Follow the way of the tribes.

Today, I had another assessment. For this, I prepared a short devotion in Khmer. I was going to record it and maybe upload it, but I kept making mistakes. (I’m probably just too tired to do it right now.) So I have the Khmer here and the English below.

(I will add some bits for clarity in English. They will be in italics. As I had to keep it within a certain time length, I didn’t want to expand on those points too much. I also will rephrase sections just so it makes more sense and has a bit more nuance in the English.)

យ៉ូស្វេ 1:12-18 គខប

“បន្ទាប់​មក លោក​យ៉ូស្វេ​មាន​ប្រសាសន៍​ទៅ​កាន់​កុល‌សម្ព័ន្ធ*​រូបេន កុល‌សម្ព័ន្ធ​កាដ និង​កុល‌សម្ព័ន្ធ​ម៉ាណា‌សេ​ចំនួន​ពាក់​កណ្ដាល ដូច​ត​ទៅ៖ «ចូរ​ចង​ចាំ​នូវ​ពាក្យ​ដែល​លោក​ម៉ូសេ ជា​អ្នក​បម្រើ​របស់​ព្រះ‌អម្ចាស់បង្គាប់​អ្នក​រាល់​គ្នា​ថា “ ព្រះ‌អម្ចាស់ ជា​ព្រះ​របស់​អ្នក​រាល់​គ្នា ប្រទាន​ឲ្យ​អ្នក​រាល់​គ្នា​បាន​សម្រាក គឺ​ព្រះអង្គ​ប្រទាន​ស្រុក​នេះ​ឲ្យ​អ្នក​រាល់​គ្នា​ហើយ”។ ប្រពន្ធ កូន ព្រម​ទាំង​ហ្វូង​សត្វ​របស់​អ្នក​រាល់​គ្នា​នឹង​ស្ថិត​នៅ​ក្នុង​ស្រុក ដែល​លោក​ម៉ូសេ​បាន​ប្រគល់​ឲ្យ​អ្នក​រាល់​គ្នា នៅ​ត្រើយ​ខាង​កើត​ទន្លេ​យ័រដាន់។ រីឯ​អ្នក​រាល់​គ្នា ដែល​សុទ្ធ​តែ​ជា​ទាហាន​ដ៏​អង់‌អាច​វិញ ត្រូវ​ប្រដាប់​អាវុធ ដើរ​ខាង​មុខ​បងប្អូន​របស់​អ្នក​រាល់​គ្នា ដើម្បី​ជួយ​គេ រហូត​ដល់​ ព្រះ‌អម្ចាស់​ប្រទាន​ឲ្យ​បងប្អូន​របស់​អ្នក​រាល់​គ្នា​បាន​សម្រាក​ដូច​អ្នក​រាល់​គ្នា​ដែរ ហើយ​ឲ្យ​ពួក​គេ​កាន់​កាប់​ស្រុក​ដែល​ព្រះ‌អម្ចាស់ ជា​ព្រះ​របស់​អ្នក​រាល់​គ្នាប្រទាន​ឲ្យ​ពួក​គេ។ បន្ទាប់​មក អ្នក​រាល់​គ្នា​នឹង​ត្រឡប់​មក​កាន់​កាប់​ស្រុក ដែល​ជា​កម្មសិទ្ធិ​របស់​អ្នក​រាល់​គ្នា​វិញ គឺ​ស្រុក​ដែល​លោក​ម៉ូសេ ជា​អ្នក​បម្រើ​របស់​ ព្រះ‌អម្ចាស់ បាន​ចែក​ឲ្យ​អ្នក​រាល់​គ្នា នៅ​ត្រើយ​ខាង​កើត​ទន្លេ​យ័រដាន់»។

ពួក​គេ​ឆ្លើយ​ទៅ​លោក​យ៉ូស្វេ​ថា៖ «អ្វីៗ​ទាំង​ប៉ុន្មាន​ ដែល​លោក​បង្គាប់​មក​យើង​ខ្ញុំ យើង​ខ្ញុំ​នឹង​គោរព​ធ្វើ​តាម​ទាំង​អស់។ លោក​ចាត់​យើង​ខ្ញុំ​ឲ្យ​ទៅ​ទី​ណា យើង​ខ្ញុំ​នឹង​ទៅ​ទី​នោះ។ យើង​ខ្ញុំ​ធ្លាប់​ស្ដាប់​បង្គាប់ ​លោក​ម៉ូសេ​សព្វ​គ្រប់​យ៉ាង​ណា យើង​ក៏​ស្ដាប់​បង្គាប់​លោក​យ៉ាង​នោះដែរ។ សូម​ ព្រះ‌អម្ចាស់ ​ជា​ព្រះ​របស់​លោក​គង់​នៅ​ជា​មួយ​លោក ដូច​ព្រះអង្គ​បាន​គង់​នៅ​ជា​មួយ​លោក​ម៉ូសេ​ដែរ។ ប្រសិន​បើ​អ្នក​ណា​ម្នាក់ ​ប្រឆាំង​នឹង​បញ្ជា​របស់​លោក ហើយ​មិន​ព្រម​ធ្វើ​តាម​បញ្ជា​របស់​លោក​ទេ អ្នក​នោះ​ត្រូវ​ទទួល​ទោស​ដល់​ស្លាប់។ រីឯ​លោក​វិញ សូម​មាន​កម្លាំង និង​ចិត្ត​ក្លា‌ហាន​ឡើង»។”

សប្តាហ៍មុន​ ខ្ញុបានអានកណ្ឌគម្ពីរយ៉ូស្វេ ជំពូក ១។ ជំពូកនេះប្រាប់យើងអំពី ព្រះ និងមនុស្សផ្សេងៗ ដូចជា លោកម៉ូសេ លោកយ៉ូស្វេ ប្រជាជន អ៊ីស្រាអែល និងមនុស្សនៅកុលសម្ព័ន្ធរ៉ូបេន កុលសម្ព័ន្ធកាដ និងកុលសម្ព័ន្ធម៉ាណាសេ ។  ពេលខ្ញុំអានជំពូកនេះ ខ្ញុំគិតថា៖ ខ្ញុំដូចអ្នកណា? ខ្ញុំដឹងថា ខ្ញុំមិនអាចដូចព្រះអង្គបានទេ ពីព្រោះខ្ញុំជាមនុស្ស ។ ខ្ញុំសង្ឃឹមថា ខ្ញុំក៏មិនមែនដូចលោកម៉ូសេដែរ ពីព្រោះ នៅក្នុងកណ្ឌគម្ពីរយ៉ូស្វេ លោកម៉ូសេបានស្លាប់ហើយ។ ពេលយើងអានកណ្ឌគម្ពីរយ៉ូស្វេ យើងចង់គិតថាយើងដូចលោកយ៉ូស្វេ គាត់ជាអ្នកដឹកនាំដ៏ល្បី គាត់សំខាន់ ហើយនិងក្លាហាន។ ប៉ុន្តែ ខ្ញុំគិតថាបេសក្ខជនដូចមនុស្សនៅកុលសម្ព័ន្ធរ៉ូបេន កាដ និងម៉ាណាសេ។

នៅក្នុងខនេះ ព្រះអង្គបានប្រទានសេចក្តីសន្យាឲ្យលោកយ៉ូស្វេ និងប្រជាជនអ៊ីស្រាអែល ។ មុនស្សនៅកុលសម្ព័ន្ធជួយលោកយ៉ូស្វេឲ្យទទួលបានសេចក្តីសន្យានេះ ។ ខ្ញុំមកប្រទេសកម្ពុជាដើម្បីឲ្យជនជាតិខ្មែរទទួលបានសេចក្តីសន្យារបស់ព្រះអង្គដែរ។ ពេលខ្ញុំអានកណ្ឌគម្ពីរយ៉ូស្វេជំពូក១ ខ្ញុំចាប់អារម្មណ៍។ ខ១២ ដល់ ១៨ បានបង្រៀនខ្ញុំឲ្យចេះជួយជនជាតិខ្មែរទទួលបានសេចក្តីសន្យារបស់ព្រះអង្គ។ ខនេះមាន៥ចំណុច ។

ទី១ ព្រះគម្ពីរប្រាប់ខ្ញុំថា ទាល់តែខ្ញុំធ្វើកិច្ចការនេះហើយ ទើបខ្ញុំអាចសម្រាកបាន។ មនុស្សនៅកុលសម្ព័ន្ធត្រូវឆ្លងទន្លេយ័រដាន់ និងទទួលបានស្រុកថ្មី។ បន្ទាប់មកទើបពួកគាត់អាចសម្រាកបាន។ ខ្ញុំត្រូវជួយជនជាតិខ្មែរទទួលបានសេចក្តីសន្យារបស់ព្រះអង្គ។ បន្ទាប់មក ទើបខ្ញុំអាចសម្រាកបានដែរ។

ទី២ ខ្ញុំត្រូវប្រយុទ្ធ ។ កណ្ឌគម្ពីរធិម៉ូថេ ទី២ ជំពូក ៤ ខ ៧ និយាយថា «ខ្ញុំបានពុះពារតយុទ្ធល្អប្រសើរ ខ្ញុំបានរត់ដល់ទីដៅ ហើយខ្ញុំនៅតែកាន់ជំនឿជាប់ដដែល» ។ យើងត្រូវតែពុះពារតយុទ្ធល្អដែរ។ មនុស្សនៅកុលសម្ព័ន្ធត្រូវប្រដាប់អាវុធដើម្បីប្រយុទ្ធជាមួយលោកយ៉ូស្វេ ។ ដូច្នេះ យើងត្រូវប្រដាប់អាវុធដែរ។

កណ្ឌគម្ពីរកូរិនថូសទី២ ជំពូក ១០ ខ ៤ បានប្រាប់យើងថា «ដ្បិត​គ្រឿង​សស្ត្រា‌វុធ​ដែល​យើង​ប្រើ មិន​មែន​ជា​អាវុធ​ខាង​លោកីយ៍​ទេ គឺ​ជា​អាវុធ​ដ៏​មាន​ឫទ្ធា‌នុភាព​មក​ពី​ព្រះ‌ជាម្ចាស់ ដែល​អាច​រំលំ​កំពែង​បន្ទាយ​នានា ។ យើង​រំលំ​ការ​រិះគិត» និង កណ្ឌគម្ពីរអេភេសូ ជំពូក ៦ ខ ១១ ប្រាប់យើងថា «ចូរបងប្អូនប្រដាប់ខ្លួនដោយគ្រឿងសស្ត្រាវុធទាំងប៉ុន្មាន របស់ព្រះជាម្ចាស់់ ដើម្បីអាចតតាំងនឹងកលល្បិចរបស់មារ» នេះមានន័យថា ខ្ញុំត្រូវតែអានព្រះគម្ពីរ និងស្គាល់ព្រះគម្ពីរឲ្យបានច្បាស់ ពីព្រោះព្រះគម្ពីរជាគ្រឿងសស្ត្រាវុធរបស់ព្រះជាម្ចាស់ដ៏សំខាន់។

ចំណុចទី៣ ខ្ញុំត្រូវស្តាប់បង្គាប់តាមអ្នកដឹកនាំនិងគ្រូគង្វាលនៅកម្ពុជា។ ពេលខ្លះ ជនជាតិបរទេសគិតថា ពួកគេដឹង និងស្គាល់ព្រះគម្ពីរច្បាស់ជាងជនជាតិខ្មែរ បុ៉ន្តែ ព្រះអង្គប្រទាន សេចក្តីសន្យាសម្រាប់ជនជាតិខ្មែរ មិនមែនសម្រាប់ខ្ញុំទេ។ ខ្ញុំត្រូវបន្ទាបខ្លួនធ្វើតាមគ្រូគង្វាលជនជាតិខ្មែរ។

ទី៤ ខ្ញុំត្រូវអធិស្ឋានសូមឲ្យព្រះអម្ចាស់ប្រទានពរសម្រាប់ជនជាតិខ្មែរ ។ មនុស្សកុលសម្ព័នអធិស្ឋានសូមឲ្យព្រះអម្ចាស់ជាព្រះរបស់លោកគង់នៅជាមួយលោក ។ ខ្ញុំត្រូវធ្វើដូចគ្នាសម្រាប់គ្រូគង្វាលខ្មែរ។

ចុងក្រោយ ខ្ញុំត្រូវលើកទឹកចិត្តគ្រូគង្វាលជនជាតិខ្មែរ។ ដូចមនុស្សនៅកុលសម្ព័ន្ធលើទឹកចិត្តលោកយូ៉ស្វេ និងប្រាប់គាត់ សូមមានកម្លាំង និងចិត្តក្លាហានឡើង។ ខ្ញុំនិងប្រាប់គ្រូគង្វាលខ្មែរ សូមមានកម្លាំង និងចិត្តក្លាហានឡើង ដូចលោកយ៉ូស្វេ។

ដូច្នេះហើយបានជាខ្ញុំសង្ឃឹមថា ខ្ញុំឃើញជនជាតិខ្មែរភាគច្រើនទទួលបានសេចក្តីសន្យារបស់ព្រះអង្គ។

សូមអធិស្ឋានជាមួយខ្ញុំ៖

ឱព្រះអង្គអើយ ! សូមប្រទានពរដល់កម្ពុជា និងជនជាតិខ្មែរ ។ អរព្រះគុណសម្រាប់សេចក្តីសន្យាដ៏ល្អនៅក្នុងព្រះគម្ពីរ ។ សូមប្រទានអោយកូនរបស់ទ្រង់មានប្រជ្ញា ដើម្បីទទួលបានសេចន្តីសន្យារបស់ទ្រង់ ។ សូមលើកទឹកចិត្តគ្រូគង្វាលនៅកម្ពុជា និងប្រទានឲ្យពួកគេមានអំណាចនៅក្នុងនាមព្រះយេស៊ូ ដើម្បីប្រយុទ្ធនិងឈ្នះសម្រាប់នគរព្រះ ។

នៅក្នុងព្រះនាមព្រះយេស៊ូ

អាមែន

Joshua 1:12-18

But to the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh, Joshua said,13 “Remember the command that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you after he said, ‘The Lord your God will give you rest by giving you this land.’ 14 Your wives, your children and your livestock may stay in the land that Moses gave you east of the Jordan, but all your fighting men, ready for battle, must cross over ahead of your fellow Israelites. You are to help them 15 until the Lord gives them rest, as he has done for you, and until they too have taken possession of the land the Lord your God is giving them. After that, you may go back and occupy your own land, which Moses the servant of the Lord gave you east of the Jordan toward the sunrise.”

16 Then they answered Joshua, “Whatever you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. 17 Just as we fully obeyed Moses, so we will obey you.Only may the Lord your God be with you as he was with Moses. 18 Whoever rebels against your word and does not obey it, whatever you may command them, will be put to death. Only be strong and courageous!”

Last week, I was reading Joshua chapter 1. Here, it tells us about various characters: God, Moses, Joshua, the Israelites, and those from the tribes of Reuben, Gad and Menassah. Whilst reading it, I thought, “Which of them am I like?” I know I’m not like God as I’m only human. I hope that I’m not like Moses, because in the Book of Joshua, he’s already dead. When we read Joshua, we often want to think we’re him. He’s a famous leader, he’s important, he’s brave. But I think that missionaries are most like the Reubenites, Gadites and Menassehites.

In these verses, we learnt that God has given promises to Joshua and the other Israelites. The Reubenites, Gadites and Menassehites help Joshua to receive these promises. Those tribes had already received their portion. I came to Cambodia to help the Cambodians receive the promises of God, most importantly the promise of salvation for I have already received this. When I read the first chapter of Joshua, I was really interested in what it had to say.

Verses 12-18 can teach me how I can effectively help the Cambodians receive the promises of God. There are five lessons.

First, this passage tells us that only once I have finished my task, I can rest. The tribes had to cross the Jordan River and claim their new country. Only afterwards, could they rest. I have to help the Cambodians receive the promises of God. Only afterwards, can I rest also.

Second, I have to fight. 2 Timothy 4:7 says, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” We have to fight the good fight also. The tribes people had to be armed and equipped to fight with Joshua. We have to be armed too.

2 Corinthians 10:4 says, “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.” Ephesians 6:11 tells us to “Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” This means that I have to read the Bible and know it well because the Bible is the most important armour and weapon God gives us.

Lesson three is that I need to listen to the leaders and pastors in Cambodia. Sometimes, foreigners in Cambodia thing they know more and understand the Bible more clearly than the Cambodians. But I’m here to see the Cambodians receive the promises of God, and not for myself. Therefore, I must humble myself and follow the leaders of the Cambodian church.

Lesson four, I need to pray that God blesses the Cambodian. The Reubenites, Gadites and Menassehites speak a blessing over Joshua. I need to do the same for the Cambodian church leaders.

Finally, I need to encourage the church leaders in Cambodia. As the Reubenites, Gadites and Menassehites encourage Joshua by telling him to be strong and courageous, I will tell the Khmer pastors to be strong and courageous like Joshua.

Therefore, I hope that I see many Cambodians receive the promises of God.

Let’s pray this prayer:

Lord God, Bless Cambodia and the Cambodian people. Thank you for you good promises in the Bible. Give the leaders of the Khmer church wisdom so they may receive your promises. Uplift and strengthen them in the power of Jesus’ name so they may fight and win for your Kingdom.

In the name of Jesus,

Amen.

Welcome back bingo

In a few months, I will be in England. This is a temporary stop-over. (Just a side note: I will be very, very busy. This isn’t a holiday. So, I won’t be able to meet up with as many people as I would like. Oh, and social distancing.)

Of course, there is much to look forward to when returning to your passport country. But, it’s not all sun and roses. There are some really hard, complex and baffling emotions going on that can make it really daunting.

I created this “Welcome Back! Bingo” card, which will hopefully give a chuckle to those who have been in my position as well as shed a bit of a light on some of the pit falls that those welcoming us back can fall into. (I think I’ve experienced all but one of them.)

First, don’t assume where home is. The expat or missionary has probably been working really hard to settle into their new country, putting loads of effort into building relationships, understanding the culture, creating routines, familiarising yourself with your surroundings. This emotional investment, and the fact that a large portion of their life has been spent in a different place, might mean that their new home feels like home. Hopefully, they feel welcome in their passport country and their new host country. But it can be a bit of a confusing rollercoaster as you try to find your roots. (Of course, my parents’ home feels like home. So, I’m looking forward to that!)

Second, reverse culture shock is a thing. Here’s a video from someone else’s perspective.

For example, I went away for a year. When I came back, suddenly there were some unexplainable crazes, namely pineapples and unicorns. They were everywhere. Why, people? What is so amazing about pineapples?

Third, now this is where I try to avoid humble bragging. Our experiences as the same as yours. Markets in the UK are not like markets in Cambodia. And the differences are often unexpected: mall bathrooms are way cleaner in Cambodia than the UK. (Petrol station bathrooms seem to be universally grim, though.) Service is generally quicker in Cambodia (mainly because supermarkets and restaurants tend to have so many staff). It just means conversation can be a bit difficult as you navigate the common ground. Take an interest and ask stupid questions.

Lastly, we are not special. Although our experiences are different, they are the experiences of the millions of people in your host country. There will be some experiences that are universal to the most of the continent (e.g. eating loads of rice in Asia), so that means it’s normal for potentially billions of the world’s population. Therefore, the things we do are normal for a lot of people, just not those back at home. This means that we aren’t in anyway superheroes or extraordinary. We just have a different ordinary. (Which I can assure you, is often dull or sweaty.) Also, the process of moving to a different country is really similar to getting on a plane for a holiday. Just the gap between the inbound flight and the outbound flight tends to be a lot longer.

But making mistakes is okay. But being genuinely interested, intentionally welcoming and seeking to bless can make a world of difference.

There’s a season for everything

I’ve nearly completed my third year in Cambodia. One thing about doing it for a second time, is that the rhythms and seasons of life become more normal. The rains come, the rains go; the mosquitoes come, the mosquitoes go; the hot days come, the hot days go; the weddings come, the weddings go; the power cuts come, the power cuts go.

Now, we have nearly reached the wet season.

We have also reached the goodbye season. The cycles of the academic year bring people to the school and the country, and as the academic year ends, so people also leave. For the local staff at HOPE and for those who stay longer, goodbyes are hard. They don’t get easier and as a result first hellos can be also difficult.

In 2018, I began my job at HOPE school. That was for a season. That season is coming to the end now.

It makes me aware that Cambodia is probably only for a season. So far, it’s been three years. I’m not sure how long it’ll be, so I should make the most of enjoying it. One day, I might be saying goodbye to Cambodia for the last time. There is a time for that, as there is a time for everything.

There is a time for everything,

    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
     a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
     a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
     a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8

Who knows what this next season will bring?

Control

When Christians back home think of missionaries, I expect they often think of sacrifice and what they’ve had to give up. God has been incredibly gracious to me, and has not asked me to sacrifice all that much (or at least has only asked me to sacrifice a few things that are important to me). I know that I have been abundantly blessed here in Cambodia.

However, recently I have moved house. I have gone from living on my own in a cute one bedroom flat to an entire house with an entire family. For the most part, it is great. But this means I’ve had to sacrifice something that is apparently very important to me: control.

They say that a British man’s home is his castle. There’s a sense of guarding it, controlling it and also isolating yourself within it. Living on my own and also back in the UK with my relatively introverted family meant that guests were invited, we knew when they would arrive and approximately when they would leave. It was very much within the realms of our control.

When I invited a family to move in with me, I forgot I would be inviting Cambodia into live with me as well. Previously I had managed to manufacture a British fortress, or enclave, my little colony. My apartment was a tiny Gibraltar jutting out into the sea that is Southeast Asian culture.

However, with British Imperialism long dead (despite nationalist attempts to flog that dead horse), it wasn’t going to last. So I now live in a Cambodian house. Yes, it’s more of a fusion of our two cultures. But it is a Cambodian family in a Cambodian style house living in Cambodia. Therefore, Cambodia has the upper-hand.

As a result, the come and go nature of Cambodian living (cousins, nieces, nephews, grandparents, brothers and sisters all appearing unannounced) is very much a part of my life. And I’ve found it hard. I’ve found it hard that the drawbridge to my fortress has been irrevocably lowered and the gates swung wide opened.

Then twitter post came along to convict me of my selfish thinking.

God has bought me to Cambodia not to set up impenetrable walls and to be at arm’s length from those around me. He called me to be his messenger, his ambassador and his hands and feet. Sometimes it will be messy and uncomfortable and unfamiliar. But me stepping into this situation is nothing compared to Jesus stepping from heaven into the mess and discomfort of our fallen world. So even when I’m tempted to pull up the drawbridge, I’ll remind myself that embassies don’t have them.

What do you find hardest about Cambodian culture?

When talk about culture neither is wrong, right, better or worse. Culture gives us a set of tools to easily and sometimes automatically negotiate social situations, able to make quick judgements and accurate predictions, bypass long-winded communications because of an assumed understanding of the process and expectations.

However, when dealing with other cultures these tools are often robbed away, and this is what can cause stress and anxiety.

For me, there are a few things that cause me stress. First, it is the lack of planning. Things often happen seemingly spontaneously and without a huge amount of forewarning. There is an economic aspect to this; things happen when you can afford them. There was one time Vitou phoned me to ask if I was free. I told him I was, so he told me to pack clothes for three days as we were visiting his relatives.

British culture usually revolves around well-planned and confirmed events. This is also true of my school culture, it being an international school. Many social events among my expat friends are planned in advance s as well. I try to have one foot firmly rooted in my surrounding Cambodian culture; whilst the other in my British or international expat culture. It seems that the former foot is doing the foxtrot beat of slow, slow, quick, quick (no planning or activity until a rush at the last minute) while the latter leg is doing the quick, quick, slow of the polka (organise everything at first, then ease into the event later). With each foot moving to a different beat, it can make life somewhat complex.

I’ve learnt to prepare for this Cambodian pace by leaving my schedule free. However, this means often saying no to things I would otherwise go to due to the possibility something else might happen. Often, when people ask “do you have plans for the holidays” the answer is no, but in reality I know some plan will probably suddenly materialise. Generally, I cope quite well.

However, I don’t cope well when I’m stressed. If I’m already busy and my schedule is already packed or if some significant event is coming up, the thought that something might suddenly crop up our plans might change make me very anxious. I cope with stress by planning. I will plan things to the last detail and I need to know some days in advance how things will work out. This helps me feel in control of the situation. However, as Cambodians don’t plan, they inadvertently make situations worse for me.

As I gradually get more involved in Khmer life and my priorities move in that direction, hopefully scheduling conflicts and time of stress will reduce.

Another strong value in British culture is privacy and personal space. In Cambodia, especially as often many people live together sharing bedrooms and even beds, this it’s not often a priority. Vitou is very aware and helpful, and will often ensure my privacy is maintained at home. However, there are times when this cultural conflict can’t be escaped. There is one example that sticks clearly in my mind. I had just been shopping at Aeon Mall, of course. I had the day off as a school holiday but also forget it happened to be a Cambodian national holiday too. Therefore, Aeon Mall was exceptionally crowded. Because of this, shopping had been tiring and stressful. My capacity to deal with cultural conflicts was vastly diminished.

I left Aeon Mall, glad to be escaping, and at the exit I bumped into some Cambodian acquaintances. They literally pounced on my trolley and started peering into my bag, cataloguing everything I had bought and announcing it to the group. I can’t imagine that happening in England. Even if my parents had been shopping for anything other than the weekly groceries, I wouldn’t open their shopping bags to have a look.

One time in Siem Reap, I went out for the evening to get food. There was a group of tuk tuk driver that would wait on the corner of the road for customers, so I walked up and asked them to drop me off at Pub Street, where the restaurant was (I was friends with one of the waiters there). The next day, I went to the shop just opposite where I lived, and the shopkeeper, who I also had conversations with regularly, asked if I enjoyed Pub Street the night before. The whole neighbourhood knows your comings and goings, which makes me very careful on the reputation I try to make for myself in my borey.

Another area where my idea of privacy is often invaded surrounds prices of things. In UK, you would rarely directly ask the price of something. In Cambodia, it happens a lot. People ask about clothes, motorbikes, rent, everything. To a British person, that’s personal information. Here, it’s acceptable public knowledge. The next stage can be a bit annoying, when they evaluate whether you got a good price or not. It’s not so bad if they think it’s a good price. To be told it’s too expensive comes across as rude. (That’s okay to do before the point of purchase; it’s of no use after and seems to only serve to undermine the person who bought it.)

If I get asked the price of something, I will usually say that I can’t remember. That usually stops the conversation in its tracks.

I think the reason that this happens is that Cambodia is far more group orientated. Therefore things happen together, so privacy gets put aside as a result. Things happen together, you live in close proximity to each other, communities have the proverbial grape vine running down each street, so naturally your business becomes everyone else’s business.

This might seem like a bit of a rant, but it isn’t. I know I’m extremely blessed to be here. If my main gripes are that people invite me to things (how very dare they) a bit last minute, or they show an interest in this stranger that has landed in among them or they are asking questions a quick google search could probably answer about prices, then I don’t have a lot to complain about. I love so much about Cambodian culture and the people here. I’m also glad for the opportunity to put a mirror up against my own values and beliefs and examine where they come from or why they’re like that. So, come to Cambodia; just expect things to be last minute and for everyone to be very curious about you.

Moving abroad skills/preparedness audit

Life in Cambodia can be wildly different to life in the UK. There are different routines, considerations and skills needed in order to survive. There is so much I have learnt to do and there are also many skills I know I’m lacking. If I had the opportunity to do more research, receive more training or practise some skills before I came it may could have made quite a bit of difference and I wouldn’t feel quite at a loss at some points. These just cover the basics; I will probably write another one about cultural integration and awareness. Also, if you enjoy this post but haven’t read my A Million Questions post about learning about a new country, you might find that interesting too.

Health

  • Are your vaccines up-to-date?
  • Do you know your blood type?
  • Do you know the locations of the nearest/best hospitals where you will be living?
  • Have you checked whether you can get hold of any medication you need?
  • Have you researched potential threats to health (e.g. malaria, dengue, Zika virus, parasites)?
  • Do you know how to prevent mosquito bites, insect bites and other local risks to health?
  • What foods are safe to eat and what should be avoided? (This varies from place to place, so the blanket advice for travellers may not be applicable. For example, ice is usually fine in Cambodia!)
  • How may the change in diet or climate impact your health?
  • Have you learnt how to adjust to a different climate?
  • Have you made plans in the case of emergency medical care? Does your family know your plans?

Transport

  • What are the main types of transport in the country you are moving to?
  • Is it the same or different to what you are used to?
  • Would it be worth getting lessons before you leave? (I would have loved to have motorbike lessons before I left; I completely feel as if I’m making it all up.)
  • Do you know basic vehicle maintenance?
  • Do you know about different types, brands or models of that vehicle?
  • What public transport is available in the country?
  • What conditions will you travel in when you take public transport? How might you need to prepare for this?

Clothing

  • What clothing do you need for different seasons?
  • What clothing is available in the country? What will you need to bring more of? (For me – vests, socks and shoes)
  • What are locals’ attitudes towards different types of clothing choice? What image are you trying to convey? How do the clothes you wear convey this?
  • What clothing will be comfortable or practical for different reasons?
  • How will you keep your clothes clean?
  • Do you know how to hand wash clothes?
  • What type of clothes will you have to wear at work? What would be good to wear when out and about?
  • Can you sew?

Food

  • What are the main components of that country’s cuisine?
  • Do you know how to eat it? (For instance, I still struggle to eat fish and prawns because I didn’t eat it a lot at home.)
  • What types of fruit and vegetables are there? Do you know how to eat, prepare and cook them? (For instance, can you cut up a mango?)
  • What type of food and ingredients will be available where you are living?
  • Can you cook some simple meals just on a stove?
  • Do you know how to wash vegetables and meats in an effective and hygienic manner? (Yes, I know that probably back at home you are told not to wash meats. That advice might not apply so much where you are.)
  • Do you know how to avoid foods that you are allergic too?
  • Do you know what substitutions for different ingredients you use often can be used?

Language learning

  • Do you know which languages are used in the country and where you will be living?
  • Do you have a basic idea of language families and their features?
  • Do you know your learning style?
  • Are you aware of the International Phonetic Alphabet and its usage?
  • Are you familiar with the phonemes of your target language?
  • Have you researched language learning techniques?
  • Do you know what resources are available for your target language?
  • Do you know the pros and cons of the different resources (for example is the resource somewhat old-fashioned so now a bit offensive? Yes, FSI courses, I’m looking at you.)

Cultural adjustment

  • Have you researched some of the dos and don’ts of the culture?
  • Are you aware of culture shock, what it is and what it looks like? Have you researched reverse culture-shock?
  • Have you researched your own culture so you are aware of some of the potential pressure points? (Privacy and personal space is a large pressure point for me.)
  • Have you found out what cultures you might be working with? Have you researched them? (You might be working in an international setting. I find more extrovert and say-what-you-mean cultures more difficult than Khmer ones most the time.)

Back at home

  • Have you planned how you will stay in touch with those back at home?
  • Have you researched what methods of communication there are available?
  • Have you spoken to others about how they should communicate with you?
  • Have you scheduled regular, committed time to communicate with various people?
  • Have you considered how you will communicate with younger family members? (I’ve found regular Skype calls with little people really hard to navigate.)
  • How will you negotiate import events like Christmas? Have you reflected on how this might affect you?

Yourself

  • Have you taken time to think about how you as a person might affect your experience?
    • What do you enjoy doing in your home country?
    • What activities might be available in your new country?
    • How do you respond to stress?
    • What self-care techniques work for you?
    • What is your personality type? What Enneagram type are you? What does it say about you?
    • What are your reasons for going?
    • What do you hope to achieve?
    • How do you cope with frustrations and disappointments?
    • What bad habits should you try to deal with before you leave?
    • Where might you need to be more flexible in your thinking or world-view?
    • What stereotypes or presumptions might you need to deal with before you leave?

This is a pretty long list. A lot of it could be done with a google search or by watching a few YouTube videos. Some you might need to reflect on for longer. You may want to discuss a few with others who have lived abroad, or close friends and loved ones. I hope this list helps someone and if it does, like or comment! If I failed to add something (because these are only based on my experiences), let me know too.

Ask a missionary…

One of the hardest aspects I have found with being abroad is the relationships with those back at home. There are often awkward attempts either way but sometimes it feel like attempts to communicate fall flat. I’ve think I’ve identified one of the problems.

I’ve often invited others to ask questions about life in Cambodia, but either I get asked the same questions (“What do you miss most…?” “Cheese.”) or they’re hard to answer (“What flowers are in bloom at the moment?” “Er… the pink ones.”) or just silence. I think a part of the problem is knowing what questions to ask. So, I thought I’d help. I’ve also given them a chilli rating on how spicy the questions and possible answers are. One chilli 🌶 is the basics (they’re possibly things you should know already, but it’s worth checking if you don’t know.) Two chillis 🌶🌶 gets a bit more detail. Three chillis 🌶🌶🌶 are more personal and could give rise to painful answers. They could also reveal some of the failings or difficulties the missionary is facing. If you are a very close, you can go in for the deep three chillis 🌶🌶🌶 but perhaps otherwise stick to the one or two chillis. Also, this is not meant to be a hard-and-fast interview. Your aim is not to go through the list and tick them off. These are ideas to help start the conversation.

Where they live

  • Where do you live? 🌶
  • How would you describe your neighbourhood / village/ city / area? 🌶 – 🌶 🌶
  • What is your favourite thing about your area? 🌶🌶
  • What amenities or resources do you have close access to? 🌶
  • What problems are there in your area? 🌶🌶
  • What grieves you about the area where you live? 🌶🌶🌶
  • How should I pray for where you live? 🌶🌶
  • What is your house/accommodation like? 🌶
  • What’s your favourite thing about your accommodation? 🌶
  • What would you change about your accommodation? 🌶🌶
  • What daily hassles or frustrations do you have with your accommodation? 🌶🌶
  • Who do you live with? 🌶
  • What are they like? 🌶🌶
  • How do they bring you joy? 🌶🌶
  • What relational problems are there between you and those you live with? 🌶🌶🌶
  • How can you serve those you live with better? 🌶🌶🌶
  • How can I pray for those you live with? 🌶🌶
  • Who are your neighbours? 🌶
  • What are they like? 🌶🌶
  • What type of relationships do you have with your neighbours? 🌶🌶 – 🌶🌶🌶
  • How can you better serve your neighbours? 🌶🌶🌶
  • How can I pray for your neighbours? 🌶🌶

Out and about

  • How do you travel about? 🌶
  • Describe a typical journey. 🌶🌶
  • Do you feel safe when you travel? 🌶🌶
  • How often do you go out for leisure? 🌶
  • What is there to do where you live? 🌶
  • What do you do to relax? 🌶
  • Tell me about your ideal day off. 🌶🌶
  • Where are your favourite places to visit? Why? 🌶🌶
  • Where would you like to visit? Why would you like to go there? 🌶🌶
  • What activity do you hope to do? Why do you wish to do that? 🌶🌶
  • What place did you find the most interesting or rewarding? Why was that? 🌶🌶
  • What activities would you like to do but can’t? 🌶🌶 How does that make you feel? 🌶🌶🌶
  • What do the locals do when they have free time? 🌶
  • What is your opinion of how locals spend their free time? 🌶🌶 – 🌶🌶🌶
  • Do you feel bored or stressed where you are? If so, how could you change this? 🌶🌶
  • What unhealthy habits do you have when it comes to spending your free time? 🌶🌶🌶
  • Are you stewarding your money wisely? 🌶🌶🌶

Daily life and healthy routines

  • What is your daily routine? 🌶
  • How is this routine similar to that back at home? 🌶🌶
  • How is this routine different to that back at home? 🌶🌶
  • What do you eat most days? 🌶🌶
  • Do you have a good work / relaxation balance? 🌶🌶
  • Do you eat healthily? 🌶🌶
  • Have you been well? 🌶🌶
  • What has prevented you from being healthy at the moment? 🌶🌶
  • What common illnesses or health problems are there in your country? 🌶🌶
  • What daily challenges do you face? 🌶🌶
  • Are you exercising regularly? 🌶🌶
  • Are you sleeping well? 🌶🌶
  • What changes to your routine could you make to help you stay well and healthy? 🌶🌶🌶

Their work

  • What do you do? 🌶
  • Where do you work? 🌶
  • How do you get to work? What is that journey like? 🌶 -🌶🌶
  • Tell me about your average day. 🌶🌶
  • Describe your place of work. 🌶🌶
  • What is your favourite thing about your job? 🌶
  • What is your biggest frustration about your job? 🌶🌶🌶
  • What is a daily challenge you face in your job? 🌶🌶🌶
  • Do you enjoy your work, overall? 🌶🌶🌶
  • How does your work make you feel about yourself? 🌶🌶🌶
  • Do you work with locals, foreigners, Christians, non-Christians? 🌶 Do you like this set up? 🌶🌶🌶
  • Who are your colleagues?🌶
  • What positive relationships do you have at your job?🌶🌶
  • What relational problems do you have at your job?🌶🌶🌶
  • How can you resolve any problems or issues you are facing?🌶🌶
  • How can I pray for you as you do your work?🌶🌶
  • How can I pray for where you work and those you work with? 🌶🌶

Host culture

  • What is your predominant host culture (the culture that they now live in, which is not their own culture)? 🌶
  • Tell me something about what you’ve learnt about your host culture. 🌶
  • What do you like most about your host culture? 🌶🌶
  • What has surprised you most about your host culture? 🌶🌶
  • What advice would you give to those visiting to your country about your host culture? 🌶🌶
  • How is your own culture and the host culture similar? 🌶🌶
  • What differences have you found it easy to adjust to? 🌶🌶
  • How integrated do you feel with your host culture? 🌶🌶🌶
  • What barriers are there for you feeling a part of your host culture? 🌶🌶🌶
  • Have you experienced culture shock yet? What do you think contributed to it? 🌶🌶🌶
  • What conflicts are there between your cultural background and your host culture? 🌶🌶🌶
  • Where might your perspective have to change in order to understand your host culture better? 🌶🌶🌶
  • Where are there Biblical conflicts with your host culture? 🌶🌶🌶
  • What does your host culture do that you feel is in line with Biblical values? 🌶🌶🌶
  • Which language / languages are you having to learn? 🌶🌶
  • How is language learning going? 🌶🌶
  • What have been the biggest successes in your language learning journey? 🌶🌶
  • What challenges have you faced in language learning? 🌶🌶
  • How do you feel about language learning? 🌶🌶

The country

  • Where is the country? 🌶
  • What climate does it have? 🌶
  • How have you adjusted to the climate? 🌶🌶
  • What are the cities like? 🌶🌶 What is the countryside like? 🌶🌶
  • What sites do you enjoy in the country? 🌶🌶
  • What animals are there in your country? 🌶
  • How do you and the locals live alongside these animals? 🌶🌶
  • What seasons are there? 🌶
  • What new things to enjoy does each season bring? 🌶🌶
  • What new challenges does each season bring? 🌶🌶
  • Where are the top tourist places to visit? 🌶🌶
  • What is the food like? 🌶🌶
  • Tell me a bit about it’s recent history. 🌶🌶
  • How do most people make a living? 🌶🌶
  • What struggles to local people face in their lives? 🌶🌶
  • What problems are (somewhat) unique to the country? 🌶🌶
  • How can we pray for the country? 🌶🌶

Relationships

  • How do you maintain relationships with those back home? 🌶🌶
  • Do you have Christian friends in your host country? 🌶🌶
  • Do you have local friends in your host country? 🌶🌶
  • How are you relationships with family / spouses etc. who you live with? 🌶🌶
  • Do you feel like you have meaningful connections with others? 🌶🌶🌶
  • Have you formed any unhealthy dependent relationships? 🌶🌶🌶
  • How do you make sure your strong relationships include rather than isolate others? 🌶🌶🌶
  • Are you lonely? 🌶🌶🌶
  • What causes you to struggle with maintaining relationships with those back at home? 🌶🌶🌶
  • Do you feel listened to and understood by those back at home? 🌶🌶🌶
  • How can you improve your situation in terms of relationships? 🌶🌶🌶
  • How can I pray for you, your friends, your family, etc. ? 🌶🌶🌶

Faith

  • What answers to prayers have you had recently? 🌶🌶
  • What encouraging news do you have for those praying for you? 🌶🌶
  • What has God been teaching you recently? 🌶🌶
  • How regularly are you praying? 🌶🌶🌶
  • How regularly are you reading the Bible? 🌶🌶🌶
  • What are you reading in the Bible at the moment? 🌶🌶
  • How can you apply what you have been reading to your situation? 🌶🌶🌶
  • How regularly do you worship with other believers? 🌶🌶
  • Which church / churches do you attend? 🌶
  • How do you serve the churches you attend? 🌶🌶
  • How could you serve them better? 🌶🌶🌶
  • How do you feel about your faith at the moment? 🌶🌶🌶
  • How do you feel towards God at the moment? 🌶🌶🌶
  • How do you feel towards Christians at home and supporters at the moment? 🌶🌶🌶
  • How do you feel about your calling at the moment? 🌶🌶🌶
  • What is bringing you anxiety, grief or pain in your faith at the moment? 🌶🌶🌶
  • What can you do to change this? 🌶🌶🌶
  • What can we pray for? 🌶🌶 – 🌶🌶🌶

If I ever get around to it, I might make videos answering some of these questions and the questions on my a million questions post.