We moved to Cambodia to provide engineering for non-profit organizations and mentor young Cambodian engineers spiritually and professionally. We are so excited to have joined the Engineering Ministries International (EMI) team!
A few weeks ago, one of our neighbors invited me to go on a trip with them over the weekend. We hopped in their family’s car, and drove several hours into the province to a Buddhist monument called Puth Kiri.
Essentially, Puth Kiri is a small hill that is almost entirely covered in statues of the buddha. They have some tens of thousands of statues currently, and are hoping to have 84,000 in total someday. All along the road, workmen were casting and painting new statues to add.
Buddhism in Cambodia isn’t entirely textbook — there are a lot of animistic traditions added on to the “Four Noble Truths” — things like appeasing spirits and ghosts, superstitions and rituals. My friend told me that because of the many statues at this location, prayers and vows made here are much more powerful. She prayed for the health and happiness of her family and friends, although she told me that it was OK for me to pray to Jesus instead (No worries, I had already made a lot of prayers on this trip!).
— That they would be drawn to a restored relationship with God — That they would be willing to ask questions of their Christian friends and neighbors — That they would not be captive to fear of spirits and rituals –That Christianity in Cambodia would stay firm to the word of the Gospel – not bend to the culture.
What cultural norms are the most challenging to adjust to professionally?What are their work ethic and standards for performance like? – AK
It has been very interesting to hear from our new teammates this week.
(Oh, right, we have new teammates! We’ll introduce them soon).
Something that came up several times as they were introducing themselves and telling their testimonies was the importance they put on working for a Christian company.
Which raises the question — how does a “Christian company” (or at least ours) differ from the cultural norms in Cambodia?
Growth — Many of our staff (expat and Khmer both) are young believers, who specifically want to mature spiritually during their time with us. When we explained that we have daily devotions, weekly discipleship meetings, plus time set aside for mentoring — I think they were in shock!
On top of that, our focus on professional growth is uncommon. Many Khmer take classes in the evenings and weekends to boost their professional skills. We incorporate those into our normal calendar as well. Early on, one of the metrics for success we set was not how many long-term employees we had, but how many companies and leaders had grown from former Petram staff. As sad as we’ll be to see them go, we feel that multiplication is the best way we can make an impact in Cambodia’s future.
Rest — As a culture, Khmer people are incredibly hard working. Most work 6 days a week, and many work 7 days, except holidays.
We keep to a 5 day work week, and prioritize time with family over time at your desk. While there are still clients to serve and deadlines to meet, our people come first.
Grace — We work hard to have a “grace-filled environment”. We want to encourage questions, not just about how to get the work right, but to understand what is behind that decision in the first place. We want to celebrate each other’s victories, no matter how big or small. And we want to support each other in challenges, whether professional or personal.
What is the best thing about living in a developing country? — CS
What has the reception from the local population been like toward you? — JR
Well, these two questions were too easy — they answer each other!
Cambodia always ranks in the top few places for “friendliest country to visit/live in” articles. And for good reason. People here may be bashful sometimes, or apologetic if they don’t know a visitor’s native language — but they are genuinely, deeply friendly.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been invited to come and sit down with a family as they eat and sing karaoke together in the evenings outside their house. So much so, that if it’s a Friday night, I have to be careful where I walk in the neighborhood because I can miss dinner I’m out so late! (Plus, nobody wants to actually hear me sing… especially in Khmer.)
There are a lot of lessons to learn from living in a developing country, and I think this is one of them. Even as busy and hardworking as the Khmer people are — they’re incredibly intentional about being present, being welcoming, and about community.
I hope you also had the chance to be present with your loved ones recently. And if the opportunity presents itself, why not welcome someone else in too?
Hey everyone! This is going to be the start of a blog series answering questions that you (or other people like you) have asked us. We’ll answer one theme each post — today’s theme is day to day activities.
What is day-to-day life like? — AR/DD
5:30a — Geordi is awake. It is time to check the neighborhood for new smells.
6:00a — Geordi has finally convinced Ian it is time to be awake, and they set off on their dawn patrol.
6:30a — Geordi and Ian return (triumphant, of course!). Laura is just finishing getting ready for the day, and sits down for a quick breakfast after the first round of treatment meds.
7:00a — Laura hops in one of the neighborhood tuk-tuks to begin her ride to school. Today, she’s riding with one of her favorites, nicknamed “Checkers” (because the sides of his tuk tuk is checkered like a krama). Ian eats breakfast.
7:30 — Laura starts her first class of the day. This class is with Kunthea — who always has fantastic stories to tell.
7:40 — Ian is ready for the day, and hops on his bicycle for the commute to work. He rides the moto sometimes, but the bike is better exercise, and sometimes faster!
8:30 — After answering a few overnight emails, Ian and the rest of the
office meet together for a bible study. This month, they’re studying
9:00 — Laura has finished her first class. Just enough time for a run to the market before her next one!
— Bible study has ended, and a plan has been made for the work day.
Meanwhile, Laura has arrived at the market and greeted her fruit and
veggie ladies. One tells Laura the broccoli isn’t any good today, she
should wait until next week.
10:00 — Laura meets with her second
teacher, Anny. They review her lesson from earlier that day, and make
sure that Laura’s pronunciation is just right. Anny has Laura repeat
the same word over and over until she can get it right.
Ian and the office sit down for lunch together. The discussion mostly
centers around the idiom “to wear your thinking hat”. Laura has finished
school and is headed home. She stops for a fresh orange juice on the
12:45 — Back to work! This afternoon, Ian and the office
director Chad are meeting with a missionary who wants to build a school
in his village.
3:00 — Laura has spent most of the afternoon
working remotely with the EMI global office on the database, reviewing
reports and writing the next blog post. It’s time for third set of five
daily treatment meds. Geordi and Laura take a work break and play Tag
on the roof.
4:30 — Geordi starts getting excited. Ian comes
home soon! Right? Right? Laura pulls up the map to show Geordi that Ian
is still at the office.
5:30 — Ian is finally home! Better check
the neighborhood again for invaders. The neighbors cooking outside
accidentally on purpose drop a couple pieces of meat from the grill as
Geordi passes. He gobbles them up!
6:00 — Dinner time. Laura was able to find tortillas at the grocery store last week, so that means fajitas!
7:00 — Dinner is done and the house is cleaned up. The neighbors are celebrating a birthday with their family. Karaoke night!
8:30 — Time for bed! The mosquito net is pulled down, feet are washed, and we turn on the air conditioning to bring the bedroom down to about 80*F.
What is your favorite time of day, and why? — BW
For me (Ian), the best time of day is that walk around the neighborhood in the morning. Especially this time of year, it can be downright chilly (70*F). Many of the neighbors are already on their way to school or work for the day. The kids love to say hello (but they are careful to not play with Geordi yet, they don’t want to mess up their school uniforms). We also have a group of older neighbors who walk up and down the street for their morning exercise. The Khmer word for grandmother is “Yay”, so I nicknamed them the “Yay Patrol”. They’re always chatting up a storm.