Vacation with the kids, the move, and more

While visiting the mission home, President Moon pulled us aside and asked us to replace Elder and Sister Rhyne as Family History Missionaries, but said we could start after our kid’s vacation.

Meeting our Children at the Airport at midnight

Our two youngest children, Kristi and Jorgen visited us for ten days, from January 21 to January 31, almost long enough, but actually taking us from our missionary work for too long. We had a great time, enjoying every minute.

We regretted that our schedule did not allow us to take them to church with us to the Ta Khmau branches, where we wanted them to meet our friends. Elders and Sisters Henderson and Shelley were leaving the mission on January 23 and we felt we had to be there for their departure, which went smoothly, but did provide us the opportunity to take our kids on a cyclo tour of Phnom Penh downtown.

Jorgen got the smallest cyclo driver

Jorgen, who probably weighs over 250 pounds, ended up with the smallest cyclo driver, which caused Jorgen to jump out and help push his cyclo over a bridge, then to pick up his driver as if he were a small sack of potatoes.

We also took Kristi to one of the markets to purchase some cloth to have some clothes sewn by our friendly seamstress. At the end, when the clothes were delivered, Kristi was sad she hadn’t followed our advice and bought more material because the clothes were beautiful (and inexpensive).

After the returning missionary couples were off, we headed out for Siem Reap driving our vehicle, a 2007 Honda CRV. The first 70 miles made us glad we had an SUV because the road was under construction and was terrible; actually worse than terrible, but I don’t have any words that fit. We were told we could get to Siem Reap, about 220 miles from Phnom Penh in 5 hours, but we made it in 8. This was the first time I had the car over 50 mph, which was so much faster than I had been driving that I really didn’t open it up. The country side was open with lots of brown fields; there hadn’t been rain for several months. Julia got all excited when we saw our first Water Buffalo, but we kept going, expecting to see lots more as we got further away from Phnom Penh.

We had a wonderful hotel reserved, with 2 rooms waiting for us, then had a nice Mexican meal with another missionary couple, the Grimness’ who were there setting up an apartment for some new sister missionaries.

After a good night’s sleep, we were picked up by our tuk-tuk driver, You Dara who took us to the park ticket booth where we purchased day passes for $20 each, $80 for the four of us, then we headed out to see the temples, driving right past Angkor Wat. This confused me, but our driver said it was the best way to see what we wanted to see.

Faces at Bayon

We stopped at the Bayon Temple where large stone faces look down from every flat side of each spire.

Here Kristi and Jorgen had an elephant ride, which they enjoyed immensely. From there, we walked around several temples next to the Bayon, where the kids climbed to the top of each one. There is a major wall between the temples and a large area that looked like a parade ground where there were many places where an elephant could stand near the wall and solders could mount them more easily.

Tree in Temple Wall

From there we drove out the north gate and visited the Preah Khan Temple, then back through the Bayon North gate and out the east gate to the Ta Keo Temple and Ta Prohm Temple.

Joined many tourists at Angkor Wat

By this time we were getting tired and wanted a rest, which we did not get, instead we went to Angkor Wat. Nothing had prepared us for the immense size of these temples. We approached Angkor Wat walking on a causeway across a huge moat, when through a massive doorway into a huge inner court where there was a long walk to the temple itself. Once we were inside the temple, we were routed around the south side of the first floor wall, which was a long bias relief of some huge battles, showing many thousands of warriors, elephants and chariots, all carved by hand. When we came to the center, there was an inner door facing a set of huge stairs leading to the second level.

As we walked around the ‘back’ of the temple, we found a crowd surrounding a band of perhaps a dozen costumed dancers. I thought they were dancers, but after waiting for a show and seeing numerous people stand in line with them to have their picture taken, I determined they were there simply to allow tourists to get a picture with a costumed dancer I was offered to have a picture moment with them for a dollar.

Picture with Angkor Wat Dancers for a dollar

Fortunately, at this time, we met up with our kids who had climbed to the third level of the temple, into the central spire. It had been a long walk into the temple but it was an even longer walk out. It was beautiful, but I was tired and had seen what I wanted to see.

That night we had a traditional Khmae meal, again with the Grimness’ and returned to the hotel for another good night’s sleep.

Angkor National Museum

The next day, we went to Angkor National Museum where they have gathered a thousand statues of Buddha, several man sized, many half sized and a large number of very small statues. These had been gathered from the many Wats to keep them from being defaced. The museum housed a large collection of statues and other art depicting the cultural heritage of the different reigns of the kings from 800 AD to about 1300 AD. I was very surprised by the sheer number of statues and reliefs of topless women, causing me to think that these people must have been very sensual.

Floating Village on Tonle Sap Lake

Next we headed for the Tonle Sap Lake, coming to an inlet where numerous boats were waiting to take tourists like us out to the Floating Village. We paid $25 and jumped onto a boat piloted by 2 kids, 13 and 18 years old. On the way, they turned the helm over to Jorgen which he loved, having never had the opportunity to pilot a boat before. The floating village was a disappointment but the lake was so wide that we could not see the other side. I was surprised by the dirty water out as far as I could see. When I asked if the water was dirty all the way to the other side, the kids guiding us didn’t understand my question, so I never learned the answer.

Returning to Siem Reap, we visited a craft shop, a guild really, where young craftsmen (and crafts-women) learn the skills to replicate different historical items to sell to well-healed tourists. I have to admit that many of the goods looked beautiful but were well beyond my price range.
The next day was Sunday, so we got everyone up and attended the Siem Reap Branch, meeting several other tourists much more adventurous than us. One family had sold their home and was wondering the world with their 4 (or 6) kids. I think the father was working his normal day job remotely using the internet wherever he was. I felt he was gutsy, but probably quite good at what he did.

Silk Worm Cocoons are yellow in Cambodia

After Church, we drove out to a silk farm and had a tour showing the process from growing the food, harvesting and hatching the worms, spinning off the silk, processing and coloring the thread, then weaving it into beautiful cloth and putting the products in the on-site store. Again beautiful but way over my budget. Interestingly, and something I didn’t know, there are two layers of silk in a cocoon, the outer one quite course but the inner being very fine and soft. I had wondered why the Khmae silk I found in the market was stiff and somewhat rough and this explained it.

On the way back from the silk farm, we pulled over at a place we had seen some Water Buffalo just off the road and took the pictures Julia wanted.

The ride home the next day was mostly uneventful except for our stop in Kampong Thom to visit the Grimness’ for lunch. As a treat, they took us to a local Wat which was quite interesting since I had never actually been in one. I was surprised by the art on the inner walls depicting some Buddhist story, probably meant to inspire the faithful.

The last 75 miles was rough as we returned through the construction zone and made our way through clouds of dust.

With three days more of their vacation, it was time for us to actually move, so I sent Julia, our translator and the kids to Phnom Penh for a day on the town, visiting several of the markets and wherever else they wanted to go while I prepared for the move. We had hired a cleaning crew that worked hard for two days while I moved everything outside to make the actual move easier.

With two days to go, on our way home from the local market, we swung by a local shop, really just a front room facing the street where we purchased ‘jake jeean’, or pressed, battered and deep-fat fried bananas. The kids loved them and were unhappy at us for waiting till the end of their vacation to introduce such a wonderful snack to them. On the last day, Kristi and Jorgen disappeared for a time, returning with a bag of ‘jake jeean’ to share.

Final view, up the escalator and gone

We finalized our move to the new home, then went out to dinner then took the kids to the airport. When they left, we all commented that our smile muscles hurt because we had had such a great time. Kristi said it was her best vacation ever and Jorgen said he was going to save each year to visit us wherever we might be on our missions. After waving them off, we went home to our new home to sleep in it the first time.

Friends, Suvan and Mone

With hardly time to unpack and settle in, our good friends, Suvon and Mone visited us from Thailand for 2 days and 3 nights. We showed them Phnom Penh the first day, taking a cyclo ride and eating out at the Titanic Restaurant. The second day, Suvon wanted to see Sihanoukville, the port along the Gulf of Thailand. With the Mission President’s permission, we drove to Sihanoukville taking 5 hours, spent 3 hours dabbling our toes in the water, then another 5 hours back home. I enjoyed the trip, especially the time we spent with our friends, but ten hours driving for three hours of fun was a bit much.

With the visits over, and a new assignment staring us in the face, we jumped right in and tried to learn what we needed to do. Over the past 3 years, I have tried to catch the spirit of genealogy, only to have the difficulty of finding clear answers derail me, so we took this assignment as a push from the Lord to get serious. The Rhyne’s plan was for us to be trained by them for several days then take over the work at the South Family History Center, then after we were comfortable, take over the North Family History Center. This is a big job with several layers of understanding needed to accomplish it. First we needed to understand the physical job; opening and staffing the center, then we needed to get to know the called consultants, then the hardest part, we need to know how to actually do the work, how to get family data loaded into the computer correctly. We are getting to know the first level, but are not very confident about the other levels. Fortunately, the Rhynes are still here mentoring us. They are trying to straighten out the membership data, which is woefully out of date and seems to be getting worse every day. We wish them success, because much of the data we use in Family History comes from the Church Membership System. Sadly, the Rhynes will be returning home within 2 months. But then, we will be headed home in 4 months. It is our desire to do some good in the time we have, so we are making an effort to do a good job.

During the second week in March, we received another call from President Moon, asking us if we would accompany the saints going to the Manila Temple this April. The cost is high, but we want to go, so we said we would go. It should be easy because there are not very many scheduled to go at this time.

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