25 December 2009

bon noelle [belated cambodian christmas]

our second cambodian christmas carried on many of the happy traditions of our first & also included some new fun...

we attended a christmas eve carol service & then returned to our house with many friends for a feast of cookies & appetizers & a white elephant gift exchange. then we all dragged out of mattresses & pillows, strung mosquito nets & slept outside under the stars on our porch. 

all was calm & bright (except for the lovely smell of the sewage canal & the non-stop barking of the neighborhood dogs).

in the morning we celebrated christmas morning together with a delicious breakfast, coffee & bailey's. we rounded out the day with a traditional christmas dinner of indian food at a nearby restaurant. 

 as cambodians would say, happy merry christmas, indeed!

5 December 2009

Epic [Angkor Wat]

[ode to the kingdom of wonder]

its hard to believe, but we managed to live in cambodia for more than a year without visiting the famous Angkor Wat temples. since it is the biggest sight seeing destination in the kingdom, we decided we should wait for visitors. thankfully levi & ellie arrived so we are finally able to explore these mysterious temples!

angkor wat is a sprawling, complex network of hindu temples built in the 12th century. grandeur & splendor is the pride of cambodia. (one of the first things our language teacher taught us is how to ask "have you been to angkor wat yet?")


[this picture confused our camera, but i like it]

[traditional angkorian tourists]

[a giant buddha hiding inside the hindu temples]

[don't even think about sitting on the snake railing...er, i mean, balustrade]

[the entrance to bayon temple, known for its multitude of massive & serene faces]

[massive, serene face of levi]

[nose to nose]

[traditional angkorian tourists drinking traditional coca-cola beverages & feeding thirsty traditional apsara bas-reliefs]


[temple explorers]

[ancient ruins]

the temples in the process of being re-claimed by the jungle were so amazing, i think they deserve their own post!

4 December 2009

abundance [a tropical thanksgiving]

But the good news of God’s creation is that the fundamental reality, the deepest truth, is not scarcity, but abundance. There is enough, and overflowing – until we, in our scarcity-mindset, decide that there’s not enough, and start grasping. That grasping cuts us off and, as much as it’s up to us, breaks the flow of abundance. We find ourselves dried up, burned out, prunishly wondering why we feel so lousy and “don’t have anything to offer” (you should hear the words between the quotation marks as spoken awkwardly through an overly stuffed mouth)

-Aron Reppman, "An overflowing theme" in catapult magazine

This year we had the great fortune to celebrate Thanksgiving three times! We celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving in October & last week we hosted a Thanksgiving feast for our MCC colleagues & also attending another feast mostly full of Australians celebrating their first Thanksgiving.

[tropical feast!]

[apple cider (thanks christina!) & peach crisp]

[eating on our porch]

& amidst the busyness of it all, when I really allow myself to contemplate the abundance that surrounds me, especially in this place where scarcity has been the norm, I am stunned.
& thankful.
very thankful.

3 December 2009

to weddings we go

last month sona, the director of women peacemakers (the local NGO amanda works with) got married, so we got the chance to attend another traditional cambodian wedding.

cambodians go all-out for weddings so we enjoyed all the extravagance (the bride & groom change outfits 7 times!), the food (daniel ate pig's ear!), & the interesting traditions (just before they cut the cake the wedding party spray the bride & groom with silly string while "happy birthday" music plays!)

30 November 2009

Joshua Giraffe on the Cambodian Coast [Lazy Beach]

last month we celebrated Pchum Benh (a traditional Cambodian Buddhist festival where people pay respect to their ancestors by cooking food for them) by escaping to the beach!

our friends levi & mel joined us & we headed to the coast (about a 5 hour bus ride) once we were at the beach, we hopped (swam is more like it, the boat couldn't dock so we swam out & floated our bags in a huge water cooler) on a boat & rode the waves for nearly two hours. when we disembarked (or dis-swam-barked)we were on Lazy Beach, a totally secluded island with ten charming bungalows & great stretches of beaches & quiet.

highlights include: the first clear evening with an absolutely amazing view of the stars, a beach campfire where we toasted s'mores (mel's first! they don't eat them in Australia) & sang as many raffi songs as we could remember, celebrating mel's birthday with fried bananas, & levi & daniel's beach art.

[note: if you visit us, we will take you to this tropical island paradise too!]

18 October 2009

ridin' that (bamboo) train...

our good friends levi & ellie from canada have been visiting us for the last month or so. its been such a pleasure to host them in different places & stages of life over the past several years & it has been a joy hosting them here in cambodia. [just when we were beginning to feel homesick, home, in the form of people we love, came to us!] they are our first visitors from home & its been wonderful to share our rich [& dusty & hot!] cambodian life with such beautiful friends.

[levi & ellie]

we've taken the opportunity of their visit to have lots of cambodian adventures & i'll begin with our adventure riding the bamboo train...

the train system in cambodia is in quite a deteriorated state & some very clever folks have built contraptions known as "bamboo trains" to haul goods & people along the dilapidated tracks that still exist. these bamboo trains are a marvel to behold, both for their simplicity, their effectiveness and the safety hazards they pose.

to get on this train we helped some 13-year-old put two heavy sets of train wheels connected by their axles on the track and then lifted a wooden frame onto these wheels. across the top of the frame were bamboo slats spaced 5 or 6 inches apart.

now, the best part is the engine. it's a small motor that nestles atop steel rails on top of the platform. its not attached so the engine can slide forward and back. from the engine a single rubber fan belt loosely drops through the bamboo slats and around the axle. once the engine gets started the driver just pushes the whole engine forward, tightening the belt, and moving the train. to slow down just slide the engine backwards. to make the train go the other direction just turn the whole engine around. to stop the train there is a big wooden stick with a piece of rubber nailed to the end that gets jammed between the train wheel and the platform. it seemed crazy but the system worked magnificently. and almost anyone can repair it.

[i loved this little guy's shirt - 'we're loving peaceful time']

[gasin' up]

we found a family with one these contraptions on the outskirts of phnom penh & had a day of adventure riding the [quite rickety] bamboo train & exploring rural cambodia.

[a video of the bamboo train in action]

[cow detour: picture by amie]

[gucci/ray ban knockoffs, $5]

[at the end of the tracks.
wrong way dude]


[view from the tracks]

16 September 2009

forever heart stay you always. destiny!

to celebrate daniel's (& our good friend steve's) birthday, we hosted a 'bad english t-shirt party'. below is some of the hilarity.

[free style written boy hip hop & someone make me a cherry berry record mix tape]

[hunnies play me close like butter play toast]

[the dirty live long but die haro. save blue]

[obama for president of space]

[your very the highest. we are fighting on the brink whether it always dead or alive. real clothes from log.a careful selection matena is used and it's made with sewing technology.]

[losers always lose...always]

[blackfish rock tubelor money punk winshester]

[g-star raw denim 3801 south east distr]

10 September 2009


a few weeks ago i (amanda) travelled to kompong cham province with a small organization i work with here called women peacemakers.

the organization provides training in rural cambodia about women's right, domestic violence issues, peacebuilding & conflict mediation skills. cambodia has only recently emerged from decades of brutal & traumatizing civil war so education about peaceful alternatives to mediating conflict are so vital to the country's development.

the work of women peacemakers is inspiring. we traveled five hours by bus from phnom penh to a regional town with a guesthouse & a market.

[can you spot the pig head?]

& early every morning we drove an hour & a half

through miles & miles of rice fields

until we reached the primiary school in the isolated community where the training was held.

the two young women who led the workshop are strong & articulate & i was so impressed with their dedication to their work.

the workshop participants were gentle & kind & tried very patiently to understand my heavily accented khmer.

however, the entire time i attended the training i was an utter spectacle.

[kids gathering to peek in at me during the training]

with my limited khmer, i was able to pick up that the participants were constantly narrating my actions to each other. "she is sitting down". "she is eating fruit". "she is writing with her left hand". & then discussions about my appearance. "her skin is so white". "her shirt is not khmer style" "she looks like angelina" (who people like here because she adopted a cambodian child, somehow skirting the US ban on adoptions from cambodia due to child trafficking issues) .

it was endearing & unnerving all at the same time & provides a lot of food for thought on the arbitrary nature of cultural standards of power & beauty. behind the admiration, do the older participants ever think about my country's devastating bombings of their land & their people? or do they only see the media's idealization of all things western & young?

& the children.

in phnom penh, the kids i see on my street love to run out & yell "HELLO" when we pass by. the kids in this village just seemed totally stunned by my presence.

[when i came out of the bathroom on the first day, i was greeted with a crowd of stares]

they didn't yell greetings, because i think they had actually just never seen a foreigner before. (babies cried!)

but their fascination was tender & once they realised i spoke khmer at a child's level, curiosity got the best of them & they followed me around for days.

their bright smiles were the highlight of my trip, but their reality is much darker than i think i can ever really understand. the widespread poverty in their region means that they are very vulnerable to exploitation & abuse.

[please pray for these sweet children]

[it looks oddly hip, but many of the children have blond streaks in their hair because of a nutrient deficiency & malnutrition]

[i posted this little one-shoed guy in my last post, but i haven't been able to get him out of my mind. the villagers told me that his mother had to go to malaysia to get work (a lot of cambodians are migrant workers in malaysia, thailand, and singapore) & so he does not get proper care]