Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Cambodia, Day 2

Lesson learned at breakfast, in two parts. Part one, if the menu shows Khmer kuy tiev, order it. It's a broth with white noodles and cooked I'm-not-sure-what meat, and it tastes wonderful. Sprouts and a small lime come on the side, but I didn't notice those until I was nearly done, so I apparently had the bland version of the soup and it was still wonderful. Hot soup for breakfast is a Cambodian thing; it raises body temperature so the ambient temperature doesn't seem so bad, and it's hearty enough to power a full day's strenuous activity. And the utensils work differently: you hold a spoon in one hand and chopsticks in the other; you spoon up broth and chopstick the soup's ingredients on top, and then take a bite. I didn't really master it, since it involved using a spoon with my non-dominant hand, but that was another chance for me to feel like a child again, lacking mastery of basic tasks. Good meal, and good lesson.

Part two, if Pastor Troy recommends something, try it. I never in a million years would've ordered Khmer kuy tiev on my own, but it was superb. Good meal, and good lesson.

The bulk of today we spent in a mini-bus on the very last, please merciful Lord Jesus let this be the last, leg of the journey: Phnom Penh to Battambang.  The mini-bus belonged to a school called Kids College, which I thought was apt, so on a pit stop people obligingly posed with the name:
To people-, building- and traffic-watching, we added wildlife-watching: there were caribou and water buffalo foraging for any hardy blades the drought had spared. There were chickens and piglets being transported alive by the dozens or hundreds while hanging upside-down from their legs. The piglets were in a truck, but the chickens were all suspended from a motorcycle.

In Battambang, we made contact with Sam at the Cambodian Christian Church Organization. Pastor Troy sat and made plans with the staff while we had a look at the Hope Bible Institute campus. 

Just across the road, there was a gaggle of young children whom I suspect had played with foreign visitors before, because they waved at us excitedly from the moment we turned into the driveway. Morgan decided that squirming, happy children interested her more than the HBI facilities, so she approached them to get to playing. They had tiny attacks of shyness and retreated a few feet, but she persisted, and other NCU students joined her, and before long, the ice was broken. They took turns chasing each other playfully a short distance while the children worked up the courage to come close. Then they played a simple imitation game, taking turns being the leader and doing something silly for everyone else to imitate. Finally, the last of the kids' shyness broke, and our students picked them up, gave piggyback rides, gave shoulder rides, and swung them every which way.
The nice thing about the play session with the children was that it was entirely unplanned. All credit to Morgan for reaching out instinctively and fearlessly to make a connection, for showing friendliness and warmth that washed away her foreignness. 

After dinner, we met on the hotel veranda and circled up for a debrief and preview of days to come. Pastor Troy pointed out that the building across the parking lot was a KTV, a Cambodian karaoke bar where customers would negotiate with hostesses for a girl to take elsewhere. We've traveled a very long way to arrive here, but we've found what we heard about, and we're close enough to pitch in and make a difference. The problem operates on a dizzying scale, and has roots that are tangled, complex and stubborn, but we're here to minister where we see openings.

Tomorrow we visit our first house church. No more travel: we're here.

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