27 December 2009

Christmas in Phnom Penh, Cambodia - Finally

Isn't it great that no matter where you go in the world, you can find fellow Christians with whom to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ? Christmas this year was different to any I'd known before. Not because I was in Cambodia and it was hot and dusty, because this is my third Cambodian Christmas, and Christmas in Australia can be hot and dusty too. It was different because this year I had family to share my Cambodian Christmas with. My first Christmas I shared with a couple of other Aussies who were also far from friends and family on that special day. The second I was pretty much on my own, although I enjoyed fellowship at the local Anglican church (not where I usually attend), and enjoyed a trip to the new school, which was very much in early stages of construction.

So how did I spend Christmas Day this year? We had a relatively relaxed breakfast, and exchanged a few gifts (Mum, Jenny's got yours to bring home with her), and then headed off to the ICF Centre for a quick music practice before a 10am service. I was singing this time. The service lasted a little less than an hour, and it was rewarding to see the auditorium full of people, all gathering to celebrate Jesus birth. After church and fellowship we headed to a local restaurant serving western and Khmer food for a decadent Christmas lunch. We then walked the short distance to Wat Phnom so Jenny and Murray could say they had done all 10 items on the top 10 things to do in Phnom Penh list, and while they did that, I paid the electricity bill. Yes, that's right, I paid the electricity bill - Christmas Day is just another work day here in Phnom Penh. After that it was home to Skype Mum and wish her a happy Christmas, after which packing was the order of the day, with much to be done, and not enough time to do it in. I made a quick trip out to the school to get some more boxes, and was amazed to find the place a hive of industry. There were two staff members working in the office, and other folk working on finishing off construction and installation tasks, and I very much doubt that anyone was getting any "overtime". I then achieved one of the Christmas Day challenges a friend had set for me, to make someone laugh, which I definitely did as I tried to secure a number of large flattened boxes on the back of my moto! I wish I'd got someone to take a photo of that one! I finally bumped over the very bumpy road back to the main road and managed to get home without losing any of my boxes. More packing and a light dinner of sandwiches rounded out my Christmas Day! Bed was very late that night.

"Boxing Day" as 26th December is traditionally known to us Aussies was spent moving house. We had 3 vans from the school with drivers and one extra person, as well as my sister and brother-in-law to help with the move. With 4 van loads everything was done (and these vans have seats, so they don't pack as neatly as a delivery van or moving truck). Then was the fun part of getting everything up to the first floor. The guys took one look at the stairs and set up a system of roping boxes and furniture and taking it up over the balcony. Very efficient actually. Big things (like the refrigerator) did have to come up the stairs but they did that well too. The guys arrived with the vans at 8am, and by 12 noon all was done (except the unpacking and sorting). With boxes everywhere, and the house in chaos, we headed to a local coffee shop for some lunch, and then the afternoon was spent rearranging boxes and furniture and even unpacking some boxes.

Sunday 27th December started with an early morning phone call from South Toowoomba Baptist Church, during which I was interviewed as part of a missionary service. All the other missionaries from South were actually there in person, so they wanted to include me as well. That was pretty special. Hopefully what I said was meaningful to some of the folk there. After that it was time to roll over and catch a few more zzzzzz's, before rising late. Then it was discovered that while we could now boil the kettle, there was no milk, necessitating a quick (or not so quick) trip to the grocery store. While out I also got a few other essential items, like breadrolls for lunch and a newspaper. More rearranging of furniture and boxes ensued, as well as some unpacking of boxes, and setting up the keyboard so Jenny could practice for the afternoon service. At 2pm we all loaded ourselves into a tuk-tuk, and headed off to pick up a guitar for Murray to play, then over to the ICF for the 4pm service, which I was leading, with my family team on instruments and another missionary to help with vocals.

After church, and some time of fellowship, we headed out for dinner with friends, at a restaurant offering New Zealand steak for the very reasonable price of $7.50. Yummy. A treat not often had, and I got a baked potato as well - mmmmmmm! Next stop was a local mall to get some DVDs, and frozen yoghurt for desert, and finally back to my friends' place for coffee (peppermint tea). One of my friends drove us home and finally I unpacked one more suitcase, wrote this blog, and am about to head for bed!

Goodnight all, and I trust you have had a happy and blessed time over the Christmas weekend.


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