I've been here for almost 48 hours in Battambang. I did find my ride after all. She was the blonde girl talking to a stranger about not knowing what the girl she was picking up looked like. There was also a backwards RA I could read through her sign from where I was standing. We went back to Bangkok to the YWAM base there, and walked around the market all evening in an attempt by me to stay awake until bedtime. I found lots of pepsi for very cheap, and bought a hat and a pair of flip flops. Within an hour of landing I was sideways on the back of a hired moto in an attempt to locate some Yellow Curry (the only success we had was at a street vendor, and I didn't want to spend a 6 hour bus plus 2 hour taxi ride sick). We also ate pizza for Mollie, since she doesn't get western food very often. We had bread for breakfast, too, with jam. I like Bangkok. It's odd though -- very dirty, trash in the streets, dogs laying around everywhere, but everyone has a cell phone. The next day we spent running back and forth in the back of an open truck to the airport. We couldn't find Suzy and the desk said she wasn't on the flight. Back to Bangkok to sort things out by email with the Battambang base. Suzy was there after all. Then into the back of the rig for a 45 minute trip to the bus station. An interminable bus trip and then a border crossing in the dark. The bus station in a 6km drive by moto-taxi to the border. Our moto driver told us that the border was closed and we would have to stay at his friend's (it's always convenient here who has a friend or a brother who has just what you need) guest house. We yelled at him to go to the border anyway -- and after the slowest moto ride in history (normally they go like bats out of hell) including him making circles in the parking lot to stall for time, we arrived at the border with more than an hour to spare to get visas. One Thai man took charge of our suitcases (his friend has a taxi to Battambang) and we went through the border in very short time. Then a two hour taxi ride to the base. In the dark. Over rutted roads. Swerving into oncoming traffic to pass trucks filled to the bursting point with people. This is not phasing me anymore, but I only didn't get sick on that ride by the grace of God. Garth called Mollie to see if we wanted dinner when we got in -- I said I wouldn't know until I got there...and it would depend on if I could keep myself well for the rest of the drive.
Our days have been packed full. Yesterday we weren't required to go to any base activities if we didn't want to - a chance for us to get over jetlag. But since jetlag makes us wake early, we all went to church anyway since we had been up for hours. At about 3:30 am a Khmai funeral began, with chanting and music very loud over a speaker. Half an hour after that a wedding (which lasts for a day and a half) kicked things up a notch. Combine that with heat, roosters, something that sounds a bit like a cicada, we weren't sleeping much that morning. Church was very interesting. A short term missions team from Australia was at the foursquare church I attended with the other DTSers, so some of the service was in English. Some of the songs were originally in English, so we sang along, and songs with hand motions are universal. Then lunch. Ahhh. Cambodian food IS very similar to Thai - but they have things at different times in the day. For breakfast on sunday we had Ramen Noodles with chili sauce. For lunch we had fried eggs over rice. Dinner was meat and vegetables in sauce over rice. And with every meal there's the fruit. I've never liked tropical fruits -- but having them fresh and local makes all the difference. Today we had papaya. Who know I'd like papaya? I ate my own portion, and several other people's when the plates were being taken away. Last night was the youth center house party, so about 200 kids and lots of adults came on property for games, songs and treats. I met a young Khmai woman who teaches english and sunday school in the neighboring villages. She wants to attent a DTS someday, but it is very expensive, and her family can't lose her income for six months.
Today we began training in full. This morning for breakfast we had fried rice with sausage (SO good, even the resident former vegetarian loved the sausage). After breakfast we went to see the government orphanage and got peed on. We were in the infant room, and infants there don't wear diapers. When they pee you just wash them off and wrap more cloth around them. It was difficult for we westerners (I personally think God intended babies to be securely swathed in rubberwear) since they made puddles on the floor which were wiped up, and since we don't wear shoes indoors, we had no choice but to walk through it. I stayed clean, but about half of the people there that morning (from DTS and the new Outreach team from Kona) left with clothes needing a wash. I left halfway through to go watch the English classes being taught to the older kids. Mollie taught colors today. I talked to a Cambodian man who does a lot of translating for the kid functions. One kid shocked me. Running around with all the Khmai kids was a child with red hair, freckles and skin my color, but his features were Cambodia. It turns out he's an albino. Funny, in places with less foreigners, that's how I'll look to them. We went back to the base for an hour of Khmai lessions. I can now say hello, how are you, ask what is your name, and tell people where I'm from. My opera language training is coming in VERY handy. Lunch was excellent, too. Thin brothy soup with cabbage and onions. And PAPAYA! After lunch we had free time, which we mostly spent practicing our Khmai. Then some history and politics lessions. Now we have free time until dinner. Once I get done typing I've got to go to the street and hire a moto. I can only say one thing to get home -- "straight straight!" and I can say "slowly!!!"
This is an exprience. Our days are very full, but we have free time as well. This week is a wonderful chance to get to know the staff and our fellow DTSers before the Cambodians show up -- since we'll be the ones working very hard to learn the language and culture before the outreach phase starts. It's interesting at the dinner table to listen to conversations I've no way to understand, and know that in a few months, I'll be taking part in them.
Pray for me as I try to learn Khmai!