Transition Time: Transportation

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All humans are mobile. Whether you grow up in a village where everything you need is within a 10 kilometer radius of your home, or you commute 80 kilometers to work one way on 6 lane highways in a fast car, or you are a nomad herding your livestock over 1000 kilometers a year in search of pasture and water, we are all on the move. We all need to find a way to get where we need to go. Our road could be a dusty worn out path in the grass, a narrow street flanked by market vendors, or a concrete freeway wider than a football field. Our mode could be an animals back, a heavy old single speed bicycle, or a car that reminds us to wear our seatbelts.

Six weeks ago we moved from Canada to Cambodia. Back in Canada, we were no strangers to hitting the road. We love cross country road trips in the car, short rocky climbs around Whitehorse in the truck, and riding our bikes when the roads were finally clear of snow. But here in Cambodia, transportation is different. We’re transitioning to a new way of getting around. We hope this blog post helps you “come along for the ride” with us as we share what transportation is like for us here!

The Street:

The street is an extension of the home, a place of business, and a parking lot all at once. Driveways don’t exist here, and parking lots are few and far between. Most people park their cars and motos in their living rooms. Let me explain: most houses don’t really have ‘front doors,’ they have gates or fold-away walls that open up the ground floor room of the house in its entire width to the open air of the street just a meter or two away. Sometimes this room is used by a family to eat meals, or to host guests, or it becomes floorspace for the family business (a barber shop, a restaurant, a printing house, you name it!). But many times it becomes a ‘garage’ for a car or two and a handful of motos. The short few meters between the houses and the streets means that the street often becomes an extension of the home. ‘Sidewalks,’ if a street has them, are rarely walked on. They become floorspace for businesses like moto repair pitstops, a home restaurant’s patio, or more parking for cars and motos.

The Mode:

Motos outnumber cars and trucks 100 to 1 it seems. You’d be surprised what a moto can do. They can pull a covered carriage and become a “tuktuk.” Hook a 4′ by 8′ box trailer on one, and voila! You can haul a pickup truck load worth of vegetables. Or how about 16 foot lengths of rebar or i-beams? No problem, a moto can haul that too! Some of these poor motos sound desperately close to blowing an engine. Other motos’ bent frames are evidence they have hauled way too much weight way too many times.

Of the cars that do roam the streets here in Phnom Penh, you’d be surprised how nice most of them are. There is an incredibly high import tax for vehicles, which somehow shrinks the price gap between regular and luxury vehicles (it also means cars are more expensive here than in Canada). We don’t entirely understand how this works, but the result is we see way more Lexus, Mercedes, and Land Rover vehicles here.

The New Normal:

We brought bicycles with us when we moved to Cambodia. Within a few days of landing here, we entered the flow of traffic like an aquarium fish would enter a raging river: scared, timid, but ready to learn. Six weeks in, and we are getting the hang of it. Biking here requires absolute attention. Even at our slow speed, we rarely have the opportunity to take our eyes off the road and see what shops we’re passing by.

Intersections are the most tricky. Traffic lights are only found at the big intersections where multilane roads divided by concrete medians meet. The other 98% of intersections are without traffic lights or stop signs of any kind. It’s really hard to describe how they work… basically when we bike up to an intersection, we slow down a bit and look left, right, straight, and sometimes behind us. We are trying to guess the intentions of other riders. We are looking for an opening, and ideally we try to keep moving so we don’t have to stop and put our foot down. There is a lot of creativity involved, especially in left hand turns!

Although we have front and rear lights, we usually take tuktuks instead of riding our bikes at night. The risk level increases beyond our comfort level once the sun sets. Most streets are lit, but some blocks are left in the dark. Many motos don’t have working headlights or taillights, or the driver simply hasn’t turned them on. Later in the evening the traffic is lighter, which means the speeds are faster. Combine all these factors with the added probability that some people are driving drunk, and you have a recipe for a risky ride home.

I mounted my iPhone to my handlebars and videotaped a bike ride. The quality is not great, but hopefully it gives you an idea of what it’s like, especially the left hand turns!

“In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” – Proverbs 16:9

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The travelling banana stand man.

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Weddings happen on the streets too. This wedding tent filled a busy street one block from our house. The result on our street . . .

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Our small and usually tame street became jammed because of the wedding one block away. Cars took 10 minutes to pass through this photo.

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Rail transport is making a comeback in Cambodia. Passenger train service from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville via Kampot started last year. These tracks through Phnom Penh double as an unpaved road.

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The streets were very quiet over the Chinese New Year weekend. It was a great time to bike around and explore the city.

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Transition Time: Food

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Greetings from the Kingdom of Cambodia! We have been in country for 17 days, and we’re right in the midst of transition. On our 3rd day here we began language school. Although officially on our schedule the only task we have is learning the Khmer (pronounced k-my) language and the homework we receive each day, we have quickly come to realize how many other realms of life we need to relearn. We have decided to start a series of blog posts titled “Transition Time.” Each post will cover a different area of life. Today we’ll talk about food.

What is Khmer food? What food is grown locally and what is imported? Where should we buy food? Where should we eat out? How much does food cost?

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For the first week of our arrival, we did not have the ability to cook for ourselves, so we were eating out for both lunch and dinner every day. The hard part about eating out is whether we can communicate Kathleen’s celiac needs to the staff, and whether they will actually understand and make the food without gluten. Without any language skills or resources when we first arrived, every meal became a huge risk to her health. We were able to get our language teacher on the first day of class to write out in Khmer, “I cannot eat soy sauce. I cannot eat wheat. Please make my dish without soy sauce or wheat.” Kathleen was then able to present the instructions to the server, who hopefully reported them to the cooks, who hopefully obeyed. Kathleen recently found some help from another expat who has been living in Cambodia for a couple of years who also has celiac. Kathleen and her sat down for an hour or so and she gave Kathleen all sorts of tips on what local dishes to avoid, where to eat out, and even some recipe ideas. Thank God for those willing to help out!

One of the ideas we had before arriving was to avoid eating meat, which could be riskier based on how it’s butchered, cleaned, and prepared. But we quickly found that almost all restaurants have meat in every dish, so that plan has been harder to follow through on when we eat out. We have yet to cook meat at home these past 10 days since having our own kitchen. It is definitely nice to be able to prepare and cook our own food. It gives us much more confidence that we can stay healthy for our language studies!

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Learning our vegetable names in Khmer class

We were also really curious how much money food would cost. After about 2 weeks in, we are starting to learn the value of different products. Eating out, we’ve found most meals cost between 4 and 6 dollars. Some restaurants serve both Khmer and western food, but there isn’t a big price difference between the two options. An eating out experience we have yet to dabble in is eating street food. Colin bought a grilled corn on the cob for about 30 cents, which was a bit tough and not quite as sweet as what he is used to back in Canada. But other than that, we haven’t tried any street food. There is so much more to learn!

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Colin checks out some cashews at the market

To buy food for home, there are 2 main options: stores and markets. Markets have the energy. There are the smells, the sights, the noises, the crowds, the haggling, the characters, the heat, and the language practice. At this point in our transition journey, we dabble only a little in the markets. So far we have only bought fruit, mostly because the fruit is usually on the outer edges, and it looks so good that we can’t resist. The mangoes, bananas, pineapples, and oranges we buy at the market taste great! As far as price, we still have no idea what the going rate is for most things. I usually try to bargain for a lower price, but they don’t budge. At this stage, I ask myself, “would I pay this price in Canada?” My mind churns for a second as I recall the price of pineapples back in Whitehorse, and then I say, “2 pineapples pre-cut for $1? I’ll take them!” This is where knowing what is local comes into play. You can buy apples here, but they don’t grow anywhere near Cambodia. The Chinese ones are the cheapest, but the price for apples from Canada, USA, or New Zealand is outrageous. We ask ourselves, why would we pay $4 for 2 apples when we can buy 3 mangoes for only $1? We have a feeling we won’t be eating apples for a few years…

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These guys are about to go under the knife to become a tasty stir fry

Then there are the stores. If the markets have the energy, the stores have the comfort. They are air-conditioned, the prices are all marked (no haggling involved), and usually there are less crowds, depending on the time of day and how narrow the aisles are, of course. If markets win for freshness, stores win for selection. Some of the bigger stores have food from all over the world, even Doritos made in the USA, Dutch gouda, and Canadian maple syrup! We are still figuring out where to buy food and how much to pay, but we’re on our way.

This is all we can say about food for now. We know there is so much we don’t know, and it will be interesting to look back on this post months and years from now when eating here is second nature. For now, we remind ourselves to seek the most important food, God’s Word:

Deuteronomy 8:3: “so he made you go hungry. Then he gave you manna, a kind of food that you and your ancestors had never even heard about. The Lord was teaching you that people need more than food to live—they need every word that the Lord has spoken.” CEV

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Our last seconds in the Canadian winter air

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Traffic view from the seat of a tuktuk

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Our Whitehorse memento

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Khmer has 33 consonants and 58 vowels

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At the entrance to our great school, Gateway to Khmer 

A Look Back at 2016

On January 1st, 2016, we woke up ambitiously ‘early’ for new years day: 8:00am. The day before Colin had delivered mail for Canada Post, and that night we enjoyed a fun celebration of the New Year with friends. We hopped in Timmy, our 2012 Matrix with 46,000kms on the odometer, and began to drive south. We must have looked so funny passing those transport trucks on the Alaska highway with our red canoe strapped to the roof. Why were we driving away from the Yukon with our car loaded down and our canoe on the roof? Why weren’t we sleeping in and looking forward to the second half of winter in Whitehorse when the sunlight increases noticeably each day? Why weren’t we enjoying the stat holiday before returning to our letter carrier and substitute teacher jobs?

The answer: We were beginning our ‘year of preparation,’ as we coined it. You could say we have spent all of 2016 driving from our home in the Yukon starting January 1st towards our goal: Cambodia. And now it is complete. On January 5th, 2017, we fly to Cambodia!

Let’s take a look back on the incredible year God has brought us through. Although at times 2016 was difficult, daunting, and even drab, we don’t want to forget all the bountiful blessings we received, and all the extraordinary experiences we enjoyed! We’ve decided to do a bullet point recap, for your rapid-fire reading pleasure.

  • 55,000 kms (35,000 miles) of road trips (see map)
  • 95 nights camping in Bonnie, our tent trailer
  • only paid for 4 nights of camping!
  • Slept in over 50 different locations
  • over 200 visits and meals with friends and family all over Canada
  • 7 weeks of training
  • 14 days of fieldwork in Niger (Kathleen)
  • 3 months of plumbing apprenticeship in Calgary (Colin)
  • Drove through 18 American states, most of them new for us both

We are excited to see how 2017 will unfold.

Here are some photos from our time in Whitehorse and with family for Christmas this December.

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Homeward Bound x2

Man those were good movies eh? Cute pets get lost in the wilderness (or San Francisco) and have to embark on an epic journey to find their way home. In a couple ways we are homeward bound too. The journey we’ve been on this 2016 year has taken us away from our home in Whitehorse and brought us through so many experiences where our endurance, our patience, and our trust in God was tested. We have travelled many miles, met many people, and learned so much. Now the end is in sight. We’re so close to getting home (x2)!

In a couple days we head back to our home in the Yukon. We’ll spend 2.5 weeks in Whitehorse visiting with friends, worshipping with our church, and playing pond hockey – all in the place that is dear to our hearts. We are very excited!

The second way we are homeward bound, you ask? We have our flights booked to Cambodia! Yes, we have crossed the fund-raising threshold of 90% and were able to book flights. It feels more real now that there is a departure date! We hope and pray that God will one day give us a sense of Cambodia as ‘home,’ and that is why we are homeward bound – times two.

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Some of the excellent friends we’ve been blessed to spend time with!

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Leafs take a Time-Out against Buffalo

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K’s Bday dinner with part of C’s Fam

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Some of K’s Waterloo classmates reunite

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Camping by Lake Nocona, Texas

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Biking around Austin, TX

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Cotton fields near Lubbock, TX

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Timmy’s shadow

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K’s childhood friend visiting in Empress, AB

A Fall to Prepare

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Morning dew falls heavy on the W farm

It is a season of change. The summer light and warmth have faded to coolness. Dew falls thick and wet, stays well into the afternoon, and then one day it freezes everything in a blanket of ice. Often the changes of Fall are accompanied by a return of routine. We go back to school, Bible studies start up again, and we look forward to 4 straight months of work until Christmas. Yet sometimes Fall throws us a curveball, a new role, an unexpected friendship, or a life change.

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In recent years, Fall means football for my family (brother Michael at QB for Laurier)

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An unexpected role for Timmy

This Fall, Kathleen and I had the opportunity to take the MissionPrep course in Guelph along with our Cambodia team and 18 others preparing to start overseas mission work in the near future. We were unsure what to expect. To be honest, before the course I thought, “Do I really need more training before going to Cambodia?” To my pleasant surprise, yes! Not only did we learn so much through the course materials, but the interactions we had with the other students was incredible! It was so enriching to hear their stories of how God called them, where they have been, and how they hope to serve God where they are going.

Here is a shortlist of the topics we covered: spiritual vitality, understanding culture, ethnocentrism and stereotyping, worldview, gospel and culture, barriers and bridges, mosque visit and discussion with Imam, missionary kids/third culture kids, conflict resolution, moral purity, transition, grief and loss, staying healthy, theology of suffering, team building, spiritual warfare, multiple expectations, saying goodbye.

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We heard from a dozen amazing speakers

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One of many pages of collaborative notes from our class

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Using hymnals to represent the expectations we have to carry

One of our favourite aspects of the course was the Ebenezer moments. We learned how Samuel set up a stone to remember how God rescued Israel from the Philistines (1 Sam 7:12). He called the stone ‘Ebenezer.’ As a group, we took time to remember and share these moments in our lives and to add our own Ebenezer stone to the pile.

Moving to Cambodia will be hard. Working in a cross-cultural setting will be hard. We will encounter many nasty, difficult, painful, and sad things. But we learned how important it is to remember how God has been faithful to us in the past, to mark our own Ebenezer moments, and to share them with eachother as an encouragement.

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Pile of Ebenezer stones

One thing we really appreciated about the MissionPrep course and its facilitators was how real it was. Nothing was sugar coated. We battled through tough topics like suffering, grief, and conflict. We heard time and time again how the mission field is not a glamorous place constantly filled with joy, success, and celebration. We were brought back to this verse over and over again, to remind ourselves that in our weakness, God is strong:

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

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Kathleen wants one for her birthday. Find out soon if her dreams will come true!

Colin in Cambodia

Our blog posts are typically written using the pronouns ‘we,’ ‘our,’ and ‘us.’ They are written from our collective perspective. For this month’s post, the blog is going to be written from Colin’s point of view. Henceforth, you will see the pronoun ‘I’ which refers to ‘me,’ Colin.

I am not an engineer. I did not receive a call to missions over 7 years ago. I have never lived overseas. Although these are all true of Kathleen, my story is different. I’ve had jobs and consider myself a hard worker, but I don’t have a career. I have an education, but I studied because I wanted to learn, not because I wanted to get a job with it. I’ve enjoyed travelling overseas a few times, but I’ve always loved living in Canada. I strive to be an obedient follow of Christ, but he hasn’t called me to a particular ministry work yet.

This information has led some people we’ve shared with to ask (which probably means others are thinking it), “So Colin is just following Kathleen to the mission field?” A few conversations we’ve had left me with the subtle feeling of being judged as a passive, unambitious, and even lazy man.

Allow me to take a moment to share some insight. When Kathleen and I met, we were both stubborn in our plans for our future. I wanted to be a farmer in the Yukon. Kathleen wanted to be an engineer/missionary in China. God humbled us separately and helped us to let go of our selfish grip on our futures and trust God to give us each His plan and guidance. Right at this time is when He turned our sights on eachother and we fell in love. We asked God to guide us as a couple, and to align our goals and desires. He answered this prayer.

The story can get quite long at this point, which I am happy to share in person or over email with you, but I’ll sum it up here. Shortly after our marriage, God gave us both a sense that there was more for us than the daily life we had grown to love in Whitehorse. I saw Kathleen struggle with feelings of uselessness in her job, which is crazy because you all know how talented and hard working she is! But the feelings would not leave. And as her husband, I wanted to see her use her gifts and talents in a way that would glorify God and give her joy. At the same time, I felt more and more ready for a challenge, for a change, for an opportunity to serve God in some way, although I did not know what that would be specifically yet.

Here it is, on public record: I was the one who suggested we call Engineering Ministries International. I was the one who said, “I think it’s time we look into going overseas.” I had to encourage Kathleen to make that call. As a husband I led, not followed.

Fast forward to the present day. We’re on the Cambodia team with EMI. We’re in the midst of raising financial, spiritual, and emotional support for our anticipated January 2017 move for a commitment of 5 years. It’s happening! And still people have one FAQ: “What will Colin do?”

My plan is to study the Khmer language for the first year in Cambodia (together with Kathleen and the rest of the EMI team). During this year, I will pray and ask God to show me what He wants me to do. I will pray and ask God to give me a love for Cambodians and opportunities to make good connections with them. I’m confident that I will meet many people and learn of so many opportunities that by the end of language study, the challenge won’t be finding something meaningful to do, the challenge will be choosing.

I am inspired by the “cloud of witnesses” that are documented in the Bible for us. These verses are especially encouraging as I face the unknown, and I hope they encourage you too: “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place . . .  obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country . . . For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” – Hebrews 11:8-10

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Chillin near Durango, CO

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Mmm, Grass Burger

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Orientation week commissioning

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Our spot outside Cheyenne, WY

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The house we received marriage counselling in.

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10 days in Lincoln with bro David

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Big game.

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See Knevel in action!

 

From Pictures to People: making it real

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We studied the little photos of faces on our computer in the hope that we’d recognize 6 faces out of 120. Those little photos from Skype, the slightly bigger ones on Facebook. These still images were our only visual connection to the people who we will fly across the world with to a little country called Cambodia. These are the people with whom we will work, live in the same neighbourhood, possibly attend the same church, and hopefully befriend. Since last October, all we’ve had were these little photos.

All that changed last week. We arrived at the Engineering Ministries International World Staff Conference on August 6, and immediately began scanning the many faces for some resemblance of the 6 photos we’d studied. This may sound weird, but it’s the closest we’ve ever felt to trying to recognize an ‘online’ date. When we finally saw them in real life, it was such a relief to know that these people were not only real, but super cool! It was great to spend 6 days with them at the conference. We learned more about their love for Jesus, their desire to serve Him, and their willingness to go to Cambodia.

The EMI World Staff Conference strongly reinforced our decision to join EMI and serve in Cambodia. It was an encouraging week filled with worship, workshops, speakers, discussion, testimonies, and meeting so many incredible people from all over the world!

Currently we are in the midst of a week off between the conference and New Staff Orientation. Here’s a short summary of our schedule going forward:
– Orientation, Aug. 21-27, Colorado Springs, CO.
– Marriage Counselling, Aug. 29 – Sept. 1, Cheyenne, WY.
– Visit David, Sept. 2-8, Lincoln, NE.
– Time with Cambodia Team, Sept. 12-24, Colorado Springs, CO.
– Support Raising in Ontario, Oct. 1-16, Ontario, Canada.
– Mission Prep Cross-Cultural Training, Oct. 17-28, Guelph, ON.
– Support Raising in Ontario, Oct 29 – Nov. 8, Ontario, Canada.
– Security Training, Nov. 12-15, Texas, USA.

We are still hoping to move to Cambodia mid January, but in order to book flights we must be at 100% of our monthly support goal. We ask that you continue to pray for people to stand behind us financially so that these flights can be booked sooner rather than last minute. If you have any questions about our finances, we are happy to answer them! Contact us via email, Facebook, phone, or leave a comment asking us to reach out to you.

For a video glimpse of our first 2 weeks in the USA: https://youtu.be/KCR3WezREcE

“The earth is the LORD’s and everything in it, the world and all who live in it.” Psalm 24

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