Crocs & Cobras

“Lori! Come downstairs and bring your camera!” I have plenty of little photo scouts in my family. Usually the prospective picture involves a sunset, an unusual flower, or a butterfly. Sometimes it’s Alaina looking adorable in one of her legendary messes.

This time, though, it was something different. Something I’m quite glad I don’t have the opportunity to photograph every day. When I got outside armed with my faithful Canon, I was greeted with a little crocodile – Frank’s new project. His powerful jaws were tied shut with an old rag, but the ferocious hisses he let out when people got too close was enough to make most of us keep our distance.

And then there was that thing in the rice bag. When the guys were out in the village to drill wells, someone had caught a cobra (no, I don’t know how they managed that), and Frank wanted to bring it home to show the rest of us. So into the rice bag went Mr. Cobra until the boys were done for the day. Now, the rest of the family gathered a safe distance from Frank and Ryan as they worked together, a bit nervously, to let the snake out of the bag. He came out warily and slowly. Ryan put the end of a long pole on the snake’s back so that I could take some pictures. Cobras really are beautiful in a creepy crawly sort of way, if you stop and take a look [from far away].

With the two ‘dangerous animals’ on our property, everyone was a little on edge. Quiet Mr. Croc O. Dile made for some hilarious moments. Several times while carefully backing away from the cobra, people almost stepped on him, and the resulting hisses were enough to stop your heart and send you running for your life. Once the phone in Sen’s pocket vibrated, and Sen nearly jumped out of his skin, because the snake ‘was about the get him’! I think Dad got video footage of some of those moments, so if you want a good laugh, come see us.

Finally, when I had enough pictures and the snake was tired of the attention, they killed the slithery serpent, and we all relaxed. The neighbors that had gathered to watch the action through our gate went home, one of them taking the cobra for supper! The crocodile now resides in a pool at Frank’s house – I think he’s fattening up for a feast.

The cobra made me think of once when I was a little girl…Ryan came running into the trailer to tell me and mom that “There’s a snake in the big tree, and he’s spitting poison!” Further investigation proved that there was indeed a snake in the tree. In fact, there were three 5 foot black snakes that had decided our big oak was the perfect home for them. No spitting cobras were to be found though. =) Little did we know that 15 years later we would be in a land where there really are snakes that spit poison. Thankfully most of the snakes seem to like to keep themselves hidden.

Exciting News…

A couple months ago, we were super excited when some dear friends of ours called and said their whole family had tickets to come see us in November! (And we still are excited, for that matter.) You should have heard the happy shouts when dad told us. Time for them to come is sneaking right up, and we can hardly wait for Charles’ to get here!

Some of you have asked for our mailing address here in Cambodia. We’d LOVE to get mail, but the fact of the matter is that the postal system here has much to be desired. Of all the envelopes that people have sent over, we’ve only gotten one so far. Packages are a bit less likely to get lost somewhere in the Pacific, but the postage costs are atrocious. So, usually when people ask for an address, I give it, but tell them that the best way to get something to us is to wait until someone is coming over here in person. And now, someone is! If anyone has Christmas cards for us this year, Charles’ address would be the place to send them. We’d love to hear from you! I checked with Donna about luggage space, and I think they should have plenty of room. =) If you want to send something, just ask me for their contact information and I’ll try to get it to you as soon as possible. They are leaving in the middle of November.

Well, it’s supper time here, so until next time…

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The Day My Brother Passed Away

No…don’t worry. We’re not heading home for another funeral. We are all quite alive and well. Now. Maybe it’s not nice to have a title like that, but you know in writing class they always tell you to use an attention grabbing title. Do I have yours? =)

Last Sunday after church and dinner were over, Sheila came running into the kitchen with her friend Sopea. She wanted a knife. She chose one and went running back outside, telling me over her shoulder that Sopea wanted to cut something. I went out to the porch where a little crowd was gathered. Austin was sitting on a chair, and Ryan was digging into a painful inflamed bump on Austin’s arm with his ever ready pocket knife, squeezing out little bits of pus. I asked what was going on and someone told me that Sopea wanted to get some banana leaf juice to put on some sores on Austin’s face. Oh. So that explained the knife. Sopea found the leaf she was after and headed back to the porch. Austin quickly rolled his sleeve down and told Ryan, “Don’t let her see that!”

Austin had some sores around his mouth. He said they were pimples, and when he popped them they got itchy. He would scratch them and then they would scab over, and then it would happen again. Sopea saw them and claimed it was from getting too hot, and that the banana leaf juice would help heal them. So here she came with her banana leaf. She whipped a tube of hot pink lipstick from her purse, put some on the oozing end of the banana leaf, and then dabbed that mixture on Austin’s sores. The hot pink splotches all around his mouth looked amusing, but he was a good sport about it.

Everyone soon left for home, and mom and dad headed out for the afternoon Bible study in the village. I was upstairs in my room for awhile, then went down to mom and dad’s room to get something. There was Austin checking his temperature. I felt his forehead and he was very hot. The thermometer read almost 104 degrees. Hmm. I looked at the bump on his arm again, and it was very hot and swollen and quite painful. Right away Staph infection came to my mind, and I grabbed the iPad and started ‘researching.’ The symptoms described in the articles I found sounded very much like Staph infection, and every place I read warned that if a fever accompanied a boil-like sore, the person should be treated with the proper antibiotics.

As soon as mom and dad got home, I told them what was going on, and after dad read the articles I had found, he took Austin down to the little pharmacy down the road. They were soon back with an antibiotic, painkillers, and a cream to put on the boil. I breathed an inward sigh of relief. Hopefully the antibiotics would do their job, and Austin would be fine.

Monday he was still laying around most of the day with a fever, and his arm was still swollen and painful. We all figured the antibiotics just hadn’t kicked in yet. Mom looked in her faithful “Be Your Own Doctor” book, and that night she applied the charcoal poultice it prescribed. The next morning we thought the arm might be a little better. The portion of his arm that the poultice had covered was less red. He still had a fever though, and Tuesday evening after supper I took another look at his arm. The angry red had returned, and the swelling was only spreading. I felt uneasy – shouldn’t the antibiotics have a good grip on this thing by now?

So I got the iPad, and once again read the what the internet had to say. By the time I was done rereading the numerous articles about staph infection and the effects it had if prolonged, I was worried. Words like “life-threatening”, “sepsis”, and “death” rattled around in my brain. I imagined life without my dear Austin, and soon I was near tears. I returned to the kitchen to finish sweeping the floor, and my voice trembled as I sang “How can I fear, Jesus is near, He ever watches over me. Worries all cease, He gives me peace…How can I fear with Jesus.” But I did fear. I told mom how I was feeling, and she thought maybe we should say something to dad. I went out on the porch where he was talking on the phone, and impatiently waited for him to hang up, praying that he would listen to my fears and act on them.

Finally he was finished and I told him how worried I was. “Couldn’t you call Dr. Sealy and ask him about it? We could email him pictures if that would help?.”

Dad thought a bit, and said, “He probably won’t answer, and my phone battery is almost dead, but I guess it doesn’t hurt to try.” He located the number, and dialed. Please God, help him answer, I prayed. And answer he did! Thank you! Dad described the symptoms to our doctor, and was soon off the phone. “He says he thinks that arm should be lanced as soon as possible. He doesn’t think we should wait ’til morning, so I guess I’ll run him in.” After calling Matt about which hospital we should go to, Dad, Austin, and I headed to the Royal Angkor International Hospital.


This was when we went back the next day to get the incision cleaned, and his arm looked much better.

I was immediately impressed with the hospital. It was much bigger, cleaner, and more professional looking than many of the little clinics around town, and the staff were very helpful. They got Austin registered and we were ushered right back to the little emergency care section. Several nurses and a doctor came over right away, and took a look at Austin’s arm and checked his temperature. Dad showed the doctor the meds the pharmacist had given, and he just shook his head. The doctor definitely agreed that the sore needed to be cut open, and took us right to an empty room where he started his preparations. I was disappointed when after cleaning the arm in preparation for the cut, the nurse told us that only one person could be in the room with Austin. The main reason I came along was because I wanted to watch. Dad tried to convince them that two people would be fine, but they stuck to their guns and I had to wait out in the lobby. It wasn’t too long before Dad and Austin came walking out, Austin’s arm wrapped up in gauze. He was looking fine, and said it didn’t hurt too bad.

We went over to the desk to pay and get the new medications. Austin and I were talking about the procedure while dad was paying. I turned for just a bit to read a sign behind me, when I heard a ‘plop’. I turned around, and there was Austin laying on the floor! Dad and I rushed over to him. “Austin! Are you okay?” He sheepishly raised his head a bit, and said, “Man, that felt weird!” His pupils were dilated and he was all sweaty. He said he just felt dizzy, and suddenly there he was on the floor. He doesn’t remember falling – only hearing a ‘plop’. Apparently watching the doctor work on his arm made him woozy, the same as it does for Ryan and Dad. Dad went back to finish paying, and I sat with Austin on the floor for a bit so he could get his bearings straight again.

Down the hall I saw a man walk in the door. He walked toward us and just stared. I thought he must have had some relative in the hospital, and was just very curious, but he came up to us and said he was a doctor, and “What happened?” “He passed out for a bit after he watched the doctor work on his arm,” I explained. “Well, here, let’s get him to a room and check him out!” he said. Austin was reluctant to go, and dad assured the doctor he would be fine, but the doctor insisted, and gently helped Austin to a room. I followed them in and heard the doctor tell the nurses that came to help, “He was laying out by the desk! He passed away!” He soon changed it to “passed out”, and I contained my giggles until the nurses got Austin laying down in bed to rest and left. Then I told dad and Austin what I had heard, and we laughed and laughed. Such are the joys of living in a country where English is a second language.

After Austin had rested for about fifteen minutes and the doctor was satisfied that he was fine, we went home to tell the rest of the family how Austin had “passed away”, and we all laughed some more. I haven’t seen mom’s funny bone tickled so hard in a long time. =)

We were all relieved that Austin had not “passed away” and that he was going to be fine, thankful for our wonderful doctor in the states, and ultimately thankful to our Heavenly Physician for the healing he was bringing.

And we were thankful again the next morning when Matt brought us the bent bike wheel from Dallas’s bike. That morning on the way to school Dallas had assumed the person on the moto behind him knew he was going to turn into Matts’, and had turned in front of him without signaling. The moto driver couldn’t stop in time, and slammed into Dallas’s bike wheel, sending both Dallas and the driver flying off. They were both unhurt minus a few scrapes. Had the moto struck the bike a split second later, it could have been much, much worse. Praise the Lord for safety…all of us who drive have had close calls, and it amazes me how God always takes care of us.

Well, the Saturday work is finally done, and it’s time for a good Saturday night rest. Have a wonderful weekend y’all!




Tiny Seeds, Big Plans

It’s interesting to see what our hearts start pining for when we’re so far away from the old normal. We all miss different things. Mom misses cream cheese and sudsy Palmolive dish soap. The boys wish for their guns and hunting season and the shop with its abundance of wood and tools. The younger children miss friends that speak their own language. We all miss having our friends nearby. I guess it’s a strange, unimportant thing to miss, but I miss the South Carolina summer wildflowers. It was so relaxing to walk out to the garden for a fresh bouquet of cosmos or zinnias, or to wander down the back roads gathering daisies, bachelor’s buttons, and Queen Anne’s lace on a summer evening. Here there just aren’t many wild flowers suitable for bouquets.

While we were in the states for Grandmom’s funeral, I picked up some seeds of the flowers I miss the most, and when we came back I could hardly wait to plant them. Finally I found a spare morning to carefully put them in the soft dirt. And then was the waiting to see if they would be happy with the sandy soil and pounding rain Cambodia has to offer. I prayed over those little seeds. Doesn’t God care about the smallest desires of our heart? Couldn’t He at least let a few of the seeds grow?

A few days ago I went out to check the ground for signs of life again, and there they were. Tiny green shoots. Not all the varieties have come up yet, but God definitely did let at least a few grow. I know it’s probably silly to be so excited about little green things sticking their heads out of the earth, but I can’t help but go out to my flower garden several times a day just to see if they grew anymore, or to make sure the torrents of rain didn’t drown them.

I’ve been thinking about the seeds I’m planting in the lives of people around me. The last while I’ve been feeling discouraged with what I’m doing here. Teaching English day after day – am I accomplishing anything more than just teaching English? Am I even accomplishing that? I struggle daily to come up with lesson plans, and feel so unequipped for this job. And I don’t want to just teach the children English – I want to plant seeds of God’s truth in their hearts, and yet I struggle to do that. How can I, when I can only hold the most basic conversations with them? I struggle with discontentment. Why did God bring me here when there are so many others that could do a better job?

And then the little green plants taught me a lesson. Well…I guess they are teaching me a lesson. I want to learn to be content and fulfilled right where God has planted me. Like those seeds, God brought me halfway around the world, to a place much different from where I usually ‘grow’. He brought those seeds life, and if I let Him, He will bring me life in this soil. He will equip me for wherever He takes me, and He has greater plans for me than I could ever dream up. Pray for us as we continue to try to bloom, and that we would have opportunities to share the seed of truth.

Okay, enough philosophizing. Pictures will tell the stories today instead of so many words.

Rain, Rain, & More Rain

Yes, we have entered rainy season. The landscape has taken on another look entirely. When we arrived in December, everything was dry and brown and dusty. When we came back after Grandmom’s funeral, the rain had transformed the country into a lush green. The rice fields are now flooded and thriving, and the once dusty roads are now rutted and muddy. The mud makes for interesting times on the motos!

One of the first times it really rained, we were all so excited. It was just pouring down like we hadn’t seen for a long time, and the yard was a developing lake. The younger ones of course thought it looked like perfect swimming. We all stood around and watched in amusement, and I think we were all thinking what fun it would be to be kids again. Then Dallas couldn’t help himself. Why not jump in? And then there went Austin…Frank had been sitting in the truck, (maybe trying to convince himself to behave like an adult) but suddenly he couldn’t help himself either, and he joined right in with the children. They had a grand time! It was a joy just to watch them, and to feel the cold mist blowing through the windows. After it stopped raining we drove into town, and the roads were flooded. Definitely not something we experience in SC very often.

One day I arrived at school, and my little classroom was flooded. The students perched on top of their desks, and I tried to teach…but it’s hard to concentrate when you’re constantly in danger of slipping on the slick concrete, the bottom of your dress is soaked, and your flip flops float merrily by. Finally one of the other teachers told me there was an empty classroom in the school building that I could use for the day, so we moved everything over there. It was entertaining while it lasted!


I wrote a bit in a previous post about the much enjoyed visit from the Dad’s cousin, Marvin Mast, and his wonderful family. It was a short visit, but we packed it full of fun times. Their family had booked a photography tour of Angkor Wat for one day, and invited whoever wanted to to tag along. Everyone wanted to go, but in the end only Luke and I went. Several hours into the day we were all glad the younger children weren’t along. It was warm, we had to walk quite a bit, and the hoards of tourists around didn’t make that easy. Btw…one perk of coming to see us is getting to see one of the “Seven Wonders of the World”. I didn’t even realize until after we got here that one of them was located right here in Siem Reap. It was very interesting to see the temples up close and to hear about how they were made. To be honest though, after awhile they all started looking the same, and so my favorite part of the day was just getting to know the Masts. Thanks for coming y’all! Don’t wait so long for the next visit!

A Trip Across the Sea…

The day after my last post about Grandmom’s passing was a blur of activity and planning. There were plans to be made, packing to be done, and tickets to be bought. Mom, Dad, the four youngest children and I left for the States Monday evening already, and the four boys followed the next day. The next week and a half were filled to the brim with family, friends, tears, and laughter.

I was able to fly to South Carolina to get some things out of storage for our family and to renew my drivers’ license (PTL!). An added benefit of going to SC was the time I could spend catching up with some dear friends. The time spent with them was just what I needed. And the ‘real’ hamburgers, fresh peaches, and sweet tea they served me were simply amazing!

I caught a ride up to Tennessee with friends then the day before the funeral. It was so wonderfully bittersweet to see all my uncles, aunts, cousins, and Granddad again. It was a busy time, but good…crying together, sharing precious memories of our dear Grandmom, and laughing like only Helmuths can. Like one of my aunts said would happen, we left feeling like we’d seen so many people and being happy about that, but feeling sad that we hadn’t been able to spend much quality time with so many of them.

*Random insert* At the visitation and funeral, I was happy to hear from many of you that you enjoy hearing about our life in Cambodia through this blog, and in the newsletter ALAM sends out. After a number of such comments though, I did begin to wish that more people would think about how much WE would enjoy hearing from THEM! =) You might think your lives are boring and that no one wants to hear about your daily ‘stuff’, but you really have no idea how much the emails we get from home mean to us. We love to hear from you – to know that we are remembered. Those emails and comments make the time and effort that goes into this blog worth it. *End of rant* =)

After the funeral we travelled to Kentucky to mom’s sister’s home, and spent the remainder of our time with them. We were able to do some shopping for things we can’t buy in Cambodia, so that was nice. Mom, Dad, and the four youngest flew home on Wednesday and arrived home the following evening, and Granddad took my brothers and I to catch our flight in Nashville the following day.

Our flight from Minneapolis to Seattle was delayed due to mechanical failures, and then delayed again, and then canceled. The airline was asking for volunteers to be ‘bumped’ to a flight the next day in exchange for flight vouchers. We quickly called home to ask dad about that possibility, and he said, “Absolutely!” So we talked to a representative, got five tickets home for the next day, and five $1300 vouchers in our pockets! Those will be a huge blessing the next time we need to fly home. Then we found our way to a motel, and tumbled into bed for some wonderful sleep. Once we were rested enough think straight, we got a shuttle to the gigantic Mall of America to find some food and to occupy ourselves until bedtime. (Minneapolis is a great place to have an extended layover!) Thankfully our flights the next day were all without delay. By the time we got home, we were all feeling pretty drained, both emotionally and physically, and a lot of the next week was spent getting our nights and days straightened out and catching up on much needed sleep.

We as a family would like to thank you all for your support during the time of Grandmom’s sickness and death. Your kind emails, phone calls, and prayers of support meant so much. So many people went out of their way to help us with tickets, food, and lodging. Thank you, too, to those of you who helped with the cost of flying home. Your support and friendship means so much.

And….that’s all for now!


Coming up next…

Sunsets, snakes, crocs, class trips, and a new classroom! =)


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… 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…


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…


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.