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.

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.