Monday, March 24, 2008


It is the twenty-second day of March. Yes, that’s right. The 22nd of each month means that I have survived another month in Cambodia.
I do not feel like I have exhaled in 7 months. I can hardly wait for the day that I do.
It is getting hotter here as winter is over. Winter? Ha! I scoff at that. How can they call that winter? I suppose Cambodians would have the same reaction upon coming to the States. They’d say, “Ha, you call that summer?” It has become completely necessary to take two showers every day. So that’s kind of a hassle, but I endure for the comfort and survival of others. Really, by the end of a day at school I am disgusting. I probably flick about 25-30 insects off of my body in a typical day. I am like one of those sticky fly traps. But mosquitoes are another story. They seem to land, feast, and escape before I can catch them. I have not lived a day in Cambodia without at least one mosquito bite. But usually it is much more. All the guide books I read before coming said that Phnom Penh isn’t a high risk area for malaria. I’m ok so far. Each day I get home from school I spray my bedroom with mosquito killer so they are hopefully dead by the time I go to bed. Hopefully.
Today I went with Polly to an Easter service. Apparently there are several English-speaking Christian churches here. About 600 people gathered there this morning. The service wasn’t marvelous; it was kind of impersonal because all the churches came together for this service. So there were songs and readings and a short sermon. But this is the first time in 7 months I have been surrounded by so many foreigners! Where have they been hiding? I saw couples, I saw families with babies and toddlers, and all I’m thinking is, “How are you raising a child in Cambodia?” But I guarantee you; those kids are tough and worldly, adaptable and real. As I scanned the crowd, I noticed something; they all looked just as tired as I do. They look weary and drained. Someone needs to minister to these missionaries. Overall, people don’t last long in Cambodia. The turnover is huge and I completely understand why. Still, amidst the weariness was release. I saw hands lifted in praise as we sang, “How Great is Our God”, a song I haven’t heard since I got here. I almost cried.
I couldn’t help but feel a bit scared that if an anti-foreigner organization got together, this would be an ideal time to make a statement or worse. I tried to push the idea to the back of my mind as I was reminded that while I obviously fear some Cambodian people, I should not go fearing all of them. I pursued this thought as the congregation sang another song. Why do I feel so safe surrounded by these people but terrified when I step on the streets? I do not fear English-speaking Khmers. I fear Khmer-speaking Khmers. So, I fear difference. I fear the unknown. I fear that which I cannot understand. It is as though, I wonder if Khmer-speakers really know right from wrong as if they are stupid or devoid of conscience because they don’t speak English. An intriguing thought I am still pondering.
Later Polly, one of her roommates, and another teacher went out for lunch at a restaurant called, The Shop. It is a quiet little café on a tourist road known as Street 240. So this is where foreigners gather for familiar food. In all honesty, some of the foreigner’s restaurants here are better than a lot of places back home. This place had a veggie burger! Wow. From here I flagged down a moto who tried to tell me my trip should cost $3. “Ridiculous!” I said. He replied, “Wait, do you live here?” I said I did. He said ok and charged me the fair price he should have started with, 75 cents. I felt proud. I like that I can get around and I don’t take the tourist treatment.
I went straight to the school for music practice. I am helping the 12th graders with a fundraising concert next Sunday. They are doing a mixture of Khmer and English Christian songs. The charge is 25 cents.
Speaking of fundraising, I have very much appreciated all the support I am getting from you back home. My home church has all the Sabbath school divisions doing projects and the adults are doing what they can to help. My uncle Bill just flat out decided to send $1000! Some other churches in Colorado, Florida, Nebraska, and Oklahoma are doing what they can as well. I won’t hold my breath for a response from Oprah this soon. But more importantly I have felt so encouraged by the flood of generosity from your side of the globe. Thankyou.
Last week, the 8th graders and I did our car wash. We made about $6, a huge success! They are having trouble finding sponsors for the walk-a-thon. I am not surprised. Most of their parents don’t even pay tuition. Seventy-five percent of our students are being sponsored by people from the States. Speaking of which, I need a sponsor. This Thursday I’ll be running my butt off in the hot Cambodian sun for, something! Mom and Dad? Eh? One last run-a-thon, I promise!
This is what Dyna my 10th grade student wrote in her journal recently. I had to share in her own words:
“I studied at C.A.S. and I like all the teacher in C.A.S. Every years in the school always change the teachers and almost the good teacher. For this year I met one teacher her name is Ms.Bo. She is a kind teacher. When we have exercise in class she always allowed the student do it at home and she never made stressful in class. Especially she is beautiful person and always made us fun. The most thing that I knew about her was she had danced so nice and she always smile to everybody and made fun. I really knew that Mrs. Bo is a good teacher. She never made the student difficult. I like to studied with her and I knew my friends liked her too. I hope next year I will be studying with her again.”
I melted. After this, I assigned my students to write about the person they admire most in their lives. While some of the boys wrote about soccer players from Manchester United or pop singers, most wrote about their mom or their dad. I try to stress to them how much we all appreciate knowing we are appreciated. I try to do the same for them. As my struggle here has been loneliness and feeling unappreciated, I thank them anytime they teach me something new about life, which is often. I regularly encourage students for their continued effort and remind them they are so amazing for learning two languages. I tell them to give themselves break once in awhile and remember that it is ok that this is hard. They all tend to relax a little bit.
I am going to offer extra credit in English if any of them show the admired person their paper. So their parents have to call me or talk to me about it for them to get the extra points. One kid wrote about Ellen White, we’ll see how he pulls this one off.