Saturday, June 06, 2015

Starting the Journey

We headed west on Friday morning, had a hugely long layover in Los Angeles that was made much sweeter by some lovely time with BrieAnn who took the time to come and talk and enjoy the huge space which is LAX's international terminal.

On the way we stopped in Kita Konabalu, Malaysia as we were accompanying Elder Chew, who lives there, home.  It's lovely.  Lush, green, with islands off the coast.  I can see why it is a popular destination for vacationers on this side of the world.  We got to meet his family at the airport and then later, with his district president (who also met us and got us to our hotel) were able to visit Elder Chew's family and talk with them for a while.  They seem like a gentle family who have been through a lot.  And we could tell that their district president cared about them.

We left the hotel for an early flight out the next morning. Our friends, the Kanes, arrived in Kota Kinabalu a day later, starting their next stint as directors of LDScharities work (they previously worked at that in Indonesia).  They are marvelously upbeat and adventurous people (they met 30+ years ago on a beach in Goa, India: he was backpacking around the continent and she had come south after spending a couple of weeks trekking with friends in Pakistan)  .I think they will be perfect for the job.

We arrived in Phnom Penh and were greeted by a cheerful group of fellow volunteer mission workers, some doing humanitarian projects, others managing the Perpetual Education Fund (a loan program for post-secondary vocational and technical education that you can read about here), handling clerical work or working on community relations.  They are a cheerful, friendly bunch.

President Moon, us, Elder and Sister Gatherum (LDSCharities), Elder Hollenzer (office support) 
Elder and Sister Oveson (Perpetual Education Fund and CES), Elder and Sister Van Broklin (public affairs).

We were perched in an apartment on the 3rd floor of a building near the middle of the city.  Perched, because we're transient, waiting for final word on our visas (Good News yesterday!  They've been approved and after a final look over by the government's security department, should arrive next week) and this apartment was available for a few days before the next set of mission workers arrive.  They arrive tomorrow, so we're packing up again and will settle on another perch for a few more days until we have visas in hand.

Jet lag means we're awake quite early, which means we've been out and walking before the traffic gets crazy busy.  Some photos from some of those walks:

The next day we headed to the mission office where there was some leader-training going on with some of the young missionaries.  This was what we found at the front door:

Cambodia is a shoes-off-in-the-house country.

To keep ourselves busy while visa-waiting we've spent some time on the east side of the city with a couple of fine young Vietnamese speaking missionaries (young men) and a couple of open-hearted Khmer speaking missionaries (young women) who had visits to make and have met some really good-hearted people in that process. And we took Ngoc's friend Kimlen and her younger sister out for dinner one evening.    Kimlen is a radiologist/ultrasound technician who did her medical studies in Vietnam and became fast friends with Ngoc while there.  Now she is back in Cambodia and has a husband and a 4 month old baby, the latter of whom she sees only intermittently as the little boy, in Cambodia-family tradition, is being taken care of by his grandmother who lives several hours away in Kampong Cham.  Kimlen  invited us to see the palace complex and the National Museum (an amazing array of archaeological artifacts and ancient sculpture) with her and her sister and cousin the next morning.  So we did.  

While planning our time together we'd invited her to visit with two of our Cambodian sister missionaries and tour the south stake center.  Ngoc had told her about missionaries and about the changes in her life after listening to what they had to say so she was interested.

So after her sister and cousin headed back to their studies we took a tuk-tuk to the stake center and sat through a very lovely teaching time unable to understand a word of what was said but thoroughly enjoying watching the interest, laughter, kindness, and sympathy that moved across all three of their faces at different times during the conversation.  They are three very good young women.

I wish I had a photo of the south stake center to show you.  It is a big, airy, three story building with high, high ceilings, big open spaces like terraces and classrooms that you enter from large open-ended, shady corridors that the breeze moves through.  The conversation we had we held on the ground floor shaded foyer, a huge, open (no doors anywhere, just high, see-through metal gates that are closed at night) entryway that took up the middle third of the building with views of the expansive entryway and beyond to the street, the broad stairs leading up to the second floor, and the wide corridors on either side.  It was really the perfect kind of architecture for the climate and setting.  I was really impressed at what the architects had created and very much enjoyed the shade and the breeze and the expansive feel that resulted from their work.

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