After our 38 hour return trip, we were so very happy to get back to Nashville around 9AM this morning. All of our flights were on time (except one which was 30 minutes late because someone had forgotten to turn on the air conditioning), all of our luggage arrived with us, and family and friends greeted us at the airport as we arrived. Thank you for all your prayers. We saw evidence of answered prayers every day of our stay in Cambodia. I want to say a hearty “thank you” to all the awesome students– for your positive, “just do it” attitudes and willingness to move out of your comfort zones as you served the people of Cambodia in so many ways!
Susan, Chas, Tyler, and Zane, we wish you Godspeed as you travel back all together as a family.
Well, it’s our last night in Cambodia. How can we even begin to recap what we’ve experienced here and what this trip has meant to us? We should have plenty of time to reflect and compose our thoughts tomorrow during the numerous flights, so I’ll just give you a brief update for now. We’ve stayed very busy during our time here, and these last two days have been no exception.
After spending the weekend in the village, we returned to our “luxury” accommodations at the hotel for a restful night’s sleep. Sunday morning we headed to church and then spent the afternoon at an orphanage in the city. Words in a blog can’t accurately describe what it was like to be there with those children; it was an absolutely joyous event. As the van pulled through the gates to the orphanage, children started running toward us, and they proceeded to mob us with smiles and hugs. I felt like I had just made fifty best friends. They surrounded each one of us, wanting to show us their artwork, sing songs for us, and play games together. We came to the orphanage to contribute through our donations, but in the end I think we all felt like our contributions were small compared to the blessing we received by being with them.
Early this morning, our group took a walk down the riverfront as a final goodbye to the city. Like every other morning at 5:30 AM, there are crowds of people walking, doing aerobics, and playing games. We of course joined in the fun by participating in some Cambodian dancing. We took a walk to Wat Phnom, where we saw some monkeys and the elephant. After our early morning walk, we went to the hospital to say our final goodbyes. It seems strange to be saying goodbye to the staff there after having only just met them. We’ve been impacted in many ways through our experiences at the hospital, but we will always remember the remarkable kindness and hospitality of the people at Sihanouk.
The remainder of the day was filled with last-minute trips to the Russian market and other errands, as well as a final meal together. As we make our journey home, please continue to pray for us.
Thank you so much for all the encouragement and support you’ve given us. See you all soon!
This past weekend, we experienced extremes–from extreme poverty to extreme wealth, from eating soup made with “skin from the pig” and chicken “with skin and bones” to fresh passion fruit and lavish desserts, from a Cambodian village-style bathroom (see picture – click to enlarge) to matching bathrooms with sauna and jacuzzi, from loud speakers and karioke to elegant ambiance. But in both extremes, we found people who invited us in with open arms.
On Friday morning, we traveled to the village that we discovered through one of our class readings, “Bones That Float.” In the book, Kari Grossman, the author, talks about adopting a Cambodian boy and, in the process, adopting the country as well. She and her husband, George, in searching for their son’s birth family, had discovered a village in the Kampong Spue Province. Over 6 years, they have been working with the village, helping them grow the Grady Grossman School, dedicated in honor of their son. They have also helped the village produce sustainable income to pay the teachers by making and selling briquets made from trash. We contacted Kari and she asked us to visit the village and assess the nutritional status of the children, do some health teaching, and provide bicycles to all students who had completed the 6th grade so that they could ride to the next village to continue their schooling. We worked with her Cambodian contact, Yeong(?), to make the arrangements.
After a 3 hour van ride over some BUMPY roads, we arrived at the school where we were to stay in the teachers’ quarters and to do the nutritional assessments. Our accommodations were worlds apart from our comfort zones. See the pictures of our bedrooms–complete with mats on wooden frames with mosquito netting–which also served as our pharmacy. My roommate was Phalla, one of the nurse educators from Sihanouk Hospital, who was invaluable as a health translator and as a roomie. She showed me how to take a “bath” Cambodian-village style. Imagine donning a saroung and going behind the house to wash in the rainwater caught in large clay pots.
We left on Saturday in time to get back to Phnom Penh by dark and in time to attend a barbecue to which we had been invited. Susan and Chas are friends with the director of the World Health Organization in Cambodia, so we were all included in the invitation. So after our culture shock in the village, we had to adapt back to a different way of living. We met people from Belgium, Hungary,and even Atlanta! And our hosts were wonderful people.
From one world to another we travelled this weekend. People are the same everywhere, and we all have needs. Hopefully, we met some needs this weekend. Our needs were surely met!
Thanks for your many prayers as we ventured into another world.