Office Building!

Our teammates are wrapping up formal language school and that means we have been on the hunt for an office!  It’s time for them to start engineering again!  A building has been selected, negotiations with the landlord are done and a lease is signed.  Now we get to turn the building into an office!  That means, desks, internet, aircon and plenty of other tasks still to go.  We will be adding more Khmer staff to the team too, including an architect and a couple interns.  The first projects are rolling in too!


Before all that can begin, our team met in the new building today and worshiped together.  We broke into groups and prayed for each other, the country, the people who would be joining us and the future in general.  Things are happening!  Ian and I will continue to be focused on our language studies but look forward to working in the office later this year.



Falling in Love

The other day I was going past one of the embassy’s and saw a small group outside.  While the parents were waiting in a line, the kids were having a blast imitating and following the security and police in the area.  The guards were very patient with them and one was leaning down to hear what the child was explaining to him.  It was a sweet sight.  Not long after, at the market I saw a man without legs begging from a wheelchair, a common sight here unfortunately.  A young man came over an gently helped him up and arranged a shirt behind him to make him more comfortable.  I was struck by his kindness.

The longer I’m here, as things are finally coming out of the whirlwind of being in a new culture and into the focus of settling in, I am struck by how warm and friendly the people are in Cambodia.  Even though we don’t speak the same language [YET], they are quick to offer help to a complete stranger.  The Khmer are a loving and wonderful people and I am excited to get to know them better.

FAQ, Updates

Christmas in Cambodia

Already here and gone — so fast. Christmas in Cambodia had some familiar feelings and a lot of new ones. It also has coincided roughly with our three month mark in country, which is when most people will tell you that culture shock sets in with full force.

Culture shock is difficult to describe if you haven’t experienced it yourself. In short, all of the subconscious and conscious changes in your daily life eventually add up and break through to really affect your emotions. It seems everyone reacts to it differently — for us, I think our primary reaction has been tiredness. But it’s also amplified the differences in Christmas celebrations — for better or worse.

On the familiar side, we were able to run down to a local shop (the school supplies place, because why not?) and pick up some decorations. We set up a tree — plugging in the lights are now the first thing on the to-do list each morning. We put out some tinsel and ornaments. And to top it all off — Laura found a nativity scene made from a coconut shell.



Of course, the weather has been much different than what we’re used to from Colorado. Not a hint of snow here. But it’s surprising how quickly our bodies have acclimated to  Cambodia. We actually had a few nights in the past weeks where we’ve been shivering cold and needing to bring out extra blankets! (around 60 degrees Fahrenheit for the curious)

Christmas gift exchanges (the variety where participants choose to either unwrap gifts or steal them from others) take on their own flavor here. We’ve been part of a couple between our teammates and church friends. Chocolates are a big hit, of course. Some people bring crafts or home decorations. But the star of the show?

Ziploc bags.

Not kidding here. Ziploc bags are so commonly used among the expat community but are very expensive (at least the brand name ones with the best zippers and thickest plastic). Better grab those fast!


Christmas programs also took on some changes (at least the one at our church!). No choirs here, no poinsettias — instead the church rented out a local soccer complex to put on a unique presentation. Playing to the young audience (many in their teens and 20s), the performance mashed-up pop culture references (from Frozen to Bohemian Rhapsody) with dances and lyrics rewritten to tell the Christmas story.

But at the end of it all, despite all the changes and differences, the most important part of Christmas — Immanuel, God with us — remains just as powerful as it has for thousands of years.


The first fruits of language school

In some ways, our days here are fairly routine — not exactly headline material. We devote our days to learning Khmer (the language of Cambodia). Most days, this means mornings at school, afternoons with 1-on-1 teachers, and evenings with flashcards.

Lots of flashcards.

The thing is.. even as taxing as it can be, with so much time in a day devoted to training our brains to think differently, we’re already seeing some incredibly encouraging ways in which this is paying off. We’ve mentioned some here and there, but for posterity, here’s a more complete list:

  1. We can attend a predominately (90%) Khmer church. Not that we can keep up with what is said during services in Khmer (most is later translated to English) — but even now, we’re picking up some words and phrases. And more importantly, we’re not entirely out of place before and after church — we have the tools to carry basic conversations with everyone.
  2. We have community with our neighbors. We can chat with them when we are out on the street (most commonly when we walk Geordi a few times a day). Conversations are still basic, but many are willing to meet us part way, mixing some Khmer and some English and some exaggerated gesturing. (We’re going to be awesome at pictionary, just you wait).
  3. We can honor our neighbors. In Cambodia, honor and respect is very important. It’s traditionally more respectful to address people by their title than by their name. And the smile you get when you address someone with the proper title in Khmer… priceless.
  4. We’ve gained credibility with other organizations. Cambodia is a bit jaded when it comes to NGOs. They’ve seen so many expats come in with a lot of dreams and a budget, and leave again in a few years once one or the other runs out. Time will tell what our ultimate impact is as an organization, but committing to learn the language (and learn it well!) seems to be less common than I would have expected. Leading a conversation with Khmer instead of another language opens doors (even if we have to change to English for more detailed discussions).
  5. We gain credibility in everyday situations. We fit in that much more quickly — I can’t count how many times someone has expressed shock discovering we have only been here two months. We can also negotiate prices closer to the local rate than the tourist rate (although we still tend to be on the generous side).
  6. We’re already dreaming partially in Khmer. Strange, but fun.

All this work is part of the bigger goal — even if as Laura’s recent post said: we’re not there … yet.

“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” (Nelson Mandela)