’d love to go eat there. =)

On the way home we pulled over beside the dirt road to have our picnic lunch. There was a big field right beside us, and after the children’s tummies were satisfied they played some rousing games of tag. Eventually they convinced Jasmine to join them. I was feeling pretty content just sitting there watching, but seeing how much fun they were having I decided I could play for a little too. And wow – it felt GREAT to run around and let some of my inner kid out again. =) No one was quite ready to leave when Matt announced that it was time to head home. But we were all tired and ready for a good shower and soft bed when we got home.

You know the Kingdom Focused Finances series – “Charting a Course In Your Youth”, “The Other Side of the Wall”, “Going Til You’re Gone”…? Gary Miller, the author of those books, ‘stopped in’ for a few days. The men took him out to different villages so that he could talk with the villagers about their financial situations, and when they came home they’d sit around and hash it all out. I read “Charting a Course” awhile ago and thoroughly enjoyed it, so it made it even more interesting to listen in. Gary has all sorts of interesting stories, and one evening he gave a presentation on different financial aid programs he is involved in. Dad and Matt are pretty excited about using the concepts outlined in “The Other Side of the Wall” and the “SALT” program in their developing well-followup program.

One Saturday dad and the boys ‘dug up a garden’. We still haven’t planted anything, but dad is enjoying reading about what grows best here. He is wanting to find good, hardy produce for some of the villagers to raise. He has always loved gardening and I think it’s exciting that he can use that hobby and talent to benefit the villagers.

One Sunday Pastor Samuel and his wife Ruth joined us for the church service and Sunday dinner. I guess he was pretty impressed with the brownies we served for dessert, because he started asking Dad about what was in them, and if they were hard to make…and “Do you think you could teach me how to make them?”. He wants to teach some of the ladies in his village how to make them so they can take them to the temples to sell. So dad asked me if I could teach him how. Sure. So one day the next week he came over and we had a lesson in baking. There were lots of eager taste testers around when the finished product came out of the oven. And they were pretty good too! =) He came again, this time with the recipe I had give him mostly memorized. This time he did it mostly by himself, and I tried to keep my mouth shut as much as possible. He did really well, and I’m excited to see how the project will all work out.

The other night mom and dad were in bed…Dad had already drifted off to sleep when mom, to her dismay, heard something moving around the room. She woke dad, but he thought it was just the curtains. Mom kept hearing it though, and finally said, “There IS something in this room!” So dad got up and turned on the light, and right away mom spied him – a monstor gecko perched up on the tray ceiling. We are pretty used to geckos living with us, and have even come to appreciate their appetite for the mosquitos that also like to share our residence. But little geckos – certainly not twelve inchers like this one. So dad got Ryan and together they tried to chase him out, but the silly thing just ran back against the edge of the wall between the ‘ceilings’. So they prayed he wouldn’t fall on them during the night and eventually went to sleep. Last night mom heard him again. Dad whipped his flashlight out, and sure enough, there he was crawling along the wall. I happened to come downstairs to get something right about that time…and oh, shiver me timbers…He was big! Dad got me to go get Ryan, who was out of bed in a flash, and I grabbed my camera. And what a lively chase followed. Ryan found some darts and shot him at almost point blank range. We figured he’d be dead fast. But no…this was one hard-headed lizard, and all the darts did was hurt him enough to make him quite mad. Dad went at him with a broom to try to chase him to another part of the room, and the hisses and growls that came out of him made Dad, Ryan, and I all jump. Finally Ryan got the mango picker and dad managed to get the angry gecko into the net. They took him outside then, and there he met his end. Mom was quite relieved to have him out of her bedroom to say the least.

So far we have thoroughly enjoyed our time here. One of our struggles though has been our health. It seems even the tiniest scratches and bites can quickly turn into big festering sores. If you look at the color of the tap water it’s easy to guess what’s causing the infections. Dallas and Heather have sores all over their arms and legs that started out as mosquito bites and turned into scab-covered pus pockets. Probably the biggest reason for those taking so long to heal is that they just can’t seem to keep their fingers from picking at the sores. Carissa’s little toe swelled up for no apparent reason the other day, and it was painful for her to walk on it. Dad eventually decided it needed to be drained, and had to do it again later. The swelling has gone down, but this evening the top layer of skin just peeled off and brought the toenail with it. We’ve also been battling upset stomachs and sore throats. In fact, that’s probably the biggest reason I’m finally getting an update written – judging from my swollen tonsils and blistered throat and the meds the pharmacist gave me I think I have tonsillitis. It is nice to have a reason to sit around and get things like this done…but I’m quite ready to feel like myself again. Mom was sick Sunday, and now Alaina’s running a fever. All that is not to complain…It just makes me more thankful for the health I am usually blessed with. Hopefully soon we’ll build up an immunity to the ‘bad stuff’ around us.

All our health difficulties seem pretty small though, when I think about my dear little Khmer ‘niece’. Sen and Mum’s little girl Naomi has been in and out of the hospital ever since we got here. It seems like asthma. Often during the night she has trouble breathing and the doctor’s finally gave an inhaler for her so they don’t have to take her in whenever she has an attack. She caught a flu bug that was going around, and then some other sicknesses, and it seems like whenever she gets over one thing and is starting to be normal again, she catches something else. Dear Mum is so discouraged about it, though she tries to just trust God with her problems. Join us in prayer that she could get stronger and gain weight like she needs to, and for strength for Sen and Mum as they get weary of the battle.

Well, I was going to tell you about the new English class Luke, Veasna, and I are teaching, but I think I have written enough for now. I’ll try to write about that soon, then maybe it won’t get so long. =P You all have a wonderful Monday!

-loridawn