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.

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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.

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Flubber!

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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.

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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.

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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, Rest at Veranda

Why do we rest here? As Trish put it “It never disappoints.”

I took many pictures the last time I stayed at Veranda. It was raining, which made the stone walkways clean and reflective with water, great for photos. This time the weather was perfect for sitting at the pool, taking a hike, thinking and writing in beautiful places.

The jungle is lush and full of noises around our bungalows. A trailing vine is lodged in our bathroom skylight, along with a few small lizards that call it home. Birds fly around in the rafters of Secret Restaurant, accustomed to sneaking into the morning breakfast buffet for some rice or whatever else they can steal. There are so many good views with comfortable seating that I have trouble deciding which one to enjoy.

What makes a place restful? For me it means some things which are decidedly Western, but I am who I am and cannot fool myself into thinking I love to “tough” it all the time.  I like:

  • Reliable wifi, easy to access and in lots of places
  • Security, room locks that work, a safe, reasonable amount of privacy
  • Cleanliness – clean, clean, clean
  • Good maintenance – my air conditioner was leaking water and a man with a ladder was here within minutes, at night, to fix it. Things work that are supposed to work.
  • Good food – there is regular delivery of organic produce, although I don’t know what that means over here
  • Simplicity – the natural stone and wood materials are found everywhere here, the colors are lovely and restful
  • Peaceful people – soft spoken, helpful and courteous, all

Veranda has all this and does it with a difference that clearly reflects the Cambodian culture. It’s not exactly like any place else that I’ve ever been. Love to rest here. Thank you  Cambodia.20170611_170727

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I don’t usually do a lot of bathroom pics, but isn’t this lovely?

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Going Again: Cambodia, Jungle Hike

I’m supposed to be in training for a hike this fall, but this trip to Cambodia has meant a lot of sitting, and only a few walks around the city markets. Every day my activity app messages me “I see you have not met your daily activity goal…”. Okay, so quit it! I’m going for a walk in the jungle.

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View up mountain from Secret Restaurant, Veranda Natural Resort

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View down to the coast at Kep, from Veranda Natural Resort

Veranda Natural Resort is built on the slope of a mountain, as it rises from the coast. Behind the resort the mountain continues to rise and it becomes Kep National Park. The trail entering the park is wide enough to be called a road, although at some points it only allows a moto to pass. The entrance is guarded by a “ranger” in a small hut who collects a dollar from me and returns to his mat to lie down. I head out, armed with a bottle of water and my phone (with only half battery life, oh no…).

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Park pass with a purpose – “contripution health take care of environment Kep National Park”

I have gone only a few steps when I come to a restaurant! Who would expect to find Breton Pancakes and homemade ice cream up here? The Cambodians are opportunists. But I do not stop.

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small symbols on the sides of signs are squirrels – you’ll see why

The trail is shady and the grade is gradual so it is very comfortable walking. I do have to watch my feet though because there are rocky areas and tripping or turning an ankle is a possibility.  I stop whenever I have to take in the view or read a sign, like this one telling me what lives along this jungle trail.

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I don’t know if this was informational only, or a warning. Have to watch out for those durian “smelly fruit”.

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I’m  not sure how national parks in Cambodia compare to ones in the U.S. but I am pleased to see that they do have markers on the trail telling me how far I have gone, and the elevation. And as the trail climbs there are benches at scenic overlooks with the name of what I’m seeing painted on the back of the bench.

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I’m trying hard to stay in the middle of the trail and look out for things hanging from the trees (insects). There is a pleasant breeze up the side of the mountain and as the trail winds steadily upward, around clefts and ravines there are a lot of unfamiliar noises. I recognize bird calls, an insect noise almost like a fire alarm, and something that could be a monkey, or maybe just a large lizard.

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Thank you Squirrel Association! Heading off to find the Remarkable Tree.

At 2.5 kilometers I find that the trail is maintained by a number of organizations and clubs, including the Squirrel Association. I conclude that they don’t hunt for fancy names for their groups here. I decide to continue on, hoping to get to the Remarkable Tree in 690 meters.

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View of Butterfly Valley

But I don’t make it. I do cross over the summit and find another valley, and as the road descends there are a lot of remarkable trees but I’m not sure which one is actually named that – unless it is this one with a sign I can’t read.

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Are you the Remarkable Tree?

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Remarkable!

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Also remarkable.

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Quite remarkable as well.

I did only a short portion of this trail, since I didn’t have enough time to complete the loop. But now that I know it’s here, maybe next time!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 5 and 6

Our whole team was in place this morning and we were able to meet after breakfast for prayer and discussion. Good news, the missing bag was found at the airport and is now back in our possession. It had a lot of medical and dental supplies in it so we are thankful.

A couple of brave souls, Mike Hunsader and Julia Dietz, decided to go have dentistry done. Phnom Penh is reportedly becoming a destination for affordable dental work at much less expense than in the U.S. They both returned feeling positive about their treatment.

The other major activity was meeting the children of PE5 at Central Market for shopping. It has been a traditional outing for many visits and the children really look forward to being able to look for a special item, bargain for the price, and come away with their item. Everyone gets to choose something they need or want, even the house parents and cooks. Common items are jeans, bags (purses), shirts, belts, shoes. Almost everything can be had for under $10.

Central Market is a large place, not airconditioned for the most part (of course) but covered. We encountered some rain on the way over, and the kids were slightly damp too. After an hour shopping we were all wet from one thing or another, mostly sweat. It  never ceases to amaze me how the house parents can get all 20+ children transported to meet us, keep track of them all while they shop in this labyrinth of a marketplace and remain fairly calm and placid during it all. We help, of course, but the kids are so well behaved and actually keep track of themselves, and watch out for each other. They are easy to spend time with – often coming up for a hug or holding hands with us as we walk.

Just like in the United States, modern malls are competing for shoppers and as a result, the Sorya Mall near Central Market, where we usually have taken the kids for pizza, was being remodeled. It is just a short walk from the market and the kids have learned how to ride escalators and eat fast food there – not necessarily the best eating tradition but a real treat for the kids nonetheless. But today it was a mess.

Most of the entrances were boarded off and construction on almost all of the six floors meant that the place was open to air and quite warm. The escalators were working however and we rode them to the top story to the Market Grill, which was still open for business. Business would have been nearly non-existent for them had we not come.

They were unprepared for our 30 orders all at once, even though we had warned them and checked the menu ahead.  The next hour and a half was a comedy of sorts as they passed out drinks, French fries and chicken. They ended up with two meals that no one had ordered and a great deal of confusion. But a little confusion never seems to dampen anyone’s mood here, and we all got fed, eventually.

Another area of construction was the riverfront park where we usually had taken the kids to spend time walking and seeing the sights by the Imperial Palace. Our substitute for that activity was an amusement arcade on the 6th floor of the mall, close to the Market Grill. The kids love all the game machines and seem to know how to play them – or maybe they just catch on more quickly than I do. They each got a dollar’s worth of tokens to spend and managed to have fun for another hour trying to outwit the machines. It was a loud place since each game had its own loud music, bells and noises. I have to admit, I felt really old, with a bit of sensory overstimulation going on. I was glad when we called it a night and rode our tuk tuks back to the hotel.

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We are gathering at Central Market

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Traditional “after shopping” picture with PE4. Me – white haired one in back row, middle… haha.

Day 6 was nearly the same outing with different people and having done it the day before helped everything go a little smoother. The restaurant made a great effort to get us served more efficiently this go round, and the arcade was actually kind of fun.

I think I had a case of dehydration the night before that kept me from feeling my best. That is something we really have to watch out for since it is so hot everywhere we go. Even though I am from Florida with a climate similar to this, I realize how much time I spend in air-conditioned spaces. It is amazing to me that even with the heat, most people here do not dress to stay cool. A combination of modesty, and not wanting to be tanned, has them in long pants, long sleeved shirts much of the time, head coverings and jackets or wraps of some kind. I don’t know how they can do it.

 

 

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.

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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.

Going Again: Cambodia, Night 3

Strangeness (imagine eerie music here).

Up at the computer at 3 am, may or may not be strange to you, but it is not the usual for me. I am not usually in Cambodia either, which is where I am now. Neither of those are the strangeness that I have to write about.

The strangeness is that I’ve just received a call from my realtor in Florida on my smart phone. I do not have an international calling plan, nor am I supposed to be getting calls. I normally have no phone service at all in Cambodia. I see in the corner where it usually says “NO SERVICE” it now displays “SMART”. Something new has been added, and it’s smarter than me. I wonder how much it is costing me, just sayin…

Going Again: Cambodia, Day 2

At least I think it’s day 2. When the trip actually starts I soon lose track of what time to call it. It makes no sense to keep on referring to the time in the zone I just left. I’m not sure what time it is where I’m going and the intervening time is hard to identify. The lights in the plane are kept low/off except when a meal or snack is being served.

The longest flight is over and I am in Seoul, South Korea with about 15 minutes until boarding for the last six hour flight to Phnom Penh.  It is 6:15 pm on June 5. I began the journey from home at 3:30 am on June 4th but somewhere in there I crossed enough time zones to gain nine or ten hours.

Getting my shoes back on after 13 hours of sitting was more difficult than I expected. Technically, I know it’s healthier to stay hydrated. Realistically, it’s airline torture to be trapped in your seat with a full bladder so I am staying more on the “dry” side.  When I think about how many people were on the plane, for all those hours, with so few facilities I get in touch with my claustrophobic self real quick.

However, I do eat all the meals, and almost all the snacks. It helps to pass time. I hadn’t heard of most of the movies but I did watch three and parts of a fourth. I couldn’t finish Star Wars: Rogue One. I used to love science fiction as a highschooler, but since then it seems more like a waste of time.  So many of the movies seem to turn to overuse of sex and/or violence in an attempt to entertain and end up being distasteful and boring. I didn’t end up reading as much as I thought I would either as I kept thinking I should try to sleep (but couldn’t).

Later: It is over. I am here and breathing a great sigh of relief. On the last flight I had a seat between two men, and we had friendly conversation as much as we could without knowing much of each other’s language. One was from Japan, the other from South Korea.

I was so grateful to be on the ground and out of a sitting position at the Phnom Penh airport. There were probably 50 of us in line to apply and get visas, and as usual at least ten very stern faced men and women sitting behind glass taking all our passports and passing them down the line to each other. I can’t figure it out – some of them don’t seem to be doing anything. We wait at the end of the line for our passports to be returned with the visas attached, one at a time. Although I was early handing mine in, I was second to last getting it back. Although I paid $3 to have a picture taken, no one took my picture. But I was motioned on to the next desk. Every time I shoved papers back in my pack, there would be another need to drag them out again. They seem to like regulation and uniforms and scaring tourists. Not one smile, all business. Oh well.

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This unusual water feature is actually the pool at the hotel. We pass it as we enter the lobby.

My lone suitcase was going round and round on the carousel, thankfully no waiting for that. My hotel driver was outside the building holding a sign with my name. It was so sweet! The Double Leaf Hotel is near the Russian Market and I am very pleased with the room and the service. It is now 12:30 am here and I certainly should be tired enough to sleep, except that my internal clock says 1:30 pm and is trying to be alert. I will make it adjust. So glad to be here safely and be able to rest.

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What a welcome sight this was!

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This simple type of art is found throughout the lobby and rooms of Double Leaf Boutique. Clearly hand drawn and painted.