Archive for January, 2010|Monthly archive page

From a tropical island back to Michigan via Korea

well, it is time to start our jouney back home. We all had a great time here at the coast.  We spent the day yesterday on an island where we got to explore the shores at low tide, swim and have a good time.   Many got sunburned 😦  and most that have been sick are getting better.

We are now loading up on the vans, taking a 4 hour trip back to PP.  From there we will have a light dinner with Missionary Gill Suh (CRWM) and head off to the airport around 8:00 tonight.   From there a flight to Korea, a 5 hour layover, and a flight to Chicago.  Once in Chicago we take a bus back to Calvin.   The Lord willing, we should arrive around 3:00 in the afternoon at Calvin College (Spoelhof turnaround)

Please keep us in your prayers, pray that those that are not feeling well will do well on our journey.  Pray that the rest will maintain our health and good disposition.

Thank you all for your prayers this past month.  David and I would love to meet you sometime – stop by when you are near Calvin.




no internet connection

hi everyone!

this is my first blog, and all i have to say is…

we are going to be at a farm for the next few days and we won’t have access to the internet til thursday.

oh and i love you mom


p.s. professor derooy made me write this blog

General Update 1/14 to 1/23

On January 14, we arrived at Phnom Penh, which is way bigger – and noisier – than Siem Reap. Here, there are no charming thatch or wooden huts-on-stilts, at least in the part of the city our hotel is in. It’s much less tourist-based, as can be seen by all the shops displaying bamboo furniture, roof tiles, and teeth (pictorial teeth – they’re dentist offices). These shops replace Siem Reap’s stands of more tourist-friendly scarves, bags, and carvings.

Another thing you notice right away here is that people don’t feel as carefree about night. Unlike the all-hours night-life of Siem Reap, in which some restaurants and bars don’t open thier lighted doors until after dark, most shops here close around 5 or 6. And they lock the pointy-topped steel gates, drizzled with coils of razor-wire, behind them.

Friday (1/15), we stopped in on Handong Global University (HGU) and Handong International Law School (HILS)’s project, Global Entrepreneurship Training 2010 (GET10). It’s a weeklong seminar sort of deal, with six or so Cambodian universities participating. The students get to learn from Handong professors about markets, accounting, business plans, etc (don’t ask the engineer). They also get put in groups to come up with an idea for a small business, and make a business plan, which they present before judges at the end of the week, after which they receive a diploma and graduate from the program. It’s a great idea for Cambodia, which needs people to create new jobs.

GET10 is the brainchild of the Korean-American Professor S.K. Lee (we all just call him SK), a passionate, venerable, and grandfatherly Christian man. I don’t think any of us have met someone quite like SK before… and of course there’s some culture shock over Korean patriarchy involved as well 🙂

Monday morning (1/18), we visited the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC – I know, it’s so catchy and easy to say!) headquarters. From what we’ve seen, CRWRC really has the whole sustainable development thing going on! Besides immediate disaster relief, they specialize in training Khmer people to help their own villages develop leadership committees which will allow them to advocate for and deal with their own problems. It’s very well thought out, typical of the CRC – in a good way!

CRWRC sent us to several NGOs that they’re connected with; also, we got to spend the night in a village that they’re involved in. I’m especially hoping to write again about a very progressive farm that we were sent to (but don’t have time just now).

Finally, we visited a prison camp and a killing field today. They say that the Khmer Rouge years here from 1975-79 were worse than the Holocaust. I’m not sure that it’s possible to decide what crimes against humanity are worse than others, but percentage-wise, the Khmer Rouge was definitely worse. Effect-wise, too; bad as it was, Nazi Germany’s main aim was not to return Deutschland to the stone age. I’m sure there are many more posts to come on that topic.

Amanda Hayes

Tonal Sap Floating Village

We were recently treated to see the biggest circus in Cambodia called the floating village near Tonle Sap.  Tourists from around the world board old noisy vessels that accommodate perhaps 30 people who sit on sturdy rough hewn benches children sat on in school perhaps 100 years ago.  For the more adventurous one could perch on a slippery tin roof  for a more panoramic unobstructed view of the village and its inhabitants.

It was an interesting journey gliding by what some perceive to be the largest slum in Cambodia and perhaps in all of South East Asia.

To the western eye the perceived poverty and unimaginable living conditions of the mostly Vietnamese people that populate the shores of Tonle Sap is overwhelming and one could easily feel a great deal of compassion for these most unfortunate residents.  But there was no need to feel sorry or be alarmed we were told because a recent survey found that 80% of the residents who rise and fall with the level of the water are happy.  That contrast with the 20% that are allegedly happy in North America in spite of obscene wealth and luxury.  Lesson learned; it is better to live in poverty and be happy than to be filthy rich and be miserable. Some might disagree.

The residents of the floating village seemed oblivious to our presence even though more digital pictures were shot to capture the moment than were shot in Angkor Wat.  In many instances it seemed we were flagrantly invading the peoples privacy.  The residents so far have entertained millions and seemed totally indifferent to our presence while for the  tourist it was our first spectacle to view such oppressive poverty. Every twist in the river revealed more hovels and dilapidated structures bobbing on the water cobbled closely together making the scene all the more depressing. Part of the village had no electricity and batteries were used to light the odd 60 watt bulb to allow for some mobility for the residents past 6:00 pm when darkness descends on Cambodia.

During our journey a much smaller vessel carrying a skipper and a young child suddenly appeared out of nowhere, approached our vessel and came close enough to allow the child to board with a basket full of soft drinks.  The scene made me think of all the super tankers and ocean going vessels that are constantly boarded and captured near the Horn of Africa.  The child who possessed considerable charm hurriedly walked through our boat selling his wares.  As quickly as he boarded he jumped back into the smaller boat in search for another pack of tourist chugging along behind us for another sale.   This was entrepreneurship at its best. On one of the floating restaurants and souvenir shops a small child would place the head of a menacing looking snake into his mouth for only one dolla.

In a way I was very pleased to learn that the residents of Tonle Sap are happy.  If they and others like them wanted as little as half of what I have, a big comfortable house, cars, efficient transportation, health care, free drugs, eye wear and hearing aids as well as a pocketful of disposable income that allows me to come to Cambodia and cruise the seven seas the world would not have enough resources to meet all of our collective needs.  I would have to share the resources and sacrifice my lifestyle and my appetite for more just so Tonle Sap residents could live in a way that would be a pale reflection of my style.

I am glad at least 80% of Tonle Sapians are happy.  A small minority may not be but we can’t please everybody.  As noted the western world can boast that 80% of its population is discontent.  Perhaps if we had a little bit more we could increase the happiness factor in North America.  We probably should not tinker with this 80 20 ratio too much in fear of upsetting the balance we presently enjoy.

Brian Maan

crowing rooster

In some countries once the eye distinguishes light from darkness the Iman ascends the minaret and calls the faithfull to worship.  In Cambodia this function seems to have been awarded to the rooster.  At about 4:00 am a rooster somewhere in the neigbourhood below on steroids or way too much testosterone begins to crow which carries on non stop for several hours.  At about the same time a hideous noise that sounds like a squealing pig that just realized its master has decided it won’t see another sunrise joins the rooster thus forming a duet.  A little later a dog or two decides to join the cocaphany of sounds.  Sleep evades me so I turn on the light and am greeted by an 8 inch gecko clinging to the wall 6 inches from the ceiling.  I brought an alarm to Cambodia thinking I would need it but so far I have never had to use it.  I get up, wash and get dressed and at about 6:00 am ascend the stairs to the roof top where breakfast will be served.  The lights are out and there is no one about.  No sooner do I reach the top when somewhere from across the river someone flips a switch and 150 decibels of traditional Khmer music blankets the surrounding area.  If the rooster, pig or dogs could not wake the neighbourhood I am convinced the music did.  I don’t think there is a noise by law in Cambodia.  From what I see and hear I wonder if there are any laws in Cambodia and if there are no one seems to obey them.

Brian Maan

Woman at the well

Early one morning when I walked around the neigbourhood I saw a woman at a well. It wasn’t really a well but a pump beside her house close to a very polluted river. Her modest home was only a few feet away from the river in an area that displayed all the signs of abject poverty. She was fully clothed and washing herself. She took buckets of water she had drawn up out of the ground and poured them over her head. Once she was thoroughly drenched she began to scrub herself. When there is no privacy there is also no opportunity to relish the sensuousness of life. What pleasure would she derive from warm water gently cascading down her naked body in a private bathroom?

When I saw the woman at the well a passage from the gospel of John 4 came to mind. Jesus who met a woman at a well said, “everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again but whomever drinks the water I give will never thirst . Indeed the water I give will become a living spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” I pray that all of Cambodia will find and accept this living water so men and women don’t have to go to the well again and again and again to be refreshed and cleansed.

Brian Maan

surgery–no big deal

This is my very first blog–don’t judge me.
Today was a very surreal day for me as five of our group members had the chance to visit a local hospital in Phnom Penh. While everyone else was picking up trash, we were able to visit many different areas of the hospital including pre-op, post-op, and the ICU. However, I think that it’s pretty safe to say that the OR was the most exciting part of our day. This was my very first surgery ever watched live and let’s just say I was very nervous, no matter how excited I was. It probably didn’t help listening to horror stories about fainting and feeling nausea from previous experience. GOOD NEWS–no sickness. In fact, after about 5 minutes, the whole experience seemed to be quite normal. We learned a lot, and there was a giant cyst bigger than a grapefruit being removed a foot away. Hello pelvic cavity!
It’s definitely crazy to see how the regulations in a hospital change from country to country, though. In many areas, everyone goes either barefoot or wears flip flops. Cell phones and cameras were both allowed AND used in all areas–especially the operating room.
All of this was a crazy experience, but we learned a lot and had a lot of fun. GREAT day.

-Jill Roos

here i am to worship

i havent written in awhile and i had just a little personal experience i wanted to share. on tuesday our group visited a CRWRC village outside of PP. when we arrived there we were brought into the church for some worship. it turns out that the band that played knew a bunch of Hillsong songs, but they sang them in Khmer. later in the afternoon we were walking back from another village and i ended up talking with the lead singer for a bit. he asked me if i knew the song ‘here i am to worship’ and i nodded. he started singing it in english and invited me to join in. he switched back over to Khmer and we continued to sing together in both languages. it was really special to me and it was really cool to experience something as simple as this. after we finished singing he said to me, “we sing different, but to the same God. the best God.” here in Cambodia i am beginning to appreciate the more simple things in life that we all tend to look over and take for granted. this country may be different in many aspects but this is still God’s land and these are also God’s people. another case of same same but different.


My Last Night

I am leaving Cambodia early because i have an internship in Chicago next semester that begins earlier than Calvin’s. This trip has shown me so much more than i have ever expected and the people on the trip have been so great.
I hope that every parent that reads this blog understands that i have enjoyed getting to know each person on this trip. There is not one person that i have not enjoyed or been given the chance to see their amazing personality. Calvin is truly blessed with these individuals. Each person is unique and completely in love with God, and i have been given the opportunity to see that every day.
God has blessed this trip with health, and we are all very thankful that no one has been incredibly ill. This trip has not only changed me because of what i have seen and learned in Cambodia, but it has also changed me because i got to experience it with this group. It is very difficult to explain the connection that the group has, and the different things people have to offer. It is an indescribable blessing. There is no way that this group was formed by chance. It was intrinsically chosen, and everyone is here on purpose.
I just wanted to try to explain that I am so thankful for everyone on this trip and i am sad to leave. I feel that i will be missing out on a little, but i know i will be missed too.
Leah Salazar


My eyes had creaked open an uncountable number of times, each time only to find ants creeping all around me, and that it was still the middle of the night. But this time was different. My eyelids lifted slowly like the lid to an ancient rusty trunk. A hazy light slithered in between my eye lashes. Morning. Ahhh. Finally. I tried to move but I could only budge, like trying to ride a bike that has a tangled chain that is stuck in the gears. Skqullk. My leg moved an inch across the tile floor. And it was gone. All of my energy, spent on sliding my leg one inch to the left.

I very seriously considered wetting the bed, or rather the tile hallway that was supposed to be my bed, because the thought of moving my entire body in such a way that would get me to the bathroom downstairs, well, that thought was unrealistic. I stored that thought away in the “impossible” section of my brain and let it mingle with other thoughts such as a world where money didn’t exist; owning my own unicorn and naming it Xantha; and warm snow.

My body was covered with dry sweat, grime, and a fitted sheet that fit only on a mattress that was but a wish to me. Ache.

I guess that is what happens to your body when it is twisted through undefined dance moves and retired to a tile floor.

Last night was a whirl of cultures that went brilliantly out of control to a beat of who knows what kind of music. From traditional Cambodian music to non-traditional noise with English lyrics to American hip-hop with Khmer lyrics to Korean pop music. No matter what played, we danced. We twisted, we shouted, we clapped; sweat flinging off of ever one. We mimicked each others moves and created a jammtastic moment that was still thumping in my head.

I let my eye lids fall back into a closed position and waited for another hour to pass, hoping that I would fall back to sleep before I realized how uncomfortable I really was.

Jacoba Bulthuis