Friday, August 5, 2011

Thoughts on Coming Home

As I was preparing my nightly snack of whole milk and cookies (I’m trying to gain back the ten and something pounds I’ve lost) my roommate exclaimed “You’re leaving in less than two weeks!!!” I feigned a smile and tried to get back to reading my SHAPE magazine, ( yes, I read fitness magazines while eating cookies) but she’s too smart. Camille began asking me questions about how I’m preparing myself to go home and honestly, I haven’t been.

I’m so excited to see my family again. I miss them a ton and know it will be great seeing everyone. I love thinking about how good it’s going to feel when my plane touches the ground. I think about whether I’m going to smile or cry. I picture hugging my family at the airport. All of this is great, but after that, I blank.

I don’t have a job back home yet, I’m horrible at long distance communication so I haven’t had many good talks with friends since I’ve left and in general, life’s just going to be different.  I’m going to drive a car, buy all my food in a supermarket, have all the hot water I want and even have a cell phone again. *SHUDDER. You would think I should be excited for all of these nice things, but quite honestly, I’m dreading them…

I usually feel like I am working so hard that I don’t have time to take a deep breath but mostly, I have more time to think, pray, read and write. I’ve never had such quality quiet time in my life. Without the distractions of everyday life back home, I’ve had more time to reflect on my life, my relationship with God and others and my character. I feel I’ve learned a lot here and I don’t want to forget it as soon as I’m thrown back into life as usual.

I’m afraid really. I dread answering the question, “How was your trip?” I know people don’t want a four hour recap of my life here, but I’m also not comfortable with chalking it up as a “good experience” and leaving it at that.

 I just can’t seem to take the things God has shown me here, all the people I’ve met and all the beautiful and ugly things I’ve seen and chalk them up as mere “experiences.” It’s been life. It’s been waking up every day, not knowing what obstacles I’m going to have to face but knowing God’s going to give me the grace and strength to get through my day. It’s been knowing that I’m far away from home, family and everything I know but never feeling more sustained. It’s been living every day knowing I’m right where I’m supposed to be. Taking my heart to work with me each day and pouring everything that’s in me into what I’m doing and asking God to fill me again so I can give a little more the next day. It’s been lessons to stop relying on my own strength, intellect and emotions. It’s been an attempt to die to self but really just being blessed more and more.

So, there it is. There’s some reflection. No pictures or attempts at witty captions. Just plain, honest words from a girl that’s a little afraid to come home. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Proud to be an American?

If you haven’t noticed from the pictures, I’m kinda in the minority here.  The time spent away from other Americans has given me a chance to reflect on my own country and culture, and truth be told, I haven’t always liked what I’ve seen.

I first noticed it with the kids on the beach. I was so shocked to hear them yelling the f word and singing along to American rap songs. These kids walk along the beach selling bracelets off a hanger, sunglasses and good ‘ol leg and armpit hair threading. They aren’t shy and will sit right on the beach chair next to, point out all your wayward hairs, and strike up a conversation in good English. Clearly, they have a lot of contact with foreigners and I think a lot of it is negative.

My sunblock was used up in about ten minutes after word spread that it keeps you from getting darker. 

On our last trip to the beach, the girl in the above picture started braiding my hair and chatting. I asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up. She told me she wanted to marry a rich American and move to Florida. Then she started singing a 50 Cent that was quite explicit. It kinda killed me.

Sadly, I’ve noticed similar things in my classroom.  Just this week we finished a unit on honesty, loyalty and integrity.  I asked them to pick role models and who did the boys choose? ...

John Cena

Tom Cruise- Not Oprah. I would be ok with Oprah.
Hmm yeah, this guy needs no introduction. 
Even at such a young age, many of my students are completely enthralled by the idea of making it rich in America. They think America and they think all the things they see on tv. The SUVs, fancy homes and nice cell phones is what it’s all about. A few of my kids even get HBO.  I’ve been asked, more than once, what “Spring break boobies” are. No joke.

I guess my thought it that we Americans can live in our own cesspool of moral filth, but why must we broadcast it to the rest of the world? Can’t we just leave Cambodia out of it? I rather like the traditional Khmer music videos where the women are wearing skirts down to their ankles.  It’s nice to live in a place where life is simpler and it’s not all about “Keeping up with the Jones’” … but I guess it’s already too late. It's less about life pure and simple and more about playing catch up. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Bokor Mountain

This Fourth of July weekend wasn't my typical one at the lake with family, but it turned out pretty sweet. I got to hike Bokor Mountain with a few friends. We hiked a bit through the jungle and then got to explore the ghost town at the top. 

These guys kept freaking me out- we all know how much I like lizards. 

The Hotel- The buildings were built by the French, abandoned in the 40's and destroyed by time and the Khmer Rouge. 900 people died in the nine months it took to build the Hotel/Casino in such a remote location.

Weathering at its best

A broken view 

People have decorated the walls over time. Things like, "Turn around... I'm watching you" were  etched in the walls. Creepy.

The romantic part of me was imagining what this terrace looked like in its glory days. All  light up, with French people dancing waltzes in the crisp mountain air. 

Moss & Brick

An old church. We wanted to check it out buuut these guys decided they were going to  live there so we didn't want to be rude and traipse through their "home."

Good Friends

Up in the clouds. Ahhh.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Soooo I’m sick. I hate telling people that because it makes me feel like a weakling, but today I stayed home from school with good advice from my roommate and from the doctor that lives across the hall. Apparently my lungs sound “crackly” and I’ve had fevers, a cough and body aches on and off for a bit now.

This morning when I was lying in bed, trying to muster up the strength to go to work, my roommate told me something that really made sense. She said, “Sometimes being sick is trusting in God.” I replied quickly that very well may be, but if I don’t go to work, what’s going to happen to my students? I can’t just call the sub service in Cambodia, so one of the teachers would have to take my classes in addition to their own.

Well, in the end physical exhaustion and good sense won out and I stayed in bed. I’ve wasted the majority of the morning here and was just looking over the cards my students made for yesterday… and again, I was reminded to trust.

The majority of my students come from Buddhist backgrounds so it's quite ironic that they are the ones that are reminding me that "God heals" and "God is strong."

After surviving cancer, you better believe I know that God is strong and most certainly heals… but I sometimes overlook that when it comes to minor illnesses. It took reminders from my second graders to help me remember that God is in control, and he cares about the little things too. It doesn’t matter that I can’t hop in my car and go get a check up and some antibiotics at a doctor office- he has provided everything I need, even here.

Awhile back, a friend sent an antibiotic that I had on hand, I have a Korean Doctor living right across from me, and I even have chicken noodle soup and Gatorade that my sister sent in her last package. Coincidence that my sister randomly sent me chicken noodle soup? I think not.  I’m convinced of it, God provides, now the trusting- that's up to us. 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Something Beautiful

A few weekends back some friends and I went to the nearby town of Keb. As I was biking along the ocean with lots of road in front of me, I had some time to think. 

 I am BLESSED. As I was biking along the road laced in shadows  from the sinking sun, I thought about how fortunate I am.  Just the opportunity that I have each day to wake up and see all of the beauty that’s in my life. My life is so simple here, but it is so RICH. I own two pieces of bamboo furniture and I could fit the rest of my belongings into a suitcase, but I feel like I have been able to experience so much of life here.

 Cambodia is abundant in natural beauty, if you look. It has amazing beaches, beautiful mountains, green fields and bright, exotic flowers. It is a place that is so diverse, so  rich, that it really causes one to stop in awe.

 I love being able to explore more of the world and never in my life would have imagined Cambodia to be this breathtaking.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Ignorance is Never Bliss

Lately, I’ve been thinking about all the pain I ignore around me. I see beggars everyday and walk by, sometimes not even looking in their faces because it makes me feel guilty. When I go to the beach, I am not always patient with the sellers  trying to thread my leg hair or sell me yet another bracelet. Sometimes I’m rude and say somewhat briskly in Khmer, “No, I don’t want!” and get back to reading my book. Whether it’s failing to smile at the person walking past, or not taking the time to talk to a friend that really needs me, I realize that in ignoring all these tiny things, I am becoming more and more desensitized to the hurt around me.
A big wakeup call happened when my sister and I visited Teol Sleng in Phnom Penh. The site is a high school that was turned into a prison for torture and execution during the Khmer Rouge. The people were taken there to be interrogated and tortured. Each prisoner was numbered and photographed upon arrival. Animal like cells were fashioned of bricks and wood to confine the prisoners till their deaths. We walked through the narrow cells and saw some of the instruments they used to torture the “accused.”

I ran my hands across the rough bricks and looked into the faces of hundreds of people that were murdered, all the while thinking, “I had no idea.” Over twenty thousand men, women and children were executed in that high school alone. When the Vietnamese army liberated Cambodia, there were only seven prisoners left alive in the prison. The rest had been electrocuted, waterboarded, seared with hot metal instruments and beaten to their deaths.

As I walked into one of the makeshift cells, I thought the person that crafted this cell knew it was meant to hold a human being. I wondered, did they stop and think about how their actions would affect someone, or did they force themselves to block out all emotion and go on with the task at hand?

It’s an extreme example, but think about how it applies to your daily life. How many times do you shut off your emotions and “go on with your life.” How many times do you change the channel when you see big bellies full of nothing but parasites? How many times do you listen to the guest missionary at your church talk about hunger, disease, lack of resources and afterwards go out to a nice brunch with your friends? How many times do you watch celebrity gossip shows instead of educating yourself on the things that are really going on in this world?
I know we all do these things more often than we would like to admit. But we can change. Let’s allow ourselves to hurt for other people. Let’s stop turning our heads and hearts away from things that cause us discomfort. Let’s stop living in our own ignorance and choose each day, to live in love, no matter the cost.
May these innocent faces remind you, ignorance is never bliss.