Friday, November 25, 2016

THANKSGIVING

Lauren and I celebrated Thanksgiving yesterday with a few traditional dishes and some time to reflect on the blessings on our lives. In honor of the Thanksgiving holiday this week, here is my list of just a few things I have been thankful for during the 13 months that I have lived in Cambodia. This list is not exhaustive, nor is it in any particular order.

I am thankful for:

  • Our language teachers: They are, overall, a delightful and talented group. I still feel like I am in over my head in terms of learning the language, but I would be nowhere near as far along as I am if not for my teachers.
  • Rainy Season: From May until October/November, this region experiences a significant amount of rain. We arrived in Cambodia just as dry season was beginning. As the weather got hotter and hotter, we started to despair. When the May rains finally came, they brought some much cooler temperatures. Sure, rainy season can flood streets and slow traffic and be annoying in other ways, this year it made me happier than I ever would have guessed.
  • Mr. Heng: We had a number of regular tuk tuk drivers of varying quality before Mr. Heng became our regular about nine months ago. He has been by far the most polite, dependable, knowledgeable driver yet. And when my directions get us lost or we ask him to take us to some strange places, he doesn’t give us judgy looks. We’re surprised that somebody hasn’t stolen him away from us, but so far, he keeps coming back.
  • Speaking of my favorite people, I must mention Giorgio (and his mamma): After living in Italy for 2 years, I am picky about the quality of my Italian food. Imagine my surprise when I found Giorgio, an Italian man who runs a restaurant in Phnom Penh. It has some of the best pizza and pasta I’ve eaten outside of Italy itself. And because Giorgio’s mamma is celiac, he has a couple of recipes that are safe for Lauren to eat.
  • Speaking of dining in Phnom Penh, I want to give a shout out to delivery services in the city: dozens of restaurants in Phnom Penh partner with one of several online delivery services. I can go online, place an order at any of these restaurants and have it delivered to our door within the hour for only $1 extra. This small convenience has made living here much easier.
  • Speaking of online services, I need to mention the internet: From Skype and email to online translation sites and Khmer culture pages, the internet has kept us connected to our family and friends in the US while also helping us learn more about our new home. And did I even mention that you can now access Netflix in Cambodia?
  • Church: I’ve written a couple of blog posts (here and here) recently on some of the challenges and lessons of church in Cambodia. The more we attend church here and get used to some of the differences between it and what we are more familiar with, the more we come to truly value the experience. We genuinely look forward to getting life updates from our friends there, praying for each other, laughing together and learning from each other.
  • The Cambodian smile: I was told that the Cambodian smile is one of the nicest smiles in the world. Sure enough, it does not disappoint. There are a higher concentration of people who have truly fantastic smiles, the kind that light up an entire face and automatically brighten my day. I’m thankful that I get to live around these smiles everyday (even if it is often my own ignorance that elicits the smiles in the first place).
  • My wife: I am so thankful that I have a partner to do this crazy life with. She helps me with homework, picks up the slack when I hit a wall with culture shock, lets me bounce ideas off of her, tells me when I am about to put my foot in my mouth, and encourages me every day.
  • And last but not least, you, the readers of this blog: We can see how many people read our blog, and while it hasn’t exactly gone viral yet, we are quite impressed with how many of you commit to following us on our journey. Every time you respond with an email, a card, or even a comment on facebook, you encourage us and help us keep going in what has been one of the most demanding years of our lives. As you wind down from Thanksgiving, only to wind back up for Christmas, we hope that God blesses you as you have blessed us this year.

Thank you,