Monday, July 28, 2008

And a few more....again, Thanks Sarah for your pictures...

This is Tearom, relaxing on Om Heurn's bed in the middle of the day.
This was when a few of us went out on the riverfront for my birthday it was a really good time.
Okay, so when I arrived Om Heurn told me to save a particular date because I was going to a wedding on that day. I thought that would be fun. It was apparently for a neighbour, but I didn't know him. So when the day arrived, I suddenly realised that when Om Heurn was saying I was going, she meant only me. Well, as 'comfortable' as I was navigating new cultural situations with my unbelivably fluent Khmai (that's a joke)... I communicated to Om Heurn that although I was grateful to be invited to the wedding I was really not happy going alone, so she managed to convince Serey her neice who lives with us to go with me. Which was a real help, because she helped to interpret some of the faux pas that I was making. Such as when I was drinking beer with the men at the table, when we knocked glasses I was supposed to make sure my glass was lower than theirs because they were older than me, and I was also supposed to hold the glass with two hands..... stuff I had completely forgotten about. So yeah, I was happy someone else was there with me. Oh yeah, and Om Heurn ended up making fun of me because I was wearing this shirt (wich she had given me the time before!) because it made me look like an old man.....I can't win with her ;)

Okay! time for a few pictures...from Sarah's Camera....still can't get mine up yet...

This is a picture of most of the people who I live with. I took the family on a day out during my last saturday as a thankyou to them. We went to Wat Phnom which is a beautiful temple on a hill in the centre of Phnom Penh. After this we walked around town a bit and then I brought them out to dinner at what was the teenagers choice: 'Lucky 7' which is a western style Cambodian burger joint. The prices there are cheap for western standards, but pretty ridiculous for Cambodians, 2 dollars for a meal?! So they don't normally get to go somewhere like that. It was a really fun day.
(alright lets do names: back row Left - Right: Tearom and Mesa, Next Row L-R: Theara, Serey, Serey's Nephew-Arat, Me, Bong Arun, Om Heurn, Om Srai, Front Row L-R: Mai Mai and Sunti)
This is a picture of Bong Wat, Me and Mesa. Bong Wat is a great guy who lives in the community and is currently in Bible School. He helps to pastor a new and small struggling church outside the city but is back here on evenings and sunday afternoons.
I just thought I'd give you that familiar image of rooftops over the community. I think it's actually quite beautiful, even if all those tin roofs mean boiling hot interiors....and loud rainy nights ;)
I went along one day to TASK's annual picnic for the people living with HIV in its programmes. IT's a really fun day and we went up to visit some temples north of the city, which were beautiful and on top of a pretty large hill (notice a pattern yet?) we all had lunch together and played some fun games before returning home. This was the point when we were listening to an encouraging message from one of the HIV/Aids home-care volunteers.
And yes, this is a rare picture of me doing my laundry. Theara, my roommate is seriously one of the most servant hearted people you'll ever meet. So, during my 5 weeks there I was only able to do my laundry twice, as he would always beat me to it. I tried to return the favour and do his, but somehow I get the feeling that he doesn't think I know how to do it right....ah well.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Final Update From Cambodia

Hey Everyone,
Well, it's pretty sad to admit how close I am to leaving. It's wednesday morning here, and my flight back to England leaves Friday morning. I've gotta admit I've been waking up the past few mornings depressed. But, by the middle of the day my spirits are usually lifted again, because the family I'm living with here, and the staff that I get to hang out with are all pretty cool people.

I really don't want to leave, although I know I've got to go back and finish up these last two years of medicine. In some ways being here has really encouraged me to keep studying. There have been so many times where I just wish I had more confidence with knowing how to deal with people's complaints. When people have infected wounds (happens pretty much everyday in my community) I'm prettymuch at a loss of what to do for them more than helping people know how to clean the wounds, use antiseptic creams or drops, but when it comes to antibiotics, although if pushed I could probably tell you the mechanisms of how some of them work, I wouldn't really be able to tell you much about which one to use when.

One of the teenagers in my community Odom comes from a pretty hard background. His dad left his mom and him and his siblings at an early age, when his mom got sick. The room that his family now rents isn't really big enough for all of them, so Odom tends to rotate sleeping at our house, or at the church (which is just at the end of the alleyway). They don't have always enough food to eat, so others in the community often call him to eat with them if they see him about. He was over at our house last night, and showed us his foot. He's been working on a construction site and got a pretty deep cut from a nail. Not good. His foot is pretty infected, and really is not pretty. He's been to a local pharmacist who is giving him something for it (not exactly sure what), but I also wasn't really sure what to give him or tell him yet. This is why there are so many people advocating for basic first aid training to come early in our medical's frustrating not to be able to do anything for him at the moment, except give him some antiseptic cream, and some instruction on washing and cleaning the wound.

I'm sorry I haven't been able to post any pictures of the trip yet. I've either lost or didn't bring the cord that connects my camera up to the computer, so I'll try and get some up when I'm back in England.

God's been teaching me a lot here, about myself, Cambodia, and his Kingdom. During my time here I've been reading a book recommended by one of the servants people here called "Jesus for President". It's been a really good read (despite the cheesey title). It's really just about how often us Christians and the church have forgotten that the way God works among us, and his social order are so completely different from the ways that things normally happen in our world. I've been reminded not to put my trust in education or economies, in systems of world power, but rather to trust the servant king who was born homeless and lead a non-violent revolution to defeat hate and captivity. I think too often I seek to change things through power and money, but forget that it's impossible to change a broken system using the ways of that system. If you haven't read the book yet, I'd encourage you to do it. I think Shane is speaking something which so many of us need to hear right now.

Anyway, as always seems to happen when you're thrown into a situation that's so different from your own, these past few weeks I have really seen my inadequacies. But I've also been constantly reminded, that it's throught my weak parts, through the things that I know I can't do by myself, that God often works to bless others. It's crazy and messed up, but seems to continue to be true.

Okay there's loads more that I could talk about, but that will have to wait for individual emails or conversations when I see you next time. I'll leave you with just this, a few things to think about and pray for for Cambodia in the next few days.

1) You may have seen on the news that there are huge tensions between Cambodia and Thailand right now, over a border dispute that is years and years old. A lot of people are talking about war and although that seems to me incredibly unlikely, it's causing even more fear for many people. So pray that peace would restored to people's hearts and lives and that a non-violent acceptable solution would be found by the two countries.

2) There's also the national election occuring on Sunday. This by itself brings a lot of fear, and there have been many threats of violent retaliation if the govrning party doesn't win again. People are very fed up and don't like the current system, but also feel incredibly trapped. Pray that whatever happens, that there will not be violence and that whoever wins, will learn to have compassion on the poor of Cambodia and seek less their own interests and more the interests of those they are supposed to be serving.

3) And just a personal request, please pray that my travels go well, that I'll remain healthy my last few days here, and that I'll be able to make all the goodbyes well. Pray also that when I get back to England I won't be too depressed and will be able to find work quickly. Thanks again.


Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Another Rainy Hour in Cambodia

I'm again (once again) escaping to an internet cafe during a dounpour after a meeting I had near the Russian Market (Psaar Toul Tom Poung- for those of you who know Phnom Penh).

I can't believe that I've now just reached the mid point of my time here, it seems to be flying by far too quickly. I've been really encouraged though over the last week with some really useful meetings for my project and already talking to people here who can see the value of the work I'm doing so that really helps to keep me motivated.

I've been struck more this time about the larger picture issues facing Cambodia. Injustice is a massive problem. Many of the prisons are full of those who are inocent, but too poor to buy themselves out. When they are inside, if their families can't provide for them, they face terrible cramped conditions and malnutrition. Another issue is that so many are facing evictions in the countryside where their land is being sold from underneath them with little if any compensation. The land is mainly going to many foreign companies and individuals who are playing the speculation game. You hear from some of these farmers that they would rather die now than lose their land, because by taking their land you kill them slowly. Many totalitarian ways remain outside the city of Phnom Penh, and in many places you need to receive the permission of your village chief to have any sort of gathering, or if you wish to leave the area for any reason you also require permission from the authorities. I can't imagine living like that.

I was trying to imagine what it would be like as a struggling rural farmer to lose your land. As a suburban guy for my whole life, that sort of life-style is so removed from me, but I wonder if it wouldn't be akin to something like this, let me know what you think:

For a poor farmer, all he has ever done is farm the land. They know land and they know their crops. They know especially the land and crops that grow in their area. They might not be able to read, or might not have any other 'marketable skills,' but the land has sustained them. I think of me, I've never owned any land, and I think helping my mother when I was forced to in the back garden doesn't really count as farming. But what economically sustains or will sustain me are my education and my experiences. The fact that I've been to university, already ups the possible pay that I might get, further training as a doctor will undoubtedly provide financially for a time for me and my family in the future. So perhaps evicting a farmer from his land might be a little bit like someone wiping my mind of my education.

Perhaps, if you feel in a similar boat as me, think of what it would be like to wake up tomorrow morning and not be able to read, or not remember how to work a computer, speak technical words in your language, write a report. What would it be like to not know how to put together your thoughts in a logical order on a piece of paper in a way that other people can understand? Of course I don't know, but I imagine if it might be a little bit like that- taking away the capital that a farmer has (his land) and the capital that you have (your education). How scary would it be to live in constant fear that all you know about life and how to provide for your loved ones could be ripped away from you at a moments notice.

We are confronted by massive issues here and as I got around and meet many different organisations working here in Phnom Penh, I see even larger parts of the jigsaw that all fit together. We had a meeting for the Servants workers today, and a friend shared a passage that she has been dwelling on recently. It's in Luke and it's the story of the goats and the lambs. There's a whole lot of stories that Jesus tells leading up to this one that helps shed even more light on this, but to keep it brief I'll just focus on this part. What are the reasons why God seperates the goats from the lambs? Was it that their churches were too small, was it that their worship music wasn't moving enough, was it that their youth programmes weren't big enough and didn't run smoothly enough (not saying that all these things aren't worthwhile perhaps) but those aren't the reasons god separates these two groups. In the story, the goats are separated because they didn't invite the stranger into their home (I probably have never really done this), they didn't clothe the naked (I have never done this), they didn't visit or take care of the prisoner (I have only very rarely done this), and they didn't feed the hungry. Okay so it's not about these exact activities per se but we get the picture.

This story is immediately preceeded by the story of the Talents. I know a lot of us feel like, 'what on earth can I do?'I was struck today, that perhaps the one in the story who was given just one talent may have felt that same way, and so he was afraid to even use that one talent. I so often feel COMPLETELY INEPT, especially when I come across people with stories and situations that are so foreign to me. I feel completely unable to do anything.

But why is it..... that when I truly believe that the way God works is to use the weakest things in the world, the things and people that the world believes are useless and inept, I don't apply that to myself? Perhaps God wants to use me in my UNBELIEVABLE ineptness; this lazy, overweight, uncoordinated, not very street-smart, suburban man to make a difference. I just need to be open to it, give up the fear- and let him.