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.

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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.

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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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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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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.

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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.

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

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Adapted

We know we have been in Cambodia a long time when…

Some of us wear jeans in the hot season

Some of our children choose pork and rice for breakfast over croissants and donuts

28 degrees is a nice cool day for the hot season

We eat more rice than pasta and potatoes

Forget how to drive a car and prefer a motorbike

Can’t sleep properly if there is no fan sound

Will equally choose sweet iced coffee or iced tea over the hot variety (I also like bubbles/tapioca pearls added)

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I think it creeps up on you. When you first arrive in Cambodia, everything is new and interesting or difficult to adjust to.Your senses are assaulted with noise, smells, sights and people everywhere. It is difficult to say when you feel you have settled in as it is different for everyone. 5f8ef0c2032493f6ba1a268ffa65a5d4

I think that having a positive attitude and giving things a try balanced with remembering traditions and special things from your home country helps to live well in Cambodia. Learning from Cambodians and asking for help when you need it and using local knowledge for things we have no clue about. When I first came to Cambodia God gave me a picture about walking like Cambodians. The Cambodians say foreigners are known for walking loudly and quickly where as Cambodians will take a much slower and quieter pace, pausing to look around as they go.

In a new culture I think it is a good approach to take a slower pace, to pause and look around before making judgements about how things are done and appreciate the great things about the culture and people. I know there are loads of things I have learnt in my time so far in Cambodia from my Cambodian friends and more I will still have to learn. So if you are new to a country or have been around awhile then take time to pause and look around at the good and amazing things, but also be prepare to work alongside indigenous people to make good changes which will have long lasting benefits.

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Easter 2015 Cambodian Style

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When I think of Easter I dream of blue skies, daffodils, hot cross buns, roast lamb dinner with friends and family, Easter day services at church, walk in the spring sunshine where you are not quite sure if you need to take a coat and of course Easter egg hunt in the garden. In Cambodia, it is important to do things that are significant in our home culture but  this version of Easter is quite difficult to replicate.

First of all the temperature at the moment is about 37 degrees and sometimes 75% humidity, so we have blue skies but no fresh Spring weather or daffodils.When you move you sweat, so definitely no desire to go for a walk.

Then no one here celebrates Easter so there is nothing in the shops unless you know where to go! Easter Eggs are nearly impossible to find however after trawling Phnom Penh I found some very yummy Easter eggs at The Shop on St 240. I managed to smuggle them in and hide them in the fridge for three days and none of my children found them! We did a chocolate coin hunt round the house and ended with the chocolate eggs which had quickly been removed from the fridge!

At school I did an activity where the students found 12 different items which told the Easter story from Good Friday to Easter Sunday based on the idea of Resurrection Eggs activity. We then repeated this on Sunday with our guests. I like it as it is a very visual way of thinking about different parts of Easter.

Hot cross buns have to be hand made and this year Colin and Lucia got to make them and did a great job. I did not make any gluten free ones yet so maybe I will have a go soon.

I bought some duck eggs and we blew them until all the egg white and yolk was outside then we dyed them with food colouring and vinegar. These were put on the table as decoration with sharpie pens so that our guests could decorate them.

On Easter Sunday while the lamb was roasting I went out for a high tea with some friends from church at Sugar and Spice.

As for family they are too far away so this year we decided to invite anyone from church who would appreciate a roast lamb dinner. There ended up being 23 of us from UK, US, France, Scotland/Korea and Cambodia. We managed to find a NZ leg of Lamb which was delicious from Smokey Dah Boar, mint jelly from Thai Huot. It was a lovely meal with lots of fun people who we love doing life with, so Easter Cambodian style was not much different, except with the very hot weather and minus immediate family.

Pchum Ben

We have just had a week off school as Cambodia celebrates Pchum Ben. I have written about it in a previous post so if you want to know more then read here
The celebrations for Pchum Ben start 16 days before the actual holiday with very early chanting from the monks at the nearby wat (sometimes as early as 4.30 depending on who has arrived at the wat and requires the monk to chant) So this month has been somewhat sleep deprived!
As people are leaving offerings at each wat for their deceased relatives inside and outside the wat will be these piles of food with a cut out of a person or skeleton. Normally I don’t see them but this year I noticed them outside a nearby wat.

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As this is one of the holidays where shops could be closed for up to a week, many Cambodians return to their family in the provinces. It is a time where Phnom Penh is super quiet especially on the roads and the roads going out of Phnom Penh can be busy, so we have always stayed at home and just had a quiet week. This year was no exception! After the actual Pchum Ben day on Wednesday the wat fell blissfully silent and a lie in was actually possible!
I finally finished a project I started 6 weeks ago before school started to make a giant family planner for the wall. Giant it is… and also very bright!

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We were also able to get away to a local hotel with a nice quiet pool where they let you swim as a day visitor…well it was quiet until we arrived! We were the only people using it and it was a nice break from the house. We then finished off the day out with a meal at Divine Pizza.

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Masaman Curry Recipe

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This is a delicious curry I learned how to make while growing up in Thailand. When I was at school, my classroom was next to the kitchen. Maths lessons were just before lunch and I would find the preparations in the kitchen much more stimulating than my maths class. I would watch the lady cooking and see the ingredients she put in. Also my mum is an excellent cook and this is one of the curry’s she is best at making. She know exactly how to adapt and change the flavour to make it just so by tweaking the amounts of tamarind, fish sauce and sugar. Normally we would use a Masaman curry paste but I have discovered that the only difference from a normal red curry paste is the addition of cinnamon and star aniseed. If you use a Masaman curry paste you can omit these two ingredients.
I am still terrible at maths but I love making this curry and I think it tastes good so I must have learnt something!!!

This curry is best made with beef and is mainly popular in the south of Thailand. It is usually quite spicy with a thick creamy sweet, sour and salty flavour. Its secret ingredients are sweet tamarind and cinnamon which give it a unique taste.
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Ingredients:
250 mls coconut cream (thicker than coconut milk)
2 TBS oil
1 garlic clove
1 small onion sliced
2-3 TBS Thai Red Curry Paste
1 tsp cinnamon
250g lean beef
1-2 TBS sweet tamarind sauce
1 tsp sugar
3 TBS fish sauce
250 mls coconut milk
2 small potatoes peeled and cubed
2 TBS roast peanuts
1-2 star aniseed
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1. Fry the garlic and add the curry paste. Stir for a few minutes then add half the coconut cream.
2. Stir fry until the oil starts coming to the surface then add the remaining coconut cream.
3. Add the beef and stir until outside of beef is cooked.
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4. Add tamarind. sugar, fish sauce and cinnamon. Cook for 15 mins
5. Add the coconut milk, potatoes, peanuts, star aniseed and onions.
6. allow to simmer for about 30-50 mins until potatoes are tender.
7. Serve with jasmine rice.

Note: This curry tastes even better the day after it has been made as the flavours have time to mature.