5 January 2010

neum buuy howie? [rice]

rice is the main staple of the cambodian diet & a very important part of the culture. in fact, in the cambodian language the word meaning "to eat", literally means "to eat rice". a common greeting translates literally as "have you eaten rice yet today?" the khmer language has over 100 words for rice! (at different stages in the harvesting process).


cambodian people generally eat rice three times a day, at most every meal, & in quantities that seem unbelievable, especially given how small cambodian people are! for cambodians, it is simply not a meal if there is no rice. our language teacher told us once that at his son's birthday party they all ate pizza, but since pizza is only "snack" food, not real food, they all ate big bowls of plain rice to complete the meal.

on a recent trip to prey veng province (where the other half of our mcc team lives & works) we were out for a bicycle ride & met some local villagers who kindly showed us how to harvest rice.

[fun for a short while, but we won't be giving up our day jobs anytime soon!]

* pictures by marcelo & daniel

2 January 2010

Suk Sabaay Bon Noel [a Christmas update from the Talstras]


Dear Loved Ones,


In this little note that has traveled far, we are sending warm wishes for a Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!


We happily celebrated another tropical holiday season in Phnom Penh, a city that has indeed become a “home away from home” for us. As we reflect back on this year, the word rich comes to mind. It has been a year rich in new experiences, laughter, community, travel, & also in the struggles that come with living in a developing country.


We continue to keep very busy with our work here with the Mennonite Central Committee. We both spend most of our time working at the Royal University of Agriculture. Daniel is coordinating the undergraduate Language Centre (organizing classes & curriculum for nearly 1,200 students!) and teaching English classes. Amanda is working with the graduate students, assisting them with their thesis papers & teaching some undergraduate classes as well.


In addition, Amanda works with a local NGO called Women Peacemakers, that leads trainings in the rural provinces on women’s rights, domestic violence, and conflict mediation. We’ve really enjoyed getting to know the Cambodian staff of this organization & have attended a few of their events in some rural villages, which are always adventures!


We are very excited that Daniel has recently begun working with a local NGO called the Returnee Integration Support Centre (RISC). RISC provides support to Cambodian refugees from the US who are deported back to Cambodia. Many of these returnees fled Cambodia as very small children, or were born in refugee camps in Thailand & face many challenges when they return. (You can read about some the returnees here & here)


Amanda has also been keeping busy studying for her master’s in International Development. She got to spend nearly a month in South Africa in July & will be heading to Uganda next summer. It’s a challenge balancing work & school, but its great to be studying development while engaged in this work & to learn from her classmates scattered all around the world.


Against the backdrop all of the richness of this year, we are aware that we live in a land marred by injustice, poverty, & human brokenness at its worst (these are some of the realities of Cambodia today).


And so this Christmas, as we reflect, we take hope in the fact that Christmas is so much more than the cozy traditions & snowy festivities that we will be homesick for this December. It is about God choosing to be born into a place much like Cambodia, a dirty stable surrounded by livestock, welcomed by poor & rural pastoralists, in an empire corrupted by greed & violence. It is about God dwelling among us, in the middle of all our messiness. This is our source of hope here in this place & we pray that it will be a hope to you in the coming year.


“O Come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel”


With much love,

Daniel & Amanda