Traveling Home: The Cambodia Saga

This is the last post of The Cambodia Saga

We arrived back in Phnom Penh and did a temporary camp out in Green Pastures Inn. It was only a few hours until the Hamilton’s flight but it was adequate to make another trip to the Russian Market. On the way we stopped at Alma Cafe for lunch. Alma is Mexican fare and the tortilla soup I had was spicy good.

The Russian market was cooler this day. What were people looking for? An odd assortment of aged cow bells, cassava flour, cashews, peppercorns, T-shirts, and a Go Pro selfie stick were just a few of the items. Every trip I learn a bunch of new things. This time I got educated on durian, which you’ve already heard about, and peppercorns. Both are major crops in the province we visited and I was curious to have some of the pepper. I guess I also learned about the selfie stick (which I might never want to have, yeah, probably never). We walked back to the guest house and I had fun taking pictures of Street 450 where we stayed.

And to think that I saw it on 450 Street...
And to think that I saw it on 450 Street… (notice the wiring)
and the protected construction site, complete with signage…
Behind each gate a private world exists...
Behind each gate a private world exists…
for those wealthy enough to have a  house and a car...
for those wealthy enough to have a house and a car…
Make it beautiful if you can...
Make it beautiful if you can…
but don't worry about it if you can't.
but don’t worry about it if you can’t.
throw in a cell tower once in a while...
throw in a cell tower once in a while…
Supposedly, the more privileged live as high above the street as they can get.
Supposedly, the more privileged live as high above the street as they can get.
Our walk ends here...
Our walk ends here…
On our last evening we finally get a look at this one who has been making a lot of noise.
On our last evening we finally get a look at this one who has been making a lot of noise.

After Hamiltons left we still had hours before our flight at 11:00 pm so we tuk tukked to Sorya Mall to tour a grocery store and look for the selfie stick again. Julie had curiosity about the grocery store and how it compared to stores in the U.S. The Lucky Grocery in the mall is not where the average Cambodian shops for food but it was pretty busy this time. Other years the prices have been wickedly high and there have been empty shelves, but this time it was quite well stocked, clean, and attractive. The prices were noticeably lower than other years and lower than at home.

After getting back from shopping we had time to take a quick shower and say goodbyes to a group of the dorm students who stopped by. Some of them followed us to the airport to say goodbye again. Goodbye is a pretty big ritual in these trips. Many of the kids and houseparents from PE 4 and PE 5 were there to see us off and there was much hugging and picture taking, and a fair amount of tears. It takes place outside the main entryway from the parking lot. Although this is a very dear time for us, we have often thought it might be easier for all concerned if it were shorter. It is always a late departure time and some always come by tuk tuk and moto – we worry about them. It is also exhausting and emotional. That can’t be helped. We were somewhat relieved to find out that everyone left when we entered the building instead of waiting another half hour to watch us go up the elevator to the departure level. Good move.

A literal layover in Seoul, Incheon airport.
A literal layover in Seoul, Incheon airport.
St. Johns River and Jacksonville's harbor in sight as we circled, and circled, and circled...
St. Johns River and Jacksonville’s harbor in sight as we circled, and circled, and circled…

The flight home was pretty much a backward replay of the flight over. The long section was only 13 hours instead of 14 because of a different trajectory across the Atlantic. We slept, we ate, we slept and ate again. We walked what seemed like miles to get to Customs in Atlanta. Our last flight to Jacksonville kept us in the air longer than expected due to a storm over the airport. We finally landed after doing circles over the ocean for half an hour. How good it is to be back in this country. In some ways I can understand the things people say about Americans, because there are differences in the people that give a different flavor to our country. Not all of that flavor is good, but most of it is. There is a craziness and a casual acceptance of unusual behavior that is fun to watch. Glad to be here.

Veranda Natural Resort: The Cambodia Saga

Veranda Natural Resort

sky, mountains, sea and jungle  in one beautiful view from the Infinity Pool
sky, mountains, sea and jungle in one beautiful view from the Infinity Pool
Dr. V Chen, Dr. Julia Dietz and midwife Bora Kon at the Infinity Pool, Veranda Natural Resort
Dr. V Chen, Dr. Julia Dietz and midwife Bora Kon at the Infinity Pool, Veranda Natural Resort

This is a pretty awesome place. We have already decided that Julie, Bora and Vchen will get married this year and come here for their honeymoons. Hunsaders have been here in the summer for three years now and have gotten acquainted with the owner and his family. They are Chinese and have invested a lot of time and effort into this project and are quite proud of it.

As I said, the driveway to the resort is unpaved, muddy and steep. The resort itself is built on the side of a mountain that is covered with jungle – trees of all kinds, vines, undergrowth, birds and animals, giant centipedes, giant snails – these are the things I’ve seen.

The “natural” part of the resort name is evident throughout the establishment. All the construction is wood, stucco and stone and done beautifully and skillfully. At any point you find yourself, you can’t really see any other part of the resort. The plantings and rock walls hide all views except of the ocean and islands in the distance. Being on the mountainside gives the layout a distinctly vertical dimension. All the stairs and pathways are of rock and tile of several styles. The furniture is mostly from large wood slabs, root structures, and trunks of trees. Trish said one year a large tree had just fallen near the pool and they were already cutting it up to make something of it. Many of the large rock slabs have sedimentary lines in them just like tree rings. All the lighting is hidden under sea shells embedded in the rock. In the rooms the complimentary toiletries are in tiny stoneware vases and are made of natural products. There are signs encouraging conservation of energy. Here is a tour of the beautiful accommodations…

I appreciated the coffee and tea service in the room – the cups were big enough to hold more than two sips and there were small spoons to stir. A complimentary plate of fruit was delivered to our room the first afternoon. There was a hair dryer in the bathroom, and not only shampoo but also conditioner available. The doors were heavy, solid wood about 2 inches thick and moved quietly on their hinges (loved this!). The room had a lot of built in table and shelf space which made it so easy to find a place for suitcases and computers. The staff was always watching to see what guests needed. There was no bad food. Julie and I both had a massage package which was about two hours long and very nice. Honestly, there were so many beautiful places to hang out here that it was hard to decide where to go, and we didn’t get to all of them (so we will have to go back!).

Seating area at the  Secret Restaurant, Veranda Natural Resort
Seating area at the Secret Restaurant, Veranda Natural Resort
Swing seating made of natural wood pieces
Swing seating made of natural wood pieces
An elevated walkway through the jungle
An elevated walkway through the jungle
poolside with some of that remarkable stonework
Peaceful spa area
Tea after our massage session
Tea after our massage session
Tree root chair
Tree root chair
leading to Secret Restaurant
leading to Secret Restaurant
...where they serve a breakfast buffet with everything imaginable
…where they serve a breakfast buffet with everything imaginable
one of the many beckoning stairs
one of the many beckoning stairs
It rained the whole time and I still LOVED it.
It rained the whole time and I still LOVED it!

I have to stop. I have way too many pictures of this gorgeous place. It has mystery, secrecy, natural beauty and you should go there!

The Cambodia Saga: A New Location

Rain, rain, go away... notice the moto leaving a wake as it travels down the road.
Rain, rain, go away… notice the moto leaving a wake as it travels down the road.

It was another stormy night, and it is now another stormy morning. This weather pattern is so persistent with it’s overcast sky, steady trickle of rain, and torrential outbursts every couple of hours – kind of like a spoiled, grumpy child. But the children do not complain or fuss. They are pretty happy, no matter what. Odd, huh?

Our morning message by “Daddy Mike” was a review of the whole retreat. He reminded them that being more than conqueror meant standing up to peer pressure, recognizing authority, choosing good friends and resisting worldliness. They went over their memorized verse in Khmer and in English again.

Romans 8:37-39 “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God than is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

As they left the hotel a little later, those were the things we reminded them about along with our goodby hugs.

I have to say, the silence in the hotel after they left was deafening.

the lower entrance to Veranda gives just a hint of the beautiful stone and wood inside.
the lower entrance to Veranda gives just a hint of the beautiful stone and wood inside.

We packed up and climbed into tuk tuks for a short ride to our next stop, Veranda Natural Resort ( It is on the side of a gentle, jungle covered mountain. The drive is steeply uphill and not paved so halfway there, our tuk tuk driver stopped and said no further. The mud and slipperiness made it impossible unless we got out and lightened the load. This might lead you to expect a less than wonderful experience ahead.

Exactly the opposite. This is the most awesome resort I have ever visited. If I could live here, I would.

And this is the open door to the room I would live in, really.  Video tour, next post.
And this is the open door to the room I would live in, really. Video tour, next post.

Describing this place deserves a whole post unto itself and it will come tomorrow with Tuesday Travel #8.

We had lunch and free time the rest of the day until it was time to have dinner. I was able to get online, review my pictures, stroll around the resort, take a dip in the pool and enjoy some time with Julie.  Our team had dinner together and talked about our impressions of the trip and our plans for the future. The evening ended with a game of cards designed to make enemies of friends (kidding, it was fun).

One of many photo moments I couldn't resist while strolling around Veranda.
One of many photo moments I couldn’t resist while strolling around Veranda.
There is a decidedly vertical dimension to this awesome resort.
There is a decidedly vertical dimension to this awesome resort.

The Cambodia Saga

Due to not having internet connection when it was convenient, the last days of this time in Cambodia didn’t get posted.  You got a break, now the journey continues…

Dinner with all 5 Prek Eng families at Rock Royal Hotel, Kep
Dinner with all 5 Prek Eng families at Rock Royal Hotel, Kep

Last night the hotel restaurant served Khmer food to all at dinner – a challenge for a crowd this size. We were told it would not be Western food so had eaten well at lunch. They serve a lovely dish similar to coleslaw with crumbled peanuts on top, but I have learned to look for the very tiny shrimp that they mix in. I have tried to like this but cannot. Too fishy for my palate.

We also had the first meeting with all the kids last night– songs and a speaker. The theme for this retreat is “More than Conquerors”. Both last night and this morning the children have recited Romans 8:37 -39 in Khmer and in English from memory. It is awesome to hear. The messages have been geared toward some of the problems the kids are encountering now, encouraging them not to give in to bad peer pressure and to recognize the authorities God has put in their lives. The older children are the ones leading the praise songs, praying and giving some direction. Our team members have been giving the main message. We often have children sitting with us and looking at our Bibles. They are very attentive and make sure we have bottles of water and a good place to sit.

This morning they also had all the fathers in the group stand in the front, after which the whole group came forward to hug and thank each of them. They always try to remember our holidays, especially ones of this nature. I am thinking of my own father who is not longer here, and of Jack who was also a good father to his children. I am thinking of my own husband who is spending Father’s Day alone while we are here in Cambodia. I miss them all.

Once again the children have a scheduled time at the beach and have gone in the buses, in spite of the very rainy and windy weather. I have elected to stay in my room and watch the weather out the window. The curtains on my window blow in the wind, in spite of the windows being closed, and it sounds just like the winding down stage of a hurricane.

A great group of girls make a great discussion.
A great group of girls make a great discussion.

Later: Julie and I have just finished an hour and a half session with 13 lovely girls, age 17 and older, talking about things that are on their minds. Julie told me boys would be the main subject and she was right. We went through some Biblical guidelines for being women of God for starters and then had discussion. It is somewhat difficult with the language barrier but I believe we had a good time. There was much laughter, some thoughtful questions, and good attention. They are precious women. At the end, some wanted to know how I met my husband and I told them. I am so glad to have that story to tell. Thank you Dennis (the husband). But I must say that being around all the youthfulness this weekend is making me feel very old.

Later still: Our team and all the house parents loaded ourselves onto the bus for a short trip to Kimmly Seafood Restaurant for our evening meal. Over dinner and fellowship there was a lot of talk about the problem of middle school students having to ride their bikes to the public school which is quite a distance away. The house parents would like to expand the Asia Hope school to include middle school. Savorn, Asia Hope director, is excited about this idea and that usually means it will be in operation within six months. He has figured out how to add four classrooms to the present school, how many teachers would be needed, and how to invite selected children from the neighborhood to fill the classes to reasonable size.

As we were entering the meeting room for the evening session, I was pulled aside to where a group was gathered around a young man who had gotten a ring on his finger and couldn’t get it off. He was soaking his hand in ice water hoping to shrink the finger a little. Julie had offered “mom’s trick” ring removal method and I was to apply it. Dental floss was the readily accessible material so we tried that a couple of times but it kept breaking after moving the ring a short ways. Still that was far enough for me to move it more with my fingers and it finally popped off. Lots of people had gathered around and were anxiously watching and praying so there was a big cheer and audible sigh of relief. I think from now on I will carry a better brand of dental floss, just for this kind of thing. It is a very cool trick.

The evening message was good. The singing was exuberant and impressive – no one sings quite like it in the U.S. We are always moved to video the Cambodians doing their praise and worship, especially the littlest ones.

young worship leaders
young worship leaders
Yeah, especially the young ones…

The evening ended with Game Night. The meeting room is not large and 150 people, talking loudly and trying to organize themselves, makes for pandemonium and loud noise. The kids divided into 10 small groups for the first game which was to put two small jigsaw puzzles together. After one group won the prize by finishing their puzzles I kind of expected the game to end, as it would have if we were working with American kids. No, the game went on until all groups had their puzzles together. The same thing happened with the other games. It was a very loud, hilarious night. Exhausting is another word I would use. Everyone looked happy to be heading to their rooms.

who can make the tallest tower out of straws and masking tape?
who can make the tallest tower out of straws and masking tape?
putting heads together over jigsaw puzzles

Last Day in Phnom Penh

I don’t know what day it is anymore. Maybe Thursday. Today we went early to help with an outreach in one of the slum areas, of which there are many. The university dorm students are in charge of this endeavor and they do a great job. They are friends with a few older children who are given invitations to pass out in their neighborhoods. All the children arrived this morning at what is called a soccer field, but is really a rare empty lot with indoor/outdoor carpeting on a cement slab.

Slum outreach: Kids watch a skit of the story of David and Goliath (Goliath has just been slain and is lying on the ground.)
Slum outreach: Kids watch a skit of the story of David and Goliath (Goliath has just been slain and is lying on the ground.)
Attempting to bring some order by lining up...
Attempting to bring some order by lining up…

There were over 200 children, mostly small, perhaps 10 and younger, in all stages of dress/undress running around when we arrived. I smiled and bent down to greet a few of them and that was all it took to set off a stampede. I had children practically jumping into my arms, climbing up my legs and holding onto my hands. To say they are friendly is an understatement. I could not imagine anyone being able to bring order to this chaos. There were a few mothers present but most children were unaccompanied.

The students lined up along one side of the lot and one with a bull horn began talking to the children, telling them to line up. They were soon in about ten lines listening intently. The singing began and they responded loudly and enthusiastically. This was not the first time for many of them so they knew the songs and the routine. They listened to a skit about David and Goliath which was pretty hysterical – the college students have a lot of fun doing this. Our team supervised a game called “four corners” which turned into a free for all. None of the children understood the rules but they loved running back and forth from one corner to the other. We couldn’t get any of them to sit down and quit when they were out.

We finished by giving each child a packet of school supplies and a small loaf of bread. This whole experience was such a great example of community, giving time and attention to people who don’t often get it. It was Cambodians having a heart for Cambodians and inspiring it was to see.

All the neighborhood children holding up their gifts of school supplies
All the neighborhood children holding up their gifts of school supplies

After lunch at Daughters of Cambodia Sugar and Spice, we went to Asia Hope for our last visit to the our sponsored homes there. This was the day I gave all the girls the jewelry craft that was donated by one of my friends. They loved doing this and soon were wearing the rings, pins, earrings, bracelets and necklaces they had made. They are very interested in looking like young ladies and having special things to wear. The ninja ball craft was repeated for PE5 home with possibly even more mess than we created at PE4 home. Flour and balloons everywhere, everywhere…

Good thing it was just flour...
Good thing it was just flour…
All the girls and ladies have jewelry to wear after this craft session.
All the girls and ladies have jewelry to wear after this craft session.
The kids made sidewalk art with chalk at their home

We are again thankful to be safely at the guest house after a productive and fun day. Long, our trusty tuk tuk driver, made a BIG mistake and took the bumpy way home through miles and miles of road construction and we will probably not stop teasing him about it for a long time. One more thing to remember about our days in Phnom Penh. Tomorrow we leave for Kep, the resort where we will have retreats for the dorm students first, then the Asia Hope children.

Continuing in Cambodia

sign in Digby's cafe and a good saying to remember
sign in Digby’s cafe and a good saying to remember

For several days the internet has not been easily available so I have not posted.  Getting back on track now in a beautiful place, with wifi specifically for our room.  Looking forward to posting about the last days of our trip.

Two Days with Children (Tuesday and Wednesday) Days 7 and 8

These two days are very similar on the schedule so I am writing about them together. During our free time in the morning yesterday, Julia and I went to the Russian market to do personal shopping. The girl is a shopper, for sure. She got nearly everything she had in mind as gifts for people back home and found some dishes to complement the ones I brought her last year. She is a good one to barter with the merchants, which is expected practice. They always start high, she always starts low and they meet in the middle. I wanted her to see the Russian market because it is unique in many ways, one of which is the high temperatures inside during the heat of the day. It is like a sauna.

Every year I have come there is a merchant that we visit. She is a lady who has been burned and scarred on her face but in spite of that she is cheerful and an active seller. She supports herself and her son from sales at her booth. She knows Mike and Trish and recognizes most of us who have come with her which surprises me. I met her in one of the aisles and she gave me a big welcome hug. Julie and I shopped at her booth – it is the only one where we don’t barter. She is a Christian and has some amazing books about those who have survived Khmer Rouge and come to faith through some pretty nasty trials. As we left with our bags full she went to a cooler behind her wall and got us bottles of chilled water to take with us.

The street front wall of greenery at Digby's.  Awesome place. Eat there.
The street front wall of greenery at Digby’s. Awesome place. Eat there.

The team ate lunch at Digby’s, a restaurant started by a Cambodian who immigrated to the U.S. where he became a successful businessman. He then returned to Cambodia to pour back into his people the blessings he had experienced. His restaurant rivals upscale organic/fresh market establishments in the U.S.  The sign that starts this post was one I saw in the store.

We went on to the Central Market to meet PE4 children and staff. This outing has become a tradition. Each member of the house is given $10 for an item of their choice. The children have become good at deciding what they want and finding it. They have learned to barter and buy so it is a good experience for them. This year’s purchases included clothing, a purse, a suitcase, and shoes. You can get a lot for $10 at Central Market. We always end the trip with a group photo.

With PE4 after a successful shopping trip
With PE4 after a successful shopping trip

It is always dinner time when we finish so on to Khmer Surin. After years of going for pizza, this restaurant is a new experience for some. It is a sit down, very nice restaurant and guest house where a different set of skills can be practiced. One skill that still needs to be sharpened is the act of passing food to others so that all get enough to eat. We had a bit of trouble with that at one table but will watch today and make sure the boys with big appetites don’t get it all.

Eating at a "fancy" restaurant with full compliment of tableware and napkins!
Eating at a “fancy” restaurant with full compliment of tableware and napkins!

Our final stop this year, instead of going to the riverfront park, is an amusement park called Dreamland. There are lots of carnival rides there, an inline skate park, a maze, and a lot of interesting places to hang out. It was in the budget for each child to have one ride and it turned out to be the bumper cars where everyone had a blast learning to drive poorly.

Bumper car fun at Dreamland
Bumper car fun at Dreamland

On the second day through the Central Market on Thursday it started to rain. This is my first experience with Cambodia in the rainy season and it was a wet one. Much of the market is under tarps and there are many leaks. It seems to be the rule, if we are not wet with sweat, we are wet with rain. The ride from the market to the restaurant was filled with drama as we jumped large puddles to reach our tuk tuk. The driver in his raincoat was busy lowering rain flaps and helping us in. We were thankful for the small degree of shelter we had because most everyone we saw on motos was soaked. The evening at Dreamland was also very wet and by then the puddles were lakes. There was a bit of excitement at the bumper car ride when a surge of electricity was felt by several of the kids holding hands, followed by a power outage in the whole park. The second night we were also entertained by Samnang, one of the PE5 kids who had bought a Batman costume at the market with his $10 (???). He raced around supposedly saving the day, until he lost his “hat” in the bumper car ride. Jim, one of our team members, and recently awarded hero status, went back with him and found it wrapped around the wheel of the bumper car.

Behind us, one of the lucky moto riders who remembered his rain poncho…

Dreamland is a huge park and it has been nearly empty both nights, except for our group and numerous employees who sit around with little to do. One good thing about going there is that it has a natural ending point, after we have walked past all the features and had bumper car rides it is time to go home, and still early enough that we can get a good rest back at the guest house. Having this much fun is exhausting…

Our very own "Batman" posing with a superhero friend.
Our very own “Batman” posing with a superhero friend.

Tuesday Travels #7 Getting Around in Phnom Penh

I cannot say enough about the traffic in this city. It is a constant source of wonder (and fear) and is almost like entertainment when we are out and about the city.

The first, most obvious thing that I notice is that more people travel by moto than anything else. They are everywhere. Since they are little (compared to a car) you find them by the dozen parked on sidewalks, driven inside buildings, pulling huge loads of goods, and carrying anywhere from one to five or more people. In the stream of traffic I see them winding their way around cars, totally disregarding any semblance of being in a lane. They act more like extensions of the rider’s body, making small twists and turns, squeezing into spaces you would not think possible.

Our two tuk tuks in the stream of traffic
Our two tuk tuks in the stream of traffic

The second and truly amazing thing is that at most intersections there are no traffic lights. None. Vehicles of all sizes and shapes simply edge out to make their turns and move across multiple lines of cross traffic. Have you ever seen the Shriners motorcycle riders in a parade? Those X formations where they weave one line of riders through another line? That’s a little bit like how traffic works at intersections only on a much larger scale. Most of the time the speed is quite slow, allowing for things to go wrong without being disastrous. That is not to say that there are never accidents.

Since many moto riders don’t wear helmets they are at risk. They are also the under dog when it comes to size. Everything except a pedestrian is bigger, heavier and more powerful than they are. Trucks are particularly dangerous and most of them are the large, road construction, type of vehicle. I rarely see a pick up truck. I think that’s because the average farmer in Cambodia is not a wealthy person, not even close.

Cars and vans are the next most common things on the roads. Every other vehicle is a Lexus or similar brand of car, and most of them have government connection. The late model SUV is definitely an “in” thing. Vans are used mostly as practical choices for carrying lots of people. And then there are large buses that can be chartered at a very reasonable cost.

5 adults and 20 + children manage to travel happily in this van (that is not to say they couldn't use a little more room...)
5 adults and 20 + children manage to travel happily in this van (that is not to say they couldn’t use a little more room…)

Perhaps some of you have no idea what a tuk tuk is – I didn’t before I came to Cambodia the first time. They are probably as equally prevalent as cars on the streets of Phnom Penh, and more prevalent the farther you get from the city. They are little motorcycle pulled carts that seat four to six people and serve as the common taxi. Outside hotels and shopping places tuk tuks are lined up along the streets waiting to be hired. Their drivers have territories and defend them. They are quite efficient at getting people around in the city at a reasonable cost. The wagons are decked out in various ways, some show a lot of imagination. They often have advertisements posted on the back.

And that is how we traveled today, Tuesday, in a tuk tuk.

Tuk tuk or what we would call a taxi, waiting outside our guest house for hire
Tuk tuk or what we would call a taxi, waiting outside our guest house for hire

Monday with the Children

A picture is worth a thousand words (and a lot easier to post).

We did a messy craft project, making ninja balls, with flour and balloons.  Kids love messy things.
We did a messy craft project, making ninja balls, with flour and balloons. Kids love messy things.
Kids love bright colors and playing with balloons too.
Kids love bright colors and playing with balloons too.
Activities take place outside on platform in the courtyard
Activities take place outside on platform in the courtyard
Looking at pictures on phones, having discussion around the table...
Looking at pictures on phones, having discussion around the table…
Posing for photo moments.  My phone gets borrowed and I find all kinds of interesting pics on it when it returns.
Posing for photo moments. My phone gets borrowed and I find all kinds of interesting pics on it when it returns.
Rousing card game of
Rousing card game of “Blitz”
And a festive dinner prepared by house "moms" and older girls.
And a festive dinner prepared by house “moms” and older girls.
A friendly fried rice.
A friendly fried rice.

Thursday in Phnom Penh

I slept pretty well. I was awakened early by some soft noises, like a door opening, and then my light went on briefly and off again. I still haven’t figured out what happened. There are three rooms in our unit which come off a larger common room where the front door is. On my other visits all rooms in our unit have been occupied by our team so we didn’t lock the inside doors. I think I will do that from now on.

Another surprise was the Inn’s new restaurant where breakfast is served. It is across the street. The new manager, Vendent, has expanded the business into an additional building. The outdoor courtyard is where we eat. There are only three tables and two of them fill up with young university students from the U.S. who are here doing medical missions in outlying provinces. They are all from the same church in Fayetteville. AR. My breakfast comes out in 30 seconds, literally. I think they cook ahead expecting a rush. I’m hungry and it looks good.

I go back later with Trish and Mike and watch them eat. We plan our day and go back to our rooms to do some research on games for our Friday night time with the university students in the dorms. Our time has been split between the orphanage children and the dorm students these last two years and it is interesting to see how the Asia’s Hope children transition to being university students. Some of them have taken leadership roles at the dorm.

Later: It is now evening. I am very tired but have felt pretty good all day. After breakfast today Trish and I brainstormed for games that the college students could play tomorrow night at a gathering. We have two, both of which will be challenging to explain but a lot of fun if we do them right.

We went to the Russian market to get materials for the games. The market is within walking distance of our guest house. This particular market is large, unbelievably crowded and claustrophobic even in cooler weather, but it is sweltering heat now so everything is magnified. In spite of Trish and I being thoroughly wet and sweating, the Cambodian women can be seen wearing sweaters and long sleeved blouses as they sit and cook on their charcoal burners, or their mile high stacks of garments for sale. There are no breezes, no fans, no air. It is quite an experience. But there is so much to see that I love to go anyway and can’t wait to show it to Julie.

Russian market, where you can find almost anything if you can stand to look long enough...
Russian market, where you can find almost anything if you can stand to look long enough…
Russian market food section has many small vendors like this lady.
Russian market food section has many small vendors like this lady.

We had lunch at Jars of Clay restaurant (very good) and then went by tuk tuk to Prek Eng to see the children. We spent a couple hours at each of the two houses just to catch up on their news. They are so hospitable and welcoming. Unlike children in the U.S. who say hi and then usually disappear, these kids love to sit and talk or just listen. There is always someone sitting on my lap or holding my hand or massaging my neck. They smile and laugh easily and try to communicate in English much more than they did in the past. We were served dragon fruit, leechee, mangosteen, and fried banana chips along with cold water and coffee. Mike played soccer with some of the boys – they have a special ball that is light and small when they are playing in close quarters, but were kicking a regular soccer ball out in the open, with their bare feet! They are tough!

The tuk tuk ride takes nearly an hour each way, through terrible road construction. It is a rough ride with lots of dust and potential traffic danger. Back at Green Pastures Inn Bora was waiting for us. She is the student midwife who works on the medical outreach with us. She and Sophat, one of the Asia Hope students who has graduated and is in university, came to dinner with us at Brooklyn Pizza. This is another good place to eat within walking distance, started by a man from, you guessed it, Brooklyn.

Home again to meet newly arrived members of the team, the Hamilton’s and Lydia. I have been talking with Lydia for half an hour and find her very interesting. She is just out of high school, the youngest of five children of long term missionaries. They live in the U.S. now but do a lot of traveling. This is Lydia’s first time in Cambodia and she had a lot of questions. Time to get some sleep now and I am so ready for that

Tuesday Travels #6 The Flight to Cambodia

FT (Florida time)7 am, out the door and on the way to JAX, Julie drops me off, 50 lb. bags get checked all the way to Phnom Penh (thank you Lord), I go through security on pre-check (thank you again) and am waiting for my first flight

FT 10:30 am, ATL, sitting in the waiting area for the international flight. I was able to move by tram from concourse B to concourse F, which was marked as the international terminal. At the help desk I found out I was really supposed to be at concourse E, so I walked back rather than ride the tram all the way around the circle. Easy check in at the gate, hardly anyone else there. FT 10:45, Mike and Trish arrive. They started in ATL and the security check made them unwrap the video projectors Trish had so carefully bubble wrapped, towel wrapped and duct taped. We visit and catch up on each other’s status while waiting.

I want to keep track of how they plan events on the trip to make us think in the time of our destination. I’m not going to buy food in the airports, hoping that what we get on the flight will be plenty as it usually is. Still fighting this headache for the third day now but perhaps it is getting better. Wishing I had some noise canceling headphones for this trip. I settled for new earbuds that have soft rubber cradles to keep them on my ears. My ears seem to be different from the average human since most everything pops right out the minute I put it in.

My biggest source of confusion on these trips is my back pack with it’s zillion different pockets, compartments and zippers. I’ve named it Helper, hoping that it will take the hint. I always try to have as little “stuff” to keep track of as possible, but on this long a flight you do need to have some things handy. I’ve already nearly left my driver’s license at the bag check place in Jacksonville. I’ve had to hunt for my baggage claim checks when at the Korean Air desk. I needed my fingernail clippers after tearing off a nail stowing my pack under the seat, and of course, I needed my ibuprofen. I got the Kindle out on the flight from Jacksonville but as it turned out I only opened my eyes long enough to drink my cup of coffee. All this stuff has to come out and go back in handily or I look like an idiot.

FT 12:50 We take off and are soon at over 500 mph at great height. By 1:15 we are being served beverage and snacks, I decide to watch a movie “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” which I saw on the plane coming from Minneapolis but couldn’t hear any of the words. By 2:00 we are being served a meal. I take chicken. By 3:00 the lights are being dimmed and by 3:30 it is quite dark and most are watching a movie or sleeping. I will also try to sleep because my headache is coming back.

FT 8 pm. I did try to sleep as it was a bit like taking a late afternoon nap. However, these seats are every bit as hard as I remember them being and that is what keeps me from being comfortable for long. I am sitting on actual pain, even though I have used my blanket as a cushion. Numbness.

Around FT 6pm we were offered a glass of juice and choice of a brownie, peanuts or a hot bun. I’ve had the hot bun before and it was good – has something in the middle that tastes like a spicy stew gravy. Nothing like it in our country. So that’s what I had. Decided to watch another movie. Cinderella, just because I’m curious about this recent remake.

My Helper, with it’s many pockets, compartments and zippers…

Now we have just crossed the international date line, so it is no longer Tuesday here. We are at 36,000 feet going 537 mph and a little over half way there. I smell food again. I have been smelling something not so good as food for which the young boy sitting behind me is responsible, I think. He is also the one creating “turbulence” by kicking the back of my seat periodically. When we were all strapped in our seats during takeoff, he released himself from the seat belt and took off down the aisle. Two attendants quickly left their jump seats and grabbed him which was a bit dramatic since the plane was on quite an incline. They all three kind of fell down the hill, and then climbed back up. I’ve done pretty good finding things in my helper, except for my glasses case. I searched every compartment before I remembered where it was. That happens. As I said it’s now 8pm in Florida where I started, I’ve had a good nap but the plane is still dark. It’s disorienting to sit in this room with no outside view and with a constant loud white noise of the engines. I think they are counting on people being disoriented so they can play with our internal time clocks…

FT 4am on Wednesday morning. I am in Seoul, South Korea where it is 5:10 pm Wednesday. Confused yet? As I said about six hours ago, I smelled food. Meal number two was served at FT 9:30 after hot, warm washcloths were passed to all. We ate and the room was darkened again. I was sitting on both the pillow and the blanket which made my seat much more comfortable and I was able to sleep for several hours. This would have been normal sleep time for me at home. At about FT 2:30 we were awakened and readied for landing.

Incheon aiport is very nice, very busy. We followed the crowd to the line for International Transfers and went through another security check. My backpack was carefully examined by x-ray and then a manual search was requested. For some reason my wooden jewelry box with its two pair of earrings was hard for them to identify and after seeing what it was, all was good again.

There was sufficient time for us to find food, use the restroom and find Gate 20 where the next flight to Phnom Penh will board. I have gotten a welcome message on my phone from South Korea stating that I can receive calls and texts but cannot make them until some special authorization. I may not have wifi until we reach the guest house later tonight. All for now.

Me, being helped.
Me, being helped.