Xenophile: Sharing Passions Builds Relationships

I was delighted to find this word describing a common trait that I share with my daughters, one which has been built especially into my relationship with daughter Julia. Both of my girls have traveled and experienced foreign cultures and love doing that, as do I. We love exploring, talking to people and learning how we are all similar, and how our lives are different. That’s basically what a xenophile is – a person who loves foreign people and their cultures.

Me, dressed for riding the tuk tuk through the city.

The foreign part of the world that I have the most experience with is Southeast Asia, Cambodia in particular. I have taken four trips of about two weeks each time and have made many personal friends, most of them in PhnomPenh. I was so moved by the people and their way of life that I had to take Julia there, so she could experience it too.

Julia loves these kids, they love her too.

While there, our mission was to spend time with the staff and children of Asia’s Hope, an organization providing stable homes for orphans and at risk children. In a country where it is common for people in poverty to “sell” a child into slavery of one kind or another, in order to make ends meet, Asia’s Hope is committed to finding these kids and rescuing them. They are a Christian organization and want to teach children that God loves and values them, even when other people don’t. They place 20 to 25 children in a home with indigenous house parents who will raise them to college age and beyond. They will live out biblical principles and equip the children to be leaders in their own country. It is a beautiful model and it works.

So, the love part – what won me over? I can list a few of the many, many experiences that did the trick.

– arriving at the Phnom Penh airport late at night and finding the house parents and dozens of the kids waiting to greet us, grab our bags and put them in vans and get us to our lodgings.

I’m in there, the only white haired person you can pick out…

– being invited to their homes for meals highlighting their cuisine but also giving us something familiar (they learned fried chicken and spaghetti quite easily).

Their preferred “table”. They were kind enough to make sure we had chairs.

– visiting in their asian style kitchens, while the moms, cooks and older girls cooked on charcoal grills while squatting on the floor (so amazing!)

– playing games with the children outside, sitting with them inside while they overwhelmed us with laughter and hugs

– enjoying outings to the city market where each child thoughtfully chose how to spend five dollars on something they needed with no complaining or arguing.

Of course I am not in this picture because I am taking the picture.
With PE4 after a successful shopping trip. I made it into this picture, again the odd one with very white hair.

– watching them enjoy a rare trip to a pizza restaurant where dozens of wings and pizzas disappeared, again with nothing but smiles and happiness.

Pizza night, and I am given a flower for my hair…
Oh, and there was birthday cake for all to share.

– hearing their delight in learning English words and phrases, and more laughter as they listened to us trying to learn Khmer words from them

– experiencing firsthand their simple, strong faith and how content they are with so little

– and over the years, seeing them learn and grow, graduate high school and go on to university (so rare in their country).

My contact list has almost more Asian friends than American ones and my Facebook messages are filled with pictures from those beautiful friends in that exciting, culturally different but much loved country. I am suffering from xenomania. I am a xenophile.

Going Again: Cambodia, the Conclusion

It’s early and still dark outside, but I’m getting up. I’ve been looking at the clock every hour thinking surely it is morning now, and it has not been. I’m going to call this jet lag and hope that it will resolve in a few more days. I’m home once again, suitcases are unpacked, everyday life has resumed.  I can finally see my ankle bones again after losing them during the 20 hours of sitting in an airplane. The journey to Cambodia and back is over.

The last few days of our trip were full of relational activities, decisions about our financial gifts, a medical clinic outreach to the Prek Eng community, and, for me, computer problems that made it hard to complete the story I was telling.  I had hoped my “devices” would last the trip without malfunctioning and they almost did.



The relational activites were our nights with the PE4 and PE5 houses. Traditionally we have spent an afternoon and evening with each house, talking and playing with the children and having dinner with them. It’s an opportunity to introduce a craft or a new toy. This year it was “flubber”.  One of Trish’s friends had sent along the materials to make this interesting, goofy stuff and she ended up making four batches at each house, and sending the leftovers around to all the other houses. Now everyone knows what “flubber” is. Laughing, talking, making music, coloring, paper crafts, eating, and the final act – a dance performance by the kids – made the evenings so full. We finished with our tuk tuk rides home, courtesy of Long our favorite driver, and gratefully tumbled into bed.


As I mentioned before, one of the significant pleasures for me when I visit the kids, is to find a project not covered by regular monthly support and see it get done. It’s just plain fun to see 100% of the funds going toward a good end. The project of filling in the ditch started immediately after we agreed to it (always surprises me how quickly director Savourn can act), and I’ve since seen pictures of the finished results. All together, we were able to furnish seven bikes for each house for the children who have to ride to public school, closets for PE5 children and staff, and some furniture, a whiteboard, and guitars for the university student dorms. They move ahead without some of these conveniences and comforts, but are very grateful when they can be provided. Thank you to everyone who made this possible.

You might wonder where the gospel fits into my trip to Cambodia, since I don’t mention it often. I don’t do a lot of preaching (not my strong point) when I’m there. I do loving. But I’m also enabling others to talk about their faith and present the gospel. One of those opportunities was the medical clinic on our last day. The word was out in the community and people began lining up at our location early on Friday morning. It is primarily a triage effort, sorting out problems that can be helped with an over the counter medicine, and ones that are more significant and need to be referred to a doctor. Everyone got their vital signs taken, their blood sugar checked, a consultation with our midwife nurse Bora or me, an offer of reading glasses, and a chance to talk with the Cambodian house parents about their faith. Since they live in this community and rub shoulders with the people in it, the house parents are able to follow up with those who want to know more about faith in Jesus Christ.

The eyeglass station at the medical clinic

One of the people coming through our clinic was Long, the tuk tuk driver. We have had contact with him for a number of years and used his services almost exclusively for our rides to Prek Eng and elsewhere. We all have his telephone number and love to see his cheery smile and hear him saying “ba, ba, ba” when he understands our requests. He takes care of us, and last year when his moto blew a gasket, Hunsaders helped take care of him with assistance in getting a new one. This year, Long wanted reading glasses so he could read the Bible he had just gotten. It’s an example of how God works with some people through repeated, loving contact. It was encouraging to us all.

So ended this trip to Cambodia. It was rewarding, interesting, rigorous, thought provoking in many ways, and at its end, reminded me of how different life can be for those living in faraway places. I always come back with awareness of how much I have been given in this country and how grateful I should be, and also how much my blessings are taken for granted. Gratitude is a healthy attitude and feels good.

Going Again: Cambodia, at Kep

Phnom Penh is an inland city, full of people, noise, traffic, trash, heat, commerce… in general, it’s the kind of place everyone needs a break from once in a while. Many people here go southwest on Highway 3 (there are no numbers above 5 for their major roads) to the coast for access to the sea. There are beaches, resorts and other opportunities to enjoy nature and “get away from it all”.

One of the highlights for our team, and all the Asia’s Hope families is our outing to Kep, one of the seaside communities. Our team raises enough money to take children and staff from all six homes for an overnight stay at Rock Royal Hotel. It is a short walk from Kep Beach for ocean swimming, but also has a large pool.

the sea, the pool, our buses – all from the balcony at Rock Royal Resort

On Saturday morning, we packed up and left Phnom Penh, traveling in three busses. There apparently is no seat belt law, or limitation on how many people can be packed into a bus. Two families in each bus, plus our team, and some university students, meant that people were standing, sitting on other’s laps and using the middle aisle. The children love being together with us and each other like this and some of our best conversations happen on the bus rides. It is a two hour trip, more or less, depending on road conditions. There are some very nice roads being built now but often “road conditions” refers to how many cows are on the road, how deep the holes have gotten, etc…

We arrived close to check in time. The families carry their own food with them because it is immeasurably easier and cheaper to feed everyone that way than to try to descend on a restaurant with 150 hungry kids. After eating they all headed to the pool for sun and fun (and the resulting exhaustion).

Our team had lunch at the Sailing Club, one of our favorite spots on the water. This is the oft photographed dock which we all have in our picture banks.20170610_130024

Our evening meal was with the house parents at a restaurant that they love, Kimly Seafood Restaurant. They are such a great group and have a lot of fun conversing and eating, and watching us order and eat (and laughing at us). We often do not know what to order since everything that sounds familiar to us turns out to be quite different, except for French fries which, surprisingly, are the same everywhere. I often opt for vegetarian dishes, or chicken. This night I got adventurous and ordered fish and chips. The French fries were exactly what I expected, the fish was totally different ( also as expected).

We all met together after dinner for a message and worship time and entertainment for those who weren’t too tired to stay awake. Julie and I weren’t among that group so I’m sure we missed some good things but we got some much needed sleep.

The next day we were up early enough to beat the crowd to the breakfast bar. That was part of our plan since we were familiar with what happens when 150 hungry kids wake up and descend on the buffet. We made it just in time.

The little ones reportedly had not gone swimming since last year’s outing, so they had a blast in the kiddie pool.

Afterward our whole group met for worship and a message one more time. Then the kids loaded on the buses for a short jaunt to the beach. Some swim, some just enjoy the sand and sun. The men and boys had a “soccer” game on the beach. Since the bus drivers don’t allow wet, sandy people on the bus, they left to go back to the hotel while the beachgoers walked back. It was check-out time. The retreat was over except for the ride home.

This break from their normal routine is a much needed respite. That being said, it is also a common experience to all of us that going on vacation entails some work. The fact that they approach their work so calmly and efficiently is always remarkable to me. The helpers shop for food, pack it up and take it on the bus. The children are instructed to be ready on time, and they are. They pack up their suitcases (which most of them have purchased on our trips to the market) and take them to the bus themselves. They go around to all our team and say thank you and give goodbye hugs. They pose for pictures, and take plenty of their own.  The buses leave for Phnom Penh.

some team members and children of Asia’s Hope

Going Again: The Back Story

In case I have not told it yet this year, for the benefit of new readers let me lay out the back story of this adventure.

Not so long ago the land of Cambodia went through an awful purging during the Khmer Rouge regime. The country was purged of its educated population, its professional in all fields, and most of the generation that would have been considered wise elders. Some survived, at great cost. They were mostly young and strong enough to have escaped or hidden themselves. One of them was Savorn Ou, who became a Christian in a refugee camp, and returned to Cambodia later with the resolve to help his country. He had a heart for children, particularly orphans, whether through war or poverty. He had no difficulty finding them.

I met Savorn and his wife Sony on my first trip in 2012. My friends, the Hunsaders, had met them several years earlier and had gone to see what his fledgling organization was doing. They visited and liked what they saw and decided to sponsor two homes. Trish Hunsader’s letters to home during this time opened the door to my involvement. She said they just needed more arms to hug and show love to little people, starved for love.

These children have lost much – sometimes loss, of one thing or another – is all they have known. For that reason, this organization called Asia’s  Hope, has adopted a unique model of operation. The plan to reduce loss starts with a stable home and family life, with parents and brothers and sisters and God. God has to be undergirding it all because without the model of his sacrificial love, none of this would work. It’s too hard for humans on their own.

The Hunsaders started visiting the children twice a year, coming back with their own children and sometimes with others like myself. They developed rituals of caring and fun that the children began to look forward to.  Because they were among the first regular visitors, a trust relationship with the organization developed. As more homes were sponsored, the vision grew. Instead of renting homes throughout the city, a very inconvenient arrangement, land was purchased for a campus and homes were built.  In Phnom Penh, where the families that I call “my own” live, there are now six nice, two story homes that house staff and children numbering around 26 people. There is a school which is also the meeting place for church and our medical clinics. Asia’s Hope shares these facilities with the community around them as part of their outreach.

It’s true that when we go, most of us, we are only there for two or three weeks, but it is also true that we are not treating it as a short term mission trip. We come to visit people we have become familiar with. We come to add a fresh pair of eyes, words of encouragement, and sometimes a financial boost for an obvious next step. Those steps are being taken by the Asia’s Hope families themselves, by the children.

The children are all ages, but it is noticeable now that many have reached teen and young adult ages and are finishing high school (still a rarity in this country) and going on to university. Many have become fluent enough in English to open new employment opportunities. They have goals to be teachers, doctors, agricultural experts, business people in tourism and other fields. They have goals of lifting others up and being a inspiration. They are Asia’s Hope for the future.

There is love that is bigger than feelings or circumstances.

On our bus trip yesterday I sat with a young man, a university student, who shared with me his difficulties in his studies, in being motivated, in staying healthy and getting used to dorm life, and other practical matters. It sounded so familiar, even in a far away place like this. I know it’s because we share so many of the basic human experiences that we are able to appreciate, understand and come alongside each other in helping ways. I think conversations like this are the reason I return again and again. I am reminded always that the world is, after all, small in some very important ways. I need to keep that in mind.



Going Again: Cambodia Days 3 and 4

Days 3

We are still waiting for all our team to arrive. For now, the Hunsaders (Trish and Mike) and a student from Tusculum College and I are the early arrivals. There are preparations to be made for outings with the children.

One special event on the schedule for Day 3 was to accompany eight of the older girls from our two houses to Heng Lay studio to have pictures taken. It’s become a “rite of passage” for the girls since the Hunsaders have been coming to visit and we talked about how it was important not to leave anyone out, be consistent. None had been the right age, usually 12 or 13,  for a couple years so there were quite a few of them this year.

These pictures are very special for them and are displayed on the house picture board for years. Each girl gets a lot of attention during the process. They all got made up, eyebrows fashioned, false eyelashes applied, hair crimped and arranged, dressed in either traditional Khmer dance costume or bedecked in jewels and lace, and photographed. It was quite a process, and they all looked lovely, and grown up. The studio doesn’t stop there either. They photoshop the pictures and give everyone the opportunity to be more than real. Light skin is considered desirable here and everyone is pictured as being, well… pretty white.

The studio also does wedding planning and in the course of the morning it was discussed as to whether some of the girls would like to be trained and offered employment. They are always looking for boys with computer skills for the photoshopping too. Asia’s Hope desires first to give the opportunity for university education if the child is capable of it. Training in trades or occupations such as this would be a second option.  The interesting observation here is that this is not the first time I have seen the children impress others with their good demeanor and intelligence, and I am always proud of them. It was a fun morning, a real “girls day out”.

In the afternoon, we went to the Aeon Mall where the Cineplex Theatre is located to see if Trish could negotiate a price break for the movie outing the next day.  It is easy to overlook the background work that is needed to make plans work smoothly and be affordable. Sometimes when large groups are involved there will be special prices available, especially when the groups are orphan homes. It was not the case with the movie theatre however, even with 57 tickets being purchased.


Day 4

The remaining team members have been coming in, travel weary but happy to have had uncomplicated travel. One family didn’t receive one of their bags at the airport, and needed to return and look for it. I decided I wanted to meet Julie as she arrived, so we went together in a tuk tuk and traveled to the airport. It was so good to see my daughter again!

We all gathered for lunch with the director of Asia’s Hope, Savourn, and his wife Sony, to discuss plans for the week. Not long after that (because lunch can take a long time) we went to Aeon Mall to meet PE4 and PE5 for dinner and a movie. For those of you who may not have read about Asia’s Hope family homes, the Phnom Penh campus is located in the suburb of Prek Eng – that is what the label PE stands for –  and there are six homes at present.  Our team is associated, presently or in the past, with the support of PE4 and PE5. These are the children I know best and have been visiting and corresponding with since 2012.

I’m in there, the only white haired person you can pick out…

They were all waiting for us at the mall. They also travel by tuk tuk (a two bench cart pulled by motorcycle), the difference being that they somehow fit 24 – 26 people into two of them, whereas we only fit 8. I don’t know how they do it.

The movie was “Wonder Woman”, rated G.  In spite of the rating, we all felt that the film presented some challenging teaching opportunities in the areas of violence, sex and world view. Since the children here, as well as in our country, cannot help but be exposed to different viewpoints we hope to be able to have discussions with them and the house parents that will be helpful. We, our team, had some pretty good discussions about our reactions to the film.

By the way, Aeon Mall rivals city malls in the United States and is totally modern and full of people even on a weekday.

The evening ended with our tuk tuk ride back to the hotel and bedtime for many who still had not recovered from jet lag.

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 (www.veranda-resort.asia). 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.

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.

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 #2

Tuesday Travels (on Wednesday, because I forgot)

Yesterday before I went to work I got a facebook call from Cambodia. It was the houseparent of one of the homes there in Prek Eng. Since it was around 9am for me and they are 12 hours different, all the children were still up and gathered around the computer listening. On cue they all greeted me. House dad Ravy asked if I could hear him well, and yes, it was amazingly clear and easy to listen to. After going halfway around the world, the sound was still better than calls on my local internet phone, and way better than my cell phone reception. Modern miracles…

Several of the braver children (probably the ones more confident of their English skills) had short conversations with me about school and their activities. They all want me to guess who they are by the sound of their voice but I am not that good yet. Evidently the newest form of exercise for them is playing badminton in the courtyard in front of their home. Now I see why the list of things being collected includes badminton rackets and shuttlecocks. Ravy mentioned that they wish to have the courtyard paved so the kids don’t have to be in the dirt. That is one of the things I will be evaluating as a project for the funds I raise.

I am happy to say I have received one generous donation already, but no actual responses from my donor letter. I am not the least bit worried about that. I do my part and God does His, an interesting and exciting exercise of faith for me.

House parents  Suonbun Saravy (Ravy) on the left and Tharey Sorn (Rey) on the right.
House parents Suonbun Saravy (Ravy) on the left and Tharey Sorn (Rey) on the right.

Houseparents Kien Khea (An) on left and Raksmey Oum (Smey) on right.
Houseparents Kien Khea (An) on left and Raksmey Oum (Smey) on right.

Tuesday’s Travels #1

My friends in Prek Eng 5, children, houseparents and caretakers
My friends in Prek Eng 4, children, houseparents and caretakers

It is a little over four weeks until I am traveling to southeast Asia once again. On Tuesdays each week I am sharing my preparation and thoughts about this trip.When the trip actually starts I will share each day’s events in journal form for all who are interested in Cambodia and Asia’s Hope orphan homes.

And the family of Prek Eng 5, children and adults
And the family of Prek Eng 5, children and adults

I am very excited that I will get to see all the children I have come to know and love – it has been 18 months since my last trip! Many of them have done a great deal of growing up in that time. They are farther ahead in their schooling and better at speaking English. Thanks to Facebook, I have been able to see many pictures and have even had some internet calls from the families so I’m not totally in the dark about what has been going on. I am impressed with all the improvements that have been made to the campus in Prek Eng (suburb of Phnom Penh). They have planted gardens and harvested many fruits and vegetables. The latest project is raising chickens!

I finally got my letter written to last year’s financial donors in case they wanted to send money with me again this year. I know there will be some need that will be evident when I get there because I pray that it will be revealed and that the amount donated will be just right. I have been amazed every time to see that happen. But I know I should not be surprised, just joyful that I get to see it and have a part in what God intends to do.

We are gathering things to take with us for the medical portion of our trip and also gifts for the children. First on the list is prescription eyeglasses. The health clinic will be held in Phnom Penh this year and is an outreach to a particular community in need. Some living there need glasses but cannot afford them. We are able to test vision and supply glasses along with the routine health checks and counseling.

Gifts for the children include deflated soccer balls, simple jigsaw puzzles (100-250 pieces), yarn, card games, candy (no chocolate), badminton rackets and shuttlecocks, and girly things like headbands and barretts. I am also trying to take Rainbow looms and rubber bands since they were such a big hit the last time I went. It’s always a challenge to take things that don’t weigh much or take up a lot of room since we have restrictions on our luggage. I am always trying to think of things the children might like to do but don’t have access to where they live.

If you have ideas from past experience of games, crafts or toys that you think children would enjoy I would love to hear from you. Children range in age from 5 to 17. If you have prescription eyeglasses to donate please mail to Shirley Dietz, 5001 10th Lane E. Bradenton, FL 34203.

Getting ready is part of the fun of travel!

Can't wait to see them all again!
Can’t wait to see them all again!