About thesaunders

We are a family o 6 who are living and working in Cambodia. We arrived in 2009 and have loved getting to know this beautiful country and its amazing people. Life is an Adventure and we want to live life to the full, learn new things each day and glorify God in our daily life.

Sharing a Meal

  

  1.  One of the things I love about Cambodian people is their generosity and love of sharing a meal with you. The meal is never rushed, it is alway important to just chat first as you are eating and then when the meal is over it is time for business. This is one of my friends from church who spent all afternoon preparing dinner for a group of us who were meeting up to chat over how we can support the young women who come to church. Her baby,who is normally very well behaved, had cried all afternoon but she still served the meal with such a beautiful smile and welcoming heart. We had curry, salad, rice, omelette with dried fish and sat on the floor and spoke in a mixture of Khmer and English. 
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Changing Face of Phnom Penh

 
When we first arrived in Phnom Penh nearly 7 years ago, the highest place a member of the public could view Phnom Penh was Suki Soup in  Sorya shopping  some 6 floor up. There were no real sky scrapers just a handful of office blocks poking above the normal 3 story buildings. Now the skyline is changing and the buildings are becoming taller and more ambitious. The latest bid is for a riverside skyscraper 133 stories high. Who knows if it will be built but what I do know is the next few years this beautiful view will change. 

I love seeing the city from this vantage point. I can see the juxtapose of new and old. The spires of the royal place and the modern glass fronted office blocks, the Olympic stadium and new malls. My favourites are the multi coloured roofs of the town houses dotted with roof gardens and washing and the straight boulevards going off into the distance. The two rivers coming together and slowly winding past the city. There is something special about the city from this perspective. There is hope for the future. Our prayer is that there will be good changes in this country from the roots on up.

There are a few things I really like for breakfast in Cambodia and can eat as a coeliac. Baai saich chrook which is grilled pork with omelette, rice and pickle. Then there are coconut waffles that are sold in little cart vendors. My absolute favourite though is a streamed coconut rice with toasted sesame seeds sugar and salt.  

 The difficulty is finding someone who makes it. In our old house there was a lady who we always went to at our local market. Then one day she disappeared. Today when looking around our local market near our new house, I stumbled across a lady who was selling them. Imagine both our surprise when it turns out it is the same lady! It turns out she moved here a year ago and is doing really well. It made my Saturday!

 

A walk in the country…

This afternoon I went to a part of Phnom Penh that many people do not see and yet it is only about a 15 min ferry journey. Across where the two rivers meet there is a small community and after a short walk along a dirt road past some houses you end up in rural countryside. We walked past fragrant lemon grass  fields and blossoming mango trees. It was refreshing to see trees and nature so close to the city. At 500r a trip it is definitely worth a visit! 

     

     
    
    
   

Cambodian Day Out

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On Sunday we had a day out with our church to the waterfalls in
Kirirom up in the mountains. This was the first time that everything was organized entirely by the Cambodian leadership team and I can say they did such an amazing job from beginning to end.
We had to be there at 7am and were aiming to leave by 7.30 which we did, which those of you who live in Cambodia will say very rarely happens! It was a long journey as it took a while for the bus to get up the mountain, especially in the last part which was a dirt road.IMG_0279IMG_0282 IMG_0389When we got there we had so much fun hanging out by the lake in these little bamboo and wooden huts with hammocks for the lucky few. On the way there were people selling flower wreaths for 3,000 riel and I asked one Of my Khmer friends what they were for, was it to put on the temple or lay at a shrine. No, she told me they were to wear in your hair to make you look beautiful at the waterfall.IMG_0336IMG_0229IMG_0245IMG_0235First we had a time of worship and then baptized Lyhong and prayed for her. After this was lunch which everyone had been patiently been waiting for which was chicken and rice and a few sneaky bacon butties in the Saunders camp.IMG_0332After this we had free time. Now the day before I had asked my children do you wan to take a change of clothes to go swimming and they all said o we will not want to go swimming. Ha! Famous last words, within 30 mins of Phally declaring free time all the Saunders children were completely soak and having a lot of fun.IMG_0337IMG_0381 IMG_0382 IMG_0383
Usually when we go somewhere like this there are people hawking food and souvenirs and our kids get mobbed for photos. I am not sure if it was because we were with Khmer people but we were treated as if we were the same and this made it so relaxing and a really positive experience.
There is something about running water in a the middle of beautiful trees that makes you just want to get at least your feet wet!
We arrived back home about 9 very tired but happy.
My favourite parts of the day were seeing some people in our group who would never have a chance to do this having so much fun, hanging out with all my friends at Liberty, seeing my kids enjoy themselves, seeing Gods beautiful creation all around and getting out of the city for one day. One of my friends when I asked them if they were enjoying it said, “It is so nice to get out of the city to see trees and breathe nice air”
So well done to Sawat, Phally, Narith and Sdom for organising such a great day out.

Killing Fields Living Fields

Yesterday marked the 40 year anniversary of when the Khmer Rouge stormed Phnom Penh and forced the population to evacuate to the country. During the next four years the Khmer Rouge tried to eradicate all religious groups especially Christians. This is an amazing book retelling the story of what God did through the Cambodian church. This is an updated version of the book.url

In 1970 there was greater freedom for Christians and this saw a growth in the local church. At the beginning of the Civil war there were about 3 congregations in Phnom Penh, which by 1975 when the Khmer Rouge took over had grown to about 30, totaling about 10,000 members. KR_evacuation

During the Khmer Rouge it is thought that 90% of all Christians and Christian leaders were martyred or escaped the country. By 1979 it was estimated that there were only 200 Christians remaining in Cambodia. The church was left vulnerable with many of its leaders systematically killed by the Khmer Rouge regime or fled the country.phnom-penh-in-1979-just-after-the-overthrow-of-the-khmer-rouge-regimeToday from the small remnant there has grown an estimated 250,000 Christians and around 750 churches. This massive growth means there is a huge need to train leaders, teach and create resources. The difficulty for many Cambodian pastors is that they need a paid job outside of the church to be able to support their family.

There have been many outside agencies and organizations which have been involved in supporting the local church over the last 40 years, sometimes this has been good and other times has created an unhealthy reliance on outside help. The desire of many people I work with is to see Cambodians leading the church with a depth of maturity and wisdom.1 (3)In the last 6 years we have been involved in a small local church, not in any position of leadership just attending and supporting the local Christians. It has been so exciting to see how they have grown and matured from being very young Christians to future leaders. There is a passion to write their own worship songs, the desire to reach out to others and rural areas, to work out how Khmer culture and Christianity fit together, how to serve and look after the poor and vulnerable in our congregation in a way that empowers them and how to live life in a way that honours God but also shows respect for their families.

This is so exciting and we are humbled to be a part of it, and have so much respect for our fellow Cambodian Christians who have been through so much pain and heartache in the past and still live in a society scarred by events in history. I am thankful that we serve a God who delights in setting people free from their past and my prayer is this will be something which is evident in Liberty Family Church but also in the Cambodian church as a whole.

References and extra reading:

Photos from:

  1. Book Cover
  2. Phnom Penh
  3. Phnom Penh
  4. Bible

40 Years on: Rememeber Fall of Phnom Penh to Khmer Rouge

Yesterday, Friday 17th April 2015 marked the 40 year anniversary of when Phnom Penh fell to the Khmer Rouge and the whole city was evacuated to work in the countryside in one of modern histories the biggest forced migrations. Some survivors gathered to burn incense at one of the mass graves at Choeung Ek on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.

www.usnews.com

Many people initially greeted the black clad Khmer rouge soldier, wearing their distinctive red checked kramas (scarves), with flags and cheering as they thought it was marking the end of a bloody civil war. Little did they know of the horrors which were to come.

For the next few days tens of thousands of people were forcibly marched out of Phnom Penh at gunpoint to the countryside in an attempt to create a Utopian society, for some of them this exodus was to last more than a month. They were told it would be temporary “only for a few days” and told they could survive on harvested vegetables, grains and rice. The reality for many of these educated city dwellers was death from starvation, forced labour camps, separation from family members and eventually many were executed in a bid to eradicate those who would be a threat to the regime.  Almost overnight, Phnom Penh , once known as the “pearl of the east” had become a ghost town.afp-cambodia-marks-40-years-since-evacuation-of-phnom-penh

Over the next four years it is estimated that 90% of Cambodia’s artistic, religious and intellectual communities and 25% of the total population were killed, making it one of the most brutal genocides of the 20th century.

Today looking at Phnom Penh and its economic growth, growing middle class and desire to achieve, trendy coffee shops and modern shopping malls you would not know it had been through such horrific atrocities only 40 years ago but looks can be deceiving. Beneath the surface there is a nation which has deep scars and a society where many people lacked the ability to know where to begin to start the healing process from such an atrocious part of their history. For a long time people tried to bury the past and didn’t or could talk about what had happened, until only recently even schools did not teach about the Khmer Rouge and many younger people began to wonder if it really happened.dcc78da4-c48c-49df-b14d-574f60eb725f-620x372

A few years ago on a visit, to Toul Sleng,  the notorious prison which had been a thriving high school, I came across a local school party who had come for a visit. They were astonished at what they found and said they had no idea about what had happened so recently in their country. I will always remember what one of them said, “Today I am ashamed to call myself a Cambodian, I could maybe understand if this had been done by another country but for my own people to do this to each other,that I cannot understand”.

For me though, in my time of  living in Cambodia, I have heard many sad stories but I have also heard so many stories of hope and seen the way Cambodians are trying to improve education, revive the arts and music, improve working conditions and how people have been learning to come to terms with their past and move on. There is still a long way to go but things are changing.

Killing Fields Living Fields: Cambodian Church Post Khmer Rouge

References:

Photo References:

  1. Incense
  2. Exodus
  3. Toul Sleng

Not So Healthy Lunch!

2015-04-15_1357_0019  Sometimes I just want comfort food, something simple and yummy. I love warm bread with fresh lemon curd BUT lemons are not easy to get here so my Cambodian twist on it is orange, passion fruit and lime curd. Also the bread really has to be freshly made and not this nasty bought stuff, it is the anticipation when you smell the bread cooking! I had to make do with my gluten free bread but it still tasted nice.

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Orange Passion Curd2015-04-15_1328_0010

  • 3/4 c juice
  • 1cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 c cooled melted butter
  • 1 TBS zest from oranges or limes
  1. Juice of 1 orange, 2 passion fruit and about 10 limes to make up 3/4 cup juice (make sure you sieve it to remove pulp and seeds)
  2. Whisk the eggs in the juice until they are mixed throughrally
  3. Add sugar, butter and zest and mix
  4. Cook at 1 min intervals on high, stir each time with a metal spoon until the mixture turns thicker and coats the back of a spoon
  5. Put in sterilized jars and put the lids on and allow to cool before eating.

Bread2015-04-15_1339_0013

  • 1/2 tsp yeast mixed with 1TBS sugar and 140mls warm water. Mix and leave to begin to bubble
  • Mix in 4 cups bread flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 TBS oil
  • 200 mls water
  1. mix all the ingredients together and knead for about 15 mins until smooth and silky.
  2. Put in a bowl and cover and allow to rise for 45-50mins until double the size
  3. Shape into a loaf and put in a greased pan. Cover and leave about 30-40 mins until double the size.
  4. Cook for 35 mins at 180-200. You will know it is finished if it has a nice golden crust and has a hollow sound when you tap it. Allow to cool for about 20 mins before eating.
  5. Alternatively you can put it in a bread maker and follow the makers instructions.

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Khmer New Year 2015

The scent of incense is thick in the air as I drive around the strangely quiet streets, where there is normally hustle and bustle now I see a few cars and motorbikes probably on their way to family celebrations.

roadThe majority of houses are shut up because families have gone to visit family in the province and most shops are closed except it seems the ones who sell food and drink or thankfully petrol! The market corner near the pagoda is subdued with a few sellers hawking last minute fruit and vegetables, in complete contrast to yesterday where there was a traffic jam. At the pagoda the prayer flags flutter in the breeze and people can come and make offerings and ask the monks for a blessing on the New Year.pagoda 2pagoda 3pagodaflags 3flagsflags 2

In every house where people have stayed in Phnom Penh, there is a table set out with candles and offerings of food and drink for the Khmer New Year “angels” and sometimes flashing light and tinsel. This is one of the biggest holidays in Cambodia and a time when family gather in their homes to spend time together.offering table

Out and About

I often post about specific events but I thought I would try to take photos every now ans then which are everyday sights for me. often when I an driving I will see interesting thing but may not have my camera with me. Today I was picking up Phoebe who had been  helping her friend in her coffee shop.

flower shop

Today my route was through a busy market street preparing for Khmer New Year so there were loads of fruit and flower sellers, with bananas and little ornamental offerings made of banana leaves and incense. These will be offerings in the home or pagoda tomorrow.

offerings

I then have to drive along an open very stinky black canal. I was struck by the contrast of the beautiful flowers on the tree and then the black murky water below.

beauty and rubbish

All along the canal were houses and washing and food being left out to dry and rubbish.

washing linechillisman by roadstreet

Rubbish and flowers Then I collected Phoebe with her coffee in a bag!

coffee in a bag