Our Christmas in Cambodia story

This is the story of our trip to Cambodia. It’s a bit long, but it’s an easy read. Grab a cup of coffee first (I did). If you contributed money for “Christmas in Cambodia,” you’ll find a description of how it went with photos below.

On December 15 we left Tokyo headed for Bangkok and then Phnom Penh. I was anxious. I’d been to Cambodia six times but never with my family. Would they like it? Would they connect well with the people there? Phnom Penh is not a great place for tourists, especially families. How would they react? At least the kids were eagerly anticipating lots of animals: dogs, chickens, geckos, and monkeys.

We flew to Bangkok first using frequent flyer miles and took a cheap flight to Cambodia the next day. Gani, a Cambodian friend-of-a-friend, picked us up at the airport. Cool and appraising, he had a large bass speaker filling up most of his trunk. I’m glad to know him now. He took us to the apartment where we planned to stay for our first five days. It was in a giant concrete block of a building. We walked down a narrow passage, climbed several steep flights of steps, and passed our neighbors on their balcony — their building was about two meters away from ours. We could see the length of their apartment through the open door. Apartments in Cambodia are long and narrow, often with three or four floors shared by an extended family.

Our apartment had an iron gate with a giant, thick padlock. We were instructed to lock ourselves inside every night. All our neighbors did the same. I wonder why they don’t build locks into the gates.

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The girls loved riding through Phnom Penh in Tuk-Tuks (motorbike taxis)

Later we  rode by tuk-tuk to the new city mall, next to the “Olympic Stadium” (built for a canceled Asian Games in 1963 and appearing mostly abandoned). We ate pizza: deep dish, “Meat Lover’s Special,” Asian BBQ sauce, $11. At some point, Hitomi confided that Phnom Penh was a lot rougher than she’d expected. “I told you,” I said. I was relieved her face wasn’t filled with stress or fear.

The streets of Phnom Penh are crazy with cars, motorbikes, bicycles, and people all making their own rules. The sidewalks are trash strewn and usually blocked by parked cars. Skinned chickens and pig parts hang from food stands. The blocks are filled with open store fronts boasting TV’s and refrigerators, punctuated with open air markets spilling out fruit, vegetables, and more meat. Massage parlors offering legitimate and illegitimate services declare “$5 per hour.” We saw one playground. The kids looked and declared it was, “Hot!”

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An atypical view of a sidewalk in Phnom Penh (riverside area)

Yet in the midst of all the outward frenzy, life is slow in Phnom Penh compared with Japan. That’s what a Japanese mother told us a few days later. It took her six months to adjust, but now she enjoys Cambodia and says it’s a great place to raise kids.

I got up the first morning at 6:30 and waited for the others. Eventually, we all got up early every day. Life in Southeast Asia starts before sunrise. You’ve got to take advantage of the coolest part of the day.

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Feeding monkeys at Wat Phnom

We endeavored to experience the city. We went to Wat Phnom, the oldest and  best known temple in Phnom Penh. We didn’t go for cultural reasons. Our mission was to feed the monkeys. The park has a healthy population of relatively friendly little beasts. A vendor sold us lotus pods and showed us how to extract the seeds. The monkeys take them one by one in their little hands. But monkeys are aggressive and clever, good at sneaking up on you from behind and grabbing things quickly. Several times they managed to take a whole seed pod. Two monkeys pulled hard on Hitomi’s skirt, with hands and teeth, and I had to stop them from climbing up. At one point, Mari backed up to close to a wall, and a monkey jumped from it right on top of her head. But it was all in good fun. As we were leaving, Mari felt a surge of affection and moved as if to hug a monkey. I grabbed her as the little fellow gave every indication of being about to go berserk. (Someone passing by told us that the monkeys were very calm, but they go crazy if you play with them. You don’t want to be around crazy monkeys, trust me.)

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After the monkeys, we visited the elephant. Every day you can get elephant rides at Wat Phnom. We contented ourselves letting the twins feed it bananas. Reia, being more cautious (smarter?), kept her distance.

Another day we ventured to the riverside area, alongside the muddy waters of the Mekong River. It’s not the most beautiful sight, but there is a spacious, wide-open feeling and a cool breeze. After some coffee at a Chinese restaurant, we set off walking. Walking in Phnom Penh is no easy task, mostly due to traffic and heat (remember the sidewalks do double duty as parking lots). We went to “Friends,” an NGO and restaurant located near the National Museum. We didn’t eat but went inside their gift shop. I was attracted to a rack of children’s books in Khmer. I bought one of each, about twenty in all, for $27.

Friends is an NGO that, among other things, operates a gourmet cooking school and trains street kids to run restaurants. On the way out, I spotted their cookbook for sale. From Spiders to Water Lillies is undoubtedly the best looking cookbook I’ve ever seen. It’s full of wonderful photography — not typical food pictures, but dishes in their Cambodian context. I will buy it, just not yet. I checked, and it’s not available on Amazon. However, I understand you can order a copy in the USA from the NGO’s office. Call (541) 779-0103.

Did I say there’s not much for families to do in Phnom Penh? Not in the touristy sense anyway. We ate at different restaurants, returned for pizza again, and bought pirated DVD’s to watch at night. One day Gany took us around to show us how people live. We visited a couple of homes and an apartment that are for rent. The apartment was a typical skinny stack of long rooms. We entered the ground floor and I thought it was a bit tight. Then we went up a level and saw more rooms. Then another level and another. The place had at least eight rooms and must be 3 times as big as they place where we live now — all for $300 per month. I think Cambodians usually live in these places with their extended families, not as a family of five.

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A “Saturday school” where Japanese kids learn in their own language

Gany helped me pick up a cell phone in the evening, which I needed for the volunteer trips I conduct several times a year. I wanted his advice, and I needed him to show the vendor his Cambodian ID card. I had been enviously eying unlocked iPhones for less than $100. I might have bought one, but Gany took my to an honest shopkeeper who explained that the cheap phones are “China phones” — fakes made in China. They work, he explained, but they are not made from genuine parts. They look cool — like the real thing — but they’re slower and don’t work as well. They’re known to break suddenly, so it’s best to find a shop offering a six month guarantee. A real iPhone costs $700 in Phnom Penh. I settled for a $29 Nokia that works just fine and a $5 SIM card, and I was glad to save the money.

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Kids in Andong Village playing a game

On Sunday we went to Andong Village. I’ve written about Andong before,and some of the funds we raised for “Christmas in Cambodia” were earmarked for the kids there. Andong is a shanty town that is home for more than 1200 displaced families. Most of them were evicted from a slum in Phnom Penh in 2006 and forcibly relocated to a bare patch of ground outside the city. There are few good jobs nearby, the local well is tainted with heavy metal, and the kids had no school for the first two years. My Cambodian friend worked tirelessly alongside the people of Andong from the beginning, helping them build their first and subsequent shelters, putting in drainage pipes to lessen the flooding, counseling families, and doing much more. He started a small church as well, with a focus on holistic ministry, and in 2008 he opened a school that now serves 120 kids in four grade levels.

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A mother and children in Andong

I’d never visited on a Sunday, so we all went to attend a church service. It was simple and nice but incomprehensible for us (being in Khmer). Afterward I passed on a gift of $600, donated by family, friends, and readers here. They plan to use this money to take a large group of children on a special  outing to a beautiful place outside the city. They needed time to plan, so it won’t happen until New Year’s Day or so. They promised to send pictures that I’ll post later.

Afterward, we walked with a young Cambodian woman, a volunteer English teacher, over to the shanty village. This was our first encounter as a family with Cambodians in their homes, and they happened to be among the poorest of the poor in Cambodia. Once again, I didn’t know how Hitomi and the kids would respond. Happily, they just dove in. The kids spotted dogs — lots and lots of dogs and loads of puppies — and chickens, too.  That’s was enough to make their day. When we saw a group of kids playing, they edged in close as if they wanted to join. The only downsides were Maika getting scratched by a chicken, and then they all got scolded by an old lady for moving in on her newborn chicks. (We weren’t letting them touch animals, but sometimes they were magnetized away for a moment or two.)

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The girls and the kids we met

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The village chief solves a dispute between a little girl and an angry man
(it wasn’t clear what got him so upset)

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A boy, his bike, and his bricks

Our time at Andong was eye-opening and encouraging for me. I’m so glad my wife and daughters responded as they did.

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Medicines for kids living with HIV at Wat Opot

The next day we boarded a bus and traveled 55km to Wat Opot. Hitomi was worried about five long days with little on the schedule, but I was anxious to get there and start making real relationships. Travel is nice, but getting immersed with people in a new place is so much better. From my experiences of bringing many others, I knew the time ahead would be very rich.

About 50km outside Phnom Penh I had the bus driver and several passengers all helping me look for the place on the highway where we had to stop and get off. We didn’t miss it. After disembarking I flagged a passing tuk-tuk who drove us the rest of the way, about 3km down a dirt road. As we made the last turn, I saw Huett, the art teacher, sitting outside the local coffee shop — a shack with a rickety shelf of bamboo where we sometimes sit cross-legged and sip the dark beverage mixed from packets of Nescafe.  We arrived a minute later, and a few kids came to greet us with the familiar cry, “An-DEE, An-Dee!” Finally, my family had come to this place where I have so many heart connections now!

My daughters looked around and very soon spotted the dogs. Puppies, a litter of them  just reaching toddler stage, appeared from behind a building.  That was enough to lure them away. Some of the kids at Wat Opot joined them, and that was that. We could have left them alone most of the daylight hours after that. We never had the heart to tell them that those puppies are being raised for special occasions, like weddings — not as presents but as dishes. Yes, they are puppy chow.

We bunked in the hospice, because there weren’t any patients, and it isn’t easy finding space for a family of five. My wife says it smelled like a hospital, but I didn’t notice. The next two days we spent getting into the flow.

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Her morning medications

At 6:30 every morning the kids living with HIV came to take their medicine. They must take their ARV’s (antiretroviral drugs) on time every day. If they don’t, they may fail a course of therapy, and then those drugs won’t work anymore. Because they are poor, they have very few alternative drugs available. Simply put, they must take their meds with near perfect discipline, or they will die.

We popped out of bed just before they lined up, if not sooner. Most of the children left for school by 7am, leaving only the youngest. But the elementary age kids returned about 11am.

We left our daughters on their own for large parts of the days. They would come back periodically with bumps, scratches, or small animals they had caught like geckos and frogs. They needn’t have gone far. The large basin in our bathroom that we used for showering had a young family of frogs living inside it, and a gecko lived in the corner behind a cabinet. Frogs are also food, and Wat Opot has a large pond filled with them.

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Cooking up a snack to share with her friends

One day I pulled out my Khmer books and made a  rough sign up sheet on a piece of notebook paper. Very quickly I had a crowd of kids all around me reading and checking out books. I quickly explained they must write their names and the titles, take care of the books, and return them. Then they could borrow again. On previous visits I saw the kids didn’t have enough books in Khmer, and I noticed an girl earnestly reading a boring looking book that was clearly below her age level. I hoped these books would be a hit, and my expectations were exceeded. My only regret is that I didn’t buy more copies — especially of the longer books. Next time I go, in February, I’ll do that.

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A boy checks out a book

What does it take to start a library? I was inspired by Room To Read, which creates libraries around the world. I’ve written previously about Room To Read, and I even met Miss Universe and Room to Read’s current CEO at one of their fundraisers in Tokyo (I volunteered as the event photographer). Starting a library is very simple. All you need are books and a simple system. Simple ideas are the best, and Room To Read has grown with incredible speed. I respect the organization, but I’m disappointed they only work with government schools. In a country as corrupt as Cambodia, where government schools are often “schools” in name only, why not set up libraries at private organizations intent on serving their communities? Why lock an organization behind a rule? (A bit of background: I tried to get Room To Read to start a library at Wat Opot, and I was willing to raise the funds for it, but my attempt failed because the local office stuck to the script.)

Back to my story, each time I pulled out the books a crowd formed. Many kids were signing out books, and  they seemed to be returning them.

Another night a young girl came and showed me a book about the solar system. She came to Wat Opot recently, at the age of 14, infected with HIV. That means she was likely infected by a sexual act, either by abuse within her family or by some visiting pedophile.

“What is this?” she asked, pointed to the blackness around the revolving planets. “Space,” I said. She made me write it down: “O-u-t-e-r S-p-a-c-e.” What dreams have been born in moments like these? What visions of freedom set loose by mere words?

I had a very short time to help the kids learn the system and understand the benefits, but I turned the project over to another volunteer (simply by handing him a paper bag).

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On the bus!

When I raised money for Christmas in Cambodia, I said we would take the kids on a special trip. The big event was planned for Christmas Eve. Friends, family members, and others who I don’t even know pitched in about $1500, and the first $1000 went to Wat Opot. They reserved two buses with seats for 65 people, enough for all the school age kids plus some staff and volunteers. The destination was Kirirum, a beautiful mountaintop hideaway outside Phnom Penh. Kirirum boasts cool breezes and a freshwater swimming hole overshadowed by tall pine trees. (Note: Only a portion of the $1000 was needed for the trip and Christmas celebrations. The rest went to cover other needs, which I left to the director’s disgression.)

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Traffic (the truck is carrying workers to the city who can’t afford any other way)

The night of the 23rd all the children were restless. I started to get frustrated at their hyperactivity during the evening, but then I realized they were just anticipating the next day. Eventually everyone went to sleep. Our family drifted off about 9pm.

The first excited voices of children drifted in at 4am. I stayed in bed for another 45 minutes. By that time, I could see shapes walking about in the darkness and the flicker of our neighbor’s TV. I knew most of the kids were up. I walked over to the new dormitory at 5am and found the director in the office and kids lined up outside with wet hair, carefully combed, and wearing their best clothes. The mosquito nets had been put away, and we could have loaded them into the buses and left right then. Only the buses hadn’t arrived. They weren’t scheduled to depart until 6:30. No problem. They came, we boarded, and we were off in good time.

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We stopped at a bakery for breakfast

Kirirum was a three and a half hour drive away. After an hour on the road, we pulled over next to a bakery and the staff bought big bags of baguettes. All the kids had a special allowance for the day, so some bought extra pastries. But when I boarded my bus, the driver had a wrench, and he was working on the brake pedal. “It’s no problem,” someone said. But this isn’t the first time I’ve been on a broken down bus in Phnom Penh. I suspected it was worse, and it was. They talked about replacing the bus with another, but it’s not that simple. Most buses aren’t allowed to drive up the mountain road where we were going. Thankfully, someone quickly made a decision to press on in the remaining bus. We had fifty seven people in thirty five seats. Fifty seven happy people, most of them quite small. No problem.

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Buying lunch from a market vendor on the way

An hour later we stopped to buy food for lunch, because the vendors on top of the mountain are expensive  compared to the stalls in town. The staff negotiated for chicken and pork. We had packed our own rice and vegetables. I bought an iced coffee and paid 12 cents to use a public restroom. We drove out and turned uphill.

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Pit stop

Most Cambodians aren’t used to driving long distances, and that includes the kids at Wat Opot. They get car sick. The next time we stopped was a restroom break. A few children plopped on their knees and threw up. We traveled on, and the older girl seated just behind me cradled her head in misery. A boy at the back, Leak, was waving a plastic bread bag. I don’t know about Leak, but as we switched onto a dirt  road the girl finally lost it. I felt sorry for her. It’s not just that she got sick, but she is a very cool young teenager, and you know how that is.

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The pine trees of Kirirum

When we finally arrived, after another round of puking that fertilized some grateful pine trees, we spread out straw mats and had a feast. One of my requests, when providing the money, was that the kids could have a big meal. Well, it was huge, and we somehow finished it.

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The staff getting out the food

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A simple but tasty feast!

We finally walked over to the water, and it was clear…and COOL! The kids dipped their feet in, and it was a shock. They normally swim in warm, brown ponds; this was chilly by comparison. As they hesitated, Mark, an American who is volunteering at Wat Opot, suddenly rushed by and dove in wearing his shorts. Pretty soon, everyone followed.

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There is nothing quite the same as swimming in a cool mountain lake, so restful and peaceful. Tourists flock to the place, but on this weekday we were almost alone there.

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In deep water

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In shallow water

The lake is really just a widening of the stream as it flows through a shallow bowl formed of rocks. Just below where we stopped it narrows into a gentle waterfall (which is a roaring waterfall in the rainy season). I led some small children around the corner to the place where water ripples over two large rocks, and they held back in fear. I realized that they probably had not seen a running stream before. For their own good, I picked them up and set their feet in the running water. I think I enjoyed the discovery almost as much as they did.

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Kids approaching the little waterfall (our daughters, Reia and Mari, are with them)

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Reia with Nia Pia and Srey Mao

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Mari and Srey Nu

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Older kids and staff

Note: Most Cambodians swim in their clothes, except for children who
swim in their underwear or, if they’re young enough, in nothing at all.

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Some of the older kis and staff after the little kids had moved downstream

One thing happened at Kirirum that I want to mention separately. Socheat, a boy about ten years old, came to me with blood pouring out of his foot. He’d stepped on something, probably a sharp stick. Mark was nearby. I squeezed the sole of his foot and coaxed the blood out, because puncture wounds need to bleed. My wife got her band aids and antiseptic gell. The bleeding slowed, and I patched him up. Hitomi was asking me if it was okay, and I didn’t know why she was so anxious: just a kid with a cut. About thirty minutes later, she mentioned it again, and it finally dawned on me that Socheat has HIV. His blood IS a big deal. That’s why he made a big deal about it (not crying, but getting quick attention). I didn’t have any cuts on my hand, so the risk of touching his blood for me was extremely minimal, but working with these kids means I can’t forget what they have. I guess I needed some kind of a shock to realize that.

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The group photo minus myself and a few kids who were still car sick at this point

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Leak (Leyek) heads for the bus carrying a pine branch as a souvenier

We spent the rest of the morning and afternoon, until everyone was ready to return. Mercifully, I don’t think anyone got sick on the way back. The bus had a TV mounted on the ceiling just behind the driver, and one of the kids had brought a set of Karaoke DVD’s. As we drove and the sun set behind the rear window, we transformed into a rolling party. I looked back during one particularly uproarious song and saw Leak at the center rear. He was actually standing behind the last seat due to the lack of space. He had on a red silk shirt, unbuttoned, and the fading light was pouring in through orange curtains draped at his shoulders. He was dancing, but it was almost like he was conducting the whole bus from the pulpit — like the high priest of hip-hop. Everyone looked back and cheered. It was another one of those moments you just have to see and remember. The day Leak danced at the back of the bus.

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On the bus with Leak in the back (during a calm moment)

The next day was Christmas, our last day at Wat Opot. It passed quickly for me. Part of the day I spent interviewing the director and some kids on video. Preparations were under way in the dining area, for a party in the evening. Decorations had been pulled out of storage. Bright silvery shapes were hung above, and the “Christmas bush” — a leafless Cambodian plant they’ve used for years — was brought in and covered in festive lights. A group of kids folded origami hearts and other shapes and put them in the branches.

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We took out the face paint on Christmas morning (that’s Mari at the bottom)

At 5pm we ate a wonderful meal: cold noodles with some sort of green leafs and flowers on top all drenched in a curry sauce. Mmm, a specialty of the cooks’.

Then they turned down the lights. Wayne, the director, gave his annual speech. He is a self-described “Buddhist follower of Jesus,” and he took some time to say that both Buddha and Jesus taught a message of compassion. Then he yielded the floor to the man who serves as caretaker in the children’s dormitory. He is a Christian pastor, and he talked about the Christmas story and the meaning of Jesus’ birth. After he finished, the kids all applauded. I’m honestly not sure if they clapped because they liked what the adults said or because the talking was finally over!

Finally, Wayne led everyone in singing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus.

Now the next part may sound strange, but keep in mind Wat Opot is a far off place in the countryside of Cambodia. When Cambodians want to celebrate, they turn up the music and dance. That’s exactly what they did. For the next hour or two we all twisted, laughed, and danced — from age 2 to 62 give or take — under speakers suspended from the rafters blasting everything from Cambodian hip-hop to the Macerena. Yes, the Macerena. What a night!

Sorry about the lack of pictures, but it was dark and I was having fun (and I didn’t bring my flash either).

We went to bed exhausted and packed before breakfast. The kids came in as usual to take their medicine, looking  more tired than usual. After breakfast we said our goodbyes. The elementary kids had gone to school (on a Saturday!), but the older kids were around. Our kids sat with a group of them while we wrapped up whatever details remained (a pad of paper to the art teacher, my bag of books to Mark, etc.). Then we left feeling grateful and happy-sad. I’ll see you again soon my friends…

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A view at Wat Opot

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Pulling in a catch of catfish from one of the fish ponds

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Harvesting rice in one corner of the property

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Older kids and staff working to plant some Papaya trees (the rice plot is behind them)

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A small vegetable garden project that’s working well

NOTE: Wat Opot is by no means a “wealthy” project. In fact, they generally spend all the money they have every month. If you would like to contribute once, or monthly, you can find out how at this link: http://www.watopot.org/donate/

We went to the main road by Tuk-Tuk and ended up catching a van to Phnom Penh, along with about twelve other people. As we waited for the bus, which never came, Maika said something that touched us. She wants to learn to speak Khmer, so she can talk to her new friends. Reia and Mari agreed. Then we all started practicing the words we’d learned on each other.

Our last night in Phnom Penh wasn’t uneventful. We met up with two Japanese friends, plus a third Japanese man who they had just met. We all had Chinese food and had a great conversation. Mr. Sasaki lives near us in Tokyo, but every year he spends two months living in Phnom Penh. He went for the first time a few years ago, and he was so moved that he quit his salaried job and became a school photographer — so he could travel there each year. He volunteers at a small school started by a Japanese NGO. His friend teaches Japanese at a university during the week and, on Saturdays, at the school for Japanese children. (See the photo of the Saturday school above.) The third man has been surveying rice fields in Thailand and Laos looking for patterns that affect productivity (he uses a camera mounted on a remote controlled plane). The restaurant where we ate is owned by a nice lady from Szechuan, China. I’ll go back. The food was very spicy but tasted great.

As we left, we had one last reminder of the realities of life in Cambodia. A girl with a large spoon and a plastic grocery bag was sifting through a bin out front. Apparently, the restaurant disposes of all the leftover food in this bin, probably with the intention of kindness. I suppose the girl was happy to bring the food home to her family, if she has a family and a home. We boarded our tuk-tuk right next to her, and I told Reia what she was doing. She must see; we all need to see and have our hearts broken. Jesus once said that when we see a girl like that, we’re seeing him. What we offer to her; we offer to him. But in Cambodia there are so many.

We returned home to Japan two days ago. On the train from Narita I looked around at the other passengers clutching bags and suitcases, wearing warm clothes and heading home surrounded by abundance. I thought of Cambodia, and I thought those people on the train don’t know what they’re missing. The wealthy seldom see their own poverty. That’s why I bring Japanese to Cambodia.

It’s late. I needed to finish this now before the details slip away. Tomorrow is New Year’s Eve, and life goes on. To anyone still reading, wow, I salute you. If you haven’t already, I invite you to subscribe to the RSS feed and stick around.

Please scroll down for images of receipts and a final update…

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Vinat standing in front of the new dorm for young children and girls

UPDATE

I said that I would post receipts, and I’ve really been dragging my feet. I guess going in Photoshop and creating images of receipts is not that motivating. But I really do want to communicate well with all of you who gave generously to show love for a bunch of children in Cambodia you’ll most likely never meet.

PayPal Total Received - 605-62

This is an image showing the total amount given through PayPal (click to enlarge). PayPal deducts handling fees, but they are very low compared to most services that receive donations.

PayPal Donation Receipt to Wat Opot

This is the PayPal receipt showing that I donated all the funds to Wat Opot directly. You can also confirm by visiting the following website where detailed records of donations to Wat Opot are posted online (all the funds I donated are listed as “Project Friends”):

http://www.partnersincompassioncambodia.com/index_files/fin1.htm

If you visit the link above, you’ll notice I donated a lot more than $605. That’s because friends and family in Japan and the USA gave money to me directly, which I passed on. All total, I was able to give: $1005.62 to Wat Opot and $600.00 to the NGO at Andong Village.

I received a report that the Andong Village NGO took two full busloads of kids and staff (nearly 100 people) to Kirirum (the same place the Wat Opot kids visited). The Andong kids also had an incredible day they will not soon forget. I wish I could have been there to share it with them and take pictures.

Thank you all!!

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About the Author

About the Author: Andy Gray is a writer and photographer living in Phnom Penh, Cambodia and working with Alongsiders International. You can find him puttering around the streets of Phnom Penh on his Suzuki Viva 125, running stoplights and driving on the wrong side of the road or on the sidewalks like a local. If you see him in a coffee shop, he'll be the one typing and deleting the same line over and over again. .

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  • Teresa Sherrill

    Thanks so much for so quickly posting your beautiful story and pictures. We were praying with you and are so glad to see the stories of “seeing and being Jesus” throughout your time.

  • thank you so much for sharing your story with my son and i, especially the photos. trust it was a life-changing adventure.

    will read more of this later, as i only had time to just skim it for now.

    John says, “i hope you really show God’s love to them, and i hope your next place you go for helping poor places is that when you are helping out orphans they have the best time ever!”

  • I love your photos and the pictures that you tell through your stories… It sounded wonderful. I love the experience that this was for your children — probably the best and most memorable Christmas of their lives! I’m excited for the next chapter of the story….

  • Dave & Norma Leeper

    The pictures tell so much of your experience. What a wonderful way to spend Christmas, helping so many. Thanks for sharing your trip.

    God bless you and your family.

  • Brooks Atherton

    Such wonderful pictures and a wonderful story! Thank you for sharing your experiences in Cambodia. I just arrived back from my biannual trip to an orphanage in Tijuana and greatly identify with your observation that “the wealthy seldom see their own poverty”. Often, I think I and others miss out on the truely abundant life Jesus offers us only because we settle for our own abundance. May God continue to bless your family with opportunities to participate in and share His abundant life in Japan.

  • Fiona Newsome

    HI Thank you for your story of your Christmas Trip with your Family to Wat Opot. I was at Wat Opot in July and August to help start the Jewellery Making project… To read about your few day with them at christmas time just broughtmy thoughts and my heart right back to Wat Opot with all the children and young teens that live there….Ahaaaa I can not wait for my next trip back to Wat opot to help. Your gift was such a great experience for them all to have in their hearts (Bus sick or not). I heard greats things spoken by Wayne about you when I was there…it is so heartening to hear you trying to get a library going for them………They really need that opportunity.. And of course have enjoyed you photos of the kids…….

    Kindest regards and may run into you there one day on one of my helping visits there.

    Fiona Newsome
    Christchurch
    New Zealand

  • Just finished reading this. Well expressed, and I’m glad your family could go. You are quite right that people like me do not really see our own poverty. Seeing the pictures and reading your stories makes me reflect again on why God has put me on this earth. If we are not intentional about following him to “uncomfortable” places, we will just drift along with the culture, following its priorities. May God help you and me to not do that.

  • I’ve just posted images of receipts and a final report about Christmas in Cambodia for the kids from Andong. Thanks again to all who gave!

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  • Jon

    Lovely story and superb photos. I’m sure your own kids will benefit from this experience as well.

    I’m delighted my small contribution helped with the Christmas trip. I am hoping to visit the home over the coming Chinese New Year too.

  • miony

    I Like this site so much,,,

    ^^

    I’m from Indonesia..
    cambodia, have a same culture with Indonesia…

    would U Like to come to indonesia..?
    hehehe….

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