Sunday, December 25, 2016

Driving the ute in Phnom Penh

RAW Impact's ute after I drove it through the mud. Not the same ute as the story.
I'm not sure if I told you I have my Cambodian drivers license. I got it just in case I ever needed to drive the ute (that's Aussie for Utilitarian Vehicle, that's what they call anything that has a bed behind a cab.) and for driving my motor bike, if anyone asked me for it I'd be all clear.

The time came in the first week of December for me to put it to good use. Being the only RAW Impact staff to actually know how to drive on the right hand side of the road I think I'm most qualified to drive. . . but that's not really my point because honestly, HAVE YOU SEEN PHNOM PENH TRAFFIC?! No thanks. No way José.

Last week while I was working with a team at one of our partnering projects in Kampong Speu they needed someone to go get another bag or two of cement. Blake was leading the build and Brett was working on office work so I got chosen to go. I accepted the challange and drove on "Hwy"/big road 4. I drove with big trucks, small moto bikes and other utes. I survived! More importantly my passengers survived AND we found the cement place!

Then on Friday, after a long week of team stuff and building, Jared, one of our staff went for a nice dirt bike ride around the village and injured his knee by banging it onto a bolt protruding out of the handlebars, or somewhere on it. Don't ask me how that happened I still don't understand, what I do know is it took a small chunk out of his knee. Brett, also our first aid guy decided Jared should go back into Phnom Penh and get it taken care of that night because it would need stitches and antibiotics. As Brett was the team leader, he couldn't go and Blake was sharing his story that night with the team of students. It was up to me, I needed to drive into Phnom Penh to the hospital we use. I didn't want to drive back on my own so I asked Jay, a gap year volunteer, to join me as copilot. It was just before supper when we left. I grabbed some sweet bread to eat on the way and Jay grabbed a plate of fried rice that he ended up sharing with Jared.

This was quite possibly the drive of a lifetime. Jared is clearly the son of Stew our "dad" volunteer from New Zealand who is just one of those guys who can do everything. Jared rode copilot and coached me on when to push forward, who to not let in and when to honk. He was in pain but still able to coach, what a legend. We ended up stuck in traffic way outside the airport, again nearer the airport and then as we passed the airport. It took us a very long time, what is normally a 40 min drive was THREE hours or something around that, we listened to some music, talked and enjoyed ourselves despite the reason for driving. It didn't seem like that long because we were enjoying ourselves.

We dropped Jared off after circling the block a couple times to find SOS International Hospital and then there were two left in the ute. Jay was a lifesaver with the map skills. I would have pulled over and cried repeatedly without him. He navigated the horrors that are the roads of Phnom Penh with calmness and finesse. He even made some good jokes while we were on the beginning of our voyage. Then the next round of traffic hit. At first we were still in jovial spirits at just having conquered what is Phnom Penh roads but that quickly died after the first hour of sitting still in the ute surrounded by big fatty trucks. Our courage started to drain away and we imagined the rest of our lives lived out stuck in the ute. It was bleak. After two hours of sitting in a span of 4 or 5 car spaces all hope was gone. We were in need of a Christmas miracle. It was getting late, certainly after 10 pm. We had been in the ute since before 6 pm and had not eaten much. Bless us both we were going to go crazy. Finally whatever it was that had been holding us up was cleared. We were able to shift into second gear and clear out of there. THANK YOU JESUS!!

We arrived back at Jumpah with Brett opening up the gate for us at 11:30. We had been in that little ute for almost 6 1/2 hours. Jared was safe and sound with his stitches and Jay and I have an epic adventure to share. Luckily both he and I are owesom (that's awesome in Aussie) story tellers and will be more than willing to share the story with again you in person if you would like.

And that is the story of my first drive in Phnom Penh.

I'd like to thank Jay and Jared for sharing the adventure with me.

Oh and I only stalled the ute a few times. Mainly when we were in traffic and I kept getting anxious and then embarrassingly enough right outside the Jumpah gate because I forgot I was driving a stick and frankly quite tired by then.

The end.

Me, Jay and Brett at the build site at Jumpah.

Friday, December 23, 2016


Here's some pictures from the last month in Cambo. I need to work harder at posting updates! 


Chma (cat) at the hotel in Siem Reap

Me and Brett on the last build day with our team from Brisbane State High School.

The dirt road leading out to Koki, a village we work in. This village is in the red zone for the UN. It's the edge of survival.

The house we built with BSHS. The grandma has lived through a lot and we were honored to help her get her first house and out of living under a tarp since her old one blew over. 

A pretty lady just after getting her hair and makeup done at a local beauty spot in Kratié

I see this billboard all the time and I'm not a big fan.

A sweet girl in Koki who helped me move lunch to the community center.

Pidow and I at the home she helps run called Jumpah. She's a gem and helped me a lot with my Khmer. 

A little cafe near Jumpah where I went in the middle of the day to take a break and have a pick me up coffee.

Me with said coffee. See it was working already.

Hope you enjoyed. Hopefully more to come.

100 things to be thankful for

Okay, so this is a bit late but better late than never, right?

For my Thanksgiving tradition I have composed a list of 100 things I am thankful for. Here it is in no particular order:

  1. Cambodia
  2. Australian slang
  3. Adventure
  4. Purpose
  5. Family who support my life choices even if they think I'm crazy
  6. Mom 
  7. Dad and Deli
  8. Fifer, my kaka
  9. Andrea
  10. Rachel
  11. BurlyKim
  12. Xelxi
  13. messages from friends and family
  14. Gertie the Green Slug
  15. Khmer
  16. Donuts
  17. Khunara/Ra
  18. RAW Impact
  19. Cold weather
  20. Warm weather
  21. Rain
  22. Free Wifi and cheap data plans
  23. Tuk tuks
  24. Hope
  25. God
  26. Love
  27. Travel
  28. Music
  29. My flatmates
  30. Joma coffee in the morning with Brett and Jay (and whoever else comes)
  31. Khmer iced coffee
  32. Team trips 
  33. Outdoors
  34. Church
  35. Community
  36. Curly hair
  37. Sunrise
  38. Quite mornings
  39. English
  40. The corner restaurant
  41. Hanging out with the Family
  42. Kitten's
  43. Puppies!!
  44. Good office days
  45. Air con
  46. Fun bed sheets
  47. Line drying my clothes
  48. My porch garden
  49. Growing and learning
  50. Mexican food
  51. Trees
  52. Angkor Wat
  53. Running
  54. My $1 gym
  55. Rice
  56. Coconut everything
  57. Doctors
  58. Stick shift driving
  59. Laughter
  60. Happiness
  61. Innocence
  62. Kids around the world
  63. Good conversations
  64. Vulnerability, even if it is hard and scary
  65. New friends
  66. Riding with a friend on a motorbike
  67. Holidays
  68. Challenges
  69. Ice with a hole in the middle I can put my straw in
  70. The burrito place on St 155
  71. Kips (Aussie for naps)
  72. Color
  73. Dry Erase markers
  74. Tile all over the walls in my apt
  75. My teaching heritage
  76. The Andersons
  77. Brett
  78. Pete
  79. Abbie
  80. My mentors
  81. Thanksgiving Feasts
  82. Kindness
  83. Baseball
  84. Lazy Sunday afternoons
  85. Spontaneous Adventures in Phnom Penh
  86. The GUZMANS
  87. Kendra
  88. The Wiegs
  89. Diana Pleitez, who took over OACS as principal
  90. Beauty
  91. Simplicity
  92. Sleep overs in the village
  93. Hammocks
  94. Stars
  95. Curiosity
  96. Hope of Heaven
  97. Living a life for others
  98. God's calling on my life
  99. Smiles
  100. Courage 

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Thoughts on not being a Teacher/Principal

I go to bed without running through a million scenarios in my head about school board meetings, teachers meetings, parents, students, lesson plans or any other million things.

I have HEAPS of free time on Sunday and by HEAPS I mean all day. I don't have to go to the school, write lesson plans, grade papers or brainstorm ways to recruit more students. 

I go into work at 8:15 am everyday.

I leave work at 5 pm everyday.

I am not having to "be on" all the time. 

I don't have to wear a million different hats.

I don't feel terribly inadequate, overwhelmed, stuck or like a fake. 

I still get to teach, brainstorm ways to teach concepts and ideas to students.

I bicycle to and from work most days (motor bike on days when I go to the village).

I don't have to shmooze or woo people to donate, volunteer, like me, like the school, or even care about anything when I am at church.

But mainly I have so much free time on Sunday. Time to explore who I am and the world around me or to simply sit and read or watch a million episodes of a new favorite tv show. 

I'm no longer stressed about life and work. It's a great feeling. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Summon the Courage.

I found myself looking for all my extra courage today.

I've graduated from the little moped bike to the one Kerry has been using. It's a manual bike. It's roughly the same size as the black moped bike, only it rides much different. I have to pay attention to the gears and shift up and down with my left foot. I have to break with my right food as well as my right hand all the while remembering the throttle in the same hand. I have to look around for drivers, pot holes and landmarks to know where to turn.

The thing is, it's hard. I enjoy being pushed to grow and learn. I often volunteer for new things. I like learning languages, leading groups of people and being the first to try something. This however is pushing me a lot. I want to stay in my comfortable zone of push bike. It's hard going out to the village on my own. I have a great coach here in Phnom Penh but he can't do it for me, he can't ride me out there. I am having to summon up all my courage and ride out there on my own because I have to.

I'm working on keeping my chin up and sights on the future but today I struggled. Today I went out to Taskor for the first time on the bigger bike and I wanted to be back where it was easy. I didn't want to learn something new. I wanted my comfort zone.

Nothing much more to say than that. An honest confession that I am not always brave, I am not always optimistic and sometimes I'd rather just not.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

I love this place.

*typical oozy Sonya happy gushing ahead*

Hi guys! Can we talk for a moment about things I love about living here in Phnom Penh? 

  1. My neighborhood. We might have a large populous of westerners but it's the best little neighborhood in all of Toul Tom Poung (that's the name of this area of Phnom Penh.) 
  2. Royal Mart. It's owned by our land lord but it's got the best prices. I save almost a dollar on my muesli. I can dash down to the corner grab soy milk and dash back up my stairs all during a commercial break.  Plus they all know me now and we swap smiles and small Khmer greetings. 
  3. The Russian Market. This is where I can go get my fresh veggies and dried goods. I have my regular stalls that I visit. We're friends and getting good at communicating. I can also stop by and pick up some comfy clothes that are made local. I'll take another blog to talk about this place in depth.
  4. Joma. I stop most mornings before work to hang out with a few other coworkers over a cuppa joe. The staff know us, what we like and always greet us with a smile. 
  5. My tuk tuk friends. There is a giant apt complex across the street, not a favorite, and recently a small fleet of tuk tuks have accumulated waiting around to take the westerners who live in giant complex where ever they need to go. They started parking in front of my gate so I engaged them in my limited Khmer. It's been great!! Now I have friends who look out for me and we practice conversing. It's a lot of sign language. But I LOVE IT.
  6. Location. We are a good distance from everything. Work is a mile, the ferry is 10 min, heaps of food, two to Russian Market and 4.5 miles to church.
  7. BICYCLE. I love ridding my bicycle everywhere. Sometimes I ride it around the neighborhood because just the mile to work isn't enough a day. I love Sabbath when I can ride to church. It's an easy route and I can peddle and think and pray the whole way. 
  8. Little traveling food stands. They are so cool. I might not eat their food but it makes the world feel a bit more like I live inside a carnival or that I'm at a baseball game. Love them.
  9. The gym. It costs $1 each time I visit and $2 when I need electricity for the treadmill. I even get a towel to use to sop up all my sweat with each visit. 
  10. Sounds. There are so many great sounds at any time of day. The city waking up around 5:30/6am. The squeaker sound from the recycle trash people. The squawk of prerecorded calls for warm bread etc. The light honk to let you know they are passing around another vehicle. The random banging of something against something else. The stinging song of a grinder being used to cut wood. The general hum of trucks and cars passing. I will note that we don't get too much traffic because we are tucked a bit back from the main roads, that's something else I like too.
  11. Flowers. I can get a few flowers for $1 or two. It helps bring joy to our apartment and remind us that there is beauty in the world.
  12. Tile. My apartment is almost completely tile. Not just on the floors but on the walls too. I write on them with dry erase markers ALL the time. I even left a note at a friends house on the floor for them. It's a teachers dream come true to have tile everything. 
  13. Mobile Coffee. They roast yummy beans and add gentle background noise to our kitchen. 
  14. High ceiling. Our living room has a two story tall ceiling, it really helps with the heat.
  15. Safety. I have not felt accosted by tuk tuk drivers wanting me to ride, men cat calling or making me feel less a human, or any of those things. I love knowing that I'm safe as long as I am making good choices and staying where I should be. 
See, there is simply so much to love about this place. I could keep going. Maybe I will later. 

Saturday, October 22, 2016


We recently had an office worship talk about all of us being different parts of the body of Christ. Brett, who gave the talk, focused on how we all have different skill sets and attributes that contribute to the smooth functioning of RAW Impact. The verses are found in 1 Corinthians 12. To bring it all home and make it personal he had us write our name on a piece of paper and that paper got passed around with all of us taking turns writing something we see as an attribute or a word to describe their unique skill set and what they bring to the team etc.

As a words of affirmation-love language person I loved the worship exercise. It was, however, a bit uncomfortable when at the end the person to the left read aloud the list of words used to describe me. Only because sometimes. . . okay, always. . .I find it hard to be the focus of a room full of compliments. I don't mind being the focus of attention when I am calling the attention, just not when I don't have control and it's a pile of nice things being said about me. To get through it I didn't fully hear what was read about me. I spent that time focusing on what I was going to read about the person to my right.

I didn't really get a chance to soak in the words till later that day and even into the next. Here are a few of the words used: friendly, funny, energetic, kind and compassionate. These are beautiful words that I've heard before. I'm grateful for them, they make up a large part of who I am. They show that I am feeling at home among these friends/coworkers. Indeed they also show that I am in a job that I am thriving in.

There was one word used to describe me that has not been used before: strong. I don't think it was meant in reference to me being able to carry heavy things (but on that note I did one time carry the Christmas tree into the house from the top of Kendra's car) I think that the word was used in reference to who I am as a person. The more I think about it the more I hope and pray it is true. I want to be a strong person. I want to be a person with strong convictions, strong hope, strong love, strong ability to get through the situation, to make it to the other side of whatever may come-a typhoon or a field of flowers.

It's a scary thing to say about myself but I will accept the complement and wear it proud because it is not me that is strong, it's Christ in me. I have heaps of weaknesses but those aren't what they saw, they saw Christ working through the weaknesses to make me strong.

 Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. 
For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:9,10

I am strong.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Dear OACS family

To my dearest kids at OACS,

Today was the first day of school at SALT School, that's the school where I am helping teach the teachers. The students were all nervous and excited and the teachers busy and tired. It reminded me of all our first days of school together. In fact, it made me think about each and everyone of you. So I decided to write you all a letter to say hello. So here we go, HELLO!!!!

I have now been in Cambodia for over a month! Which means you have all been in school for over a month! I left America the same week you started school! My flight over here was very long. I left San Francisco at a little past midnight on a Tuesday and I arrived in Cambodia on Thursday afternoon! Two very long plane rides!!

I live in the capital city of Cambodia called Phnom Penh (the h's are not really pronounced so it sounds more like Pnom Pen). It is a very busy city! The streets are almost always busy during the day but at night it gets quiet again. I live in an apartment on the second floor and have to take the stairs up because we don't have an elevator! My neighbors are from New Zealand and they also work at RAW Impact with me. We visit each other all the time. I also have friends who live a building over and others who live around the block and even more friends who live just a few blocks away, across Stinky River. . . we call it that because. . . well it's STINKY!!!! Sometimes when it rains a lot the river overflows!! EWWWW!!!!!

On some days I go to an office to work with other RAW Impact staff members. (they still have the handwriting boarder sheets I brought to give them last year during Spring Break! They love them) When I am there I check my email and reply to messages, I have meetings about ideas for Educate, I meet with the director and the principals of the school, I look for information about ideas for helping teachers in Cambodia on the internet and I sit in a chair for a long time. It's very hard for me to sit in a chair all day!! We don't even get recess! But I do get an hour lunch break. Sometimes for lunch I walk to my favorite restaurant where I order veggies and noodles and watch Japanese soap operas dubbed over into Khmer (that's the language they speak in Cambodia). Other days I ride my green bicycle, Gertie the Slug, home to eat lunch.

I get around the city on my green bicycle (or as they call it in Australia, my green push bike). I LOVE my Gertie the Slug!  It has a basket and basket cover, a light for when I ride at night and a place to put things on the back of my bike. It's nice to ride here because there are no hills! The traffic goes slow enough that I can get around easily. When I'm not at the office I'm usually out at Tus Kor village where SALT School is. To get there I ride a moped bicycle. I have to drive to the Mekong river and take a ferry across and then ride on a dirt road that sometimes has big holes in it that I must go around!

When I am out in the village at the school my job is to observe and help the principal. Some days I teach English to the teachers so they can speak it better and learn new ways of teaching things by watching me. Sometime we talk about lesson plans and how to make them or we make a craft that they can make in their classroom. Right now there are 5 teachers. The classes are pre Kindergarten, Kindergarten, First grade, English 1 and 2. The students go half a day to our school and half a day to public school. They like our school very much. Just like you like OACS very much!

Something else exciting that I get to do is help when big groups of high school, university, businesses or churches come over to run a mission trip. There was a group of Sophomores from Perth, Australia that were just here. I got to pick them up from the airport and help them get around Cambodia! It was so much fun! We all helped to build bamboo homes people who needed a place to live, dig and fenced in new gardens for people who needed a way to provide their own food and we even got to travel to see the really REALLY old temples called Ankor Wat, Bayon and Ta Promh. They were very cool!!

My days here are very busy! When I am free I like to go to the markets to buy my vegetables, visit my friends who are the cousins of Ra, the owner of Judy's Donuts, ride my bike, watch tv and read. On Saturday I ride my bike 5 miles to go to church on the other side of the city. There I go to a church very similar to the one in Oakhurst! We sing songs in English AND in Khmer. The sermon is even in both languages! I do miss Pastor Daniel's sermons though! I have lots of new friends at church and we visit together on Saturday afternoons. One of my friends even knows Pastor Daniel and Pastor Jenner because he went to Andrews University with them and he is also from California!

I am having a lot of adventures! I am learning so many new things. I am meeting so many wonderful people. But I will always hold each and everyone of you close to my heart. I think and pray for you often. I miss our recess times of playing Bird Alert, I miss our worships in the morning, I miss learning with you and mostly I miss your hugs and smiles. Please give my love to your families, Ms Sommerville, Miss Lizzy and Mrs. Pleitez.

Know that God is so proud of each of you as am I and remember Jesus will always be ready to help when you ask for it. I love you!

Miss Sonya

PS please feel free to ask me questions and I will write back the answers!

I got to ride back from the village in the rain!! I was very wet. 

First day of school assembly!

A donut and my California mug that remind me of you all.

Decorations from the most recent holiday, Pchum Ben. 
Me in front of one of the cool trees that is overtaking the very old temples called Ta Promh.

A tree and an old temple wall.

More tree and temple. They were my favorite!

Bayon temple. 

Angkor Wat

I helped make food for the groups. It was yummy stir fry!

This is a bathroom out in the village. The toilet doesn't have a seat, you squat over it! 

PUPPIES!! They were asleep on someones muddy shoes.

One of my little friends in the village. We play soccer together. 

There was a lot of mud on the road when I drove the truck!

There are lots of cows too! 
My green bike, named Gertie the Slug :) 

Sunday, October 2, 2016

My first team trip!

Two weeks ago I joined my first RAW team trip as the second logistics leader. Which basically means I was the person who helped make sure everything ran smoothly, from the tuk tuk drivers to the food service at the Titanic. I learned quickly and had great teachers. Here's a rundown of the two weeks the year 10 students (that's Sophomores to us Americans) had while here.

Day 1
Group arrive at airport dazed and confused :)
Shove all luggage into bus and pile in tuk tuk
Take the group on their first adventure to the hotel via busy, crazy roads.
Let them settle in for a couple hours
Go to fancy restaurant on the river front called Titanic (luckily there are no icebergs in Cambodia. . . )

Day 2
Embrace and understand the cultural day
Visit RAW Impact offices and learn what we do on a daily basis
Visit SheRescue office and learn about human trafficking and the journey Cambodia has been on to eliminate sex trafficking.
Visit S21 also called Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, the former high school that was turned into a torture facility to 'hunt' for spies
Eat a quite lunch while starting to mentally process the history of Cambodia
Visit one of the killing fields outside of Phnom Penh
Go back to the hotel to regroup
Debrief the day as a group
Go to dinner on a river boat on the Mekong with yummy Chinese noodles and try and stay dry in the rain

Day 3
Head out to the village where work is being done on the bamboo buildings RAW is building in partnership with local village families in need
(I got to drive the ute ((that's Australian for a truck)) back to the school through mud and all sorts of adventure!)
Eat lunch on site
Work really hard all day and head back to Phnom Penh (45 min depending on ferry traffic .. . or fairy traffic depending on how much sun you might have gotten that day . . . )
Head out to another exciting restaurant just two buildings away from the hotel

Day 4
Work in village all day
Try to not get heat stroke
Eat amazing food on site
Drink lots of fluids
(I drove the ute again and got it less muddy than the day before)
Go back to hotel to shower and RnR
Go eat lovely food at another local restaurant

Day 5
Come downstairs prepared with all of your luggage- one pack for an over night adventure in the village the other packed for the next stage of the adventure (RAW staff too)
Work on site really hard so you can finish what you started
Pack up all tools a bit early
Divide kids into groups (via the sponsors) and give each group $3 to purchase food for supper and breakfast for themselves and the family they will be staying the night with
Head to the market, make fast purchases to beat the sunset, watch the kids figure out how to buy food and communicate
Get back to the village houses, send kids to their home for the night with a mat, mozzie (mosquito) net, towel and sarong for girls to shower with
Help monitor setting up and cooking of food (although mainly the house moms just take the food and cook giving the kids simple tasks to do ;) as well as the mozzie nets
Watch the kids learn how to express themselves in Khmer without knowing words
Watch the kids play in the dirt path with the local kids as it rains and turns into a muddy slip 'n' slide
Finally sit back and relax as everyone is settled in for the night (this is my favorite night)

Day 6
Load up all the campout gear into vans and gather the kids to head out
Stop at Browns coffee shop to appease the adults and their sore sleep deprived bodies ;)
Drive 6 hrs up to Kratié with a pit stop to eat our baguette sandwiches from Phnom Penh
Settle in to hotel
Walk to another yummy restaurant around the corner from hotel

Day 7
Hunt for good coffee that isn't the thick Khmer coffee
Go to Koki village and help two local families who were displaced by the government create a garden (it took our kids a day and a half to do where as it would have taken the local family over a month to set up) These families are on the edge of existence. They are quite far from resources and don't have any real source of income. Out of all the work we do this is my favorite village
Sludge and work in mud
Drink heaps of water
Eat lunch on site (that I got to help cook in giant pots)
Half the group went back early to take the Tour de Brett around Kratié
Eat supper at yet another incredible place

Day 8
Discover good coffee
Go to Koki
Drink heaps of fluids
Sludge through even more mud
Take breaks in shade
Eat lunch on site
Dedicate the two gardens to God and pray for his blessing on the families
Head with second group on Tour de Brett. Get to see the three different housing types in a village
Feel like a celebrity in a parade as kids run out to the street to high five you as you peddle past
Eat supper at the same place as the first night, enjoy the food just as much
Fall into bed thinking you are too old for this summer camp life

Day 9 
Say goodbye to RAW project staff as they head back to Phnom Penh
Journey onward to Siem Reap with the team leader, the other logistics leader and a tired body ready to sit for several hours in an van with air con (that's ac to us Americans, the only nickname we use that's actually shorter than the Aussies)
Stop at lovely place in route for lunch along side a river with water lilies
Arrive in touristy Siem Reap
Hand out $20 to each person for supper that day and lunch the next day
Eat supper at different restaurants (if it rains and outside order a yummy hot chocolate and imagine it's fall)

Day 10 
Get up before the butt crack of dawn
Head to Angkor Wat for a magical sunrise
Wander around the temple as the sun makes its declaration for the day
Go back to hotel for breakfast and coffee
Go out to the head temple and tree temple . . . correctly known as Bayon and Ta Prohm
Soak in the beauty that man has made and imerse in the power that God has and can place trees where ever He wants
Deposit kids and sponsors at hotel for afternoon of free exploration in the many cheap markets and stores that Siem Reap hosts
Find a lovely place to get a pedicure
Wander through the many markets
Debrief the trip with the group in a beautiful circle meeting
Get impacted by wise words of year 10 kids
Get reminded that it was all worth it to have helped changed the life of the group
Eat our last group meal together, have last great conversations with kids and soak up the camaraderie

Day 11
Find good coffee or a hot chocolate and a fresh pumpkin muffin that is AMAZING
Eat late breakfast at hotel
Go with other RAW staff donate blood (unless the hemoglobin is to low . . . )
Gather the kids and sponsors to load up the tuk tuks for one last time as they are sent off to the airport with all their last minute purchases of faux-okleys and faux-nikes, etc.
Find coffee shop to sit at with amazing RAW teammates to decompress, debrief and watch the world go by on the sidewalk for HOURS
Wander around the markets
Meet up with other RAW staff for a brick pizza oven supper
Get the most amazing coconut oil massage of a lifetime
Grab rucksack (backpack in American) and load up in the overnight bus bound for Phnom Penh

Day 12
Arrive bleary eyed at 5 am in Phnom Penh ready for a few days off to sleep, sleep some more and wash clothes

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.


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


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.