Saturday, October 20, 2007

10-20-07

On Thursday I prayed to God that he would send me someone who would care. I feel like I am asking big things of God by telling Him how much I want someone to ask, “How are you?” Less than 12 hours later, my prayer was answered. Thursday afternoon Sylvia Anthony, who lives and works here at the mission stopped me and said, “Heather, how are you?” She is a God-send and I have never meant that more than I do about her. She and her husband Garth are from Britain and have the most adorable English accents. She asked and then she actually listened. We shared stories and I shared some of my struggles with her. Yesterday (Friday) she invited me over for “tea” at 5:30pm, which apparently means dinner.
I arrived and instantly felt at home. Their home is nicely furnished, air conditioned, and peaceful. I miss being in a home. We lit Sabbath candles, prayed, ate supper, talked, sang, read bible passages; this is exactly what I needed. It was so calming to just “be” with them. There was real conversation that mattered to me. I didn’t talk much. I just listened to them tell me mission stories. They have been in Iceland, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, and the list goes on. The peaceful atmosphere was so good for me. There isn’t much peace in a one-room apartment with two other girls. There just isn’t. This felt like home. I sincerely hope they will invite me over again sometime.
Today may have been the best day I have had here in Cambodia! It was Sabbath. I was up at 6:30am. I went for a walk. I came back as my roommates were headed out the door to go to a local church. As soon as they were out the door I realized that same calming feeling I had felt the night before. I was alone! I am never alone in our apartment! I had every intention of going to Sabbath school, but nothing about that peaceful apartment could get me out the door. I showered, enjoyed the quiet, praised God for His answer to my prayer, and did some journaling and reading. Ahhhh!
I went downstairs to the Khmer church service which takes place just below me. Have I mentioned that my apartment is in the steeple of the church? I found familiar faces and sat down. My 11th graders were leading song service. I feel so proud when I see my students doing something up front. The service was surprisingly interesting and applicable. First of all, it was translated into English. Second, the talk was given by a very energetic CAS teacher I really like! I sat at church with another CAS teacher named JC. He is 27, friendly, kind, and an all-around good guy. After church I went up to the apartment and changed. Then I met JC downstairs. We rode his moto (the moped-like bikes everyone rides here) to another province about an hour away and visited a zoo. It felt so darn good to get out of the city. I never see greenery anywhere. You may think I am over exaggerating, please come visit. I am serious! Phnom Penh is all concrete, dirt roads, and chaos. The room to breathe was noticeable and needed. It was a long ride, it was hot, my helmet was heavy, my butt was sore, I was thirsty, but I was so content. It was nice to get away. I didn’t have to think. I didn’t have to entertain, please, teach, communicate, or mediate. I just sat and rode along.
The countryside was nice. There were a lot of rice paddies and palm trees. JC told me about the people who live in the countryside he calls them “Kampoung” people. They are usually uneducated, illiterate, simple people who would never get along well in the city. They live in wooden shacks on stilts and farm the land for all their food. He said they live such simpler, quiet lives. Hearing there was an even simpler version of the Cambodians I have already seen made me chuckle. I told him Americans aren’t good at relaxing, myself included. Still I felt a little proud because I know I am getting so much better the longer I am here.
Finally we made it to the zoo. It is more of an animal reserve. Do not picture American zoo’s with sidewalks, labeled exhibits, and clean conditions. Here you can reach into the cages and the monkeys can in turn reach out and grab your hair! This happened to JC, I just laughed because he was stupid for getting that close anyway. The cages are small and people throw their trash at the animals. Little children taunt the animals and some of them are limping or missing limbs. Some cages didn’t have labels, so we had no idea what was inside. Still, JC was thrilled and I was just happy to get away.
On the way back, we stopped at a roadside stand and I tried Jackfruit. Good stuff! I passed on the fried frog legs and hanging pigs, complete with dripping blood and flies. My butt was sore so I made a few excuses to stop and take pictures. I captured a few malnourished cows and naked children. On we went, through the countryside, then into the city again. This time we rode along the riverside, which is always a busy place with street vendors and people playing games. Our last stop was insisted upon by JC. He said I had to try sugar cane juice. They literally take the sugar cane rods, press it between metal rollers and out comes the fresh juice. It was really sweet, but cool and refreshing after a long day in the sun.
Now here I sit on a Saturday night in Cambodia. It still feels like this all can’t be real. It must be a dream. Yet, for the first time, I mean that in a good way. This is becoming less of a nightmare and more and more of a reality to me. I always keep in the back of my mind that I can go home any time I want. But today, I actually thought about staying.
You see no matter how long I am here, I will always be a “foreigner”. Even the missionaries who have been here for 10 years still get stares. Cambodians don’t know or care how long you have been here. You look different, you are a foreigner. But I am learning my way around the city. I am learning words to get around. “Sooseday. Tly bonman pamello? At loy! Psa Tomei? Akoon” I just said, “Hello. How much for that pamello fruit? Nevermind, I have no money. Take me to another market? Thankyou”.
I may never fit in or look the part. I will always be white, but my head and my heart are being filled with incredible experiences I will never forget. It is neat to see the foreigners who are obviously tourists and feel like I am not one of them. I am here to stay awhile. I can get around this place. I work here. This is my reality. I am not coming and going. I am not visiting. I am becoming a local as much as I ever can be. I am finding my place.

5 comments:

caitlyn brianne said...

oh heather! i am so glad that you are experiencing more peace! God answers prayers and when we actually realize it it is amazing!!! i hope your week is just as good as your sabbath! i'm praying for you! God Bless Bo love you!

Jim said...

Heather,

When I finished your entry this morning this thought came to mind: "Way to go girl! Find your place. And then tell yourself, this is not my final place!" Why?

Because of these words of hope:

Heb. 11:8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 11 By faith he received power of procreation, even though he was too old—and Sarah herself was barren—because he considered him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore from one person, and this one as good as dead, descendants were born, “as many as the stars of heaven and as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.”

Heb. 11:13 All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth, 14 for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them.

Your blog is helping bring this reality home to my heart: I am a foreigner too. I can't help but think of a line from Rich Mullins song "Land of My Sojourn":

"Nobody tells you when you get born here
How much you'll come to love it
And how you'll never belong here
So I call you my country
And I'll be lonely for my home
And I wish that I could take you there with me"

You're on a mission HB. Not just for you, but me. Not just for me, but for us all. Reminding us of our heritage. Reminding us of our home. Reminding us that we a sojourners.

Thanks!

Katie said...

I am so, so, so happy for you Heather. And proud! So proud of you! You are never far from my thoughts and prayers, and always in my heart. You give me courage and strength.

Your sister encouraged me last night with stories from your life. I have super-bad ear infections in both ears, two blown ear drums, and ridiculous pain. She told me that you've had lots of ear troubles too, and about your ear that you can hear out of but shouldn't be able to. It was an encouragement!

Anonymous said...

my heart sings for joy at your words! you are always an inspiration.
love rach

Livny said...

Sugar cane juice!!!!! I am so jealous... I grew up drinking that stuff in Puerto Rico! I am glad you had such a nice day. I hope you have more of those more frequently. Thinking of you.