Tuesday, July 18, 2017

HOME ASSIGNMENT 2017

Have you heard us mention how full our time in the US was? (If not, maybe start here.) It was jam-packed with goodness. To give you a taste, here is a bit of a photo round up of our time in the US. We were so busy soaking it all up that we forgot to take but a few pictures, so if you happen to have some good ones we missed, we would love for you to email them to us!

We loved feeling surrounded by natureeven in the middle of cities like Fort Worthwhich is something we so miss living in the concrete jungle of Phnom Penh

Of course, we ate a lot of good home cooking and all the food we can't get in Cambodia (like berries)
 
In Texas we got to see family graduations, visit alma maters, take in a small town USA parade and, of course, spend a lot of time on the open road 

In Colorado we got to play in the snow (that's Khmer script), do a bit of hiking and exploring art museums, and share in lots of different settings about our new lives in Cambodia

We also had a lot of fun using our brains and exploring the new phenomenon of "escape rooms" with friends and family

A big highlight of our time was getting to worship in our native language in so many different settings

We also got to explore North Carolina for the first time, see a close friend at Duke
and get to know new partners in Winston-Salem.

Of course, our very favorite part of being Stateside was getting to spend time with so many of you!


Friday, July 14, 2017

LIFE BACK HOME

សួស្ដី! After about 3 months in the US, we are back in Phnom Penh! We can’t believe what a whirlwind our time in the States was. It was busy and exhausting (especially for two introverts!), but it was also incredibly encouraging and rejuvenating. We were reminded of some things about ourselves that we had forgotten (We hate shopping. We like driving.) and learned some lessons for our time in the US that will hopefully make us better at planning our home assignments in the future (Don’t schedule evening events in our first week back or jet lag will win. Do plan a family Thanksgiving dinner no matter the season we are home.).


We loved getting to see so many people we know and love, as well as meet new folks, but we were also bummed by how tight time got and the people we didn’t get a chance to spend much or any time with. Three months came and went in a flash.

One of the big question marks for us as we thought about our time in the US before leaving was how we would feel about coming back to Cambodia. We were 100% committed to coming back to Cambodia and continuing to lay the foundations for long-term life and ministry here, but we also didn’t know how we would feel about coming back after we had a chance to get reacquainted with home.

Sure enough, we loved the feeling of home. We enjoyed being with people who know and love us (and who speak our language!). We relished good and familiar food, ever-present central air conditioning and cushy mattresses and sofas. It felt almost unbelievable to get in a car and drive miles in only minutes. We had fresh eyes to see just how magical it is to order something on Amazon and have it arrive right at your door later for free. We felt more useful and intelligent than we have felt in over a year. Yes, it was busy and stressful, but it was also really, really good.

Yet, about half way through our 3 month stay, we started to get a feeling that by the time another month and a half rolled around, we would be ready to head back to Cambodia. By late June, we were definitely at that point. Living out of a suitcase and doing so much traveling (we traveled around 4 different states in those 3 months) wore on us. I missed having a regular routine. Even as I did my best to maximize as much time as possible with folks I wouldn’t see for years, I craved downtime alone. More than just the combination of all of those things, though, I was just ready to get back to Cambodia.

Even in the midst of living the (temporary) American Dream, we knew it wasn’t our real life. Cambodia is where God has planted us. I missed my community and my life there.

So, we are excited to be back! It’s not easy. I keep forgetting and using the water from the tap to brush my teeth like I did in America. I’m reminded each time I open it that our refrigerator here is tiny. Our furniture had mold on it, and I forgot how much the heat slows down my day and how much the constant stream of ants in our apartment drives me nuts.

But we are here. It’s home. And it feels good.

We’ve had the chance to reconnect with several of our friends as well as to see some of our neighbors and neighborhood shopkeepers. (And, thankfully most of our language has come back so that we can actually talk to them again!) I’ve sat in my favorite cafes, listened to afternoon rain, and smiled at all the examples of Cambodian ingenuity I see as I ride around town in a tuktuk (it’s truly amazing what they can transport on a motorcycle). More importantly and more tellingly, though, I have felt the stirrings of the Spirit in my heart and mind growing my love for this place and kicking up ideas and dreams of what the next years might have in storeboth for me and for Cambodia.

So, after 3 months home in the US, I’m happy to say that I’m back in Cambodia, back home.


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

BLUEBONNETS



We've been back in the US one week today. It's been a busy but wonderful time seeing family and partners here in Texas. Tomorrow we head up to Colorado to see friends and partners there, but we decided to take in the best of Texas springtime before we leave: bluebonnets! We will be back in Texas in part of May and June, but we were so excited to get a chance to see all the wildflowers while they are out. It made our Texan hearts happy!





Friday, March 24, 2017

TROPICAL SPRING

As North America starts to thaw and flowers and trees start to bloom, Cambodia hits its hottest part of the year. Yet, strangely enough, this time of year is still when most flowers and trees bloom here, too. You can't miss the trees that line the streets now covered in yellow or purple flowers. It's beautiful!

Looking closely, we've also found a few fun surprises. Those potted plants lining the back of our apartment's parking area? Turns out some of them are pineapple plants!



Even cuter, walking down the street today we saw an even tinier pineapple plant and couldn't resist taking a photo. : )




Friday, March 17, 2017

CONFLICTED

We have been living in Phnom Penh for about 17 months now. When we first moved to Cambodia, I didn’t have much time or energy to evaluate my new life in this city. Yes, it was hot and dusty, no getting around noticing that, but we needed to find an apartment, find a school, find grocery stores and furnishings and friends and…everything. That took all of my focus. After months of preparation and transition in the US, we began months of transition and settling in on this side of the ocean. There wasn’t a break to take it all in for a while. 

After a while of living in Phnom Penh, though, I did have time to look around and process it. I’ll tell you something that maybe some missionaries won’t tell you. I realized that I didn’t like it here. I didn’t hate it. I just…didn’t like it. 


Initially, not liking it here felt fine. Some people really struggle as they come out of a “honeymoon stage” of living in a new place, finding that reality doesn’t live up to the place they fell in love with when they were bright-eyed, excited and naive. I thought, it’s a bonus: there’s no need to struggle to get over the “honeymoon stage” if you never have one. I also realized that most places are hard when you first arrive. I didn’t sweat it. 

Yet, after months and months, I got to a point where I wondered if I would ever like it here. I tried to like it. I tried not to see the trash, not to hear the construction. I tried to make peace with the endless lines of ants in my apartment, with the bugs in the rice. I tried not to mind sweating all day, everyday. I tried to find it endearing when Cambodians asked me how much I weigh. 

I tried to build community. I tried to factor out the stress of language learning and culture shock from my impression of my new home. I tried to focus on the things I liked. Pineapples! Cheap housing! Our wonderful tuktuk driver! I never thought about leaving or doubted our commitment to live out our callings here for the foreseeable future, but at one point I finally was honest with myself: I just didn’t like it here. 

I tell you this to help explain just how weird it is to find myself, with two and a half weeks before we board a plane to head back to the USA for 3 month, conflicted about leaving. It’s a miracle of sorts, really. 

As my low point hit, we took our planned module away from language school and took a couple weeks off. We saw my brother and his family in the neighboring country where they live and spent some time resting on a beach in Thailand. We didn’t think about Cambodia or Phnom Penh. When we returned home, I continued to pray that God would help me like, even love, living here. 

Little by little, I felt my heart lift in this place. Going away gave me the chance to come back and have the feeling of coming home. My brain functioned better after some time away from the classroom, and I was able to use my new language skills more in my everyday life. Our lease ran out and we found a new apartment—which doesn’t have a massive construction site next door. Little things started adding up. I now know the people at neighborhood shops that wave to me as I walk down the street. We have discovered fun, tucked-away cafes and restaurants. We finally have the ability to follow along in the hymnals and sing a few songs at church. We find ourselves busy hosting friends for dinner.

A few weeks ago we were riding to the other side of town as evening was falling. I love watching the city come to life as everyone returns home or commences their evening activities. As I took in the sunset, got peeks of dinner cooking at corner stands and marveled at the motorcycles carefully balanced with all manner of people, animals, vegetables, I realized: I really like living here. In fact, I like it more and more every day.

Yet, as this momentum finally grows, it’s time to pause here and return home for a while. That, too, is a weird feeling. As we return to the States, I have to wonder—will I lose all the momentum I’ve found in liking life here, building community, language learning? After being away for this long, will we still feel at home in the communities we have left behind in the States? Will we be able to communicate the massive changes we’ve seen in the last year and a half? Will we be able to share the stories we have heard in ways that resonate? 

We’ve already realized that 3 months is a really long time to be away from Cambodia…and that 3 months is a really short time to be back in the US. I feel like, just as I’ve gotten a bit settled, just as I’ve gotten the hang of things here for a bit, the cloud has lifted and it’s time to pack up and move again. It’s a strange, transient journey we are on. 

Yet, after a year and a half of praying this place would become a place where we could thrive, I’m thankful to feel conflicted to be gone for a while. I’m hopeful that this journey back to the States will help me to be able to return to Cambodia and love it even more. 
PS. See our blog last week for details on dates and details for our time in the States.

Friday, March 10, 2017

SPRING AND SUMMER PLANS


As of today, we have both completed our multi-hour Khmer language placement exams (!). We've been reviewing and getting tutoring in the weeks leading up to this examination, which will give us a thorough look at what we are and are not yet able to do in the Khmer languageeven down to the specific sounds we can and can't yet make correctly. We won't get the results for a while and will continue to take private lessons, but we are excited to finally have a bit of space in our brains to let you know some upcoming news:


We are headed back to the US for a few months soon! Actually, very soon.

We will arrive in Texas on April 5th and stay for 3 months, flying back to Cambodia on July 5th. While we have both lived overseas for extended periods of time and returned home before, this will be the first time we make a trip back to the United States together on "home assignment" before going back to the field. We've been busy in the last few weeks wrapping our minds around just a few of the details involved (and ok...maybe we have started a "to eat" list also!). We still have many things to iron out, but we wanted to let you all know and to share our rough schedule.

April 5-13th we will be in Fort Worth where we will mostly be seeing family and getting over jetlag.
April 13th-May 12th we will be in Colorado.
May 12th-Mid June we will be visiting with our partners in Texas, including some time on and around June 11th in Abilene.
On and around June 25th we will be in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
On and around June 27th-July 1st we will be in Atlanta, GA.
Finally, July 2-5th we will be back in DFW with family (and packing!).

It will likely be another 2 years before we head to the US again, so we've got lots of plans for our time home, including visiting doctors, meetings, stocking up on supplies, speaking in churches, hopefully getting some time away in the mountains, eating our mamas' cooking and most importantly, connecting with YOU. We are excited to see as many of you as possible and share about the work we are doing here and some of the changes in our lives and ministry over the last year and a half. So, while we still have 4 busy weeks left here in Cambodia before we head to the States, we are getting more excited to see you all by the day!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

TAKE A PEEK: THE WHITE BUILDING

Last up in our little around-town round-up: Phnom Penh's White Building. When we first moved here, we heard several references to the White Building, but had no idea where it was or what made it the center of so many tales of intrigue. It was months later when we saw a picture of the White Building and realized, Oh. We know that place! It was just that the White Building...isn't so white anymore. 

We visited it a while back with our language teachers (when we also went to Olympic Stadium and the Royal University of Phnom Penh). We learned about the building's history, met a resident or two and found the whole thing really interesting. 

The White Building is the last remaining building in a public housing complex built by the government in 1963 as a part of their plan to develop Phnom Penh (the Khmer Rouge took over the city in the late 70s and derailed all of those plans). It was built to house mostly state bank employees, artists and traditional dancers. It's hard to tell how big the building is from picture below, but the building stretches 6 blocks and includes over 450 apartments with about 2,500 residents.  

Today there's lots of talk of tearing the building down because it is no longer structurally sound, yet there are also people who think the building should be saved because of its iconic status and because the people who live there have a strong sense of community. This community is often stereotyped with drug usage and other seedy practices, but it is also known for its artists. It's definitely an interesting community and building right in the middle of a bustling area of Phnom Penh.  


Small shops and cafes line the alley in front of the building selling a bit of everything

Massive construction projects take place just behind the building giving the location a strange mix of past and present

The walls of the long corridors used to be covered with murals. They had been painted over somewhat recently, but we found a few hallways where art was returning to the walls.