The Cone of Shame

Why greetings adoring fans!  Geordi here and I have a small confession to make.  You all know what a wonderful, benevolent king I am. (Yes, thank you, it’s true). But I have recently discovered, that despite my qualities, there are certain limits to my rule and reign. Let me explain!

It all started when my family … er… subjects decided to visit an island.  I quickly realized the opportunity this presented — this island is pretty and has real grass and lots of fun geckos to chase!  Why not continue my grand campaign and claim it as my own?!  I don’t have an island in my territory yet!


However, there was a pack of rebel dogs that inexplicably did not wish to acknowledge my claim over their island.  Their king decided a sneak attack was in order.  He bit me! ME! Geordi, supreme ruler of all I see and he bites me!  How dare he!!!

The battle was furious, and I was heavily outnumbered. The rebel king tried to bite me more than once, but my dad bravely rescued me.  My mom cried a lot but I showed her I was fine and proceeded to stalk the geckos the very next day.  After all, who will keep my subjects safe from those pesky lizards, if not their king!  As my welcome had run out, I soon chose to retire to my own territory. I was sooo tired on the way back to the city, but I met a nice EMI intern… er.. attendant whom I like, so I decided to let her hold me.

Upon my return, my parents.. uh.. advisers suggested we visit the good-smelling European lady.  She is kind, but she always gives me the strangest combination of new concoctions and fashions to try, normally via a shot in my rear!  This time she shaved my side.  She says having just one side shaved is all the rage in France.  She also provided me a rather flamboyant collar to wear.  Now my attendants are tending to my wound morning and night and giving me medicine.  I like the medicine.  It tastes like peanut butter.  I don’t like the stuff they put on my side though.  If my mom isn’t looking I try to wipe it off on the blanket or sofa or my mom’s shirt, whatever is closest.  IMG20181010152919

Never fear!  I am safe, healing and will be back to guard duties as soon as I can convince my parents that I don’t need to wear this ridiculous outfit anymore!


Pchum Ben (Ancestors’ Day)

The beginning of October marks Pchum Ben in Cambodia. This is the time the gates of hell are supposed to open up and the ghosts of up to seven generations become particularly active.  In order for a family to avoid curses and possessions by evil spirits, the people of Cambodia head to the pagodas to bring food offerings and pray.  Pchum Ben is a Buddhist holiday rooted in animistic traditions. This holiday occurred last year just before we arrived in Cambodia, so we are just now learning about it.

  • Please pray for Cambodia during this time of fear and dread.
  • Pray that the light of God will be visible to all.
  • Pray for Khmer Christians to be able to share the freedom from fear they have found with their unreached friends and families.

While everything in the city shuts down for the holiday, we are taking one of our interns and headed to explore more of our beautiful country.  If you don’t see us on social media for a few days, that’s why!


Going to school

Last week, a number of us took some time to go visit one of the biggest projects our team has been helping with this year — the construction of a new school building.

This school is being built by an organization that has adopted one of the outskirts of Phnom Penh as their home. When they arrived, this community was incredibly poor, and along with that came a number of social issues — drugs, human trafficking, and the like. But as this organization has partnered with the community, they’ve seen significant transformation. With this improvement, they now have the opportunity to move from addressing these issues to preventing them in the first place — largely through education. They’re currently teaching a few hundred students, and the new school will allow them to expand to 1500 children in the coming years.

EMI has been helping through the construction process — helping communicate with contractors, make informed technical decisions, and build confidence that this school will be a safe, functional, and long-lasting positive impact on the community.

Personally, this trip allowed me to to add a lot of knowledge about how things get built in Cambodia (which is why all of my pictures look like this rather than having people).


But even in the unfinished state, it was hard to not imagine all of the kids who will soon be running through the corridors — learning and growing and full of potential to change their families circumstances for the better.


The Power of a Shirt with Sleeves

Cambodian women are not shy about commenting on appearances. Just the other day:

“Why do foreign women wear spaghetti strap, lowcut shirts and no bra to the market?”

This was not my first time being asked this question, nor even my second.  I always have to quickly look down at my arms to make sure my sleeves are still there.  (I am not sure why I check, I don’t even own a shirt like that!)  That question is almost always followed by, “but not you though, you are more Khmer than foreigner.”   Where does one even begin to respond?  1) I would be uncomfortable dressing like that 2) I would be so cold and 3) most importantly, I want to dress in a way that is respectful to the culture I am living in.

It makes me sad that this is something foreigners are known for in Cambodia.   At the same time, dressing in a way that is culturally appropriate has unexpectedly opened up a lot of doors for me.  Even women I don’t know in the market will sometimes approach and ask me questions.  I am a “safe” person to talk to because of my clothes and because I am learning Khmer.  No matter the culture we live in, showing respect goes a long way!


A story of survival

It was hot and muggy and I was exhausted.  This was my first official project trip in Cambodia and on the last day my teammates and I gathered in a room with a Khmer family to hear the patriarch’s story.  I’ve read a lot about the Khmer Rouge so I thought I was prepared for what I was about to hear.  I was wrong.

Keat told us his parents came to Cambodia from China to escape communism.  He grew up speaking three languages and playing with his siblings.  As a teenager, however, the Khmer Rouge occupied Phnom Penh and the entire city was forced to leave.  It took two weeks at gunpoint for the city to empty into the provinces.  Keat and all teens were separated from their parents and sent to separate labor camps.  They would only be allowed to see each other one day a year.  During his story he emphasizes, “if you didn’t work that day, you didn’t eat that day.” Eating meant a thin rice porridge twice a day.

For three years marriage was outlawed and speaking to someone of the opposite sex was punishable by death, unless it was work related.  Even then, he tells us of speaking in a super loud voice if you needed to talk to a girl, just to make sure there could be no mistake it was strictly business.  One day Keat was sent back to his assigned village.  The village chief gathered him and 9 other boys together.  They lined them up in front of a similar line of girls.  Each youth was told the person across from them was their new spouse and the wedding was happening now.  Wedding vows were made to the Khmer Rouge, not your spouse.  The next day everyone went back to work.

Less than a year later, the Vietnamese would invade Cambodia and fight the Khmer Rouge.  Keat and what family members he could find escaped to Thailand.  Several members of his family were in bad shape and his wife was 7 months pregnant, so Keat traded for a bicycle and made 4 trips through the jungle, each time carrying one family member on the bike.  He says he slept for a week afterward.  It was in a refuge camp, thirsty for knowledge, that Keat first heard about Christ and made it his mission to learn all he could about the first hope he had found in years.  He took every Bible class he could find.

Keat and his family would eventually make their way to the US and work from the ground up to own their own house and construction business.  They have now returned to Cambodia, working to help rebuild this country that took everything from them. Keat tells us he is thankful to the Khmer Rouge for giving him a work ethic.  He concludes his story to my spellbound team by telling us the rules to survive Communism.  1) Never wear glasses. 2) Never act smart. 3) Never speak to the opposite sex. 4) Work hard without complaint everyday.