Saturday, January 26, 2008

adjusting. again.

it's official. i have now traveled around the world. in less than 80 days (planes do make it a bit easier :) quite amazing. still hard to believe that i got to do something i've talked about and thought about .. and that it's finished. weird. but i'm not opposed to doing it again. should the opportunity present itself! and the time and the money and all that...

as i return to life in romania, there are a variety of things to become re-adjusted to. particularly since my last three weeks were in cambodia. here are a few that spring to mind:
- taking showers with warm water
- being cold .. one isn't cold much when the temperature is always above 80
- wearing socks again. and long sleeve shirts. and sweaters. and hats. and...
- not getting to ride any more motos :(
- sleeping in the same place for more than 4 days (and even more than a week!)
- not getting to ride any more planes for a while
- actually understanding the 'strange language' i hear around me (some of it, at least)
- washing my own laundry and cooking my own food
- not eating yummy fresh fruit every day (at least such a large variety)
- being able to brush my teeth and not worry about the water
- no more squattie potties :(

well .. that's all i can think of at the moment. lots of adjusting. but it's good to be 'home' in romania. and there are good things here. getting to be present again in another place.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

some 'stats'

we thought that some numbers would be fun .. as a way to do a bit of summary. so ..

20 - days we spent in cambodia (+1 for abi)
9 - different beds that we slept in
133 - bugbites on abi on the worst day
7 - modes of transportation (airplane, car, moto wagon aka tuk tuk, moto, bus, boat, walking)
0 - bad meals eaten
2 - dollars spent on a cambodian skirt (similar to a sarong)
6 - dollars to get an hour massage
3 - varieties of bananas (that actually tasted like banana is supposed to taste!)
6 - new fruits eaten (jackfruit, dragonfruit, mien, sapadilla, milkfruit, and green oranges)
8 - average hours of sleep a night (just a guess)
85 - average temperature (F) during our visit as a guess

all around ..
very wonderful to be here.
in southeast asia.
with amazing people.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

oh Asia, how loved by your true self company is

In honor of my last night in Cambodia, I thought I'd write a brief post about what I find most amusing here: memorable use of the English language on signs and merchandise. Up the road from us there's a sign for the "organization to help the miserable corpses." None of our friends know exactly what they do, but it sounds quite compassionate. We shared a good chuckle in a stationary store today, taking in the array of notebooks and journals. I picked up a few...

Trendy journal #1 says (A little like 2 Peter 1:5-7 but without the divine inspiration):
"If the change in heart, with
your attitude change;
Attitudes change, and you
change with the habit;
Habits change, and you
change with the character;
Personality changes your
life with change; In good
times Thanksgiving, in the
face of adversity still feel joy,
seriously live in the present."

The second journal has bubbly anime-like characters on the cover.
How beautiful
you are
my beloved,
how beautiful!
Your eyes are
soft like doves
My fair one,
and come away
I'm in love
with you
We can have fun in this woods!"

Song of Solomon, anyone?

(aside by abi .. if shelly's current life plans don't work out, there is always the option of writing ads and inspirational poems such as these. also .. there's always karaoke...)

Easily amused as always and forever, fill your souls soul with good thots and dreams,

(Another thing we love here: bubble tea... mmm...)

Sunday, January 20, 2008

a bit of the arts in cambodia

last night we had the pleasure of going to a shadow puppets performance. which is a tradition in cambodia. there was a story .. about a man who falls in love with a woman and chases after her. there is a battle (or two?), flying monkeys, and a couple of people who fall. all told with cambodian music, big puppets (maybe 3 feet tall and 2 feet across or so?), lights on both sides of a screen, a bit of dialog (in khmer), and traditional dance. wonderful!!

i haven't been to a real dance performance in a long time. a very long time. there have been a few 'amateur dance' things that i've seen, but last night something in my soul went "aahhh." something forgotten and ignored given room to breathe. makes me want to dance more (which is a good thing, as long as i don't ignore it again).

so the dance and shadow puppets ..
- the dancing is all very controlled
- slow and precise
- practiced since they were 8 or 9 (and i'd guess that most of the dancers were in their 20s and 30s)
- flexed feet and hands (so it looks like they curve backwards)
- exact movements with each finger and elbow going the right direction
- women with smaller motions, feet close together (although turned out), and most things close to their core
- men with larger motions, wide stance, loud feet periodically, climbing on each others' shoulders once or twice
- shadow puppets with the light behind the scrim (so they were silhouettes) getting bigger and smaller, sometimes being large enough that the whole screen became almost black
- the uniqeness and intricacy of the puppets -- they are made of leather, with beautiful coloring that was visible even on stage, let alone after the performance with the lights on full blast. almost like a relief print

what a gift .. arts in another culture. and people to enjoy them with. thanks, God, for color and beauty and dance and bodies that can express ideas and truth and relationship. and understanding even though the words were incomprehensible!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Exotic beach or ancient ruins?

I'm writing from an internet cafe in Sihanouk Ville. If it were daylight, I could catch a glimmer of the ocean from the storefront windows. Ahhh. A trip to the beach was not in our original plans, but our host graciously suggested it as an alternative to Angkor Wat. I know, I know, we're in Cambodia and we're not going to see the temple ruins. Sorry if that's grossly disappointing to any of you. I suppose it's comparable to going to Egypt without visiting the pyramids. But, after a week FULL of travel, new culture & experiences, having some space to process has been helpful...

The beach we're staying next to is rather busy. Vendors selling fruit, bracelets, offering to give manicures are prevalent, so it's not exactly a quiet place... but it is beautiful. The ocean water is clear and warm. The sun is hot, the breeze is cool. There are quite a few tourists from Europe and Australia... but it still feels distinctly, distinctly like we're in Cambodia and unlike any other "tourist zone" I've visited.

Praise God for good health and the companionship of Matt and Heather Allen, a young couple that joined the InnerCHANGE team a few months ago. We're heading back to the big city tomorrow and will travel to Kampong Cham this week as well. Someone is shooting fireworks off in the distance. Anyway, thanks for reading, more to come.

Peace! Shelly

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

photos and more

for two days we stayed in a very poor part of the city. it's on the edge of a lake and most (if not all?) of the houses are built over the lake. this lake looks somewhat swamp-like in places because there are lots of plants in it, as well as a wide variety of garbage. most of the people seem to use it for their dump. which isn't horrible .. except that during the rainy season, the water level rises so much that to get to their houses people must walk through the water .. and with all the garbage and small living things mixed in, that isn't a very healthy thing for them or their feet. they have a word for it, in fact, translating to "water eats feet". being in our friend's house, the floor was built directly over the water. it was a bit surreal to walk around and see water moving beneath us. but we didn't fall through!

This is a view from the porch at our friend's house. He has a nice porch, maybe 12 feet by 6 feet? Both nights we stayed in his neighborhood, we ate dinner with our host family (who are also his landlords and live next door to him) on the porch, with thin pillows to sit on, bamboo mats under us, and yummy cambodian food. It has been rather warm during the days, but in the morning and evening, it is marvelous! With a gentle breeze off the lake and the sun setting it's just about perfect. In this neighborhood poverty is very present, so there are a number of things that are harder to look at and to see. But there are also beautiful things -- colorful sunsets, children with welcoming smiles, people who really care about their neighbors, hardworking and resourceful women, chubby men shamelessly bathing in the streets (wearing a skirt, of course!).

one wonderful thing about cambodia .. the food! last night we were treated to a meal with a family of eight that live and work here. the mother does a wonderful job of taking care of her six kids, including cooking healthy food for them. we got to help cut up vegetables, including carrots, cucumber, tomato, onion, green onion, mushroom, garlic and eggplant. there was also meat, of course! the final product was just the right way to end our day together. some common things in cambodian food are rice, garlic, fish sauce, and wide variety of vegetables. with the warm weather they have fresh produce all year round (i think) .. which is reflected in their stir fry and "amok" (yes. that is one of the kind of dishes they serve here. seriously.) and loc lak. mmm... everything so far is tasty. the best new fruit that we've eaten is called "dragon fruit". it is a kind of purple pink color, on the inside it's white with lots of seeds, with the same consistency as a kiwi and a similar flavor, although not quite as strong. very very good!

Monday, January 07, 2008

Funny questions

We've been warned to expect being asked silly questions when shopping in the market place. (Not that we're going to understand them...) Foreigners are intriguing and strange here, so possible questions include:
How old are you?
How much do you weigh?
What size shoe do you wear?
Why aren't you married yet?!
How much did that shirt cost you?

Last night, missionary Kent asked Shelly, "What's your favorite creative expression?" Missionary Hayden responded, "That's like asking a parent, 'Which is your favorite child?'" Hear, hear.

There are probably a lot of funny questions that people in the community were asking about us... but sometimes it's nice not understanding everything. Or anything.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

in cambodia. for real!

i am in cambodia! in phnom penh, the capital. it's winter here, so during the day it's only in the 80s. it promises to be even warmer before the three weeks i'm spending here will be up. especially after temps in the 20s and 30s being the norm for the past few weeks or longer. but, for now it's nice to wear sandals and not worry about bringing a coat anywhere. i can't describe all that i have seen and experienced, even though i only arrived late last night. one major blessing is that the whole time i am here, my friend and colleague, shelly, is here. we communicate with each other pretty well, and are both artists and introverts. so it is a gift to be here together, experiencing this together! here are a few snapshots in words. (for the next few weeks, both shelly and i will be sharing our thoughts here. one possible way to differentiate between us might be the use of caps... :)

- one of the teammates lives in a very poor part of town, on the north edge. it turns out that most of the houses are built over the small lake. as we walked through his house and were able to rest a bit, we looked down and could see water through the floorboards. there are open windows and nice breezes, although the lake isn't the cleanest water i've seen...

- traffic flows pretty well. lots of motos (like small motorcycles), a few cars, some motos pulling small covered wagons that will seat 4-6 people easily, and a few bicycles and pedestrians. if it's hard to make a left turn, one might pull into oncoming traffic and slowly work one's way onto right into the correct side of the street. there are lights, but apparently they are fairly new and also somewhat optional. but .. no accidents so far. people seem pretty adept at avoiding others and knowing exactly how big their vehicle is.

- Dave Everitt's thoughtful words to ponder, spoken over breakfast: "Compelled is when my heart can't say no." (This refers to his compelling sense of call to the rural people of Cambodia.)

- Here's something else we've learned. Having a long nose and light skin makes you beautiful here. Who knew. Strange how different people develop ideals of beauty. From our end, (speaking for Abi too), we have seen many BEAUTIFUL people. Kind smiles, warm big brown eyes. Curious and gracious.

- squatty potties. woo hoo!!

Cheers and God's peace!
Abigail and Shelly