Christmas Party

Many of you know that human trafficking is one of the most troubling issues facing Cambodia. According to the US State Department, Cambodia is a "source, destination, and transit" country for men, women and children into forced labor or other work. One of the primary ways that women are exploited is in prostitution. Other women have no other option than to go into commercial sex work due to lack of education, debt, or even family pressure. This Christmas, some of our World Relief staff, including those working in our trafficking prevention program, are partnering with Destiny Rescue to give these women an alternative.

Will you join us in praying for this unique outreach? Even if we reach just one woman through this event, it will mean one life exposed to the freedom that is ours in Christ. One life that can be transformed. Pray with me-- pray with us-- as we work for the Gospel and transformation in Cambodia.


Counting Votes

In lieu of a sensitive, thought-provoking and well-written blog post on my life, I thought I'd update about the voting that took place a few weeks ago. Turns out people actually like me! And your liking has translated into something good (i.e. other than simply elevating my self-esteem): those 19 votes made it possible for me to trounce other entries in this online competition (which is probably more about having fun than winning, but...). In the spirit of teamwork, you should know this makes all of us winners (now don't you feel good?!).

Your prize is my gratitude, and the chance to view a more recent photo of me, in what is called the Hall of Fame. Since I don't play any professional sports (for good reason), this may be my only chance to say that. Also, by viewing said photo, you will realize that Cambodian children don't follow me everywhere (see photo to the side) and that I have, in fact, cut my hair at least once in the last year or so.

Apparently this competition is ongoing, with new themes every month. I'll do the site engineer, Angela, a favor and offer up chances to compete (if you're a blogger), or you can request that I participate again and give you another chance to vote for me and boost my self-regard even higher (yes, it's possible). As my Cambodian friends say, "up to you."


Musical Moments

For most of us, music is something that defines our preferences. The genre we listen to, what we purchase, all of it makes a statement about who we are and what we like. Some people can be derogatory about others' tastes, and others make it their goal to collect as much music as possible. Whatever your approach to listening is, it's likely to be for pleasure, rather than for educational purposes.

In countries around the world, songs are used to communicate history, to unite people around a cause, and yes, even for entertainment. The literacy rate in Cambodia is still at just 74% of the population, and even lower for women. In this country, songs are a powerful way to transmit information. They are easily taught, learned, and remembered. Just think about how many song lyrics you remember (and how many you wish you didn't!). A couple of months ago, trapped on a bus, we watched as a group of women sang and danced to a song about Revlon "Charlie" perfume. Another Cambodian man lauded some brand of liquor as girls danced around and sang about how great the drink was.

On a different note, World Relief staff in Cambodia teach songs to children about hand washing and clipping their fingernails. With adults, we teach songs that proclaim the ways AIDS can be transmitted. Only a week ago, I listened as an adult education group sang about a man who traveled to Phnom Penh and met a beautiful woman. However, this woman gave him AIDS, and now he has learned that he cannot judge people based solely on their appearance. The final verse was a plea to Cambodian men and women to care for those living with HIV and AIDS since we know they are suffering.

Of course, for all this noble song writing about the perils of marital unfaithfulness and AIDS, there are plenty of songs in this culture taken from Western pop hits. Richard Marx, Britney Spears, and that obnoxious "Beautiful Girl" song from last summer all have translations in Khmer (and karaoke videos besides!). There are also worship songs in Khmer, traditional Khmer folk songs, and yes, even Khmer rap.

Also last week, Cambodians celebrated the annual Water Festival. Thousands of people lined the riverside in Phnom Penh to watch boat races, attend concerts and enjoy time away from work. In reading about the event over the weekend, I discovered that there are many "Water Festival Songs" written both past and present. This year, several of the songs were dedicated to all-female racing teams, with lyrics about how the women don't have boyfriends, but they might "take a walk" with one man after the race (i.e., go on a date or even something less innocent). However, the one that has stuck with me was one about a Deaf Husband and a Crippled Wife. The song ends extolling the virtues of a faithful marriage, but I have no idea how it arrives at that point. According to the newspaper, the lyrics are something like this:
"I ask him to tie up the cow/He ties up the buffalo instead."
"She sticks out her bow leg/She trips my elderly father."


Head Phones

I have an iPod. It's great. I love it. The iPod headphones, however, are not great. They've started to get a little worse for wear. So when Deanna decided to replace her broken headphones, I tagged along and bought some too. For $5, I figured it was a good deal (since when I tried to replace them in Thailand, it was going to be around $50 for new ones).

We got home, opened up our packages, and I discovered that my headphones were pink (which was okay) and jeweled (which was a bit more ostentatious than I wanted). Then I discovered that my headphones were not created equal. Literally. One side is longer than the other. I have decided that this is because I am supposed to wrap one around the back of my neck (to avoid choking, perhaps?). Deanna maintains it is a manufacturing defect. Whatever. Mine have jewels and have lasted longer than hers did. I think she's jealous.


Love Notes

Over the summer, we had some volunteers from the US offer extra training to our staff. In order to make that possible, I had to hire an additional translator. We do this fairly often, and so I'm used to hiring temporary workers and when things are finished, we say goodbye with the promise to hopefully work together again in the future.

This year, we hired a male translator who was really helpful, but with whom I had pretty limited interaction. He was out in the provinces quite a bit, so I basically contacted him to give him details on when to meet us for travel, and where to pick up his paycheck. In no way would I have considered this person a friend, or even an acquaintance. So, imagine my surprise when he came in to pick up his final pay and sat for 30 minutes, asking me all kinds of questions. Catching on to the fact that he seemed to think we could mean more to each other than employer/employee, I did my best to make sure he knew that I had work to finish, and offered to let him know when I would be going back to the US (although I was careful to note that it would not be "for a long time").

Since then, he has sent me an SMS at 11:30 at night (way too late for the average Cambodian), phoned "just to say hello" and sent a few other messages my way, most of which I have ignored. I thought I spotted him at a restaurant last week, but didn't say hello, figuring the easiest way to avoid him was, well, to avoid him. Then I had to dodge 3 phone calls and read a humorous SMS regarding why I didn't say hello. I didn't think it was a good idea to text back "well, dude, i'm avoiding you."

In the midst of a busy week, my phone beeped one morning. Picking up the SMS, I found the following:
"Good morning. How a[re] u? Last night i dream about u and than i say i love u. When i get up i didnt see u."
It's certainly not a marriage proposal, but I think it might be the creepiest SMS I have received to date. I'm now curious as to whether Cambodia has anything resembling a restraining order.