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.

Central Market Facebook-20170611-093622
We are gathering at Central Market
Central Market Facebook-20170611-093844
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.



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.

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