Friday, October 05, 2007

Phnom Penh to Battambang

I can neither remember nor imagine a longer, more varied day than the one I’m finishing now. I woke up before 5am again, and started the morning by filling two pages with questions, concerns and ideas I have about ministry, family, church and business. I spent a good 40 minutes just praying for the myriad struggles facing people I love. Not surprisingly, I didn’t get back to sleep.

By 6am, Chien was awake. I packed our suitcases for the days’ travels and headed out with him to the Bayon Bakery, where we bought muffins, croissants, meat pies and macaroons to share for breakfast with John and Bobbi, Dave, Graham and Jessie. By 7am, the van we had rented was packed, and we were ready to head out for the day.

We arrived at the Asia’s Hope Christian School and found its halls decked gaily with balloons, streamers, paper chains and other colorful trimmings. A stage had been set and chairs arranged in the main courtyard. The students, parents, staff and teachers celebrated the start of the new academic year with a 2-1/2 hour-long program of songs, skits, dances, testimonies and reports.

It was fascinating, but loooong. Chien loved parts of it, but was quickly bored by all of the speaking in Khmer. Still, I had a great time. The dancers were amazing, their costumes radiant, their moves intricate. I definitely think we could book some shows for them if we could only get visas…

After the program, we boarded the van and drove the six hours to Battambang. Cambodia is beautiful any time of the year, but is dazzling in the rainy season. The landscape alternated between miles of emerald rice paddies and miles of water; all the rivers, streams and lakes swollen to ten, twenty, fifty times their dry season capacity. We dodged pigs, dogs, cows, buffalo, geese, motos, trucks, cars and what the Khmer call cow tractors.

We stopped at Kompong Chhnang and had lunch at a little roadside café. Chien ordered fried fish, and I got stifried beef with Chinese mushrooms and ginger. Per my request, mine was made extra spicy. It was fantastic. Chien was a bit disappointed, because he had expected the fish to be served whole, but it came out in little, individually fried chunks.

Our first stop in Battambang was our new orphanage, which is sponsored by Westview Bible Church in Montreal. The facility is simple, but beautiful. It’s quite a bit larger than our place in Phnom Penh, and reminded me again why we want to relocate that orphan home to Prek Eng, where a big house is affordable. Most of the kids were still at school, but a handful of little ones were there to greet us. Well, we were there to greet them. They were a bit timid and hid behind doorframes or caretakers’ legs for the first few minutes.

A few kids from our original orphanage in Battambang stopped by to greet us. It was an emotional reunion for me; I knew these kids all the way back in 2002 when we first brought them in off the streets. Now they’re nearly grown.

I taught the kids to play Skip-Bo, which I had brought from America, and I ran out to the market to replenish the dwindling supply of badminton birdies and soccer balls. We played and hugged and ran around for a couple of hours and then left to check into the hotel. After a quick dinner, I left Chien in our room with Jessie, who kidsat for about four hours while Dave, John, Savorn and Sey New strategized, sympathized and prayed on the roof of the Te O Hotel, which from about 7pm to 12am became the makeshift Asia’s Hope HQ and Sanctuary.

The meeting was passionate and productive. I’m still exhausted – we covered a lot of ground. Those few hours were worth the entire trip; some things just can’t be done via email.

This morning, Chien and I woke up at about 4:30am. I did not sleep well. Tonight I’m cheating; I’m going to pop a couple of Ambien and try to finish off this darn jetlag. We got dressed and tiptoed out of the hotel to watch the city wake up.

Battambang is quite different from Phnom Penh. It’s the second-largest city, but it feels positively rural compared to the maddened bustle of the capitol. We walked for about 40 minutes and ate some freshly grilled pork purchased from a street vendor. It was delicious, and most likely sanitary.

It’s 6:45, and we’re wide awake, back in our room. At 9am, we’ll meet the others and head back to the orphanage where Chien will play and I will do a few hours of documentation.

We’re having fun, we’re getting a lot done and we’re representing all of you the best we can. I can’t really ask for much more than that.


Anonymous said...

Is it about time for the river festival, I'm sure Chien would love to see some kick boxing. Great that you can have quality face to face planning sessions. How is Chanteas brother doing. Hope you sleep better at the Teo that when I was there with you. Bet the boat ride will be a super experience for Chien. Kerep healty . Dad

mosiacmind said...

Thanks for the update John. It sounds like besides some sleep issues that things are going well. Andy did a great job teaching last evening and know that Chien and you were missed and there was a sweet time of prayer for you and your family. It is a beautiful sunny day here in Columbus about 85 degrees. Hope that your day is blessed with peace and joy and getting done the things that you want and need to do...Liz

Amanda said...

Chien was dissapointed the fish wasn't served whole :) that's what makes all your kids so great! :)

miss you both!

Anonymous said...

I laughed when I read about Chien and the fish. Anna & Ethan were grossed out when we were served whole fish in Beijing this summer :)