Friday, February 27, 2004

At the end of my last post, I mentioned that we would be taking the fast boat back to Phnom Penh. As it turns out, fast is a relative term.

I received my wakeup call at the Bequest Angkor guest house about a half hour late, so I was rushing to make our 5:30am departure for the dock. (Adam, on the other hand had been up for a couple of hours by then. Please read his hilarious post on Keith's blog [link to the left] of his wake up call [girl]. The naked man dialogue is priceless.)

We got everyone on the bus, fully clothed, but only partially awake, and set off for the docks. The roads got progressively worse, and near the end, I was truly afraid that our bus would get stuck or tip over. Finally, we reached the water's side. We transfered our bags and ourselves to a couple of wooden ferries. Molly slipped getting on, and landed feet first in the muddy water. Eew.

We took a twenty minute boat ride into the middle of Lake Tonle Sap, past houseboats, fishing trawlers, sampans and floating villages. We finally reached a freestanding dock, where our 'fast' boat lay. Our $25 tickets assured us assigned seats, but I already knew where I wanted to sit. About half of our team took their seats in the air-conditioned interior. The other half joined me on top of the boat. The boat was not designed for passengers on top, so we had to hoist ourselves up by holding onto the railings designed to accommodate luggage. We took a few life preservers from the main cabin for comfort and for safety. We figured none of them would survive in an accident anyway. It's like a big coffin inside. Another good reason to enjoy the sunshine.

An hour after our posted departure time, people were still loading onto the boat. We had become more than a little alarmed. Clearly, they had double booked. And clearly, almost everyone showed up. On the inside, every seat was filled, and the aisles were nearly impassible with 'extra' passengers. And we counted at least 70 people on the roof. My mind began to recall all of those news reports: 'A ferry carrying 500 people sank today off the coast of Sri Lanka. There were no survivors.' Just great.

Finally, the boat pulled away from the pier, obviously overloaded. The engines strained more than I had ever remembered, and we seemed to be sitting a little lower in the water than I had recalled. To make matters worse, the water in the lake was much lower than normal due to lack of rain.

But once we got going, the passage was very smooth. By mid morning, the sun had burned off the clouds, and the speed of the boat made the 100F+ temperatures seem quite mild. I was, however, conscious of the sun, and made good use of my floppy hat and Seth's sunscreen.

Unfortunately, we ran into some troubles. Actually, we ran into some nets. Some poor fisherman's day was ruined and our propeller was incapacitated. We ground to a stop, and three Cambodian boys stripped off their shirts and dove into the water. After about a half hour, they had extricated the prop, and gave the signal to proceed. Before long, however, we ran into some more trouble. This time, it was the shallow water. Or the tall land. Depends on how you look at it.

Over and over again throughout our journey, we were forced to stop. I didn't realize how shallow the river was until, at one point on the Mekong, I saw a water buffalo walk past our boat, his head above the water.

All of this stopping and starting added at least two hours to our journey, and at least 4 shades of red to poor Adam's legs. When we finally arrived in Phnom Penh a little before 3pm, we were tired, hot and hungry. We stopped for pizza at the Veiyo Tonle restaurant. Very, very, very tasty.

Later in the evening, we went to Student Center 1. Ivanildo spoke about holding onto one's faith in times of trouble, and some of the student shared their testimonies. Afterwards, we talked and talked and talked with the students until we were too tired to continue. I didn't sleep well last night, but I did sleep late -- until about 8:00am.

This morning, we said goodbye to Carolyn and Molly, and hopefully to Cheryl, Bob and Gary. I say 'hopefully,' because they're on standby. The whole ticket thing is seriously messed up, and a few people who had only planned on two weeks may be forced to stay for three. I know for a fact that Bob's family misses him terribly, and that he'd like to be home. Same for the others, I'm sure. We'll know this afternoon whether they were able to make it. If not, I'm praying that they will have peace, and their families will have patience.

Later this afternoon, we're going to take the students out for dinner at Lucky Burger, a really poor imitation of McDonalds. It's very expensive for Cambodians, and is way out of the reach for most of the students, many of whom have never been to a restaurant in their lives. So this will be a treat.

Tonight, we're doing more Bible study at the Student Centers, and tomorrow night we'll have on outreach for young professionals. I'll be speaking, so pray for power from the Holy Spirit.

But for now, I need to get back to the guest house to drop off my bags. I've been shopping, and I need to unload.

I'll try to post more tomorrow, but it's Sunday and we have a lot of responsibilities. Might not happen.

Keep it real, yo.

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