Phnom Penh

Our view inside a tuk-tuk

Andrew and I are sitting in a small internet cafe, chuckling over our attempts to get onto the internet this evening to update you all on our adventures so far. This evening,we went to a Western-style restaurant for dinner that advertised free wi-fi. When we got there and tried to get on, the internet wasn’t working. So we ordered and ate our dinner there. We stood up to go to a different cafe to use the wi-fi there, and as soon as we did, rain began pouring down from the sky and continued to do so for about 20 minutes. We used that time to practice our Khmer language skills, then ran out into the sprinkling rain to the second cafe. As soon as we sat down and opened our computer, the power went out for a minute, and when it came back on, the internet was not working here, either. As I’m writing this, we are still waiting for the internet to come back on. When you read this, consider our internet-chasing-hunt a success at last.

This little story has been the most “frustrating” experience, which really on a scale of one to ten is about a two. Really, the country and its people have been overwhelmingly kind, welcoming, and laid back. We’ve been able to travel a bit around the city and see some of its less developed parts, such as a slum settlement built on a cemetery, with the shacks built up around the tombstones. Andrew and I have both traveled in many poor countries, but this experience really affected me, as the poor are forced to make a living among the dead. SP has a Cambodian partner organization, TASK, that is doing some wonderful work to help the people become more educated, have better health care and knowledge, and many other things.

We’ve had three language classes so far, and we feel like we are catching on to Khmer quite nicely so far. The local people are quite impressed with our fumbling attempts to use Khmer when talking to them! The grammar is quite easy, but some of the sounds are unnatural to our English tongues. We’re trying to soak in as much as we can, because when we move to our home in the north, we won’t have access to formal teaching. Pray that the Lord would give us learning opportunities there so that our language skills will continue to grow!

This morning we visited the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. Tuol Sleng, or S-21, was a secret prison in Phnom Penh used by the Khmer Rouge to torture and kill 20,000 men, women, and children, both Cambodian and foreign, during the Khmer Rouge rule in 1975-1979. There really are no words to express the horror and deep grief we felt as we saw metal frames to which dead victims had been tied, torture implements found in the prison, and blood stains still spattered on the ceilings. I’ve posted a few photos here, but you can see more photos of victims and soldiers at their website: The photos are very graphic, but it is very important for us to witness this piece of history which is so often ignored or forgotten. The Cambodian people have lived through tremendous suffering; our tour guide even showed us her scars given to her by Khmer Rouge soldiers during their rule. 

The next few days, we will be traveling to different project sites and partners of SP around the city. Andrew and I are so thankful that we have adjusted pretty well to the time change. We’ve been a little tired and taken a few naps here and there, but overall we’ve had much less jet lag than we expected. So the rain has stopped, the internet is on; we'd better post it fast before it goes off again!!!