Sunday, September 18, 2016

Q & A from Jacqui

My good friend Jacqui emailed me some questions the other week. I answered them and we figured she might not be the only one to wonder about these things so here they are for general consumption. If you have any questions please feel free to email them all to me and I'll peck away at them and share them with you and anyone else who would like to read them. It's fun to answer questions en mass.

Enjoy!

Here's my crack at your questions:

Were you making some sort of carrot stew? No. I should have moved those carrots because they were my flat mates. She was cleaning them. We put veggies in water and vinegar to help clean them. She has gotten food poisoning a LOT. Not me, my stomach is steel. . . except with milk. I've been having some issues with milk. boo.

What local food are you learning to love/hate?  I am LOVING this mushroom/tofu dish from the corner restaurant that we all hang out at a lot in the evenings. The guys here don't ever cook and it's cheaper for a family to eat there instead of cooking a meal. It's only $2! I eat there every now and then. 

How are the Khmai lessons going?  I haven't taken any formal lessons but you know me, I LOVE to talk! So I think for only 3 weeks not to shabby. I can say a few phrases and people smile, laugh and are generally amused by my cuteness ;) 

Does it feel like home yet? If not, when does that usually happen?  It kinda dose feel like home. I am finding my place here. I came in and decorated the flat which was nice that no one else had! I put pictures up and all sorts of stuff. I need to find a few more things for the place and then I'll do a photo shoot! Maybe I can aim for next weekend. I have always believed that it takes at least 6 weeks for a place to become home. Someone told me that the summer before college and it's always stuck in my head for a finish line. It seems to be on a good track for that. It also helps when I am no longer the new person and I can show someone else around. I don't get lost anymore, not really anyway, and that helps me feel like I belong.

Just how hot IS it?  This was the perfect time to come because it's the rainy season going into "winter" and it's perfect. The cloud coverage really helps keep it cool. There have been a few times and places where I'm ROASTING but mostly it passes with I go to a different place (shade, off the ferry, etc) Right now I'm wet from riding my bike in the rain and it's currently raining and a slight breeze is coming in the kitchen door (along with some yummy smells) and I'm chilly :) It feels deeeeeelightful! I might make a cup of tea!! Which I did the last night! Yum!! Your pumpkin spice chi is a MUST right now :) PERFECT!!!!! 

Does rainy season make it impossible to drive anywhere?  So far the rainy season has only been for bits of time in the afternoon. However this weekend has been quite rainy. I had JUST made it home yesterday and taken my shower (I was ridding back from church and it's 5 mi one way so I was quite sweaty but I loved it!) when it POURED. It even came in sideways and we had to close the glass door on the outside of our screen metal door. In a car you can drive, in a tuk tuk you can manage but on a bike, motor or not, it's an adventure for SURE. (I'm using a lot of caps! Hahaha)

What local customs are really funny?  Hmmmm. The word for older person, like Sir, is Bong. It kinda makes me giggle. Also the word for thank you is "Acoon" and it always makes me start singing Hakoona mattata. haha.

Have you found a good donut place? ( you could probably sell your beignets!)  Nah. Honestly nothing is as good as Ra's donuts in Oakhurst. I did try a sesame sweet roll type thing. (side note I jus went and put on my light sweater. It's much nicer now) I am drinking a lot more coffee. They have a great iced coffee for $.75 on the street and they use sweeten condensed milk. YUUUUMMY. 

Are there giant bugs in your room?  No giant bugs but riding home from a friends house Fri night I saw a whole PACK of roaches on the street. It was gross.

Have you decorated your place yet?  YES! I love decorating. In fact word got out quick that I made the place homey. It's gotten compliments on the coziness of it. I'll get pictures soon. I used one of the maps you gave me forever ago! 

When are you getting a moto bike too?  I'll be getting one eventually. Maybe after the long season of teams that are going to be coming in from now until Feb, with a small break in October and another small break in December. For now RAW has one I can use. I did get enough money for a moped/scooter but I think I want to get a dirt bike so I can have more versatility and if I'm honest I want to keep up with the boys and prove that I can do it it. . . I'm such a younger sibling! Hahahaha. But honestly a dirt bike will allow met to go more places in all types of weather. So we'll see. I'd need to raise a bunch more so that might be awhile.  

Are you going to take some time lapses?  Yes. I have played around with some different ones. I'm wanting to get a cool one of walking in the mud. OH! I did get a cool video of a snail getting roasted and it splashing on the camera. I should post that on ig. It's gross.

Have you found any pets yet?  My neighbors are here until December and they have fish. When they leave I will adopt them! Hurrah! For free :) Two white ones and two gold ones, they are gold fish. They will be a fun addition to the flat.

Are you going to get malaria there too?  hahaha. We know if anyone can I can! Hopefully not. I don't think I'll be that far out in a village for long enough. We'll just have to wait and see. . . .

Are you ever going to post some of your polaroids on your blog????????????  My old ones? Sure! I should! I have them up on the wall of my teeny tiny room. I am taking one of each person to put on around the map in the living room. 

Are you going to post more videos? (yes yes yes)  I need to figure out how to. I think I'll just need to start uploading them to youtube and going from there. 

How is work going?? I love it. I'm busy, people are great, my ideas are being accepted and moved forward, my opinion matters, I'm doing a lot of research into other projects and ideas right now. School is on break for another two weeks before the teachers get back for pre-week. I have a team coming in a week. I'm really excited about the team coming. It's a group of Sophomores (or as the Aussies call them, year 10) in high school from Perth area. I'm going to be a team logistics leader. I'll be getting to work with some of my favorite people, so I know it will be fun. 

Friday, September 16, 2016

Lessons from my hero.

The person I look up to the most in the history of existence is Jesus. I have so much to learn about relationships from him. These are three of the best things I've learned so far.

1. Forget the stereotypes.
2. It's okay to be in the moment with someone.
3. Take time to connect with people.

The first I learned from the story of the woman at the well. You can find it in John 4. There are a few things to note about this story. She was a Samaritan woman. Jesus was Jewish and as a cultural rule they were not aloud to be friendly, Samaritans and Jews hadn't been getting along for a looooong time. She was also a she. As it still can be in the Middle East a man is not allowed to talk to a woman who was not a sister, mother or wife in public. These things didn't stop Jesus. The last thing to point out is she was getting water at the hottest time of they day. Water is normally gotten in the morning and in the evening. She must have been avoiding people in order to go at noon. None of these things bothered Jesus, he blew those stereotypes right out of the water. Because He did she ended up being the one to help save the entire village by introducing them to Jesus.

I too need to ignore stereotypes. I can become friends with the trash collector who walks through Phnom Penh squeaking the squeak toy with their cart of trash and recycling. I can't let a little thing get in the way of a relationship that can help change the world. Neither can you.

The second story is one that I've read recently and it moved me, it's in John 11. You see, Jesus was a teacher and a very in demand one at that. He traveled around all the time to share God with people. He had his home base where he went to be with his friends, the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus who were all siblings. This was his getaway spot. On one trip he got word that his good friend Lazarus was really sick and possibly dying, they were asking Him to come at once. Jesus knew he had work to finish with the people he was with, so he stayed to finish the task. Once he was done it was too late, his friend had died. Martha, the oldest came out to the road to meet Jesus and she cried to Him. "He died, you weren't here and he died." Jesus let her know that God had plans for this, that Lazarus was just sleeping and that His glory would be seen. They continued on to the house together. When they got really close to the house Mary came out to Jesus (as did all the grieving people who followed Mary). She was really upset, she said some things to Jesus and she was crying. Jesus again knew that there was a bigger story here, that He was going to do some really cool stuff but yet he allowed himself to feel her emotions and He cried. Jesus cried with Mary and the others. He was present and in the moment with them. The story does get better, they went to the grave and Jesus asked the stone to be rolled away (they use a cave to bury people). They were a bit hesitant because Lazarus had been dead for four days and the smell would be quite bad by then but they knew when Jesus asked something He had a good reason. They rolled the stone away and Jesus prayed to God saying that God had plans for this story and He would be glorified. Then He commanded that Lazarus come out. . . SO HE DID! Lazarus was raised from the dead and given back to his family. Jesus knew all of this would happen but he was willing to be present and empathize with his friends.

I want to be present and express and understand the same emotions my friends here might be going through, even if I know the outcome will change or is not to my understanding. I want to be present.

The third story is a favorite, it's in Mathew 19. Jesus, the in demand speaker and healer, had just finished another meeting. He must have been swarmed by admirers and people just curious to see him up close. There was a crowed of kids standing off to the side who wanted to see him too, the disciples (Jesus' students) saw the kids and tried to shoo them away from the busy, in demand teacher. Jesus saw this and stopped everything he was doing, called the disciples out for shooing the kids and then called all the kids up to himself. He stopped his busy schedule to spend time with kids. He told them stories, played with them and he blessed them. What a great lesson. He took time to connect. He didn't let his busy schedule get in the way of an opportunity.

I need to be reminded that while my work is important, my projects need to be done it's completely okay to stop and connect with a kid, a coworker or a friend. People hold value and I need to enjoy their company, even if it means changing my plans.

There is so much to learn from Jesus about relationships. No matter what your religious beliefs it's impossible to ignore the fact that Jesus was a genuine man and has a lot to teach about how to have relationships. I hope to take these three lessons and apply them to my life here, especially here in Cambodia. I want to live a life that makes a difference, not because I'm so special but because it's Jesus that people see in my actions.

I challange you to take a look at the way you do relationships. Don't let stereotypes stand in your way, it's okay to be in the moment with people and take time out of your schedule to be with people, your kids, your spouse and your friends.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Success!!

Today was a milestone.  It might not seem like much but it is. Since getting my bike this week I've been working on getting a lay of the land and it's been an adventure of turning around, going the long way and discovering places on the other side of stinky river, the large drainage "river" that runs through our part of the city.

Taken on the way back.
Today was a big day because I rode my green bike (we're still working on a name) to church. Brett, our very own triathlete coach at RAW Impact, volunteered to help me figure out a way to bike to church without going on the main roads and definitely avoiding the over pass, who wants to bike up the ONE hill in Phnom Penh? Not me, that's who. So at 9 am we started off. Me on my cute green bike with a basket and cover and Brett on his very fancy professional gear bike with clip in shoes. Our route turned out to be fairly straight forward. . . for Brett. After our almost 5 miles/37 min bike ride we were there! I was safely deposited at the church and I wasn't even that sweaty AND I was wearing a cardigan!

Church was much better this week. There were less people because it wasn't potluck (the big meal after church where you bring a dish to share and everyone eats lots!) and that seemed to help people to be much more friendly. I'm guessing because it was easier to spot a visiter or there was room to move around and talk or the whole day was just less stressful, I don't know whey exactly but it was. I made a point to say hello to the little girl on my row and her family. At least little kids don't cry when they see a westerner. . . well, except that one little guy in the village, like they did in Tchad. I think some kids are in rapture of my bright colored eyes because they do tend to stair directly into them quite a bit. I had a new Khmer friend who sat with me, I had met her last week in potluck line and she even worked for RAW at one point so she knows heaps of the same people. Her father had the sermon and it was about being peacemakers from the Sermon on the Mount. I appreciated the story he shared about the time when he was in a refuge camp. I met a Seventh-day Church of God (I'm a Seventh-day Adventist so somewhere along the way our church must have been one), American who is looking for a church to fellowship at with his family in Phnom Penh. Hopefully I'll meet his whole family next week.

The ride takes us right past the Olympic Stadium.
The tricky part of the day was seeing if I could make it home without getting lost, broken or hit by a car. . . . AND I MADE IT!!! It was so exciting! I am sure I must have looked silly the last several blocks because I was grinning from ear to ear. Once I got to the area where I recognized things from riding back from work I knew I was home free!

I then had a yummy giant salad I made from the market yesterday for lunch along with heaps of water to replenish my body after all the sweat!

It has been a sweet Sabbath and it's not even over yet. The fan is blowing air with the sent of fried food, the street sounds are not quite floating up to the window as much as jumping in and I'm overall content with being new and figuring this Phnom Penh life out at whatever pace it comes.
The long route!

Monday, August 29, 2016

Guess what?!

Would you believe it? I am still having trouble believing I get to live here in Cambodia. I am settling in to a life in Phnom Penh. It seems natural and normal, which is funny because how many people do you know that get to help build a bamboo house, encourage teachers, learn Khmer, hang out with people and call it a living?!

Right?! Who? ME! That's who.

I feel even more settled in because I just bought my bicycle or as the Aussies say, "push bike". (DOn't worry I am dedicating a whole blog to the new bike!) I'm working on settling in the apartment too. I've bought some spices and little things to hold the garlic and ginger. I am eyeballing a rice cooker and I've just made a pot of beans. I live here.

Today was an office day and since I didn't get the chance to make my beans yesterday (Sunday) I went on an adventure to find a restaurant around the office that had vegetarian food. It was a quite successful adventure too! I found a place where I can go get a meal for 7,000 riel and practice my Khmer for an hour! What a winner. I had noodles and veggies with jasmine tea. I even got to watch a strange Chinese movie with funny English subtitles.

I live here. I'm still wrapping my head around that.

Abbie, a roommate got flowers last weekend. 

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Some photos to enjoy.

Kids playing in the Mekong river. It's been raising heaps everyday. 
Sunrise from the ferry. We were waiting for the school kids to cross so we could go on our epic field trip!

Sunset after a storm rolled through. 

Village road.

Storm rolling in seen from the back porch.

This tool has a funny Aussie name. . . I wish I could remember it. 

Morning sitting on the front porch. Great view. . . 

Where I've been

So this last week was a blast. Getting to work on the first house for the Every Piece Matters project (EPM), starting to get to know people at our partner school, SALT and the rain mixed with the dirt --topped off with dirt bikes. Best week ever. (Granted it was also my first week here so there wasn't much to top)

I've posted several pictures of me going somewhere on a dirt bike and not much about what I'm doing once I get there. So here is a tiny update.




One of the schools we are a part of is in the same village as our EPM houses. So I've been able to catch a ride this week with the group that was going out to build. We had more people than normal out on the site because of a couple from Oz being here to help build the first home. I actually went out to build twice this week and had a blast. I learned the Aussie words for some tools and got to work on the flooring for the house. In fact, here's an update video of the house:



It was filmed on a day that I wasn't there so don't worry about looking for me ;)

It's been good to work in the village. One of my goals this month and next is to simply hang out in the village with some families to develop a relationship and get some basic language skills. I work at the school only a couple mornings a week so in the afternoon on those days I will hang out until the building guys go back and I can get a ride with them. On Thursday I walked through the village, my heart and soul love the village life. It is very familiar to Tchad, Tanzania and even parts of Honduras. So of course I love the village! The simplicity. The peace and quite! I think the time I spend in the village is very important. I need to know the people I'm working with before any trust is built. I need to dive into the Khmer language and get dirty! The getting dirty part turns out to be much easier than expected, especially during the rainy season. . . .

I went to church today. It was potluck day again! Hurrah, the last Sabbath of the month is the weekend to go! The over all experience was a bit hard because I wasn't able to connect with anyone and by the time I made my way home I was feeling a bit alone in this busy city. I'm sure over time I'll get my courage up to talk to people more and in return people will see me again and again and hopefully reach out more. It's hard being the new person but I am determined to make this work because church is important to me.

I'm figuring out my daily life and patterns. I cooked my first meal at home (had to borrow oil and salt from next door because I forgot to pick up basic things for cooking. Also opening the lock on the door at the gate is too much work just so I can go to the corner Royal Mart and get some). I am getting used to the time zone and able to sleep past 3 and 4 am! When I went to the market yesterday to buy food I made some veggie ladies laugh with my Khmer but I used it! I'm working on figuring out the streets and where things are (it might take me a REALLY long time but by jove I will!) We had our second girls Bible study last night and that was AMAZING. I am very excited to get to know the other staff at RAW and our Friday night study is going to be great.


Saturday, August 20, 2016

And so we begin.

This is the first blog post from Phnom Penh. Can you believe it? We are finally here. I say we because I feel like this is a group effort to get me here and thus it should be addressed with WE. 

I arrived Thursday morning after time traveling right past Wednesday. Those of you who were able to experience Wednesday I hope you enjoyed it for me.

My apartment is on the second floor, which is nice in the fact we didn’t have to carry the luggage up too many flights of stairs. The stairs here are a bit of a challange but don’t worry I’ll explain more in a later blog. 

I’ve gotten my local sim card and have charged up on heaps of data for the month. Way more than I will ever need and more than I’ll ever use, all for the low price of $6. 

Side note: if you don’t have an iPhone then you need to get whatsapp so we can text. Isn’t that exciting?! So go, get it now!

I’ve gotten settled into my room for the most part. I need to pick up a few things still like a rubbish bin, tape, and basket for dirty laundry etc. My favorite! Unpacking and moving in.

My first morning was welcomed when the sun came up with a drink from my California mug.
I was able to sleep 7 1/2 hours the first night and 8 last night! I hope that continues! Time travel throws the system for quite the loop. Going West is easiest but still a bit of a drag at random parts of the day. Luckily coffee abounds in this place. 

Work. Ahhh, now that is something that I can get really excited about. It’s going to be a bit of time to get everything sorted out but I can tell you that I am incredibly excited and honored to be a part of it. On Friday morning we were in our staff worship/meeting (my first full day here) and just in that short meeting I was already brainstorming a MILLION things that I want to do. That’s not even including the things that Troy, Brett and Kerry have for me to do. If this is any indication of what to expect over the next few years, we my friends, have made a wonderful decision in sending me here. 

My morning latte from Joma has a bear, wombat or possibly a monkey face.
Which is more than anyone could ask for.
Food has been good. No fried spiders yet, but the year isn’t over yet. I’m sure I’ll get them eventually. I bought muesli, rice milk and bananas for my breakfast. Fairly typical of what I have been eating in the States except the rice milk tastes funny and I don’t think I’ll get that one again. I did eat Thursday night at the local $2 corner place that I really liked. I had been excited about the 10 veggie stir fry for 4 months. It was just as I remembered it.

The weather has been delightful. The clouds are here most all day covering the roasty-toasty sun and when the breeze comes it is pleasant. . . as pleasant as can be in an easy bake oven. 

Today, Saturday has been everything I wanted and more. Good conversations with friends both here in Phnom Penh and in the States. Resting with a fan blowing on me and fruit juice popsicles that I made from the freezer. Thank goodness for a Sabbath rest!


That’s all I have for now. Know that I appreciate all the love, prayers and support from each of you. 


Thursday, August 11, 2016

Packing Up

I have made big strides this week in packing!! Thanks to my friend Melissa who came down to visit me yesterday and help me pack. I had been doing well on my own but was daunted with the task of actually putting things in my suitcase. So Melissa responded to my S.O.S. and drove over 2 hours to accept the challenge of packing, or as I like to call it playing Tetris with a 50 lb limit.

This is how things started out:


They got pretty serious after lunch and we attacked the pile with vengeance.

The key to our success was in friendship, good music but also in those nifty vacuum bags!





I have just a few things left to take care of and then I'm ready for a jet plane. I'm excited, scared and jazzed. It's time for a change and I'm packed and ready for it to come.





TAKE NOTICE!!!!

A very exciting update!

As of today I have met my base fundraising amount of $13,000. I can now comfortably cover all my living expenses in Cambodia, which is a HUGE blessing! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Now that we have met this significant goal, I would like to start on my next fundraising goal of $10,000. Here's why: My plan is to live abroad and continue serving those in need for the long-haul. This would be much easier without my remaining student loan debt still hanging over my head. I've worked pretty hard over the last few years to reduce it, but without a regular income, I am praying and asking for help to eliminate this financial burden.

So every donation that comes in from now on will go directly to help pay off my student loans. This will be a huge help and will give me the ability to work freely in serving the people in Cambodia for as long as needed. 

As always if you have questions please feel free to contact me. 


Blessings to you.
Only a few more nights with this mountain view.

Friday, August 5, 2016

11 days and counting.

Happy Friday!

I am a little over half way to my fundraising goal! I have been given a donation by a church in Canton, Ga for my dirt bike. I'll be getting it in a couple months so I can drive myself out to the villages we work in! Thanks guys!!

I leave a week from next Tuesday. The final count down has begun! I am almost fully funded and can use all the help I can get! If you know of anyone interested in hearing about RAW Impact let me know!

I'll keep you updated as the countdown gets closer!

Lots of love,
Sonya
The packing has begun.

Tax Deductible: If you need to make it tax deductible you can donate it directly to the umbrella organization that RAW Impact is under for it's non profit license in America. The name is Global Development Group (GDG). You can do that here: GDG. If you do donate there please mark it with my name and email me to let me know.

Please note that because it is such a small organization I lose 25%. Here's the breakdown; GDG takes 7.5% from each donation. Then 10% of each donation goes towards growth and 7.5% goes towards RAW's administration of volunteers. With the transfer of funds between exchange rates from US to Australia and then back to Cambodia in US dollars, we lose a percentage there so that's included in the admin costs also. 

Go Fund Me: If you want to just donate via this (Go Fund Me) I loose only 5% to the organization. Please note this is not tax deductible unless I send it the rest of the way to GDG, if I did that I would lose 30%. 

Direct Deposit: This is if you want to just donate directly and not worry about tax deductible receipts. I can send you my Cambodia savings account with Bank of America. 

Monthly Donations: You can donate directly to me with no tax break or you can donate via GDG and get the tax break.