Thursday, June 28, 2012

Makin' Shrooms

Banan is my host father. We is in his late 30s and is the oldest of several siblings. We have been to visit his family a few times since I have been here, and they are actually pretty well off. I think the father works in the government, along with two of Banan's brothers. They have travelled to several different countries as representatives. The two other brothers and one sister work in business. They all seem pretty wealthy and respectable. They are all firm Buddhists. (Banan and Mala often get the food they offer to their deities, because they would not eat it, but we can eat it).

There are interesting dynamics in the family, because the family obviously respects Banan as oldest son and they love his wife and kids, but it is hard for them to understand why he would give up on a job working in government or business, where he could make a lot of money to provide for his family, and would instead pay to go to Bible school, and become a pastor at a church that can barely support itself. They also have had groups of foreigners and even mission groups stay at their house, and could not understand why I wanted to stay at Mala and Banan's house. There is no animosity at this point, but it does provide me with a picture of how illogical Christianity seems in certain contexts.

Banan is quite the entrepeneur, and to enable his ministry to continue at a relatively poor church, he also dabbles in farming, making home-made detergent, and cultivating mushrooms. On Saturday he showed me some of the steps involved in this process. I didn't quite understand what was going on, but it was very interesting, and I thought of my brother, Tyler, because it seemed like some kind of scientific experiment he would attempt when we were kids. (We did this inside the church building to have enough space and equipment).

Pour some kind of grey sugar powder into boiling water

 Stir until it become thick

Pour into a pan to let it cool
Once it solidifies, cut it into thin strips

 Stuff the strips into glass bottles and plug them with cotton balls

The left over strips are good enough to gnaw on or feed to the dogs

Eventually the bottles should look like this...

This is the back of our house, where Banan keeps his mushroom farm. Apparently if you eat them every day, you won't get cancer. Maybe I am super nerdy and weird, but this process was so strangely fascinating to me :)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

ESL Photography Class

I finished my 2 weeks of teaching English and photography each day to the World Relief staff members. These are a few of the MANY photos they took. They seemed to understand the rule of thirds, framing, and props pretty well. 

For one of the last assignments, I had them each choose one picture that they took to write a story or caption about it. It was a difficult assignment for people in the process of learning the language, and often struggling with writing, but they were very good, so I'm going to share a few.

This is a picture of World Relief Cambodia's staffs. The first one who sitting in front is Mr. Tung. He is a good man. He always make other people smile with his funny, because he is very active in making joke. One another, he also a good worker, that he works so hard with his position as a children's teacher. He try to teach the children about healthy, and all children are like him. The second one who raise his leg up is Mr. Doeum. He is a teenager teacher, and he also a good worker. His smiling is showing that he welcome for me to take his picture. According to the activities in the picture, it show me that they are enjoy with each other, even though they are very tired from field work.

Hopeful Bring Smile
This picture is Mrs. Seur Nour. She is 53 years old. She is window, because her husband were died 20 year ago. She have to responsible on four children. There are three sons and one daughter. After her husband passed away she had a big house and a big land. Can say that she is high level of living. Unfortunately, two of her sons destroy her by play game and drug use. She sold every thing that she have to draw out her sons from that situation. But finally she nothing. She decided ask police to arrest her sons to send the drug transforming center. Through those things she was getting hopeless and hopeless. She feel so guilty because she couldn't bring their children to be good people and respect her.
One day someone brought good news to her about Jesus. Now she work for World Relief Cambodia, as cleaner. She work for eight years. In the working time after she clean, her job also help to other like waiting to open the gate. Sometimes she reads the Bible. After work to home she sewing some clothes to get add more earning to support her grandson's study. She said “Because of Jesus I have hope and enjoy more in my life...I am so happy...” Look this picture. She so hopeful. I love Seur Nour.

Teacher Teenager
This is my picture with my student at the Kroul Kor village. Am very happy when I can meet my student because he always join my teaching and he has sixteen year old. He study great. He has three sisters and one brother. He is good student.

A Strong Widow Can Live with HIV
This photo of the woman name Prom Orn She lived in Puk Russey Village. She wa 55 years old. She had has four children. Three daughters and one son. She lived with HIV/AIDS. Prom Orn was a widow. Her husband passed away about ten years ago. Her husband died because he had HIV/AIDS. Before her husband got sick, Prom Orn and her husband are farmers. Therefore, her husband also went to work at Phnom Penh city as a construction. Prom Orn took care of all her children at home. A few years later, Prom Orn's husband got very sick and died. Prom Orn did not know that her husband die because of HIV/AIDS. A few weeks later, she got sick as her husband got. But she still did not know about her sickness clearly.
Someone told her that, “Maybe you have HIV/AIDS as your husband.” Someone talk. It made her so sad. She worried too much about her health and her children. At that time she lived with hopeless and broken heart. Finally, Miss Nary came from World Relief Cambodia to help her. Nary told her about Jesus Christ's love. God loved all the people in the world. She knew Jesus Christ.
Anyway, she was living with hopeful and happiness. She became a strong widow. She could take care of all her children. And the people who lived around her had mercy on her. They did not hate her as before. Before, the people who lives around her they hate her because she has HIV, but right now they understood about HIV/AIDS. She was happy.

Target your Target

As we go hunting, fishing in our leisure time or doing business in our own busy day we always aim for our targets. The target of hunting and fishing is either bird or fish and business is money. But somehow in our life we should reach one target, which is helping. If all people can set this target in their minds and make possible, I believe it will make the world become a much better place.
As this man is aiming toward his target, we too should start now aiming and reaching to place where help is needed and never stop until we reach that target. The target of World Relief Cambodia now is to reach out to the poor, the hopeless, the helpless, the one in need for knowledge and new ideas so life can be changed. The air rifle needs to push the bullet toward it's target and World Relief needs your contribution and prayer so that the target will be hit.

The Friendly Man
This is a photo of Mr. Samnang. He is work as executive assistant of World Relief Cambodia. He was get married. And have two children. All of his family member are except Jesus Christ. Nowadays he lives in Phnom Penh. He is so gentle and friendly man in the office. He is a part of World Relief who have a good experience and good talent to work. Through this photo we can see that he worked hardly and have responsibility to his job as well.

Group Teacher HFCC
This is picture of World Relief Cambodia. When everyone see this picture, what are they doing? Yes! This picture HFCC Group, Kevin's group. And have one teacher he teaching the childrens. His name Sokra, and is Kevin's group. Where is Kevin? Yes! He taking photo action on his group. Sokra is teacher work with a childrens a long year and is so funny man and like the childrens and this picture we see many childrens listening. He ask childrens about what is childrens remember when they look at toy and drama. He said if who remember and answer he wills give one pencil, pen, or book for who answer. Everyone can answer to him. He very happy when he seen the childrens to be clever. After he asked the childrens already he goes with his group visit family of childrens. Other his group people go to another group for teach nearby. Everyone God bless.

Our last class was on family and family portraits. I had them orchestrate family portraits of our class. SO here we are!  

Monday, June 25, 2012

Falling on my Face

Through the course of my humiliation-littered existence, I have discovered that laughter is one of the most cross-culturally uplifting phenomenons that God has given us. I have certainly had my share of embarresments and mishaps here in Cambodia, especially when it comes to language, but laughter covers a multitude of blunders. Here are just a few:

1. I never expected to be mixing up Japanese with Khmai, but sometimes when you are trying to learn a new language, another language you have learned keeps slipping out. So when someone at work asked me how my week was, I wanted to say it was awesome, but instead I said Saiko, which means awesome in Japanese...Unfortunately Sai' Ko does not mean awesome in Khmai, but beef. So I told someone I had had a beefy week. 

2. At dinner one night I tried to say in exasperation: "I don't speak Cambodian!" but I think I accidentally said "I don't have a Cambodian grandma!" true true. 

I called a guy beautiful went I meant to say “good,” like his English was good.

Ot'tay is “no” which can easily get confused with OK, the universal “yes,” Many confusions have happened as a result. 

“Khmai” is the language and “Khmei” is children. So, sometimes I ask what the children call something instead of what the Khmai people call something. I guess I pretty much just speak like a 2-year-old anyways, so it works. 

I've also mixed up the money a lot. I was trying to barter and realized the 500 real that I was adamently offering was about 10 cents for the mango I wanted to buy. A little low even for a good deal.And I've also accidentally offered the moto drivers about twice as much money as they even asked for. They all love me. 

On Sunday I went to Mala and Banan's church, where Banan was preaching. It was a good experience, but I definitely was the only foreigner there. As if I wasn't already feeling sufficiently self-conscious being the only foreigner in the crowd and having everyone stare at me (and a few of them mention me in their testimonies, although I'm not sure what they said). Offering time consists of people scuttling quickly from all ends of the church building up to the pot at the front to drop their reals in. Mala looked at me expectantly and I was embarrassed because in the rush to get to church that morning I had forgotten to bring any money. She smiled and handed me a wad from her purse and shoved me up there. So I tried to scuttle quickly without drawing too much attention. I was embarrassed for being foreign, for being so tall, for not speaking Khmai or understanding how I was supposed to do anything here, for not having brought my own offering, and for being towards the end of the rush so people were already starting to stand for the next song. On my way back I slipped on some sand or something and fell splat on my face in the front of the church where everyone could see me. There was a gasp across the room. I quickly jumped up, regained composure, and smiled so everyone knew I was alright. Laughter rippled across after that. I laughed too. “Thanks God for the lesson in humility today,” I thought. I also thought it was fitting that if I had no skills like playing an instrument, no language or cultural understanding, and not even any money to offer God today, I could literally fall on my face in his presence. Even if it was an accident.

There have also been many other times when I have said something or had an interaction that made everyone giggle, and I have yet to know what was so funny. But I'm glad to offer the entertainment.

Hanging out with my host brother and sister is usually a series of funny noises, faces, and shared laughter. So today, I am thankful for laughter. 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Let me tell you about Mala

Remember how I went off on that long tirade about the Killing Fields and the Khmer Rouge, that seemed to happen so long ago in a galaxy far far away? Last week it hit a little closer to home. In fact, it WAS home. Mala is my host mom, and when I told her how I was really upset after going to the museum and the Killing fields, her typical smile quickly turned to a painful grimace. She said: “Awt joll jut Pol Pot. Awt la'a naa!” (I do not like Pol Pot! He was a very bad man!) I know how terrible this event was, but this outburst still startled me a little. Then Mala told me about her past.

Mala was seven years old in 1975, when Pol Pot took power. It was not long before the Khmer Rouge soldiers came for her family. She had a mother, father, two older brothers, and an older sister. She was the youngest. (Like my family). At that time, her entire family was killed by Khmer Rouge soldiers. Every one of them. Somehow Mala was young enough to survive. She was just seven when they killed her entire family. The same age that her daughter, Moriah is now. They took everything from her. She was left as an orphan to fend for herself for the most part. I don't know very many of the details about how they were all killed, or of how she managed to survive until adulthood, but I know she worked here and there and never went to school. She said that for years she would cry and mourn the loss of her family.

She said a lot of things that I did not understand and then she said, “Very Bad.” Then, with a smile, she pointed heavenward, and said, “but then Jesus.” She couldn't think of words to tell me any more than that, but I could feel the power of those 3 words: “...but then Jesus.”  

Now she works with orphans and kids in the slum through the World Relief Hope for Cambodia's Children program. All the children love her and she loves them. She is a wonderful mother, and even does the child ministry at the church on Sunday. With just about the worst past you can imagine, Mala has dedicated the rest of her life to giving children hope for the future.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Living Field

On Monday, I visited the genocide museum of Phnom Penh and the then a place called “The Killing Fields.” These places are darkly intense, as their names suggest. They commemorate the tragedies of the Khmer Rouge. There is not much I can say, because the words will not mean as much to some people, the words will not change what happened, and with emotions like this, sometimes the words are scraped through a cheese grater to find their resting place. I titled this Living fields, because one of my friends at World Relief's English name is Kevin Livingfield. I asked him why, and he said "I feel like a living field with Jesus." After being so moved by the horror of the "killing fields" I was so refreshed by this reconciliation. Anyways, For those who don't know about Cambodia's tragic history, here's the brief run-down:

As context, The Khmer Rouge took place 1975-1979 after the Vietnam war had left 500,000 civilians killed, (many by the US), Cambodia had an unstable independence full of bloody coups for a few years. The communist rebel group known as The Khmer Rouge was, led by Pol Pot, was frustrated by western influence, and after they took power, they ordered the evacuation of cities and towns into rural areas, and the annihilation of all foreign influences. Nearly two million people out of a population of seven million were killed due to starvation, overwork, execution, and disease under Pol Pot, who had created the regime of terror, death, starvation, and genocide that would scar Cambodia forever.

The genocide museum is where the S-21 prison was located in central Phnom Penh during the Khmer Rouge. It was basically a concentration camp, where hundreds of thousands were killed or died. Before the Khmer Rouge it was a school. It was terrible to see how typical things you see at a school, a place of hope, had been turned into things of evil. The classrooms were prisons and torture chambers. Upstairs there were tiny stalls to house people. The monkey bars were turned into a kind of torture that I will not describe. The walls that used to have chalk boards and learning material are now lined with faces. Prisoner mugshots are on one side, and the mugshots of the guards are on the opposite wall). Most guards are children. They said this was because they could more easily get them to follow orders (by brainwashing and threatening). Sometimes children would be the guards and executioners of their own parents.

The Killing fields is where they would take people to kill them and dispose of them. Pits full of bodies were discovered some time after the Khmer Rouge, and the more people dug up, studied, and researched this place, the more horrified they were. There were many things there that were sad and haunting, like piles of skulls, and clothes and bones along the path that you walk, because the rainy season always brings up more things. One image that will stay with me forever was a big tree next to a mass grave. This was were thousands of women and children were executed, stripped, and thrown into the pit. The tree was where they bashed the babies heads to kill them before throwing them in. So what can I say?

Oh Khmer

Who knew that men could perform such atrocity,
exploiting each other with violent ferocity?
Pits in the ground are graves of Monstrosity
Thousands of skulls- ghosts of the past
Torture and heartache and violence so vast.
A trail from apathy to sickly aghast

Tell me, what was the terminal velocity
of the blows on the heads of innocent babies?
Doesn't matter if its the sixties or eighties
From U.S. Bombings to Pol Pot's parading
Burma saw the freedom of the lady...
But Cambodia is still waiting.

When will the Khmer see a spark of justice
There's so much we don't know, but just have to trust this
isn't all there is in the plan for Kampuchea
As sickness sweeps the streets and wealth's not even an idea
for the children trapped between abuse and diarrhoea.
The government says one thing but then go all North Korea
on us, be honest, for once be true:
Where is the beautiful kingdom we once knew?
Is there a way to find our way through?
Or is this all that these lives will amount to?

Maybe if we stop giving sympathy-tokens,
waving a fan at a man who is choking
If we open our ears to the loudly unspoken,
And finally learn how to stand with the broken.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Tears in the Slum

I have been visiting many of World Relief's ministries since arriving here, which have all been very eye-opening, but they can also be extremely sobering at times. 
Friday was one of those particularly heavy experiences. I went with a woman named Chantea to an very poor area where she meets with people to encourage them and mobilize them to educate people about HIV/AIDS, trafficking, abuse, and other prevalent issues. Chantea and other World Relief workers meet with many groups each, and then these people are empowered to go out to teach the people around them.

We stopped at several places in this slum area. This area is built with little wooden houses hovering over putrid water, filled so thickly with garbage that they created islands of filth. There was something very oppressive and forlorn in the air, which seemed to lay weights upon the shoulders of these people. Although I felt uncomfortable photographing a lot of what I saw, I snapped one photo from my hip as we were leaving: so you can see one of the rows of homes above the water. These rows kept going and going in a windy maze of tin and wood. Half-rotten wooden slats across the water provided footholds to avoid sloshing through the rubbish-filled water.

That being said: Here are some encounters we had with the different people we went to see:

Many people were sitting around playing some card game and drinking. Chantea frowned at me and told me about how people in these areas often waste what little time and money they have gambling, drinking, and doing drugs. Little kids ran around, usually with one article of clothing. A lot of them had bleached looking hair. We talked to one woman who was actually Vietnamese. Apparently there are many Vietnamese people in Cambodia, often living in slums along rivers, because they are often fishers. They are the lowest of the low, because Cambodians often look down on them and show animosity. I am not sure of the details of this social dynamic, but it's something I'd like to look into a bit more.

We slipped behind a little fruit stand, (covered in flies), and visited a family that Chantea works for. The women seemed to be blind. She was sitting on the floor trying to tidy up around her. The man was very skinny and stood behind. Chantea asked about their family. The old woman smiled and told us about her cute little grandson. But she said it was difficult taking care of him so much, because her daughter's husband had just left her and she was alone, and so she would go to work in the evenings, (as a prostitute), and leave the child with them. Chantea told me that in this community there were many woman who's husbands had either left them or they continually abuse them. If the husband has left, prostitution is often what the mothers must turn to for financial support.

Another visit brought us to a house with a younger woman sitting down with her face in her hands. Chantea called to her from the door. The woman mumbled something but didn't move. Her son (probably around 8), was pushing things around on the floor and looked up at us. Chantea went over to the woman, who finally looked up. Her eye was swollen shut and she was crying. Chantea tried to care for the woman's eye while talking to her, looking concerned. I crouched by the little boy to say hi. He was very quiet, but gave me a little smile. As we left that house, Chantea told me it was as she suspected: The woman's husband had been beating her. There was apparently another woman. I couldn't believe what she was telling me or what I had seen. We made our way around a corner and I almost ran into a woman dressed in tall heels, smeared make-up, and a short, tight, black dress. A prostitute returning home after a night of work. I was just so overwhelmed. Chantea asked me if I had questions or anything, but my eyes filled up with tears and I could not say anything. How could people live like this and treat their fellow humans so badly? These seemed to be typical encounters for Chantea's ministry. She continued informing me about it as we walked back to the moto to go home.

The story ends there by all chronological sense, but in my mind, there was an encounter before that that will still mark the day with hope, so I end here:

In one of the first groups, there were about 8 women and a few of their children in a dark, bare room as we crawled into a little home for Chantea to give her presentation on educating about trafficking. She gave them pictures and material to use, and then when she had finished her presentation, she turned to me expectantly and said, “OK, can you say something to these women? Or ask question?” I looked around and the women seemed eager to here me speak. I was impressed and inspired by the ministry that they were a part of, but I could not for the life of me think of anything important or eloquent enough to say in for the situation. I had a momentary freak out inside my head. “This is a moment to bless people, to produce words and wrap them up as a gift for people who had so little!” I thought. But alas, words did not come. I eventually just asked a few questions about the program and how world relief had helped each of them individually, and I said I thought it was a really good thing they were all doing, because many people they spoke to were not very easy to deal with. Then Chantea asked the women if they had any questions for me. They asked about my home and school and work here, as Chantea translated. Then one woman said “Can I tell you about Jesus?” When I heard these words, I think my brain did a little back flip in my skull. Here I was, desperately trying to present help to these women, who I had mistakenly pitied. One woman looked at me and desired to give me the gift of the greatest thing she possesses. She wanted to help me, to minister to me, as I sat bewildered in her dark little home. “I know Jesus!” I answered, maybe a little too loudly. I'm not sure why, but I don't think I've ever been as excited to say those words. It was like when you meet a new person and talk for a little while and realize that you have a mutual friend who is dear to both of you. We had a mutual saviour! This woman and I didn't have to exchange gifts or try to help each other. We had something to share. So we sat and talked about our mutual saviour for a while.


Last night, as the herd of cats stampeded across my roof and started to fight, emitting ear-shattering screeches; as the neighbourhood dogs began to howl at the commotion; as the Karaoke club blasted its eerie tunes through the humid air; as the neighbor's baby would not stop wailing; as the hand-sized coakroaches emerged with vigor from their hiding places... I heard the universe telling me, "Hush little child, go to sleep."

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Ahr Khun/ Thank you

Amidst the craziness of a new country and lifestyle, my most prominent feeling now is thankfulness. It may seem strange. I was certainly surprised. My first word to learn in Khmer was “Ahr-khun” or thankyou, and I use it about 100 times a day, partly because I don't know what else to say, but also because I am just full of thankfulness for the blessings around me. 
I am thankful for the little random things that were too little to be thankful for before, and I am thankful for the big, central things, that may have been to big to be thankful for before. The strap on my backpack that I never noticed before is now a necessity to make it stay on as I ride on the back of motorcycles every day. My camera, my education, a family that would never reject me or try to sell me. I'm so thankful for these things. 
My host family lives a simplistic lifestyle, but we are all thankful for every mouthful of food, every restful night of sleep. I'm thankful for clean, cold water. If I give my host mother a compliment, she often responds “because of Jesus.” It can be kind of funny if I say, “nice nails,” or “Your English is very good,” and she says “Because of Jesus,” but I love that attitude. Jesus is so good to me. Even my fingernails and my language learning capabilities come from Him. Every good gift comes from above. The fact that I am here in this beautiful country, meeting amazing people, and spending each moment having my eyes and ears opened to new things, is only by the grace of God. So maybe it's my honeymoon phase or something, but I want to hold on to this thankfulness, even when things inevitably start getting hard, because that's what faith is about.

Breakfast Surprise

 After waking up, we usually just eat something quick or pack a breakfast, but Mala was excited this time. "What is it?" I asked. "Amerik breakfast!" she said. That's crazy! Did she really make scrambled eggs and toast? "Pig and Paun." She said. Paun is the word for bread. I was confused. She finally revealed the special treat. 
Yup...She knew I was American, so she made me a hamburger for breakfast! 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Week 1

Safely here in Phnom Penh. This is my room at my host family's house, (Mala and Banan and their kids Yoswey and Moria). Complete with bed, mosquito net, window (with a beautiful view of the neighbour's house,) and even a lamp
The outside of their house. The inside of the house is pretty much just two beds for 4 people and a kitchen, so they do almost everything out here.
Some of my most interesting moments so far have been on this moto. I ride with Mala to work everyday, because they like about 10 miles from World Relief. You can see 4 or 5 people on 1 moto pretty often, and people carrying everything from lumber to live chickens. I even saw a guy on his way gack from the hospital on a moto holding his IV above him.  I was borrowing a helmet, but that meant that someone else didn't have one, so I asked if I could buy one on the way home one day. So I purchased my first moto helmet. Mala helped me barter the guy down to 8 dollars for a good one. WHen I payed the guy asked. "You friends" pointing to Mala. I said yes. Mala said "no no. Sistaa!" It's nice to sort of be a part of their family here. 

I have been helping with an ESL/Photography teaching program for the staff here at World Relief. It is 2 weeks long, and then I think we move on to do it in the next provinces. It combines English learning with a practical skill that the staff can use while on the field to document what goes on. This is some of my section. They are all pretty amazing/genius.
One of the programs through WR is HIV/AIDS support groups in various areas. This is one of those groups that meets in a poor area outside the city. There were some intense stories told, mostly of women getting HIV/AIDS--one from working in a night club because her husband left her and her son and she had to get money, one from her husband when he worked in the city and slept around, and other places. 

These people seemed very poor and marginalized, with relatives who kept getting sick, and the constant scare that it could be AIDS. When Phnom Penh started developing the buildings, they cleared out a lot of residential land and moved people to these villages outside the city. Now they cannot afford the gas to work in the city, but the city is really the only place they can make good money. SO they are stuck in a viscous cycle. 

Yesterday I went with the Hope for Children Cambodia team to another poor village where they work with the children, educating them about health, and providing them a chance to learn and play and learn Bible stories. 

A rush for the pencils and paper

 A puppet show about the evil dengue fever mosquito

One of the guys who beat up the good samaritan--looks too cute to be a bad guy. 

Another ESL/Photography Lesson. Today we learned about light and composition. Some of these concepts are pretty complicated even for a native speaker. I'm very proud of this class. 

Mala, practicing using a camera for her class, took pictures of our lovely dinner together. Left to Right: Moria, Marisa, Banan, Yuswei. We were eating ground fish stuffed into tomatoes and soup and rice and some kind of delicious fruit. 

I had to get one with Mala in it. 

Teenager Ministry with Sineth and Tomm--games

Jouchty and I posing as Sineth practices photography

Someone running off with Tomm's shoes

Sineth talking about trafficking and HIV. He's a very good teacher.