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. He 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.
For 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! =)
After 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!