It's our last day in Cambodia and it is bittersweet! I have enjoyed my time here but am also ready to get home. Today started out going to church. Church is fun but definitely longer than in the states. Last Sunday we invited the family from our service project to church and they came. This Sunday, they came back! It was a happy moment when we all saw them this morning. God new what he was doing when he gave us that family this trip. I hope they continue to go to church even after we leave. After church we had a free afternoon. For me, it was a relaxing afternoon and for others it was a shopping spree! Tonight we took an hour boat ride along the river. As soon as we arrived to the boat it started storming. Can't say that I didn't enjoy the rain because it made it feel amazing outside! It was extremely hot but the rain cooled it off. We had finally escaped the heat for a little bit. Even though it stormed, it was a fun time to be with everyone one last night! I will miss Cambodia and all the loving, beautiful people. I will also miss our wonderful group that we have made into a family. It was a great experience and feel so blessed to have been able to come to this beautiful country.
Cambodia. A small country in Southeast Asia. A country that has changed me.
The first time I came to Cambodia, I knew that I was being offered a life-altering trip. I was traveling alone for the first time, well, really I guess just without my parents. I was investing in a new culture. I was seeing devastating poverty with my own two eyes. I was learning what true joy looks like. And greatest of all, I was trying to share the same love with others that Jesus has for me.
Little did I know that two years later I would be attending a wedding as a bridesmaid for one of my very best friends. A friendship that blossomed over a friendly smile and a broken conversation due to poor translation.
My best friend's name is Chhay, and today I had the honor to stand beside him and his beautiful wife, Dany, to celebrate God's faithfulness as they joined their lives together. Today was filled with great happiness and celebration.
Friday was a traveling day for us. We had a relaxing breakfast by the pool at our hotel in Battambang, then hopped on the bus for the five hour drive back to Phnom Penh. On the way we were able to stop and get Cambodian potato chips, which we all loved.
Once in Phnom Penh we had dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, Anise (the air conditioned room won us over).
We took advantage of our free time after dinner and a few people got massages and pedicures while others relaxed and unpacked. We are all happy to be back at Golden Gate Hotel for a few more days.
Today, we all woke up at 4 am in order to go see the sunrise at Angkor Watt, the famous temple. We all arrived just as the sun was coming up and were greeted with an incredible sunrise, something really worth getting up for. After the sunrise was over we ventured into the actual temple to look around at all of the beautiful architecture and layout of Angkor Watt. I was really amazed at the size of the temple and of the thought that must have gone into the layout prior to laying the first stone. After Angkor Watt, we went to a different series of temples, all similar yet very different than Angkor. I felt endlessly impressed and taken aback to the beauty and effort that was put forth while building these temples. I only wish that they had been preserved better by the people.
Some days are bigger than others. Yesterday was a big day.
We began the day working with a rural community outside of Battambang, preforming skits on hand washing and the dangers of smoking. Afterwards, we toured Handa and World Mate hospital and clinic facilities where we sang hymns with some of the staff and patients. Some of us even had the opportunity to give blood, a service much needed in Cambodia. As we left the doors of the hospital, our schedule did not slow down. We then went directly to the Bamboo Train, a tourist attraction in Battambang, and this is where I want to spend most of my time writing.
Last year on the trip, I met a young man named "P." I'm not sure how to spell his name, but I know that it is pronounced like the letter. P and I got pretty close in the short time we spent together at his village, which is a 15 minute stop on the train for tourists to buy handmade Cambodian goods and snacks. Last year P gave me a tour of his home and of the brick-making factory where his family worked. This year I was so excited to return and see P, hoping that he would remember me out of all of the white, American tourists he sees yearly.
On Wednesday we took a van to a village 2 hours outside of Bottambong. We drive an hour on a paved road and an hour on an incredibly bumpy dirt road. When we finally got to the village all of the people were very excited to see us. The people there knew little about basic hygiene so we taught them about hand washing and why it is important. We also did blood pressures and prayed with some of the adults that were feeling sick. It was an exciting experience being in a Cambodian village. We got a chance to really love on all of the people there. We played duck, duck, goose and a couple other games with the children and they loved it. In the afternoon we went to a bible study and midweek service with a local Church of Christ. It still amazes me how happy and welcoming everyone is here. They are always smiling and excited to see you.
We ate breakfast at the hotel in Siem Reap before hitting the bumpy road for Battambang. When the bus arrived to pick us up we piled in and sprawled out thinking the whole bus was all ours- how American of us! We then stopped by the bus station to pick up the Cambodian bus patrons. After a 5 hour bumpy, wobbly ride, we arrived in Battambang! As we walked off the bus, all the tuk-tuk drivers swarmed around us looking to get business. It was immediately clear that this city was much smaller and less Westernized than Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.
Mission to Cambodia 2014
from Emily Patton, Nursing student
Today was a pretty relaxing day. We woke up early to check out of our rooms because we were leaving on a flight to Siem Reap and had to be checked out of our rooms by noon. We all took tuk tuks to church to celebrate the 22nd anniversary and the grand opening of the new facility for Phnom Penh Church of Christ! When we arrived, we saw the family from the service project had come to the service! It was so amazing to see them there, dressed up and ready to worship for the first time. They did a ceremonial ribbon cutting and everyone piled into the church, where traditional Khmer dancers did a beautiful dance as tribute. Cambodians will look for any reason to have a party which I think is so awesome! Afterwards, we hung out and went to lunch and waited for our bus driver to pick us up for the airport! After a short 40 minute flight, we we made it to Siem Reap. The hotel is beautiful and you can definitely tell it’s a smaller, more low-key city than Phnom Penh. It’s already pretty late now and we need to get to bed early because we are waking up early to watch the sunrise at Angkor Wat!
Today I woke up excited for a new day in Cambodia. I had the opportunity to visit five families battling with HIV and TB. It was very heartbreaking to see these people but also warming to know that Hope, the organization that is with the hospital, helps supply these patients with food and for some a place to live.
This first lady we visited could not even get out of bed and was so frail and weak. She could not have weighed more than 50 pounds. It was a pretty awesome moment when her son asked if we believed in God and when he said they did too. Before we left, we prayed over her and it was a beautiful moment.
The last man we visited was also very emotional. We has HIV and prostrate cancer, he was homeless but Hope have him a place to live. He invited us in and told us his story. His story began during the Khmer Rouge regime when he was only four years old. The Khmer Rouge killed his father and mother leaving him and his 4 brothers and sisters abandoned. Luckily, he escaped to Vietnam. He also told us that when his siblings and neighbors found out that he had HIV, they abandoned him. The man was so grateful for us as we were grateful for him. Not only are we helping change the lives of Cambodia, they are changing our lives as well.
Today was an interesting day. We were split up into three groups again. One group went to the hospital, another went to HIV/Aids home visits and my group went to the service project. At the hospital Libby got a jump start on learning health assessment skills, listening to lung sounds. On the home visits while emotionally impacting they also were in for an unexpected surprise. On their way home their tuk-tuk tire popped leaving them stranded for an hour until another tuk-tuk came. It was quite the experience.
With the service project team the manual labor was about done when we arrived. The tin roof was nearly all replaced. The family showed us their house and with big smiles pointed out the new tin roof. You could see the excitement in their faces. So since the labor was about done we decided to put on a skit for the family. The family consist of about 20 people, between daughters, sons, husbands, wives, and grandchildren. Our translator was a 15 year old boy uncle to his 12 year old nephew.