26 April 2011

Why are there wars?

OK. I'm not really expecting an answer to that question. It goes with out saying that there is ultimately only one reason why there are wars, and it all starts with a one letter word that sits in the middle of a three letter word. Yep, you guessed it. SIN So why am I thinking about this at the moment? Well, as I go on with my daily routine of sleeping, eating, teaching, eating, working and sleeping, there are people in this country that I call "home" who have had to leave their homes, and have no real idea when they might get back to them. More than 20,000 people. Not only that, but there are more people on the other side of the border in the same situation.
You can find out more about it here and here and here.
At times I have to wonder why governments around the world spend billions of dollars on tools for defence (or war), and yet so many go without even one daily meal, or clean water, or adequate sanitation, or a dry bed (or even a place to call home). Surely in this age of instant communication we can do better than that! Sadly, people across the world continue to suffer while governments dispute land ownership or other things.
What can I do?
I can be sure I teach the children in my care that there are better ways to solve problems than fighting, and give them the tools to do it. Who knows, maybe one day one of the children I have the privilege of teaching as an 8-10 year old now will be in a position of leadership in his/her country, and will be able to help prevent future conflicts.
Cambodia is still a troubled country. It is still rebuilding from years of internal and external conflicts. Please pray for Cambodia. Pray for the leaders of this beautiful country, that they will seek peace with their neighbours and will also make wise choices in their leadership. Pray too, that God will continue to make Himself known to Cambodians. Pray for Cambodians sharing His love with their own people, and for expats sharing His love. This country and these people need to know that love Jesus. Which reminds me of a line in a song that has been around for many years, "You're the only Jesus, some will ever see". Please pray for me to, that those people around me will see Jesus in me.

24 April 2011

He is Risen!

He is Risen indeed!

What a privilege it is to know the peace that passes understanding because of what Jesus has done for us.

Easter in Cambodia is very different to Easter in Australia. To start with, the first "Easter eggs" I saw this year were at a local cafe that I had lunch at yesterday. They had a few foil wrapped eggs, and a range of special bunnies and chickens. It was fun to choose a few to share with a friend last night. Hot cross buns are also not easy to come by. I was able to buy a couple at another cafe on Friday and enjoy them on Saturday morning for breakfast. Not quite "Brumby's" but they were pretty good toasted.

What was I doing shopping on Good Friday? Well, Good Friday is just another day here in Cambodia. Even the Christian school that I worked at last year did not have it as a holiday (and hasn't ever since I've been here). Usually we have Khmer New Year somewhere around this time, although they haven't coincided since I've been here, and since we have a week off school for that, another holiday's not really an option. With school starting at 7.30am and teachers arrival time being 7.00am, that doesn't leave room for attending a worship service in the morning, and by the time 6pm came (which was when the Catholic service was), I was just ready to go home, so I didn't get there. Instead I read the Easter story again myself.

On Saturday I had a lovely, sociable, and productive day. First I met with a young Khmer lady who tutors one of my students each afternoon. That was a lovely time. She was very keen to hear how we could work together to help him make faster progress, and to pick up some tips to increase her own English learning. Next job was to head home and do some downloading so I have a package of material ready for my student and his tutor on Monday morning! Then I pumped the tyres on my bicycle, and headed around to the OMF team centre, where I met up with a lovely lady from Thailand who has recently moved to Phnom Penh, Cambodia. We cycled out to a place called "The Shop Too", where we shared a pizza for lunch, and enjoyed getting to know each other a little. Despite the flatness, it was hard work riding my bicycle, since I don't do it very often, but I did enjoy the journey. After lunch I succumbed to the temptation of buying Easter chocolates to share with another friend. Then it was home for more downloading and printing!

In the evening my friend and I headed across town to the riverfront, where we enjoyed a plate full of vegies each! Yummy. Sometimes I have roast meat with it, but this time it was just vegies. Very satisfying. We returned to my friend's home to enjoy a movie on TV for a while, and while there, it decided to pour rain! Now this was not just a little bit of rain, but a true tropical thunderstorm, complete with copious flashes of lightning and rumbles of thunder. It didn't just last 20 minutes though, but went on for over an hour. Eventually we decided I'd spend the night at my friend's place and head home in the morning. I'm glad I did, because when I came home this morning I still had to go through water up to 6 inches deep to get home. It had obviously been much deeper overnight, and I was very glad I hadn't attempted it in the dark (especially as our roads here tend to develop new potholes every time it rains)!

This morning I had the joy of celebrating our Lord's resurrection at the local Anglican church in Phnom Penh. Having attended an Anglican school for high school I am quite comfortable with the liturgical service, and it was truly meaningful today. What a great day to have communion and celebrate together the truth that Jesus is Alive! This evening I'm looking forward to meeting a new little girl, who is just 10 or 11 weeks old, to seeing how much her big sister has grown, and to catching up with her parents. God is good. ALL the time!

As you take time this Easter to remember our Lord and all He has done for you and me, take time to remember also those who do not know Him, and pray that our lives will be such that those around us want to know the source of the true peace and joy that we know.

Christ has died. Christ has risen. Christ will come again!

17 April 2011


Well, I've just finished celebrating the third "new year" this year. The first was International New Year's Day on the 1st of January, then from 3rd to 5th February it was Chinese New Year, and finally this week, from 14th to 16th April we have celebrationed Khmer New Year (I know there have been a number of other countries, like Thailand and Bangladesh that have also celebrated their New Years Day this week too.).

Today is the last day of the second longest holidays in the school year (aside from the summer break). We get two weeks at Christmas time, and we have just had a whole week for Khmer New Year. Between now and the end of school I have two 3-day weekends, and one 5-day weekend, and I've got ten weeks to go! Then we have our "Summer" holidays which last 8 weeks.

Khmer New Year is actually a great time for staying at home when you live in Phnom Penh, because a very large proportion of the rest of the population leaves town. Businesses progressively started closing down for the holidays last weekend, with Thursday to Saturday being the official Public Holidays. As the week went on things got quieter and quieter. The house has been very quiet, with most of the other residents away for the holidays or part of them anyway. Wednesday I went to school for a while, and had some productive time. It was lovely and quiet, but got a little hot after lunch as the sun beat down on my classroom. That's OK, nothing was really urgent, so I headed home where it was a little cooler.

Thursday brought a visit from a friend for part of the day, together with a holiday project! I had very generously given this friend a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle some time ago, and her response was that she hoped I'd help her do it! This holiday break was the perfect time to do that. Wow, this was some jigsaw. There were so many pieces that seemed to be the same shape, and the colours were so similar on many pieces. I started at the bottom, with the water and reflection, while my friend started at the top. First of all we put the edge pieces together, and then it was go for it. My friend finished the sky first, which I thought was amazing, then I finally finished the watery parts yesterday evening. Finally this afternoon we combined forces to complete the centre of the puzzle. Here it is! Hooray. We did it!

Other holiday activities have included a dental appointment, lodging an application for a new passport,  reading books, sleeping in, and some baking. All in all a lovely time.

Tomorrow it's back to school, so I'd better stop procrastinating and make sure everything is ready. The alarm clock will go off way too early tomorrow, and I won't be able to press the snooze button. Just as well I love my job!

08 April 2011

Fun and Games

Khmer New Year is just around the corner, so celebrations were in order today, being the last school day before the holiday.

I had a slowish start to the day, after a rough night, but the day ended up being lots of fun. Just before recess I gave all the children a number from 1 to 9, which determined which team they would be in for the coming Khmer New Year games. At 10.45am we all headed downstairs, and the children joined their teams (made up of students from grades 3 to 8). Each group then moved through a series of traditional Khmer games and dancing. The dancing didn't go so well, but a good time was had by the students. Here are a few snaps from the morning.
A Khmer variation on "dog and bone".

Tom & Jerry (a variation on the old "cat & mouse" game).

Everyone together for a final time of dancing!
I took a lot more, but it's not easy to get good photos of running children, especially in a confined space.

After the games were over we had lunch, then it was time for swimming with the boys and PE for the girls. When those activities were over we returned to the classroom to pack up, and then headed up to the PE area. We cannot often have it on Friday afternoons, but the high-schoolers were having a party today, so we were able to have it. We have a space the size of a small basketball court on the roof of one of the buildings. This afternoon I had decided to introduce the children to T-ball. I had brought the set over some years ago when I knew I would have to teach my own PE, and since it wasn't used at all during my last year at Logos, I had it with me. It is a good set for the confined space we have because it uses a foam covered bat and foam balls. The children had a lot of fun, and we only lost the ball about 5 times. I say lost, since the fencing around the roof area, while safe for children and great for stopping big balls (like basketballs and volleyballs) from going off the roof, didn't do much for stopping our smaller balls. We did get the balls back, with a big thank you due to Mr Dy and Mr Sambath for running down and up two flights of stairs to retrieve them each time! Sorry, no photos of this, but the children had lots of fun, and have asked if we can do it again.

Well, I'm off to enjoy a quiet evening with a friend as a quiet start to the week's holidays. What am I looking forward to most of all? Not having to get up at 6am every weekday morning for a whole week!

06 April 2011

Two days to go

Another teacher commented on Facebook that today (like most Wednesdays) is "hump" day. If we can get over that "hump" it's a downhill run to the weekend. I'm feeling a little like that this week.

After a relaxing weekend, it was back into the usual busyness of the school week on Monday. Things were going OK, then one student had a meltdown during Language Arts, which, while it wasn't major, did put things a little out of whack. Thanks to some support from administration that problem was resolved, and the rest of the day wasn't too bad. Monday is a long day, with an hour of maths after-school program from 2.30 - 3.30pm. That has actually been a really good program, with 8 students participating, and discovering that mathematics can be fun! Yes, we do some work, but with small numbers we can use manipulatives more, and we can play games more easily as well. The next job on the agenda was to post some packages, and that was really fun. Two packages of papers ended up costing about $20 to post, and both envelopes ended up totally covered in stamps (just enough room for the address). Then it was time to head home before the traffic got any busier.

Tuesday was a pretty normal day. No meltdowns today, and music in the afternoon too! We are learning "Puff the Magic Dragon" at the moment and the children are loving it. My fingers are saying "ouch" as I'm playing it on guitar, but that's OK. After school I decided to stay and get some papers graded and finish off my planning for the rest of the week. It was a productive afternoon, and getting home later meant the evening went very quickly! Too quickly in fact.

Today was "hump" day. Wednesday is the last day of the week when I get any prep time during the teaching day, so I made the most of that, as well as the fact that I was not on duty at all today. This afternoon we had our first day of parent teacher conferences. They went very well. It's encouraging to hear how happy most of the parents are, and always useful to hear their concerns. It's also great to be able to share some of the things their children are learning. This time the children were all invited to attend the conferences, and that was great too. They were able to say some of the things they are learning, and it also helps to get kids and parents on the same page when it comes to homework too! It was good to hear that the possibility of missing Fun Friday is a good incentive for a number of kids to do their homework properly and on time. It is also really great to have such a wonderful Khmer teaching partner. He's a great translator, and great with the kids.

More conferences tomorrow, then Khmer New Year games on Friday. After that I get a whole week off! Hooray for Khmer New Year holidays. It's hard to believe we are so far through the school year. Just ten weeks to go! And there are 5 public holidays scattered in there (3 in one block) so it will go even faster. Time for bed now. Tomorrow will be here way to soon. Goodnight world. :)

02 April 2011

The Power of Three (Part 3)

Stay close!

This afternoon I had the privilege of attending part of the wedding ceremony of one of our Khmer teachers at EWIS. I was substantially late, partly because I was late leaving home and partly because I ended up having to take a considerable detour when I wasn't allowed to turn left at an intersection where previously I could. Life's like that. Anyway, back to the topic. I arrived in time for the closing part of the minister's message to the bride and groom, and while his remarks were directed at the bride and groom, they could really be applied to each one of us (albeit with some modification for those of us who are single). I thought that this set of three "stay close" remarks was worth sharing.

1. Stay close to the Lord. If we're not walking closely with Him, spending time with Him, worshipping Him, bringing our cares and concerns and needs to Him, and resting in His presence, then life never seems to go quite so well.

2. Stay close to each other. Obviously important for marriage, but equally important in other relationships. It's quite possible to stay close to our families even though we are many miles apart.

3. Stay close to your friends. Relationships with those outside our families are also important. Even introverts need time with other people. No matter who we are, we truly need friends. I'm grateful to God for my friends, especially those who take time to encourage me even when I haven't had much time to spend with them.

Thanks Lord for the reminder to "stay close"!

I pray that my colleague will indeed "stay close" to his Lord, to his new wife, and to his friends.