Thursday, 14 September 2017

Grand Finale



Apocalyptic
It’s meant to unveil truths, which sounds like it should be fascinating 
but it seems a jumble of nonsense.

Apathetic 
It is part of God’s word so I know I need to read it but it doesn’t seem to teach me anything about God.
How on earth does it apply to me? 

Allusions
So many oblique references to the Hebrew Scriptures, but when you flip back it’s not exactly the same.
It’s hard to get interested.

Awkward 
We believe Gods word is full of life and power 
which sounds exciting,
but it feels like reading it aloud to kids or unbelieving friends will probably either put them to sleep or freak them out.



Amazing Authentic 
But when it comes to carefully studying the Revelation it does reveal the fascinating reality of another realm. 
A peek into the throne room, the Lion/Lamb takes the scroll from the enthroned one.

Astonishing Astounding
It shows who God is and what he has done.
Brimming with relevance and things to learn.



Awesome
A multitude washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb,
The slaughtered Lamb who is the victorious Lion. 
He who was, who is and who is to come
He is alive for ever and ever
And he holds the keys to death and Hades




Velvet Ashes this week is curious, which reminded me of late last year when the expat woman's Bible study groups started reading Revelation. We had come to the end of one study and choosing what to do next. One of the options was the final book of the Bible, it seemed like most of us weren't that familiar with it. With the help of John Stott, along with Jensen and Barnett we have been working our way through. Hopefully this expresses some of our journey from curiosity and confusion to excitement.  

Friday, 8 September 2017

Connecting and the letter O

Connecting is the Velvet Ashes theme for this week. 
(I didn't really plan ahead for it but I ended up posting some photos from our time in Chiang Mai years ago. It felt like we had instant real community even though we had never been there before, and were only staying for a few months.) 




Overloaded
Motorbikes in Cambodia comfortably seat two people, but actually carry five and a pig.
We have so many electronic ways to communicate; email, SMS, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
If I want to talk to someone overseas I just need to figure out if I want to Skype or use Messenger.
Communication is easy, fast and plentiful but can weigh us down.

Obvious
It’s plain for all to see when I sit and when I rise, they can perceive my thoughts from afar.
They can discern my going out and my lying down; they can be familiar with all my ways.


Obscured
The huge tip of the iceberg can be seen easily, but do we assume the tip is everything?
Despite the bombardment, all the information is filtered, cherry picked, out of context and decorated with sun rays.
A cool day in the tropics is considered a hot day elsewhere. That one is easily measured and joked about, but often the importance of context is invisible.
The abundance of communication can lead to miscommunication, frustrations. We might think we understand but we might be building assumptions around what we can see sticking out of the water.

Omniscient
He knows when I sit and when I rise, he perceives my thoughts from afar.
He discerns my going out and my lying down; he is familiar with all my ways.

decorated with sun rays



See also Context is your friend
and for the flip side Home assignment actually at home


Friday, 1 September 2017

Same same but different

There were many surprises when I moved from China back to Australia. As I started interacting with Australians again I realised I’d taken on some foreign habits without being aware. I was reminded of this as Velvet Ashes is currently welcoming new cross cultural workers this month, in particular this week is Welcome to the Team.



“You’ve been to America,” my uncle exclaimed while we were eating a roast dinner.
What do you call this?

I have never been to America and I had no idea why he suddenly made that comment during the meal, seemingly out of nowhere.

He explained that I was using my knife and fork like an American, rather than eating the Australian way. I hadn’t even known that there was an Australian vs American way. (He lived in America for a year.)

I guess I unknowingly developed this habit while I was in China. There was a small group of expats in my town, mostly American. On Tuesday night I would usually eat at one of their places.

Apparently the “American way” is to cut food up with knife in your right hand and fork in left. When you've finished cutting put the knife down and hold the fork in your right hand, use it to get the food to your mouth. Australian way – cut and eat as you go, keeping knife and fork in their original hands.

While I had been oblivious to the different fork methods, it had been an adventure being in community with other expats. Most of them, like me were white, native English speakers. Compared to the millions of Chinese people around us, they were basically the same as me.

My American friends were the ones I talked to about most things and hung out with for fun. They were the ones I freaked out with when a strange new disease (SARS) shut the city down and caused chaos (Should we leave? Should we stay?). They were the ones who had good things like butter and Christmas celebrations. They were the ones who helped me work out what the university meant when it told me to teach “British and American Culture.”

But turns out they seem to feel uncomfortable or embarrassed when I used the Aussie word for flip flops, and I still remember the way they looked at me when I offered them coffee that I had made in the plunger (they say French press, the word “plunger” is reserved for what they use to unblock the toilet).



What do you call this kitchen utensil?
Over a decade later, now in Cambodia, I have been known to say “cookie’, “candy” and “diaper” as if they are normal words.  


I still quietly freak out when a friend tells me her son has a temperature of 102. 

And I may look a bit confused when I hear  “going back to school in the fall” as I’m scrambling to translate to myself what that means. Aside from the fact that "school" can mean university there's a few other things to convert as well. 

This is what goes on in my brain : “So that means Autumn, which is March, no wait, their seasons are all back to front, must mean September. Why would they start school in September, that’s only a couple of months until the end of the year? Oh no wait, that’s the start of their school year.”

I had thought I might need to learn some Chinese to live in China- turns out I also needed to learn American. 

Monday, 28 August 2017

Regaining focus and balance

This month on Velvet Ashes it is all about welcoming new cross cultural workers, in particular last week was focused on  Welcome to Ministry Life. I'm a bit late to post, but here are my thoughts on this at the moment:


None of the events by themselves were big, so I didn’t notice at the time.  We do have a couple of big stresses happening in the background at the moment, so I guess a few small ones didn’t really register with me.

As my kids get older I'm enjoying being able to ride my bike again. 
I don’t even remember when it happened, but one night my kindle screen stopped responding to touch. I didn’t really think to do anything about it, or that it was a big deal. I think I just stopped reading before bed.

Quietly the water in the taps dwindled and then disappeared altogether. The next two weeks were filled with washing outside, carrying water inside, waiting for people to come to fix the water pump, occasionally having water inside until the tank emptied again, rejoicing that it was fixed finally, but then twice it broke down again (for different reasons each time).  Considering I spend most of my day looking after snotty, muddy, partly toilet trained,  sweaty kids, including cooking and cleaning up after the huge mess of eating- water is quite important!  It was an annoying fortnight, but then it was over.

During the tail end of the water pump debacle, one of our kids had a bit of a temperature. I think it lasted about a week, but unlike other times it wasn’t constantly high. So I didn’t really think of it as a stressful event, it was like we barely noticed it (compared to those other times when we are on the look out for other symptoms and wondering if its going to be something exotic such as dengue fever). Then the other child became feverish as well, also not constantly high, but spread over a week or so. There was one night when he vomited a few times, but thankfully our water pump was well and truly back in action by then. So it didn’t seem such a big deal.

And there was another scorpion inside, thankfully they only seem to feel comfortable making themselves at home when Husband/Daddy the Scorpion Slayer is around. I’ve yet to have to deal with one myself. Our preschooler now knows what to call them, not “lobster” or “crab” as they have been mistakenly identified as before.  A lot less fanfare accompanied this  4th scorpion, compared to the first one we found inside, so it felt like a bit of a non-event.

And then there was the evening we lost a backpack, and the day I realised some old, good friends had not been on our newsletter list for a few years and none of us noticed.

video


Most of this was happening in July, I was kind of glad at the time. I had more free time to deal with it all. My Bible study group didn’t have its normal weekly meetings on, and friends I meet for almost weekly playdates were also all out of town for The Summer. Less obligations – I thought that would make life easier.

I was finding I was struggling each day, feeling stressed and bored.   I didn’t feel like I was doing a good job of looking after our kids.  I was starting to think maybe we should reorganise things. I could be doing more fun and fulfilling things than this.  Looking after young kids each day has always been a bit mundane, but it was getting to the point of too much (made even more daunting by the fact that we are looking into home based education).  I could probably hire people to do most of what I do, so I could be free to do other things.

However now that Bible study is on again, and my friends are back I have a different perspective.

After talking with a group of Christian expat women I stopped to think about our overall purpose and focus and realized I do actually want to do what I’m doing now. Soeun and I have tried other configurations of time and activities, and I have done other things before the kids were born, and may do different things as they get older.  But I think for these years I’m happy if we can plan it so I don’t have any other big commitments, even if it gets mundane at times!

When I'm not too tired and grumpy I actually really like that I get to see my toddler learning to speak in sentences, and see my preschooler improve his egg cracking skills. And if it means my Cambodian Bible teaching husband is free to do his thing it is defiantly how I want to be spending my time. Plus it brings me in contact with the other leaders wives who are also looking after their kids, and praying for them is possibly even more useful than any Bible or English class I could teach. It just doesn't sound as glamorous or  productive in our newsletters, and is usually not as fun and fulfilling.

And home based schooling sounds a whole lot better than what seems to have been the done thing 30 or 40 years ago. Boarding schools seemed to have been the norm for missionaries back then, even for really young kids.

Now looking back on July I can see lots of the things that I enjoy, that are restful and recharging were absent so that tipped the balance a bit. Not seeing friends, not reading books. And the balance was further disturbed with extra stresses added in- the water pump and sick kids meant we had less time to sleep, rest, cook properly and eat.  The good things were taken off one end of the scale, and some bad things added to the other side.

But now it’s almost the end of August and it feels like I have focus back and balancing is in progress, yay!

Saturday, 19 August 2017

End of " The Summer" surprise

Enduring the late afternoon with two kids screaming at each other is easier than doing it with seven loud, messy kids complete with  poo and milk underfoot, right?

Wrong!

Last week I got together with some friends for a playdate for the first time in over a month, also my expats women's Bible study group met for the first time in about 2 months. It was so great to see my friends, most had been away in their passport countries for The Summer, as they call it. Somehow that sleepy grumpy late afternoon time of day is easier with friends, I didn't realise how much I missed them until they came back.

The whole concept of July as The Summer is totally foreign to me, I don't really associate with myself or my family. In my passport country, July is actually winter, and in Cambodia July is not the hottest time of year either (hot season is April). Also none of us study or teach in any international schools. Our main community is the Khmer church, and their timetable doesn't change. So unlike many expats, there is really nothing special about that time of year for me.

Last year lots of expat families moved out of town, leaving in June. There were lots of goodbyes, so that was a distinctive time of year. My Bible study kept meeting the whole way through "The Summer", each week there were at least 3 of us in town so we just kept meeting.

So there was no nice mid- August reunions, as the families who left never came back, and there was no "first meeting of the year" for Bible study group. Also we had some visitors from Aus, and then a friend on maternity leave, so we actually had extra playdates. So I guess that is why I was taken by surprise this year!

July as Summer doesn't feel like it has anything to do with me, but just those two weekly get-togethers with other expat women have such a huge impact on my week, so it turns out The Summer is part of our life. Having those connections with other foreigners either with shared faith or with same age kids (sometimes both) really helps balance out the stress and boredom of the rest of the week.




Saturday, 12 August 2017

Mostly Mundane

4th Scorpion we've found inside

I was thinking about this weeks Velvet Ashes Welcome to the field 

Broken water pumps and scorpions are the main thing I've been writing about on fb this month.  Just after I wrote the previous post, our 4th scorpion turn up inside. Meanwhile over the last 2 weeks its been mostly no water in the taps for us.
They might seem kind of 
exotic and 
extreme but actually things are normally not that 
exciting.

Weeks are filled with waiting, washing and wondering. 

Waiting for kids to finish dinner. 
Waiting for my husband to get home from his evening class.
Washing dirty dishes.
Washing muddy, snotty kids.
Wondering where my son's other shoe is.
Wondering if my husband has had lunch.

Mostly Mundane
And even when intense things do happened it doesn't feel intense 
as it might have back in the first year-ish.

Partly because its often a repeat of something I've already been through. The first scorpion inside was way scarier than the fourth. Once you've gone a few days without power the next time around isn' t such a big deal.

And partly because things are easier to cope with once you have routines, relationships and ways to rest.

Thats my experience anyway- it just gets more and more boring each year! ( in a good way)

#velvetashes
#velvetashesasia
#velvetasheswelcometothefield 
#velvetasheswelcome

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Visitors

It was dead before I saw it, so glad about that.

 I came out of the shower to see Soeun sweeping up bits of a big black scorpion. While he and the kids were having breakfast our son saw something coming in under the door , so he let daddy know. Swiftly taken care of, that was at least our 3rd scorpion  inside .

On the same day there was a scorpion discussion on Facebook, someone else just happen to bring up. They were asking what the treatment is for stings from this kind of scorpion. Many people chimed in, and I learnt again, that it just hurts a lot, this type is not deadly. I was reminded that a 4 year old we know was stung recently and he was fine, after a bit. It was great to be reminded and informed, as I think it would be pretty terrifying to see someone in pain from a sting and not know whether they were about to drop dead or not.  

Friday, 30 June 2017

Transition within routine!

Normally when I think of transition I think of a huge upheaval of everything at once. New house in a new country with a new job, having to find new ways to shop and get around and cook, wash, relax etc  etc.

But at the moment most things are the same, happily so, with just a few changes taking place.
We have been living in the same town in the same house for over two years now!
Day to day things are so much easier when you have things set up , habits in place. All the normal stuff just sort of happens by itself instead of taking so a great amount of effort and planning.  

We have friends and groups that we are part of on a regular basis. We know where to get food, and we have a stove and other things in our kitchen so we can cook.  Soeun a has regular-ish working week from sat arvo to wednesday  night.  I have weekly Bible study and sort of weekly playdates. We know where to go for fun, or when to find out obscure information. It’s so nice to not have moved house or had a baby for a couple of years now.


However at the same time, change is happening! I’m starting to be able to get back into things that were a big feature of my first years here that I haven’t been able to do in recent years. The further in time we get from when Soeun was sick , the better he is, and the older the kids get the less they need me, so I’m finding more opportunities to ride my bike and to sit in Khmer church again.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

terrible?

Just in the last few weeks the younger toddler suddenly changed! She started counting and singing and recognising the alphabet . She started throwing food on the floor on purpose. Also the last few weeks she hasn't been sleeping for more than 30-60 min at a time so I'm pretty tired. We just changed nappy brands though and she slept through last night, yay!

Friday, 16 June 2017

Homeschooling summit notes

Just some quick notes so I can remember what I learnt.

Recently a Homeschool summit was held over about 2 weeks, the sessions were live online and then you could watch the replay for free for each talk within 24 hours after it was given. It was such great timing for me as I had just started to seriously look into home based education, trying to work out if its something we could do.

There were only a few sessions I listened to all the way through, most of them I just had playing, or I dipped in and out just to get the general vibe. The presenters were mostly VERY enthusiastic homeschooling parents, and their particular strength or experience was the reason they were doing a particular session, and a few weren’t hs parents but  experts in a particular relevant fields.

Their enthusiasm was interesting for me as I'm mainly approaching this from a practical/convenient view, I don't think I would consider it if I lived in Aus or if there was an obvious choice of school here. Many of these mums choose to do it because it is better for their kids for various reasons, and better for their overall family life. 

There were some things which I thought would be good for all parents, not just homeschooling ones (such as reading aloud and interest based projects, building character) and other things which were really specific to home based education (the freedom , how to run a co-op, how to apply for uni).
The first session was about different approaches to homeschooling, I had just been reading about that so it was great to listen to someone talk about it more in depth and with lots of enthusiasm and personal stories. 

  Similar to this:

One thing that was mentioned in this session (can’t remember in which method) was some use other books rather than history text books to teach history, maybe they mentioned biographies or something. Anyway that reminded me that by the time I studies WW2 in year 11 or 12 I had already read heaps of fiction kids chapter books about it. I think this made it much easier and more interesting to study.

So that inspired to go to a bookshop and see what books were there. So far I have just been looking for kids Khmer books, as we have been given some English kids books suitable for our kids current ages.  But during the summit I was looking for books they can grow into and learn from such as maybe biographies of famous scientists etc.  I found one on solar cooking and retelling of the Gingerbread man story.

The preschooler LOVES the gingerbread man book, we had to read it many times the week we bought it. And then he wanted to make gingerbread men, so we looked that up on youtube, and also tried to learn about foxes from youtube. He also learnt some new words such as “gobble” and “snout”, as well as watching a few cartoon versions of the story.

 Even just reading the list of presentation topics was really useful for me to learn more about homebased education, so heres the list:

 Designing your own Personalised Homeschool (different approaches eg- school at home, Waldof, etc etc)
 
Raising Kids of Strong Character


Get out from under the 'Mother Load' and move from Manic to Marvellous (by a self care coach- why stress is bad for you, how it impacts your kids, how to manage it)

Unschooling : Birth to 5

But what about University? (explaining the many many different paths to uni in Aus, I didn’t pay much attention to detail here as these sort of things change but it was good to know that at the moment there seems to be lots of different ways to get into uni should your homeschool child want to do that)

Nurturing a Love of Literature (most sessions made references to reading out loud together but this one was ALL about that)

Homeschooling Multiples: Different ages, personalities, and learning styles (learning styles seems to come up a lot)

100 interviews later: 10 unforgettable lessons I've learned from homeschooling parents,

Natural Learning : Simply Living,

Respectful Parenting

Unschooling our Children, Deschooling Ourselves

 Herding Cats - How to Make Homeschool Groups Work (this was nuts and bolt info about homeschool co ops in Aus, things like if you join some homeschooling association you can hire halls and insurance is covered and you might get a schools discount)


Preparing your homeschooled or unschooled teen for university (different to the previous topic of how to get into uni without having done traditional highschool

on instagram look out for

#aushomeschoolsummit

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Travel so far this year

We went to visit family in Aus earlier this year. One morning they were working on the road of the house we were staying in. The preschooler ate his breakfast outside- all those trucks and things up close was just too exciting!





Soeun took an electric pump to his mum's house and installed it. Now that she is connected to mains power hopefully she won't need to hand pump all her water!

On the same trip he, our son and some other church leaders went to visit the other World Heritage sitein Cambodia, recon for church weekend away later this year.



I already blogged about the lead up to Easter and Khmer New year, here are some photos from the actual day. After church everyone decided a spontaneous trip to a popular picnic spot was in order. Despite the fact that its the hottest time of year, and being a holiday the Baray would be busy  it was fun to do something together. Its maybe around 15k out of town, we got to ride in a friends car while some others used our motorbike to get there. Hammock, mats, rice, grilled meat. Millions of Khmer people enjoying swimming and playing during the main holiday of the year!






Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Schooling options research: International vs "interntional" vs local plus homebased

We are continuing to think about schooling for our kids. There are lots of schools in the town we live in, although at a first glance none seem like a perfect fit the research continues.
Our research and thoughts so far:

(this is ongoing- this is all new to me, sharing some links so I can read up later, feel free to give input esp if you are an educator or a parent)

Mostly the private schools fall into two categories. Some generalisations (according to what I know at this point in time):  

Some private International schools are specifically to set up  to cater to foreign children who want to have an education that allows them to switch between Cambodia and their passport country and makes it easy for them to apply to universities outside Cambodia. These are mostly all taught in English (or French), and Khmer might be taught as a second language. (that 's my current understanding anyway). These ones are usually quite expensive but as far as I understand the teachers are qualified and have had criminal background checks. 

Other private schools might also be called 'international' but seem to be aimed at  local Khmer students so there are classes in Khmer but English is so important these days they also have English but usually ESL style.  Some of these schools have foreigners working at them who may or may not be properly qualified, but bring their expertise of being native English speakers. They may or may not have had criminal background checks. This could be a big issue as Cambodia seems to be a place where men from Western countries hide from their pedophile charges back in their passport country. Cheaper than the International schools. 

The price difference might be something like around 100USD per month verses 500USD per month for primary school. Not taking into account enrollment fees and other one-off or annual fees, and various other things.

For the early years the big difference we noticed between institutions for Khmer and expats is that the expats ones are much more play based, and there are more options.  I guess day care/preschool is a new concept here, and school usually means sitting at a desk. I guess traditionally households have lots of adults so the kids can stay home with Grandma until they are desk-ready. We had been hoping to find our kids a play based safe Khmer language place for pre-school years but one we thought might work turned out the carers seemed to all speak English to the kids, and we were sure of safety , and while he was there he seemed to need to move around more at home. We guess he didn't get as much fun and movement there. They didn't have any outdoor space to play in. 

Not all school fit into these boxes, there are a few we are looking into at the moment. At the same time we are also considering a combination of local school and home based. 

Going to a local government school feels like it would be the natural and cheap way to be part of the community and learn to read and write in Khmer. In all my years associated  with Cambodia I think I have only heard of one family doing this. I'm currently trying to learn more about this:
 Is it because of safety issues
or teaching methodology? 
Or because having an international education takes priority? Or...?

I'm trying to learn more about homeschooling, there are a few websites that explain different approaches such as this one and this one.  (the eclectic/ hodge podge approach would be where I would start I think- need to read and research, unschooling sounds crazy!) Sometimes online and distance ed seems to be included in homeschooling, others seem to put that in a different box as parents are more facilitators than teachers (I think, I could be making this up).

And I've joined a few facebook groups so I can listen in on conversations between homeschooling families and the day to day issues and questions they have.  I'm also trying to get to know other homeschoolers in town as well as learning more from another facebook group that has many Aussie (and other nationalities) Christian missionary mums in it, many topics discussed, homeschooling often comes up.

Homeschool curriculum seem to be a big industry in America, they seem to be mostly Christian based. For example Sonlight, My Father's World, Timberdoodle , Bob Jones  , A Beka etc etc

And there seems to be lots of free stuff online, people often mention Easy Peasy.  and an Aussie educator I met with awhile back mention I should look up Singapore maths.

Most ppl I know who homeschool are American, and most resources are from the States but I've got some Aussie home based education sites I want to link here so I can find them later. Distance ed from the gov seems like its only meant to be for 2 years, so not sure if we can do that but we could look into riverside. Aussie sites to read:

An aussie homeschooler writing for new homeschoolers:
 https://littlemeninmylibrary.wordpress.com/new-homeschoolers/

An Aussie Christian school that has a distant ed program (recommended by an aussie mum overseas, they use it and like it)
http://www.distanceeducation.school/

Some also mentioned:
http://www.homeschooling.com.au/ 



  

Saturday, 15 April 2017

KNY/Easter season

Jacaranda is in bloom, weather is warmer, town is decorated in festive lights, shops and schools closed, people travelling to their hometown to see family- feels like Christmas!


I've seen every sort of transport carrying stars around town over the last few weeks.

The biggest holiday of the year and Easter always happen close to each other but this year Khmer New Year is actually on the same weekend as Easter.


KNY celebrations are huge in Siem Reap so the the last few weeks we have watched decorations going up, including stars by the river, and archways of lights over the main road. They also finished building a new bridge and fixed up a few other things around town. Lots of shops and hotels also have festive lights as well as tables set out to welcome the new year angel.



Every time we over the bridge the toddler starts singing Twinkle twinkle little star.


Also the last few weeks we have been reading some Bible story books about Jesus' death and resurrection. In the lead up to Christmas we read a Bible society book about Jesus birth and that worked well, so we did the same for Easter.  

No chocolate eggs, but we did have some hot cross buns we brought from Australia. And possibly bagels as an empty tomb treat tomorrow (Sunday). Many people travel to see their family at this time of year, so church is usually pretty empty.


New Year decorations on the new bridge

Mangos everywhere!


Jacaranda from Australia growing in Cambodia- finally has flowers! 

This hot season has been strangely cold for a lot of the time. I got all organised with hot season food but it wasn't hot! But then of course when the hot weather struck I was caught out and we had mangos for dinner.

Hot season: time to go to the mall where there is air con!



Stars waiting by the river 


Sunday mornings at this stage

Leang Sam Ath (Wash It) Full MV By WaterAid Cambodia and Epic Art

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Kids books about Jesus

Here are some of the book we are reading at the moment.

Bottom left are some bilingual books from the Cambodian Bible Society. We have a few in this series "Words of Wisdom". In the lead up to Christmas we read the one about Jesus birth almost every night for a few weeks, so here we are in the lead up to Khmer New Year....err umm I mean Easter and we are reading the ones about Jesus' death and resurrection.

On the right are two books from Growing Faith we were given about half a year ago. As well as teaching about the Bible the kids learn a bit about Aussie animals which is great too. We recently visited Australia and actually saw some flying foxes and some bilbys.

The one up the top is from The Good Book . Its the true story of why Jesus died and rose again. It made an excursion to a Cambodian Bible study group one evening recently!