Christmas Festivities

Happy Holidays! We hope you had an enjoyable Christmas and new years! The Holiday season has once again come and gone! Christmas over here was pretty low key, we don’t have any of the rush that comes with Christmas in the states.

We worked the day before Christmas, in the evening, we had a special supper and a family gift exchange. We like to joke that here, you don’t go get a present, you go FIND one. You can know exactly what you want to get, but to find a shop that sells it is another story! Christmas morning, some things came up that the boys had to work on in the morning. We girls were in the kitchen most of the morning preparing dinner. Kevin’s came over for dinner, Then we spent the rest of the afternoon putt putting. We came back, had a snack, and hung out the rest of the evening. It wasn’t a “normal” Christmas, but it was a very nice break.

Our church had our annual Christmas party again. This year, however, it was much smaller than previous years. With building the church house, we were short on funds, so only those close to us were invited. The morning of the party, we all gathered at the church building to set up and make food. While the men got lights, sound system, and the church ready, we ladies laid out a tarp to sit on and got busy. Being
surrounded with conversations and laughter made the preparation much more enjoyable!

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The service was supposed to start at three o’clock. However, things don’t run on time here! It was five before enough people were there to start! The Khmer people have taught us that for something like this, you invite them for earlier than you want to start. So, since they actually wanted to start at five, they told everybody to come at three! That is a great example of culture differences! It can be aggravating at times, but then I realize that I do many things differently than they would. And you understand that it’s not right and wrong, just what you’ve grown up with.

It was a fairly laid-back party, our church, and some friends and family. We sang some congregational songs, and Tain sang a couple songs.
Behind the scenes of the nativity play this year was, well, hectic! Since we don’t have many youth in our church yet, Sophon asked some youth from another church to help out. However their party was two days before ours, so they were often busy getting ready for theirs. It only worked out for them to practice with us once! But we decided we’re going to give it our best shot! There was a few blunders, some unrestrainable giggles, and a couple forgotten and improvised lines. But the imperfections made
everyone love it even more! One person said her lines for the first scene and started saying the lines for the next scene, then realized what she had done. Mortified, she walked off of the stage and whispered “Oh, I forgot!” We discovered later that the mic was still close to her and picked up what she had said! The crowd roared with laughter at that!

After the play, Sophon came back on stage. “Now we’ll have Teacher… Um, Teacher…?” Sen came over and told him” Allen, Teacher Allen”. “Yes, Teacher Papa Allen will be sharing a small message for us today.” It tickled me to think that very few of the Khmer people know Mom’s or Dad’s name. They are just known as mama and papa to everyone.

One of the nicest things about having a small party was being able to sit down, eat,and visit with the guests. Previous years we were racing around serving tables until the guest left. And often there would be very little food left over because everyone wanted to take some home for their family.

So this is what we did for Christmas! It wasn’t a typical american Christmas with family. Even though we don’t celebrate the same way or do the same activities as we would at home, the reason and joy of Christmas is the same worldwide!

~Heather for the helmuths~

Six Years and Counting

The 11th marked the sixth year since we came! In some ways the six years seem like forever, but in other ways it doesn’t! We are still learning new things everyday, and we still have many firsts! (Monkeys, bats, etc… for lunch)

Thinking back I am flooded with memories. Memories of stepping off the plane and being hit by a wave of warm, humid air and then being confused when everybody greeted us in jackets, shivering, trying to stay warm! The first night, after we got through security and loaded all of our luggage into the vehicles, I was told to climb on the tuk tuk with mom and dad. All the peculiar smells were overwhelming! I was very concerned when the tuk tuk turned right and the rest kept going straight! It’s funny now, but in my little kid mind it was definitely was not a laughing matter, my imagination ran wild! I was sure this man saw this as a chance to make some extra cash, and he was kidnapping us! And I had no idea what dad would do because he couldn’t talk any Khmer. You have no idea how relieved I was when I pulled up to our house, and no one was missing!

Some of the things that come into my mind when I think of the first year are

  • Holding your breath when walking through the market
  • Being scared to talk to strangers, for fear they would rattle off in Khmer and you wouldn’t understand a thing!
  • Always forgetting to take TP with you wherever you go.
  • Debating if holding a baby is worth a chance of getting peed on.
  • Wishing Market sellers would let you at least glance at something without them asking you to buy it!
  • The fact that if you’re a little white kid personal space doesn’t exist
  • Getting aggravated at how being on time isn’t important!
  • Walking through the market and all you hear is “Hello Madame! Buy something please!” and “Good price for you Madame”
  • Loud music at parties being unbearable!
  • Eating only rice and soup or vegetables at the village because you’re too scared of getting a bone.

We’ve definitely adjusted to living here, the stench of the market that I used to dread, and try to avoid, I don’t think about anymore. And for the most part, we don’t have to worry about not understanding people. And now we’re the ones that bundle up for 70 degree weather!

People often ask “When are you moving back?”. Right now we are the only family here, so that makes it hard for kinda to leave. Dad says that if we’d leave right now, he feels like we’d let a lot of people down. So at the moment, only God knows. However Ryan has decided that it’s time for him to move back, He’s planning on leaving in March. It’ll certainly leave a big, empty hole here!

Another question we get asked frequently is “Do you miss the States?”… Of course there are times when it would be amazing to be closer to family, having people to spend the holidays with. There are times when all you want is youth aged people, people that share the same culture and language that you were born into. But there are times when I can’t imagine living back in the states, not living close to these people we’ve grown to love! And not being here to watch the kids grow up! We’ve learned so much, and have been so blessed with this opportunity that not many other people get! Honestly, its home, and I wouldn’t trade having lived here for anything!

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Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

~Heather for the Helmuths~