Thursday, 27 December 2012

Christmas in Cambodia

This year I had the best Christmas ever.

The lead-up to Christmas everyone was attempting to prepare me for a lonely, depressing Christmas away from everyone. Whereas I was really excited - I got to spend all day just hanging out with and spoiling a big group of girls whom I absolutely adore. I was so excited to be here for Christmas.

And Christmas did not disappoint. It was great fun starting with the girls dressing up like princesses to open their presents. (And myself dressing up in a child-sized Santa suit). We then opened the front door for them to see a giant water park that we had set up in the front yard - water balloons, water pistols, pools, slides, and slime. It was insanity and it was great!! After drenching them with water thrown off the balcony whilst they lined up for a photo they started running around playing and didn't stop.

We ended the day with dancing and cuddles and a very full, happy heart.

Being away from family and friends for Christmas, I couldn't have asked for a greater substitute - 24 girls who were excited by the smallest things on the day. I hear the horrific stories of their past, but in them I see such incredible love, potential, and grace. They are incredible and I am so blessed to be a part of their lives.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Thanksgiving

Remember that time when it was Thanksgiving? I was going to write a post about how awesome it was despite the fact that I'm not American, nor do I live in America. It was going to be about how much I love Thanksgiving food, and more food, and more... But also about what an incredible tradition it is.

But sadly, the only part I got around to was writing the title. And then I forgot all about it. So this is it. Sorry folks.

You're welcome.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

New eyes, new heart

Today I had a day off. A real day off. *insert shouts of hallelujah*. It was a day with no uni assignment due, no pressing deadlines for anything, and no cares about what I would do. I did whatever I wanted and it was awesome.

I realised today how much I take for granted. I drove my trusty moto down to the Riverfront and just acted like a tourist. I strolled along the streets, looked through shops, ate delicious things, and not once looked at my phone or watch. I was oblivious to time and stress. I felt like I was on holidays, in my own city.

So often I miss out on things because they become common and normal - I lose the wonder and joy of this place. I forget to engage with everything around me because it just becomes my natural habitat that I shut my eyes to.

Today I let the things that I see every day amaze me. Fresh eyes and a fresh heart walking into my world. I drove through the traffic and felt the warm air whisper past my face and the rays of sun strike my skin. I walked down the street and laughed at the tuktuk drivers blowing me kisses. I went into shops and giggled when the shop assistant got a shock when I spoke to her in Khmer. I sat on my moto thinking 'oh my freakin goodness I can't believe I drive in this traffic'.

I loved it. I needed it. My heart and head were refreshed. The day stretched out beautifully instead of flying by. I realised that I had hardened myself. Somehow in working in the field I do, I had switched off to so many other things in an attempt to avoid pain.

This week a beautiful friend quoted to me that some parts of us are not meant to become calloused. Today I ripped those callouses off. I felt for the street kids I encountered and my heart broke for them, but I could also share in their joy. I allowed myself to see what was around me and just be in the midst of it. I allowed myself to see. To feel. To love.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Loss and how little I know of it

This week I have been smacked in the face by stories of grief and loss. The week began with the death of the old King of Cambodia. A national day of mourning was declared for a King who was loved by his people. Seven days later, streets are still blocked and horns do not beep around the Royal Palace. The strange silence declares their mourning. Many Khmer are dressed only in black and white to show their respect. Monks are still chanting throughout the day. The country still weeps.

With all of this occuring I was talking to one of our staff - light discussions about our families and our 'homelands'. She went on to tell me that her only surviving family is her older sister. Her parents and both of her brothers have died. She said this, and then went on to smile and joke around with me, seemingy unfazed by the losses she has experienced in her mere 23 years.

I then look at a young girl I know. Within the space of a year she lost her mother and a sister to a disease that is also slowly killing her. Within this time she also lost another sister to drowning. Yet her face rarely shows the pain of these losses. A smile covers the hurt.

Another girl told a story of being one of eight children. At 14 years old, she is the only surviving child. Disease and poverty claimed the lives of all of her siblings.

As I hear these stories and so many others, I am overwhelmed by the losses that the people in this country have faced. I cannot even fathom losses to that extent; to lose the majority or all of my family members; to be so accustomed to loss that is no longer feels out of the ordinary; to be so numbed to loss because having to feel all of that would tear you apart.

In the same moments I feel totally unequipped to be teaching about these concepts - loss and grief. What do I know about these? How do I even begin to touch on the pain, the broken hearts, the scars of memory?

As much as I don't have the experience of them, don't have that knowledge of such deep pain and loss, I hold those stories. I shed tears for them. My heart breaks for them.

I sit. I listen. I hold. That is all I can do. That is all I need to do.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Ghosts, Family, Prayer




This weekend/week in Cambodia is Pchum Ben festival. The festival goes for up to two weeks and is a time in Cambodia where the people pay their respects to their dead ancestors. The Khmer people believe that at this time the gates of hell open up and the ghosts of their relatives are very active. Food offerings are made to these relatives to avoid them cursing you for the next year. The Buddhists also believe that ancestors who are residing in heaven also benefit in some way from these offerings.

This is a time in the nation of both beauty in seeing such community and family-togetherness. However it is also a time of spiritual heaviness and fear among many people. It is not uncommon to be awoken at 3am to the sounds of chanting or wailing as the monks chant throughout the night. In a nation that already has a spiritual heaviness, times like these festivals are especially oppressing.

Please pray over this nation during this time. Please also pray over those of us who are working within the nation. My dream is to see a time like this, of beautiful community, to be a time centered around Christ. A time where people come together to celebrate God's goodness with their family and community. A time where God is praised for who He is.

I declare that over this nation and ask that you do too.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Thoughts on Healing

Today I was pondering the concept of healing. What does it look like? How does one know that they are there?

Or is it maybe that healing is experienced in each step we take in living in this crazy life. A choice to move forward. A choice to walk beyond. A choice to live.

Our feet may carry some dust from the past, but that in itself does not hinder us. The act of walking forwards has broken off the heavy, solid chunks of mud that had held us down. Maybe some people have helped break that off along the way. But in time, all that remains is dust.

I don't know when it is that my feet will be washed. Or if that is even needed. What I do know is that the dust does not hinder me nor capture me. It simply reminds me of a place I have walked away from.

And as I look down at my feet I see the place that I now stand. Dirty feet and all, I made it. I walked it. I walk on.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

There was no choice (updated)

This is a hard post to write. Mainly because of the stigma that exists in society. Maybe because I worry that others will judge me or see me differently. Maybe because sometimes I struggle to understand it too.

I used to self-harm. It has been over three years since I last cut myself, but the evidence of this time still exists in the scars that crisscross my legs to the point where wearing shorts often draws stares or strange looks.

For me self-harm was just one thing in a mix of self-destructive behaviours. It was an addiction alongside other addictions. And it was a comfort and a way of survival.

I've often wondered if self-harm was a choice, because who would ever really choose that? Yes, at the time, part of me felt that I deserved it, but it's not as if one day I woke up and thought I want to cut myself today. It was far from that simple.

Looking back I have realised that I didn't really have a choice, I didn't see any other better choices. For me the choice was literally between killing myself, or self-harming as a way of coping with life and trying to stay alive. There was no choice.

I chose life, but that looked very different to what others saw. What others saw as self-destructive, I saw as coping. What others saw as suicidal, I knew was actually a way of keeping me from that. What others saw as throwing my life away, I saw as just trying to Live. One. More. Day.

I have avoided posts such as this for so long, but I know that I need to speak out. I know that there are thousands who like I was, are just trying to survive, yet the world is telling them that they are failing. There are so many who are stigmatised when all they want is someone to sit beside them and be there. There are so many whose lives are lost to this battle.

I cannot join in the silence. Because silence only condones and upholds the stigma. Silence kills.

I know many don't understand. For someone who has never faced this struggle it is next to impossible to imagine how someone could get to the point where they actually cut their own flesh, or engage in any other number of self-harming behaviours. Many don't understand how such an act could actually self-soothe. Many don't understand how that is living.

I've discovered that often people don't need to be totally understood. They often just need to be heard. To be held. To be sat with and accepted. To be loved no matter what. To be told that who they are is still ok.

Never judge.

Edited

In time, a choice did need to be made. Or more truthfully put, a series of choices. Throughout the battle there were daily choices to keep living. There was the choice to seek help. The choice to tell trusted people who could support me through it.

After time I was able to make a huge choice. This is a choice that I couldn't have made at the start - I didn't have the strength to do it. But through a series of little choices, I grew stronger. I could make the choice to stop.

When I first started self-harming there was no choice in that. I was just trying to survive. But eventually I did have the choice to stop. That choice saved my life. That choice took strength. But that choice was able to be made. I made it.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Birthday Fun in Cambodia

Last Sunday I had my first Cambodian birthday. I was spoilt and loved on and felt ridiculously blessed. And I pretty much ate cake all day... I lie... All week.

My birthday kind of started the weekend before when I took my favourite American / adopted big sister to Kep. (Kep is code word for The Most Beautiful Place Ever).



We arrived at Kep after four hours on a bus and first adventure was our tuktuk breaking down halfway up the hill to our hotel. Our driver proceeded to lug all of our luggage up the hill to reception. And then...

I booked the hotel room for the wrong weekend. Fail. The hotel was totally booked out. Fail. The guy at reception was French and very good looking. Totally worth it.

Our poor tuktuk driver carried our luggage the whole way back down the hill to his tuktuk and then we rolled the rest of the way down the hill before he was finally able to get it started.

Long story short we found another amazing bungalow for half the price and just as much awesome.

Then came the first birthday present. Steve the Starfish.


Isn't he pretty??

We spent the day on an island and went swimming where we stumbled upon him. JJ suggested keeping him. I don't have a fishtank. The only other way was to keep him as a dried starfish. Dead dried starfish. Steve went back in the water.

Kep doesn't have cake so Oreos are a pretty close second. Apparently monkeys think so too. They tried to steal them from under the moto seat.


Monkeys are jerks. Hungry, oreo-loving jerks.

And then one week later came... CAKE!!!!


Covered in buttons and sewing materials and all things cute and wonderful. And filled with heaven (aka red velvet). Birthday happiness!

After gorging ourselves on cake we went to the theme park where I won Oliver.


And by won I mean we really really really sucked at darts so we just asked the lady how much it would be to buy him because I was determined to go home with a duck.

Example #1 of our terrible dart skills

Then I got whiplash on the dodgem cars. I blame Jenny.

All in all it was the best Cambodian birthday I could have imagined surrounded by the most fun-loving and cake-loving people. Birthday love. Happy heart.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Little Girl

Deep dark eyes
Full of stories
That none can see
None can know

Deep dark eyes
Try to hide
Push those hurts
Down below

Deep dark eyes
Full of tears
Yet not knowing
How to cry

Deep dark eyes
Never knowing
The world within
A lullaby

You took my hand
Took my heart
Pulled me down
Into your world

Showed me 'round
In your life
A broken, hurting
Little Girl

Help me, save me
She cries out
Hold me, take me
Let me out

Out of this cage
Out of this life
Out of this body
Out from this fight

Breathless, numb
Yet still in pain
A child taken
Not seen again

In her place
Stands so small
A little girl
With a story so tall

Deep dark eyes
Hiding, hurting
Wishing they
Were gone from here

Deep dark eyes
Please don't go
I wish you could see
There's something here

Something more
Than hurt or pain
Maybe you
Can smile again

Strengthened, emboldened
Little girl
Please oh please
Don't leave this world.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Stillness...

My current Ipod screen is a scripture. I’m not one of those people who put scriptures as their screensaver. Neither do I stick ugly fish on the bumper of my car/moto. That's just not me.

So therefore when I’ve actually got a screenshot of a scripture it means something big. The one that is currently sitting as my background is Exodus 14:14 – The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still.

I tried to learn how to meditate once. I ended spending the whole time thinking about how terrible I was at meditation. Same with silence, sometimes I crave it but only if it’s in conjunction with just enough busyness to drown out anything my head may be trying to tell me.

One time I challenged myself because I realised how bad I was at silence and stillness. I decided that I would have no radio in my car. At the time I was driving about 1.5-2 hours a day. I really wasn’t at all prepared for the challenge.

I hated it.

It was horrible.

Sometimes I would even roll down my window and bask in the sounds of traffic just to drown out the endless noise of silence.

So often I would actually end up in tears somewhere during the drive. And then I felt all self-conscious about the people in the cars next to me staring at me weeping alone in my car. Strange that I never used to feel self-conscious about people watching me sing and dance along to the radio (I know you all do it too. Stop judging me.).

At the same time as it being stupidly challenging, I learnt so much about myself. I confronted things in myself that I had distracted with noise and busyness, and life. And stuck in traffic, not moving, with no sound, there was nowhere I could run.

I had to face myself. Scary moment.

I realised that I spend my life on the run. Running from myself, my fears, my past, others’ expectations. But somehow I end up running around in circles, not realising I’m tangling myself like a dog who’s done an obstacle course with their chain during the night, ending up with about 2cm of length left.

I was scared of myself. I was scared of God. I was scared of letting go.

And so as far as I have come from then, being still is still a challenge. It doesn’t come naturally to me.

I grew up a lot of my life thinking that the way to ‘perfect my faith’ was to strive to be better, do better, pray better, work better, look better. It was continual striving and pushing myself to become the perfect Christian. On the outside I looked like I was doing pretty well at it. For a while I did great, I felt great. And then it all came crashing down.

I still looked like I was doing well but on the inside I was dying. I was sick of failing my ridiculously high expectations. I hated that I wasn’t perfect. In reality I was pretty much trying to be God and couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t succeed at it.

Being still, to me, is one of the most faithful expressions of trust in God. Working for Him is easy, it takes time, skills, finances. But being still takes trust. It means giving up our control and giving that control over to Him. For me, being still is the scariest thing I can do.

In saying that, being still is where I encounter God. It is where I listen, rather than spend the whole time speaking. It is there that it becomes a real relationship.

I love in friendships getting to the point where you are comfortable enough with each other to just sit there in silence and not feel awkward. That is when I know I’ve found a true friend, a friend who I am ‘me’ with. With those friends I don’t feel the need to act or please or be something. With those friends I can just be me and that’s ok.

That’s what I want with God. That’s what I’m beginning to have with God. But at the same time I get all nervous and start freaking out and trying to take back control and do and do and do. Somehow I feel that doing it myself I might get it down better and faster than God. It’s like I don’t trust God to do it right unless I’m there to micromanage him. It sounds so stupid in reflection, but I know that there are so many of us who operate this way.

Stillness. That is what I crave. And somehow in going after it, I don’t need to work towards getting it right. I can just let it be. I don’t have to be perfect or good at stillness. I just need to be still; to allow myself to be still. To let God be God. To trust. To surrender.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

My dream car

I have owned a moto for all of 48 hours. And I have not yet crashed, died, or broken any (major) road rules.

Meet Stella.



She is the best. If you're questioning how she became known as Stella watch this:


And yes. I love childrens movies. Stop judging me.

One thing I have discovered since owning a moto is that I should never, ever drive in Australia again. I have become an Asian driver. Road rules are for sissies. Driving on the wrong side of the road is completely optional. And I even got waved through a red light by a policeman on the corner because red lights are really just suggestions.

Did I mentioned that rego / road tax costs only $1.15 per year? And people wonder why I love this place.

I have always said that my dream car would be a scooter. Dream come true.

I love Cambodia.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Politics in a Third World Nation

This weekend in Cambodia has been the local elections. The past two weeks has been a buzz of huge parades down the street lead by each party, party propaganda plastered on every street, and the quiet discontent of a people who know that their votes will count only as far as the government will allow them.

In being immersed in the lead-up to the election I was speaking with some local Khmer people about the election. I was asking whether the voting was fair, whether it was counted correctly. This was their response: "Cambodia is a very corrupt country. This election is no different".

One of the stranger things I stumbled across this week was a postal box on the corner of a busy road. It had a sign on it stating "Postal Box for Complaints About Corruption". Corruption can be seen here everywhere - it's blatant and everyone gets away with it.

Being here at this time has made me realise how blessed Australia and other Western nations are. I hear so many people (and I have been guilty of this too) complaining about political parties in power, badmouthing politicians they don't like, and having a sob-fest about our political situation. I don't want to make light of politics in the west... I just think we need to be counting our blessings.

We have the right to vote for who we want. Our votes are not coerced or forced. Our votes are counted properly. The party that the majority vote for is the party which actually gains the power.

It seems basic. However so many in the world do not have these simple privileges. So many are surrounded by so much corruption that it actually becomes normal, a regular part of life. This corruption infiltrates into every part of the society. This corruption becomes life.

So today I am remembering how blessed I am. I will remember that I had a hand in voting in the leaders in my country. I will hold onto the fact that my country has empowered me to have a say. I pray that the people in nations such as this will someday have that privilege too.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Shouting without words

I've been sitting here for the past 30 minutes to try and muster up some inspiration for a blog post. Nothing. I decided that I don't have anything to say.

But then I realised I do. I have a lot to say. And as an introvert (and yes despite my ability to speak twice the speed of a normal person and my occasional loudness I am naturally incredibly shy) often the immense amount that I have to say is best said through writing. But often I don't say it. I keep it inside. Or I just talk to my journal about it. My journal never judges.

But today I started pondering why I do that. Why don't I share those things. Why don't I speak up. Multiple times in the past year I have been encouraged to find my voice and to trust my voice. That is some of the best advice I have ever received. To trust my voice means to give meaning and strength behind what I am saying. It is to trust that what I am saying is worth something. It is to believe that I have something worth hearing.

Sometimes I wonder if blogging is a narcissistic habit - expecting people to want to read my thoughts and ramblings. Expecting that my thoughts and words are worthy of peoples time. Sometimes I wonder where the line is between being confident in self and narcissistic. I think we're all a bit narcissistic actually, but that's a topic for another day.

So anyway back to the topic. Actually there is no topic so this post could really be going anywhere. Like into a forest with squirrels that ride along on your shoulder and chatter into your ear. Or into an underground cave full of glow-worms that wave their shiny little bums at you as if that's their favourite thing to do.

*and this is why the majority of my thoughts should stay in my head or in a journal or else one of these days people will realise that I'm actually nuts. But as my sister says insanity is way more fun than being normal.*

But seriously.  

I think I'm scared of judgement. I know I'm scared of judgement. I worry that no-one else thinks the way I do, that I am the anomaly in this world. I worry that if people see more of the inside of my head that I will become the outsider, that I won't be liked. To write, to speak, to trust my voice, is to be vulnerable. It is to say "this is me whether you like it or not". And following on, it is to be authentic in my actions, as words without actions mean absolutely nothing.

One of these days I will learn to use my voice. I already am learning. Sometimes my voice needs no words - sometimes it's just hugging the person that everyone else turned their eyes away from in judgement. But in whatever way I speak, through words, actions, blogs, I will always be passionate. Without passion life is sucked out of us. Without passion we are really just on a merry-go-round which isn't even moving. Without passion we stagnate. We die.

I will embrace my voice. One word at a time. I will turn my passion into words and actions. I will speak and shout, sometimes without even using words.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Chatting with Mr Frog


Tonight I was treading water in a pool, late at night, on my own, and I sparked up a conversation with a little frog sitting a metre away from me.

“Mister Frog, sometimes I wish I could trade places with you. You sit around all day, croaking and hanging out with all your froggy friends; your life seems very simple. I guess on the downside you are often hated on by people. I myself would probably not enjoy your presence very much if you were sitting any closer to me. I wonder if you even care what people think. Or is that only a trait that we humans seem to possess”

Mister Froggy looked back at me:
“Who is this strange human staring at me? I guess she isn’t screaming or throwing things at me so that’s a definite positive. What I she doing anyway, chattering away to a frog? And treading water at the same time – do these humans even know how to be still? Do they not know the simplicity of just sitting, croaking, being content with doing nothing?”

And then I had an epiphany… From chatting with a frog… Yep.

A verse I have fallen in love with lately is Exodus 14:14 – The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still. When was it that we stopped being still, that I stopped being still? When did doing become more important than being? When did stopping and resting become a task, something that has to be scheduled in? Even then, so often that ‘resting’ involves activity. Often it takes all of my will to just stop, sit, and do nothing, think nothing, have to be nothing. And generally it’s only a few minutes before I’m restless, looking for something to do.

So tonight I envied that little frog. I envied that he spends every night simply sitting, croaking away to his buddies, and staring at the strange white girl talking to him.

As I walked away I thanked him... and stopped myself from screaming as he hopped towards me. 

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Is it crazy...

Is it crazy that some days I am actually envious of the people here; the people with less than nothing, surviving in absolute poverty? Is it crazy that they are some of the happiest people I have ever met? Is it crazy that sometimes I wonder how we really define wealth?

I see people here with nothing, struggling to survive and often also struggling to feed their kids. I heard a story this week of a mum with two small girls who earns up to 500 Riel a day. That is equal to 12.5 cents.

I can't even imagine what that would be like, not only struggling to feed myself, but also two children. I cannot imagine not knowing whether I will eat the next day. I cannot imagine watching as my children become skin and bone, wasting away. I cannot imagine what it would be to have to fight so hard to survive due to mere lack of finance. I can't imagine living in such poverty.

I see these things and am amazed at the people. I'm amazed at how they still laugh, the kids still play, and they will still share and give away the little that they have. I'm ashamed of how much I have, and yet how I sometimes see life as hard.

I don't want to sugarcoat poverty. Poverty sucks. It kills people. It leads to exploitation. It leads to parents selling their kids as the only way to get money. Poverty is not good.

But somehow the people here have a richness that we in the West don't have - they have wealth in community, spirituality, appreciation. Their smiles light up the world. Their faith in God is greater than anything I have ever experienced - He is literally their everything. You give a child a sticker and they receive it as though they have been given a million dollars.

One thing I know more than anything else is that we are no better. I may have money and may never have to worry about whether or not I will eat the next day, but I don't have the sheer reliance on God that they do. For me it's easy to seek out a number of other available options before I seek God. It's sad but it is true. But the people here don't have that option. Their God is number one, He is their only hope.

We also lack in community. I lived in one house in Brisbane for over two years without ever meeting my neighbours (turns out they were criminals so it was probably for the best, but still!). After moving out on my own, social networks seemed to be segregated into age groups - I didn't have that influence of other generations. We eat alone, go through drive-through fast food instead of walking inside and interacting with people: our way of life is so independent it's almost sad. We lose the networks of people who can hold us up in our hardest times.

In Cambodia community means the difference between being alone and starving when you lose your job, to having others around who will give you a place to stay and some rice to eat. Community means eating outside with other families. It means saying hello to everyone, starting up conversations, bringing your children out to say hi to the white girl who walks by each night.

And above all, Cambodians know appreciation. One situation that will never leave me is meeting two children begging on the street as I was having dinner. I pulled out a small sheet of stickers and gave them to the girl, whose face lit up with the biggest smile! She then proceeded to pull each of the stickers off, sticking half on herself and sticking half on me. This precious little girl was giving, despite having almost nothing of her own. I will never forget that moment.

So right now I know I have so much to learn from the people here. There is so much simplicity and purity at the heart of this culture. There are so many hard things to deal with in this third world culture - corruption, trafficking, and poverty, and it is these things that can often frustrate me while trying to work in the midst of it. However at the heart of this culture there is something more - it is this simplicity that I fell in love with. It is this simplicity and purity that I must learn from, which we could all learn from. It is this heart of Cambodia that has stolen my heart.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Simple Love

Tonight we went out for dinner on the Riverfront of Phnom Penh. The Riverfront is a high tourist area, so there are often lots of kids on the street begging and selling books, scarves, and wristbands. As we were walking along tonight, a few kids came along and asked me to buy some things. I started speaking to them in basic Khmer asking their name and age and where their families were. Soon enough, these kids started trailing along behind me.

My two kids turned into a group of five kids between the ages of 5 and 12. Most said that their families were at home. Only one of the kids was attending school. These kids are all out until late hours of the night trying to sell items to foreigners. They are at huge risk of trafficking or abuse out on the streets at this time of night. At an age where they should be being protected and nurtured by parents, they are instead fending for themselves and bringing home the daily income. And for most of them, this is the only life they have ever known.

So as I walked along with my trail of kids behind me, chatting to me and holding my hands, I was reminded of the simplicity of love. For these kids it was just someone to not turn their eyes away, but for someone to stop and simply ask who they are as an individual. They were someone with a name and age and story, rather than just another kid on the streets trying to haggle you to buy something. For that moment, these kids had an identity. And for that moment, someone actually cared.

Love is not always extravagant acts. Sometimes it is simply being there, language barriers and horrible environments aside. Sometimes love is just basic human connection.

These kids trailed me for a good five minutes. And then we walked past a restaurant full of foreigners and they all got to work, mingling among the tables selling to tourists. These kids had to make their living so they had something to take home to either their parents or their begging pimps.

It's easy to ignore the faces, to see just another kid. It's also easy to become overwhelmed and have no idea of how to help when this problem is so pervasive in this nation. But sometimes it is a smile, a simple question, a short walk holding their hands and listening to their stories. Maybe those simple acts of love are a good start. They identify that child as someone; someone with a past and a future.

So I will continue to practice simple love, even if that is all I can do. I trust that this makes a difference for these kids, that they feel like they have an identity, if only for a moment. I trust that this simple act will not be forgotten. I trust that all my actions in this world count; that I am making a difference.

Be Still

Be still and know that I am God.

Those are the words that broke me during church this morning.

I am a control freak. I like answers. I need answers. The unknown is scary and seemingly unsafe. To be still is to let go of expectations, of the need for answers, of the ability to control. It is to let go and give control to a being who I know through stories and experiences but that I have never ever sat with face to face. It is maybe having questions unanswered, and being able to live with the fact that they are not answered.

It is trusting the unknown. It is extreme vulnerability.

To be still, to give up this control, is to be completely vulnerable. It is putting complete trust in someone other than yourself.

I'm not good at doing this. I'm terrible at it actually. I fight against it as hard as I can. I try to beat vulnerability away with my giant control stick and tell myself that I'm protecting myself. When really all I'm actually doing is shrinking away behind my walls that I put up.

I fight against mystery, unknown, being out of control. But isn't that what faith is? Isn't it the mystery and the unknown that makes faith what it is? Trust in a higher power. Hope that there is more than this.

Brene Brown said this:
"I trust neither the scientists nor the theologians who say we must choose between science and faith. They've abandoned the heart of both - mystery and curiosity."
This is scary. And it's far from easy. It means giving up what I've strived towards - knowing, controlling, protecting. It's being vulnerable to hurt, yet also to love. It's opening ourselves up to something much bigger than ourselves - but it's the unknown of that something which makes it so very scary.

I wish I was one of those people who just accepted vulnerability and mystery and could live with that. I'm not saying I'm the opposite - that I have all the answers. I don't even like those people who seem to have all the easy answers. I think it's that I'm so aware about the mystery and unknown. I'm so aware of how that affects me, how vulnerable it makes me.

So I fight it. I kick and scream and battle. I hold onto control as hard as I can, even if it is just making everything worse. It is not until I'm at my lowest point that I finally cave into vulnerability, surrender, being still.

I wish I was one of those fast learners. An embracer. I'm not. As soon as I feel strong enough again I start to fight against it again, start to try taking back control. I am never still for too long.

I just hold onto the hope that one day I will learn and accept. That I will be able to conquer that fear of being out of control. That I will learn to trust beyond anything. I hope to learn to be still.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Twelve hours in Cambodia

It's so hard to try give a glimpse of Cambodia to those who have never been. There is truly nothing to compare it to - life here is so far removed from life in Australia. Alas I shall try give a glimpse into 12 hours of my Cambodia adventures.

Last night a wedding was happening directly outside my window. Now instantly in your minds you are thinking 'aww how lovely'. Wrong. Weddings in Cambodia are pretty much giant tents which they set up blocking off a whole street. They bang around and construct it all day and then around 6pm the celebrations start. There is loud Khmer music, dancing, yelling, speeches. Now I'm not even sure how to describe Khmer music to those who have never experienced it. But I'll give it a shot.

It's terrible. Like the 'my eardrums are about to commit suicide' kind of terrible. Worst. Music. Ever.

So this was the music that was blasting into my room (and pretty much our whole building) last night. You know those moments when you need to laugh or else you will cry? Well last night was similar. But more of an 'if you don't giggle and dance you will scream' kind of moment. So that's how I ended up dancing around my room to the worlds worst music instead of sleeping. It was awesome. And weird. One of those only in Cambodia moments.

And now this morning I find myself on a bus to Kep (a beach meets forest kind of place). I'm calling it my mini eat-pray-love weekend. And I'm going to get a tan so I'm not the pastiest person in all of Cambodia. Best weekend ever.

So I jump on this bus and get a seat (which is quite fortunate considering the amount of people who are left standing for the 3-4hr trip). My allocated seat is right up the front of the bus so I jump on thinking yay I'm going to have a great view of the beautiful scenery!

I did get scenery views. And it was beautiful. However I'm unsure if I ever want to travel on a Cambodian bus ever again. Sitting front seat also meant I saw how we were driving. I stil don't know how anyone hasn't died this whole bus trip. Now everyone here tells me that I'm insane riding in traffic because I'm the person who will just head out in the road on my pushbike and zigzag my way between the traffic until I get to the other side whilst everyone else waits for a gap in the traffic and prays I don't get hit by a car. They say I'm an insane driver, I say I'm a creative driver. We've agreed to disagree.

But this bus driver is way beyond creative! He is just plain suicidal... Or homicidal. I'm still not sure. Because we're the biggest thing on the road pretty much everyone just needs to give way to us, so he just honks his horn and barges his way through anything! I still don't know how we haven't hit anyone head on yet. Next time I'm totally requesting a seat near the back where I can't see anything.

So I'm going to spend the rest of the trip with my iPod blocking out the Khmer pop music in the bus. And then I shall arrive at Kep and get all relaxed and tanned and ready to head back to the city.

And now I'm not sure how to end this blog post. But I guess I can just say that this is only a 12 hour peek into my life and that 12 hours finished at a weird time with no ending. Sorry about that.

Disclaimer: I am an awesome driver. So don't freak out parental unit. And also I haven't heard of any bus crashes in Cambodia yet. So I think I'm pretty safe. Mum just take a few deep breathes and remember that I'm great at looking after myself. And staying alive.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

How perfectionism is trying to ruin my life...

When I started out on this journey of wanting to be authentic and wholehearted and blah blah blah it was much more sunshine and rainbows. In my mind I would just skip along, tell a few people some honest things which they would smile at and then skip along beside me. My fantasy potentially even involved fluffy puppies riding on the backs of unicorns.

I really like that fantasy.

But as it turns out, the journey is much more difficult. It's hard and it actually takes effort. And although I will admit that I do actually occassionally skip (only because it's impossible to feel sad after skipping), most of the journey towards authenticity is more like pulling myself along by my hair, screaming at myself about how remaining hidden and protected felt so much more safe and comfortable.

That's how I see the journey anyway. I'm hoping others see it that way too... Otherwise you probably all think I'm nuts and are attempting to now get me involuntarily committed.

So amongst this journey I ended up having a facebook chat with a wonderful friend. She started the conversation by asking how my wholehearted adventures are going. This was my reply:

"You know the whole journey towards wholeheartedness and awesomeness and being an incredible person... Well I just want to skip the journey and get there already... Unfortunately the rational side of me tells me that's impossible and the journey continues on... But currently I'm just living in hope that I can skip 20 years or so and be perfect."

And that's when I realised that perfectionism is actually trying to ruin my life.

I can't do this journey if my aim is to be perfect. Because I will fail and fail and fail until I can't keep going anymore. I'll get so discouraged that I'll probably end up curled up in the fetal position in a corner with some orange dark chocolate and some pineapple fried rice (my comfort foods).

Perfectionism actually stops me from achieving. Because the goal is impossible. And it keeps me shut off from others because all I want to show are the bits that aren't flawed. And we all know that there aren't all that many bits...

I still have my love-hate relationship with human-ness. It kills me that I fail. I hate that I can't be perfect. I hate that the world isn't perfect. And I begin to wonder how a perfect God could be surrounded by all of this imperfection.

So I'm trying to search for the beauty in imperfection, the connections within pain, and the moments of skipping within times of not knowing how to go forward. Somehow I want to embrace this journey and all it entails. I want to embrace being vulnerable. I want to be known.

And within the moment of feeling discouraged about the journey I was reminded of this: Even if I am being authentic with just one or a few people, I am progressing, I am on my way to being vulnerable and wholehearted. I'm getting there.

This isn't a microwave journey - I can't be finished in two minutes and cooked to perfection and authentic and wholehearted for all to see. It's one step at a time. One moment of vulnerability at a time. Small, yet huge, movements.


If any of you are reading this and have no idea what this wholehearted thing that I'm talking about is, you obviously have not yet been introduced to the awesomeness of Brene Brown. So watch this: http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability.html
And then see all my other blog posts with a Brene Brown tag. And then Google all of her other stuff and watch it too. And read her book. Seriously. Do it.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Suffering. Pain. Sacrifice.

Today is Good Friday. I wonder where that name came from. Because this day was never really good was it? Yes we can say that it is good because it is the day that Jesus died for us in order to give us freedom and eternal life. But on that day no-one was celebrating. Sunday had not yet come. Friday was mourning. Friday was suffering.

Friday was not the typical photo-shopped, beautiful looking Jesus calmly hanging there on a cross. Friday was blood, tears, agony. Friday was death, mourning, hopelessness. Friday was not celebration.

It makes me think of how often we try to look past the suffering. At funerals we are told to celebrate because our loved one is in heaven. When a tragedy happens, someone always finds a way to put a positive spin on it. Sometimes we're so focussed on healing people that we forget to recognise the agony that they are currently in.

But we suffer. We are human. Sometimes life hurts so bad that it's hard to see past that. And in that hurt it is empathy that I am usually seeking. It is someone to sit there, be there, sometimes not even having to say a word. In that place it doesn't usually help for someone to give me the positive spin, tell me that it will all work out for good. In that place it is someone trying to put themselves in my own shoes that always means the most.

I wonder what it is that makes our culture (and not only Christians) avoid the talk of pain, run from suffering. Yeah it hurts, but doesn't it hurt even more to be alone in it? Can't we help both ourselves and others with our voices? Sometimes 'me too' is the most comforting thing that anyone could ever say.

This post may seem quite melancholy - I've been told before that I think too much and it's depressing. But I see the suffering. I have felt the suffering. And to ignore that and ignore that in others is to foster loneliness within suffering. I can't do that. For myself or for anyone else.

I believe healing, freedom, and peace will come. But I also know pain. I see both. We need to see both. We are human. We hurt. Jesus wept.


Missionary?

Since being in Cambodia for almost a month, there have been numerous times in which I have been labelled a missionary. At first I was confused by this; I had never considered myself as a missionary. In my eyes I had a job which just happened to be in another country. I questioned that if the work that I'm doing here makes me a missionary, then the work I was doing in Australia could have given me the label of missionary too.

A couple of weeks ago I talked with a friend about this confusion I had regarding accepting the title of a missionary. His reply was "let's just call you a foreign aid worker then". I said "that will do".

Since this conversation though, I've been thinking about this missionary title. Yes the job I'm currently doing does have a lot of different challenges to doing something similar in my home country. Here I am away from friends, family, and society as I have known it my whole life.

Are these extra challenges on top of the work what makes me a missionary? Is it that my church has sent me? What distinguishes me and my role from someone in Australia outworking their faith in the mission fields of social work, business, teaching, etc.

Is it that we can be missionaries wherever we are, in whatever fields we are in? Is it a posture of the heart rather than a 'position'. I find it hard to make that distinction. I don't know if there is a purpose for the label of missionary - if making that distinction is useful. Maybe it would be better for us all to have that label in whatever profession we are in.

So for now, let's just say I'm working in Cambodia... A foreign aid worker if you want.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Weekend in Vietnam

I had a long weekend this week so took a $12 bus and travelled to another country - into Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.

I thought that this would be a great opportunity to explore Vietnam. What I didn't realise was how refreshing it would be and how much like a holiday it would be.

I spent the weekend with my cousin who lives in Ho Chi Minh and stayed in his apartment. It was the smallest of things that were refreshing and exciting - being able to brush my teeth using tap water, flushing toilet paper, having a real shower - all the conveniences of the west that I have been missing in Cambodia.

And then there was the fact that my phone was not working. And Facebook is also not accessible in Vietnam due to their communist government blocking it. And I was also completely unaware of time, having no plans, no schedule, no deadlines. I relaxed and wandered and immersed myself in the culture of 'Asia time'.

And the I just took in the greenery of the city. The district where I was staying was full of trees and plants and the beauty of nature. Compared to Phnom Penh with its dirt and dust and almost no greenery, Ho Chi Minh was a beautiful sanctuary. I sat and watched and breathed in nature. Refreshing and beautiful.

But I did not fall in love with Vietnam like I did with Cambodia. It was an amazing place and I will definitely visit it again, however it did not capture me, draw me towards it like Cambodia did.

It refreshed me. It gave me a holiday, a weekend away. However by the end of the weekend Cambodia was calling me back. I was ready to go back. There is something about Cambodia that draws me there, something that not even Vietnam's beauty could surpass. It is home.

Saturday, 31 March 2012

I wish I'd never come to Cambodia...

Sometimes I wish I had never come to Cambodia that first time, never experienced what I had. Sometimes I wish I could be comfortable in my own little world, oblivious to the trials of a country such as this. Sometimes I wish I had never seen. For what is seen can never be unseen.

For Cambodia has taken a piece of my heart. It has captivated me, captured my heart.

Having seen, I have now moved across the world. It's not easy. I left behind friends, supports, family. I left behind my dog, my car, my favourite places. I left behind my world as I knew it.

Yet I couldn't have not come. I couldn't ignore Cambodia calling my name. Having seen Cambodia for the first time, I knew that I was meant to be here. I cannot walk away from that.

So sometimes I wish I'd never been here. Because some days I miss Australia, I miss my best friend, I miss late night chats with housemates, I miss great hugs. Having never come, I could have comfortably stayed there.

So at this time in my life I cannot imagine being back in Australia, living as I was. I can't imagine not being in Cambodia. I would feel like something was missing. I would feel like I was away from home.

My heart is here. My passion is here. And now I am here. Difficulties and trials. Homesickness and new experiences. Cambodia has stolen my heart.

Friday, 30 March 2012

Heartbroken

Living in a third world country has its share of hilarious moments. Like when one of the staff try explaining that one of the girls has a lamb in her nose (instead of a lump), the hunt around the office to see if the mosquito racquet will also kill flies, along with the various tuk-tuk journeys, language barrier fails, and all-round wet-your-pants funny times!

Yet here in Cambodia there's a sad, serious side. And what I have had my eyes opened up to in the past few weeks is the impact of corruption and an unstable government. Some of the moments are funny. Like when you pay the police officer a few dollars for a coffee to get out of paying a driving fine. But unfortunately the corruption doesn't stop there... It keeps going to the point where the beautiful little girls I care so deeply about are the ones who are suffering.

Corruption in Cambodia allows a perpetrator of horrific crimes to pay his way out of a jail sentence. A judge gets some extra cash in his back pocket and a girl lives in continual fear, knowing that her perpetrator is still in the community. Government systems fail and children are put in unsafe environments.

This breaks my heart. And even more so that I know it doesn't only happen here. I know that the systems fail in Australia too. I've seen it. I know they probably fail in almost every other country too. It breaks my heart because it's the kids who are suffering and sometimes there's nothing I can do about it.

So tonight I am angry at corruption. I am angry when governments ignore their people. And I feel lost when I'm in the middle of it, watching it, unable to change it.

I don't know what the solution is. Poverty has no simple solution. I know that corruption and these government systems don't have a simple solution either. I just pray that those involved will see the faces of those who are affected, see the tears, see the results of their actions. I pray that the individuals will not be forgotten.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Appreciating...

Today I'm learning appreciation.
Not of everything going well,
But of people who sit within the mess.
Not needing to clean or fix.
Just sit,
And be.
I'm learning to appreciate the moments in life,
The ones I would probably rather ignore.
I'm learning that these are shaping me,
Growing me.
I'm learning to appreciate pain.
I don't like it,
But I can look at it,
And know that it has a story,
And that story is one of survival.
And I'm appreciating vulnerability,
The scariest mission I have ever gone on,
One of the most uncomfortable journeys I've ever set out on.
Yet it is bringing me to life.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Courage

I'm great at distracting, ignoring, avoiding. I've always done this in so many ways that it's almost become a way of life. Sadly defences are never helpful forever. There's always a time when they begin to hurt more than they help. If only it was easy to unlearn those defences. Sadly, for me anyway, they have already become habit, normal. Another way of living is forgotten and unknown.

So now is my time to stop avoiding. To remember that I am strong enough to face things. To remember that others are there to help me along as well.

I've learned that defences never only effect me, even if I can't see it. I avoided telling friends and family when I was going through one of the hardest battles I've ever faced. I wanted to avoid the shame of imperfection and keep it all hidden until I was fixed and better again. I avoided the hurts of my past until they grew into a monster that began eating away at me. And sometimes I avoid simply because I don't feel like I have the capacity to face life in that moment.

This avoidance worked for a time. It kept me functioning. It did its job. But I kept going, growing and maturing, and avoidance came along for the ride.

Sometimes I ignore how I feel for the fear that I may be overwhelmed. I avoid telling others that my world isn't all sunshine and rainbows because I don't want to burden or worry others. I avoid the vulnerability because it has never seemed safe. It's scary and everyone else seems to avoid it too.

But I'm at the place where I can't do that anymore. I want to be real, with myself and with others. Yes I may get hurt, but I might also have the most incredible, honest, authentic relationships too. It's not easy, but then again what worthwhile thing is easy?

So this is my new mission, my challenge. I will be real with myself and with what I'm feeling and what I need. I will be real with others with where I'm at. And now, posting this for the whole world to see, I will have accountability.

I will accept imperfection, both my own and others. I will see vulnerability as courage. I will tear down my walls, brick by brick, and let both others and myself see me, accept me, care for me.

This is the most honest post I've written and pressing that little publish button is my first step of vulnerability (aka courage). There are many who have inspired, influenced, and encouraged me towards this point and for that I thank you. You know who you are xx


Edited: This blog post was also inspired by this talk by Brene Brown: http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_listening_to_shame.html

Sunday, 18 March 2012

The things you actually need to worry about when in Cambodia!

Appreciating the little things...

Today I woke up to hear the sounds of birds chirping outside my window. It was the most precious sound, one which is not heard too often in Phnom Penh. Dogs fighting, horns beeping, and karaoke into all hours of the night are the standard sounds of the city. So I just sat there and thanked God for this little moment of beauty in my morning, just simply listening to the birds.

Living here is so much about learning to appreciate the little things. A beautiful smell of flowers pierces through the smell of sewerage for a fleeting moment, a few stars in the sky on a clear night, the power coming back on, finding Cadbury in a random corner store. These tiny things are so precious here. Much less is taken for granted. I am beginning to be thankful for things that seem so strange to be thankful for, but those moments carry you through.

And that's not saying that the rest of Cambodia is not to love. The insane, no road-rules traffic still seems fun to me. Realising that what I thought was a cat is actually a rat still makes me laugh after I've gotten over my shock.  The banter with the tuktuk drivers is usually lots of fun. And then there's the beautiful community feel of this nation. My favourite moto drivers on the corner who wave to me every morning on my way to work. The people on my street who always bring their kids out to say hello as I'm walking past. The girls at our favourite cafe who will sit down beside us for a chat if it's a quiet night. These thing are so far removed from what I'm used to, from what Australia is, yet these are the little things that I fell in love with. It is those little things that make here feel like home.

It's the little things that get us through the day. It would be so easy to become completely overwhelmed here: reading case files of the most horrific situations, walking past brothels every night, being approached by endless amounts of kids begging. The struggles of this society seem overwhelming; it would be easy to question how I could make a difference at all.

But for me I just look at the faces of our girls. They are what matters. I can make a difference for them. I look at our staff and envision them growing and excelling. I remember that it's all about the ones.

I continue to smile. I continue to laugh. I see the funny side of the language barrier. I giggle when the power goes out in the middle of my shower and I run into numerous walls trying to get it back on. I am still amused about the fact that a moto is Cambodia's version of a family car - five people on one is no problem at all. I laugh at myself when my Khmer is completely wrong and I have no idea what I've just said.

I'm determined to make a difference here. I'm a fighter, a carer, a listener. But I'm also a smiler. And I will continue to be. I will continue to appreciate the little things. I will continue to smile.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

KONY2012: My thoughts...


Did anyone else log onto FB one day and think who the heck is Kony and what have I missed? I did. I was sitting in my room in Cambodia wondering what was going on in Aus that I had no idea about!

(If you’re reading this and are still wondering who Kony is, I’m guessing you’ve been living in a social-media-free cave this week so go ahead and Google and YouTube it and see what it’s all about).

And then just after this influx into my Newsfeed of KONY2012, there was a wave of people standing against the KONY2012 campaign and condemning it. People seemed to be going to extremes either way. So here are a few thoughts of my own about KONY2012:

I love the fact that KONY2012 is bringing awareness. That is what Invisible Children do well. I love that it wakes people up to the reality of the world outside their safe little first world boxes. I like that it gets people passionate and questioning the injustices that are faced by so many every single day.
But at the same time there are some huge dangers of this campaign.

One danger is that we are hearing one voice, whereas out there are thousands of voices waiting to be heard. KONY2012 is presenting one story, one man. We must never forget that this is a single story, a single voice amongst the thousands affected.

Everywhere around the world there is injustice, trauma, and hurt. Even in your own backyards. It’s easy for us, coming from a first world nation, to look at the injustices of other nations and think of ourselves as superior to them. Want to smash that worldview? Look up the sexual abuse rates of children in Australia. Look at the discrimination all around you. No I’m not saying Australia is currently experiencing anything like the torture and horrific abuses like those living under Kony, however our nation faces its own shortcomings too. Never forget the ones in your own backyard. They are crying out to be heard too.

Another danger of the KONY2012 campaign is the tendency for Westerners to adopt a rescuer complex. The theory that we are saving someone by liking a status or putting up a poster. I’m not against those things, but remember the extent of what you are doing. Follow through with your actions. Sponsor a child, given to an organisation that is empowering the people. Empowering is always greater than rescuing.

And final thoughts are will we remember this…. Will we continue to fight against injustice? I am in a third world nation, fighting against injustice every day. It’s easy to stay focused on that here because I see the circumstances, hear the stories every day.

But I know that back in Australia it’s harder. We busy ourselves with our own lives, our first world problems. Or we become blinded to and desensitised to what happens… It seems like a far away problem. Sometimes it’s hard when you don’t see the faces and hear their cries. Sometimes it seems overwhelming, unsure how to play your part. Poverty is never easy. The solution is not simple. I just know that I need to do something. So maybe your something is posting a KONY2012 status. That’s a start. I encourage you to continue though. Talk to people about it, continue researching into what is happening in our world. Keep going. Don’t stop at a status.

And finally I want to say thankyou. Thankyou to Invisible Children for making voices heard by us in the West. Thankyou to those who brought awareness through social media and posters. Thankyou to those who sponsor the kids. Thankyou to those who encourage me whilst I am immersed in stories so similar to this. Thankyou for doing something. 

Monday, 5 March 2012

Getting naked with God


I am a Christian.

However I still hurt. I still struggle. I still question. I don’t deny that this world is full of pain and injustice. Sometimes it’s hard to see a God in all of that.

I carry around scars. Scars from a time in my life when, yes, I was a Christian. Yet I still fought a battle. I fought for the will to live. I fought to merely survive.

I fight battles every day. I doubt myself. Sometimes I question and doubt God.

I am not perfect and I never will be. No-one can be. I’m as broken, fragile, and imperfect as every other person in this crazy world.

I no longer hope to be perfect. Now, instead, my hope is that I can be authentic, wholehearted. I will ask for help when I need it. I will be honest when I’m struggling. I will be real with the world.

It’s time for me to remove the mask. It’s time for a lot of people to remove their masks as well. I know that I can no longer survive in my own little whitewashed world of perfection. Only through honesty and authenticity and brokenness can I truly relate and live.

Some say God is a crutch. I wonder what is really wrong with that. I know I couldn’t survive without him holding me up. Every day I see and hear need and tragedy and hurt. Every day I sit with people and wonder at how some survive their circumstances. I know there has to be a God in this somehow. I know for sure there is a God. I know because I am still alive.

I can’t give pat answers anymore. They don’t help anyone, me included. Sometimes there are questions that I don’t know the answers to. I just have faith that God does. I have faith that God is bigger than all of this. I believe He is authentic and genuine and that I cut myself off from that part of Him through wearing these masks, acting in this ‘perfection’.

So for me it’s time to be naked with myself, God, and others. No more hiding. No more covering. No more shame. Just grace, forgiveness, mercy, acceptance. Just me. Whole, imperfect, and created by God. That is all I need to be. 

Monday, 20 February 2012

That moment when culture shock punches you in the face...



A blog entry from my recent trip to Cambodia:

For those who don’t know I am in Cambodia for a month volunteering with the amazing SHE Rescue Home. www.sherescuehome.org

The nation of Cambodia is both captivating and heart-breaking. It has a history of war, trauma, and devastation. And now there is child sex trafficking, violence, and poverty beyond what we can imagine.

And so after being here for a week, culture shock has left me with a black eye, few broken cheek bones and a tender heart.

Yesterday I found a little girl in the middle of the Central Markets in Phnom Penh. She is ten months old. She has advanced hydrocephalus, water on the brain. Her mum was sitting in the middle of the markets caring for her and begging.

It was later on with the image of this little girl in my mind that it caught up with me what these people’s lives must be like. I can see these sights and hear these stories and then go into a cafe or into my room and escape the reality of life in Cambodia. The Khmer people don’t have this luxury. This little girl doesn’t have that luxury.

The people here live in constant poverty without escape. They don’t curl up in a soft bed at night with a room to themselves. They can’t post a photo on Facebook and inspire people to get angry and motivated about poverty. They can’t escape this reality of poverty.

They are stuck with this constant hunger, constant pain. They go home from jobs (if they have one) and share a tiny room with another 7 people. That little girl gets carried home each day and lives with the pain and this crippling disease. The mother lives every moment with the fact that her daughter may not live much longer.

We see the poverty, we immerse ourselves in it, but we are never consumed by it. I can retreat, I can go home. They can’t. This motivates me more.