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

Two Months

“Somehow distance has a way of making time seem longer.” Thus said my dear cousin Cassandra in our phone conversation today. I agree. Tomorrow it will have been two months since we started our trek around the world. Two hard, wonderful, lifechanging months. It seems like our last moments at home were such a long time ago…in a way like it was in another lifetime. I’ve been amazed and almost bothered sometimes how it just feels like we’ve been here forever. But it has been so good.

Y’all enjoy your cool/cold weather for us. I think we all struggled a bit with homesickness when we heard about the snow our part of SC got. We loved the cool weather while it lasted, but it’s finally starting to get HOT. It wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t so humid and sticky, but after awhile all a body feels like doing is retreating to an air conditioned bedroom. And I am told this isn’t even hot – “Just wait until April!” Hopefully someday we’ll be able to say that we truly enjoy the hot days here. Until then we’ll thank God for air conditioners, fans, and cool days!

Since we’ve come, I’ve been realizing how much I enjoyed my independance at home. Not like I did a lot on my own, but it was so easy just to hop in the car and go wherever I needed to go. Here though, we don’t have a car, and after awhile I started feeling rather trapped and frustrated that I had to ask someone to drive me whenever I needed to go somewhere. I knew that I wanted to learn to drive the moto in town, but it looked pretty scary to me – much harder than the back roads I’d been driving on. But one night Jasmine and I both wanted to go to town, and it was late enough that we felt bad to ask Sen to take us. So Miriam said, “Why don’t you just drive the moto to town?” Hmm. Why not? So we finally set off together. And we made it, with no close calls or scary incidences! I was so excited to have finally conquered that first trek, and ever since then I’ve been enjoying taking myself places on the moto. I’m thinking I might want one of those when I go back home…

I guess I didn’t tell you about my new routine in the last post. I think it was over a month ago that I started teaching an English class at the Vessvan School in Prasat Bakong. Matt gave me his class and is now helping Miriam teach hers. So far I have had nineteen students between the ages of nine and twelve. They don’t all come every day so usually the attendance is more like fourteen. I love each one already. From feisty little Kandya, to sweet, quiet Soklath, to Samuen, a charming little gentleman… each child is so special. I wasn’t sure how I’d like teaching, especially with the language barrier, but I love the challenge. It’s a great opportunity for me to try out my limited Khmer as well as learn the Khmer words for the English words I teach them. Sen sits in on my class and helps if I can’t explain things in English to their understanding.

Every Friday we meet in the pavilion where Miriam has her class and have a Bible class before English begins. After we sing some songs Matt and Sen usually have a flannel graph story. Most of the time the children sit and listen attentively, but a few weeks ago I noticed that several of ‘my’ girls were sitting off somewhere else. I motioned for them to come over, but they shook their heads. So I went to talk to them, but they still refused to come. I asked if they wanted to sing there instead, but they shook their heads emphatically when I sang “I’ve Got Peace Like a River” in Khmer. So I just left it and went back to the Bible story. When it was time for class and I was waiting for everyone to settle down, Kandya started singing “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus” in Khmer with a defiant little gleam in her eyes. But instead of “Jesus” she used another word…I asked Sen later what the word for Buddha (or Buddhism) is in Khmer. He said it and I’m almost sure that’s what she was singing. “I have decided to follow Buddhism.” That just put a heavy burden in my heart – to think how these children are taught to worship the idol of some fat, dead man who cares nothing about them, and to despise the God who died for them and loves them more than they could ever understand. Pray that all we do at school would only point them to Christ, and that the parents wouldn’t interfere with the children’s coming.

One day when we got back from school Carissa, Anisha, and Deanna came begging me to come visit their ‘store’ for a treatment. I agreed, and was taken over to the ‘store’ and seated on the ground. They proceeded to cover my face with chalk, loving every minute. Forrest saw what was happening and came over with a distressed look on his face. Nearly in tears, he plopped into my lap and asked if I would just take it off! He doesn’t like it! I guess I just didn’t look like Lori. When the girls were finished with their decorations, I went inside. Alaina had just woken up. She saw me and a scared look came over her face. Everyone laughed at her expression, and she started bawling. I tried holding her and she just cried all the harder. It took quite awhile to get all that makeup off!

After a week in the hospital Veasna finally came home. The day we had planned her baptism was long gone though…so two weeks after her baptism was supposed to be we held that very special service. Her testimony of coming out of the darkness of sin into the light of Jesus’ love is amazing, and her cheerful outlook on life and love for her Saviour is an inspiration to me. That afternoon Shaila, Veasna, and Jon wanted some pictures taken, so we, along with Jasmine, headed for a nice park in the middle of Siem Reap. We had lots of fun. I’m so thankful for these lovely young ladies who have welcomed me into their circle of friendship.

Ken, Ronnie, Wes, and Jon decided to go on a three day moto trip to the Laos border, and invited Frank, Chum, Ryan and Luke to go along. I promptly turned a pale shade of green. I wanted to go along sooo bad – ever since we got here I’ve had an itch to explore the country. But it was a guys’ party, and I unfortunately am a girl. (That was only unfortunate for three days. Don’t get me wrong – I really am glad I’m a girl.) So I watched them drive off Monday morning, very sad to be left behind with ‘so little adventure in the horizon.’ We all missed them while they were gone, but they had an absolute blast. Maybe I’ll have to let them tell you about their trip sometime. I was really glad that Ryan and Luke had some guys to do ‘guy stuff’ with again.

Last Saturday Veasna invited Jasmine and I and (of course) Jon to come with her to her mom’s house in the village. It was about a twenty minute moto ride to her house. We picked up her mom and little siblings, and went for a picnic ‘by the lake’. I was expecting a river or a moat like they have around the temples. Veasna told me the road went up a big hill ahead and asked me if I could manage the moto. I thought I would be fine, and I was. But I was shocked once we got to the top of the hill. Spread out before me was a huge lake. I had no idea there was a place like that in Cambodia. We parked the motos and walked past the market selling all kinds of food for picnics, and down a long flight of steps to the edge of the water. I was in for another surprise then. Along the shore was built a long hut like structure, with two different levels. You could rent a little section for the day. The sections were divided by hammocks, and had mats on the floor to eat on. We had a lovely afternoon chatting and eating, and the children loved the water. I tried frog legs for the first time for lunch. Not bad…actually pretty good!

Thursday Wes, Ken, and Ronnie left for home. It was sad seeing them leave. We all enjoyed having them around, minus the midnight “BANGS” they scared us with. =) It was lots of fun to have ‘youth activities’ together – with them along it somehow felt more ‘youth groupy’, and I know we’ll miss that a lot. Jon is leaving Sunday evening, and I can’t imagine that it will be easy for a certain young lady to see him leave.

Mike and Esther Sensenig and their family arrived the last part of January to visit Matt’s. Miriam is loving having her sister here, and the rest of us are all enjoying having them around as well. Last week Matts’ and Mikes’ left together to visit some friends in Laos for a week. They also went to Thailand. We sure missed them around here, especially Jasmine and Veasna. They bused back to Siem Reap on Wednesday night. This morning Matts’, Mikes’, Veasna, Jon and our family all piled on the truck and went to visit the Angkor Silk Farm. It was so interesting seeing how silk is made…what a long, tedious process! At this place it was all done by hand, but most other places the process is more streamlined with machines. By the end of our tour I understood a little more why silk is so expensive. The $95 scarves in the gift shop sure didn’t tempt me though, no matter what it took to make them. After we were done there we drove around to see some countryside, and stopped at same lake that I was at last Saturday with Veasna.

Well, it’s time to get this house ready for church in the morning! A lovely weekend to one and all!

-loridawn

Company, Hospitals, & Christmas

Bare, white walls. Mosquitoes and ants. A little round table. Two chairs, and one rather hard hospital bed. This is a part of Cambodia I never expected to see – this soon anyway. It’s almost one am Thursday morning, and sleep seems pretty far away. Sunday morning Veasna started feeling nauseous, but couldn’t vomit. Her stomach pain came and went but gradually got worse. A first we thought it was just an upset stomach, but it wouldn’t go away. At work today she felt bad enough that she called for someone to come get her. Jon (who picked her up) took her a clinic, where they diagnosed her with ‘the beginning stages’ of appendicitis, gave her some pills, and sent her home with instructions to come back in a week. Tonight her pain was bad enough that they decided to take her in to a different clinic for an ultrasound to see what really was happening. Matt drove her in, Jasmine and I came along, and Jon met us here. After poking around on poor Veasna’s stomach, the doctor said it was indeed appendicitis, and that tonight they need to give her antibiotics, and tomorrow they want to do surgery. So…I’m camping out at the clinic with her tonight. Jon is here too. Veasna couldn’t relax for a long time because of the pain, so for awhile we talked and tried to keep from saying anything too funny – laughing is very painful. She said several times, “I miss my big laughs!” Now she’s finally sleeping. Take that back. The nurse just dropped by to change the ever present IV…not so quietly either.

So, I guess now is as good a time as any to write. I’ve been meaning to ever since Christmas day but…I’ve learned that life in Cambodia can be just as busy as life in the US. A rather different sort of busy, but still busy enough that blog updates just get slapped somewhere on the ever-lengthening waiting list of ‘things to do’. One of my friends asked if I couldn’t post at least once a month, and I thought to myself, “Once a month? Of course! Maybe more like once a week.” Now I laugh. That won’t be happening without some better discipline on my part.

Christmas. Ah, what a delightful day that was, though very different from any Christmas I remember. A Khmer Christmas. (and just an interesting fact for you all…if you want to say Khmer like you’re supposed to, say “Kmi” with a long ‘I’ sound. Yeah, we said it wrong for awhile too. Now you know. =) Okay, pardon the random – it’s late. Back to Christmas. Matts’ and Veasna were over for the day. We had a very nontraditional Christmas lunch, then in the afternoon we played volleyball and Matt and Miriam had a ‘gift game’ planned for everyone who wasn’t married. Towards evening we piled on the back of the truck and headed for Anchor Wat, the ruins of a huge ancient temple. When we were almost to the temple, we noticed some monkeys beside the road. So we stopped, and Austin jumped out and held out his hand to one that was perched on a tree limb. To his surprise and our delight, it hopped right onto his shoulder. Then everyone wanted to get out and pet the monkeys. It was great fun watching the boys holding them, and the tiny baby monkeys ‘monkeying’ around on the ground, always right out of our reach. I was stooped down for a bit and suddenly I had one on my shoulder too, and that little stinker yanked off my veil. When it was almost dark the monkeys seemed to be tired of our attentions and left, so we drove around the temple, and then headed home for homemade ice cream. A delicious way to end Christmas day!

On the morning of New Year’s Eve (if that makes any sense), the men and boys along with Sen, Mum, Naomi, Frank, Chum, and myself set out for a village about two and one half hours away. The men were going to paint a well they had drilled and look around the village for more places to drill, and Mum and I just wanted to go along ‘for the ride’. And quite a ride it was. The scenery changed dramatically from the time we left Siem Reap to the time we arrived in the village. From flat fields dotted with palm trees, to hilly country with thicker trees, to the edge of a mountain range. And the houses – if you can call them houses, that is – all along the highway. Time and again I’d see the next ramshackle shed in the distance and think, “Surely no one lives in that one!” But we’d drive past, and sure enough, I’d see someone sitting inside, or clothes hung around the shelter, or ladies squatting around a cooking fire. Our dumpy house at home looked like a mansion in comparison. And then we were turning down a road lined with thick looking forest. Around the rickety bridge we drove, and out into the wide open prairie like fields. Finally, Frank pulled the truck up to a thatch house on stilts and stopped. We had arrived. We crawled out of the truck to meet the eager people. After examining the nearby well that had been drilled by Ken and Jon Gingerich before they went home, we climbed up into the hut for a yummy lunch of chicken and rice. Forrest was fascinated with how you could look down through the cracks in the wooden floor at the hens and tiny baby chicks that lived under the house. And then he discovered the joy of dropping rice through those cracks for the benefit of the eager chickens. I don’t think much rice landed in his tummy that meal.

After dinner was over, someone requested that we pray for a man who had recently been losing his hearing. So the men gathered around him, and lifted him to the Lord in prayer. The men went walking around then, while the ladies gathered around the truck to examine Naomi and Forrest. They were enthralled with his ‘white’ skin, and rubbed whatever skin they could get their hands on, picking his shirt up to peek at his tummy if they could. Forrest, however, was NOT impressed, and I couldn’t really blame him for disliking all the touching.

Clicking on the pictures will take you to a slideshow of the full size images, jfyi.

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After a long, dusty ride home, we quickly got ready for the Christmas program the school children had been practicing. Sen, Mum, and Naomi came over for it, and we also had some other very special guests…Granddad and Grandmom! Only all we could see of them was their faces on the Skype screen. Granddad made me laugh…he would make all kinds of faces, and ‘lead’ the singing. We loved ‘having you here’, Granddads! The children did a wonderful job, giggling fits and all. Jasmine did a great job preparing it. After the program we had a little snack and played Confusion for awhile, and then went up to the balcony to watch fireworks people were setting off all over town. And in a split second we were in 2014. It’s so hard to believe that another year has flown by. I never dreamed at the beginning of last year that we’d be in Cambodia. God just has a way of writing truly unique stories in our lives. And the more I walk through life, the more I realize that leaving the pen in His hand is best, no matter how differently He scripts it from what I think should come next.

_MG_8513The next morning we had our first Khmer class! Finally starting the journey to communication with the people of Cambodia. Sen is our teacher, and his wife Mum, who helps mom with cleaning and laundry in the morning, will often stick a helpful word in as she goes about her duties. We started out with Dad, Mom, Ryan, Luke, Austin and I all in the same class. That was almost too many people to be effective in making sure we were all getting the pronunciation correct, so Ryan and Luke have dropped out and Frank and Chum go over the lessons with them during lunch break in the villages. And how’s the language coming? Well…it’s coming. Let’s just say that speed bumps most certainly aren’t necessary. After class that first morning I was nearly in tears at the seeming impossibility of learning it, but with God’s help it’s been going better. I think it’s easier for us children to pick up than for mom and dad. It’s been a long time since they were in school, and I guess brains just lose some of their learning skills after a long time without using the learning function. But it’s a challenge for all of us! It’s almost like we have to stop thinking in English letters and sounds, because if you try to say the word with only sounds that English has, it just won’t come out right. Finally, though, the language sounds a bit more like a language than a bunch of nonsensical hibberglibberish.

This morning Sen was laughing at me because of how when I’m trying to say a new word, I stretch my mouth this way and that. =) I’ve learned to watch their mouths while they speak to try to ‘see’ the way to say it, and I guess all the funny expressions are worth it when I hear “You speak Khmer clear”! It’s so exciting to be listening to a Khmer conversation, and be able to pick out a word here and there. And sometimes during the day some strange word will start bouncing around in my head. Then, “Oh yeah! That’s the word I was trying to memorize…I guess I got it now!” Dad does a great job of trying out his new words…he has a little tablet he keeps in his shirt pocket, and when he learns a word he wants to remember he jots it down. Then when he’s trying to say something in Khmer, out comes his little tablet! He learned how to say that he wants to buy eggs, and one day he headed to the market with this new found knowledge just waiting to be used. When he told the lady he wanted to buy eggs, she just looked at him sort of funny. He was a little disappointed she didn’t understand him, but he keeps trying, as do we all. If you think about it, pray for us as we keep learning.

Last week we got some company from the states! First Jon Gingerich came in on Wednesday. Our family came to Cambodia to take Jon’s family’s place (Larry and Eva Gingerich), and this is the first time he’s been back since they went home last summer. Friday evening two of the ALAM board members, Delbert Kline and James Mullet, arrived, and late that night Ken Gingerich, Wes Miller, and Ronnie Kuhns bussed in from Phnom Phen. Oh what fun to see the treasures people brought from home for us. Lots of cheese, chocolate, Christmas mail, candy…thank you so much to all who sent something for us.

At first the house was pretty full with six extra men around, and for the first night I escaped to Jasmine’s. The younger guys all moved over to Frank’s house the next day, but they’ve still been having breakfast with us every morning. We are still enjoying James’ and Bert’s stay with us. They have even done dishes on several occasions. That racked them up a few points pretty fast in my book. =) The time change has been a little hard on them though, and we’ve caught them dozing off more than once. How well I remember the exhaustion during the first week here. So, if you come see us, make your visit plenty long so you have enough time to really enjoy Cambodia! =)

Remember Maly, the lady that recently became a Christian? Well, Sunday evening she and her husband came over. Her husband has been under conviction, and he finally chose to follow Jesus. What rejoicing there must have been going on in heaven that evening! After he and the men had prayed together, it was so special to gather around their little family with everyone and commit them to our Father in heaven.

Wednesday evening was another exciting time as we got together for the first council meeting here in Cambodia. The board is here to officially start the church here. We still aren’t sure what to name it. We want it to translate smoothly into Khmer, so our options are narrowed down a bit. Sunday we are planning on having communion, and we were also very excited about having Veasna’s baptism. Now with her in the hospital I don’t know how that will all work out, as they expect her to be in until Monday at the very least. (I didn’t get this all finished in the hospital…it is now Saturday afternoon.) I don’t think there was anyone more excited about her baptism than Veasna herself, though, so pray for her healing.

I think that about wraps up the big events in our lives. Oh yes, our family has grown by eight feet. Four feet are webbed, and four are puppy paws. Forrest would see the ducklings and chicks in the villages, and say how he just wants a duck, or a chick. So one day Frank gave him two ducklings. The next morning he was out to see “Ducky Wucky”, and came back in looking rather glum. Mom asked him what was the matter. “My duckys aren’t doing anything,” he replied. “Well, what do you want them to do?” “I guess play tag…I think they miss their friends.” Then the other day Chum and Dallas came home with a tiny puppy. Forrest claimed it, and it does a much better job of playing tag than the ducks. You can often find him outside holding it. I think one of the visiting guys helped him name the puppy. I still don’t know if its name is supposed to be ‘Brudah’ (‘brother’ in Dutch) or ‘Bruno’, because Forrest has dubbed it ‘Brudo’. Brudo is much loved by all the children. Alaina loves him! Last night I was helping her hold Brudo. She’d pat him and let out the darlingest little giggles. Before I knew it, she’d stuck his ear into her mouth. Yuck. She didn’t seem to think it was too bad though, because as soon as I let her touch him again, she was back for another bite!

Wow. This is way too long. I’ll skip the tales of fresh dog for lunch, snake adventures, delightful campfires with friends, village Sunday school, and moto accidents for now. You can look at the pictures and make up a story to go with them. =)

Blessings until next time…

-loridawn

Simple Life

Hi again! I guess most of you are in the full swing of the normal Christmas hustle and bustle. In some ways I miss the fun things that happen at home at Christmas time, but in most ways I’m enjoying the simple pleasures of life here. The sunsets…the double rainbow we saw one day…the kind people here, and the way they accept us. Yesterday I was combing Carissa’s hair and Forrest was eating his cereal right next to us. “I like your hair,” he told Carissa. And a bit later, “You look pretty!” This coming from a little guy who’s ‘too big’ for hugs and kisses now, loves lizards, and hates baths (till he crawls in the tub – then he remembers baths are fun). The little gentleman shining through warmed my heart. Yes, simple things like those are some of the biggest things in life.

Monday, the 16th, was the children’s first day of school here in Cambodia. We are blessed to have Jasmine Nelson from Canada here to teach the children. That was a relief to me…I enjoy teaching, but when I’m teaching my own siblings things get a little more complicated. I am teaching science and history here at home since we aren’t using CLE’s curriculum and it would have made a full schedule for Jasmine.

School starts at eight in the morning and ends at noon. It’s been awhile since they were ready for school with that much time to spare…I think they were just a little excited. They were also excited about the schedule – Matt picks them up a little before 8 in the morning and brings them home at noon. It’s a much shorter day than they’re used to, but with fewer students things take less time. I went with them the first morning just to make sure everything was working out for Jasmine with their books. No worries there. =) Austin had the option of going to school with the rest or just working at home…he went along on Monday to get started again, but decided he’d rather just work at home. He’s been doing well at getting his things done.

Ryan and Luke have been going out to villages to drill wells with Frank and Chum, and thoroughly enjoying themselves. They come home with tales of pranks that were played, VERY fresh chicken (in other words, they saw it running around a few hours ago), and never-ending piles of rice (we’ll give credit for that to Frank). I’m just a tad jealous…they get so much more interaction with the people, and are picking up lots of Khmer words. But I know I’ll find my niche too.

Chum and Frank…Frank was chasing the children with the rooster.

Monday afternoon around 1:30 Matt & Miriam, Dad & Mom, Jasmine, and all the younger children loaded up on the Five Star and headed out to the village school where Matt & Miriam teach English every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. That left Austin and I at home to finish school work and fix supper. Later I dragged Austin up to the top balcony with me with the intent of taking some pictures of the surrounding scenery. We ventured out on the wide concrete ledge that goes all the way around the roof for a better photographic viewpoint, and ended up making ourselves comfortable. We just sat there watching people go by on the road. Most people didn’t notice us since we were so high up, but every once in a while someone would spy those silly foreigners on the roof. It was great fun seeing their reactions, as well as our siblings reactions when they came home and saw us up there.

Random shots around the house, and surrounding scenery…(just for your information – clicking on any picture will let you see it in a larger format.)

Forrest woke up in the wee hours of Tuesday morning and needed something downstairs. So I got up and started down. It was so cool I wondered if someone had their AC on high with the door open. But no, the next morning when we woke up, it was still amazingly cool. Ah! It was lovely! Matt said it feels like it could snow, and showed up with a jacket on. I thought it felt perfect! Miriam says this is God’s gift to us before it gets hot, and I agree. The whole last week was unusually cool…I didn’t even use my AC until last night. Now today we feel the familiar heat coming back, but it’s still nice. Thank You God, for simple pleasures.

Wednesday marked two weeks since we arrived. In some ways it seems like we just got here, and in other ways it seems like we’ve just always been here. In the afternoon some of us went again with Matt & Miriam to the village where they teach English. I got to go this time, to my delight. I thoroughly enjoyed watching Miriam teach the rambunctious rows of uniformed boys and girls. The cutest little guy, definitely too young for school, was wandering around outside the classroom, and I motioned for him to come sit beside me. _MG_8085He eventually obliged, shyly at first, and together we listened to the students chanting the English words for the pictures on the flashcards. “Ont (ant), olligator, veeoleen (violin).” The little boy (whose name I simply couldn’t catch) followed me around for quite awhile, and later found dad. They were best friends! It was so sweet watching Dad and him interacting…Dad was watching the energetic football (soccer) game, and the boy just stayed right there with him. After awhile Dad swung him up in the air, and what screams of delight! And then over and over again. I had my camera along, and what fun it was to take pictures of the adorable children, then show them themselves. They would giggle uproariously, then pose for another. The one downside of the day for me…I WANT TO TALK TO THE KIDS! But I just can’t. It’s so frustrating. All I can do is smile at them and pat their little heads. Pray for all of us that the language would come easily and quickly.

Wednesday also marked the birth date of a special young man. To celebrate Austin turning fifteen, our family along with Frank, his wife ‘February’, and Chum had supper at a pizza place in town. Dad told the waiter it was Austin’s birthday, and the waiter asked “Can I sing for him?” Sure! Along with our pizza came a crowd of waiters and waitresses, bringing balloons and a pizza with candles in the middle. They sang “Happy Birthday” Khmer style, and a slightly embarrassed Austin blew out the candles. We devoured the pizza, and then Frank drove us around town so we could see the night market and the Christmas lights.

Saturday we, along with Matt’s and some natives, piled on the back of the truck and headed for the village where Maly lives. Maly is a lady that became a Christian in the past year, and is attending church here. She is going to try to rent out her house in the village, and wanted us to come pray in the house. After walking around in the village a bit and trying some starfruit growing in a tree, we gathered in the living room of Maly’s house. We sat in a circle on the floor and sang some songs, then Maly read Psalm 1 aloud. Matt explained how when we become Christians, God can help us to prosper both spiritually and materially, like the tree planted by the rivers of water. Then we prayed together for God’s will to be done in renting Maly’s house.

On the way home we stopped by a moat around an ancient temple to see the big fish that live in there. I couldn’t see any fish because the light wasn’t right, but looking down the path I saw some movement. Were those cats? No…hmm. Oh, they’re monkeys! We walked down, and sure enough – a family of three monkeys was hanging out in a tree. They weren’t too excited about visitors, but we sure enjoyed watching them for a little. It was dark by the time we got home, and everyone was quite hungry. Unfortunately, Mom hadn’t had time to plan anything for supper, and sadly our traditional Saturday evening pizza is a little hard to come by here in Cambodia. Finally we decided to have breakfast. The pancakes were delicious! =)

Church Sunday morning was much the same as last week’s service. Everyone came to our house around 9, and we sang for a while. This Sunday I enjoyed singing some Christmas songs – the Khmer people sing in Khmer, and we sing in English, all at the same time. =) But we’re all singing to the same God, and that’s what counts. Then Dad had Sunday school for the adults, with Sen interpreting, and I had a story for the children, with Veasna for my interpreter, followed by a message by Matt. For dinner we had yummy Mexican fajitas brought by Miriam…she’s from Mexico, so she knows how to do it right! =) It was a lovely day, so after lunch we all went outside and some sat on the porch and chatted while the more ambitious ones knocked the volleyball around. And then it was nap time! =)

That evening we all piled on back of the truck again and headed for a Christmas party in another village. Sokum, the Pastor there, had invited us all. The setting was so unique. We were sitting under jungle-like trees, surrounded by little huts. They had everything fixed up nicely – covers over all the plastic chairs, tablecloths on little rounds tables, colorful balloons strung up between the trees, and Christmas lights and a sound system set up in front. The program soon started. There were songs sung by various people, several children’s programs, a message from Sokum, and gifts. The nativity story reenacted by the children was so cute! When the program was (finally) over, everyone sat around the tables and we were served some delicious Khmer food – rice and some sort of soup. Altogether, it was a delightful evening. Sadly, I didn’t take my camera, so no pictures this time.

_MG_8216For some reason it’s so hard to feel like it’s almost Christmas, so yesterday morning I decided to do something about it. Baking was on my agenda most the day. By the time I was done, I was quite tired and didn’t feel Christmasy at all, but the kitchen smelled and looked more like it…cookies, anyone?? =) One thing I have been thinking about a lot the last several days is how incredibly blessed I am to even know WHY we celebrate Christmas. As I walk around in town and see all the lights and hear people saying “Happy Merry Christmas”, it makes me sad to think that many of them have never heard the true reason for Christmas. To them it’s just a holiday…Miriam told me the other day that they say “happy merry Christmas” because they think “Merry Christmas” is the holiday. But it’s so, so much more. It’s the greatest love that ever was and ever will be come down to earth for me, and you, and each of these people. Thank you Jesus.

And today….today is Christmas Eve. Well, I guess this evening is Christmas Eve. It’s been a full, fun day. This morning Sen and Mum were here helping with the cleaning, and Maly came later to help cook. (This is something that mom is having to get used to! But I think once we get started on language classes and I start teaching English it will be really nice nice for her to have some help.) For Christmas this year we decided that each person would buy something for the next person down the line from them….like I get Ryan something, Ryan gets Luke something, Luke gets Austin something, etc. So after breakfast Mom & Dad and the first set of kids set out for town. (The tuk-tuk only holds half of us). I had fun staying here and ‘helping’ Maly cook Khmer food for dinner, and working on writing this. Once they came home dinner was ready. Boy oh boy – that’s some good stuff! Lok lak, that is. We had it for our first meal at Matts, and it left an impression on us all. And it met our expectations this time too.

Just an interesting fact for you to enjoy…since we came here our family’s rice consumption per meal has nearly tripled. We used fix one and one half cups of dry rice per meal, and usually still have some left over. Now we fix at least four cups! =)

IMG_0838After dinner, Ryan, Austin, Heather, Forrest and I hopped on the tuk-tuk and headed for Lucky Mall, and then to the old market. And then back to Lucky Mall. =) Silly to include this I know, but it both tickled my funny bone and made me happy to find some water bottles in the Lucky Mall bookstore with ‘Canada’ written on them…and this is Cambodia. I still think about my dear friends in Canada a lot. *sniff.* Tonight we’re planning on just having some good family time, then tomorrow Matt’s family is all coming over. I think we may go to the temples in the evening. I guess I’ll tell you about that later though. For now I think I’ll go have Christmas with my family. Always remember… “Christmas isn’t Christmas, til it happens in your heart.” Merry Christmas!

-loridawn

Endings and Beginnings

My last post left us sleeping in Newark Liberty Airport early Tuesday morning. Thankfully we didn’t stay there. Soon after I stopped writing Dad said we should head for our gate. We still had two hours, so I thought it was plenty early, but it was good we went as soon as we did. We hardly made it to our gate, because we had to go through security again. A 6+ hour flight to brought us to San Francisco. I won’t go into detail but our 2 hours there were hectic. Missed luggage, multiple security checks, and the wrong concourse had us behind schedule. We finally got to the overflowing boarding area at the right gate with minutes to spare…a very helpful crew got us on board after everyone else was already seated. Way to the back of the huge jet shuffled our tribe. It wasn’t long before we were settled in for our 12+ hour flight to Seoul, Korea. It’s strange seeing US soil vanishing from sight for the last time for a very long time.

I didn't think about taking a picture until I had already eaten half of it.

I didn’t think about taking a picture until I had already eaten half of it.

That was the longest, but definitely the most comfortable flight I’ve ever been on. Asiana Airlines puts United to shame. Nice cushy seats, slippers, blankets, and pillows for everyone, free entertainment, multiple snacks…just a little into our flight, the stewardesses handed out hot, damp washcloths to freshen ourselves with, and soon served the first of two full course meals. Steak was on the menu for the first meal, Parmesan Crusted Chicken on the next. We barely made our flight in Seoul either after going through the long security line AGAIN. The flight from Seoul to Siem Reap was almost 7 hours long. Thankfully I was exhausted enough that I could sleep for most of the time. We arrived in Siem Reap Wednesday evening around 11 I think.

I can’t describe the feeling I had knowing that our journey was coming to an end, that we were in Cambodia. As the plane taxied down the runway…catching my first glimpse of Cambodia, walking down the steps to put our feet on Cambodian ground for the first time, breathing the warm sticky air and the peculiar smells…wow. I just can’t put my thoughts and feelings into words. And knowing that an even bigger journey was awaiting us…it seemed surreal, and still does in fact. We piled ourselves into the visa line inside the airport. Almost immediately one of the uniformed ladies seated behind the long, high desk spied Alaina. With a delighted grin she came around to her and asked if she could hold her. Alaina was surprisingly okay with her, and the lady went back around and showed off her find to the other ladies. They cuddled, ohhed, and ahhed over her until we were done with our paperwork.

The tuk-tuk...one mode of transportation.

The tuk-tuk…one mode of transportation.

And then it was on to claim our piles of checked in luggage…and then to meet these people we’ve been hearing about and communicating with for so long. Matt and Miriam Schmidt and their four girls, the schoolteacher Jasmine, and Sen, Frank, Chum, and Veasna were all waiting for us at the airport entrance. It was a bit strange at first, but when we piled ourselves into the various modes of transportation and started on the ride for ‘home’, things lightened up a bit.

The Five Star...because it's just that comfy. (not!)

The “Five Star”…because it’s just that comfy. (not!)

I was amazed at the girls wrapped in jackets exclaiming over how cool (one little lady went so far as to call it “freezing”) it was this evening. “What have I gotten myself into? If this is cool…” Our very bumpy ride wasn’t too long. We slowed down and bit and I peered into the semi-darkness and spied it…our house. I recognized it from the pictures, but it was so much different driving up to it in person, knowing that this was where we were going to live for the next several years. Someone opened the big iron gate, the “Five Star” pulled up to the front steps, and we tumbled out. The boys immediately started unloading our belongings. Forrest and I stood on the porch with the others for awhile. The first thing I noticed was the tiny geckos residing on the orange walls. How cute! Forrest was enthralled with the little fish pool right off the porch.

And then we went on the grand tour of our new home. And it’s big! Pretty much mansion sized compared to the dear little house we left 48 hours ago. One favorite place was immediately the big balcony/patio on top of the roof. A perfect spot to go relax or do laundry, and the orchids hanging from the roof are stunning._MG_8040 _MG_8036

The patio on the roof already in use, and one of the lovely orchids.

After a bit more chit-chat, Matt’s family and the rest left us to straighten out the luggage and go to bed sometime. We worked on settling in for a while, waited for the AC to kick in and the water to get hot enough for a shower. Wow. That shower was wonderful. And the bed even better.

Cambodia…Day One

Most of us were up around six this morning, not used to the new time. Frank and Chum were around talking with the boys. At twelve, we went to Matt and Miriam’s house for lunch. The loklak with morning glory prepared by Maly was absolutely delicious. I remember Matthews and Larrys (who were here before us) telling us about loklak, and now I know why they liked it so much! After lunch the girls had fun getting to know Matt’s younger girls better. Anisha is 8 and Deanna is 7, so Carissa has two little ladies just her age. Jenna is just a month younger than Forrest, and they have become fast friends.

IMG_0798Carissa, Anisha, Deanna, and Heather

IMG_0797Jenna and Forrest

After a while, most of us loaded up on the Five Star and tuk-tuk and headed for town. Our first stop was the Old Market. Quite the experience! Colors – colors everywhere, with eager vendors reaching out beseeching you to buy something from them. Scarves, skirts, bracelets, blankets, purses, rugs, hats, cosmetics, shoes…you name it. Forrest was with me and attracted lots of attention. He heard “Hi, boy!” over and over. He wasn’t too sure what to think. In the center of the market is the food section – piles of fresh veggies and fruit, as well as all sorts of ‘fresh’ poultry and seafood. Forrest did know what to think about that. “It STINKS in here!” And whenever we started going towards the center again, he’d drag his feet and say, “Let’s not go in there!” And I agree…the combination of smells is rather nauseating.

Next we went to the Lucky Mall, which they tell me is the closest thing to Walmart in Siem Reap. We had some other various stops to make as well. At one stop, most of us stayed out in the Five Star while Miriam went in to make some purchases. An old man, definitely not Khmer, maybe Afghan, walked up and started talking with Matt. He said he likes Mennonites and has seen them in several places. One place he told about that he had seen Mennonites was in Costa Rica. And the place and people he described sounded just like Dad’s cousin Pablo. We don’t know for sure, but it proved to me again what a small world we really live in. =)

It wasn’t very late when we got home, but we were all absolutely exhausted. Mom said she almost fell over she was so tired. Miriam sent sandwiches over for supper, and soon after that we all tumbled into bed.

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That pretty much sums it up right there…

Day 2 & 3

We basically spent these days getting settled in, sweating, and getting to know people. Thursday evening, we found out that Pastor Sen’s mother-in-law had passed away. Sen’s wife, Mum, was with her when she died. Sen, Matt, Miriam, and Jenna left several hours after they found out about the death, because the funeral was the next day, and it was a twelve hour bus ride to get there. Matts’ leaving left the girls at home alone, so they spent the next two nights at our house.

 _MG_7962   _MG_7961

Dallas and Austin spying on the people fishing in the ‘pond’ across the road.

The boys spent time getting to know Frank and Chum. They are two Khmer men that having been helping ALAM with the well drilling projects, so the boys will be working closely with them. Frank and Chum helped the boys cut down sugar cane in our yard, and the children loved eating it. They also took Dad and me to town to stock up on groceries for Mom.

_MG_7955

“Let’s try this sugar cane nonsense…”

_MG_7956

“Oh.My.Goodness.”

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_MG_7953

Day 4 – Our first Sunday in Cambodia

IMG_0807Matt and Miriam came back from the funeral late Saturday night, and Sunday morning they came over a little early to help us set up for church in our living room. Frank and his wife came for the service, as well as several other native women and children. Since Pastor Sen was still with his wife’s relatives, Veasna, a young Christian girl who spends lots of time with Matt’s family, was the interpreter for Sunday school and the message. Listening to her rattle off in Khmer, I had to wonder how I will ever learn the language. It is so entirely different from English, and sounds very difficult.

After the service we all had lunch together. In the evening, Matts’ family along with Jasmine, the school teacher, and Veasna, came over for a time of singing and fellowship. While singing, something on the wall caught my attention. It was a very large gecko – at LEAST thirty-six inches long! Okay, that was an exaggeration…probably more like eight inches. But he’s still pretty big, and Miriam informed us that he lives behind our bookshelf. Oh joy. “But you want them in your house…they eat insects.” Oh. Hmm. I’ll have to think on that one a bit.

That evening when it was time for bed, Carissa came up to my bedroom and wondered if she couldn’t sleep with me tonight. “Why don’t you just sleep in your bed?” “I’m scared the gecko is going to come into our bedroom!” Forrest was scared of geckos too suddenly, and thus scared to go to sleep. But they soon got settled down after some assuring (although I wasn’t too sure myself) that the geckos wouldn’t bother us. And Jesus is with us in Cambodia just like He was at home, and he’ll protect us from lizards.

Well, I think I’ll bring this post to a close. I’ve been working on it since Sunday and it’s just getting longer and longer, because I have more and more days to cover. So more later…

Lea Heuy for now! (‘lee-hi’…’goodbye’ in Khmer)

The Journey…

I wrote this post during our layover in Newark. It was a couple days ago now and we have arrived, but this is the first time I had both time to post and internet connection. I’ll try to write another update soon on how it’s going here.

NOTICE: Before I get more interesting happenings covered though, let me make a correction to our prayer card…somehow in writing down dad’s email address, I got two different accounts mixed up. So, his email address is NOT 11helmuths@icloud.net. The real one is 11helmuths@gmail.com . And we’d all love hearing from you! =) Okay…on to more.

                                                                                                                                               

Joy. Exhaustion. Deep sadness. Anticipation. Painful goodbyes and heavy hearts. Unchecked tears. All these we have experienced these last few weeks, today particularly. Well ‘today’ was yesterday. It’s all running together in a great big blur.

It’s a strange feeling, not having a place to call home. They say ‘Home is where the heart is’ and I guess I’d have to say my heart is still at home. But then, where IS home? Our now empty house is nearly ready for the next occupants, and my green room looks more like a cold, deserted cave than the inviting haven it was just a few days ago. And I don’t know much at all about where we’re going.

We are biding our time at the Newark Liberty Airport.  Dear Forrest came to me a bit ago and asked, “When are we gonna go home?” “Remember though Forrest, we’re not going back home for a long time? Now we’re going to Cambodia, and that’s going to be our home.” “I don’t like Cambodia,” he said, a sad frown on his tired face. Poor child. I must say I know how he feels. Right now I feel like I wish I had never before heard of a place on the other side of the world called Cambodia, that I was safely curled up in my own bed at home. But I know that God has a plan for us, for me, in Cambodia, dark and unknown as it may seem at the moment.

A sign that caught my attention at the airport a little before we left.

A sign that caught my attention at the airport a little before we left.

Sunday was filled with packing, last minute preparations, and many goodbyes. Our departure goal of 5:30 am was stealthily creeping up, and we simply weren’t ready yet. When the last dear friends had left around 10:30, the job of getting truly ready before 5:30 looked absolutely undoable. We raced around shoving things in random half-filled boxes (at least I did – maybe we shouldn’t tell mom about that), stuffing carry-ons, and trying to bring some law and order to our chaotic house. I have been pretty much ignoring my phone notifications the last several weeks. The messages of encouragement you sent meant the world, but there simply wasn’t time to reply to them all, much less keep up with my email or Facebook. But Sunday night I took a breather and checked my notifications. I have new emails. Hmm. “Important Flight Information – Confirmation D7NXPP” from United Airlines, Inc…Hmm?? Probably one of their advertisements trying to make me worried… “One or more of your flights has been affected by a delay or cancellation.” What? And there it was…the real itinerary for a real trip. “Better check this one out, Lori.” So I logged in to my United account, and sure enough, there it was. “Your flight has been cancelled.”

Now you may not think it’s so amazing to find an email about a cancelled flight, but here’s why I do. Weeks ago when Dad was trying to set up MileagePlus accounts for all of us, he remembered that I already had an account from my prior globe-trottings, and asked me for my account number to give to our agent. I knew I only had a minuscule amount of points, and have always had trouble remembering my account number, as well as trouble finding it even with all the helpful “Lost your password?” links. So I felt like it would save time and effort to just create a new account. Laziness, really. But he persisted. I spent some time trying to find it one evening with dad looking over my shoulder. See, Dad? It really is hard to find. NOW will you just make a new account? Hmm. The next day, I think, he called me from work. “Why don’t you just call United and ask them to help you? I need to give the number to Davy soon.” Grr. I greatly dislike calling people I don’t know. I’ll try online one more time. And I found the number! Cool. Dad’s happy, I’ll be happy…The real point is, if I would have had a new account started, I wouldn’t have had my account set to email me updates, and I never would have seen the cancellation. We would have worked madly all night until it was time to go, and still not have been done, not to mention being bone-weary. We, and our friends coming with us to the airport, would have gotten up ever so early and driven to the airport, only to see “CANCELLED” on the board.

I think it’s amazing. Weeks ago, God had that all planned out. “Allen, you NEED to get Lori’s old number. No! Not a new one. Her OLD one. Yup. That one. I have this covered. Trust me.” Little light bulb moments like that make me wonder why I can’t trust Him more fully. And we still worked until about two, but oh joy! We slept that night – simply wonderful considering what could have been!

So Monday morning we found out that our new flight was scheduled to leave at 5:39 pm. There was still lots of work to do so we worked feverishly to get things done before two. We finally left at 2:30 after a delayed email from our agent with the needed information check-in information. Hauled the piles of luggage into the buzzing airport, and dad got in the very long check-in line. Did I mention the long line? He ended up creeping along for about 2 ½ hours before they finally started the check-in process. Another little miracle there – Dad had been carefully weighing every box to keep them all under the maximum 50 pounds. The scales he used must have been lacking in the accuracy department, because most of the boxes were coming up to 51 pounds, give or take. But the man at the desk let them all go through without the overweight fee, which would not have been small. Granddads, Charles’ family, our ‘adopted sibling’ neighbors, and Rogers’ were there with us for most of the time, which helped the time go faster.

Forrest and Gale spending some quality time together...

Forrest and Gale spending some quality time together…

Ah...I miss you already Cassandra dear.

Ah…I miss you already Cassandra dear.

Dallas and Tommy have been constant companions the last several years...I'm not sure how they're going to operate without eachother around to tease.

Dallas and Tommy have been constant companions the last several years…I’m not sure how they’re going to operate without eachother around to tease.

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Waiting…

More waiting...

More waiting…

One last picture with these dear friends...

One last picture with these dear friends…photo credits to Gale.

Photo credits to Gale..

Photo credits to Gale again…

After being delayed two more times while we were waiting, our flight finally settled on an 8 o’clock departure…And the time came. Oh the painful goodbyes. My heart broke to see little Carissa and Karla hugging each other and crying, to feel dear Alyssa’s sobs, to hug Granddad and Grandmom one last time. The dam that’s been keeping me sane the last weeks broke, and tears flowed all around. But finally we had to go, and piled our tribe through security.I must say going through security with 11 people and 22 bags is a threat to my sanity. Our plane finally left a little after 8. Goodbye South Carolina. We love you and all your beautiful people!

Excited and just a tiny bit scared...

Excited and just a tiny bit scared…

Forrest was sitting with me on the plane…at first he was so excited! It was so much fun to watch his wonderment. Then when we actually started moving, he suddenly turned to me and said, “Lori, I think I’m scared!” =) A nice 2 hour flight brought us to Newark Liberty Airport in New Jersey sometime after nine. Our delays made us miss the San Francisco flight for tonight, so we’re stuck here until 6:50 am. I don’t like this airport. It’s different from any I’ve ever been to, and it’s deserted other than the uncomfortable number of bums, who seem to frequent the airport looking for a meal handout or a warm place to sleep. We found a Subway, and Forrest made fast friends with the cute old foreign man running the place, after Forrest asked me what that man’s name is. I told the man what he asked, and he told us his name was “Gus.” I guess it made him feel good that a little guy like Forrest took notice of him, cause he grinned and promptly pulled out a cookie for one delighted little boy. Later one of the boys was getting something else, and he pulled a juice box out of the fridge and said, “Give dis to my leetle friend over there.” Forrest was smitten. When we tried to stop him from wandering around, he said, “I’m just going to Gus!”

We found a corner in which to stick out the night, and it’s now 4 am. I haven’t slept a wink, but I’m feeling like I might be able to now no matter how uncomfortable my ‘bed’. The others sure have found ways to sleep._MG_7939

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You gotta do what you gotta do...

You gotta do what you gotta do…

Well…so long.