Travel Update and First Day in Phnom Penh

Tuol Sleng Rules under the Khmer Rouge. Read more about it here.
View from the roof of New Life church. Although there are people everywhere and seemingly more scooters than there are glasses of sweet tea in Atlanta on a hot summer afternoon, there are not many tall buildings in Phnom Penh.
This was the highlight of the flight from Atlanta to Seoul. We flew over Alaska and for those who were awake, we were all captivated by the endless snow-capped peaks and glaciers. We had our eyes glued to the windows like a toddler watching a Wiggles video.
Big bag. Tiny wife.
Really. She fit. Easily.

Sooooooooooooooo, here we are. We are 11 time zones ahead of those of you in the Eastern time zone. It’s 2:00 PM here and we are in the midst of a great first day of exploring our home for the next few days. But, as you know, it was a bit of a journey to get here.

For many of us, the journey really ramped up on Wed night as we finished packing. You can see the photo of Noelle in the giant duffel bag that I brought on the trip. Although she fit easily, rest assured that we didn’t pack her that way =)
In addition to the average of 3-4 movies that we each watched on the way over, we pretty much agreed that Alaska was the best thing any of us saw over the course of our 14 hours. Goregeous.
Well, we made it to Phnom Penh shortly after 10:00 local time on Friday night. After gathering all 23 of our checked bags and making it through customs, we walked outside and were greeted by Pastor Vek, Madame Samouen and a bunch of incredible kids from the orphanage. It was so much fun to see the kids run up to so many on our team with bear hugs – although the kids are all so small they were more like “cub” hugs. Anyway, it more than makes up for all the hassle of all the travel to experience those hugs. In a moment, all of the exhaustion, irritability and frustration of a very long travel day disappeared. Without being trite, I guess unconditional is like that . . .and these kids have somehow learned how to love unconditionally.
Most of us finally got to sleep between 1:00 and 2:00 AM. Somehow we all managed a victory over jetlag this morning (Phnom Penh team 13, Jetlag 0. Just in case you are keeping score at home) and made it on time to our 8:00 AM breakfast. We’ll see if this kind of result continues.
Both breakfast and lunch were great. Breakfast was mostly western food (omelets, pancakes, french toast, fruit, smoothies, bacon, etc) and lunch was a huge Asian buffet. Very good food and a great way to ease into our Khmer food experience this week.
In between our meals we toured the Tuol Sleng Genocide museum. Powerful reminder of what so many in this country have worked through and worked to put behind them. As one who was born in the 70’s, it was sobering to see what was happening to so many on this side of the world as I was learning to walk and talk. Even more unsettling were the photos of the boys and girls who were obviously no older than 7 or 8 who at a minimum lost their childhood in the prison if not their lives.
And yet, there is so much hope all around us. We look fwd to sharing much of that hope with you guys through our words in this blog and our lives when we return . . . We will surely not leave this country without being shaped for the rest of our lives. . . . That is our prayer.
Miss you guys already!
stuart for the rest of the team.
(p.s. I know that what you really want are pictures of the kids . . . those will be coming in future posts. I promise!)

One thought on “Travel Update and First Day in Phnom Penh

  1. Love the updates. Stu…you're such a great writer. I am so jealous of the Alaskan view!! We flew over Alaska on the way back from China a few weeks ago but we definitely could not see what y'all saw. Tell Noelle I miss her so much and want her to take lots of great pics of the kids (which I know she will). Praying for the team and all the kids!

    Kelley & fam

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