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.
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.
The 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…