Monday, June 03, 2013

After getting married, I decided to change the address for my blog and incorporate the new last name.  This blog has all the old posts, but the new one will be the one that I update from here on out.  Please visit our new website at and see what we are up to now.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Silver Lining...

I am all about finding the silver lining whenever needed.

 There have been a number cases of dengue fever lately in Phnom Penh. Not good. In my friend's family, out of six people, three of them got it at the same time. VERY not good. The 8-year-old daughter had it bad enough that they decided to take her to our neighboring Thailand for treatment. Because the husband was one of the sick three, he had to stay in Cambodia and the mom went with the daughter, as well as the 9-month-old son. I went along to help her with the baby (and with her and the other daughter when necessary).  So my impromptu excursion to Thailand consisted mostly of the inside of one of the world's best hospitals, Bumrungrad Hospital.

 I definitely felt like I stepped into another world after being in Cambodia for the last year and a half. This was my first time out of the country since I moved here. I love traveling and I have been to Thailand twice. But this time felt very different for some reason. I have been living here in Cambodia, and this is the foreign place that, in my heart, feels like home. I am learning the language and can communicate to a certain degree (and understand to a greater degree actually). But entering Thailand, the foreign place really was foreign again. In my head, I would instinctively try to figure out and translate what the people were saying around me, and feel a little frustrated because I wasn't understanding. Sometimes I even forgot that it was a different language and that was the reason I wasn't getting it. Or I would try to say something to someone and they didn't understand my English and I would instantly try to speak Khmer...only to have this realization once again that I wasn't in Cambodia! Foreign felt more foreign than usual.

 After 5 days, the girl was released from the hospital and that is where the silver lining came in ;-) Because, you see, there are a lot of things available in Bangkok that are absolutely not available in Phnom Penh. Great things. Amazing things.

IKEA things!
It's like a heavenly light, glowing in the darkness!
{Yes, I do, in fact, LOVE IKEA!}

 I could have walked around this store for a few more hours, just soaking it all in. I was not being rushed too much (only a little), but I also didn't have all the time I would have like in order to really appreciate it. I was also very restricted because of my suitcase and the fact that I live in a different country. Furniture was an obvious no-fly zone, even though I would have happily finished furnishing my new apartment with just one trip to this beautiful store. It was definitely a different world being inside the store! But I did come away with some really great purchases and packed them all so well in my suitcase {I even received comments from my friends about how nicely and amazingly the suitcase was packed...I would pack things professionally if that was an actual job...I love making things fit together...strange, I know}.

 The other silver lining came in the form of a mermaid.
But I do have a shocking confession to make...
I didn't actually drink anything offered by this beauty.

 Crazy, I know, seeing how I am talking about her. The plan was to get one at the airport, where I took the picture. Only to find out they didn't have what I liked AND I was out of Thai Baht currency. So I admired from a distance and decided that it will make the starbucks that I drink when I visit the States THAT much more amazing!

 After 6 days in Thailand, I was very ready to get back to Cambodia. I missed it...the people...the life here. I am glad I had the ability to go to serve and love my friends in this way, but I was happy to be home.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Project: Clean! Paint! Decorate!

I will preface this all with 
Don't worry...there will be many pictures to come.

Now on to the subject of the post...I have just signed a lease for my own apartment!!  

For the last year and a half, I have been living with a wonderful family...the Pastor that I also work with.  They have been such a blessing to life and my heart, allowing me to be a part of their family.  But the time has come to move out on my own.  

I am moving about halfway between their house and the church, which was only a 5-7 minute car commute anyway ;-)  I had made a list (surprise surprise!) of the things that I wanted to find in an apartment, making a distinction between necessity and perk.  This apartment not only has everything on the list, INCLUDING the perks, but has more that I never thought of put on there.  Like two bathrooms, coming with a refrigerator and having roof access!  It is also next door to a coffee shop that I enjoy sitting at to get my $0.50 iced coffees...I rather enjoy that unintentional perk, I might add.

It's in need of some love and a good ol' deep cleaning, so I have a crew of friends coming over to help on Saturday and hopefully start painting as well.  I love friend-labor for the payment of dinner!  Granted, I will have to purchase the food from outside since I won't have kitchen supplies yet (or the ability to cook Khmer food), but that's ok by me.  

Once we get it cleaned and painted, the decorating will begin.  That is where I get excited!  I have a few ideas...and I am grateful for my friend Eileen who jumped at the chance to forge one of the most overwhelming markets with me in order to help make my little apartment amazing.  

There are quite a few things that I will have to purchase, like a mattress, a washing machine and all the kitchen necessities.  I will be staying with the pastor for a few more weeks in order to get everything situated and not have to worry about being super rushed, which is always a plus, because anyone who has ever watched me pack knows that I am not the quickest.  I pack a box and then repack it, knowing that there is a better way to get stuff to fit.  Thankfully, I am just moving a few minutes away and can load up suitcases, take it over and unload.  And as I mentioned before, I don't really have that much house stuff anyway.

I will take pictures and post them check back in a few days for the progress of Project: CPD!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Ode To Annie...

There are a few movies I saw as a child that I have very clear memories...and some attachment to:

{I definitely cried with I thought he was dead and rejoiced when I found out he wasn't!}
Battle for Endor...
{Yes, the Ewok movie!  I so desperately wanted a pet ewok as a kid
...and may or may not still want one!}
{This is NOT a good memory! I had such horrible nightmares and I am pretty sure I remember my older cousins getting in trouble for letting me watch this with them at such a young age.}
{This was my older sister's favorite, but really, but who doesn't love a red-haired orphan that sings?
I even bought the soundtrack years later...judge if you will, but I loved it. }

 There are many others, for sure. But these are the ones that stand out the most to me right now. And as I was looking through some pictures from a recent trip to a village, a song from Annie came rushing to my mind...

 Here is the picture that sent me down memory lane:
...and the song was "You're Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile"

I spend a fair amount of time being somewhat confused by my surroundings here in Cambodia...
 Language. Tradition. Culture. Expectations. Unspoken implications. My solution to all of this?


I can attest to the fact that a smile can certainly leave a lasting impression, even if you never say a single understandable word. When I was in this village (as the first white-skinned foreigner that has ever been there, I might add), I had lots of people asking me questions, speaking faster than I could understand, and carrying on conversations about me while I was sitting there. I tried very hard to follow, but it was less than easy to say the least. These ladies in the picture kinda hung around near me throughout the few hours that I was at this house, all the while talking and watching me.  And I must give all the credit to God as He continues to give me the grace and heart for this nation to not be too overwhelmed.

I may not have been able to communicate in words, but I did what I could. I smiled. Genuinely. And later, when I got the "reports" on what the villagers thought about me, they all said that I was very nice, friendly, respectful, kind-hearted and lovely. This from people that I didn't actually have a conversation with, but they said they could see it through my smile.

Good thing, because that is all I can do sometimes.  So I make sure to always go "fully dressed."

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Introduction time...

I would like you to meet the newest Harvesters group...

And as I have said before, phonetics are a bit different so I am including extra pronunciation "help" in parentheses so that in case you're like me and would try to say the names to yourself. This will give you a better idea of how to say the students' names...

Front Row (L-R): Rambo, Ruth, Srey Nich (Nick), Chenda
Back Row (L-R): Bunrith (Boon-rit), Pheap (Pea-ip), Keo (Gaow), Kakada, Heather, Sambath (Saam-baht), Pannha (Penn-ya), Vannak, Punleu (Pun-lew), Seyha

This class started April 28 and I am very excited for the next couple of months! For all the previous classes, we have met on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. This time is a little different because we are meeting on Saturday and Sunday instead. There were many students that wanted to study, but were unable to due to work or university schedules. As we prayed about this term, we felt that changing our lecture time would open the door to many others. And it did. We really feel that God is wanting to do great things in the lives of these students and I am looking forward to sharing the stories with you. 

Another big change with the Harvesters is that we now have a third leader. For the past year and a half, Seyha and I have been leading this ministry. Come late-July, though, Seyha will be leaving for the Philippines. He has been given an amazing opportunity to study at a Bible school there with a full scholarship for a year. I am so very excited for him! However, it did leave a question mark for me about who was going to lead the Harvesters with me. Thankfully, God has made it possible for Pheap to take over in Seyha's absence.

...Seyha, me and Pheap...

Pheap is a leader in the church and has a passion for the people around him to know Jesus. During this term, the three of us are leading together, which gives him a chance to learn more about the class and how we do things, preparing him for the next teaching term with just him and me leading.

Please be praying for the students, the lessons, the Harvesters leadership team, and the upcoming missions trips.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Small group fun...

I am not a morning person. That is no secret. But what is worth getting up at 4:45 am...?

This group.
Meet my small group from the church. Words are not written the same way that I would phonetically spell them, so I will write how they do and then give you a pronunciation if needed. Front (L-R) me, Srey Rath (Row-aht), Yean Yean (Yin Yin), Samnang. Back (L-R) Mang, Keo (Gaow), Elise, Huot, and Dina (Deena). For the last year, God has given me such a heart for each of these young people. They have learned and grown and I count myself blessed to have them be a part of my life. On Saturday morning, we got up super early to go on an "outing" a couple hours away. I think the "official" title of it was a natural preserve or something along those lines. It was a very relaxing place with rocks and water and little huts to sit in...
complete with hammocks
We took pictures, played cards, ate lunch, some of them went swimming (during which time I relaxed by reading my book), and we all had a great time together.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Moving Forward...

Three mornings a week, I have made it my personal "mission" to build the patience of this dear boy...
This is Pannha (pronounced Pahn-nyah). This picture is from one of the Friendship Camps we led for the English students and it was in the middle of a game. I am hoping he is not so tired-looking when he teaches me.  Pannha is my Khmer tutor and my friend.  He also is the pastor's cousin and he comes to eat dinner at the house pretty much every night.  And since I live with the pastor, I have had countless meals with him and a few other people.  I think part of the beauty of our friendship is that we laugh and joke around with each other, which makes learning all the more fun...ok, not painful is maybe a better way to put it ;-)

Some days I read in Khmer and then I have to translate into English.  Some days we learn vocabulary lists (that is NOT my favorite).  Some days we do a grammar lesson from my book.  Some days we just talk about random stuff.  Some days...we do all the above.  And all of the days require perseverance from both of us!!  I have been very impressed with him as I struggle through words.  He has to repeat himself a lot...partly because I don't know the words and partly because he SO speaks fast and I don't listen quite that fast.  

The new method of learning is actually getting me to speak Khmer to more than just him!  This is helpful since there are a lot more people to talk to than Pannha ;-)  On Sunday afternoons, I teach a small group.  Up 'til now, I have done the lessons and Sophea, the pastor, has translated for me.  From here on out, though, I am going to be leading the group without him.

{{insert a wee bit of panic}}

In an effort to prepare myself for this...and to accomplish the goal I set out to getting over my fear and being able to speak the language...I decided that I would start teaching part of my lesson in Khmer.  We read a Bible passage and I ask some processing questions to get the students to think and answer.  My idea was to at least ask the questions in Khmer.  

So Pannha and I worked on translating the questions during my tutoring times and come Sunday, I told them at the beginning of the meeting that I was going to ask the questions in Khmer.  I had to tell them ahead of time or I would chicken out and not actually do it.  I would be frustrated and disappointed in myself that I didn't try.  Thus the announcement.  Because then they would hold me accountable.  It came time for the questions and I did it!!  They didn't sound pretty or eloquent, but they were in Khmer and they all understood what I was asking!  

Mini success!

I have since prepared the questions for this coming Sunday's lesson...and have upped the ante by writing out the closing prayer too.  I have to practice reading the stuff a lot before Sunday.  I write it all out in Khmer rather than phonetically -- which I must say is a skill in and of itself.  So since my reading takes a little effort, I need to prepare a little more than usual.
I realize this picture isn't the clearest (I used my phone), but I will take other pictures of my writing another time. This just gives you an idea of what I am working with here ;-) Thank you for your continued prayers for my language skills...I need them!!

Monday, February 06, 2012

New Vocabulary...

This is a nail.
Nails belong in wood.
Nails do NOT belong in my car tire.

This evening while I was teaching my English class, one of my friends poked her cute little head in the door and called me to come outside. This is pretty abnormal and I was a little concerned by the look on her face, so I excused myself from the class for a minute to find out what was wrong. Here is sorta how the conversation went.

Dina: "Your car. Biy gong. You know?"
Heather (with a very confused face): "I'm sorry. What?"
{I should mention that "gong" is the word for bike, thus the confusion to have it in reference to my car}
Dina: "Your car. gong."
{repeat the first couple lines a few times}
Heather: "Something about a bike and my car, but I don't understand. A bike hit my car?"
Dina: "Yes."
Heather: "Is someone hurt? Is my car ok?"
Dina: "No, your car is not ok."

At this point, I am kinda at a loss because I have no idea how a bike could hit and damage my was parked and should have been ok where it was. I told her I needed to finish my class and I would come down soon. The whole next 30 minutes, all I could think about was my car and confused as to how this all played out downstairs. When I ended class, I was met by a number of different people, all trying to speak Khmer to me {another reminder that I HAVE to learn this language!!} and explain to me what happen. I am sure I had one of the most confused faces ever seen because they would stop me about every 5 feet to say something else about it...and then someone else would come up and try to explain more. I kept saying that I just needed to get out of the gate so I could see what had happened. As I walked up to my car, I saw that my front tire was flat.

{{Insert MORE confusion!!}}

I kept asking over and over again, "How does a bike do this? Who was riding the bike? Where did they go? How did it deflate my tire? I don't understand." My questions were not really given any answers that made sense to me...they just kept saying something about "biy kgong"...biy means now there wasn't just one bike but three bikes that made my tire go flat!!  Needless to say I was pretty well confused.  They were looking at me pretty confused too. At some point in the madness, a thought dawned on me that maybe I wasn't understanding the Khmer words. I think they had the same realization at the same time. One of them pointed at the tire and said "gong" and a light went on over my head.

The word for tire is also (inconveniently) "gong" as well!!

There were not three bikes. There wasn't even one bike involved. It was the silly little nail pictured above.  I also learned that she wasn't saying "biy" but "biyk" and the k at the end of words is a very soft sound so to my American ear, I didn't hear the "k" at all. "Biyk" means broken. So she was telling me that my car had a broken tire.


I wish I could say that this was the end of the excitement, but it was just the beginning of the next wave. At this point, I discover that my car doesn't have a jack. Problem #1. I also discovered that most people around here don't know how to change a car tire. Problem #2. They all have "gongs" (actual bikes) and motorbikes. Not cars. At one point, I counted 14 people trying to help change my tire. There were even passerby's that were stopping to see the show. The whole process took a very long time. Then the power at the church and the street and the whole surrounding area went out. Problem #17. {I realize I skipped #3 thru #16, but trust me, they were there.} We were then completely dependent on the lights from our cell phones!!

This was one of the more "entertaining and interesting" nights in a "Oh-Cambodia-how-I-love-thee" kind of way.

I do love that I had so many people willing and able to help me.
I love that I learned the words for broken and tire.
I love the laughs that we had when we figured out the miscommunication.
And as I have said before, I love a good story.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Simple Truth...

Life has been busy...interesting...full. There are lots of stories to tell (and trust me, I love a good story!), but here is the most recent.

 Last week, we had a women's conference at our church with approximately 200 ladies from Phnom Penh and a few surrounding provinces. Over the two days, the guest speakers from Australia covered topics such as value, God turning our suffering into a message of His love, and how God asks for obedience to follow His word even if we don't fully understand it all at the time.

 At the end of the last session, we opened up the floor for some of the women to come up and give testimonies of things that God had done in their lives and spoken to them during the conference. These are the kinds of stories that I love. I enjoy teaching, but one of my favorite things about working with people is to hear what their hearts are walking through and watching people see God bigger than they did before.

 One woman shared that her whole life, she never had anything. Possessions. Family. Food. Place to live. Nothing. She said there were times in her life she didn't even have clothes to wear and had to go naked. She shared that she had to sell herself for food at times. Her life was the picture of brokenness and hopelessness. But then she met God. And she said in the two days of the seminar, she heard God say that she was valuable and He loved her very much. As she told her story, she just kept repeating, through her tears: "I love God. I love God. I love God. He's says I am valuable and He loves me. And I love God."

 That was the last thing that was spoken at the conference. The speakers got up to pray with her and we dismissed everyone else. It was not a planned, well-thought through conclusion that ended the conference. But it was the way God planned it. The way God feels about her, this woman who had nothing, is the same redemptive, restorative heart that He has for each one of the women in that room. And each one of us too. It was such a simple statement of truth, and yet not a minimal meaning. I love that there are so many things about God like that. We shouldn't complicate His truth and love. No, it's not something that can easily be understood in one sitting and there will always be something new to learn about Him and the depth of His love and character. But the simple truth is that He loves us.
 He loves me.

 He loves you.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Where do they get this stuff?!

I hope the day never comes when the random misspelled or novelty signs, shirts and various other objects become common place to me. I may shake my head sometimes, but trust me, life is so much funnier with them in it. Like this:

Looks to be a normal, every day back pack, right?But is actually armor. This is what I want to be carrying in case of sudden war...Too bad I just bought a bag not too long ago. I am going to have to remember this when purchasing my next back pack, knowing all that they can offer :-)