Going Again: Cambodia, Day 1

Travel Day 1

Every trip is broken down into smaller components, each having its own concerns, hazards and crisis moments. I have done with the preparation stage for the place I’m leaving, past the stage of decision making and packing things I think I’ll need, past the first journey to the airport on the highway that was unrecognizably empty at this hour. I’m also past the first two crisis moments, the first being when the Delta agent asked me where my visa was. She had checked my passport and that was okay, but where was my visa? Where was my visa? What visa?

I resorted to my experience of the past (after giving her the clueless look) and told her I had always gotten my visa when I got there. She finally did see on the computer that I could do that, since I was only staying 13 days. Thank you, gate agent, for my early morning adrenalin rush. Now I won’t need a coffee.

The second “moment” was after going through my TSA Pre-check line. Well, actually there was no line, which is the benefit of early morning flights – there are no lines anywhere. I had set my passport and boarding pass on a table along with my back pack and purse, while putting my suitcases on the conveyor line. Only I forgot to pick them up again. It was noticed soon after I had gone through the metal detector (without a hitch). The realization that I could not notice something that significant kind of outweighed my elation at getting through security so smoothly. It’s a good thing to remember that without the kindness of people and the grace of God, I am only a moment away from disaster at any given point in this trip. I’m thankful for everyone who is praying me through.

Me, waiting… going to be doing a lot of this.

So now I’m at the stage where I decide to get coffee anyway, and wait the two hours for the first flight to board. Tampa, the first hurdle, will soon be behind me.



In about 12 hours I’ll be going to Cambodia again. It is always a surreal experience for me, as I am such an unlikely candidate for such far away travel. I’m old enough to be a grandmother and never had expectations of going farther away than the edges of my own country. I don’t necessarily have a yearning for travel and can’t imagine why it has happened to me (for the fifth time now!) except to say that an unseen hand must have picked me up and dropped me on the plane.


These days preceding the flight have been filled with hectic activity, not leaving much time to think about the trip, but when I have thought about it…

  • How different will it be for me, doing it alone this time?
  • I don’t have suitcases full of toys, crafts, and medical supplies this time. What am I supposed to do with all that room? Take clothes?
  • What will I do with those 26 hours of travel time if there are no good movies? if it’s hard to get up and walk around? if I can’t sleep?
  • I hope I don’t break the hot pink headphones I borrowed from Gracie.
  • At last I’ll get to be that person at the airport looking for someone holding a card with my name on it.
  • I wonder what the taxi fare will be – have no clue. I should have handled more of my own money matters on trips before.
  • I wonder if I will remember the children’s names, or even recognize them after two years. They’ve grown so much. I wonder if they will remember me…
  • A real hotel this time, not a guest house with known hosts. The Double Leaf Boutique, at the exorbitant price of $40 per night. Times have changed!
  • I wonder if my aging computer will make it through the two weeks. And my phone’s camera…
  • But I’m not going to take as many pictures (haha – I say this every time). I’m just going to put new dates on the old ones.
  • I’m not going to buy anything at the markets. No, not a thing. I don’t need anything.
  • I’ve seen their chickens. How am I ever going to stay on my paleo diet?
  • Two weeks without my favorite pillow, should be interesting. I’m tired already. And beds in southeast Asia are mostly hard in my experience.
  • I shouldn’t have cut my own hair – this is how they are going to remember me forever. There will be photos…
  • How has the country changed? I wonder if the roads have gotten any better.
  • How many hours of TV will the husband log while I’m away?

It’s the last few hours and I’m making myself finish packing. I’m hoping that once I get there the long trip will be forgotten and I will regain my enthusiasm, but for now, I have to admit I’m lacking in that category. I’m asking God to show me, definitively, why I am doing this. And I know he will.

#atozchallenge: Nuts

Writing is continuing to be hard today.  Between fits of coughing and the husband’s requests for records to finish filing our income tax, I’m going nuts.  We hate filling out our tax reports so much that it is almost assumed that we will be late and filing for an extension.  All those statements with tiny numbers and dates that are nearly impossible to find.  Maybe someone else should do our taxes.

As a treat for myself, knowing that this day was coming, I went to the big box store and bought myself some nuts.  And as a treat for my daughter who is getting tired of nutrition information, all I’m going to say is nuts are good for you, in moderation. It’s not like you can’t go look this stuff up yourself, right?

“Can’t you write a story about nuts?”  she wanted to know. And I’ve been thinking of the myriads of times in my life when nuts have figured prominently.

Back in the 70’s when I got married, Gourmet Magazine ran a layout about a wedding that I admired greatly.  It was very “flower child” oriented, woodsy settings, and a beautiful cream colored cake with several tiers.  And decorating the steps of the tiers were little meringue mushrooms and halved walnut shells.  The walnuts were probably in there somewhere too but it is the shells that I remembered. When the cake was refashioned for my wedding I think the walnut shells were replaced by small pine cones.  So much for prominence.

And much more recently, peanuts have saved me from traffic accidents. (I will slip in the fact that peanuts are legumes, not tree nuts, but they have similar nutritional benefits.) Driving home from work in the midafternoon became difficult for me.  My early rising and active physical work day left me quite tired and I would find myself sleeping at stop lights and perilously close to sleeping while moving slowly in traffic.  For probably a year, I would keep a 2 lb. can of peanuts in the car for those times.  I found out I could not eat and sleep at the same time, and although I often got rather sick from too many peanuts, I always made it home in one piece.

Back to the cashews, it seems lots of people like them.  It’s something about the consistency and the salty way they crush in your mouth.  Last year, shopping in Cambodia with my friends Mike and Trish, we found cashews in the Russian Market.  Somewhere in the middle of this vast place there was a candy and food vendor who had 1 lb.measures of cashews all shrink-wrapped up in shiny plastic and Mike decided to get them.  I was skeptical as I am a little fearful of eating from the Market.  Mike said they were pretty good and he didn’t get sick so my daughter and I went back later to buy ours.  The Russian Market is covered, very crowded, very little moving air and probably 100 degrees F. in the summer. Unless you live in it, it is very easy to get lost in the maze of similar looking booths and tables, meals being cooked on hibachis, children napping in corners. It is such an interesting place. We did finally find our cashews.  Mine were not as good as Mike’s.  I’m sticking to nuts from home. End of story.

It’s only a 2 pounder – will be gone in no time at all.

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.

Leaving Kep: The Cambodia Saga

Last Day in Cambodia – Thoughts in the Car

We had another gigantic breakfast buffet at the Secret Restaurant this morning before leaving Veranda Natural Resort. We are now in a rented van driving to Phnom Penh where we will spend a few hours before boarding our flight home. It is still raining.

Moody, persistent, wet weather...
Moody, persistent, wet weather…
The sky is crying and just won't quit
The sky is crying and just won’t quit

We were told that there has been no rain and the land was in drought condition until last week when this new weather pattern started. The countryside we are driving through is sodden, flooded, covered in mist. Periodically, I take out my camera and get some shots out the side window. There are rice paddies with lots of water in them and rice in various stages of growth. Sometimes a person will be visible planting rice or working with a cow or two pulling a plow through the water, but most people must be inside somewhere. The people on the road are wearing raincoats or they are wet.

I am sitting in back with the luggage. Julie, Trish and Bora are sitting ahead of me where Bora is entertaining them with tales of her life in Cambodia. The Hamilton family is in the next row. MacKenzie is not feeling well and they have put her in the middle where she can look out at the horizon in front to offset any car sickness. Mike is up front with the driver. In Cambodia you don’t jut rent a van. You rent a van and a driver, which ensures the van gets returned to its home and you get to your destination in one piece, I guess.

I’m feeling a bit “out of it” today. In spite of my aromatherapy massage yesterday, I don’t feel well groomed or like I’ve been taking care of myself. I’m all out of clean clothes. I can stand it but don’t know how it will affect those around me during the long flight home. I’m not used to seeing myself in as many pictures as I’ve been in lately, and frankly it’s alarming me to see how I look. I’m older than I thought I was. I need to go home and lose some weight.

Did I say the kids are affectionate... yes.
Did I say the kids are affectionate… yes.

The children I’ve been with are affectionate kids – lots of hugging, hand holding, arms around my shoulders or waist – but they are also very curious. They always find the mole on my upper arm and can amuse themselves touching it for minutes at a time. They also run their hands over the bulges around my waist, or what used to be my waist, and find that very interesting (???). It’s not that all Cambodians are skinny because I have seen some that aren’t, but most of the Asia Hope people are slim. Add to this the fact that my feet and legs swell in this heat and you have me feeling very puffy and large when I’m around them. Even though I’ve come here four times now, I never seem to have the clothing thing right either. I need some more quick dry things that I can keep clean. I need to bring a little laundry soap with me.

Emotionally, I feel a little isolated. There is no one on the trip who identifies with me in age or has need of me in any way. It would be a lot worse if I didn’t have Julie with me here because we have done a lot of things together, but she has also made a lot of friends closer to her age. Does everyone have these attacks of pity where they feel absolutely no one is interested in them? Probably. I’m used to them and am just working on giving it to God and asking him to change me.

There is love that is bigger than feelings or circumstances.
There is love that is bigger than feelings or circumstances.

A Day to Rest: The Cambodia Saga

Tuesday in Kep

Assortments of fruits, everything Westerners have for breakfast (everything, really) plus all the Cambodian favorites
Assortments of fruits, everything Westerners have for breakfast (everything, really) plus all the Cambodian favorites

How blessed we were to have a full day of rest before the long flight home, and doubly blessed to have it in such a beautiful, interesting place. I had imagined myself just sitting somewhere with a beautiful view, writing and reading all day. That is very close to what happened with a few other additions, the first of which was breakfast buffet. All I can say is, American hotels, you have been put to shame. Most anything a person could think of wanting for breakfast and a whole bunch of things you wouldn’t think of – all are available on this buffet. Fresh crepes and omelets are cooked to order. The staff is there anticipating needs.

It was a rainy day, of course, so it was easy to spend time on our patio, organizing pictures and catching up on blog posts. And soon it was time for lunch (I know, eat, eat, eat…) Julie and I did a light lunch of shakes and french fries. We sat visiting with some other team members until it was time for our massages. This year french fries were the “go to” comfort food at all our usual eating places and I think there is something really different and good about Cambodian french fries.

Very skillful at massage, professional and very quiet... (do not speak English)
Very skillful at massage, professional and very quiet… (do not speak English)
the interesting ingredients for a two hour facial
the interesting ingredients for a two hour facial

We went together to the massage room where two lovely ladies put us on our tables and went to work on us. I had an aromatherapy session and Julie had an option that included a facial. However since we were only a couple feet apart I could hardly keep her from breathing my lemongrass scented air. The warm, scented oil was what was rubbed everywhere on me except my head so I came out very lubricated. Julie said her face felt really good after the facial. I have never had two full hours of massage at one time so this was a real treat. I am full of painful spots so didn’t fall asleep but I have heard that others do.

V Chen, a young lady who is a doctor, joined us in the afternoon. She and Bora are good friends and they both volunteer their time for our medical missions which is why Trish invited them to come to Veranda. We hung out at the Infinity Pool, taking pictures and talking until it was time to go to dinner again at Secret Restaurant. And again, after dinner was cleared away, we played the card game. No one knows exactly how it is spelled but it sounds something like “tajeet”. Any number of people can play and it gets pretty silly. It is a fun game and I guess I would play it again, but it also is a game where I got caught looking pretty slow and dense – a perfect example of why I usually say I hate games. But I will play.

Fortunately the game ended suddenly with a blast of wind that nearly blew all the cards off the table and rain that dampened us all. We went to our rooms to prepare for departure in the morning and to get a night’s sleep.

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

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.