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.

Summer Lovin'

For the entire month of July I have been on the road. I took the month to cram in as many family and friends as I could. I'm quite impressed with my journey and thought I'd re-cap it all.

Started off visiting my good friend Rachel at Loma Linda University, where I promptly got bit by a big dog. (See photo a for evidence) Side note: I'm okay and I did report the dog etc, etc.

Right after the bite.
The bruise got really gnarly!

After a day or so.

More Mexican food please!
From there on the 4th of July I flew to Texas where I chill'axed with the fambam. I saw my girlfriends from high school, a friend from camp and the livestock at my dad's house. I also tried to eat my fill of Mexican food as I don't think it will be quite the same if I can find a restaurant that serves it in Cambodia. My mom and I adventured to San Marcos where we both got henna on our hands.
My pops, and yeah, he looks like Lazar Wolf from Fiddler.
More on that later. . . 
New mural on home town building. 






It's always been a challenge to take a group shot.
I'm so proud of my high school friends!
Mom and I look'n fresh and relaxed. 

In the middle of the month I started the crazy part of the month, I went up to Southern for some meetings with the Global Community Development masters program at Southern Adventist University. Those meetings were AMAZING. I was able to do some networking, brainstorming and overall excitement building. I hope to work more with the department and collaborate with them in the near future!

From Collegedale, Tn I headed out to Orlando, Florida. There I saw family and a really good friend from college.
BEN! Almost 10 years is toooooo long!
My time there was short and I soon found myself on the road to Starr, South Carolina. It was there that my pyro cousin put on a pyro musical in my honor. IT WAS AWESOME! I can't wait till I visit again and it's even longer! I was really excited when my Fro-Yo Friend came down from DC to visit for a day and a half too! I win!

From there I drove through Asheville, NC to visit another friend who has been a cheerleader for the adventures in my life, Marile. We had lunch at a GREAT Greek place and then I hit the road to make it to Nashville, TN before the traffic really got nuts!

Thank you for the love and support Marile!! Here's your personal shout out ;) 
Nashville, Tn was a breath of fresh air, and not just because we watched the new Star Trek movie with Chris Pine, but because of my partner in party planning Chelsea was there. Our time is never long enough! If you ever need an EPIC party or summer camp programed out we might be willing to work for you . . . if the price is right!
Squeezed in a visit with a high school/college friend too!
                                           
Pastor Chelsea hard at work.
Katie's little girl took this! She's only 3!
From Nashville I went down to Collegedale, Tn again to visit with friends, meet one of my favorite authors, Grace Thornton who wrote this book: I Don't Wait Anymore, and I'm certain we are now best friends, right Grace?! If you get the chance read the book, it's amazing. While in Chatt-town I crammed in as many friends and family I could in two days. I think I did well! I even got a visit it to my favorite bakery, Piece of Cake Bakery, the Little Debbie outlet store and the Samaritan Center! It was a busy two days.







From there I went and visited the greatest camp family since Moses and Zipporah, the Wood family. They were at Camp Alamisco when their kids were just tiny things. Now look at them! Yowza!!


The great Maria Sager!
I went from Canton, GA to another little town outside of Atlanta to visit Jacqui who is a great photographer and friend from College. We were able to see the musical In the Heights at the Aurora Theater and were BLOWN away by the talent and music! My old theater director, Maria Sager is also staring in it as Camila and is AMAZING. If you get the chance PLEASE go and see the show. It's by the same writer who wrote Hamilton and it's so moving. Jacqui, Scupper (whom I like to call Scrappy or Scuppy) and I went for a sweaty, humid walk and then I found myself having to head out again.

From there I turned in my rental car at the Atlanta airport and then stayed the night at Maria and her husband's Atlanta apartment. We watched the Great British Bake Off, which for the record is the best reality show and the US could learn a thing or two from their style.

The next morning, early, I headed out for California. So long humidity, afternoon rain showers and the open road!

I made it home the next day after a night spent in Bakersfield with family to break up the drive. After  driving over 2,000 miles I finally made it home to my soft and squishy bed. Ahhh, home. . . for less than two weeks before I move to Asia.