Elizabeth in Cambodia

I can’t believe it finally came together…

Home, Cold Home November 23, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Elizabeth Schrader @ 6:52 pm

After approximately 30 hours of travel and 48 hours without more than 1 hour of consecutive sleep, I landed in Vegas–an interesting transition.  I thought the environmental contrast would be more stark, but actually all the blinky lights and constant noise was more like Phnom Penh than Minneapolis would be.  And both places are colder–no escaping that.

The night before we left was probably the most intense night of all for me.  I had the opportunity to interact with a young Khmer woman on a “date” (paid for, of course) with a 60ish-year-old foreigner, from Chicago as it turns out. (I had an interesting conversation with him too.)  I spoke in Khmer with her, as this guy didn’t know the language,  and she wants out of her situation.  I gave her some phone numbers of World Hope staff which she saved in her phone under “my love.”  It seems as if her phone use is not entirely private.   As most of my interactions with women in these situations have occurred post-rescue, talking with this girl was very impactful.  I’ll never forget the look she had on her face when I told her I knew people that could help.

Anyway, thank you all for your prayers, your thoughts, emails, and frisbees! 🙂  I wasn’t even there for 10 days, but the outcomes of this trip, I feel, will be much more long term. I’m working on the pictures still, I’ll try to get something up before the beginning of next week. Or I’ll just send an email.

Thanks again, y’all!

Advertisements
 

Confession: I don’t like crafts. November 19, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Elizabeth Schrader @ 8:58 am

Am I allowed to say that?  Please understand that I am not knocking them.  They definitely have value, even therapeutic.  It’s just that, personally, I feel a bit inept when presented with the responsibility of leading craft projects.  Or even joining as a participant. That is how I learned to delegate.  My team, awesomely crafty, has taken care of everything.  I carry around frisbees and my ukulele.

After visiting programs for girls all week, yesterday we went to the boys drop-in center.  I say “the” because it’s the only one in Phnom Penh.  With ALL of these programs for girls, one might think that young boys in general have it easy in Cambodia.  Not so much.  Though not as frequently under lock and key, many boys who live in the slums or on the streets are sexually exploited and abused.  This ministry is aimed to reach them.  Kevin Costner says, “If you build it, they will come.”  In this case, as the staff here started building it, before they even advertised what they were doing, the boys came.  Many of them–up to 40 at a time–have been coming ever since.

And yes, this boys club does have crafts, but yesterday we played frisbee, soccer, and some random tag-like games.  It was awesome.  I actually had this thought: “Boys programming/ministry is way more fun than girls!”  Then I felt weird for thinking that.

One of the boys there was HIV positive.  He no longer goes to school as he gets beat up and teased by his classmates.  He doesn’t here.  It’s clear that the boys club is like a family.  The khmer staff who work at this program are awesome—filled with energy and like overgrown boys themselves.  Probably the funniest moment came during the soccer game (we had to quit frisbee early; it got a little dangerous… once they learn how to throw, they’ll be fine!).  It was complete chaos–probably 12 people on a team in a cramped room.  The goals were these coat racks on wheels.  Yeah, you know where this is going… 🙂  One little, clever boy on my team, Mao, though he wasn’t goal tending, moved the goal ten feet to the left.  The goalkeeper didn’t even notice–no one was looking.  Then one of the staff kicked the ball with great force across the room and it landed square in the middle of where the goal USED to be.  Mao, only 4 or 5, was jumping in the middle of the moved goal cheering and laughing.  The staff, kids, and we volunteers could not stop laughing.  It was awesome.  Also, in world cup fashion, the boys would flop (fake injuries), and the staff would carry them off as in a stretcher.  Yeah, this was so awesome.

They also liked the ukulele.  I played the one song I could remember in khmer.  We danced and sang.  It was very good.

This visit also marked the end of our interaction with the different ministries and programs here.  Today and tomorrow, we mainly hang out.  Hopefully, i’ll have time to connect with most of the khmer friends I made while here.  I got to see some of them Wednesday night, and they’re taking us on a boat ride tonight.  Our team has blocks of time to rest at the hotel this weekend; it seems I can’t do that.  That’s what long plane rides are for.

Much love!  See you soon! And pictures to follow. 🙂

 

Reunions, Connections, and Questions November 18, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Elizabeth Schrader @ 10:08 am

Reunions: After a 2.5 year absenteeism, I returned to World Hope’s assessment center to visit.  The first thing I hear is:

“e LEE sah Bet!”

Yes, I’m sure the women I worked with at World Hope’s assessment center are amused by the way I say their names too.  In fact, I was remembering names and called one staff “Soku-on.”  She said, “You forget, my name is Sok-euon.” Oh those crazy Khmer vowels!  But hey, all is fair in love, war, and interethnic communications…

The center has moved since I was last there and the new space is beautiful and flood-water free.  I got to see at least 6 of the housemothers, and after explaining that no, I am still not married (ha!),  we had lovely conversations in broken Khmer.  While the rest of the team was leading crafts with the girls, Sitach (See-ta(k)) pulled out the CD player.  Next thing I knew, I’m listening to the song that the girls wrote (with a little bit of structuring from Jennie and myself) almost three years ago.  Though incredibly long, it’s quite beautiful.  Each girl wrote and sang about her unique interests, gifts and people important to her; these verses were recorded individually. Then the chorus, sung and recorded as a group, was about how all of them were made by a God who makes good things–speaking to each girl’s inherent value neither destroyed by sex nor dependent on sex for validation.  If you’re interested, flag me down sometime and I can play you the song with a half-way accurate translation (don’t worry, this mediocre translation service is free of charge). 🙂 Anyway, hearing this song in this place with these women ….yeah, I lost it.  Good tears, though.  Good tears.

We (as a group there for one day) didn’t learn much about the girls currently living there, other than their names, from the staff.  That’s intentional.  These girls are not exhibits, and their stories are only shared voluntarily.  However, we did see various levels of trauma–physical and emotional.  Two girls cried frequently (and seemingly sporadically) during our time there.  Another young woman, perhaps 16 or so, was 8 months pregnant.  The team and Cambodian staff led beading crafts with the girls. As crafts are an area of personal deficit, I played frisbee with one of the girls.  “Leeng tiet! Leeng tiet!” (Play more! Play more!).  With the other girl, I got out the harp Jennie and I had left behind.  Though it was out of tune (they lost the tuner in the move), the girl had fun plucking the strings.  Both of these girls were the ones that cried frequently.  It seems that music and physical activity can be a relief from that.  As a side note, the staff are really not at all using the instruments we left there.  However, I hear that Kanha (one of the housemothers who was not there) still plays the keyboard.  Hopefully the harp too once i send a new tuner in the mail!  Oh yeah, and the staff also requested another copy of the chicken dance.  hahaha.  good times.

Connections: One strange connection I’m hearing about moreso than before is that between trauma and cognitive functioning.  In the US, we often discuss how folks with cognitive disabilities are at an extremely high risk for abuse of multiple kinds, including sexual abuse, as a disability can leave someone compromised, not to mention the reliance on others for various kinds of care.  It seems the relationship is reciprocal.  At Destiny Rescue in Kampong Cham, Robert (the current Cambodia operations guy) mentioned that they have about 5 girls who have significant cognitive issues as a result of the trauma (though it might be hard to pinpoint which came first).  At Bloom, a vocational training program we visited yesterday, we heard a story about another girl who was mute for many years following her initial year of trauma (age 5-6, currently age 18).  It seems that there is a connection between disability and child sexual exploitation of which I hadn’t been very aware prior to this week.

And briefly, I am so thankful to hear that Srey Touch is still at Destiny Rescue.  If you’re curious, ask me about her.  I just don’t have time right here. Perhaps a separate, brief entry will come later.

Questions: Yeah, when and in what capacity (and really to what region) do I come back?

I’m starting to feel overwhelmed at the number of “barang” (foreigners) in Phnom Penh.  It seems, though many NGOs (my khmer friends call us “whiteys”) have done wonderful things, there presence has increased even moreso in the last couple of years.  I guess, though I feel quite open to living over here again, I’m starting to wonder if I’m just open to living in Southeast Asia as a region, rather than specifically Phnom Penh.  Yeah, I’ve got some time before this transition thankfully.

As I type this, my itunes switched from Bach’s cello suites performed by Yo-Yo Ma to Yo Gabba Gabba.  Google it.  This reminds me I’m also open to staying in the states and working with organizations like Adam’s Camp or Wildwood school for kids with autism and developmental disabilities.  One of the Adam’s Camp kiddos this past summer LOVED this music–thus its presence in my media library. 🙂

Oh, life. Nothing is simple or linear. And that’s okay.

 

We now interrupt this entry with a breaking story from Phnom Penh. Yep, I need to process. November 16, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Elizabeth Schrader @ 3:54 pm

I had planned on taking my team down to the riverside later this weekend so they could experience firsthand some of the prostitution that takes place.  Yeah, didn’t need to plan that.  We found it right around the corner from our hotel without even looking.

After I led us around a few blocks in search of the Anise hotel/restaurant (I was lost; I tried to hide it from my team by asking a tuk-tuk driver for directions in Khmer. His English responses kept me honest…) Anyway, on the way, two of my teammates spotted a cute “tiki-like” place that also served Cambodian dishes.  We kept things democratic, and the majority agreed to dine there.  While there, we saw a 50-something Westerner enter with a Cambodian young woman (perhaps not under age).  Clearly, by their interactions, this was not a casual meeting of friends or a father-daughter relationship.  As we were sorting this situation out (mainly by giving each other strange looks and gestures that attempted discretion but were completely obvious), another couple joined the area on my left.  This time both Khmer (despite the media dramatizations, most of the men that participate in the commercial sex industry in Cambodia are local), but the lady was clearly made up and dressed for sex.  I decided to call one of my Cambodian friends to get a trafficking hotline number (though I wasn’t sure if it was trafficking).  As I was leaving the place to place the call, I walked by the only other seated table in the restaurant–a white man and two Cambodian women.  Three for three?  That’s some impressive statistics for this restaurant, I must say. I stepped outside the restaurant and noticed a white gentleman on the balcony and two Cambodian women through the window.  Especially since these women, though young, did not appear as clear children, there was little we could do legally the same night.  However, after phoning a few folks I knew, I ended up reporting it to my friend at IJM who would relay it to their investigations team.

In the future, she said, shaming is totally appropriate as a temporary solution.

As the man took the girl down to his car, holding her hand. My stomach felt sick at the site of something beautiful perverted.

Alright, ugh.  I need to sleep and get up in time for aerobics.

Be well, friends,

elizabeth

 

Wednesday Update (On time, eh?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Elizabeth Schrader @ 3:52 pm

Up with the sunrise and down when the… oh wait, that’s a pedro the lion song… but we were up with the sunrise.

Today, we made a 3-hour drive out to visit some projects in Kampong Cham province.  It was really nice to get out of the city.  And as much as I love our van driver, I kind of missed taking the bus.  I mean, the extra hour each way is totally worth it for the repeating karaoke CD.

Anyway, we stopped at the rest place famous for selling fried tarantulas.  They must have realized the big tourist attraction because now there are two human sized tarantula statues at the entrance and in front of the bathrooms.  I wonder if they will memorialize another tourist attraction, the squatty potty, in a similar way.  I wonder if they’ll use the same scale… yikes.

At each of these stops, young children approached us with bags of fruit and sticky rice saying, “you buy from me, lady? you buy from me, and i go to school.  pretty lady, you like pineapple? pineapple sweet.”  Because I have yet to find a consistent way to respond to it (do I really purchase fruit from 12 kids?  Do I give 12 kids a dollar or two each which will surely not fund their schooling?  Anyone?), I pulled out a frisbee from my bag and taught the kids how to throw. The first time we stopped, only one child dropped her goods to play with me.  On the way home, I had about 5 kids play with me.  Both times I gave the discs to young girls, as they were the first who joined me. (John Ray and Dan, thank you much!)  I decided to leave the discs with these kiddos, as I’m not entirely sure of their situation but realize that most of them do work all day rather than go to school.  Frisbees can perhaps substitute for some interesting physics class?  🙂

Anyway, the morning in Kampong Cham was interesting.  World Hope runs some development projects in the rural villages, working with the folks to plant crops and work towards sustainable community (like many other relief organizations). A couple brief thoughts:

1. There is something inherently awkward and strange about visiting a village with a collection of foreigners. I’m not sure how the people saw us, but I was more focused on their perceptions of me than my understanding of them.  I was so afraid to appear as if I devalued their possessions, their way of life, and even who they are as people that I didn’t really think a lot about who they actually were, other than I thought they were neat.  Anyway, I find these “tourist-mission” experiences to feel quite strange and uncomfortable, perhaps moreso than if I were to just “pop by” their village on my own.  With a group,they feel on display, like an exhibit.  I tried to imagine folks coming to my home setting, looking super interested and curious, and taking pictures.  I’m not sure what I’d think about this. On a more important note though, I can attest that World Hope is doing excellent work in that area.  These folks have learned new skills, empowering them economically, and giving them a sense of accomplishment in their work and community.  Encouraging to see!

2. We got to see community development as prevention of human trafficking.  One of the new forms of trafficking involves Khmer women becoming domestic slaves in Malaysia.  The women are told that they can earn money for their families by working in Malaysia as nannies or servants in the home.  There are even companies that provide “training” for such things.  Once there, the women are treated as slaves, working in ridiculous conditions and receiving little or no pay.  Recently, 9 Khmer (Cambodian) women were found dead in Malaysia and were identified as domestic servants. One of the women in the development project actually was going to sign up for this until the project director informed them of the issues, sparing this woman lots of misery, and potentially her life.

3. This one is short.  I learned today that Destiny Rescue (after care center) in Kampong Cham is caring for and housing 5 girls with cognitive/intellectual disabilities–either pre or post-trauma.  White Lotus cares for two.  Perhaps there is a link in these fields afterall… Either way, I found out that Destiny Rescue still has Srey Touch.  My absolute favorite kid with disabilities.  I guess she’s gotten stronger and her behavior is a little more challenging.  I think this is probably only the third time in my life I’ve considered looking into adoption (yeah, I know, I’m not stable enough yet…).  She, my friends, is beautiful.

Alright, catch ya’ll later!

 

Ot Dung Pong. (I don’t know, man.) November 15, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Elizabeth Schrader @ 3:24 pm

Friends,

This is ridiculous.  I have started this entry 3 times over the past 3 days.  It’s so strange providing updates within a very short time frame.  I like to believe I am creatively motivated, but I fear I cannot wait for such literary inspiration. Hopefully this beautiful sunset and amazing breeze on the balcony (uh huh, it’s not cold here) will set the stage for at least something readable.  (Yeah, I know; it will probably serve as a distraction.) 🙂

First of all, this trip is explicitly different from many short-term “missons” types of trips.  The purpose is to educate and equip the group with information to spark further, more specific involvement in the fight against sex trafficking. Though we are leading crafts, playing frisbee,  providing encouragement, and praying, the impact we intend to have is not immediately visible or felt.

That being said, here’s the brief outline of what we’ve done so far:

Sunday (for most the team; I arrived Saturday): survived a 14-hour flight (among two others totaling 6 hours).

Monday: Spent the morning at World Hope’s office, learning about the assessment center that they run and getting a run-down of our week.  I do not remember much of what was said, truthfully, as I was making many trips down memory lane. (I noticed that they put more furniture on the ground floor–perhaps to discourage indoor volleyball.  What a shame…)

We then ate lunch with a friend who works with kids with disabilities in Cambodia.  The school that he worked at stopped providing services to non-residential kids, so he was sharing his new plans with me.  Though it’s sad to hear about the changes at the school, his plans are really exciting–definitely deserving of their own blog post. Perhaps I’ll use my airport time productively on the way home. 🙂

Following lunch, we took a guided tour of Tuol Sleng, one of the former “interrogation centers” (death camps), and the killing fields, one of the mass grave sites, during the Khmer Rouge. Today, I heard Cambodia described as “a country forgotten.”  It’s interesting to me that few people (myself included) have much general knowledge about this 3 year genocide.  You would think that a slaughter of 1/3-1/4 of a country’s population would stand out, whether in  history class or news references.  Not so much.  I won’t go in to much of it here, but I’d recommended learning about it.   The interrogation center was kept mainly intact–including walls, chains, even blood splatters on the ceiling.  The Khmer Rouge photographed their victims upon entry and prior to (and some after) murdering them.  These pictures were preserved and currently fill many of the rooms in the prison camp.  As for the killing fields, a new audio tour was available that provided a tremendous amount of detail about the site and how it was used to slaughter people efficiently and cheaply, sharing personal accounts of violence, murder, and rape.  It was a pretty weighty, sobering day. There are particular comments I have about these experiences, but words and time fail me.  More than usual.

Tuesday: That was today!  I’ve caught up!

This morning, we visited an aftercare center and led a craft (I watched and encouraged).  Also, I took a few of the girls who finished the craft early to throw a few frisbees. (Dan and Darwin, your frisbees are in good, Cambodian hands!)

More about the center: It developed by two women from the US.  On a trip to Cambodia 18 years ago, they saw young girls being pimped out and felt God’s call to do something about it. They have since started an aftercare center for these young women that has been going on at least the last 10 years.  They advocate and show their love for these women in many ways–from obtaining a cesarean section in a Cambodian hospital (one of their girls needed one, but it as “lunch time.”) to confronting UN soldiers about participating in the sex industry.  They even cared for two of their girls as they died of aids.  This Khmer proverb that describes quite well the situation of women in this country (and perhaps many others): Men are gold; women are white cloth.  Men’s value is seen as inherent.  If they get “dirty,” they can wash it and regain worth.  Women once unclean, are dirty forever.

This theme came up multiple times throughout the day, both at our visits to Chab Dai and IJM.

As the response to sex trafficking in Cambodia grew, involving various roles (law enforcement, aftercare, prevention programs, etc.) and many organizations, Chab Dai formed a few years back to enable collaboration, effective training, and communication between groups. Their role is huge and is being used around the world as an exemplar.  That’s all I can say right now.  I’m running out of steam…

Finally, we wrapped up at IJM–the group that partners closely with the Cambodian police to investigate and arrest, as well as with lawyers to prosecute, these crimes.  In his book, Terrify No More, Gary Haugen describes the coordination of these first-ever brothel raids in Cambodia back in 2002, bringing to light some of the complications of the issue.  At the time, child prostitution was rampant and visible on the streets, but the police were not cooperative–many tipping off brothel owners and taking bribes. Now the climate is changing.  The police are cracking down, but the operations of traffickers have shifted, making arrests much more difficult, if not impossible.  The transactions are made at karaoke bars (technically legitimate establishments) and the girls are taken off site for sex. The police have had difficulties getting warrants for the karaoke bars, making arrests and rescues much more difficult.  Additionally, IJM did a survey which suggested that the off-site sex results in a higher prevalence of gang rape.  A girl will be bought, taken off-site, and “shared” with the guy’s friends.  Prior to this, in brothel “establishments,” the pimp would ensure that money would be exchanged for each “use.”  Yes.  Please pray.  The complexity has increased, and everyone is still learning how to respond.

(Ha!  Apparently, I got a burst of “steam.”)

Oh man, this post is long and convoluted.

In very brief summary:

Team awesome. Tummy fine. Olympic stadium (5 am Khmer aerobics followed by freshly pressed soy milk) amazing.

Will try to do better with this new, more fact-based, blogging style.

Much love, and thanks for all the prayers.

 

New Blog! May 20, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Elizabeth Schrader @ 5:25 am

Hey you all! I’m not in Cambodia. But I am in Wisconsin. So, obviously the adventures are continuing! ha ha.
Here’s the link to my new blog:
http://indefinitelymisplaced.wordpress.com/
Hope ya check it out!

 

Leavin’ on a Jet Plane May 16, 2009

Filed under: Cambodia — Elizabeth Schrader @ 9:04 pm
It’s true.  I did leave, for real, and even on a jet plane…I really hope that I’ll be back again.  And yes, babe, I hated to go…
So, I put on my Cambodian PJs (involving Thomas the train, a pink train, and the phrases “Bon Voyage,” “Lucky Destination,” and “Hello…” the perfect departure attire)  and headed to the office to say goodbye to everyone–not the easiest thing to do, especially when there’s more than one culture present.
When Jennie left, she was pretty respectful of the culture and didn’t hug anyone.  I was thinking a little more selfishly (or wasn’t thinking at all), as I hugged everyone.  These wonderfully modest Cambodians who don’t even accidentally touch women (except during the Khmer New Year, but that’s a completely different story) were a little appalled at my quickness to hug them.  I honestly didn’t think about it, like I should, so I gave out hugs like the Easter bunny gives candy.  I got some funny looks, very stiff arms, and some flat-out refusals, but I think everyone survived.  Actually, I honestly don’t know cause I left.  Oh well.
Then I went to the airport.
I do not understand who let Touc (pronounced Too-ik), the friendly and goofy van driver,  bring me to the airport.  I mean, I got there in one piece–well, actually more like 5 if you include my luggage.  He dropped me off and left me all alone. I stood there at the curb looking at my 2 humongous bags, my back pack, and my 15 kg/40 lb carry on.  It took me a while to figure out the best way to bring them all together with me to the counter.  Or what I thought was the best way…
I put my backpack on, strapped my carry on over my shoulder (and behind me), and pulled one bag in each hand behind me.  Now, I was excited that I didn’t have to get a luggage cart, but I forgot to review the rules of physics that I learned in high school.  All of my luggage (1.5 X my body weight) was behind me… All was fine until one of my bags got caught on something and I had to back up.  Simple, right?  Just back up and un-hook it?  As soon as I shifted my weight backward, I knew it was all over. My normally centered balanced was now centered 5 feet behind me and I dove.  Backwards. To the ground, or actually, on top of 4 bags of luggage (a nicer landing for sure!).  This would have been less awkward if I didn’t have an audience, but I had quite a large audience in fact.  I’m just glad I figured out how to get up!
Then, on the flight to Hong Kong I sat next to a Khmer man who tried to convince me that prohok (fermented fish, that Cambodians dare to call “cheese!”)  was amazing, even though simple logic screams “Disgusting!!!”  I tried speaking Khmer with him, but he was a Cambodian American, and really didn’t want to mess with my limited language ability.  We Americans, so efficient!  But he did teach me the consonants of the alphabet, so I spent my flight practicing them.  He told me that I was like a first grader.  That’s awesome.
When I finally arrived in the states, LA to be specific, people looked at me like I was strange or something… (yes, walked in to that one).  I successfully ignored them until a 2 year old child came up to me and offered part of her peanut butter sandwich.  Her mom, looking a little frightened,  says to her, “Yes honey…she likes Thomas the Tank Engine” too!  (I had completely forgotten about my pajamas!) Then some security guard asked if these were my regular clothes or pajamas.  I didn’t even know how to answer that!!!  I’m just glad I hadn’t put on my arm socks, hat, scarf, and toe nylons…yet…
So, yes, I’m home…or in Wisconsin anyway:)  And, it’s very cold in this Coen brother’s movie.  But, I’m making friends at the Hmong grocery store (has lychee juice and sticky rice!) and am also working to increase the attentiveness of drivers in my hometown.  Hopefully, my Phnom Penh biking skills won’t result in catastrophy!
Stay tuned!  All my love!
 

The first of the last days April 12, 2009

Filed under: Cambodia — Elizabeth Schrader @ 6:40 am

That’s right.  Our time is almost up.

This may be a little heavy for a blog intro…  As much as I may claim to understand “the end times” and “armageddon,” I really have no where near the knowledge of which to blog about… but has that stopped me before? 

Of course not.

Yesterday was our last language lesson with our amazing and wonderful teacher, Kakada.  Yes, his name is pronounced just as it’s spelled–no mysterious vowel #43 in the Khmer language.  (For real, they have like over 40 different vowel sounds…My thoughts exactly.)    Being the last lesson, I got a little sentimental (Really?)  So, let me recall some of the most wonderful moments for  you with this hilarious man….

First of all, let me describe him.  Maybe 4’5,” Asian (what!?), more specifically, Cambodian, smiling all the time, except when telling jokes, and the only one in the Khmer Language School that wears a non-matching shirt.  That’s right.  Every day, the teachers all wore the same color shirt and every day was a different color.  Except Kakada, he never matched, except one time–and that was definitely by accident…or to keep his job. Maybe he’s a little cocky…but he’s earned it.  After 2 months of language, if our teacher was switched because he was sick, we wouldn’t even go.  Demanding?  Yeah, some things in Cambodia you just gotta be picky about!

He spoke English pretty well…I’d put him on a tier 2 (these tiers are my made up levels of Asian-English proficiency.  Some of our friends are 1.  Some are 2.  Some are on the watch list.  Some are 3.  And some don’t even register.  Kinda like my Khmer.  And since they’re my made up levels, that description helps you not at all.  Let’s just say, he knew quite a few words and some basic grammar, but the pronunciation was at times surprising.)

For example, he was teaching us the word for big in khmer which is thom (no, not thom/fom (for my lisping friends) or dom or tom, but T-hom).  So, when giving t-hom an English counterpart, he says “bij.” or to our ears “bitch.”  (Sorry, for those of you who thought this would be a G rated blog.  I guess it just got a little PG 13…ya might wanna scroll down.)  He probably says the word, “bitch,” like 10 times during the span of 3 minutes.  Once we realized what he was intending to say, we stopped crying and began to try desperately hard not to laugh.  I think of all things in Cambodia, not laughing is the most difficult!

Another time, he was teaching us the word for tourist.  OK, more accurately, 4 other times (we missed a lesson here and there and so we ended up reviewing/learning the same material 4 lessons in a row…).   There is a sentence that he was trying to teach us to say, which I don’t know why we needed to learn, since it wasn’t even true.  But, here’s the English sentence: “I am a tourist.”  Seems simple enough.  Here’s the Khmer sentence: “Khnom gu cia neak tissajaw.”  Here’s the Khmenglish/Kakada sentence, “I…am… a…TOURISM!” (yes, slowly and dramatically).  Now, he would correct himself, but like all of us, he never learned the first time… or the second time… or the third time… and by the fourth time he said that sentence, i was silently begging him to say it correctly because i knew i couldn’t hold in the laughter.  He didn’t, and I couldn’t.

There were definitely other times in our lessons where we definitely did not realize he was speaking English.  One of them in particular was most disappointing.  We knew he was speaking Khmer because he said the following words while describing a friend.  “Koat (Ko-aht) mook (moke) pii (pee)”  That means, in English “he/she came from…” THen he says the word tooky.  Yes, Tooky.  I was so excited.  I mean, how cool is that word?  Tooky tooky tooky!  Jennie and I looked at each other in excitement after repeating it for him like 6 times to make sure our oo was accurate. Then we asked him “What’s a tooky?”  He says “Tooky… the country, Tooky.  I am speak English.”  The disappointment we felt in that moment was just enough to keep us from busting a gut.  I really wanted to learn Tooky.

There are so many words and stories, but I will leave you with this final thought, also to dispel any other rumors.  During our first few months taking language, Kakada would occasionally make jokes about us being a couple.  For example, as he teaches us the word for friend, he then casually throws in the question, “Are you two more than friend? Just kidding, just kidding!”  Then he’d change the subject and Jennie and I would just sit there confused.  So, the last lesson, I just had to do it.  I popped the question.  No, I didn’t propose to Jennie, I asked Kakada if he thought we were gay when we first started.  Well, he responded by teaching us the words for gay, and lady killer (don’t know why that came up), and then admitting that he did think we were a couple.  So, we got to dispel that rumor, and just in case any of you had any questions to our sexual orientation, we are both straight.  Jennie has an engagement ring (to Mick) to prove it, and well, you’ll just have to take my word for it! 

So, we are counting down.  3 days til Jennie hops on the plane, 15 days until I do the same.  Thanks all for your love and support, and I look forward to catching up with you in person.  And I will show you the pictures I am much to lazy to put online.

 

Icy Hot April 3, 2009

Filed under: Cambodia — Elizabeth Schrader @ 10:23 am

I’ve always thought the concept of icy hot was strange. I remember thinking as a little kid, who had issues with “hot ears” (for those of you that have not suffered this terrifying condition as a child, let me explain: you lie down–lay down…no, lie down–to sleep peacefully on your pillow, and then it happens.  Your ears are on fire.  You pray that there’s a fire and you can escape the heat.  So you sniff the air for smoke and search for flames on your bed, but to no avail.  The heat is coming from inside of your ears.  The worst part of this condition is that it is unpredictable, but predictably inconvenient…and always at night.  Many an embarrassing night at a friend’s house was spent with cool rags from their bathroom around my head and water all over their pillows…sorry Heather and Erin and Krysta and I think those were all the friends I had at that time, that would explain your mildewy pillows!)   that I would never want anything both freezing and scalding at the same time. I recant.
No, don’t worry, I am not in the hospital with a broken back, foot, or head. I just have a cold. But this cold is causing my body a great deal of confusion.
You see, I am from the Midwest. And I get my colds in winter. For those of you not familiar with Midwestern winters, let me briefly describe them (though no description can replace actually attempting to survive them).
Read carefully, and no these are not exaggerations or “you might be a redneck/wisconsinite if…” jokes. These are the cold hard facts.
Wisconsin winters get so cold that they result in the following problems: cars not starting, boogers turning to ice immediately upon exiting a house (yes, good luck blowing those out!), hair turning to icicles (and possibly breaking off…never seen it, but i’ve been warned!), school being closed, not because of the snow (though also not out of the equation), but because it’s too cold to safely go outside, and by go outside, I don’t mean play outside for recess (duh…recess is indoors from December-February), I mean, go outside to the car, get in, drive to school, get out, and walk to the school from the curb.
So yes, it’s cold.
As I’ve previously mentioned, the weather here in Cambodia is slightly different. Though I feel my body has adjusted a bit to the amount of sweat and heat I radiate daily, it had no idea what to do when I got the “common” cold.

Imagine with me, suffering a cough, a nasal drip, and possibly fever, sitting in a 100 degree house (no, not sauna, that would be nice and open my airwaves).  Just stifling heat.  To survive that heat, I lay on a straw mat under a fan in my wood house, but the fan constantly dries out my throat and makes me cough and the blows around the sweat on my body that has accumalated because of either a fever or the 100 degree temperature outside.  And I can just never be sure.

I decided that environment was not conducive to healing…or happiness.  I determined that mainly because I was crabby and exhausted….and crabby.  So, right now, I am sitting in the office underneath the air conditioner in my sweats, with a vest on and an afghan wrapped around me with a cup of tea.  For a white girl in Cambodia who is already an anomale to these Cambodians, I have increased their number of questions regarding my sanity.  In the last 20 minutes, my friend, Sophorn, has come in twice to ask me if I would like him to turn off the air conditioner.  To which, I replied, “No thanks.  I’m fine.”  To which he replied (confused),”But you’re cold…”  To which I replied… I don’t remember, but I’m sure whatever I said it really didn’t make sense.  And just now, as I typed that last sentence, our friend, Tong, walked in and said, “What you doing?,” laughed, waved his hand at me as if to say (I will never understand the whole lot of you foreigners..), and walked away before I could even attempt to rationalize my behavior.  That’s probably best.

At times like these, I’ve decided rationalization is overrated.  When you get a cold in Cambodia, and I mean an intolerable, is that sweat from fever or Cambodian weather?, why is my hair wet again and my throat dry? cold, don’t rationalize it.  Sit under that air con with your tea and afghan.  Maybe even grab  a book and pull up a wintery scene on your screen saver.  Your body will understand.  And that’s all that matters.

 

Alouette a pretty polly geila Macarena, hey Macarena! March 27, 2009

Filed under: Cambodia — Elizabeth Schrader @ 4:29 am

What?  You mean my Spanish is wrong? 

The Macarena. The amazing dance from the 90s that we all are too fly to admit we love.  I am currently downloading it from emusic (which has all of obscure music I listen to, but nothing normal. For example, I couldn’t find the original Macarena by Los del whatever, so I am downloading a version off of the quality dance CD “Playa Total.” )

Jennie referenced the lovely Khmer weddings we have attended in our very, very pink and sparkly frocks.  We even danced in those bad boys.  Not the most comfortable dancing experience, but amazing.  In fact, we have danced a lot since coming to this country.  Cambodians are great, funny, happy, and most importantly unashamed dancers, all without the use of alcohol! 

Because of this dance enthusiasm, we added a new element to the staff self-care program.  Yesterday, we began our weekly dance time for the staff.  5 or 6 staff came and we danced.  And we laughed…yes, we laughed. 

I remember when I was little, I went over to Erin’s house. (For those of you that know me a little, you will have heard this name mentioned before.  Erin was my best friend growing up.  I and my 2 sisters spent our entire summers with her and her 3 sisters.  Lots of girls.  Lots and lots of stories–Did I mention the snake… or crab apple wine?– But, this blog is supposed to be about Cambodia…)  Anyway, I walked into the basement to find Erin laughing (still not about Cambodia… I’ll get there maybe eventually.)  I asked her what was so funny, and she said “Nothing. Laughing is just really good for your abs.”  The weird thing was, she was absolutely, convincingly happy. The fake laughing turned into real laughter and before we knew it we were all laughing hysterically not even caring that there was no real cause for it other than ab exercise.  Take that $300 ab roller!  (Oh there are so many more stories I could tell about this girl…Another day, another blog.) Since that fateful day in her basement, Erin and I have never been the same.  We understood for the first time that laughter truly is the “best medicine.”  Sorry, Reader’s Digest, you don’t count.  Your stories aren’t even true!

Back to Cambodia…

This post is entirely outdated.  You see, I started it 2 months ago when we began the staff dance days.  Since then, not only have the staff danced the macarena.  They have perfected it…even the hip swivel.  (not an easy thing for people that dance almost entirely with their hands!)  And we have laughed… a lot.  Especially at Pov.  I wish I could describe his macarena magnificence.  Let’s just say, he manages to smoothly, gently, and delicately perform every move in perfect time, jump 6 inches in the air, while maintaining an entirely serious, business-like face in the presence of constant, constant laughter.  Trust me, he laughs a lot during polka, the chicken dance, the various line dances (By the way, Megan Oster, if you are reading this, we totally did a line dance to John Anderson’s “Somebody Slap Me” in honor of you.), but the Macarena, now that’s business, people!

If you haven’t tried the Macarena in the last 10 years, you should give it a whirl.  I can almost guarantee that it will all come back (just in case it doesn’t, you start with the right hand, palm down…).  Grab your kids, your friends, your neighbors, your dog, your garbage man, the moto-dope driver down the street, the man selling crickets, the scale-lady on the street  (Wait, do you guys have those, too?)  I can almost guarantee it will make you laugh.  And, as we’ve already loosely confirmed, laughter is the best medicine.

So, it is for your health and well-being that I am giving the following command:  dance, Dance, DANCE the Macarena!”

 

Tie the knot (around the pole of the tent in the middle of the street) March 23, 2009

Filed under: Cambodia — Elizabeth Schrader @ 4:55 am

Weddings.   Awww weddings. 

Cambodian weddings.  AAAHHHHH!!!! weddings.

Yes, after watching my sister get married and learning about the planning, I never thought that any other culture could make a bigger deal out of one day than our lovely American culture.  Again, I was wrong.  Way wrong.

First of all, before they even plan the weddings, Cambodians plan a formal engagement celebration.  I did not understand this at all before yesterday, so let me enlighten you with my experience.  Maybe you would like to adopt this in your culture. he he.

Our friend (of a friend) invited Jennie and I to his engagement ceremony.  We had no idea what to expect, but again, we had such American expectations anyway.  Let me explain.

Our friend said that he would pick us up at 8 am. It would start at 8:30, and it would last an hour.  Jennie and I, both wanting to make the most out of our Sunday, were like “Sweet!  We’ll be home by 10!” 

Ha ha.

In actuality, our friend called us at 7:35 (before my shower… trust me, we all suffered), and picked us up at 7:43.  The ceremony started at 9:45 am.  And it lasted 2 hours. We made it home after lunch, which we ended up eating at the ceremony itself. 

So, you’re wondering, if you left early, how did it start late?  My answer:  because it’s Cambodia.  I cannot actually explain how extra time for preparation delays processes, but in my experience, it is always that way here.  So what did we do with the 2 hours while we waited for it to start?  Good question.  We darlanged.  (If you haven’t read Jennie’s blog, you should. She already explained this word.  It means hang out.  Since, the english version (hang out) is weird to make plural–is it hanged out or hung out or hang outed?–we need to adopt this Khmer word).  We sat around under a tent.  Me, Jennie, our new friend, Fi (an American who looks Khmer) watched our Khmer friends sing karaoke.  (When it comes to karaoke, Asians take it seriously.  They will have a pimped out speaker system, complete with microphones–only in the echo setting, Karaoke DVDs, and an amazingly clear and beautiful TV.  This all takes priority over a flush toilet.  And I definitely see why.) 

We also watched the bride’s brother-in-law get peed on twice by his own child.  That was pretty great.  I think it was his kid, not sure.  Let’s just say, Cambodians don’t do diapers.  Typically, they don’t do clothes even for kids below the age of 4 (and sometimes older…).  People kept throwing kids at Fi cause they thought he was Khmer.  In fact, sometimes I forgot he was American as he was holding these naked Cambodian children.  He didn’t get peed on.  He was lucky.

So, the actual ceremony involved plates and plates of fruit.  A mat.  A bridal party of sorts.  Bargaining over the dowry (not a khmer word).  A microphone with static and feedback and of course on the echo setting.  A sermon.  And an exchanging of the rings.  Was it a wedding?  No.  But both people got rings on their left ring fingers?  Doesn’t matter.  They’re engaged.  It’s Cambodia.

So, afterwards we ate.  We drank coke. And we sweated it out.  Except for me.  I didn’t want to drink cause I didn’t want to pee cause I didn’t want to use whatever “bathroom facilities” were available.  So I just heated up. Think I may have had sunstroke.  Been watching House lately.  Let’s just say, if I puke blood, I’ll be concerned.  :0)

OK, moving on to the actual wedding.  Yes, we didn’t experience this yesterday.  But we’ve been to two already.  Two day-long events involving 4 changes of fancy shmancy dresses, and not just for the bride, but the entire bridal party.  Yes, even the men.  As far as I can tell, the day starts off with a 7 course meal.  Don’t really know if anything happens before that.  If so, Cambodians don’t go. They just go for the food.  Not even kidding.

So, we go under the tent.  I’ve yet to attend weddings in the street, though I bike through them on a daily basis.  Yes, Cambodians put up a tent in the middle of the street, in front of their (and their neighbors’) house.  Who cares if it’s in your way?  Mun ay tee… just bike through it. 

So, we go under the tent  (sorry, lost my train of thought), and are greeted by the fancy bridal party.  Depending on the time you get there, they may have already changed to their 3rd outfit.  The eating is like the main part of the day.  Seriously, it’s probably like 3 hours or something. 

Then, there’s a break while people clean up the chairs and food.  So, we take some pictures.  Darlang with the cows (yeah, Wisconsinites.  You should have your weddings on a farm!  Don’t believe for one minute that cows here mean farms though…) then clean up our shoes. 

After that, there’s the cake.  The cake is a huge deal.  It’s a huge cake.  The MC’s introduce the couple and they parade around the cake to some very dramatic music.  Once, I could have sworn the keyboardist played Hotel California.  Then, they cut the cake with a sword!!!  and feed it to their parents.  Nicely. The whole time the photographer is dictating the entire thing, and completely void of kindness and concern for the bride’s feelings.  Definitely didn’t go to wedding photography school.   Then, after they put away their swords, they attempt their first public kiss after a countdown by the MC’s.  It’s pretty amazing.  Quite the pressure.  Like “Kiss on 3!”  Then, the MCs apparently have comments.  I can’t understand their Khmer, but their tone seems to say “C’mon!  You can kiss her better than that!  Do it again.” Before I know it, they start the countdown again. 

Then there’s some Khmer dancing, and then people wake up and do the eating and dancing and everything again.  In this kind of heat, I can’t imagine how weddings “evolved” this way.  I mean, this has must really make the “survival of the fittest” even more intense.  Only Cambodians who can withstand the crazy weddings will reproduce…resulting in the finest Cambodian wedding survival genes.

Oh, the circle of life.

(Speaking of the circle of life, Jennie is getting married. No, she didn’t get married here, even though she and Mick came back from the market with wedding bands on their left hands…We might just plan it in the street cause the hotels are a bit expensive.  How ’bout Hwy 53?)

 

No Sweat! March 12, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Elizabeth Schrader @ 2:43 am

If I were to ever actually use this phrase in Cambodia, I would literally be lying (unless I remained motionless for at least 30 minutes in a refrigerator, in which case I would also be literally lying, or laying?). Yes, it is hot here. Humid hot. Heavy air, can’t breathe, did I just shower or is that sweat? Hot.  Despite the intense, unearthly heat, I’m starting to think that the amount of sweat jumping out of my pores might be a biological abnormality.  Like everything in Cambodia, the laws of science seem to fly out the window.

For example, if you are a Westerner (or just me), the laws of gravity are 30 times stronger here than in the western hemisphere.  I cannot even count the number of times I have fallen.  Don’t get me wrong, I am well aware of my gracelessness, but there must be a scientific explanation for my unpredictable and random ker-tumbles (yes, one even involved a banana peel).  Contrastly, Cambodians defy gravity on a daily basis  by scaling walls, palm trees (now think about that one… yes… you read correctly “palm trees.”  Words cannot accurately describe how one would actually climb a smooth, branchless, 50 foot tall tree…), and even fences with barbed wire  on top.  They don’t need notches or fancy rock climbing equipment, they just whip out their anti-gravity genes and say “In your face, REI!”  Yes, Gravity is racist.

Was it Ponce de Leon who was looking for the fountain of youth?  He should have checked Cambodia.  One would think that all the sun would cause crazy wrinkles and make everyone age like stressed-out presidents.  However, many people here, even some westerners (yeah, crazy, I know) look significantly younger than their age.  Like in November, when Jennie and I were still trying to learn how to pronounce and remember the names of the staff (Can’t explain it, but we’ve found it’s rather difficult to remember names you can’t pronounce…) , two of them had birthdays.  We thought these staff may be around 22 or 23, you know, close to our age.  Well, the person translating told us they turned 18.  Though his English was a tad bit wrong, I totally believed it.  I thought, okay, they look 18.  I buy it.  We find out the next day that he meant 30.  30, 18, whatever.  It all looks the same in Cambodia, until you get to “grandmother status” and shave your head and redden your teeth…   but that’s a different blog…

The physics of sound also takes  a different shape in Cambodia.  For example, if a wedding is held (yes, under a pink and white striped party tent in the middle of the street, complete with an unbelievably loud sound system that I’m almost confident “goes to eleven” and non-stop karaoke participants  who may or may not have made the out-takes in “Cambodian Idol” all night long), you are guaranteed to hear it loud and clear if it is less than two blocks away.  By loud and clear, I mean, “is someone holding a party in my living room?” loud and clear.  However, if you are past the two block mark, you say, “wedding?  what wedding?  All I hear are the crickets chirping! (OK, that’s a little exaggeration. I don’t think it’s ever been quiet enough to hear the crickets chirping…maybe the geckos croaking.)  But seriously, the fade button just doesn’t work in this country.

Another law that just has not applied so far, is Murphy’s law.  Yes, as you all know, Murphy’s law trumps all other laws of science and nature.  However, as my uncle Curt pointed out (did I mention I got more mail?  Well I did:  facewash, tea, a garlic press, and of course, peanut m&ms!!!!  Thanks Windmullers!), there are many things that could have gone seriously wrong that just really haven’t.  Which is just the kind of loving encouragement I expect from that particular member of my extended family!  He writes, and I quote, “Personally, I think it’s amazing that you are doing as well as you are.  I thought something big time would have gone wrong by now.”  I read this to Jennie, and we both agreed. 

God is so good to us.

 

My boss got his retention plan, and all I got was this t-shirt March 11, 2009

Filed under: Cambodia — Elizabeth Schrader @ 10:20 am

(Before you continue reading about my understanding of retention plans, I have to apologize for the delay in this post.  I wrote this two weeks ago and thought I posted it, but I didn’t… whoops.)

I know nothing about retention plans, and much else regarding the meaning of that sentence.  I am assuming that the thirteen year-old Khmer girl who wore this on her tiny-tee/flirty shirt knew exactly what it meant.

So, I happened to see that witty t-shirt in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, aka, I went to the ocean. (Yes, for those of you who match my geography skills, Cambodia has an ocean… or at least “Gulf of Thailand” access on the south border.)   Jennie and I and a group of our friends from the US went down there to catch some rays (ha ha… like we needed to leave Phnom Penh for that!) and waves and stingrays and jelly fish.  It was amazing.  The beach was beautiful, aside from the random floating blue plastic bags that I always thought were jellyfish… And the speedos.

Ah, the speedos.  The zits on the beautiful face of the beach.  The bruise on the spotless apple.  The fly in your coffee…. The style of clothing that would make even Joe Mauer look less than the man (amazing and wonderful man) he is.  Not to mention that Cambodians themselves find them distasteful and completely inappropriate.  

For example: Jennie and I were hanging with our random underage fruit seller friend (a beautiful 12 year old named Somnang), as she pointed out all the bikinis and speedos–worn mostly by large foreigners, not skinny little Cambodians (already bikinis and speedos lose logic)–and she said “Ot la-aw.”  Translation: “Not good.”  To which I replied ” Men Howie!”  Loosely translated:  “Right on, sister.”  Not to mention that almost every tour guide book says “Please do not wear bikinis or speedos, as Cambodians are a modest people.  Please, when not on the beach, where a t-shirt.”  I am thinking of writing my own guidebook to the world, which will include this concise thought. “Never, ever, ever wear or consider wearing a speedo in public.  Trust me.  You will not look as good as you think you do.  If you need a full-body tan, find a tanning booth.”

As we pretended not to see more than we wanted to see, we enjoyed a meal of grilled fish on the shore.  I got the best thing on the menu–yes, the barracuda.  I was disappointed only in the presentation.  As my father says, “Presentation is everything.”  (Yeah, you wouldn’t expect MY dad to say that, would you?  Oh, but he does!) Let me explain.  Jennie and Karen each got the Red Snapper delivered to them whole.  That’s right. Gills, fins, scales, eye-balls, and all on a plate.  (Yes, mom, it was cooked!)  They got theirs first, and I immediately pictured being escorted to my own private table which contained a 7 foot long barracuda with fangs and spiny scales and glow in the dark eyes and me choosing not to share this science dissection experiment with anyone.  In the end, it was just a finless, scaleless fillet, taking up 1/4 of the plate.  And, against my better judgment, I did share….with everyone.

Somehow that night, I ended up talking about working on the dementia unit in NY.  This made me realize that I probably have a lot to learn about group conversation and topic flow.  My guess is we were not talking about nursing homes…  as I shouldn’t be now… Excuse me, I digress. Often.

So, that night I had a headache.  Some lessons I just refuse to learn.  If I spend all day in sun and water (particularly salty water), I will get a headache.  But, a headache is a small price to pay for a full day in the sun and surf… so worth it.

But, I woke up the next morning to a breakfast that would cure anyone–chocolate and banana crepes. That, and a strong coffee, and I was good to go.  To go where, you might ask?  To go snorkeling!

Jennie and I took an hour long boat ride to Bamboo Island…(*cough* sketchy! what?)  As we get to the island, we realize that everyone else there is staying overnight, including the boat.   I pushed all thoughts resembling TV Shows like “Survivor (which I have never seen) and “Gilligan’s Island” to the back of my head, as I surveyed the area I considered might have to be my home for the rest of my life.  I saw wood, so I knew I could make a fort… or a smoke signal….

We were just about to succom to pure fear when our hero arrived.  We will call him “Random Khmer Man Who Doesn’t Speak English! (with enthusiasm please!)  He beckoned us to follow him along a windy path through the woods… or forests… or rainforests…. whatever it was.  He starts describing what I thought were landmines, but when I demonstrated the only way I knew how (stepping with one foot and mimicking an explosion), he shook his head.  Maybe he was talking about fireworks… Or nuclear warfare… We’ll never really know.  

So, anyway, we didn’t know where we were going, but we found ourselves on  the other side of the island.  And we saw 6 boats.  I figured we could rig one of those suckers up, even if we didn’t have a skipper.  Thankfully, we didn’t have to.  Apparently, we were supposed to hop on the blue boat (3 of them were blue).  While we waited to head to the snorkeling place, we passed the time finding shells, nursing (well, not literally) a sick dog, figuring out how to use our snorkeling masks, and avoiding the scary, alienish sea urchins.  Then, we hopped on the boat with other tourists, all couples, who were much more interested in impressing each other than snorkeling…lame.  We stopped at a coral reef with another boat full of Chinese (possibly) tourists.  All I have to say is, those people are hilarious.  I didn’t understand a word they said…or really what they were doing.  But they sure make amazing human pyramids on the coral reefs!  Never would have crossed my mind to do that…

That night, Jennie and I went to a restaurant called “Holy Cow.”  That’s right.  Holy Cow.

This is the most boring blog post ever cause I guess mostly everything went right this weekend.  God is so good to us.

Oh yeah, the ac on the bus broke on our way home today.  I almost cried.

 

Fruitcake Fruit February 25, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Elizabeth Schrader @ 4:55 am

Did you ever wonder what kind of fruit they put in fruitcake?  I like fruit, and I like cake, so it seems quite natural that I would like fruitcake.  However, I do not.  Not at all. (Sorry, grampa…)  I kind of wondered if it was the cake, or the fruit.  I mean, what is the deal?  I think I got my answer….

Jennie decided while making our supply of muesli to buy pre-chopped fruit.  Did she get a box of raisins, dates, or cranberries? No.  She got fruitcake fruit.

Now, she was altogether too excited about this, noting how she wouldn’t have to chop dried mango before adding it to our muesli.  I, on the otherhand,  was quite skeptical.  I first pulled out the fruit that looked unnaturally red.  Then unnaturally green.  Unfortunately, that didn’t seem to make  a difference. It all tasted unnatural.  Even the raisins!  How can you wreck raisins?

So yes, muesli with fruitcake fruit.  This is just a little glimpse into life with Jennie.  Let me expand.

Jennie’s motto for life is the Cambodian phrase “mun-I-tay.”  Translation: whatever, no problem, sure, your welcome, all of the above.  Thus, she cleans the bathroom floor with the bottom of her feet.  Thus, she buys cookies labeled “durian.”  Thus, she showers with a dead cockroach.  And thus, yes, thus the fruitcake fruit.

Jennie makes wonderful banana bread and jello.  Two midwestern delicacies that are difficult to replicate.  However, when devising her plans for dinner, there seems to be an absence of just that.  Not dinner, but plans.

For example, say she’s cooking noodles.  She says, hmmm… let’s add some cheese.   Maybe some ranch dressing powder. Now the chicken noodle soup packets?  Then the other night she read the ingredients to our masala seasoning (yummy, by the way).  It included turmeric, garlic, and weird things like nutmeg and vanilla.  jennie says, “Hey! Sounds like me.”  I fear that Indian cooking has encouraged her complete randomness, and I am not leaving her in the kitchen alone!

2.  There’s no 1, but there is a 2.  Jennie’s culinary skills have grown in Cambodia to the point that she backs not one, but usually 2 snacks for her day at the office.  One snack usually involves some fruit, or leftover bread something.  The other snack involves her “masterpiece:” yogurt, peanut butter, apples, and bananas. Sounds good, right?  Yeah, it’s not bad.  But you should see how it looks!  I’m surprised Jennie can eat it despite it’s uncanny resemblence to human vomit…Not only can she eat it, she loves it.  She spends hours preparing it carefully every night, and each morning at 10 (when her tummy rumbles) jumps with delight at the fact that she gets to eat it.  In response to my teasing her about her snacks, she called herself a “snack-packing fool.”  That pretty much sums it up.

There are times when Jennie has difficulty performing daily living tasks, commonly referred to as ADLs in the caregiving world.  One in particular is her use of deoderant.  One morning, while re-applying her deoderant (yes, her overall cleanliness has improved, thanks to the IEP goals), she exclaimed “I can’t be in charge of this!”  I looked up from my work and realized she was applying her deoderant.  I offered my assistance, but that clearly wasn’t her point.

Anyway, living with Jennie is truly a blessing.  She is probably one of the neatest people I know, and I’m so glad I get to experience Cambodia with her.  Yes, I’ll even eat her fruitcake muesli.

 

A Little Belated… but Love WAS in the Air! February 23, 2009

Filed under: Cambodia — Elizabeth Schrader @ 12:38 pm

So, last weekend was Valentine’s Day.  I’m sure I didn’t have to tell you that. If you’ve completely forgotten about it and missed the holiday, consider yourself lucky!  And that also might explain your special someone’s not-so-joyful mood…

Anyway, I got my grandma’s box of chocolate (coffee this year!) and other random goodness just in time for the holiday.  I wasn’t quite sure how else I was going to celebrate this Westernized holiday of pagan origin.  Then, my friend Sophorn said, “Wanna bike with me and my friends to the zoo?”

Now, Sophorn has suggested crazy adventures, which is surprising once you get to know him.  He’s usually a laid back, go-with-the-flow kind of guy.  But, when it comes to bike trips, apparently, he’s a little energetic… or more accurately,  a glutton for punishment.  He also asked Jennie and I to bike to Siem Reap.  Siem Reap!!!  That’s almost 200 miles away!  That’s like calling my friends in Madison (used to be Amy) from Eau Claire and saying (for those of you in NY, think 50 miles more than biking from Albany to “the City”) , “Hey, so I wanna come visit for the weekend…. Think I’ll bike. See you in two days?”  Yeah, 3.5 days for me.  2 days for Sophorn.  Afterall, he is Khmer.

So, in response to his question, both Jennie and I said, “yes!,” not realizing we were imagining a half hour bike trip to a zoo resembling the Minnesota Zoo (in my mind, the Milwaukee in Jennie’s… MN’s zoo is awesome, yeah for Dolphins and poop on alligators!!!)  Well, of course, as with all of our expectations in the last 4 months (yeah two months left–that’s a new topic), we were absolutely wrong.

Before I forget, as Jennie and I were dreaming about our zoo trip, I joked about the types of exotic animals from North America that we might see… like squirrels.  We laughed about that for a while, like this, ha ha heh. 

So, anyway, we biked the first 40-45 Km.  (If you could be so kind as to please do your own conversions to miles.  I have a limited time to do this… :0)  It wasn’t bad at all.  I was feeling good.  I was mostly feeling like I could be done for the day and felt like I had worked hard.  Up to this point, we biked mostly on paved roads, an occasional path at the beginning.  Not up hill, pretty flat.  So, we get to the zoo entrance, and Sophorn says, “All right.  We’re there.  Now we just need to bike 5 km to the zoo.”  I thought, heck, 5 km, no problem!  Then someone says, “Yeah, and by the way, it’s up hill.”  I felt a bit concerned, as I remembered 5 k being about 3 miles.  Then I saw the hill.  Yes, not only was it somewhat steep.  It was sand.  We suffered.  We hallucinated.  And we never found the oasis.

So, here’s my favorite part.  And yes, pictures will be coming soon. We did eventually get to the zoo where the animals were waiting to put on a show.  Apparently, they knew it was Valentine’s Day.

We hung out first by the monkeys, who were crazy and seemingly uncaged.  They easily jumped the fences and tried to steal our food.  Mean little boogers.

Then, we saw some random caged animals…. (among them, yes, 3 varieties of exotic N. American squirrels… ha ha, no joke!).  The ones I remember most were the mongoose, wait, muskrats, wait, I don’t remember exactly what they were, but I remember what they were doing.  I stepped away from the cage and averted my eyes to give them privacy, and Jennie whips out her camera!  She was like the dang paparazzi!  I think she was blackmailing one of the little rodents, who apparently had a mistress.  Jennie claims she thought they were mom and child, but I think that’s a stretch… Yikes.

So, we move on, pet reindeer, see beautiful cranes–their nests right above our heads…Yes, we saw a crocodile or two or 6 behind a cage.  They were all sleeping with their mouths open.  I was comforted by the fact that I did not see them move.  In fact, sleeping with mouths open is bizarre, so I had a hard time believing that they weren’t plastic.  That certainly helped my nerves.

We saw some more awesome animals, and then laid in hammocks for lunch.  It was lovely.  Yes, I packed a sandwich. Or, Jennie did–thanks, friend!  Oh, and we gave everyone chocolate kisses that morning (thanks grandma!).  We tried to explain the whole chocolates called kisses and giving those instead of real kisses, but I think the Khmer people just wished we wouldn’t talk about it so they could eat their chocolate without a hint of guilt or confusion.

Next, we saw the elephants.  Now, I had never thought about the logistics of elephant reproduction before. Those elephants are huge, and not particularly nimble and flexible.  So, yeah, I’m not going to describe it, but we saw it.  Love was in the air.  If you have any questions, I’m pretty sure the paparazzi (aka Jennie) documented the whole thing!

So, we biked back before dark, which was good.  The rest I don’t remember because my rear end was so sore.  I was a very un-happy camper, to say the least.  I wasn’t mean to anyone, but I’m sure they recognized my irritability.

When I got home, my friend Sophorn sent me this text: “You’ve made it, good job.  Have a good rest tonight, God bless you!”

What wonderful people!

 

Minnesota’s State Bird February 5, 2009

Filed under: Cambodia — Elizabeth Schrader @ 10:40 am

The loon… I know, but everyone says it’s the mosquito. Can I just say that I will never complain about the mosquitos in Minnesota or Wisconsin again?  We may be tough as nails when it comes to sub-zero temperatures, but in all honesty, we are complete pansies when it comes to those winged, itch-producing insects.

To put things in perspective, I’ve been keeping a record of how many mosquitos I have killed over the last few weeks.  In the past 5 days (including today which is only half over), I have killed 46 mosquitos.  Which means, there are millions that I didn’t even touch.  People here sleep under mosquito nets so that they don’t get eaten alive!  I just put mine up this weekend (it’s blue) and I feel like a princess (kinda looks like one of those royal canopy beds that I always wanted…).

Khmer people also invest 3 dollars into what looks like a tennis racket, which if it were, is an awesome deal.  But, it’s so much more.  It fools mosquitos into thinking it’s just a tennis racket, and then BAM! it sends volts of electricity into their little nasty sucky things right out their disease ridden (except in Phnom Penh) feet!  Yes, my friends, it’s an electrocuting racket.  Is it dangerous?  I’m not sure.  Hard to tell in this country when safety seems to come last. (I have definitely seen men working on some electrical or cable lines prop their ladders up against the lines. Yeah, not even the poles, the lines themselves.  Apparently, the NSP–northern state power–company didn’t come to their school and electrocute barbie dolls.  Kinda makes an impression on a 3rd grader. I’ve never recovered.  In fact, I have saved Jennie’s life with this information, as she has a thing for sticking objects into toasters.  Don’t worry, Judy, I’m keeping an eye on her!)  Jennie and I have decided that the electric chair, or in this case the electric tennis racket, is a death warranted by the horribly cruel and not to mention, small and defenseless, mosquitos. 

Hey, mom, we’re out of bug spray…

 

You decide… January 28, 2009

Filed under: Cambodia — Elizabeth Schrader @ 1:15 am

Last night, Jennie and I were faced with a significant dilemma.  You see, we had just begun our wonderful supper of red curry on the floor on our mat with our Bibles attempting to read Ephesians when we had an unexpected visitor.  Jennie saw him first and cheerfully greeted him by saying, “Oh hello!”  So, I turned to look, half expecting a cat or a rat, and I saw a cockroach.  As soon as I saw him he ran to the wall, and we determined that this was not any cockroach, it was a cockroach on speed.  Then we saw him attempt to fly.  So what were we going to do with this flying cockroach on speed?

I thought I’d try to throw a cup over it (and then a plate under it) and let it outside.  That tactic has successfully worked for both Jennie and I in the past.  Unfortunately, aided by extra amphetamines, he charged out from beneath the cup before I got it over him.  That’s when Jennie starts at him with a large thermos full of our drinking water.  Yes, she was going to smash him.

Imagine with me first (and most importantly) the logistics of that move.  You take our drinking water bottle and get a huge amount of cockroach–he’s like 3″ by1.5″– guts on it (which might even smell) that you have to clean up and then drink out of that same bottle?   Secondly, the inhumanity.  Seriously.  That cockroach didn’t try to hurt us at all.

Thankfully, by the grace of God, the cockroach flew out the door while Jennie was chasing it with the water bottle. 

So, you decide…. If a giant, flying cockroach on speed was in your house, what would you do?

PS: Our landlords heard us (ok, me) shrieking last night, and their young son offered to come up and kill it for us.  We are in good hands!

 

The Early Bird Gets Mambo #5 January 24, 2009

Filed under: Cambodia — Elizabeth Schrader @ 9:36 am

So, it has been a while since I’ve posted anything on here.  I haven’t had much inspiration.  It’s not that people no longer pee on the street, sell fried cockroaches, or carry IV poles on motos, it’s just that it has all become normal to me.  Yes, in 3 months, I will come home and say, “Why is everyone waiting at that red light when no one is coming?”  I have to say, I’m thinking about budgeting (wait, I’m not making money…) for traffic violations. 

But something out of the ordinary happened this morning.  First of all, Jennie got up before 6 am.  That was miraculous–I even took a picture of the clock to prove it.  If you don’t believe me, I’ll send it to you.

Secondly, we decided to go down to the Olympic Stadium.  Yes, the Olympic Stadium… no, I don’t think Phnom Penh ever hosted the Olympics…I’m still trying to figure that one out.  Regardless, it’s a pretty happening place–especially from 5-7am.  Every day.

Imagine with me, if you will, a large outdoor stadium on a hill…similar to a football stadium (or maybe an Olympic stadium, though I confess this is the only one I have ever seen).  From the bottom of the stadium (I could see it after the sun rose), there are little, tiny people on top of the stadium throwing their arms up in the air and moving their legs in sync.  (Possibly even to music by N’Sync–there you go, Kevin, that’s the best pun I could scrounge up.)  It’s quite remarkable.  Not the size of the people.  They really aren’t that little, though I still often feel gargantuan at my height–a whopping 5’5″ or so.  It’s more of the quantity of the people–gotta be hundreds of them moving together in possibly groups of 20-40 all around the top of the stadium.  What are these groups doing exactly?  From a distance, it’s hard to tell.  Once you get closer, you can see they are doing aerobics–or aerobic dance.

Each group has their own music and own style of aerobic dance.  You have the Khmer traditional dance–quite a work-out for the hands I must say.  Then you have the Paula Abdul type, one kind resembling “the Grind” (I hope I’m not the only one who knows that…)and even in the past, we have seen a Footloose (you know, from the movie?) aerobics.  We were sad that we couldn’t find it this morning.

So, Jennie went up to do aerobics for awhile after we arrived, and I ran around the outside with the men.  Don’t get me wrong, there were definitely Cambodian men doing aerobics.  They are quite secure in their masculinity.  In fact, most of the aerobic leaders were men.  Try that one on for size, midwestern males!!!

After running a few laps around the complex, I went to join Jennie.  They finished the strictly aerobics part and at maybe 6:15 or so moved on to the dancing part.  That’s when I got there.  They lured us into thinking we would learn some terrific Khmer dances, which we did.  Jennie and I have each gotten a little more secure in our Khmer dancing.  We know we still look ridiculous, but I guess we are no longer worried about that.  Anyways, shortly after we started dancing Khmer, we switched aerobic leaders.

I knew something was up when the first song the new aerobic leader led was in English.  I thought huh, I can understand what they’re saying.  Are we changing dances?  The answer is yes.

Then it happened.  Mambo # 5.  10 hours later it is still in my head.  It’s amazing how that song probably came out over 10 years ago, and I still know all of the words.  Though I knew all the words, I have never before learned how to dance  to it.  I’m so glad I did.  Please remind me to show you when I return home.  To prepare yourself for these new dance moves, raise your hands in the air and shake your butt like you just don’t care.

So yes, in this case, we early birds did not get any worms.  I’m not even sure if they were for sale yet.  But we did get Mambo #5.

 

“Does Anybody Know CPR?” January 13, 2009

Filed under: Cambodia — Elizabeth Schrader @ 2:24 am

Riding in the back of a van has its perks.  One of them being that every little bump sends you sailing into the ceiling.  Another being that you really can’t see what’s going on ahead of you.  There are like 12 heads in front of you that block your view(yes, we fit 16 people in a 12 passenger van).  This helps you to relax during the trip because you are completely oblivious to the recklessness of the driver and possible near accidents.  However, sometimes sitting in the back leaves you a little unprepared mentally for what’s happening.  For example, as I mentioned, the back seat for whatever reason according to physics is extra sensitive to the bumpiness of the road.  The unfortunate double-whammy is that you cannot see the bumps or potholes coming, so each bump not only makes you fly, it catches you off guard. 

Some moments in life are like that.  They just catch you off guard.  Jennie and I joined the office staff on Saturday for a wonderful day trip.  We started off for the seashore and ate fresh fish and rice, even grilled squid.  We suited up in Khmer dress (catch the “we”) and went to a beautiful wedding in the province with sparklers, beer, and cows.  It almost felt like home (aside from my amazingly pink frock).  Then on the way home, the van slowed and I heard someone say, “Does anybody know CPR?”

I was trying to see from the back why that question was being asked but I couldn’t.  Jennie and I briefly conversed.  I told her that I knew outdated CPR, but she could instruct me on the changes.  I also told her that we could use my scarf for bleeding.  Jennie conveyed the message that we could stop and help.  Thankfully, the World Hope staff had also had training in first aid.

We finally got out of the van to see 3 people lying on the ground amidst chunks of glass in the middle of the road.  I didn’t spend too much time trying to figure out what had happened to put them there, but from the snapshots in my memory, I recall a busted up moto and a bus or van with a busted windshield. 

Upon my first glance at the situation, I thought the 3 people had died.  I don’t remember what happened first, but Jennie, Sophorn, Pheap (the beautiful lead staff with World Hope), Christine (an amazing volunteer from Switzerland), and a couple others were running back and forth between the three individuals.  One girl was relatively fine and walking before we left.  The other girl, we believe, broke her leg, and could have had a concussion or head injury as well.  We kept trying to keep her conscious and picked her from the road, stabilizing her leg.  Then the man.  The man we saw was bleeding from what appeared to be the left side of his face.  It was honestly more blood than I have ever seen in my entire life (which this is compared to only a few scrape ups).  However, amidst all the blood, we were too afraid to move him, as we didn’t see what kind of head or neck injury he may have had.  I realized the CPR/first aid I remembered the most was from swimming lessons (way to go, parks and rec), and so I kept wanting to move the guy.  I deferred to Jennie and Sophorn though, who were much more up on first aid, and I moved over to stay with the girl.

I held this girls hand for maybe 10 minutes… seemed like 2 hours or even 2 seconds all at once.  I kept praying in English.  I kept trying to make sure she was awake and asking her where it hurt.  She said her head and her leg (the broken one) hurt.  She would occasionally go limp and then Pheap and I would try to keep her alert.  She may have had a concussion.  Red ants were biting up our legs, but none of us could really feel it. 

All of a sudden, I heard my name.  I thought they had finally decided to move the guy to stop the bleeding and they needed help.  But no, we were leaving.  Leaving?  I thought, but help hadn’t arrived yet.  Apparently, we were all going to go to the hospital (not near the site) to make the ambulance come.  On the way there, Pheap and Boremey called hospitals and the police.  The rest of us prayed.  I kept hearing the words “ot mien??” and “ot baan??” from those two which in Khmer means “you don’t have?” or “you can’t?”  I kept thinking what do you mean you can’t?  What do you not have?  In the states, I was trained during first aid to tell people “Help is on the way.” But I could not do that here, and not just because of the language barrier.

Boremey said that the police were called, and they have more authority to make the ambulances come.  So, it was out of our hands.  Out of our hands, and I didn’t even get to say goodbye.

Maybe 10 minutes later (again, time perspective is totally skewed…could have been 2 minutes or 102 minutes) we saw an ambulance head towards the crash site, and we all quietly praised God.

The ride back was quiet, except when Boremey and Sophorn sang “Jesus Is.”

Jesus is.

Jesus is the only One who could give us strength to attempt to help the situation.

Jesus is the One who gives us strength to deal with what we saw.

Jesus is the One who reminds us that we can’t fix everything.

And Jesus is the only One who can heal the broken-bodied and broken-hearted.

Jesus is.

Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

 

But No Mistletoe! December 30, 2008

Filed under: Cambodia — Elizabeth Schrader @ 6:42 am

Christmas is Cambodia is truly an experience unlike anything I had imagined (how’s that for a dramatic statement?). 

First, a week before Christmas, we attended the Khmer Language School Christmas party.  Let’s just say I learned a few things that night.  1.Party means, or at least suggests, dressing up.  (Yes, I showed up in my dirty, casual clothes. I admit it. Not ashamed until I saw women coming in Khmer traditional dress–quite fancy)  2. Joy to the World is best sung as a rap while standing next to an ex-pat who sings with a twangy, southern accent.      3.  Cambodians love cake, which means you might not get any (Jennie and I totally didn’t.).  4. A red suit and a fake beard can transform anyone, no matter the size or nationality, into Santa Clause.  If it wasn’t for the heat, I would have bet the Santa’s workshop to be located in right here in Phnom Penh.

The next day, we went to the party at the center.  It was amazing.  The girls put on a live nativity and did a wonderful job.  I would say that Mary and one of Herod’s guards could have totally won an Oscar (or Academy Award or Golden Globe?  I don’t know which ones are which!)  It went without a hitch, except for when one of the girls knocked over the Christmas tree….or when Boremey told the wise men (of course played by girls wearing mustaches) not to forget to shave.  We played games and sang songs, and of course, laughed a lot.  It was truly beautiful to be a part of Christmas there.  And we sang Happy Birthday to Jesus.  Which made me wonder, why do we never do that in the States?

The church celebrations took place the Sunday before Christmas, with almost every church in the area holding a Christmas party and/or Christmas service.  I’m talking service complete with live nativity scenes (that didn’t actually substitute for the sermon, it just added an extra hour), little kids dressed up as sheep, spotlights, and even a smoke machine.  So, Jennie and I checked out two services  (maybe not well thought through…) that morning–one at the Wesleyan Church and one at the New Life Fellowship Church (that I like to call the “Dancing church”–Lutherans, I sense your fear! )  After the 4 1/2 hours in church, Jennie and I took a brief lunch break before attending the Christmas party at the dancing church.  And I had some cheesecake. 

As far as party planning goes, Cambodians are pros.  They have MC’s.  Yes, that’s plural.  They actually do it in pairs–one man and one woman, and they pick on each other the whole time.  You know how MC’s typically just get a couple minutes between acts to try to make people laugh and provide a segue?  Uh uh.  Not here.  They get an entire time slot, complete with vocal improv and a band.  Kinda like Wayne Brady in Whose Line is it Anyway?  Kinda…. So the MC’s entertained and it must have been a hilarious 45 minutes or so.  I didn’t really understand what they were saying.   So, halfway through, I decided to keep score.  To our delight, the woman totally kicked the man’s butt.  13-8.  She was sassy.  We liked her.

After that the real party began.  Activities for everyone to either watch or participate.  Not just activities, but games with winners and losers and for the winners–prizes!!!!  It was wonderful.  We actually joined in.  Let’s just say for one of the games, I got to be the statue of liberty (by the way, in which hand is the torch?).  We also won first place.  You make the connection.

Then we danced.  Oh boy did we dance.  We danced the Khmer dances (as best we could, looking like fools the whole time).   Basically, Jennie got the hands (the most important part) figured out, and I got the feet part down.  Then we danced this awesome Cambodian line dance and we shimmied.  It was amazing.

Anyway, Sunday was just the beginning of our adventures in parties!  Monday was decorating day for the World Hope Christmas party.  I have to say, I had never heard of taking an entire day to decorate one room.  It wasn’t just one or two of us either, but like 7-8 of us.  First we covered the walls, then I decorated the “tree.”  Jennie hung the lights.  (Do not ask me how high up in the air she was or for how long, I am bound to secrecy.)

An hour or two into it, when I thought we were almost done, some staff roped a string above the room and started hanging things on it.  I thought, how nice.  Then two strings, then three, and soon we had a massive web with dangling things above our heads.  Amazing.  We not only covered the sides of the room, we covered the top as well.  I was half expecting them to decorate the floor!

By the way, they decorated with lights, paper chains, and tinselly stuff, but there was no mistletoe.  Apparently there’s no kissing before your married in Cambodia, so we had a mistletoe (and worry) free Christmas!

Also, we have yet to find unblinky or white lights.  No, we have not been able to find blinky white lights or unblinky colored lights either.  Everything is blinky and strobey and fadey and racing and seizure inducing.  Also, Christmas colors in Cambodia means every color possible–sure red and green….and pink and yellow and purple and teal and gold and silver (yes together!) and amazing… There is no such thing as clashing or gaudiness either.  I seriously doubt if they have those words in their language!!!  For a while I started to wonder if everyone in Cambodia had autism…but it’s not quite Wildwood!

The World Hope Gang

The World Hope Gang

Oh yeah, the party.  Oh the party.  To sum it up (read Jennie’s blog for further detail), my team beat Jennie’s team in human knot ( I believe she left out that detail.), Jennie wore superman underwear,

leave it to Jennie...

leave it to Jennie...

we hula-hooped (Boremey lost and cried), we limboed

Let's do the limbo rock!

Let's do the limbo rock!

 we played with fruit, we had Cambodian fear-factor (involving live crabs, eels, fish, frogs, etc.), and we danced, polkaed, Chicken-danced, Irish jigged, and Khmer danced.  We were exhausted.

Following that wonderful party, Jennie and I went to Cafe del Gusto, relaxed, and had cheesecake.  Yes, last week involved wonderful cheesecake for me.

Then, we got up Christmas morning and got ready for our crazy party.  We had a party, by the way, and we learned a couple of things, again.

1.  If you invite lots of people, lots of people will come. (Jennie told two people to ask others to come to our party from the Wesleyan church (the night before we got a text that 15 Wesleyans were coming).  15+ 5 of our other friends.

2.  15+5=20

3.  Maybe just invite people you know.

4.  When you say 2 pm, it really means 1, 2, or 4 pm.

5.  If you’re not serving a meal, even if not over meal time, just say so.  We definitely had 15 people expecting a meal… Fruit and cookies just didn’t quite do it!

6.  If Cambodians play a hot-potato game, leave.  It may involve asking/answering questions about dating.

7. When your party crashes and burns, definitely end it by asking your guy friends to put make-up on each other.  It can save a day.

"If they could see me now!"
“If they could see me now!”

Sophorn was surprisingly calm...

8. Indian food and margaritas (as well as unexpected rain) are amazing destressers.

Merry Christmas and much love to all of you from hot and lovely Phnom Penh!!!

 

Jee Konging December 27, 2008

Filed under: Cambodia — Elizabeth Schrader @ 4:21 am

“Kong” in Khmer is a bike.  “Jee” is to ride/take/travel or something like that.  So, Jennie and I “Jee Kong” quite a bit, which we definitely refer to as, yes, jee konging.

Jennie has already mentioned our excursion to purchase bicycles about a month or so ago.  An excellent purchase and interesting experience (let’s just say while I was haggling down the price–not happening–a woman came up to me with a scale… yes, a weight scale.  Like one you stand on.  I looked at her like “really, why would you think that of all the people in this little area I–the heaviest one–would want to get weighed?”  Unfortunately, I didn’t know enough Khmer at the time to actually communicate that to her, so I just used my eyes.  That didn’t work, so I bought a bike with a *scale lady over my shoulder.)  .  Let me briefly explain.

My bike is beautiful and special (kind of like my car).  Except, instead of having a Saturn brand label on it, my bike has a “Yale” sticker.  Yes, Yale. 

the reason i bought this bike.

the reason i bought this bike.

I do believe this masterpiece of a bike (with a broken headlight and crappy tires) was crafted by non other than engineers at Yale university.  That perfectly reasonable assumpton is one of the few pieces of comfort I have while biking, so please do not take the time to point out any flaws in my logic.  Thanks.

there she sits.

there she sits.

So, I’m learning that learning to bike in Cambodia is like any skill.  You begin with this absolute feeling of sheer terror.  (In fact, this feeling of terror prompts spontaneous singing of childhood songs, such as “Skinnamarinky Dinky Dink” and any number of Disney songs…just ask Jennie.  Go music therapy!)  As you actually survive and learn a little how to maneuver along the streets (if someone’s coming at you, veer left not right!), you get comfortable.  So comfortable, you do things you never thought you would do.

For example, when I first learned how to drive my car, I never thought that I would play with the radio while driving.  One year later (due to a crappy car CD player), I definitely changed CDs in a boombox next to me while driving.  Yeah…sorry mom.  I definitely remember my first time eating ice cream while driving a stick shift.  I was so nervous, and now I do it without thinking.  Amazing.

So, I am going to share with you a number of pictures I took while riding my bike.  Yes, no joke.  And the pictures are definitely of Jennie riding on the back of her own bike while our friend, Joon, was biking. 

check out the stoplight in the background!

check out the stoplight in the background!

It was quite hilarious.  And Jennie complained the next few days of sore muscles–muscles I don’t think she realized she had!

Jennie--don't touch the ground!
Jennie–don’t touch the ground!

* By the way, I talked with my friend about the scale lady.  Apparently, around here, that’s how people get weighed and measured.  You pay them, and they weigh you and measure you.  Out on the street in front of everyone. 

I kinda like the scale in the bathroom concept…
 

You’ve Got Mail. December 20, 2008

Filed under: Cambodia — Elizabeth Schrader @ 10:56 am

From the looks on our faces coming into the office at 5:05 pm this past Tuesday evening, you would have thought Jennie and I won the lottery.  I cannot even begin to describe this feeling.

We got mail.

I am not referring to 99.2% of the mail I get back home–credit card solicitations, coupons (pronounced kyoopons, by the way), or invitations to young parenting groups (do not know how I got on that mailing list, but it’s true).  We got real mail.  I mean, we each got boxes.  Of the wonders that these boxes contained, we weren’t entirely sure.  I knew, since mine was from my gramma and Ron, that it must contain cookies or some other delectable treats.  And Jennie knew that her mom sent  coffee.  Real coffee.  Flavored coffee.  Coffee that you actually need to use with a press or brewer.  Wonderful!

So, in our complete joy and excitement, not only did we eat a billion cookies, we wrote a song.  OK, we rewrote words to a song we’ve already referenced “If I Had a Million Dollars.”  I know, we need to start getting a little more creative.  We called it “If We Got Mail in Cambodia”  It’s based on a true story, so we thought we’d share it with you.

Unfortunately, we are unable to upload songs onto this page, so we created a music page on myspace.  Yes, Jennie and I are now a “band.”  We go by “Lost in Cambodia.”  Maybe a little too accurate.  Here are the lyrics.  You can click on the link for the song, I think.

If We Got Mail in Cambodia

If we got mail in Cambodia

We’d try to track it down,

And that might take us a year or two.

 

If we got mail in Cambodia

And we’ll try to call the post office.

(Speaking in Khmer—no English)

 

If we got mail in Cambodia

We’d take an elephant to pick it up,

But not a real elephant that’s cruel.

 

If we got mail in Cambodia

We’d feel real loved.

If we got mail in Cambodia

We would bribe the World Hope driver.

If we got mail in Cambodia

I hear he likes “The Lucky Burger.”

If we got mail in Cambodia

Why do we need to bribe the driver anyways?

Well you see, it works like this:

“World Hope has a system where they only let a few people who have these letters, and the post office needs these letters if they’re gonna give the mail out to anybody, and we don’t have these letters but the van driver does, so we need the van driver.

It’s a security issue. Yea Security!

 

If we got mail in Cambodia

We’d go to counter 1 to pick it up,

And she’d say, “It’s counter 34.”

 

If we got mail in Cambodia

Where the heck is counter 34?

It’s in an entirely different building.

 

If we got mail in Cambodia

We’d feel real loved.

If we got mail in Cambodia

I would look at my little slip,

If we got mail in Cambodia

And it says $54 for a tariff?

If we got mail in Cambodia

And then the driver would say, “No silly, that’s 5400 Riel.”

How much is 5400 riel anyway? Sounds like a lot.

It’s like a dollar and a quarter.

Only a dollar and a quarter?
I could swing that!

Me too.

Can you blame ‘em?

Yeah!

 

If we got mail in Cambodia

We’d jump up and down and scream

And try not to open it in the van.

If we got mail in Cambodia

We’d run up to the third floor.

There’s not a lot of people up there.

 

If we got mail in Cambodia

We’d share all of it with our friends.

Well, maybe not the ranch dressing, or the cookies, or the peanut brittle (not the peanut brittle!), or the hydrocortisone… that’s weird, ewww, yeah that’s sketchy.

 

If we got mail in Cambodia

We’d feel real loved!

If we got mail in Cambodia

We’d feel loved!

Thanks mom and gramma!

 

 

 

Taste of Home

Filed under: Cambodia — Elizabeth Schrader @ 10:32 am

So… remember how all those wonderful people helped us move?  You know, the big fridge, tiny space, full van, moving an oven in a tuk-tuk, safety last (oh wait, did we mention that part?)… Well, we really wanted to thank them for all of their help, so we thought long and hard about what to do.  We had some random ideas involving elephant rides and hoola hoops, but nothing solid.  Then, we walked into the Bayon Market.  The Bayon Market, if I haven’t mentioned it before, is something actually resembling a grocery store .  Now, think small scale.  (For those of you in Eau Claire, like maybe half the size of Hahn’s Meat Market… in Guilderland, NY, think 1/2 the size of Greulich’s Market (don’t know if that’s how you spell it, that’s just what I remember:0).  Anyway, they have wonderful things like chocolate, flour, eggs (safe), soda, cereal, and oh, I could go on, but did I mention the chocolate? (yes, Cadbury chocolate too!)

Anyway, we walked into Bayon ( I do actually thank God for this wonderful place), and happened upon the freezer section.  As I gazed longingly upon the 5 pound package of cream cheese (yeah… 20 bucks… not happening:), my eyes shifted a bit northwest and caught a familiar gleam.  I thought, is that Tinkerbell?  Fairy dust?  Oh no, that’s the halo of beauty surrounding none other than yes, bratwursts.  Now, when I say bratwursts, I mean bratwursts.  I don’t mean Italian sausages.  These were 100% brat from 100% “brat land.”  Yes, these were Johnsonville brats from Sheboygan Falls, WI.  I looked at Jennie, and (as we of course saw it at exactly the same time) we stared at them for a while.  We could have sworn we saw someone in an orange hunting cap walk by, smelled some beer, and heard some wonderful long vowel “O”s (as in “Do-incha-nO?”).  Then someone behind us said, “Excoose me.  You need somsing?”  And we were right back in Phnom Penh.

brat-feed-1

So, we put two and two together.  Here we are needing to thank our friends in Phnom Penh, and also really wanting an excuse to spend the little extra money (not as much as the cream cheese!) on brats.  So, we justified the expenditure,  bought two packages of “Johnsonville Beer Brats.”  We were set.  We began planning our brat feed.

Sheboygan Falls!

Sheboygan Falls!

So, after deciding to have it Sunday a week after they helped us (then we cancelled it, and then we rescheduled it…. I love how flexible these people are!), we had our friends, Boremey, Sophorn, Joon,  and June (I am not exactly sure about how to convey the difference between these two names… English doesn’t contain that vowel) over for an American picnic.

Yes, we ate brats, potato salad, baked beans (I even “doctored them up with brown sugar!), and pickles.  Yum-my!   We all sat on the mat in traditional Khmer fashion and shared all the food in the middle.  It was wonderful! 

Sophorn, Joon, Boremey, June, and some random person

Sophorn, Joon, Boremey, June, and some random person

brat-feed-4

After supper, we played a card game, as well as “Pass the Pigs.”  (Funny, Jennie brought it from home, and then the guys brought one too!  Didn’t think I’d see that game here!)  Then we ate chocolate chip cookies!!!  Yum. 

About the game playing, I have to say, playing with Cambodians is certainly an experience.  Every turn is something to laugh about hysterically and roll around on the floor.  It’s amazing.  There was a little bit of competitive edge, especially when Boremey got his point total up to like 50 something, but man, all laughter all the time.  I wasn’t even sure what was funny most of the time, but like usual here, I really did laugh because I had no idea what’s going on.  Plus, ask Jennie and I about Joon’s “Wow!”  That cannot be conveyed accurately over a blog.  I tried!

So, as a grand finale of sorts, we decided to teach them how to polka.  Which really, is there much teaching required for polka?  No.  What a ridiculous and clumsy and easy dance! 

Polka! "Who Stole the Keishka?"

Polka! "Who Stole the Keishka?"

 I guess those Germans make sure their dances can be done intoxicated or not! 

So, yes, we polkaed, listened to some Johnny Cash, and they sang their national anthem.  It was pretty amazing. 

?

?

 

 

 

  Oh, and they left the toilet seat up.

 

Elizabeth and her terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day December 13, 2008

Filed under: Cambodia — Elizabeth Schrader @ 6:03 am

It was a bright, sunny day in Phnom Penh.  Everyone was having a good day.  The woman who sells durian (not on buses, that’s illegal) fruit to her neighbors was having a good day.  The man peeing on the side of the road was having a good day.  Even the rooster (who started crowing at 4 am) was having a good day.  Everyone except Elizabeth.

At the office, everyone was talking about Christmas.  Jennie and her friend, Kristin, were happy because they were thinking about eating cookies at snack time.  But not even cookies could cheer up Elizabeth.  She was in a bad mood.

Jennie and Kristin tried to cheer Elizabeth up by bringing her coffee, but not even the coffee could not help.

Elizabeth decided she better get to work, even though she was in a bad mood.  She started working very hard but realized that she could not have things  the way she wanted.  This made her bad mood even worse, and she got mad.

Then, Elizabeth spent 2 hours fixing a song she made the day before.  But after 2 hours, she realized she couldn’t fix the song.  And Elizabeth’s day just kept getting worse.

Elizabeth’s friend, Jennie was a good friend. She wanted to cheer Elizabeth up, so she invited her to a concert (an MTV EXIT-End Human Trafficking Concert).  Elizabeth didn’t want to go, but she went anyway. 

When they first got there, Elizabeth started feeling better.  Jennie and Elizabeth made some new friends with the people doing aerobics before the concert.  They saw many different kinds of aerobics , but their favorite was the Footloose aerobics ( let me explain, briefly.  The concert was at the Olympic stadium, which has a path/track around the top.  There is a buffet of aerobics, basically.  The first group we walked by was doing aerobics to Western music, then the next group was doing Khmae dancing, then yes, people were dancing to the song “Footloose” and seriously doing moves straight from the movie.  I thought I saw Kevin Bacon.)

It was getting late, and it was almost past their bedtimes, so Elizabeth and Jennie decided to leave .  On their way out, Jennie saw a big can of blue paint.  Next to the paint, was a big sign with hand prints on it.  Elizabeth got too excited and put both hands in the paint.  She put her hands on the sign and left her prints.  Jennie did the same thing, but with only one hand.  Jennie was smart.

Blue hands!

Uh oh! Jennie and Elizabeth didn’t have a place to watch their hands.  They got paint on their clothes.  They got paint on their bikes.  They got paint on their backpacks.  They got paint everywhere!

Elizabeth and Jennie were hungry.  They were very hungry.  They went to the Lucky Burger (Cambodian’s McDonalds) for the first time.  They ate burgers and fries and drank sodas.  It was very good.  They didn’t care that their fries and burgers had blue spots.

At the Lucky Burger, Jennie said, “Elizabeth, see.  You are having a good day.” (She really said, “at least your phone and your computer cord work”–as hers currently do not.)  And then, Elizabeth wanted to call her friend.  She looked for her phone in her pocket.  It was not there.  She looked in her back pack.  It was not there. She looked in her bicycle basket, but it was not there either.  Elizabeth could not find her phone anywhere. (She later realized that her phone probably fell out of her backpack when she was kicking it to move it–kicking it because she couldn’t pick it up with her blue hands.) 

Jennie and Elizabeth decided to go home and bake cookies.  Cookies might make Elizabeth feel better.

At home, Jennie and Elizabeth wanted to listen to music on the computer.

When Elizabeth and Jennie plugged in Elizabeth’s computer, the cord did not work.  The battery light came on.  Now, Elizabeth’s computer cord was broken, too!  This was not a good day for Elizabeth or Jennie.

So, Elizabeth and Jennie made many cookies.  They put peanut butter and chocolate kisses in their cookies.  Then they felt much, much better.

Moral of the story:  Cookies, especially with chocolate and peanut butter, can fix anything.

The end.

PS:  Many thanks to God for a truly beautiful 2 months out here so far.  And He fixed my computer cord.

 

They call me… Spider. December 9, 2008

Filed under: Cambodia — Elizabeth Schrader @ 3:03 am

So, Jennie and I have been gradually introduced to life in Cambodia….Ok, yeah, that is pretty much a lie. We are totally thrown into it. But, even though we’ve been thrown into it, we really had yet to experience much of what Cambodians do in their free time.
So, Saturday evening, our friends Boremey and Sorphorn invited us to go play ping-pong with them and their other friends. Jennie and I thought (OK, at least I thought) ping-pong… no problem. I’m not good at it at all, by any means (Rachel and Kevin know what I am talking about), but really, how good do you have to be?
Those thoughts did absolutely nothing to prepare me for the events of of that night.
So, Boremey comes to pick us up with the moto he borrowed from his cousin. (moto=small motorcycle) We were going to follow him on our bikes, when he said “WHy don’t you guys just ride on back?” We look at each other. We look at the small moto. We look at each other. We look at Boremey. He says “yeah… no problem.” So, we hop (or quite carefully slide)on.
And yes mom, we wore helmets. (I did at one point take mine off and put it put it on Boremey’s head cause he didn’t have one. But the strap got stuck and it didn’t fit on his head or something… but anyway).
So, we arrive at the ping-pong place. I am not sure what you are picturing, but erase any ideas of a place resembling a pool hall or bowling alley–which is how I imagined it. I thought maybe like 4 ping pong tab tables with a candy machine (it’s true, I have yet to see one in Cambodia, but I thought there’d be one anyway) and maybe a bathroom and a bar (again I kept thinking bowling alley).
Anyway, we arrive and I’m greeted with sweaty men with towels around their necks and their shirts off. I thought, “Oh, is there a gym in here too?” No. Dumb question, Elizabeth! Ping-pong is not a game. It’s a sport! You don’t need work-out machines, tracks, treadmills, or basketball courts when you have ping pong tables! And, I guess wrong about the number of tables too, more like 20.
So, we sign in, grab our paddles, Boremey takes his water bottle, and we find our court… I mean table. Yes, it felt like tennis.
As we walked through the place (for lack of a better word), I was absolutely amazed at the speed of the ping-pong balls (which were orange by the way, and definitely resembled the little tangerines we eat out here. Jennie and I kept wanting to peel and eat them.) and the intensity of the games. I felt like I was at the ping-pong Olympics, which I have never seen.
So, Boremey got us started, and we played for a while. Jennie beat me, I think twice. Then we each played Boremey, who of course beat both of us, and then we each played Joon. and I don’t even remember the scores of those games. I noticed as I made gradual improvements through the night, that I started actually treating it like a sport. I mean, I held an athletic stance and everything. It was so weird.
Anyway, Jennie and I play one more time. I started actually winning and doing well, when we noticed these two men we didn’t know sit right next to our table. The whole night, everyone was switching tables except us.. We didn’t really understand how that worked, so we stayed at our own table. I finally tried to ask this man, with my limited Khmer, if he was waiting to play at our table. He said, “No. But let me teach you.” I teach you for a little, then I teach your friend.” We were like, “OK.” He told us about his experience playing ping-pong, and how when he started he was not so good. Then he I guess practiced a whole lot and got really good. He said,”Now, everyone afraid of me. They call me…
Spider!”
Yes, we learned ping-pong from “Spider.” It was quite hilarious. He’d whip the balls at us, and we’d, in self-defense, pop them back at him. To which he would respond with the encouragement “You must be strong!!!” After he taught me for a few minutes, I realized that our friends, Boremey, Sorphorn, and Joon were done and waiting for us, so I decided to let Jennie take a turn and learn from the spider. The best moment of the night came when Jennie, in a random athletic moment, returned Spider’s wicked serve right back and hit him in the face. Oh the moments you wish you could laugh as hard as you want to!!!
Anyway, so we thanked Spider for his help, and he encouraged us to continue practicing. I might. Beware, Kevin and Rachel. This summer, I am gonna smoke you at the lake! ha ha.
Oh, and yes, Jennie, Boremey, and I made it safely back to our new wonderful apartment. As Boremey would say “In one whole piece.”

 

House of Smiles… no kidding December 5, 2008

Filed under: Cambodia — Elizabeth Schrader @ 11:18 am
playing the harmonica that says "Jesus loves you!"

playing the harmonica that says "Jesus loves you!"

So, after being here for one month, Jennie and I finally found where we belong… no, not with the Westerners at the upscale restaurants…. nor with the Khmae Karaoke crowd. But the place for kids with disabilities.

MARACAS!

MARACAS!

 

a teaching moment

a teaching moment

Not only did Jennie and I totally fit in with this crowd, Jennie picked up a new teacher there. No joke. Let’s just say, a young girl picked up on Jennie’s pitiful Khmae (she knew mine was fine… ha ha J/K) and whipped out…yes a box of Khmae language flashcards. It was about the funniest thing we had ever seen. This little girl scolding Jennie for not pronouncing the words right. Let me redefine “scolding” for you. I do not mean frowning or correcting (though that was included), but I am really referring to downright corporal punishment–slaps, pinches, you name it. Jennie left with a few bruises!
Anyway, I just really want to post some of these pictures, so I’m going to stop talking about it. But, we brought in our instruments to use with the PTs, and the kids just ate them up! Enjoy the pics!

)

definitely adore this kid 🙂

 house-of-smiles-015

 

If I Had a Million Dollars… December 3, 2008

Filed under: Cambodia — Elizabeth Schrader @ 4:38 am
“I’d build a tree fort in our yard.  You could help, it wouldn’t be that hard.”

Yes, I did quote the Barenaked Ladies’ classic.  For whatever reason, Jennie and I have had that song in our heads recently.

Oh yeah, so we are all moved into our new place.  Well, neither Jennie nor I have a million dollars, so rather than buying a house with furniture and building a tree fort, we ended up renting a house that looks a little like a tree fort (truthfully, it only resembles a fort because it is wooden and above ground.  I just always wanted a tree fort). It is above a normal house.  (We really do LOVE it.)

Anyway, we are staying in a traditional Cambodian house now, and it’s beautiful and very cool (please note, I am referring to the temperature, though it is pretty hip and withit too). It has many features that Western people pay lots of money for, such as beautiful and soft wooden floors, a gorgeous porch, and a crazy, wood carved, slightly Regal bed–not to mention the incredibly shiny and sleek sheets.  Our friend Stefen said that the flies and mosquitoes would break their legs trying to land on it.  Ha ha.

We also have amazing landlords.  They are Christians, too. (Sometimes the language barrier pays off.  When I told the daughter of the landlord that I work with Kristin, she responded, “Oh, I am a Christian too!” and proceeded to invite us to church. Pretty awesome.)  We definitely sense the hand of God behind this move and are looking forward to getting to know the landlord and her family.  Thanks for all of you who kept us in your prayers!

So, I will briefly describe moving day.  (Check out Jennie’s blog “With a Little Help From My Friends”) for a better description.  It’s pretty amazing.

So basically, we had a medium-sized U-Haul’s worth of stuff to take out of the apartment and to our new wonderful wooden fort… I mean house. 

Boremey (left) and Sarun (right) gave up their Saturday afternoon to help us.  Yeah, for free.  Because they are our friends.  What a concept!

Boremey (left) and Sarun (right) gave up their Saturday afternoon to help us. Yeah, for free. Because they are our friends. What a concept!

 After checking it out a bit, Jennie and I realized we couldn’t find the local U-Haul, so we asked our friend Boremey to help us.  When his friends found out we were moving–get this–they ASKED to help.  Of course we accepted.  We still weren’t sure where we were going to find the U-Haul though.

So here’s our U-Haul.   (Please sense the sarcasm and realize there is no U-Haul here.) Cambodians don’t need U-Hauls.  One thing that Jennie and I are learning is how everyone here functions together as a community.  Yeah, amazing.  Sarun, Jennie, and I carried out 2 shelves, a table with 4 chairs, a tall cabinet, a short cabinet, and bags of random kitchen stuff and blankets.  Boremey studied the pile carefully and put the van together.  Please note that the seats in the van were not removed.  Quite the puzzle!

Next issue… move the fridge.  Sounds not bad, right?  Jennie describes it quite well.  Just check out the pictures! 

Our friend, Chanleak, jumped on the roof to help hoist the fridge over it.

Our friend, Chanleak, jumped on the roof to help hoist the fridge over it.

 

 

4 Cambodians, 2 Americans, crazy Cambodian ingenuity, and God got this fridge out of our old apartment.

4 Cambodians, 2 Americans, crazy Cambodian ingenuity, and God got this fridge out of our old apartment.

So, this is all for now.  We are mostly moved in and will post pictures of our new apartment soon! Thanks for your prayers and encouragement!

Much love!

 

Pickled Herring Anyone? November 25, 2008

Filed under: Cambodia — Elizabeth Schrader @ 9:35 am

So, my wonderful and skeptical grandfather sent me an email inquiring about what kinds of food I was eating in Cambodia.  He had some assumptions that I will not share, for the sake of those of you who are eating soon.  But, though he is right about everything else in life, his assumptions (and my own prior to coming here) about food in Cambodia are wrong.  Or worng.  (Ask Jennie about worng… good story)

So, Jennie and I have been staying with our wonderful and generous director and her Swedish (yes, not kidding, a real live Swede) husband.  Which is wonderful because we enjoy their friendship and hospitality, but even more than that we enjoy their cheese.  Yes, Jennie and I have learned that Swedes love cheese (not just love, but are dependent upon it for their functioning) almost as much as Wisconsinites.  I didn’t think any other culture came close to the Midwest’s worship of cheese.  There is apparently a whole world of cheese out there I didn’t know.

So, I think Kristin and Stefen (I’m sure I’m spelling his name incorrectly) got wind of our severe attachment to their cheese and became quite concerned that Jennie and I would just never leave (we had considered that option…:0).  They devised a plan to encourage our apartment search by introducing us to a different type of Swedish delicacy.

Now, in Wisconsin, we have delicacies too…mostly beer and cheese, but in Sweden, apparently many of their best meals include some sort of pickled or raw fish.  So, Jennie and I were minding our own business, when out of no where Stefen whipped up some lavish multi-part Swedish meal.  The first part was great… tasted like pea soup.  As Jennie and I ate the pea soup, we in simultaneous thought concluded that we would never leave Kristin and Stefen.  Our bliss turned to horror as Stefen (with a gleam in his eye that we had never seen before) brought out the second dish.  Parts of it were normal… that is, the crackers with cheese.  But what was on top of the cheese made us squeamish.  Caviar (disguised as thousand island dressing) and slimy, wiggly, pickled herring on the very top.  There was no disguising that.  I’m just glad I didn’t see any eyeballs.

So, Jennie and I each choked one down and in simultaneous thought (we are quite good at that) decided to put an offer on the apartment right away in the morning…

 

For those of you who may be wondering… November 19, 2008

Filed under: Cambodia — Elizabeth Schrader @ 12:17 pm

We are actually (I think) doing some work here in Cambodia.  It came to my attention as I was perusing through my random blogs that I haven’t mentioned at all what we are doing.

So, World Hope (the organization we are volunteering with) is awesome for many reasons.  For conciseness’ sake (You’re welcome.), I will list them. 

1.  They worked with us to create a volunteer experience that fits with their program and accomplishes what we hoped vs. pegging us as arts/crafts and music teachers.

2.  The staff is very, very kind and helpful.  As many of you know, we are currently staying with our director.  (I’m trying to think of how many program directors and executives I know would do this…yep, not coming up with any others.)

3.  Their program is unlike any other in Cambodia.

4.  They are sharing us (yes, not only did they let us help decide what we do…) with partner agencies, so that we can get to know other NGOs in the area.

There are more but I will attempt (again) to remain concise.

SO, what are we doing (besides hashing, learning Khmae, running, meeting Charles–or whatever his name is, and getting flooded out of apartments)?

We have been given the opportunity to train staff who are working directly with children pulled out of sex trafficking.  We are hoping to teach them some basic music therapy principles to use when helping the girls adapt to normal life (more difficult than it may seem at first glance).  Also, we are hoping to work with World Hope’s counselor to give the staff tools for self care.  This type of work can be so stressful, and it is so important for the staff and the girls that the staff are maintaining their emotional and physical health.  We have worked out our trainings and are really excited about starting them in the foreseeable future!

Yes, we are also connecting with other programs in the area.  Tomorrow, I will be traveling a little bit out of Phnom Penh (yay bus!) to teach some piano lessons to girls at an aftercare center.  I have communicated with the director, and this may become a regular thing!  Hooray!

I’m staying vague… and I will remain vague.  If you have specific questions, I may or may not be able to answer them, but I won’t answer them over a blog 🙂 Sorry and thank you.

Your prayers are what get us through.  Thank you. 

Love you all!

 

Mom, do I have to? November 17, 2008

Filed under: Cambodia — Elizabeth Schrader @ 9:58 am

This is what I would usually say when mom would mention riding the bus.  I hated riding the bus.  Something about getting up long before you have to, waiting out in the cold, and picking up a bunch of people I kind of knew but didn’t know well enough to want to talk to(my best friends NEVER rode my bus)… I just didn’t enjoy it.

My favorite part about riding the bus though, was that they played the oldies station.  Everyone else complained and thought it was so un-cool (or un-rad) at the time.  But I secretly loved it.  The music was the only thing I looked forward to about riding the bus.  Uninterrupted, except by the many commercials and ridiculous morning people, tunes from the 60s, 70s, and 80s.  Thanks Cool 92.9.

So, yes, this is connected to our experiences in Cambodia.  Jennie and I, after a short discussion about transportation, decided to take the bus to Siem Reap.  Our conversation went something like this.

Jennie: We should go to Siem Reap.

Me:  OK.  How are we going to get there?

Jennie:  Well, there’s a bus that goes there for about 6 dollars each way.  Or we could get plane tickets for 150 dollars. (Much laughter)

Me: OK.  Where’s the bus station?

So, we got our tickets for Siem Reap less than a day in advance.  Now, in the states, we have an idea of what a ticket looks like–laminated, or at least card stock, printed with pretty colors, sponsors on the front, coupons on the back.  Yeah, please don’t think any of those things.  Our tickets consisted of 3X2 in thin piece of paper on which was the bus number, destination, and time, but our seat numbers (we didn’t know what the numbers represented at the time) were written in.  Yes, I almost thought mine was a receipt and tossed it.  Thankfully it didn’t get in that pile.

So, mine said 2 and Jennie’s said 1.  I got on the bus to give my piece of receipt with number 2 on it to the only person sitting on the bus.  He spoke a little bit of English, and after a little confusion, I realized he was not the bus driver.  But, he did show me to my seat.  Right next to Jennie’s directly behind the driver.

For those of you who haven’t taken transport in a foreign country, such as India, Cambodia, or Thailand, it’s a little to the exciting side.  There are rules, I think, but after much careful observation during the last 3 weeks, Jennie and I have been able to pick up about 2.  These rules also have very little to do about side of the rode, speed limits, turn signals, etc.  They’re more reactionary.  For example, if someone is riding directly towards you, you typically stay to the left, not the right. (I’m still adjusting to that one while biking.) 

So, the nice man, we’ll call him Charles (for fun, I don’t remember his name at all), chats with us in Khmae a bit before the real bus driver got on.  5 minutes before we left, Charles jumps off the bus.  We thought, oh, he was just keeping the driver company. Basically, 5 minutes before we were supposed to leave and 10 minutes after, we were picking up and dropping off random people within a 3 block radius.  During that time, Charles mounted and dismounted the bus… yes, through the door, but it would have been much more of an interesting story had he decided to ride on top!

Anyway, we left Phnom Penh, without Charles, sadly, as we were both hoping to practice our Khmae.  Shortly into our journey, our lovely bus driver put in a DVD of Khmae karaoke.  Jennie and I thought (yes, simultaneously!) “What a wonderful cultural experience.  Here we are on this jam packed bus going to Siem Reap with a bunch of Cambodians listening to Khmae karaoke.” 5 hours and 2 DVDs later, we were much less enthused.

So, while this wonderful karaoke music was playing, we arrived at our first town outside of Phnom Penh, and who should get on the bus?  Charles!  This is not as funny to you as it was to us, but we just kept wondering how and why this person kept popping up! We were both secretly fearing he’d be kind of like a weird shadow that would follow us to all of our destinations for the next 6 months.  We just couldn’t shake this guy!

Anyway, aside from Karaoke and terribly bumpy roads (and therefore some nausea without vomiting for me), the first half of the trip was pretty uneventful.  We got to a road side stand (OK, so road side stand….not gas station… think outdoor markets selling fruits, fried tarantulas and crickets–absolutely serious–and sticky rice…squatty potties too), and I got conned into buying some terribly overpriced mangoes from a little girl who told me she’d cry if I didn’t.  It’s true that good sales people can spot the suckers.

We stopped a second time at noon (We’ve noticed Cambodians drop everything for their mealtimes… pretty great), and Jennie and I were a bit hungry.  So Jennie decides to get some packaged cookies.  She’s quite the adventurous type and when given the choice between pineapple, strawberry, and durian flavored cookies, she of course chose the one that we had never heard of.  Sometimes that’s a great idea.  In this case however, not so much.  The cookies themselves maybe would have been okay had they not been durian flavored.  But they were, so they tasted funny.  Tasting funny is okay, but these smelled funny.  I don’t mean that they smelled funny if you put your nose inside the bag.  I mean, from the moment the bag was first torn (not opened, torn) this amazingly horrible smell reaked through the air.  Yes, this was our first exposure to durian…not just any durian, artificial durian.  We later found out that in Singapore, durian fruits are not allowed on public transportation because of the pungent odor.  Nice choice Jennie.

So, we arrived in Siem Reap after 6 hours of karaoke and 4 hours of inhaling smells that are illegal on buses in Singapore later.  I could go on about arriving on the outskirts of town at nothing resembling a bus station and being ripped off by fast talking tuk-tuk drivers (one named Lucky), but I will save that for another blog.

I will soon upload photos of our trip and talk more about our actual time in Siem Reap and Angkor Wat.  We truly had a wonderful time.  Check out Jennie’s blog about our trip… she gave a little bit more info about more important things.

Much love!

 

Sail Away With Me Honey… November 12, 2008

Filed under: Cambodia — Elizabeth Schrader @ 10:51 am

Funny how you wake up with a relevant song in your head, right? 

Following a wonderful hashing experience Sunday night, I stepped out of bed to an unusual sound… a splash.  “Did we sleep in the river?” you might ask.  Good question, as I wondered the same thing.  No, I was sleeping safely in my bed.  So what’s with the splash?  Another good question.

I splished and splashed (yeah, there was some splishing and even splooshing too) out of my room and noticed that Jennie, up a few minutes–okay, quite a few minutes–before I was, was also experiencing the same unusual amount of moisture in her room. 

To further investigate this abnormal level of liquid condensation, we opened the outside door and noticed an empty fanta bottle (not ours, we drink coke products, Julie!) floating across our “yard.”  Hmm…this and the fact that the water was as high as the door ledge answered a few of our questions.  We were flooded. 

To even further investigate, we opened the bathroom door.  Bad idea.  You see, the “water” or “high level of liquid condensation” in there wasn’t clear, or close to clear.  It was brown.  It had come up through the drainage systems in the bathroom.  With all of my power, I attempted to believe it was mud.  My nose strongly contradicted this belief… Anyway, Jennie and I did some amazing moves that I learned when I was little by playing “don’t touch the floor” (Yeah, Andrea, you must remember this game!).  This time, the consequences were a little more disturbing than our imaginary alligators.  Anyway, we were able to get most of our essentials out of the bathroom without falling in the “mud.”  Then, we shut the door.

So, amazing the timing of everything, God sent the International Program Director of World Hope to visit us.  She, along with our director in Cambodia, saw our apartment and immediately began helping us get packed.  It’s official!  We are refugees.  But we aren’t sleeping in any fields. 

So, after a few nights at a hotel in Phnom Penh and the next couple in Siem Reap, we hope to relocate somewhere a little higher off the ground in Phnom Penh.  Your prayers are appreciated greatly.  Everyone here has been SO helpful, and I’m sure we’ll find a place in no time.

I guess we could get a small boat….

 

I hope you have a footloose fish. November 10, 2008

Filed under: Cambodia — Elizabeth Schrader @ 4:10 am

I really, really do.  Though I’m not entirely sure what that is.  Though, if you have a fish, I hope he is footloose, and I’m not talking about Kevin Bacon.

Anyway, unfortunately, this has nothing to do with fish–though some of you might like to hear about the Russian market fish (sold “fresh,” just between the laundry detergent and the scarves, across from the lettuce). Maybe we’ll sneak some pictures for you later!  I just wanted to actually describe my day last Tuesday.  For those of you who have spoken with me often and get sick of my daily synopses, you may begin tuning out right about… now.

I didn’t know what to appropriately entitle this because it involves giving blood in Cambodia.  (Yes, sit down, and yes, I am fine.)  Why would I do this?, you may ask.  Well, Sophorn, the wonderful HR person at World Hope (who probably speaks better English than me…ha ha, than I do) needed my bloodtype.  He kindly and persistently (every day) reminded me that this information was not on file, and so I finally caved in and decided to donate some blood.  The first thing I learned was how many people out here think parting with blood results in loss of strength or sickness.  (This is the reason my Doc in the US recommended I give blood while I was out here.) When Jennie and I, in broken and fumbling Khmae, told our wonderful teacher about me donating blood, he got very concerned.  He kept thinking I was sick.  The idea of going to a hospital for recreational purposes is unthinkable.  (Blood donating is kind of recreational, right?)

Despite the longer distance, I decided I would walk to the “red cross.”  Walking is interesting in Phnom Penh, and I didn’t know EXACTLY where I was going, so it would be easier than trying to ask a Khmae tuk-tuk driver to take me to an unknown destination to do something unheard of, such as donate blood.  About 3 minutes after I left, it began to pour.  Ah, it was beautiful at first.  I was definitely singing “Singing in the Rain” (along with my friends, Cameron and Gene).  And of course I was singing outloud.  Singing in your head is not nearly as fun.  Despite the funny looks and double the offers on tuk-tuks, I continued to walk.  It was lovely.

I reached the place that I had called the day before (where the lady on the phone hung up on my twice because she didn’t speak English), and no one seemed to know what to do with me, so they directed me to the “Traveler’s Clinic.”  I was absolutely drenched…every square millimeter on my body was wet.  So, what is the most logical thing to do when you’re already wet?  I didn’t know, so I took a tuk-tuk to the traveler’s clinic.  Long story short, the doctor at the traveler’s clinic told me he’d be happy to take my money (much laughter) but he could not take my blood.  (To put this in time perspective, I had begun walking to the first hospital about 1.5 hours ago).  He told me a place right around the corner where people stand in line to donate blood.  I turned the corner, apparently missed the line, and arrived at the hospital he was speaking of 30 minutes later (after mistakenly walking into a dentist office.  I didn’t stay long enough to find out what donations they wanted…). 

So, I gave blood.  They had me fill out a history, but I had a hankering that they didn’t really care what my answers were.  I considered answering “yes” to questions regarding HIV and AIDS or tattoos and the like to test the system, but I decided to remain honest.  Plus, I my HR file and Sophorn were counting on this!

I found out I am O+.  Kinda nice, as I guess I am a universal donor.  It’s amazing the first two places refused to take my blood.  :0)  Also, a Khmae gentleman thanked me for giving blood to his people.  It is because of that, I plan to return monthly.

For those of you worried about needles, I didn’t see where she got the needle, but I did see her throw it away (and everyone elses) following use.  Could be sketchier.

Plus I got a t-shirt.  And a kind lady also snuck me a can of sweetened condensed milk.  There were pictures of cows on the front of it, so that made me very happy…. and nostalgic.  Oh, Wisconsin cows.

My day didn’t end there, but man this is long, so I will.  More about re-learning how to bike in Cambodia later.  For a preview on this topic, check out Jennie’s blog “And then there were bikes.”  Quite accurate.

Much love!

 

Speaking of hash browns and corned beef hash November 5, 2008

Filed under: Cambodia — Elizabeth Schrader @ 10:34 am

Jennie and I went “hashing” this past Sunday.  Yeah.  Crazy.  I know.  I didn’t even know what hashing is, and I’m still not entirely sure, but I summarized it as best I could! 

Here goes it:  You get into one of two large trucks like you would use for a hay ride (minus the hay, but not minus the sketchiness) with about say, 30 people per truck.  Do you sit?  Nope.  You stand.  You stand with everyone else as you ride through Phnom Penh and try not to fall over.  Once we reach the edge of Phnom Penh, we continue.  This time for maybe like 45 minutes.  Yes, still standing.  Yes, still trying not to fall out of the truck.  And also, trying to avoid being hit by branches of trees at face-level.  Though this may not sound especially inviting or appealing, it is quite the adventure, and chatting with many other ex-pats and foreigners can be quite nice.  But, I haven’t described the half of it yet.

So yes, the purpose of this hay-ride experience (without the hay) is not just to “joy ride” but to go running or walking out in the countryside.  Basically, they truck us outside the city where the air is clean and the traffic is less congested (or congested with cows instead of cars…and I’ve found so far that navigating around cows can be less stressful).   Apparently, they take different routes every time, but when we went last Sunday, we got to experience the trail up through the temples. 

Sounds nice, definitely.  The view was absolutely amazing at times, as we trekked up tiny Cambodian “mountains” (glorified hills–kinda like the midwest, except rocky instead of grassy).  I have blogged about my running before, and for those of you who still don’t quite grasp my “running style”  ha ha, I am definitely slow.  Trying to keep up with people “running” up mountains was one of the most difficult and yet, exhilirating experiences of my life.  I think we ran like a 10K ? maybe 7K with a 5 minute break in-between.  Not only did I have to try to keep up, I had to go to the bathroom the entire time.  Yes, even before we started.  This was a crazy adventure.

Not only was the path beautiful, exhilirating, and trying on my bladder, it was amazingly poorly marked.  It seemed that the leader of the group would run one way, then we’d all run around or break and walk until someone found the little mark that would signal which direction we go.  The only really scary moment came at the end when the sun had just set and we had run into a marshy pond like thing, and no one could find the marker.  We all stood in line in the marshy pond for probably 5 minutes.  Once I realized it was in fact, NOT quicksand, I was fine.  But after standing there for a minute, my child-like (OK childish) imagination turned to things like snakes (cobras), lizards (alligators), leeches (Killer leeches).  But, thankfully I ran into none of the above and we made it out.

I wish I could speak to Jennie’s experiences more, but she was with a different group. From what I gather, the walking path was also far from resembling an actual path, involving climbing sheer rocks and navigating slippery ponds and standing water.  But, they had fun.  I think.

Eventually, we all made it back to the trucks where before we could get in and go home, had to suffer through some humiliating ritual involving newcomers and those who listened to music while they ran .(How was I supposed to know?)  We survived that, and thought our adventure was over.  Again, nope.

We piled into the trucks for an uneventful, ha J/K, eventful ride home.  We were almost home when it began to rain… or should I say monsoon?  OK, maybe not monsoon, but that’s the closest to a monsoon that we have ever experienced.  So, there we are with 30 others in our wonderful truck (without the hay, just had to clarify) getting hit by rain, avoiding random branches in the dark, and trying not to fall out.  Yes, something we thought would never happen in our wildest dreams in Cambodia… we were cold.  Freezing.  Shivering.  Goose bumps.  The whole works.  The temperature itself probably wasn’t colder than 65, but we were like drenched kites in the wind of that bus.  It was crazy.

We finished the night with hot chocolate and coffee at home, while we wrung out our clothes and shoes.

Oh, I included a picture defining hash.  Maybe we didn’t hash browns or corned beef.  But, I think my leg got hashed.  And rashed?  Different blog…img_0107

Oh mom, you know those new running shoes I bought before I left…?

 

Can someone please help me and Jennie with our homework?

Filed under: Cambodia — Elizabeth Schrader @ 9:51 am

In doing our homework for our Khmae language study class (with our hilarious teacher), we were given words to translate and use in sentences.  Such as,

one dozen eggs.  2 packages of rice.  6 bottles of juice.

Then we came across a phrase in English we were unsure how to translate and wanted to ask for your help before we continued.

Can you please define for us…

“a rubber of bridge”

?

Thanks!

 

Rice? October 30, 2008

Filed under: Cambodia — Elizabeth Schrader @ 6:02 am
A snapshot of our fridge

A snapshot of our fridge

Ironically enough, Jennie and I spent our first few days in Cambodia eating… just rice?  No, in fact the first few days we had anything but rice!  Noodles, fruit, peanut butter toast, eggs, etc.  The fresh fruit and vegetables here are amazing!  (And yes, gramma, we are equipt with veggie wash!)  And the most wonderful thing is, the vegetables and fruit are about the cheapest thing we can buy!  We bought that entire fridge worth for no more than 1 or so dollars!  (4000 Riel!)  Isn’t that wonderful?

The first person to name all/the most fruit and vegetables will get a prize from Cambodia!  Just wait tll April!

Love you all!

More pics coming soon!

 

Running in Cambodia October 29, 2008

Filed under: Cambodia — Elizabeth Schrader @ 8:38 am

After a week of walking almost everywhere in Cambodia, my body was scolding me last night for not reaching its movement/endorphine/something quota.  I knew I needed to at least try running.

So, up at 5:45 (that’s AM) this morning and outside the gate at 6 (Gates, yes. Most property in Cambodia is fenced in–walled in–and protected by a locked gate.  Thankfully, our apartment is in one of these such complexes.  And the kind gatekeeper woke up extra early to unlock it for me!  Thanks Chanleak!)  Anyway, in my old-school way–discman, yes, my mp3 player broke–I plugged into Sufjan Stevens’ Illinoise CD and took off.  Though I felt like I was moving at warp speed, for accuracy’s sake, imagine a medium-moderately fast jog.  Maybe even slower.  I was greeted by friendly faces… some on the motos I was dodging, others in front of their houses putting out their trash.  

This brings up another subject.  Friendliness.  Now, those of you living in NY state, don’t be offended.  After living there a week, I found it a terribly unfriendly place (aside from the music department at Wildwood) but after living there a few months, I had an entirely different opinion.  I learned that there are some wonderful people who just don’t wear their friendliness on their sleeves. But in Cambodia, I see quite the opposite.  Many greet you with a smile, and almost all return smiles.  During a walk down the street, you will most likely find yourself interacting with/greeting people you don’t even know with a friendly “hello!” or “chum reep sour!”  It’s quite lovely.

In fact, this morning, I found myself the butt of a joke among people I didn’t even know.  As I was “running” down the street, a young gentleman got my attention by imitating me running.  (For those of you who have seen me running, you understand why this would be in fact hilarious.  In high school, a couple friends of mine–you know who you are–definitely mocked my running regularly in gym class.) Honestly, it was quite funny.  I and his friends busted a gut because he looked so silly, and I’m sure also because he was accurate.  I imitated his imitation, and without a word of English or Khmae spoken, we all shared a laugh. 

And, for my family, I returned home safely. Though a bit traumatized by the random dead hog I saw outside the temple gate.

Much love!

 

Ah Ni, Ah Nu October 27, 2008

Filed under: Cambodia — Elizabeth Schrader @ 8:23 am

Here (Ah Ni).  There (Ah Nu).  Everywhere we find many conversations lost in translation!

Jennie and I have been blessed with a very dynamic and energetic teacher who knows the English language quite well.  In fact, he might know it as well as we do, given our severe decline in English skills.  Recently, we’ve been able to communicate better using broken English or Khmer than straightforward, grammatically correct English.  We don’t exactly know what caused this hopefully temporary brain damage, but at least we both know a little bit of sign.

Anyway, back to the story:  Last Friday, our amazing Khmer teacher was sick, and we had a substitute.  She was a sweet and wonderful young girl, but unfortunately we had a little more difficulty communicating with her.  At one point in our lessons, this lovely teacher paused and asked, “Do you have any cquousins?”  Jennie and I both paused to think.  I didn’t want to take the time to count all the cousins on my dad’s side, so I decided it was either two or many.  I didn’t know the word for many, so I chose that to learn a new word.  At the same time, Jennie too, contemplated the number of cousins in her family and came up with seven, which may or may not be accurate.  I responded first, as my answer involved less counting.  I looked at the teacher and said, “Khnom (I) have many cousins.”  She laughed really hard.  And Jennie and I did too, though we weren’t sure why.  And then, she wrote the word “questions” on the board, and we knew why we were laughing.  Jennie was just glad she didn’t answer “Seven.”

There were numerous occasions like this on Friday, one involving the teacher calling Jennie wrong, or “Worng” as she wrote on the board (Later we found out she was just telling us the khmer word for wrong, but no matter).  But, all in all, we are getting around and communicating quite fine.  We learned how to say our address correctly, after an excursion to the other end of town in a tuk-tuk when I mispronounced it (see Jennie’s Blog with the excessive, but exuberant title “Sooasday nung Laaw Tngai bpree Cambodia”), and now we go where we intend to a higher percentage of the time! 

Chum Reap Lia! (Goodbye!)

 

Matthew 10:28 October 25, 2008

Filed under: Spiritual Things — Elizabeth Schrader @ 4:15 am

Do not fear those who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul.  Rather, fear Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (EMV–Elizabeth’s Memory Version)

I have been having the weirdest dreams.  (Andrea, skip the next paragraph…)

The last two have resulted in me feeling anxious, even afraid.  The object of this fear is undefined, so I’d project it on to various things throughout the morning.  Then last night, my dream involved a battle.  A weird battle, in little Eau Claire, WI.  I was defending my family against strange mystic people, and our shelter was a picnic table.  He came over to fight us, but did not attempt to harm our being, but our beliefs.  He cursed our God persistently and did not leave us alone.  Though, in the dream, I was afraid of physical harm, the attacker never threatened that.  He threatened to rob my soul.

When I awoke, after the fear subsided, I was impacted by the emphasis I place on the seen (physical) and the ignorance I have of the unseen (spiritual).  I am often more impacted by my bank account info., crime rates, job security, health, and the like, and I miss the truth.  I miss the point if I cannot see what God is doing, has done, and can do in all of it!  God was telling me, “Elizabeth.  These fears that you have so often and so easily are not worth your time and energy.  If you want to be afraid of something, at least fear Someone deserving.”

That’s all for now.  I will try not to mention dreams too much.

I love you and miss you all!

2 Corinthians 10:2-4

 

Bankoon? October 24, 2008

Filed under: Cambodia — Elizabeth Schrader @ 8:47 am

Bankoon, tee? This is the question I asked 30 minutes ago in the internet cafe. What does that mean? “Do you have a bathroom?” The kind hostess said “Jaa.” Meaning “yes.” I was thrilled as my bladder was about to burst! She led me backthrough a couple of doors to a small room with the door slighly open. I said “ah-coon” (similar sound to the word for bathroom) meaning “thank you. ” I opened the door and upon my initial scanning could not find a toilet. I was confused as the room was small, and I knew I didn’t miss anything. Then, I saw it. Yes, a “squatty-potty.” (not a technical term… but you get the picture! If you are fortunate enough to not know what I mean, see * below). Jennie and I had just read the section regarding these types of bathrooms in our Cambodian handbook the day before. Yes, they had an entire section devoted to this subject for people like me. I refered to the mental notes I made yesterday and took a deep breath. With the help of God, I made it without slipping and falling.

Just another day in Cambodia….

Chum Reap Lia! (Good-bye–The polite version)

Elizabeth

*WHen you think squatty potty, think either a drain in the floor or horizontal toilet. To successfully use, one must first roll up their pants so they do not get wet, squat, and pee. (I have no idea what you do if you need to have a bm…) Then, take the bowl out of the nearby basin of water, and flush down your waste. Typically no sinks.. Hand sanitizer is a most wonderful travel companion!

 

Rested! October 22, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Elizabeth Schrader @ 8:09 am

Ah!  So Jennie and I have at least 8 hours rest and are taking in the sights, sounds, and definitely smells of our surroundings.  It’s amazing how much energy we have after waking up at four in the morning…our sleeping habits have yet to normalize!

It’s still hot though it stormed a bit last night.  We are both glad to have caught at least a little bit of the wet season as the rain is so welcome and the sky is so beautiful!

We registered for Khmer language study today and will begin our two hour classes tomorrow.  Please pray for patience for our instructor!  I’m just praying that my ear can hear the sounds and my mouth can reproduce them.  Not sure about that yet!  We did learn to say “no” and “thank you” as people here have been so helpful and persistent.

Speaking of salesmen, [skip the cheesy segue into] “tuk-tuk” drivers (like taxis, but instead of cars, think motorbikes with a carriage like thing on the back.  We actually had two little boys offer to pull us in one.  I think they were kidding :0).  Sometimes it is tempting to purchase the ride instead of walk in the heat.  However, we are not exactly sure where we are, much less where we are going.  Hopefully time will improve this!

As of yet, we do not have internet in our apartment, but as soon as we do, we will post more pictures and things like that.  Definitely lots to see!

Oh, and we have a pet dog.  Not Casey… or Lucky…but what dog can top them?

Till we meet again…

elizabeth

 

1 Week October 12, 2008

Filed under: Introduction — Elizabeth Schrader @ 6:48 am

Don’t worry…Jennie and I are still friends. I just started my own blog for fun. We’ll see how it goes! Feel free to sign and and comment or leave a website to share. This blog isn’t for me, necessarily, it’s for everyone. Let’s make it fun!

Anyway, we leave in a week from today. Crazy how God pulled this all together in such short notice! It’s so exciting, and we just pray we are ready. Ready? What does that mean anyway. I have my passport and my shots. That’s gotta be good enough!

PS: To comment: Click on “Comments,” and enter your name and email address (and website if you have one). Send me an email if you are having trouble :0)