Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Day in The Life...

Life in Sihanoukville is so different, and the things I so often took for granted in the states have become completely redefined here. However, at the same time, I am encountering new and wonderful ways of doing things. Here is usually how my day goes:

1) Wake up the sun blaring in our room. Normally, this wouldn't bother me so much, but when you don't have AC, it can get quite toasty before 7AM. In the week I have been here, I have definitely gotten used to it. I am usually amused by roommate (from Singapore) though. While I am sweaty, she is sniffly and blowing her nose. It's all about what you are used to and grow up with.

2)After waking up, I usually have to make a decision between showering, eating breakfast, or traipsing down to the lobby to use the Internet. Since my morning is evening in the States, it's a good time to talk to friends and family. I sometimes can accomplish all three if I wake up early enough, but it's not as simple as waking up, getting ready, and being connected to the world. It takes a little bit more effort here. As far as showering goes, its kind of a necessity due to the aforementioned night sweating, but most days I figure, "What's the Point?" I will just get all sweaty and gross again in a couple of hours. This argument usually continues for a good five or so minutes in my head. The outcomes vary.

3) Walking to work: I am thankful that pretty much everywhere in Sihanoukville is in within walking distance from my dorm. The school is literally at the bottom of the hill no more than 20 or 30 yards away. The real fun starts when it's time to go back up the hill, though.

4) Working at Life International School: This past week has been our "in-service" week, so I have been toiling away trying to get my classroom ready for the year. Stay tuned for another post with a more in-depth look into my classroom....

5) Lunch Break: This concept is completely foreign to me. At the school I taught at in America, I got a total of 20 minutes to take my class to lunch, make sure all my babies got their food, spend 5-10 minutes cooking my own food in the microwave, and eating. Here, lunchtime is much, much more valued, and I love it. Pretty much the whole country shuts down from 11:30 to 1:30. It's so relaxing and wonderful to have such an extended lunch break, and it totally fits with the laid back vibe I have gotten from Cambodia thus far. Aside from climbing the hill and 800 stairs back to my dorm room, my lunch break is absolutely glorious.

6) Afternoons: As of now, I am not quite sure what my afternoons will look like. Kindergarten students only come to school in the mornings, so I have the afternoons free for lesson planning, cleaning, or helping out in the office. Since we have no principal at our school, I am hoping to spend a lot of time in the office helping out and learning how the school operates. The school day goes until 4 or 5 o'clock, so afternoons will be busy, busy. But since we have such a luxurious lunch break, I'm OK with that.

7) Evenings: After a long day of work, and climbing the hill/stairs for the 2nd or 3rd time (depending on what transpired that day), it's time for another shower. We have been alternating between going out to dinner and cooking in our room, and both are quite nice. After dinner, the choices range from going to bed early (which happens a lot since the sun sets at 6:30), watching a movie/TV shows on the computer, or going to use the Internet. And then pretty soon its time to wake up and start it all over again.

This has been my routine for the past week, but I'm sure once school starts and I get more acclimated to the country, things will change a little bit. Overall, the way of life in Cambodia is much simpler and slower than life in America, and so far I like it. Occasionally I will feel rushed in doing something or getting things done, but then I just remind myself that no one else is freaking out, and if I hurry and get it done, I won't have anything to do later. Slowing down is an adjustment, but its a good lesson to learn. It has given me time to really focus on what is important in life.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Not a Tourist

One thing that is kind of a problem in Cambodia, especially in the places where there are more tourists, is children that persistently beg for money and food. When I was in Siem Reap (the town where are the ancient temples are located), children there knew exactly when and where to be to bombard tourists and foreigners. They also knew exactly who to ask and what to say and how to manipulate people into giving them money. Begging is a lifestyle and a job for them, and many have perfected their art.

Everything I had previously read before coming to Cambodia talked about exactly what I observed almost instantly. They also consistently said that it was not a good idea for foreigners to give these children anything, because it just perpetuates the culture of begging. When I was in Siem Reap, I immediately took on the role of a tourist and avoided giving these children money or buying things. Not only that, but my heart was super hardened, and I wasn’t even kind to victims of landmines who also beg for money. It’s so easy to do in the US: when you see a homeless person on the street, you just walk on by. When you see the war vets that sit on the interstate and highway exits asking for work or a ride, you very tactfully look the other direction. At least, I know I do. And apparently I brought that terrible attitude with me to Cambodia.

But then I realized something. I’m not a tourist in this country. I didn’t get on a huge airplane to come here and ignore the people who need the most help. The next two years are not about me having all that I want and need, but are more about me sacrificing all that I have to help the people of Cambodia, and more importantly, sharing, AND SHOWING, the love and light of Christ.

When I really, really think about it, the task becomes daunting. There are millions of people in this country, and the majority of them are extremely poor. How, in two short years can I help them all? As much as I would love to pack every single street child I see in my suitcase and bring them home with me to take care of them, I know that’s not realistic. As much as I would love to just throw all my money out in the streets like candy in a parade, again, not very realistic. As much as I would love to buy 5 or 6 little bracelets every time I go to the beach, is that really the best thing to do? Ultimately, I want to be able to help these children, but not just by giving them money every time I see them, but by giving them a friend, praying for them, and hopefully being able to tell them all about the awesome gift of our Savior. THAT really is the best thing I can give.

I’m writing this not because I have found the solution to this problem that I want to share with everyone, but because I really am having a hard time getting my head and my heart to communicate on this issue. Thankfully, it is only day 7 here. I have like 728 days to work it out. If anyone has any practical suggestions or ideas to help these kids, please share!

Angkor What?

The very first thing I did once I got to Cambodia was to take a little mini-vacation to the town of Siem Reap. It seems a little ironic that I would start my two year stint in a third-world country on vacation, but that’s just they way things worked out, and it was definitely for the best. The most notable thing about Siem Reap is the ancient temple ruins of Angkor Wat and various other temples. Some of these Hindu/Buddhist temples have been around pretty much since Jesus walked the Earth, so it was really cool to see how they have stood the test of time. There are approximately like 87 temples (Ok, maybe not that many, but there are a lot) in the area, so there is absolutely no way to see them all in one day. I will most definitely be back, but for now, here are some of my favorite pictures from the day:

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Thank You!

The Date of Departure has arrived and I just wanted to let everyone know how thankful I am for the past two months. I have certainly felt the loving arms of the Lord through each person who has encouraged me, supported me and been excited for me as I have prepared to move to Cambodia. For all of you who are reading this who were able to make it to either the party in Birmingham or the service in Nashville, thank you for taking the time out of your lives to be a part of my journey!

I am so unbelievably excited that the time has come for me to finally get on that plane! Yes, it may cause a little bit of anxiety, but overall, I can't wait. Right now, I am completely running on the adrenaline that is created by the thought that in two days, I will be in a whole new place where I have never been before. I am longing for all of the new experiences and new people that I will encounter, and I long to share them on here. Stay tuned, the next broadcast will be coming to you from Cambodia!