Thursday, June 10, 2010

Changes and Chances

Things have been moving too fast to even explain. I feel like I’m constantly playing catch-up.

But I’ll try my hardest to remember everything as Katy Perry sings about Vegas in my ear (that’s for you Katie Acheson)

We left off in Phnom Pen. The city of…dirty streets… filthy water… the poorest people in the world… you know the quality things in life. And at first, this is all I believed Phnom Pen to be. And we were to spend 5 days there…

But after learning about the landmines that are ruining the country side for farmers, The Killing Fields that were basically the Holocaust for this country, Aziza’s Place that is using art to heal and grow (Katie, I found you a place to work when you come live here), meeting SOMALY MAM one of the most incredible women in the UNIVERSE and meeting the women who she is rescuing, understanding how HAGAR is reaching out and accepting the hardest of human conditions… I think Phnom Pen isn’t so bad.

We also got to visit the waste pickers of the dumps in Phnom Pen and went to CSARO which is providing health care and schooling for the children of these sites. And they are children. We’re talking 3 to 12 year olds who pick through trash trying to find recyclables for their families to earn about 50 cents per child. They usually don’t have that many clothes on or shoes. We saw many examples of that in the children at CSARO, kids with white scars all over their brown little frail bodies. Many of them were sleepy because they were so malnourished. Unfortunately, they are a source of income and after our time with them, they shortly returned to the dump.

By far one of the greatest people we met was Sue with HAGAR. She opened our eyes to the extremely marginalized in Cambodia including those who are mentally disabled and Vietnamese. HAGAR is also more concerned with healing a person entirely from their trauma and getting them back on their feet. But they will also take as long as possible. They are by far one of the most thorough NGO’s we’ve been to. The best part was not only the food the restaurant produces but also when Sue explained Popeye moments to us. When Popeye sees Olive Oyl facing injustice he says “That’s it. I just can’t takes it no more,” pops open a can of spinach and kicks ass. As she left she reminded us, “Keep your eye out for Popeye, you never know where he’s gonna be.”

God’s heart is in Cambodia. God is in the Buddhist Temple, He’s in the scars and wounds on children, He’s in the dirty streets filled with durian and feces, He’s in the hotel rooms where women lose a little bit of themselves every night. More than anything He’s in the smiles of the broken hearted, He’s in the homes filled with love, He’s in the children who run naked into the water, He’s in Aziza’s Place and HAGAR and CSARO and Somaly Mam’s home. And I feel Him now, as I sit here waiting for time to bring me back to comfort and my normal life. With my nose plugged and suitcase packed, He keeps breaking my heart for the people who He loves.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Now Let's Review...

Elephant in Chiang Mai

So I now realized that I jumped from Pattaya to Chiang Saen. So much happened in between then! So I'm going to give a brief update from Chiang Rai to my current location of Siem Reap.

Chiang Rai

When we first arrived in Chiang Rai, the group did what we do best and that was eat. We got to try cow soy (not how you spell it but this is the way it sounds sooooo…). It was delicious! We learned about Doi Chang coffee which is grown in the old opium fields of the Doi Chang tribe (Elephant Mountain). The next day we went out to the SOLD Project Resource Center that is now the FREEDOM Project Center. After working with this Thai village outside of Chiang Rai, they realized that the children not only needed an education but they needed an environment that would promote the education they were getting. They need 7000 more dollars to finish the center, like putting walls on the bottom floor and computers for the kids to learn on.

We then went to the village to spend the night with our homestays. Courtney and I had the pleasure of staying with Cat, the first sponsored child of the SOLD Project. She was adorable. Living with her sister, brother-in-law and nephew, Cat is extremely studious refusing to even go out and play before she finished her homework.

Probably some of the most enjoyable parts of the homestay were the hospitality. They let us eat their awesome food, with our hands mind you. Cat even made herself late to school because we slept in. It was a bit of confusion because we were told they would wake us up so we were waiting for them. But they never came. Either way we walked her to school even when she wanted to take us to the resource center.

That afternoon we laid the concrete of the resource center for the whole ground floor even though the locals thought we wouldn’t be able to finish it in one day. It was a great accomplishment.

I then spent far too much money at the night bazaar in town but it was totally worth it for the bargains and sweet gifts I got.

Bug bites I got. We're guessing it was a poisonous spider. It made my ankles into kankles :(

Chiang Saen

Much of our Chiang Saen visit was explained in my earlier posts. But it should be said that the situation at the Golden Triangle (borders of Laos, Thailand and Bhurma) is devastating and there needs to be action on governmental and human rights levels.

It’s hard to write about the full day we spent with the children of Chiang Saen. My heart breaks for those on the streets, stuck seemingly between a rock and a hard place. But I have hope for people like Kru Nam, JK and NGO’s like Volunteers for Child Development Foundation (VCDF). They bring so much light to the darkest corners of these children’s lives. They care so much. They are truly inspiring.

Children at the Bhurma Thai border
Heidi and this handsome fellow
Chiang Mai

By far the most fun filled day starting with the Sung Tao ride from hell. Our driver didn’t understand what the break was. But the ride was worth it when at the end were elephants. Literally trembling with joy I had to hold back tears. I know it sounds weird but I never imagined myself to be in Thailand riding an elephant when I was younger. I never thought I’d be traveling considering I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to leave Portland. It was an amazing place to just stop and thank God for the opportunities and gifts He’s given me, not only through this trip but in my education, friends and family. And He definitely blesses me through elephant rides, rafting and bamboo rafts. Thank you Jesus!

Siem Reap, Cambodia

Here we visited the Angkor Tom which is where all the temples in Angkor are located. Yes, I went to Angkor Wat, one of the 7 manmade world wonders. I also went to the Jungle Temples where I got to take a picture that looks just like the one on my blog!

Although we had an incredible tour guide and his knowledge of the temples was fascinating and just plain cool, it was also 115 degrees outside and we all were having a hard time focusing. It was still worthwhile and very cool.

Today we went to the Landmine Museum and learned about all the landmines not only in Cambodia but also in Thailand and Vietnam. It’s devastating how often people are not killed but just destroyed by the landmines.

Unfortunately it’s midnight and I’m having a hard time staying up! But I love everyone. Thank you for reading.

If everyone could be praying for the group when it comes to illnesses I’d be grateful. The whole group is suffering from an assortment of sickness, including my roomie Kelly. So please keep us in your prayers!