Sunday, June 24, 2007

Khmer Dance Party

So this weekend I saw a pig get butchered. It was not a pretty sight!

We went up to Lompa Village for the opening of a new Foursquare church. We headed up Friday afternoon to spend one night. That evening there was quite a service, with a sermon by Dina, skits, special music by the youth at the church in Mondulkiri, and some praying. Then everyone headed outside for the dancing. They had a bank of speakers twice as high as my head – the Khmer like their music LOUD. Two restaurants set up booths with fried baby duck eggs – meaning eggs fried with nearly hatched baby ducks inside….delicacy, they call it. I haven’t hazarded one yet. But there were some yummy coconut cakes that I like a lot, which I headed over to buy but was stopped by a whole swarm of giant black ants which walked over my feet and bit me as they went. You would not BELIEVE how much one bite can hurt, and I had 20 or so. OUCH! So I opted not to dance, and instead go and find some cortisone cream for it. But an hour later I heard my favorite Khmer dance song come on and went out and joined everyone for an hour and a half or so. Mostly I danced with one lady from the village and one youth from our church. Then the kids claimed my attention and copied everything I did. You should have seen a whole crowd of village doing the pony. One boy kept giving me a thumbs up every time I taught them something new, and the villagers kept looking at me, surprised to see a barang dancing Khmer style.

Then I wore out and went to bed – only to be awakened by the butchering of a pig outside my bedroom window. A noisy process…and gross. But I went out to watch anyway. Gross…..gross gross. The dancing didn’t end until about 1am, and the women were up and preparing for the party at 4am, so there wasn’t a lot of sleep that night.

The next day we had another service at the church, followed by a ribbon cutting ceremony. I got to help cut the ribbon, since I’d preached at the church the Sunday before. How cool is that.

Then all of us served the tables. In theory. Actually there were so many people helping serve that my team was superfluous, and we got to sit down in the second seating. After that I helped bus and turn tables until the rain threatened, and Dina tried to get the team out from under the rain. Only the first moto made it out with Ratanak and Sopheap. Yee, Bopha and I were on the second moto, but the rain started as we were leaving the church and we hit a patch of mud and overturned. Yee and I are fine, but Bopha hurt her knee. We hobbled her back to the church and I doctored her the best I could. Somehow they found someone with a car to take her back into town, and as usual I was sent along because I’m a foreigner.

So we returned home wet, tired, and injured, but WHAT a party!

Saturday, June 16, 2007


I saw an elephant last Saturday. I've been waiting my whole time here to finally see one. Did you know they like to eat banana peels? Love them. I have an excellent picture of an elephant walking past a 4X4 coming the other direction. Talk about your dicotomy.

Samaritan Woman

I met the Samaritan Woman on top of Samaritan Mountain

Yesterday was our day to walk to the village, but I didn’t get very far. The first big hill we climb is a tourist spot nicknamed the ‘Samaritan Mountain’ by the orphanage. Some of us decide to climb up the steps to the pagoda instead of taking the more difficult road around. At the top of the mountain we heard a woman sobbing. Moses asks Sopheap and me to go see if she needed help. When we walk over, a woman is sobbing uncontrollably, and the man with her is trying to alternately comfort her, and keep her from writhing her way off the platform of the wat.

The Pagoda is a small hilltop affair, with a large statue of Buddha covered in garlands of flowers. In front of Buddha is a couple of steps covered in fruit, cooked chickens, and a few pots with incense sticks blooming out of them (this goes to show the panoply of beliefs in Cambodia all existing together. Buddhism doesn’t really do incense, but Hinduism and Chinese ancestor worship both do. Add a bit of animism in the mountains also). Several old ladies are there praying with their palms together touching their foreheads.

We begin to speak to the lady, and she is quite distraught. She’s lost $100. She’s pregnant. She doesn’t want to live. Sopheap talks to the man with her for quite a while, then suddenly the woman goes wild. She grabs her sweatshirt, and wraps one of the arms around her throat, strangling herself. It takes four of us to tear her hands away and unwrap the sweatshirt. I stroke her hair for about an hour while she lies, exhausted in the pagoda. Sopheap talks with the man, and also with the woman herself when she comes around a bit. The story begins to come out. She’s pregnant, but she’s only known the man for three months. She has four children from a previous marriage, two living with her, and she’s had three abortions. She needed the $100 to have an abortion tomorrow. She also has problems with her family, and they don’t know about this man. She’s 37. He’s 27. Imagine the scene, eight of us standing around telling a woman how much God values her life, and the life of her child, surrounded by people waving incense and setting up altars. The team prays for her in the background.

Eventually Sopheap goes with talk with her, and I accompany. The rest of the team go on their way to the village. The woman and man’s problems come out in full, and eventually they kind of talk themselves out. Sopheap councels them here and there, but mostly listens. At the end they exchange phone numbers, and Sunday they will come and talk with us again. That’s a few hours from now.

But the coolest part of the story, we were on our way somewhere else, but God put her in our path. And she’d never gone to a Pagoda before, but she knew she needed help, so she had her boyfriend take her there. And so God connected the dots. In a pagoda. On the top of the Samaritan Mountain.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Crayola Doctrine

Crayola Doctrine

I have a new theory on life. Crayola is the best way to connect with people. Crayola can change the world. We’ve been visiting a lot of houses, and people here are very friendly about total strangers coming in to talk with them --- not like our country when we’d assume it was Mormons or Jehovas Witnesses.

Today we went to a family that we’d visited before. I’ve been taking crayons to the hospital to color with the children, and it’s great to see their faces light up. Today Yee asked me to bring my crayons to visit the family. We also brought along Toh – one of the kids from the orphanage, and Ratanak. Toh jumped right into the coloring – we do that a lot at home. The children stood around shyly for a while, then finally Ratanak asked if one eight year old girl knew how to color, and she said she never had before. Soon the whole family, and all of us were passing crayons back and forth, praising each other’s drawing, and having a great time. Even the head of the family, coloring in military uniform with a cigarette in his other hand wanted his picture taped to the wall with the children’s.

In the hospital I take my crayons every time I go. The childrens faces light up when they see me coming, and the well adults come out and watch us color, help them pick the right shade of whatever, and chat about their lives. Yesterday I went in the afternoon by myself, and as I colored with my favorite little boy (he's deaf, but smiles constantly) I chatted with a tribal woman, the husband of a sick woman that's been there for a while, and one of the hospital orderlies. The kids all had a great time, and as usual we taped their pictures to the wall to brighten up the place.

I also color with the kids in the orphanage, though not as much now that I'm teaching english in the evenings. They all try to copy whatever I draw, and then we make a little parade trouping over to their rooms to hang the pictures over their beds. Some of them are beginning to get more creative, and even more so soon. Bopha is going to start teaching drawing classes in the afternoons after I teach english for the children. (I also try to do my sewing, quilting or mending out in the open - and a few of the girls now come out and help me, or bring something of their own they've started)

I think from now on, wherever I go, I will come equipped with Crayola. The real kind. In the big box with the sharpener.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007


Busra Waterfall

Today we went with the team and the youth from the church to the famous Busra Waterfall in here in good old Mondulkiri! The waterfall has three levels, we came in at the top one and then climbed down the steepest stairs I've ever been on to get to the second level. I was the photographer while the weather was still rainy, but got in and swam once the sun came out. Then wet and dripping, we climbed the rocks around the second fall and made it up to about the halfway point. The boys amused themselves by jumping off the lower rocks into the pool below. I wanted to, but the rocks were slippery, and I couldn't get a good footing to jump. So I opted for prudence this time. As much as I'd like to be airlifted out by my insurance to stay in a 5 star hotel in Bangkok like Alissa, I think that might be a bit extreme measures to take to get Pepsi in a bottle!

I gave myself a pedicure in one of the pools of the fall, wrote some letters to teammates elsewhere in Cambodia, ate meatballs and boiled chicken with sauce and leaves, and enjoyed the beauty until it was time to go home!

It was a good day after all....(I grumbled a lot when I found out we were sacrifice a free day to go out on what was essentially a youth group outing...but as usual when my tail is seriously in a twit -- I was wrong)

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Country Roads.....take me home!

Country Roooooooaaaaads!!!

Things are much better here. Sopheap is out of the hospital, and the team was able to use the experience to start a ministry there. We went one day and scrubbed the floors of the two female wards, and the bathroom. We also go to visit -- I armed with paper and coloring crayons (not crayola, unfortunately, the cheap crappy kind) and give the children something to do. Moses is there right now checking with the head doctor to make sure it is ok for us to go visiting every day.

Also everyday we're supposed to spend an hour preparing for the Discipleship training week we'll be giving our last week here. I think I'm doing the talk on "God's Story." So I'm working my way through the whole thing bit by bit in my quiet time and planning time. Flogamockers is really helping here -- having just finished the old testament once last year. In DTS I read the gospels, and here I read all the Epistles except Romans, and I've read Deuteronomy to 1 Samuel. So I'm trucking my way through and trying to prepare.

Yesterday we hiked three hours into the jungle with a lot of the youth from the orphanage. We visited with some people in groups -- I sat in a house with three other people from Mondulkiri and my team, and we just chatted with some guys while their wives prepared dinner. They lounged around and smoked and laughed with us. Then we walked to another side of the village and met an old guy (really - almost 100) that Ratanak spoke with. I saw a girl there with a baby on her hip. She looked like a child herself. As she chatted with a group of girls, the baby began to cry, so she pulled out one breast and nursed him. Her eyes were so whistful. I asked about her, and she's 18 years old. Her husband is maybe 21. They're so young!

I'm coloring with the kids at the orphanage some, and teaching English. Big mistake -- now 30 more people can yell "hello, what is your name" at us nonstop! But we'll progress to "What are you wearing" in the next lesson. These kids are so bright. One class and they've all got everything I taught them memorized. Several girls also watch me work on my little quilt, and want to learn -- no one really does crafts here, and if I draw with them, they all copy what I've done. I'd love to teach them to do a little sewing or something -- they have so little at their disposal to amuse themselves.

Garth is here this week, encouraging us and our leaders. He arrived yesterday before we returned from the village, and has already lifted our spirits.

Mondulkiri is so beautiful! Even though the walks are long, and hot, and even with SPF 50 I come home sunburned a little, I love putting on my music (to drown out the three people playing recorders) and enjoying the view. I have some great pictures, and can't wait to show them to you all!