B ES T trip EVER.
Where do I even start? I have so many stories, experiences, and things that I have learned, I don't even know where to begin! I'll start with some of the things that I learned I suppose...
One of the most encouraging things that I experienced was the joy of the Khmer (pronounced k-MI: which is weird, because it doesn't look like how it's spelled at all) youth and all the people in the church. We had the awesome pleasure to spend time and get to know many of the youth there (the youth is anyone who is not married and basically those between like 14 and 22 or so). Anyway, there were so many tasks that we did, that seemed quite hard to us, but the Khmer never ever complained and always smiled. They were all such a blessing to me because of their hard work and their joy while doing their seemingly strenuous work. Sombok was a testimony for our whole group. He is a Christian from a non-Chrisitian family who doesn't support the fact that he is a Christian. He works for the moringa business that the Strong's have and we got to help him in his work for a little bit.
Planting the trees, cutting the branches, getting the leaves off, and then grinding the leaves into powder can be pretty hard work - especially if you're Sombok and you have to do a lot of it by yourself. We got to work with him while doing this, and it was so cool to see him work. He never complained, never quit, and always smiled, laughed, and was ready to have fun while working. His Christianity was truly real and anyone could tell that Christ changed his life.
Another person who I had the pleasure of meeting and working with was Lon Choen. She is a woman, about 50 years old, infected with the HIV/AIDS. I'm not sure if her disease is still classified as HIV or AIDS, but just know that she has this horrible disease that will one day take her life. Her last husband left her, with eight kids to provide for (two of which are now married). Lon Choen works hard daily to provide for her family, despite her disease. She and her family live in a very small house, you could call it a shack. An example of how little she makes is this: she worked for two weeks planting rice, I believe, and she made $2.50... for two weeks. Some of us got to help her take the branches down off her moringa trees, because that is one of the ways she makes money. When she became a Christian, about three years ago, I think, she was the first to bring her offering to the church.
She was a huge testimony to me how Christ changes lives. Oh, and when we left, she wanted to pray for us. That was so amazing to me.
One of the days we were there, all of us were split up into small groups or individuals and we were each paired with one of the Khmer youth. A lot of the youth take English, so this was an opportunity for us to see how they lived, and for them to practice their English on us. We got to go hang out with them for the whole day. Anna and I were together with Ralin and Linda, two sisters. We spent time with them for the whole day, it was so cool to see how they lived. We got to help them make a meal, they showed us how to eat a bunch of cool fruit, and we just talked and learned about each other's lives. I got to eat coconut, which was pretty cool. The inside juice was really good, and I got to eat the white stuff inside - it was pretty good too, not as a good as some of the other fruit though. Dragon fruit is delicious, and so is lychee. And so are other fruits that I can't remember the names of! Oh, the bananas are really really good too.
We experienced all modes of transportation, including the lorry, tok-tok, trains, buses, ferries and taxis (in Hong Kong), planes obviously, riding in the bed of a truck... all sorts of transportation. Oh my goodness! The traffic there is crazy. Basically the bigger car wins, and traffic lights are only a suggestion. The mindset is... "if you cut me off, it's okay, because I'm going to cut you off too." Riding in the front is a scary thing, you come inches to side-scraping the guy next to you or rear-ending the guy in front of you. Phnom Penh was the worst! There are so many motos and cars that the road is jam packed, everyone going somewhere. I don't know if I'd be a very good driver in Cambodia.
Also, it takes a long time to get anywhere because (1 it's busy, and (2 half of the roads we traveled on in Battambang weren't paved with lots of bumps, so it took awhile driving on those roads.
We got to experience the life of a Cambodian first hand by digging a fence, and by planting rice. Boy, did we get showed up! The Cambodians are so good at what they do. We all were so slow digging those holes for the fence posts. What we did in 5 minutes, took them like 30 seconds. Also the
rice planting... for me, I would put down a little plant, take a long time compared to the Khmer next to me, and then mine wouldn't even stand up straight! For them, they would quickly stick up the rice plant, and it would stand up straight.
The rice planting and fence post digging day brings me to another thing that I learned. Cambodians are really really good at what they do, and they don't need all the stuff that we have to be happy. My mindset before the trip and when we first got there was sorta narrow. It was easy for me to think that I could go in and teach them something and help them. But really, I think they taught me more. It was about going in and working side-by-side with the Khmer... not our group doing stuff FOR them.
Well, that's not even everything. Ask me sometime, and I'll be happy to share with ya anything else!