Saturday, February 21, 2004

It’s 11:41 in the morning, and I’m alone in the guest house. Well, not exactly alone. Pali, our housekeeper is here, sweeping up this and that. Occasionally, she comes out and says something that sounds like, “John? Cheempinawantralan colmostralanificno pamintolama dop stolinopanmo” and she points at the broom in her hand or a lamp or something else in the room. She smiles and waits for my response. “Som top (I’m sorry),” I say, “I don’t understand a word your saying, and if I keep talking, we’ll frustrate both of us.” We exchange smiles and she leaves the room. She literally does not speak a word of English. And my Khmer is limited to hello, goodbye, how much does it cost, and other niceties.

So, as I was saying, I’m alone in the guest house. All of the other team members are off doing ministry this morning. But I’m here. Alone. Tired. Still feeling sick. I took a little nap this morning after our group’s devotions. I’m praying that I will be ready to go to Kien Klaing with them this afternoon. But that’s only an hour or so away, and I still don’t feel very well.

I’ve been busy this week with the dental clinic. Well, not really busy. Just occupied. My job consisted of a lot of sitting around. Carolyn and Molly were the busy ones. I just kind of facilitated -- I found the right people to get the right things done and I sterilized the instruments. Still, I found the work extremely rewarding. I got time to hang out with the little kids from the school, which, of course is just about my favorite thing in the world.

Speaking of the school, it’s incredibly rewarding to see how well that ministry is coming. It’s all about hiring the right people, I guess. Ms. Borany is obviously a gifted administrator. The kids appear to be getting a great education, and from what I can see, they’re right on target for what you’d expect from American kids of the same age. Except for the fact that they’re also learning to read and write in a second language (English) that is entirely dissimilar to their native tongue. So they know two alphabets, two phonetic systems, two of everything.

Sure, their vocabulary is limited, but it seems that the actual structural building blocks are the most essential for their success in the future. Once they’ve learned the alphabet and basics of phonics, they’ve got a head start on any Western language. I can’t wait to see what these kids will do when they grow up, and it’s such an honor to be a part of their development.
On an entirely different note, this guest house is a real blessing. On previous trips, we split up each night and headed two by two to our hotel rooms. Now, we’ve got one big house to chill in. Right now I’m sitting in the living room, which, a few hours ago, was filled with people drinking coffee, eating breakfast, reading Bibles and praying. We had devotions here and we meet in here for our daily status meetings. It really promotes the sense of unity and common purpose.

We’re just down the street from Tuol Tompoung, or the Russian Market. In fact, I can see it from the balcony on the second floor. The Russian Market is a roiling, churning, indoor flea market -- complete with fleas, I’m sure. I know for a fact that one could assemble a fleet of motos from scratch and outfit their drivers with newly sewn silk pajamas, all from the goods available in one aisle of this ancient bazaar.

First-timers are often overwhelmed by the sights, smells and sounds of the market. I took a few of the team members there on the first day. Probably should have let them get adjusted a little first. I thought Carolyn was going to pass out when we walked through the meat section. I guess she’d never seen hundreds of pounds of recently slaughtered animal flesh lying unrefrigerated on the ground in a market before. Come to think of it, it is pretty gross. But, whatcha gonna do? It’s Cambodia.

Well, I still feel awful. It’s not actually looking good for going out today. Maybe if I get just a little more sleep. But it will be time to leave soon, and I’ll have to make my decision.

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