Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Six Rescued from Karaoke Bar
Sokhan's Story - Virgin Sale Averted (my fave!)
Six Pimps Convicted for Selling Girls for Sex
Sunday, August 21, 2011
We all sat down to the table with our baskets containing this week’s work… Kindergarten for little Iron Man, preschool papers for little Hulk, and teacher guides for me. We calmly and quietly opened to the first page and began with a prayer, a Bible story, a song, and then the activity in the book. Everyone followed directions and no one complained or disobeyed.
And then I woke up.
It was Monday morning and time to start the real day! Monday was nothing like my dream day, nor was any other day of the whole week. But we had a blast learning together. I love working with the kids both together and separately as we try to all educate each other. I’ve been pretty honest from the beginning with many people, admitting that homeschool isn’t something I ever really desired but would attempt out of necessity (since private school is in the multiple thousands here). I feel God had definitely changed my heart about that as that monumental “First Day of Kindergarten” approached. I began to get eager not only to teach but to prepare, to organize, and to predict their little reactions to every lesson. And this week was no different. As the week went on, I stayed motivated and I think we all learned a lot from each other. Here are a few pictures from some of our favorite parts of the week!
Preschool Curriculum revolves around letter of the week, and we chose the letter based on the handwriting curriculum, so our first letter is L.
I told him to make an "L" out of play-doh. He quickly did this (note the knife stabbed into the dough) and then just played for a while. Hard to argue... it DOES look like an L, just not what I was expecting. Of course this kid never does what I'm expecting!
More things that start with L and some arts and crafts projects using the very limited supplies I've been able to find here in Cambodia. We're getting by...
It was a fun week. It was a long week and we all got a little sick, too, but we had a great time.
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
It’s definitely not on purpose but let me transport you back in time to the events of my past couple weeks and you can experience eating bugs with me.
#1 I am enjoying a wonderful peanut butter sandwich while my kids nap and I am reading a book on my kindle. I’ve put down the sandwich for a few minutes and when I pick it up again I take a bite while being completely engrossed in my book. A second or two after I swallow I feel that unmistakable tickle of an ant on my arm. I look down to see the sandwich covered in ants. The sandwich I just ate a huge bite out of. Gross.
#2 I am enjoying a nice, refreshing, Coca-Cola from a fountain at KFC. Yes, we have KFC here. But it is by no means the same. Not at all. They have curry and fish and all sorts of stuff, and I have to order from pictures because the menu is in Khmer font, which I can’t read, so I never know if I’m getting chicken or fish or… whatever… Anyway, it’s safe to drink there, so I’m enjoying a beverage and cooling off in the heat. As I get to the bottom, slurping every last drop out of the cup, I see something gray in the ice. Yep, sure enough, frozen in the ice is half of a moth. Or I think that’s what it is. I’m too disgusted to look too closely.
#3 I decide to make macaroni and cheese for the boys. Homemade, fatty, buttery, cheesy, gooey mac and cheese. I am so excited. I put the water on the stove and as I prep the sauce I see the rolling boil start. I always let it boil 3 minutes here before I throw in the pasta. That’s how long it takes to make sure any bacteria is dead. Or that’s what I tell myself. I look at the clock and 3 minutes later I dump in the bag of shells. As soon as I pour it in, I see thousands…ok, maybe not thousands… dozens, though… of tiny roaches float to the top. They were in the shells and floated out as I boiled the water. So I scooped them out and we ate it anyway. No, just kidding! We didn’t eat that pasta. And every time I have seen shells since I’ve been grossed out.
#4 I enjoy a sandwich at a local café. It has grilled chicken, lettuce, tomato, and some weird sauce similar to thousand island but with fresh herbs in it. I don’t care for the sauce so I scrape some of it off. As I do, I notice that one of the “herbs” is actually a gnat. Dead. In my sandwich. And if I’d asked for a refund for that I’d probably have been laughed at!
#5 I decide to just eat chips and salsa with some refried beans for lunch one day. Hey, I’m noticing a fattening trend among my eating habits here… Anyway, I sit at the table while the boys eat their healthy lunch and just snack out of the bag, dipping into the homemade guacamole, refried beans, and salsa I made. Oh, the beans and salsa were NOT homemade, just to clarify. But anyway, I sit eating a nice meal and as I look into the bag to see how many chips are left I see ants all in the bag. Eeew. Who knows how many I ate?
This is just a small sampling of the bugs I’ve partaken in here in Cambodia. And I live in a very modern, Western style apartment! Stephen tried the popular local treat - a fried tarantula. He’s tried some crickets and who knows what else, too. They sell that stuff at the market. As for me, I think I’ll stick to my oh, so healthy eating habits and just keep hoping a tarantula doesn’t make its way into any of my food. But, how could you accidently ingest one of those anyhow? They are gigantic. Those should be eaten by choice only. And I don’t see myself making that choice anytime soon.
I’m sure you now have this burning desire to visit me??? Anyone???
Sunday, August 14, 2011
More or Less? Coconuts
Haha, I had to start off with an easy one! Less of course! These are everywhere. They are the yummy green ones. They can be bought at the market or, more easily, off a cart from someone walking down the street. And if you ask nicely, they’ll cut the peel away while leaving the coconut in tact so that it stays fresh. When it’s time to enjoy, we can just punch a straw through and drink the coconut water, which is really tasty, by the way. Coconuts are about $1.50-$2 each but you get about 4 glasses of juice from one, so not a bad price, I think.
More or Less? Bottled Water
Um, this is both. See, you can’t drink the tap water so they capitalize on that. The local water that has been treated by reverse osmosis is cheaper ($1 or less), while the name brands like Dasani and the very popular Evian are very expensive - $2 to $3 per small bottle and $6 to $7 for large. We use giant 5 liter jugs that are just $1 each, local of course, but treated and wonderfully clean tasting.
More or Less? Avocados
I can’t believe this one. They are so cheap. They average about $0.25. Seriously. They are a bit different than the Hass ones you buy in the US or the California ones even, but they taste great and they aren’t that popular so they are readily available. This is something we buy all the time. I am sure my waistline will soon start to show that. “Good” fat is still fat!
More or Less? Electricity
I’ve talked about this before. Electricity is super expensive here. We were quite worried about it but I’ve given up enough other things so that I can run the A/C units more often than just at night here and still stay in budget. Electricity is something people think about enough that even televisions have “off” switches that turn it all the way off – so that even the remote won’t turn it on until the switch is activated. This is something that’s unheard of in the USA! Here you have to make sure switch on the TV is on before you can turn on with the remote. Same with DVD players and things like that.
More or Less? Water in home
Oh, this is so cheap. For our first month we owed $1.89 for our water bill. So funny how cheap that is! It would probably cost the apartment less to just pay it than to pay for the meters that measure it and the guy who comes to read it!!
More or Less? DVDs
And music. And software. And books…
All cheap. So cheap. Of course, they are all pirated so I feel conflicted about buying them. DVDs are just $1.50 and are available just about 1-2 weeks after the movie comes out in the THEATER in the USA. Harry Potter’s been out for a couple weeks now already. I haven’t bought it, but I’ve seen it in the market. And if we want to rent a movie or buy a movie, there aren’t legitimate stores to go to. It’s not like I have to choose whether to buy a legal DVD for $20 at one store or a pirated one for $1.50 at the market. Nope. Not an option. The market’s all there is. Tough choices. But they have everything. EVERYthing.
More or Less? Grapes and Strawberries
Well, we can get fresh mangoes for just a quarter each, apples and oranges for less than that, pineapple for a quarter or already cut up for $0.40, watermelons for $0.50 each, and all sorts of cheap Cambodian fruits, but these two are not cheap at all. Strawberries are only for sale in the big grocery store and cost about $4.50 for 6-7 strawberries. Now, I love strawberries, but that’s a bit too much. I don’t think so. And grapes are about $4 for a small bunch. Obviously they don’t have those types of farms here in Cambodia. I miss eating those because I refuse to buy them at that price no matter how much the kids beg.
More or Less? Kitchen small appliances (toaster, blender, coffee maker…)
These are very expensive. A blender is about $80. A toaster is almost as much. It’s crazy. I got lucky and got a few things from another IJM family who moved away as we moved in, but buying new is just ridiculously expensive. An iron, though, that’s only like $20. Supply and demand, I guess!
More or Less? Paper goods – paper towels, napkins, toilet paper
More, I’d say. I mean, about the same as you’d pay for name brands in the USA, but the quality is very poor and the quantity is lower per roll. Same quality issue with diapers and baby wipes. It’s very sad. I miss good diapers!
More or Less? Toiletries
This one depends… If I can read the words on the container, and especially if it’s a brand I recognize, then it’s way more expensive than I ever paid in the States. But if it’s in Khmer or Chinese or some other Asian font with a picture of a panda or something, it’s definitely affordable. Lots of trial and error on these products to save money. For example: I bought the kids some bath wash – the Asian kind was $1.20 and a good size container. The Johnson and Johnson one – in a teeny container – was $7.50. It’s crazy!
More or Less? Clothes and Shoes
I don’t know why I filled up 8 suitcases to move here. We could have come naked – ok, not naked because the FAA wouldn’t have let us on the plane – but with just what we were wearing, and we’d have been fine. Clothes are everywhere, and many are the same ones you wear in the USA. Go ahead – check your tags – I’ll bet you have quite a few things that say “made in Cambodia” in your wardrobe. Many of those things make it to the markets here and are sold at great prices (always less than $5 for everyday stuff). Shoes, too, though they don’t wear athletic shoes, so they don’t really sell them.
More or Less? iPhones, iPads, iEverythings…
Less. But these are pirated, too. Or stolen. Who knows. And they come with no warranty. So I haven’t given in to the popular culture of having one yet. Even the Cambodians with very little money seem to have an iPhone.
I could keep going for a while but I’m not sure if this is even entertaining or interesting at all. Take advantage of the comment feature and tell me what you want to hear about. I’d love to share! I have to make a list now so I can go barter at the market a bit!
Oh, and I KNOW something you all want is more photos. Here's a snapshot from the tourist area by the river front. It's the tourist area so it's nice and pretty :)
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
And it doesn't really matter anyway because everyone who knows me knows that I have never, ever, in my whole, entire life, been "wordless."
So let's just call it "Pretty Picture Day" where I show you sites without my rambling comments.
Pictures from pretty temples/statues/buildings around the city.
Friday, August 5, 2011
Yesterday was an amazing day. It was a heart-wrenching day. It was a redeeming day. It was a day that I found myself praising God and questioning Him all at once.
And I think God is okay with that. He likes it when I ask tough questions because it gives Him a chance to answer them.
I don’t know who is reading this or even if anyone is. But if anyone IS reading this, there’s a good chance that you don’t understand what it means to have a “conversation” with a God who can’t be seen or audibly heard. I don’t even understand it. So here’s my awkward attempt at explaining it, or at least explaining what happened to me. It’s sort of a glimpse into my heart and the questions I asked, followed by the answers I found.
Let’s see: the day started with my previous blog post about perspective. It was great story from another blogger, named Rachel Held Evans. You can read it here. I found myself walking away from the computer with one thought on my mind: “THANK YOU, JESUS.” Thank you for giving me a life where I didn’t have to wake up each day and wonder which child to feed or if my son could be kidnapped and forced into war today. Thank you for the life I was born into and the blessings you poured out on me.
And later that day I took my children to a boys and girls club here in the city. This is a club open to children of all ages. As I stood there watching my own innocent children who have been blessed beyond measure play with these beautiful Cambodian children who have so little and are in so much need, one of the staff members quietly explained the “story” of each individual child to me. As I listened to these stories, I had to look away as I fought the giant lump in my throat and became conscious of the tears welling up in my eyes. For the first time since arriving in Cambodia, the stories were real. I was looking into the faces of the children who I’d been fighting for. The numbers and statistics turned into faces with little eyes looking at me with hope and little hands reaching out to be held. It was a life-changing moment. Each of them had a history I couldn’t even fathom.
Many of them who come to the group have no home. Numerous others have no family. Some of the ones with families were sold into the horrendous sexual slavery industry by those very families and later rescued. Others may still silently be living that life without yet being rescued. Several were living with HIV at a tender young age. A few are continually sought after as they leave shelters they are provided because they seek to return to this terrible life they were forced into at a young age – the only life they really know . None of them had bathed and all of them were hungry.
I wanted to know why. My “Thank you, Jesus” prayer became a question of “Why, Jesus?” Why does this have to happen? What made me deserve a life of plenty and them a life of none? How is this fair? How can God create all people and yet allow them such dissimilar lives?
I guess the look on my face gave away all I was thinking – the anger, the sadness, the hopelessness. The questioning that was happening in my mind was forced out of my mouth as I was asked what was wrong. I couldn’t hold in my questions any longer as one of the NGO’s staff approached to question how I was handling the day. I blurted out all I was feeling and I’ll never forget the look on her face as she responded.
She was smiling. How can you smile at this, I thought? Have you been doing this so long that you don’t notice their needs anymore? No. That wasn’t it. As I shifted my focus from the children to her – and her smile - I began to hear what she was saying. She explained that this was not a sad story. For many children, it was a story of rescue. Of redemption. Of hope. Of success, even. After all, many had left the lives they had before and were pursuing a better life. The ones still on the street at least had a place to go every afternoon, and a shelter as an option if they’d choose it. They had friends who were like them and a staff who taught them about Jesus. And that’s when Jesus’ words flooded my thoughts.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”
I’d memorized these verses when I was in high school, and they came to me at that very moment. Today I found myself still thinking about them and I looked them up. Matthew 5: 3-6. My Bible then sent me to another passage: Isaiah 61:1-3.
“…He sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and to provide for those who grieve in Zion – to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting for the Lord for the display of his splendor.”
See, God doesn’t feel sorry for these people. I don’t think so, anyway. He loves them just as they are. Rich or poor, hungry or full, clean or dirty, they are blessed. He loved them before this organization began helping them. He loved them before and during the hard times of their lives. He loved them even before they were born. Isaiah 49:1 says “Before I was born the Lord called me; from my birth He made mention of my name.” This is true for all of us, not just Isaiah. God knew these children by name before their parents named them. He knew what life they would have and all the terrible things that would happen to them. He knew I’d meet them today. He also knows what future each child holds and what their future generations will do in time.
And though I have so much and they have so little, He loves us the same. We are all His children.
So I don’t know WHY some people have such a prosperous life while others are born into poverty, but I feel peace in knowing that by His love, we can all have the same eternity, an eternity with our Father in Heaven. If we believe.
And I can’t change the lives of each of these children. But with the help of the Holy Spirit, I can change ONE. And then maybe another. And another. And with each life changed, many more are touched in our time and future times.
Father, I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. And so is each child I played with yesterday. I thank you for every single one of them. I pray you change their lives. I pray that the people reading this blog are inspired to help change lives as well. Bless each child, and thank you for giving my own children a spirit of enthusiasm and a heart for loving others. Use me to change the life of one child, Father, so we may all play together someday on the golden streets of heaven, praising You.