Saturday, May 29, 2010

Burn, baby, burn!

Today Sara and I went adventuring. It was quite a good little adventure on our Saturday off. We saw the local pagoda complex, waved at some monks, were “hello-ed” by about 50 children, and managed not to sell ourselves into marriage by accident.

However, no adventure comes without some kind of hiccup and mine is a particularly purplely-red hiccup. That’s right, friends, I have a lovely stripe of sunburn from where I somehow missed applying my SPF 50 sunscreen.  It’s on my shoulder and – don’t let the camera fool you – it’s a deep reddish purple. It doesn’t hurt yet, which is actually a little concerning.

The arrow indicates where the said burn took place. Evidence of the burn in the very act.

Here is a video showing you the damaged the sun has wreaked upon my skin. It's a lovely crescent shape and is going to give me hours of grief when I have my backpack on. You haven't really lived until you've been sunburned in Southeast Asia, right? :/   


If the above wasn't proof enough, here is another awesome picture of my lobster-burn.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The day the lights went out in Cambodia.

The electricity goes out pretty much every day here. In fact, it went out this morning while I was brushing my teeth! Faulty power grids are part and parcel of working in a developing country. That being said, I have finally gotten some stable internet and am posting a video of what we do when the power goes out at work.
If only we could do this in America!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Good Morning...CAMBODIA

Yesterday I watched as Mason, the Country Director for Cambodia and the only American here besides myself and Sara, walked out of my office door and left Kampong Chhnang. He’s back in the capitol – Phnom Penh – until Friday when he leaves for a 3 week vacation back in the US. So, the only native English speaker that we know in the whole of Cambodia is leaving. It was an overwhelming thought, watching this person that I really don’t know at all but feel remarkably attached to, walk away and leave Sara and I stranded in the middle of rural Cambodia. We don’t speak a word of Khemai (well, I take that back, I’ve learned two words). Some of the staff speak English of varying levels, but between the accent differences and the lack of vocabulary there has been some communication discord. And, unless they are speaking to Sara or me, the staff communicates exclusively in Khemai, which only serves to increase this feeling of isolation and foreignness. This certainly promises to be an adventure!

 The IRD sign outside our "office" building
But everyone is friendly and welcoming! Although there are language barriers and cultural divides, the Cambodians we work with have been gracious and hospitable in every way. They answer questions, they return our smiles and they seem to be thoroughly glad that we are interning with them.  There is much to do – the Kampong Chhnang office is the hub for Child Survival and Food for Education projects – from project analysis, to field visits, to development and review of new proposal ideas. And, being a native English speaker, my editing skills will be put to good use (and have already been used!) as I look over official documents that are sent out from this office.

 Where I work!
We’ll also be spending a rather significant chunk of our time out in the field. We went to a “Model Mothers” celebration yesterday where women who were exemplars in breastfeeding, nutrition and child-rearing were honored and nutrition kits awarded. These celebrations mark a transfer of IRD leadership in these projects to local leadership as IRD’s grant is set to wrap up in September.

Model Mothers and a Model Father

A not-so-model little boy getting ready to make a run for it!
There’s so much to say about this wild and wonderful country. It’s a colorful place of welcoming people. Here there are pagodas and shrines to Buddha doting the road and standing brilliantly painted against the backdrop of a dry, weathered landscape. It’s a place where cars and mopeds zoom alongside ox-drawn wagons. It’s a place where people gather around a color tv in a thatched-roof hovel, drinking rice wine and trying to escape the pervasive heat. It’s a humbling and heart-breaking country with a willingness to give and a great need to receive. I feel very lucky to be here – I still can’t believe this is my life sometimes! At the same time, I’m anxious. This is a big step outside of my comfort zone, and there is something intense and lonely about knowing that you are a stranger in a strange land. 

some of the guys I work with

Monday, May 24, 2010

Cambodia Morning

I'm here, I'm here, I'm here!!! :)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

10 Reasons Why Washington DC Is NOT the South

Today was a day filled with information and revelation. IRD is a complex organization with diverse facets and functions. Our day was a string of short meetings with team leaders from the nine core sectors in which IRD works. I felt overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information slung at me, and awed by the massive scope in which IRD has the capacity to respond to disaster, crisis and human need. It’s absolutely amazing! Especially after talking with the team leaders for the Haiti sector and the Relief and Humanitarian Assistance sector, I am now so excited and anxious to be off to Cambodia, working on the ground and seeing firsthand how IRD works with and in local communities. There are so many places of conflict/post-conflict that have needs; I cannot wait to get my hands dirty working toward building sustainable peace and prosperity with these communities.

Sara enjoying a bite to eat at Madam's Organ

But all that informative and impactful morning business aside, I realized something that changes how I view our great capitol, and perhaps even America as a whole. Washington DC is not the South. This profound realization hit me while eating a pulled-pork sandwich at Madam’s Organ – an infamous local haunt similar to the Vortex in Atlanta.  As me and my four other colleagues mused this revelation over, we came up with ten reasons why Washington DC is NOT the South. 

Washington DC  is not the South because…
10.  it has public transit that actually goes to useful locations at regular, calculable intervals
9.  people avoid using expressions like “bless her heart”, “good Lord willin’ and the Creeks don’t rise” and “I wouldn’t piss on her if she was on fire” in public discussion
8. the only tea on restaurant menus is from Long Island
7. public transportation is used by all members of the socio-economic public (like poor IRD interns!)
6. after walking nearly six blocks I still did not encounter a single church, house of worship, church sign or street evangelist
5. there are no old folks in rocking chairs on front porches…because there are no front porches
4. people do not stroll, they power walk
3.  cars actually stop for pedestrians without giving the finger, screaming obscenities and/or having to slam on the breaks halting just inches from where you have legally proceeded into the cross walk
2.  people do not embrace proper grammatical contractions like y’all which make English more efficient and less gender-biased instead they stubbornly insist on “you guys”
And finally, the number 1 reason Washington DC is NOT the South…
People have legitimate, non-fashion related reasons to wear scarves after Easter.

It's been fun so far. I'm excited to see how all the sectors interact and what kind of work is being done on the ground level. And, you know, adventures are fun too. :) 

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Adventure Begins...

I am less than 11 hours away from the beginning of one of the most exciting adventures of my life! I leave tomorrow at 7am to fly to Washington DC where me and my fabulous partner Sarah will be prepped by IRD (International Relief and Development) for a week before traveling 12 time zones ahead of east coast America to Cambodia. I have never been so far away from home before! What an awfully large adventure!

I’m really excited, not just for the adventuring aspect of the trip, but also because it will be a learning and growing experience. Cambodia is a country I know very little about. It is a culture wholly different from my own. It is a nation with a bittersweet past – one that as an American I am intimately connected to – and a timidly hopeful future. I am excited to see and experience local customs, to take part in local worship (which promises to be absolutely different than my traditional Presbyterian Sunday service), and to peer into the daily lives of regular Cambodian people striving to survive in substandard living conditions.

I have been on mission trips before. I have twice gone to Guatemala and each trip taught me something profound about God’s love and human endurance. I know that those trips were essential in forming my call to seminary. But, I will be in Cambodia for two months! That’s quite a difference than the 10 day alternative Spring Breaks I participated in as an undergrad. The nature of my internship – interviewing families who have taken part in a malnutrition prevention program – means getting to spend lots of personal time with local Cambodians. There’s no glamour to this job! And, that’s exactly why I so badly wanted to do it. It will be a trial-by-fire in the best (and maybe worst?) ways. I guess this is good practice for being in England for a year. :)

I pray that this opportunity allows me to grow as a Christian woman. I pray that this internship allows me to see the world how Christ sees it and to love those who are so completely different than myself in the way that Christ loves them. I pray daily that I may become the hands and feet of Christ; perhaps this grand adventure will be a refiner’s fire in my formation.