Monday, August 26, 2013

Singapore, Cambodia and Thailand

Well, I've been back from my vacation for a little over a week now, coming back to reality can be tough. It took over 28 hours of traveling to finally get back to Japan and from the beginning I wasn't feeling well. Following the red eye flight, on the 2nd plane flight from Beijing,China to Japan, sitting on the inside seat, I nearly threw up on a handful of Asian people, before swallowing each of the four outbursts as I rushed to the bathroom. I think all the Asians were wondering what was wrong with the sunburned white guy and the sunburned white guy was just relieved he didn't make the Asians feel his misery.

After not eating Sunday, going to bed at seven and eating mostly fruit on Monday I'm feeling a lot better. It was rough return.

It was good going back to school last week. The six weeks of summer at school is really slow paced, many of the teachers and almost all of the kids are gone. The kids remaining are the daycare children between first and fourth grade. I brought my frisbee and and played basketball with the kids for much of today's "workday".  I even got invited to a co-ed basketball league by one of the daycare assistants (basketball is not all that popular in Japan, I think half the kids still think the picture in my English room of Kobe Bryant is Michael Jordan)

The trip with my Japanese church to Singapore and Cambodia was a great experience. I underrated Singapore, previously limiting it to a big, clean shopping mall. I met so many great people there. The food also has to be the most diverse in all of Asia (I even got to eat at Baja Fresh!). The atmosphere is more relaxed than Japan. I was also reminded how nice it is when most people speak your language.

The work in Cambodia will stand out the most vividly. The church I attend in Mito, along with a church in Singapore started an English school in Siem Reap, Cambodia last year. We taught English to kids from the ages of 6 or 7 all the way up to about 22. The kids are so impressive. It was amazing. Most of the students were going to another full time school, or working during their free time, or both. From young to old, they were all so open to learning. On one occasion we had the opportunity to read with the students and one teenager I was helping picked out and studied an english grammar book!

I was humbled at how open they all were to accepting me. It was actually refreshing to not know any Khmer, there was no pressure feeling like I should be able to communicate in their language and we seemed to get along all so well. I'll never forget the first night, eating at a buffet with the 18 year old bus driver for the school, who spoke almost no English, but has a love for food which I think rivals mine. We kept going back and back again for more food, each time I would pick up whatever he picked up. I figured, being Cambodian and all, he would know best. We hit if off the rest of the week from the buffet.

Several of the kids began referring to me as "Boung Toum" which means older brother. And I developed really good relationships with the older students as well. Again, it was so humbling to see their openness and love in opening up to me.

Leaving Cambodia was really difficult. I left a piece of my heart in Cambodia. Great things are happening there. There are too many stories to tell.

I was not surprised with the poverty I saw in Cambodia, but it did make me wonder why I race to accumulate things and stuff and money. And it's been good to think about how I can best use the money I do make and what the purpose of money really is.

After Cambodia, the Love and Serve team traveled back to Singapore and stayed there a few days. It was a tremendous experience traveling with the others. I got to make new Singaporean friends and also got closer with the many young people from the church in Mito, Japan.

When most people went back home from Singapore, Austin Powell and I went onto Thailand to vacation. The first night we stayed in Bangkok with, Son, a Thai friend of Austin. He was amazing to us. After the first night, we traveled onto Koh Chang, an Island about five hours south of Bangkok. It was nice to have a break and relax. While it was fun, Cambodia was the place where part of my heart remains. The pictures will say more than I can.


Angkor Wat Temple, built in the 13th century

Little Bro

The head teacher of Banyon Community School, Pheakdey. 


Muoy Thai Boxing