Saturday, January 31, 2009

Battambang

It’s Saturday, about 11:00 in the morning. We’ve been on the road since about 8am, and our bus is careening down a road somewhere between Phnom Penh and Battambang Cambodia. The road is much better than last year, and it’s in a completely different category – that of a road – than when I first started coming to this country.

Back then, the road was unpaved, and more of a dirt trail than anything else. The trip between Cambodia’s two largest cities was nearly unnavigable, cratered and cracked like the surface of some other planet. The journey that will today take about five hours would, in those days, have taken closer to 20. So, instead of driving, we’d fly on an old Russian propjet and take a moto into the city.

It’s dry season in Cambodia, and the difference between today’s sights and those of a rainy season trip are striking. The fields that stretch to the horizon on either side of the road aren’t flooded; you can see all ten feet of the stilts upon which the Khmer style houses are built. The cows are grazing aimlessly in the fields, not tied up by the roadside on a narrow, dry berm. The countryside is arid and dusty, not lush and verdant, but it’s still beautiful.

Every time we pass a village, I see dozens of young students in uniform – blue shorts or skirts and white oxford-style shirts. It’s lunch hour, so the kids are heading home to grab a bite to eat. They walk, run and ride bikes. The lucky ones live close to the school, they’ll probably get lunch and a nap during their two-hour break.

I also see a lot of kids working in the fields, working at construction sites, hauling debris, tending animals. For these kids, school is an impossible dream. Even if they could afford the books and the uniform, their families couldn’t afford to lose the meager income the kids produce.

Perhaps some of these kids are orphans. Many of the kids in our orphan homes were forced by an uncle or grandparent to work from dawn to dusk at menial labor before they were finally determined to be unaffordable despite the dollar a day they generated. Those kids faced a double deficit: no parents and no education. A hard-knock life, indeed.

At any rate, I’m happy to be heading to Battambang. Battambang is the site of our very first orphanage, and I’ll be seeing some our “original” Asia’s Hope kids. I’ll also be visiting a number of new orphan homes that have been completed since my October trip. I’ll also get to participate in the baptism of more than 50 of our kids and a handful of our staff. Savorn has been teaching baptism classes for the last couple of months, and has determined that they’re ready to take the plunge, so to speak.

I’ll also be doing some work with the jewelry co-ops, delivering not only money to the women, but also supplies for the next order. I’m excited about this project, and interested in seeing where it leads. We certainly need to be developing jobs and markets for our kids as they graduate, and our partnership with Trade Justice Mission seems to be a great first step.

Well, I’m getting sick of typing on the bus. I’ll post more when I get to Battambang.

Okay. It’s 3:15, and I’ve been in Battambang for about an hour. I took a quick nap, and now I’m sitting in the restaurant on the ground floor of the Te.O Hotel, waiting for Savorn to arrive to discuss microenterprise plans with me. The restaurant, like everything else at the hotel, is simple, yet clean. I’m sitting near the entrance; the doors and windows are always open during business hours. The ceiling fans are providing a nice breeze.

Okay. Savorn has arrived. We’ll chat for a while and then go to visit the orphan homes.

Oh my. It’s 8:00pm. We’ve exhausted ourselves and probably the kids, and we had a great dinner at the Cold Night restaurant, so now it’s time for ice cream back at the Te.O. It’s been a long, but good day. Tomorrow we join all the kids for worship. I can’t wait…

6 comments:

Jessie said...

Can't wait to hear about the worship and the baptisms!

Anonymous said...

Have a wonderful Sunday with your kids, especially Chanthea, let them know how many people here care for them and pray for them, hope the jewelry projects can be successful and will really help the kids and the orphanages. Have fun Dad

Anonymous said...

you are in our prayers - so glad to be able to help a little bit to make life a bit better for these kids Julie

Anonymous said...

I am so glad that with a computer now I can read your blog and keep in tabs of what is going on during your trip.eager to hear about the kids.

Anonymous said...

oops that was me liz the comment from anonymous

Richard Finley said...

True, those who are going to embark to a Cambodia travel it is nice to go there during hot season or else you will be threading the Cambodian ground wet and slick.