Hello from the Kingdom of Cambodia! I am so thankful to have you as a supporter of my work here. After a month and a half here, I think I have finally found my groove. Here is an update on what is happening in my world.
I’m really enjoying my work at Daughters. We’ve submitted two grants proposals already, a grant update, and are gearing up for the holiday season. I’m working on a really interesting sponsorship program, where myself and a translator interview individual girls on their stories. While I don’t have much of a handle on the Khmer language, it’s beautiful to see the girls go from looking down at their hands while talking about their past life to looking up and maintaining eye contact when talking with pride about their job at Daughters. They sit up a little straighter, smile, and even laugh. The physical change very striking. This has been a great time for me to get to know the girls on an individual (and very personal) level. I feel honored that they trust me with their stories. It also gives me a chance to interact more with the women during work breaks. I can say “hello” and interact with their children at the Daycare Center.
Another way I get to interact with the girls is through a work out class I’m now teaching once a week. It’s focused on healthy activities – drinking clean water, why it’s important to work out, and how to do so safely. It’s a lot of acting out on my part. Showing bad posture versus good posture, for example. I get a lot of laughs this way. Again, this is a way for me to build friendships and trust with the women. I’m no longer the “new white girl in the administration office”.
My health has improved dramatically. My asthma is under control and I’m back to 100% health (and my spunky attitude). To quote my office mate, “Jenna, you are so much prettier and white.” (The Khmer culture is very focused on fair skin. Where I’m trying to get a tan, they are putting whitening ingredients on their skin to get pale). Personally, I think I’m less red in the face since I’m not struggling so hard to breath every day. One of the big reasons for my health improvement is due to the fact that I’ve moved into a new Khmer house. I’m actually next door neighbors with my boss and her family. Her son, Toby, comes over to go do homework and talk about Star Wars, almost every day. There are currently three women living in my house, one from Indonesia, one from Seattle, and myself. We named the house, “The House of Healing” and hope it will be a place of rest and community for fellow expats and short term missionaries. I’ll be honest, it’s a little out of my budget and I’m working hard to make it a home. If you are interested in learning more about this project, please shoot me an email and I’ll send you some details. Also, if you want to come visit, please let me know!
I’ve been able to secure a moto. I’ve fondly named her “Cascade” as a little homage to my Portland roots. Through my home church, Oaks Parish, I was able to connect with missionaries who have been here for 23 years. The husband, Dave, has a moto ministry, where he and a group of Khmer men ride around the various providences praying and encouraging other pastors. Dave helped me find the moto and introduced me to some Khmer men who can help me if I have any moto issues. I’ve been so blessed to have them as friends.
I’m still working on making more friends here, but I was able to safely check out Bon Om Touk, a big water festival here in Cambodia. And attended the last, national soccer game against Jordan. (We lost 0-1, but my friends were super excited because typically we loose 0-7… I really enjoy the Cambodian optimism in life.)
Again, I really love hearing from everyone back home. Please send me an email and let me know how life is.