Trip to Kep and Bokor

ថ្ងៃទី២៤ ខែកក្កដា យើងទៅដើរលេងនៅភ្នំបូកគោ

សបា្ដហ៍នេះមិត្តភក្តិខ្ញំុមួយចំនួនបានទៅភ្នំបូកគោជាមួយនិងខ្ញំុ។  យើងសប្បាយរីករាយប៉ុន្តែខ្ញុំឈឺគូទបីថ្ងៃពីព្រោះយើងទៅភ្នំដោយម៉ូតូឆ្ងាយ។  ភ្នំនោះគឺប្រហែល១៣០គីឡូម៉ែត្រពីក្រងភ្នំពេញ។  ដើម្បីទៅអោយទាន់ដល់មុននឹងពេលត្រង់ យើងត្រូវបានចេញពីភ្នំពេញនៅម៉ោង៦:០០ព្រឹក។ 

នៅតាមផ្លូវ យើងឈប់នៅហាងបាយហើយនិងញុំាបាយសាច់ជ្រូកនិងផឹកកាហ្វេ។  ពេលដល់ភ្នំយើងចាប់ផ្ដើមទៅឡើងលើភ្នំ។ នៅតាមផ្លូវយើងឈប់ថតរូបនៅជុំវញនេាះមានទេសភាពស្រស់ស្អាតណាស់។  ខ្ញុំបានគិតថា៖ “អ្វីគ្រប់យ៉ាងគឺស្អាតណាស់និងធម្មជាតិ”

នៅលើភ្នំនេាះគឺត្រជាក់ណាស់និងមានចុះអ័ក្រនិង មានខ្យល់ខ្លាំង។ ក្រោយពេលយើងទៅចុះមកវញ  យើងទៅញុំាបាយនៅកែប។ 

ពេលដល់កែបហើយមនុស្សម្នាក់ៗគឺឃ្លានណាស់ដូច្នេះយើងបានញុំាបាយជាមួយគ្នា។ ពេលក្រោយសំរាកហើយនិងទៅផ្ទះវញ។


My first attempt writing a "story" in Khmer. I'm really trying to up my game in this area, so I want to be more intentional about writing Khmer. It takes a ton of time, though. I'm still getting used to the keyboard, what keys to hit for what character, how to use words, confirming spelling in the dictionary, etc. But I guess that's all part of the learning process, right? I'm so glad I continue to pursue learning the language. 

Anyways, this past week a few of us took a day trip to Kep and Bokor by motorbike. I was anticipating a very sore butt, so yes I was riding standing up at times on the way back, but we had a great time together. I really love exploring which I don't get to do much of around here. After living in Cambodia for almost 5yrs, this is the first time for me visiting Kep and Bokor Mountain. Kep is about 3hrs west of Takhmao and Bokor Mountain is literally next door. Kep is a coastal town, so when you start making your way up Bokor Mountain, you have a breath-taking view of the sea, surrounding towns and other smaller mountains (large hills). Once at the top of the mountain, we couldn't see much. It was extremely foggy and quite chilly. If my phone was giving me accurate info, we were about 1,320m. higher in elevation, so that's pretty significant for around these parts. I decided not to lug my D3s with me and I'm glad I did. My iPhone did just fine!

Enjoy the photos.

Learning Khmer

Learning the Cambodian language has been one of the most challenging things I've ever done. I never learned a secondary language in high school, so taking this on has been a new experience for me. I still wonder sometimes what my best approach to learning language is, because it seems so different, than let's say learning a topic like science or history. There seems to be so many moving pieces that have to fit together. 

Looking past the challenge of it all, there is such a beautiful reward on the other end. It will be so exciting to be able to hold a solid conversation without being dependent on a translator. So far, I've been fortunate with a community that can speak good English and I LOVE helping them develop their second language so that they can have more opportunity. Everyday life, however, is a different story. I can get around with small chit-chat, but I long to have normal conversation with my neighbor (who still thinks I'm French...lol) or be able to encourage kids while we go on family walks in the evening. And, most importantly, we have two growing boys -- one who is Cambodian and the other who thinks he is in many ways. LOL. We would love for them to be fluent in every way. So far I have managed to stay one step ahead of Aaron and it has been helpful to work with him on his homework in the evenings. Our hope is that this will encourage him to value this part of who God has created him to be and equip him for what God may have in store for the future.

I have two teachers and spend several days a week studying with them and then spend time studying on my own. Almost a year ago now, I began learning how to read and write in addition to learning how to speak. This has helped tremendously in my pronunciation, but it also has slowed things down considerably. The Cambodian written language consists of script so learning the ins and outs, the rules, punctuation has been quite challenging. But there is something about it I love so much. 

I thought I'd share a few facts about the language that you might find interesting. It was fun to compare to the English language when I learned these things.

The Khmer alphabet consists of 23 vowels and 33 consonants. Depending on the consonant used, the paired vowel may have a different sound. There is also a foot or subscript to each consonant that can be paired with any other consonant to make for some very confusing/hard-to-remember words! In addition, there are 14 independent vowels (I think). Lots of symbols to learn!

I've had my moments where I've felt discouraged, but I just remind myself...a little at a time. I wouldn't say learning a language is a natural gift for me, but I am thankful for the opportunity to do it. 

This segment of my photo blog is unique since it won't always have to do with a photo, but I'm going to try and include a photo I've taken plus little tid-bits about the language as I go along. Hope you enjoy!

After 4 Years, I Finally Made it to Siem Reap

This past week was my first trip to Siem Reap. I really loved the town and enjoyed Angkor Wat too. My family and I had the opportunity to go with Sak Saum, the organization we work with. The journey was long -- 8hrs on a bus and a bit warm, but the conversation and laughs were worth it. For several of the Cambodians that went, it was their first time and maybe their only opportunity to visit Angkor Wat. I know they soaked up every moment! 

I don't know that it's the easiest trip to make with kids, so if you are going to primarily shoot photography, it's best you plan a trip with your photog buddy so you can focus on that, but I was able to enjoy all the pieces while getting some great shots.

Apsara Culture Show

Brothers

Last week, I got my 70-200 back from Nikon. I thought I would go out and shoot some photos of my boys. What better way to test it out, right? It was Sunday night and we headed down to the riverside to go for a walk. The weather was perfect, a bit overcast and cool. I was reminded how much I love that lens. It's fast and accurate! Enjoy the photos.

Field Soccer in Saang

When I go to Saang, typically I see men fishing, working on their sugar cane field, folks playing volleyball or cards (and gambling) or not doing a whole lot. 

Finding a healthy outlet for a young man could be challenging given the landscape of Saang. One outlet that has sprung up in an official form is soccer. Several boys from the church I attend in Saang (Gospel Community Church of Saang) have formed a team and have really taken the sport seriously. One afternoon on the way home, I stopped by a vacant field to capture a few shots of them practicing for their first game. Here's a little glimpse. By the way, they played really hard their first game and lost, BUT their second game was a victory - 4-2. So proud of these guys!

An Evening Stroll With the Boys

It's been awhile since I've posted here. Whoops. My excuse? Kids. Kids. Kids. But then again I think about my sister-in-law and her three kids with one on the way and I'm blown away at her ability to churn out some serious blogs

Explanation over.  

One of my favorite things to do around here in Takhmao is going on walks with Noelle and the boys. We go to a nearby "playground" or walk over to the riverfront, get popcorn and let the boys expend their energy by running around or joining in with the ladies in their jazzercise class. Plus it's rainy season, so if it's not raining, it's quite pleasant out.  

I love capturing the boys together. They usually play so well and Aaron is a wonderful big brother to Caleb. I'm sure you can see that in these photos. Enjoy! 

Hhhhhhh-iiiiiiiii or Recyclables?

Every once and while I peruse the streets near my house , just to get out and shoot. These photos are from a small recyclables receiving shop behind the market Throughout the day, you will a squeak, squeak followed by someone yelling, hhhhh-iiiiii or something to that effect. If you have recyclables, you can sometimes make some small pocket change or just get rid of plastic, metal - pretty much anything that isn't rotten food. Whenever I say it back to them, they just laugh. I must be pronouncing it wrong. Anyways, that's what it sounds like.

These photos are of some of the staff there. Most of them were drunk when I got there, so they were extra open to me taking their photos. Haha.

The Hunt is On

Recently, I had the pleasure of joining some pals of mine to go rat hunting. Hunting this varmints is a way of life for some, but for us it was purely sport with a tasty victory. I went a couple of years ago too, but we took a boat and it ended up being more like a tour/pleasure ride - a chance to see some beautiful Cambodian countryside. This time, it was hard work. We tramped through waist-shoulder deep water at times, thick mud and got to enjoy the fine odor of cow dung. 

These guys are skilled at using the slingshot. These slingshots are homemade with a hardened branch and lots of rubber bands, and they are dead on. Ka-pow, one rat dead. 18 ka-pows later, we have a bucket full of rats, two geckos and two snakes. Don't worry, they were harmless snakes...I think. Drenched, tired, hot with wrinkled feet, we headed back to begin the task of preparing our little snack.

I didn't actually get any rats myself. Trust me, I tried.

So there's the next part - consuming rat. There was something mental about this that I had a really hard time dealing with. You don't eat rats! You don't eat city rats. Rats from the countryside are supposedly clean. Before us, we had crispy tailed critters waiting for hungry warriors to devour. All the boys wanted me to go first, so peeled off a couple of legs and went to town. I was pleasantly surprised. It really did taste like chicken! And as long as I didn't think about what I was eating, it was perfectly fine. There. Done. I am more Cambodian now :)

***All photos below were taken with my iPhone.

Before Cambodia, There was New York

Before Noelle and I moved to Cambodia, we took one last vacation to New York. It has been a dream of ours to visit the Big Apple, so we went! It was a blast and is probably the most favorite vacation we've taken.

I revisited some of the photos I took and decided to some more additional work on them and thought it would be fun to post.

Enjoy!

2012 Gloria Jeans Barista Competition

Coffee has become a regular part of my diet. Because it's full of antioxidants? No. Almost one year ago, my wife and I had our first child. I used to drink one cup a day, but sometimes I wouldn't drink any. Now, maybe two-three cups, depending on the source. If I get a drink at Gloria Jeans, which is way too often, I get a large 2 pump vanilla, three shot iced latte. Delicious and revitalizing. Otherwise, I enjoy a cup of Starbucks from the freezer thanks to friends back in the States.

This past Sunday, Gloria Jeans had a barista competition where 10 baristas from different branches came together and competed to see who had the best expresso making skills. They also had to present their drink-making process while preparing the different beverages. This competition was timed and judged. They also had to present in English. I was so proud, especially of the baristas from the branch I frequent.

I didn't stay for the entire event, but I was excited to find out that Puthy, one of my favorite baristas won. He was so excited!

I offered to Anne, the general manager to take some photos of the event for her. Here are some of the shots.

 

And the winner is...Puthy!