Items we had no idea were missing from our household – these rugs. These rugs are made out of sweatshirt material and are about $0.50 in the market (or $0.75 if you are bad at negotiating). They are everywhere! No two are identical and they come in every color imaginable. We have a stack at the office to use for putting on the motos to keep the seats from getting hot. We put a blanket on one for Geordi under the desk and that’s where he sleeps while I am doing homework. Have a spill on your floor? No problem! Just slide a rug over to mop it up and throw it in the laundry. Someone told us when we moved here we would want a few and I definitely believe them now! I have a feeling that when wet season begins we will find even more uses for these rugs…
This week has marked our first Khmer New Year in Cambodia. This is one of the biggest holidays celebrated in Cambodia, with lots of celebrations and parties. And games — they love to play group games! Many aren’t too different from those we played as kids. In the games we’ve played so far, I’ve recognized elements of spoon races, shuttle races, bocce, even one that’s a lot like a piñata.
There’s also dancing — some serious, some silly — and a lot of good food of course.
Cambodia has a lot of public holidays (28 this year) — but KNY is special for us. Opposite of the Water Festival (Bon Om Touk) in November, many Khmer return to their ancestral home villages to celebrate the new year with their families. And in a culture that values working really hard (most work between 5½ and 7 days a week), KNY is set aside for rest (even if one told me “rest so that you can work hard next year”).
Rest. When we were preparing to come to Cambodia, we were told several times that rest was critical. As in “ignoring rest will either burn you out or kill you” critical. And as we’re approaching a more normal lifestyle after living in Cambodia for 6 months — that same draw to just add one more event to the schedule, just help one more person, just postpone rest for a few days has come back hauntingly.
Thankfully, the warnings stuck. And we have come to understand what rest really means. Rest is trusting and honoring God. When we rest, we acknowledge our place in the world. When we rest, we re-affirm our relationship with God. When we rest, we rely on Him to be more than we can accomplish on our own.
So this weekend — we’re resting.
And celebrating! Happy New Year!
“Hey, look over there!” We were in a tuk tuk headed to a teammate’s house on Saturday when suddenly Ian starts pointing out the side excitedly. I looked over and by the side of the road I see a couple people with huge grins standing beside an orange juice cart. My first thought is, “those people look familiar,” followed by, “wait, those are friends from church!” Sure enough, some friends of ours have an orange juice stand on the entirely opposite side of town. We asked our driver to pull over and stopped to chat and of course, have tasty orange juice made from Khmer oranges! (Khmer oranges are very different from what I am used to, including the fact that they are green, not orange. But the juice is still delicious!)
Events like this are starting to happen several times a week. In addition to this one, Ian is going moto shopping with another friend from church this week. I had a girl from school pull up while I was walking and gave me a ride to school. I guess it’s suddenly hit me just how many people we are getting to know here. It helps make Cambodia feel even more like home!
As I mentioned in our last email newsletter, we’re excited to begin introducing our Khmer team members. Back in January 2017, five families from North America stepped off their planes and began lives in Cambodia. Laura and I joined them later that year. But the goal was never to have a bunch of westerners living and working in Phnom Penh by ourselves. From the beginning, we knew that we both deeply desired and really needed to find Khmer team members with the same heart for using design to serve God’s people.
Enter Neth (pronounced Nate).
Neth has been a part of our team for several months now, and I can honestly say we wouldn’t be anywhere near as far along as an organization without him. He’s officially our Office Administrator, which means he does everything. Whether it was navigating the legal documents we needed, helping find and prepare the office (including pulling lots and lots of network cable), being our go-to cultural and language expert, or literally dozens of other things, he’s been a huge help!
But beyond how critical to the team he has been, Neth and his wife Ata (plus daughter Natasha) are fantastic people as well. The faith, joy, and devotion that shows in their lives is unmistakable. I really hope we’ll get a chance to tell their story in another blog post.
I’d be remiss not to mention that Neth and Ata both have a big heart for worship music, and lead worship teams at a thriving church here in Phnom Penh. They actually just released a new album — here’s one of the songs:
Homesickness. Personally, the hardest part of living across the world is not the new culture but missing our wonderful family and friends. This weekend my family was participating in a 5K race for St. Patty’s day. When I heard, I was very excited for them, but also jealous. Amy and I started doing 5K’s a couple years ago as a challenge, a way to hang out and because we love swag. The best 5K’s were when the family joined in! To learn more about why we do 5K’s, read Amy’s story here. Now that I am in Cambodia, Bethany has joined in and goes with Amy to the races. This weekend my mom joined in too and supported Amy as she wheeled her way through her second 5K completely by herself! She is my hero for never giving up no matter what!
I may be across the world, but I will always support my sisters! We were in Kep province this weekend, so Ian and I made our own 5k course along the sea coast — very different from Colorado this time of year, but just as beautiful. Of course, Geordi was eager to show his support too!
Part of what made this special though, was that we were with two friends for the weekend, Thom and Nancy. They’ve been in Cambodia for the past three months, volunteering with several ministries around the country including EMI. When we told them of our plan, they didn’t even hesitate to jump in and do it with us. We’ve really loved getting to know them while they’ve been here in Cambodia, and this just solidified what we already knew in our hearts — that they’ve become part of our family too.