LATE ENTRY – Ride to Siem Reap

SusanWow….every day since last week has been so very full. I have not stopped from early morning to late night, so I am late posting my entry. Last Friday we were up early, boarded the bus to Siem Reap. The countryside is so beautiful during the rainy season which begun early this year. However, last week did not have much rain and was very, very hot. We arrived in Siem Reap in good time and went to the temples after a quick trip to the market. Shop, shop, shop. You know that does stimulate the economy, help the poor and brings great gifts home to those we love and miss dearly. We were able to go into the Temples at 5 PM on our one day pass. The group head on tuk tuks into the jungle. We arrived at Bekheng (sp?) mountain which is a favorite spot to watch the sunset. In the years here, my family and I never saw a good sunset because the clouds were always there.
There are also elephants at the bottom of the “mountain” that you can catch a ride on to the top and back down if you are lucky enough to get there in time. We were lucky, blessed or both because we arrived and took off running to the elephants and all of us that were there were able to ride up the mountain! It was great fun.

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Coming home

SharonToday has been our last full day in Cambodia. We have hurriedly finished with our last minute errands and have come to the realization that our time is almost over.
We said our good-byes to the children from the orphanage yesterday as we attended a dance performance by the children from the orphanage and from an international school that has partnered with them. It is so inspiring to see the Cambodian children and the international students working, dancing, laughing, and just being children together. They all performed both styles of music–the macarena dance and the traditional Cambodian butterfly dance, to name a few. There were many tears as we departed, but we will be back. The children have stolen our hearts. Each of us has bonded with a special child and will try to support those children through mail or other means. Several students are talking about coming back for another dose of love from the children and from the people of Cambodia.
Today, we went to the hospital for the last time and received hugs of gratefulness. We returned those hugs with grateful ones of our own. The nurses and other people of Cambodia–social workers, business employees, housekeepers, cooks–have opened their hearts and lives to us!! They have changed us forever. We will think fondly–and often–of Rossi, Phalla, Rota, Sarom, Mom Someun, Vindet, Sopheap, Savvy, and many more.
We will be back in the US shortly, but our hearts are captured here forever. We will return!!


DaraI think that I have always believed in miracles but sometimes I simply forget to see them. Being here in Cambodia has allowed me to see so many everyday miracles. My thought began to drift to miracles when I saw the boy I spoke of in my last blog walking with his mother in the hospital. I came rushing around a corner and almost ran right over them! They could not understand my words but I know that his mother recognized me and saw the happiness on my face when I saw him out of bed and walking.
After I left them I couldn’t believe what I had seen, I really did not expect for him to live through the week and now here he was standing in front of me. He was literally a walking miracle. The more I thought about it the more I realized that God works so many miracles everyday and often times we are just to busy or to blinded to see them. Sometimes the miracles are big and obvious, like the boys recovery or the birth of a baby, and sometimes they simply appear small and ordinary. I saw a miracle in the sunrise and in the sunset for the first time in a long time that day. I suddenly noticed the children playing and their smiles, the elephant as it strolled down the street, the rain and the smell of the flowers in the evening. There are so many miracles every day and I have been fortunate enough to have been able to be a part of all of them here in Cambodia. I can only hope that you too have seen the miracles in your life today and that regardless of what country you are in or what language that you speak you know that you are a part of a miracle.

Good Afternoon Vietnam!

JessieWe left Siem Reap on an airplane headed for the neighboring country Vietnam, and arrived an hour later. Hochiminh city is filled with shops and hotels lining the streets. Motos are still the primary transportation, however, no tuk-tuks. 🙁 The city is much more advanced than that of Phnom Penh or Siem Reap. The adventure started when a monsoon rain took over the city, flooding the streets. Eventually it let up a bit, and we decided to set out to find somewhere to eat dinner—surely we wouldn’t have to go far. At least 30 minutes later, we arrived at a restaurant, and the hostess even spoke English! We all devoured our very delicious meals, and enjoyed the music playing in the background.
The next leg of the adventure was getting a taxi to take us to a tour-arrangement place, and then to our hotel. With no one speaking Vietnamese, and the driver not speaking any English (which made for a very humerous ride around the city) we eventually made it to an area to book a tour for the next day. The driver, traumatized I’m sure, let us out and we arranged another taxi to take us back to the hotel. I’m very thankful for our group members and how we tend to handle crazy situations—instead of stressing out completely, we try to always just laugh at the adventure we’re in. Being in a country where no one in our group speaks the language is a very humbling experience—we are fully reliant on the individuals who choose to show kindness in a circumstance where it would be much easier to leave us wandering. God bless those kind people.


Shannonit is getting closer and closer to our return home to the states. i have been thinking about how it is going to be transitiong back into the swing of things back home. air conditioner, faster internet, traffic rules, paved roads, advanced medicine…that is just the tip of the iceberg.
we havent been here that long. two weeks. but i feel like i have been here a lot longer. i think now that is because every day we see so much and learn so much that each day feels like a week. after a while it becomes overwhelming. i knew before i came here that i would see misfourtune, sickness, and poverty. i knew before i cam here that i am lucky in a lot of ways to have been born in america. i knew before i came here that this would be an eye opening experience. i knew all of these things. but being here. being submerged into a culture that is not only foreign in language, but foreign in living is much different than hearing it from some one else. all of the books, movies, and stories could not have prepared me enough. yes, they helped. they helped me understand the history and culture. but no, they did not help me prepare for the feelings i personally would experience. and i can comfortably say that for the whole group. though we have all had different emotional roller coasters for different reasons, we have still had them.
i look forward to going home. but leaving here only inspires me to return as fast as i can. there is something clensing about constantly being away from luxury. there is sometyhing humbling about living amoungst people who have endured and perservered through so much hardship. it is a feeling i dont think can be replicated back in the states.
on that note, we are on our way to vietnam.
(good bye!)

Greetings from Siem Reap

MaryHere I sit in Siem Reap on Saturday afternoon. This is where Angkor Wat is and we have finished a tour of the main Temples that began at sunrise this morning. This is an incredible place and there are many other foreign tourists here. I would love to talk about Siem Reap but my day to post a note was for last Tuesday. Between our busy schedule and a fickle internet service this has been my first opportunity to post a note.
Before I came to Cambodia I was told the hospital does not have ventilators, I could not comprehend how the system would work without ventilators, and on Monday I found out exactly what that meant. A 15 year old girl was brought into the emergency room by her family with severe respiratory problems. They had kept her at home in the countryside (the Province) for four days trying to treat her with traditional Khmer medicine. I arrived in the Emergency Department just after she went into respiratory and cardiac arrest; an ER Dr. from California was able to resuscitate her. In the States we would use an Ambu-bag (to breathe for the patient) during the code and until we connect the patient to a ventilator. In Cambodia where ventilators are rare, the responsibility to continue “bagging” the patient is turned over to the family. I was thinking of how emotionally wrenching it must be to be responsible for breathing for your beloved family member. The father was there at her bedside, and another nurse and I were setting up a couple of procedures that needed to be done for her, when she coded again. She did not make it. I tried to communicate my sorrow to the father, he understood but I felt terrible to have the language barrier when he was suffering so much. The meaning of not having ventilators was brought home more vividly than I could have imagined. The solution of having a family member bag the patient may be practical, but incomprehensible to Westerners and the level of healthcare that we take for granted. I don’t mean to sound so depressing but I think it’s important for us to know what it is really like here.
The day ended a little better when Kelley and I branched out on our own and took a Tuk-Tuk to an “expatriate street” to go shopping. Some things never change…

Smiles all around

KelleyIn all my life I have never seen people, especially those so recently oppressed, smile as much as the people in Cambodia. Being here, it is impossible to keep from smiling back at them. These are truly among the friendliest people I have ever met. Along with that, they seem to have something that a lot of people in America are missing, strong families. I think that most people in the US, including myself, get so wrapped up in our own personal lives or things we have going on, that family somehow gets left behind.
Being in the hospital really shows that great side of Cambodians. I have seen family members care for patients in much the same way that nurses do in the US. Family members constantly watch over the patient, change bedsheets, feed the patient, assist with ambulation, assist with manual respirators, and provide continual emotional support. One of the supervising nurses at the hospital asked me one day while I was in the ED (Emergency Department) how many people were allowed to go into the ED in the US. He was so suprised when I told him that for the most part no one is allowed in the ED because if the injury is bad enough then the patient will be taken to the “medical ward” and the family can visit them there. That sort of suprised him, because in Cambodia the ED is chaos filled with doctors, nurses, patients, and all the family members that accompanied the patient to the hospital. The nurse then asked me how many family members usually visited patients’ in the US once they are moved to the long-term care. I told him that it really just depended on how far away the family members were or how close the family was; I told him that sometimes no one visits the patient. After I told him this, he just stared at me blankly trying to comprehend what I had just said. Then I gave him the best response I could. I told him that “most families just aren’t as strong or important to people like they are in Cambodia. Families in the US don’t depend on each other the way they do in Cambodia, so most families tend to drift apart”.
Thinking about that made me wonder how a country with so little materialistically can have so much more than us overall. We replace love with presents and toys. We reduce communcation between family members to emails and sticky notes. And we replace quality time with TV and movies. Something is just not right with this picture…

Early Morning Runs and Preah Veang Village

SusanMy husband is the Master Blogger having kept an online journal the two years we were living in Cambodia. I sure wish he was here to write these entries as he is very good with written word. So, I dedicate this entry to the “Blog Master” and only hope I can convey the same vulnerability, emotion and compassion he is able through these entries. Hopefully, I have learned from you, dear Chas.
Up in the early morning for my 0530 run along the river to Wat Phnom and back by the palace. Shannon and Kelley have opted out of this morning run, so I wear my new MP3 player. As I listen to “Casting Crowns” and “Jars of Clay”, the words pierce my heart and I begin to cry. If we are the body, why aren’t our hands reaching……I look at the poverty and the little chilcren alone on the street. Some sleeping, others playing. The smells of Cambodia warfting up into my senses…not all pleasant. I see my favorite old couple squating close together sharing a bit of…..

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JessieFor me personally, I’ve grown up in church, knowing the ins-and-outs of Christianity from a young age. I am certainly blessed to have been introduced to God at a young age, not having to experience much outside of God’s grace and mercy. However, this situation can easily lead to an idle Christian faith in which nothing is new. Of course, this is completely wrong—there is always SO much to learn, it’s just that I’ve allowed myself to be content in not actively pursuing God’s will. The message at church was a very simple and ‘back-to-the-basics’ type of message about the great commission, and our responsibility to make that part of everyday life. Savahn (sp?) the pastor of the church, shared about a few opportunities that were placed in front of him on Saturday when we traveled to the village. 1. He gave a man a ride out to his village which was further than where we were going. In conversation, Savahn asked if he had ever been to church, or heard about Jesus. The man answered, “No, never.” This lead into deeper conversation about Christ and Savahn’s faith. 2. When introducing all of us foreigners to the people of his village, he told them about our concern for them, and that we brought supplies. He boldly explained that we loved people because God first showed his love to us. He followed a very short statement with a couple verses from Matthew. ….

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A Different Day at the Hospital

DaraFor two semesters now I have entered a hospital on a weekly basis. This week I have stepped into a hospital but a completely different hospital. It is hot for one thing, there is only one room in the medical ward for eleven people, and the patients have been through so much to get there. The patient that stands out in my mind and probably always will, is an 18 year old boy (who looked about 12) that was laying restlessly in the corner of the medical ward (bed #6 I believe).His mother was at his side and she looked like she was suffering as much as he was. I was told that the boy was experiencing conjestive heart failure and that his mitral valve was no longer able to open. His lungs were filling with fluid and he was slowly suffocating at 18. In addition to having TB I was also told that even an operation at this point would not save his life….
I tried to listen to his heart with my stethescope but all that I was really able to hear was his voice moaning. My eyes filled with tears as I listened knowing that he probably would not see his 19th birthday. There wasn’t anything that I could do but think. I wondered if I would even be alive if I had been born in a providence of Cambodia. Conjestive heart failure at 18. I know that I will never forget his face, or his mother’s face but what I really hope that I never forget is just how lucky I am. I will never know the rest of his story but I know that my story will be different because of this different day at the hospital.