Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Slice of Cambodian Life

4:17 AM
Well I made it to Cambodia. I am now living a city where bicycles and motorbikes outnumber cars 10 to 1. Where everyone takes nap after lunch (get with it America!). Where people take their shoes off before entering any building. And where tourist-y city also means 2nd poorest city in the country. I don't really know what expectations I had of Cambodia, but I'm pretty sure its different than I was expecting. I got off the plane and felt I like I was in a movie. It was very surreal. Martin & Dary, the White Doves directors, met me there with smiles and I immediately felt welcomed. I rode in a tuk-tuk from the airport, which is a motorbike pulling a cart with a shade on top. Found out that most drivers in Cambodia don't have a license, just paid a fee and got a “license”. And when you watch them drive, you can tell.

The YWAM base and White Doves center is located in a suburb of Siem Reap and it's even poorer than the city. Huts line the poorly paved streets where owners are offering a service (restaurant, hair salon, internet, book shop) or just living. I (and Martin) am one of the few white people in this area. I'm sure I stick out like a sore thumb! I got to the YWAM base Monday morning and was able to take a short nap before my first trip to the White Doves center, which is about a 5 minute bike ride away. I joined the girls for lunch (rice & undistinguishable greens and beef....still adjusting to the cuisine to say the least!) and got to meet each of them. There's only about 11 girls there right now, many have moved on. And out of this bunch, all of them have been at the center for over 6 months, so they are very adjusted to the way of life there and even have a relationship with God now. Their English isn't too great, and so most of the time Martin and Dary were translating for me. The girls introduced themselves to me (in English) and I found out that they range in ages from 30 – 16. Now that they are more stable, Martin and Dary have begun reconnecting the girls with the children. About half of them have kids, and there's about 6 living at the center. Beautiful little things with huge brown eyes. Two precious little girls have latched onto me for life! After lunch I was able to go with Dary to take a few of the girls to start their “internships”. One girl is working at a hair salon, learning to do hair, makeup, nails, etc... And two other girls will be learning dressmaking. It's exciting to see how far along these girls are in their recovery, to the point of learning such crafts and soon to be employed. The girls who aren't interning simply played with their children, did chores or did some knitting to make some bags they sell. I found out that these girls actually earn money while staying there, $55 a month! So it's incentive to leave the brothel life, and start anew.

I was so jet lagged yesterday that I went to bed at 4pm and slept until 6am the next morning. Dary had picked up some groceries for me (probably after my reaction to lunch!) and I was pleasantly surprised to find bread, jam, Coke, and yogurt (aka Western food). This morning I began mastering the art of bike riding, and joined the girls at the center for devotions and prayer. It was exciting to know that even though I can't understand them, our God can, and how big He is! Martin, Dary and I went out for breakfast (I got iced coffee – delicious!) and I got to hear how they met (he's Norwegian and she's Cambodian...it's quite a story!) and how the ministry came to be. Love those stories! Had lunch with the girls (a little better...still weird) and we celebrated 3 girls birthdays. I found out that not a lot of them know their actual birthday, because their parents never kept paperwork on them, so some of it was just guesswork. It was the most emotional birthday party I've ever been to because 2 of the girls, had never celebrated their birthday before. Mum, turning 24, and Sari, turning 17, had not once had someone ever celebrate their birth or their existence. We sang, ate cake and gave presents. It was beautiful.

I am now in downtown Siem Reap, where tourists and white people are a plenty, sipping a papaya-orange smoothie and enjoying some free wifi. Gotta love it. Some prayer needs...rest & adjustment (jet lag is still wearing on me), and ministry opportunities...I know that sounds odd, but I have found it quite hard to do relational ministry, when I can't speak their language. I would love for God to help me see how to serve these girls. I think I'm moving into White Doves either tonight or tomorrow, so I'm hoping for more chances with the girls. So until next time....good bye!

About the author

Joy Muldoon is a full-time missionary and part-time blogger. Read about her travels, adventures, and missions here!