Sunday, May 15, 2016

Cambodia, Day 7

Today was a travel day: Battambang to Siem Reap. Ordinarily, we would make the trip by boat, but Cambodia is suffering from a drought of history-making intensity  and the river is too low, so instead we traveled by mini-bus. Disappointing, but a lot more comfortable and energy-conserving.
What I've seen so far on this trip resembles what I've seen on all my previous short-term mission trips: the group is growing more and more cohesive. In part, that's because we have long hours to kill, so we chew over what we're seeing, and we tell stories, and we play games, and uncertainty reduction theory says all that verbal exchange coupled with nonverbal warmth should reduce uncertainty and increase liking. And it does, plainly. But I think a bigger part of it is the shared work: we come to each other's aid, we pitch in, we feel satisfied at what we accomplish together. I think, and have thought for years, that shared work is sadly underappreciated as a way to tighten and strengthen relationships of all kinds, especially in American culture.

I arrived at NCU in the fall of 2007, and I was one of seven new hires that year. On a faculty our size, that's a big infusion of new faces. At new faculty orientation, there was an icebreaking game that I've blotted out of my memory, an effort at using planned, scheduled "fun" to jump-start collegial relationships. It didn't accomplish much. But right after that, we had a work session, in small groups, to mark up part of the school's strategic plan and suggest changes. It was fairly unengrossing work, but at the end of that hour, that's when I first felt some recognition and some closeness with my new colleagues.

Something like that is happening here. My curmudgeonly opinion of "kids today" is that they too often put fun and enjoyment at the focus of what they do. They do that in their down time, and many of them expect it during work time as well. I don't think they're lazy or childish to do so, but I do think they're missing out. Fun for fun's sake is like a meal of cotton candy: nice flavor, but too insubstantial. Doing meaningful things, and weaving in fun as a by-product, is a far more effective and sustainable strategy. It works the same way being liked works: people who set out with being liked as their goal are often the least likable, while people who proceed from integrity and comfortability with themselves find themselves popular as an indirect, not direct, outcome. The harder you try, the more it eludes you, but the more you turn your focus to what really ought to matter, the more good luck you seem to have as a fringe benefit. This, in other words

All of the above is my long-winded way of arguing that we're growing closer in large part because we're working together, and I'm thankful for that opportunity. And may God continue to bless and establish it!

People are getting sick; no emergencies, but some moderately scary developments. Sarah spent a couple of days fighting off fever and nausea, and today Sway and Calvin both took to their beds. Sway was up and around in a few hours, thinking it might have been a reaction to a bite, or a scorpion sting, or something similar. But for Calvin, we had to call a doctor: he was having enough trouble keeping anything down that dehydration became a genuine possibility. He's better, but we're still watchful. We've done some focused, no-nonsense praying for health, and it would be wonderful if you kept our health in your prayers as well: for Sarah and Sway and Calvin to be restored to complete health, and for the rest of us to be protected from illness.

Tomorrow, we visit Rapha House. No photographs allowed, so the day's blog post will be even more of a wall of text than this one.

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