Thursday, October 12, 2006

Wat a day

Bright and early yesterday morning Julie, Peter, Mindi, Becky and I piled into a small Toyota Corrolla we borrowed from our friend Savorn and hit the road for Siem Reap, home of Angkor Wat, the former imperial capital and national symbol of Cambodia.

To describe driving in Cambodia as ‘chaotic’ would be akin to calling Mount Everest ‘tall.’ Successful navigation of even the shortest journey requires a rather hardy constitution: one part kamikaze pilot, one part NASCAR driver and a dash of homicidal maniac. Our trip to Siem Reap took us right through the middle of nowhere on a five hour video-game-style sensory assault, dodging cows, kids, carts and canines on a road that was only mostly paved. In a land unfettered by such quaint notions as ‘right of way,’ and ‘lane violations’ the biggest, fastest, or most dangerous vehicle wins.

Dowtown Siem Reap is what travel writers like to call “a hole.” The food is worse than that of Phnom Penh, the internet access is slower and more expensive, and the beggars are more persistent. One girl even gave us an obscene gesture when we declined to purchase some of her tacky wares.

Upon arrival, we unfolded our buffeted bodies from our little car and stumbled into Molly Malone’s, a rather anachronistic Irish pub. We ate a mediocre meal and called one of Savorn’s friends who showed us to a hotel he had arranged for us. It was the simple, but cheap Angkor Bequest Guest House, at which I had stayed three times before. (It is, incidentally, the same hotel in which Adam Heath endured the notorious ‘naked man’ incident.)

We checked our bags and headed out of the city to the grandest of all Cambodian temples, Angkor Wat. Each time I return to Angkor, I’m amazed afresh at the scale, the detail and the quality of the art and architecture of the lost civilization that built by hand this ediface of unimaginable complexity at an inconceivably early date. We spent a few hours at Angkor Wat and then drove a few kilometers to see the giant, carved faces of the Bayon. The light rain which began to fall assuaged the angry sun and lent the mossy rocks a magical sheen. After an hour or so, we headed back to the city for another mediocre meal, a decent cup of coffee and a fantastic foot massage.

All of us slept hard on the none-too-soft guest house beds, and rose bright and early for breakfast and a return trip, which I made in near-record time. I actually had the car up to 70mph at one point to the consternation of my backseat drivers, Mindi and Becky. On the way back, we picked up a cake for Bob’s 45th birthday and got the car washed for Savorn.

After a brief trip to the market, we gave Bob his cake – he seemed to be completely surprised. Shortly thereafter we piled (now six of us) into the Corrolla and headed out to the orphans’ home. When we arrived, we were surprised to find that we had one more child. Dani, age seven I think, is the last child we can fit into our little home. She brings our total to a nice, even twenty-two – eleven boys and eleven girls.

When it was time for the kids to have dinner, the Narun and Sophal brought out the new table and chairs. One big round table for the girls, one for the boys, or at least that’s the way the kids sat last night. They were thrilled; Sopha said, “They have only ever eaten on the floor, so they think they are at a restaurant now.” Seeing all of the kids squeezed around those tables was wonderful. Just a few months ago, most of these children went to bed hungry every night and woke up hungry every morning. Now they get all the food they need.

We can fit all of the kids around the tables, but just barely. As they grow, we’re going to need bigger everything. Bigger beds, bigger tables, bigger house. As a matter of fact, the kids are already praying for three things: a bigger house, a vehicle (they currently walk or ride in a rented van or in tuktuks) and that our team will come back again soon. With God’s blessing, I believe we can provide all of those things. More on that later. For now, these kids have plenty, and they are happy as can be.

I thank God for all of you who have made this possible. Woohoo! Go team!


Anonymous said...

How great to know you are driving in Cambodia, that WOULD be an adventure, sometimes it is an adventure here at home!!

Good to hear of the kids and your travails, or travels which ever you want.

All is well here, but a tornado hit Westerville yesterday, over on the east sid and noone is hurt, accross from the Quest church in upper Albany area.


amy paxton said...

I'm really going to have a special appreciation for eating at a table tonight. That is wonderful that the kids enjoy that so much and that tables are available to them now. We pray for all of you every day! Thank you for posting!

Julie said...

Continuing to pray for you and all you're doing....

no tornadoes here in Fla.

had a showing on our house in Ohio - 2nd showing next week to same buyer - prayers on that one!

miss you