Friday, November 30, 2018

November 30, 2018

I thought of something clever and funny to write about for today while I was sitting in the mail truck for 5 hours. However,  I can't remember what it was for the life of me. It was a lovely ride back though, the driver was really good.

I've made it through the month of November! I blogged most every day, minus that week in the middle. . . but I bet you are actually glad I didn't blog then because you'd feel guilty for not actually wanting to read it. Ha, don't feel bad, this was just as much for me as it was for you.

I am currently sitting across from the fireplace and the Christmas lights are all on. I've got my 100 Christmas Concertos playing in the background and I am ready for the weekend. We observed 19 teachers this week and I've traveled lots. I'll rest this weekend and then it will be time to have fun when the next group/team comes on Monday! It's the other half of my job that I love, sharing Cambodia with new friends and getting to work side by side with them.

Until then, good night.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

November 29, 2018

When I was in college I went on a life changing trip, it was the NYC Sociology study tour. I knew I wanted to go on it from the first moment I became a student. I learned about it at registration in the university gym (back in the day before you could register online). It was a trip that taught me so very much about life and how to live life.

The trip was a sociology trip to study people and culture in New York City. We’d leave the Saturday night before Thanksgiving (that’s the end of November for those of you not American) and we’d return the following Saturday night. We’d stop off in Lancaster, Pennsylvania on Sunday to learn about the Amish culture and then head into the city for the week. During the week we’d visit Harlem, the Lower East Side, China Town, Little Italy, we’d see Broadway plays, off Broadway plays, the Rockettes Christmas program, a synagogue service for Friday night and loads of other things. On Thanksgiving day we’d work with the Salvation Army to feed people a Thanksgiving meal, then we’d all get together for dinner that night and share our own Thanksgiving meal away from home.

The trip happened two and half months (or so) after school started so before the actual trip we had a class met once a week and we’d talk about NYC, we talk about gentrification and loads of other great sociology words. We would learn a bit about the history of different people and buildings. We all learned the address for the YMCA we’d stay at: 224 E 47th street and tried to grasp the metro system before we arrived.

The best thing Mr. Lamb ever taught me was to make connections with people. He encouraged us to create a bit of a routine while there, always stop at the same coffee cart each morning and greet the person running it. To try new things and always keep exploring. It was the best thing that could have ever happened to 18 year old Sonya. I went on that same trip for the next 5 years and learned how to connect better each time. (I was a student for two of those years and after that they asked me to be a student leader, they figured might as well put me to work if I was going to be going anyway!) During those 5 years I took his advice to heart and made friends with the cheeky, flirty New Yorkers, I got hair advice from a woman in a pizza shop in Harlem, I was given a free ticket to a seat 4 rows back from the orchestra pit at the Met Opera, I asked for directions, made a friend and was given his pass to get into a museum.

Those were life lessons Mr. Lamb gave me, I didn’t know it then but they would become a foundation to how I live my life.

Last night I stopped by a smoothie cart for dinner. I asked for a drink in Khmer and chatted a bit as she made my drink. I wished her a good evening and rode the bike back to my hotel. Yesterday evening I had gone for a ride and it was on my way back to the hotel but tonight I wanted a drink again so I rode past all the other drink carts (and there were loooooads of them) to visit that same lady. She recognised me and she remembered what I wanted, told her son to make it and even remembered no sweet and condensed milk. We talked even longer tonight, I was again able to practice Khmer and connect with a human. I even ordered a ‘pancake’ with coconut and Nutella from the cart next to her and chatted with her as well. What a great feeling to connect and make friends and what a great experience to remember Siem Reap by.



I owe a lot to Mr. Lamb and those trips to NYC. I still keep in touch with Mr. Lamb and tell him how grateful I am for all that he taught me.

Make a routine, get to know the people who serve you, smile and connect with humans.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

November 28, 2018

Let’s talk about period cramps.

It’s not often talked about by anyone in my mixed circle of friends. Well, I talk about it among female friends but not in a bigger circle. I’ve been struggling these last few years to not feel ashamed of having cramps, pms or my period in general. It’s not like I did something wrong to have it. It’s not like I’m the only one on earth who does. It’s not like it’s unnatural or anything and I think it would be benifitial for others to understand it.

So, here we are.

Let’s talk.

I dislike cramps more than anything on earth. They weren’t always so painful. They got more so once I turned 30. There have been seasons in my life where I have medicated every 6 to 8 hours to avoid crippling pain. I’ve woken up in the middle of the night and not been able to move because it was excruciating and they had already gotten so bad that taking anything for the pain was pointless. I simply had to distract myself and wait it out. I’ve prayed for a meeting to be over quickly so I can cycle home and hide in a dark, cool room.

For those of you who have never had a cramp here are some ideas: imagine having food poisoning and your stomach is cramping up and you need to go to the toilet so you can feel better.

Imagine, it is a lovely Sunday and you are going for a long run along a country road and 5 miles in you get cramps and side stitches but there is nothing you can do to stop the pain and you are closer to the end of your run than the start so you just have to keep existing and going on your run despite the pain.

Imagine, being woken up with a migraine and food poisoning and a side stitch from running even though you aren’t running.

Every month isn’t horrible, I know it depends on food, excersize etc. This month hasn’t been the worst but it is still very inconvenient. When the cramps came luckily I wasn’t having to talk to anyone or stand in front of people. I could sit in the back of the classroom and breath through the pain. My whole body tenses up and is tight. There have been times where I get really hot and then really cold, this time, thankfully, it just hurt. During the worst of it I long for the pain to let go, for my body to relax and unclench. Thankfully there was a sitting toilet tucked in the back of the school that I could go hide in, is that too much information? It’s hard to tell when I am writing this alone and not actually telling you to your face-the beauty of the internet. I was grateful for my painkillers and sitting down. I am grateful that the worst should be done by now and I am grateful that it was an easy month.

The best part of all of it is when the pain has gone away and my body relaxes and I feel every muscle let go and breath. It is the best feeling in the world, almost as good as putting on dry under clothes after swimming in the lake all day.

Well, there you have it. I’ve talked about period cramps in a ‘public’ setting. No one seemed to have died, no one fainted from my impropriety, and I am still a genteel daughter of the South. My hope is you have a tiny picture of the horrors of my uterus shedding it’s lining. Wait, was that it? Was that the line? Honestly, I can never tell. This wasn’t even a squeamish post, much calmer than the toilet one. We didn’t even talk about blood or irrational emotions.

Thank you, this has been fun and educational.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

November 27, 2018

Today was an early day. I’m up in Siem Reap doing teacher observations in the three schools we are in. The closest school is an hour and 15-30 min our side of Siem Reap city. The best part of getting there is driving past the temples in the early morning light. Gotta love a good temple drive by.


We leave the hotel at 6 am to get to the school in time for their first class. Today there were two other Khmer friends working with me, they are from the partnering organization that helps support these schools. We support only with the Teacher Training program. To get all the teachers in we divide the teachers and sat in on at least 30 min of class for each.

There are two ‘days’ in each school day. Students don’t go for the full day, they go either in the AM or in the PM. The other half of the day you work or help out at home etc.

For today we had 15 teachers to observe between the two halves of the day with a long lunch in the middle. There were several new teachers to this school year and this is our first visit of the year. They run on a calendar similar to the American system October to August, the big break is during the really rainy season.

There were at least 3 new teachers who just finished high school a few months ago, they looked so young, God bless’em. It must be terrifying to become a teacher so young. We are quite excited to get into some good Teacher Trainings with those guys!

There were several good surprises from the teachers. One DRASTICALLY improved from last year. He taught a class with a quick group project to get their attention, asked the students open ended questions that didn’t have answers in the book and really got the students involved. The was another teacher who was teaching vocabulary to some 2nd graders and kept them so busy and involved that no one got bored, distracted or talked. They used lots of different learning styles, they counted syllables, spelt out loud, wrote the word on a personal chalkboard, and pointed to the word in their book. They wrote sentences, talked about them and finished the long class period off with a spelling test.

It was a great day in the schools.

It was cold and rainy. Some of the classrooms were a bit dark and there was lots of sandy mud to dodge when walking across the school yard but by golly it was a great day.



Tomorrow will be another school just a bit further out. I’m looking forward to visiting this school too.

We finished our day, drove back through some beautiful hills/tiny mountains and rolled into Siem Reap city just as every one and their grandmother was going home, the roads were packed. It was an 11 hour day but worth it to help these teachers. Just thinking of the brave new teachers straight from high school is enough to keep me going on a million long days. The work we are doing is important, needed, beautiful, hard and valuable. I love my job.

November 26, 2018

Let’s talk about toilets.

I rode up on the Cambodian Post Van (yes, that’s right the mail truck) to Siem Reap. The ride is always love, smooth, fast and only legit stops—none of this stopping so the driver can buy some meat that is hanging on a hook at the road side meat stand. Anyway, back to the toilets.

Toilets in Cambodia come in many shapes and sizes. You have the classic “squat urinal” and the porcelain throne - some with a seat, some without. With all those options you never really know what you will get, but you can almost always guarantee that you will need to bring your own tp (that’s toilet paper for you Aussies). I always travel with a lovely packet of pocket tissues in my backpack—never leave home without them! So the threat of no tissues at a toilet place isn’t to big. My motto with tp is if you see a trash can, use it. I don’t mind “squat urinals”, I call them that because they look like a urinal that is laid facing up and cemented into the ground waiting for you to squat over it. In Tchad I got quite used to squat toilets, they offer better gravity assistance if you know what I mean. . .

A good toilet stop here will have a functioning lock, a good source of water, a clean seat or clean place to put your feet, running water to wash hands with soap (but if not —never leave home without the hand sanitizer and now that I mention it you probably should just use it anyway after you wash your hands).

The toilet in question had all the classic things, lock, running water, seat etc. Only it had extra things— a giant puddle of water around the toilet, side note never put ANYTHING on the floor around the toilet. That put me on high alert but when ya gotta pee ya gotta pee. I didn’t know how much longer till our big stop and didn’t want to risk it. I entered cautiously and as I used the toilet with my feet lightly touching the water, I felt a drip, drip, drip from above. I looked up and only saw the lights and a gross old fly catcher. Then I realised there was water dripping in from the rain into my bathroom stall. Yikes. I had to shimmy over to the side to finish my business. Thank goodness I wasn’t wearing my overalls!! Gross, those are tricky to wear while trailing in Cambodia. I did my thang and skidadled out of there with a spritz of hand sanitizer for good luck and good riddance.

And now you have a better picture of a toilet stop.

You are welcome.

Enjoy sitting on your toilet tonight and flush some 16 ply toilet paper for me please.

Boy do I miss that stuff.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

November 25, 2018

Happy Thanksgiving. Today we feasted. It's the first time I've been able to host the feast at my place of residence. Before it would be over at Brett's apartment because he has more space but with my new apartment I've got a roof space! It was a small gathering but a lovely group of people who I call family.

Without any further ado here is my annual
100 things I'm thankful for:


  1. Cambodian Adventures
  2. My apartment
  3. Khmer language classes
  4. Art/creating things
  5. Wednesday phone calls with my dad
  6. Late night phone calls with my mom 
  7. Listening to my brothers podcast: Casual Cinecast 
  8. Whatsapp-ing with Xelxi about our favorite tv shows, Chris Pine and ways to torture Chris Clouzet (the good kind of torture. . .)
  9.  Drawing pictures with Andrea on my iphone
  10. Talking about fall with Rachel
  11. People who eat my baking and cooking
  12. Friday Night Pasta Night
  13. My Khmer work family who share lunch time with me
  14. Friendly "Grandma" who says hi to me everyday
  15. My regular veggie lady and fruit vendor friends
  16. Fresh flowers for $1
  17. My great smoothie guy who now knows me
  18. Gertie the green slug
  19. Foxy Roxie
  20. Walking Wednesdays
  21. The giant Whatsapp conversation with my high school best friends
  22. Fireworks
  23. Mondulkiri
  24. Nature
  25. Mountains
  26. Lou-louuuuu
  27. Tesser and our staying in contact
  28. Exmouth and adopted family vacations
  29. WA, Australia (I too was surprised it made the list, the rest of Australia better step up it's game)
  30. Fast and safe bus rides 
  31. Books
  32. Magic Noodle and the noodle salad
  33. Friends who visit me!
  34. Rain
  35. Wind
  36. Sunglasses
  37. My long sleeve RAW Impact shirt
  38. My new overalls and Nashville shirt
  39. Communicating in Khmer
  40. Showing Andrea where I live and work
  41. Digital libraries
  42. Dry and clean place to sleep
  43. Internet
  44. Cheap phone data
  45. My replacement phone
  46. The One Project/One House team
  47. Teaching teachers
  48. Getting to be in a classroom
  49. Brainstorming ideas with teachers
  50. VIP seating at the movies
  51. Adventures with Sarah
  52. Paw Paw ointment 
  53. Gifts from home
  54. Mail
  55. Khmer portraits (I looove these)
  56. Fans
  57. Warm showers
  58. Water shoes
  59. Team trips
  60. Cucumbers
  61. Home made popcicles
  62. Amazon prime music
  63. Memories/mementos from home
  64. Color
  65. Long lasting nail polish
  66. Puppies
  67. Kittens
  68. Small babies with squishy cheeks
  69. Khmer children's books
  70. Tourist who speak Spanish or French that I can help and talk to
  71. Good restaurants that are only 4 blocks away 
  72. A good pillow
  73. A good soft top for a mattress
  74. New friends
  75. People who come back on a Team Trip for the second or third time and I get to hang out with them again
  76. Candles
  77. Pillows 
  78. Clear nights
  79. Health
  80. Healthy curly hair
  81. Rivers
  82. Youtube
  83. BBC news
  84. Free choice
  85. Happiness
  86. Coffee
  87. Donuts
  88. My people back in Oakhurst
  89. Life experiences
  90. Second chances
  91. Peppermint soap
  92. Responsibility 
  93. Good sermons
  94. Conversations with God
  95. Quite moments 
  96. Praise songs that say what I am feeling
  97. Hope
  98. Faith 
  99. Love
  100. You, the person who takes the time to connect with me, chat with me, think of me and support me in whatever way you do. I am thankful for YOU.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

November 24, 2018

I watched two really great sermons today. They both come from the Kingscliff Seventh-day Adventist Church in Kingscliff, New South Wales, Australia.

The first is called The Choice You Don't Have to Make. I love how the pastor helps point out that everything points back to Jesus. He is the center, he is all that matters. He is the Gospel. I love how easily it explained what I believe as a Seventh-day Adventist, he gave me clear steps and thoughts to be able to share with others. Jesus All.

Here it is so you can see what I am talking about:



What did you think? Was it agreeable? Is it in a way that you can share with others? Do you agree that they all point back to Jesus?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The second one was also incredible. It is how you can connect with people who aren't Christian, he gives great tools to use. The goal is connection, find the common ground, talk in their language, share Jesus' love. The stories are incredible and encouraging.

Here it is so you can see what I'm talking about:

 

What do you think? Did he give you tools you can use when talking to people? Have you built any bridges before? Any other tools you would add?

It was a beautiful Sabbath for me. I ended my two sermon day with a playlist of some worship songs and simply sat in the moment with Jesus. What a great God.




Friday, November 23, 2018

November 21, 2018

I got back from Mondulkiri yesterday. It was a great Teacher Training and I can see some differences in the classrooms, which is quite encouraging.

The best thing about today was the Nativity scene I made today!!! It is incredible. I am so proud of it. Here is a picture.

I bought these horrific little people key chains in the market that I feel like I actually rescued from a horrible fate of the rubbish bin in some first world country. I took the key ring off them, cleaned their little faces off and added some Bible wardrobe pieces. I was quite pleased with myself by this point and just getting going too!

My next goal was the baby Jesus, I rolled some fabric that I thought would work well but realized it needed a head, the tiny littlest shepherd volunteered his leg for baby Jesus, so he has a sleepy little head now.

Then I hunted around for what I could use as a manger and found a little container that I put some lichen from Oakhurst in to act as his straw for the manger. By now I was getting quite giddy and excited about how awesome it was turning out.

It still lacked a proper 'home'. I knew it would go on my awesome fireplace but it needed a stand or a stable. Then I spotted an old box that had held cupcakes from Bloom (if you ever visit you will learn of the amazingness of a Bloom cupcake). I saw it was the perfect size and had been saved for such a time as this! I covered the blue with left over brown 'brick' tape from the fireplace and it was perfect! It just needed the star for the top. I took the plastic window cover from the box, cut out a star and painted it with gold paint leftover from another volunteer. THE STABLE WAS PERFECT.

Alas, there were no animals, what would the shepherds shepherd and how would the wise men arrive?! Then I remembered my great friend Jacqui had given me some really cool wooden animals. So the animals came to Jesus' birth. The wise men rode the polar bear, American buffalo and moose. While the bunny, fox, squirrel and bird were already at the stable the shepherds brought the giraffe,  elk and gazelle. Even the Australian kuala (not bear) came to visit baby Jesus.

It may be my favorite nativity I have ever owned. I'll be on the look out for anything else that wants to join the celebration of Jesus' birth.




November 23, 2018

Whelp, I'm officially bad at this months resolution. My excuse is that while in a normal everyday office routine I can remember and take the energy to write a blog post. However, when I am traveling all normalcy is thrown out.

Today is day three of Water Festival here in Cambodia. It means more fireworks! They have been every night for the last three nights. It's the best. I just sit outside on my balcony and watch them for almost an hour! It's a great way to unwind and relax. I would like them every night! It is a bit distracting to type and watch the fireworks at the same time. Oooooo! That as a good one. Focus, Reaves.

I had today off as my 'long weekend'. Non Khmer crew at RAW Impact are given a long weekend or our choosing every month, the Khmer staff get the many random government holidays instead. My goal today was to prep as much as I could for the Thanksgiving Feast that will be on Sunday. It's my third one here in Cambodia but the first one I'll be hosting at my apartment! I'm quite excited!

To start my day I woke up at my normal time, because I'm like a school kid on the first day of their holiday and I was able to catch up with my dad for Thanksgiving. Then I read for a half a minute and realized I was sleepy, so three hours after I woke up I took a nap and it was glorious.

The main stuff I did today was clean everything, sweep, mop etc. I also purchased the drinks for Sunday and most importantly I carried them all up the 7 flights of stairs. I also got the stuff to make my pumpkin pie and my apple pie (minus the apples. . . I forgot them and will go and get them Sat night at the Toul Tom Pong night market). I made a cover for the circle chair I have, it was gross from sweat and stuff and was in SORE need of a cover. I sewed it myself, thanks Cris for the free sewing machine!

After all that stairs exercise and sweeping and mopping I'm tire. I'll sleep well tonight. 

Saturday, November 17, 2018

November 18,2017

Today Karen and I are off to Mondulkiri for the last Teacher Training of the year. We've had several since September and they get better each time. I am enjoying my job so much! Our current model is working in three areas: Teacher Training, Modeling/Mentoring and Observation. It will be tweaked at the start of next year as we continue to grow and develop our best practice, learning what we can from others who have gone before us and who are right beside us. We'll go into the school tomorrow (Monday morning) in time for worship and then Karen and I will each teach an English class and have as many teachers as possible observe us. This way they can practice filling in the observation sheet that we use with them, they can get ideas and they can learn that it's okay to make mistakes (because we sure will!). It's part of the modeling step of our program. We will finish the rest of the morning observing them teach and the following morning too. Monday afternoon Karen and I will split the time we have with two different trainings. Mine will review the last few topics, lesson plans and learning styles by teaching the types of formative assessments (my favorite!). It will be an exciting afternoon for sure!

We'll finish up Tuesday at lunch and then board the bus back for Phnom Penh. It's a short visit but a good one. I look forward to seeing my friends, the teachers and the cool mountain air. I can never seem to get enough of it.

I'm not nervous in the presenting of information but I just pray that what we teach is useful, that the teachers can appreciate it and add it into their style of teaching. I know that this work is needed, there are reports on reports stating that Cambodia is in need of educational direction. I suppose it is the cloud that is always hanging out in a teachers mind, is this enough to help the student, is this getting through to the student. I'll just have to keep trusting that for today it is enough and that God will help fill in the gaps.

If you are interested in training teachers, have done research or want to join me please email me! I am always looking for new ideas and people! Sonya@rawimpact.org

I'll see you tomorrow in the mountains!