December 16, 2009

Preparing for our 19 Cambodian SSTers

The Graber Miller family, minus Niles, arrived in Cambodia Tuesday, December 8, and spent much of the first week settling into the new Goshen College apartment. The apartment, which also will be the site of our Wednesday evening processing meetings referred to as P’teah Goshen Nights, is on the fourth floor of a new apartment building located between Mennonite Central Committee’s office and the Russian Market.

In the photos you can see our children Mia and Simon in front of the apartment, and the views from our balcony. We bought some goods for our partially furnished apartment at the local, open-air hardware store across the street (see photo). When Keith goes out on his own he rides his bicycle, as students will, or takes a moto-dup (motorcycle), but when the family goes out we always take a tuk-tuk. Tuk-tuks, as pictured here directly and in the reflection from a following semi-truck, are carts pulled behind motorcycles, and are the standard form of transportation for many Cambodians and visitors.

Simon and Mia are enjoying homeschooling, with Ann as their teacher. We went to the Russian Market, or Psaa Tuol Tum Pong, to pick up school supplies. The market is located near the Buddhist wat (temple) Tuol Tum Pong, hence the Khmer moniker, and the name “Russian Market” came from the period when Russians in Cambodia bought most of their supplies there. Now the market is a great source of daily home supplies for Cambodians and long-term visitors as well as souvenirs for travelers and tourists.

Keith has been working at various logistical details, including hiring a local coordinator, Marya Sen. Thus far Marya (pictured with Keith going over the proposed SST schedule) has been a wonderful addition to the Goshen College presence in Cambodia, assisting with scheduling lecturers, confirming hotel arrangements, and meeting with language teachers. Wednesday we met with all four language teachers at RUPP, and Keith was pleased to see that we have all four teachers back from the 2007 SST experience. The teachers asked about many specific students from the first Cambodia SST group, and Keith reported where they are living, who has gotten married and to whom, and where they are serving or in school.

Sreyhem Roberts is our other local assistant, continuing her work from 2007 with Cambodian host families. At this point all 19 families are secured, and the Graber Millers and Sreyhem will go house to house to meet many of the families on Saturday.

Sunday evening the Graber Millers went to Sreyhem’s home outside Phnom Penh to participate in a Christmas party Sreyhem and her husband Mike hosted for an array of friends (see several photos). Children and adults from all over the world — Cambodia, Korea, New Zealand, the U.S., England, and elsewhere were at the event, which included a carry-in potluck (with turkey and mashed potatoes and gravy, even — real rarities in Cambodia). Pictured in the photo are Ann and Sreyhem attempting to cut the turkey, with one one of Sreyhem’s nieces looking on in the background. The evening included gifts for the children and a white elephant exchange for adults.

Temperatures are routinely in the mid- to upper-80s during the day, and get as low as the high-70s at night. The sun shines every day, all day, and we’re not likely to see any rain for about two months. All is going well as we prepare for the arrival of our excellent group of SSTers on January 8.

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