Tuesday, 31 December 2013

All change!

It's nearly 2014!!

Well it is here anyway!
Can you believe it? 2013 gone already? Feels really crazy that another year is done, I'm another year older, maybe a little wiser, and have made another year's worth of friends and had as many new adventures!  It's also been nearly a full year away from the UK, from friends and family we've grown up (or at least grown older) around. Having left the UK on January 11th 2013, it's been a long time away from everything we thought of as normal, and a huge year of growth for Phil and I individually and massively so as a couple. We had one very wise friend calling 2013 'The Year of the Parkys', and that's been true on so many levels. I'm amazed at what God has brought us half way around the world to teach us, and ever grateful for the grace and patience with which he has taught us, and for faithful friends who have supported and loved us through this year and enabled us to be a part of the Freedom Siem Reap Campus, which is also unbelievably nearly a whole year old!

In Freedom Siem Reap, we've seen huge growth, we've seen numbers come and go, but a faithful core grow and expand, and deep character develop in each of them. We've made lifelong friends, seen them take huge steps of faith, inviting friends, seeing them saved, and brought this year to a beautiful close with our last event of 2013 seeing 11 people get baptised. Fizzing yes!!! Every church plant, every campus have their trials, their frustrations and their learning curves, but with every next step we're privileged to see an individual take, each time we hear another person say that they feel like they've found a place they can call home and that they've found their family, we know that we're getting something right. That God is using us in this place to reach the lost, the hurting and the broken, and He is using Freedom Church as part of His plan to do it.

I've got another blog coming with some more on the experiences we've had here, some of the things close to my heart etc, but for now I want to take this blog to tell you a little about what's next for the Parkys...

Some, but not all, will already know that we're heading back to the UK at the beginning of February. We'll be saying goodbye to Freedom Siem Reap on the 2nd and then travelling to Bangkok to fly from there. We're really excited to be back on British soil and see family and friends again in person, but it'll be bittersweet, as there are so many people here that we may not see again. And what then? The next chapter for us is getting close, and getting exciting!! We're going to take some time out to see family and then... We're going to be moving to become part of Freedom Church Cardiff!!
We're currently investigating potential jobs and accommodation in the Welsh capital, but most excited about getting rooted in to the Freedom campus and seeing what God has for that city!

There's another blog or two brewing, but for now, for 2013, thank you for your love, support and prayers, and I'm excited for all that 2014 will bring.

Cardiff here we come!

Monday, 30 December 2013

Merry Fizzin Christmas!!!

I'm back!!

It's been an age since I last blogged and there are various reasons why it's taken me this long to get back round to it, but here we are. It's Christmas season and though it feels incredibly surreal, Christmas was had in 22°C heat and on a sunny day.

Now before you get jealous, 22°C during the day - lovely! 14°C at night, with just a couple of sheets, gaps under the doors and windows plus no heating, well - it gets a little chilly to say the least!! We made it most authentic we could though with stockings to open, as 'Santa' found his way to our room, (even if his choice of wrapping paper was questionable), friends round for lunch and a party in the evening. Christmas Dinner was courtesy of a rice cooker and a frying pan - 'Roast' chicken, 'Roast' Potatoes, countless vegetables and lots and lots of gravy (even if I had to serve it in an ice-cream tub because you haven't got a jug) followed by Apple Crumble and Homemade Custard. Amazing what you can do when you put your mind to it, but probably best I didn't get photos of the food, I'm not sure my grandma would be impressed with my presentation!!

It's been such a strange season being away from so many people we love though, and it barely feels like Christmas without our family all around us, but it's been a good check for what Christmas is really about, and to get thankful for so much around us. Christmas... the promise of hope. The start of God reaching out to earth, sending His Son in human form because it was the only way to restore our relationship with Him. Even though they both knew what it would ultimately cost, Christmas is Christ with us, from now on, forever.

So no matter where you are, and who you celebrated Christmas with, whether you like Christmas trees and twinkly lights, if you have lifelong faith or none at all and even if you want to start the conversation about the pagan midwinter festival, we celebrate Christmas because no matter where you are, no matter who is around you, many or few, no matter whether you could afford a real tree instead of a recycling a fake one, whether you got huge presents or none at all, we celebrate because this time of year represents God reaching out through Jesus because He cares. He cares about the mess you're in, the stress you're under, the crisis you're scraping your way through, the opulence that is or isn't fulfilling you, or the happiness you're celebrating. He cares enough to meet you in the middle of it, wherever across the world you are.

Merry Christmas friends. Love to you all!

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Screenshot September and other silliness

So it would seem that this month I've mostly been overwhelmed and overemotional, welling up or just straight up crying at all sorts of things. Blame it on the heat and sunstroke, being daft, being thousands of miles from most of my family, or even blame it on me being a woman, but I think it just comes down to the fact that I have absolutely awesome friends and family. And sometimes that sucks. Haha! God did an amazing job putting me smack bang in the middle of a huge loving group of people, who despite their various weirdnesses (you may cry 'pot/kettle', I would simply reply 'birds of a feather y'all!') love me silly, call me on my imperfections and support me through thick and thin. And then stuff happens that highlights the distance. Some of it is really horrid, rubbish stuff and you can't be around to support or just hug people, and some is happy happy, joy joy, and you can't be there to celebrate! Because our siblings produce gorgeous nephews and neices who say the darn cutest things. Or because my brother-in-law is really really ill, and there's absolutely nothing physical or practical that we can do, other than pray. Or it's another birthday, wedding or party that we can't be there for, or my sister's making an awesome birthday cake and I can't be there to help, either by washing up, or breathing for her as she holds her breath whilst concentrating! BUT... technology and determination brings us together, family find a way to bridge the distance and I have a million things to be grateful for. So, to show you some of those things, to focus on the benefits of having awesome friends and family, no matter how much it sucks to be far away from you all, to remind you that I do think of you often, whether I'm good at correspondence or not, and to publicly thank those around me, loving and supporting me, here goes!

Skype... it's genius! (Okay, so FaceTime may be better, but this isn't the place for software comparison!) There have some brilliant moments recently. Though I don't have a screen shot, being too caught up in the moment rather, I met my beautiful new niece, Oona, for the first time, which definitely eased the pangs of homesickness, and a hint of jealousy seeing lots of VERY cute pictures of various people holding her! If you do see her, tell her she's beautiful, and loved massively... from all across the world.
I also got to speak to my sister and brother-in-law whilst they dog sat for my parents in law... as this shows!
Meg is undoubtedly a mad little pup, but this moment takes the (dog) biscuit! Having hurt her paw and needing it bandaged she took to using her whole back leg as a new toy:

That same conversation also reminded me of why I married into the Parkinson clan, not only is my handsome hubby endowed with epic face pulling capabilities, it seems it runs in the family!

Emails coming in from afar added to the love and hilarity, and to this wall of memories, wise words and loved ones. Family faces, Bible verses and happy memories or pretty things gather here and remind me daily how blessed I am:

I also spoke to both my mums on my 28th birthday, (a day I've been waiting for, for at least a year, as I have been telling people I'm 28 for pretty much a year already!) and was able to show them the beautiful birthday cake Phil surprised me with, of course from my beloved Blossom, red velvet with chocolate ganache for those who need details. It was an absolutely gorgeous day, taught 3 Pilates classes, celebrated the graduation of the first intake of Blossom girls with international level certificates in Hospitality, and ate cake 3 times in the interest of balance. It was a gorgeous day. Photos to follow for those of you who haven't yet seen them, and yes, I really did cry with joy that I was given a cake, designed specifically for me. I've said it before and no doubt will say it again, my love language would seem to be cake!

The wonderously sneaky boy took me to Blossom, for hot chocolate and a cupcake (both splendiferous just in case you doubted for one milisecond) and after having ordered these sweet treats...

I was presented with this....

...causing this delightedly tearful response....

...and ending several days (and plenty of cake sharing) later with this moment...

Other things that happened this month, I broke my sun-glasses and mourned the loss of a special pair of pants, sent to me in the post by my sister, who not only knows the thrill of receiving post, but who also knows the value of pretty pants to a girl's confidence. Good knickers or painted nails on feet even when covered by multiple frost-defying layers are some of the things that bring a smile to the face or a spring to the step. That explanation given, it is a sad day when said knickers (admittedly 3 years older than my marriage), are finally thrown away, with no hope of salvaging the elastic, and a vague sense of pride and wonderment that they'd actually stayed up at all in recent days! (I would like to add a brief note to reassure my mothers that I do still change underwear daily. For their own peace of mind and also their good reputations!) I can furnish you with a picture of said sun-glassses breakage, but to save your blushes, the underwear will stay unpublished!

(And yes...this is what humidity does to my hair. Most of the time. I am in a permanent state of fluffiness!)

Unbeknownst to me and seemingly reading my mind, the birthday celebrations were revived as I received a parcel from my eldest sister when Hanc returned back from his holiday in the UK.
Advised to open it in private, I thankfully heeded that advice, and the same week I said goodbye to pants sent to me in the post by sister, I received pants in the post from my sister. 


And again I welled up at the beauty of it! I then proceeded to cry over the rest of the box contents, including these hilarious sun-glasses chosen by my nephew and worn only once by him for quality control purposes. Given my lack of sunglasses, the problem is now solved, though they have caused me to utter a phrase I never thought I would say "The parrot does give rather a blindspot!" 

She then added to the hilarity, acknowledging and confirming my love of moustache related things (please note, I have just the right amount of stuff now, please don't feel the need to add to the collection. A few tasteful - yes I did use that word - items are sufficient) with this necklace.

Another thing that had has happened this month was that I realised how much I miss working at Lush. Every year, just around the time of my birthday, all the new products for Christmas come into the shop for staff training and the fun really kicks off. In previous years, even if I've not been working there, I've been able to feed my addiction and genuine love for these handmade cosmetics by heading in to see my friends in the store and talk with my eldest sister, also a certified addict, and one of the envied few customer testers (all positions are currently filled!) who ensure effectiveness of new products and test on their own sensitive skin, saving bunnies from bubble baths, emus wearing eyeliner, llamas wearing lipstick etc. Anyway- so I suddenly had this realisation that I was utterly not part of this world this yer, with no idea what the new products were and not being in the UK at any point during their sale, so I would miss them entirely. But then. But then...

Snow Fairy Melt arrived! She smells as sweet as she is pink and with average room temperature being in high 20s at least, she's now safey stowed in the fridge!

Cute little chunks of Christmas soap, earthy, creamy and zingy!

Perfect accessories for literally Lush Lips! Lip scrub and gorgeous tint for a perfect pout! Love!

Confused slightly by the snap fasteners, but pretty sure there was genius behind it, or some little fingers snuck them in down the side! Haha! Or they're to rescue previously mentioned saggy knickers! Haha! Plus fairy candles and a cupcake shaped lip gloss!! She knows me so well!

And then this beauty! Having just heard via the grapevine about this new shower gel in one of my favourite fragrances I was just about to put in an online order for this one and do all I could to get it out here when Mum and Dad visit (9 sleeps!). This fragrance captivated me when I first smelt a variant of it in Turkish Delight, a creamy shower smoothie that conditions the skin, soothing sunburned skin or nourishing dryness, and my shower treat of choice from the selection I had brought out with me, but one I am rapidly coming to the end out of. I also met this fragrance as a Bubbleroon, a macaron (I just read in a blog about the difference between macaroons and macarons and would hate to get it wrong! eek!) shaped delight, which when crumbled under running water fills the bath with bubbles and softness...  Baths don't exist over here for the most part other than in some swanky hotels, but not all, so this wasn't a product I could enjoy... and just as I squealed in delight and tried to find a way to get some - it arrived in my lap, literally!

And with a final flourish, my sister sent this, Lush eyeliner, just as I reached the point where I realised the little pot I'd been using since my wedding really had dried out, having seen me through many fun times, including the famous Pirate series (which you do need to watch if you haven't yet - find it at www.freedomchurch.cc under the Kids section). 

So I give you my sister, ladies and gentlemen, who has brought me massively closer to all of you, reminded me of things and people I love, anticipated things that would make me homesick and loved on me in such a big way I feel closer to everyone sending birthday love last month. To Jo, you beauty, who made moments like this possible. Love you babe. 

For the countless others of you have sent love and kind wishes, ecards and cakes, went out with me for drinks or sent an email catching me up with where you're at, I love you. I'm blessed by you. I consider my life richer for knowing you, am blown away by the adventure I get to live and the people alongside me who continually make this possible and encourage me along the way. I am blessed. Thank you.

 And lastly -while I have your attention - another huge source of joy in my life comes from this guy, the adventure I'm on with him and the absolute hilarity of our two mad-cap brains coming together! And here I love technology because after all has been brought into my life this month, I can return that gift and give you this:

Happy Wednesday everyone!

Monday, 2 September 2013

While I have your attention

While I have your attention, meet Vatey.

Vatey is amazing! She's part of the core team at Freedom Church, a key part of the worship team and also serves the church by translating and processing resources coming from the Hub of Freedom Church in Hereford, UK. She is elegant, beautiful, hilarious and dedicated. Having finished school and already pursuing higher education she has made the decision to stay in Siem Reap, which will enable her to remain a part of Freedom Church Siem Reap. Already balancing home life, studying, a job and church, she is massively dedicated. You can partner with her in staying a part of Siem Reap. To find out more please go to http://Sponsorvatey.tumblr.com/ , read her testimony and find out more about how you can practically help her.

This is a woman of massive integrity and influence. If you can, in any way, please partner with her. She is one of the first in a new generation of rising leaders that will change this nation in an amazing way!


Heaven in a cup...cake!

Having just shared my thoughts regarding Blossom Cafe and Training Centre, Siem Reap (in a rather grandiose fashion) to all on TripAdvisor, I thought you, my beloved faceless public (you're not really faceless are you? I just mean that I can't see you through my computer... because that would be weird. Even weirder if I could, and then you actually didn't have a face...) where was I? Oh yes - you, my...um... public, I though you would appreciate the review too - given that a fair number of you share or at least know of my passion for cake, and my susceptibility to sugar! Enjoy!

Beth x

My goodness, where to start?

Rolling up on my bicycle to the front of the Blossom cafe, I was like giddy school-girl, with hubby almost having to restrain me as my feet burst into impromptu dancing. I like cake. A lot. I miss cake. A lot. Having had my own baking business back in the UK before moving to Siem Reap in January, good cake is an utter joy to me, and not one I frequently can find. Until now. While there are some beautiful little cafes in Siem Reap and some cutely decorated ones, nothing quite transports you to sweet-treat heaven like Blossom. Walking in to see utterly gorgeous decor, including beautiful mismatched chairs and tables, clever screens to give elegant separation between sofas, and the utterly stunning Tea-cup light features, I would have been beside myself if that were actually physically possible...
And THEN we looked at the menu! Practically bouncing up and down on the sofa as I tried to choose something, hubby had chosen his drink and two cupcakes to trial before looking up at his wild-eyed wife, who was obviously getting a little high from the sugar fumes in the place. When I finally made a choice and ordered I spent some time nosing about at decor a little more closely, the greetings cards and aprons for sale amongst other things and then was offered the Blossom Cake Portfolio (it deserves capitals - it is magnificent) to peruse. Glory. In the meantime the most delicious coffee was served, a mild smooth blend, just right for my taste, so perfect not a grain of sugar was added.
For me, the stronger the coffee the more sugar goes in, and I like it milky and not bitter. The latte that came was beautiful, with foam art, a beautiful colour, and not a cappuccino just topped up with milk, but a real, real latte. Gorgeous!!
And then to the cakes. I like to think of myself as a connoisseur... I've eaten my fair share of cake, and when a passer-by at my Cake Stand in the UK declared that she was a 'Cake Judge' with the WI, whilst looking down her nose at the cakes and with a definite air of superiority, I held my tongue and resisted announcing 'So am I, I eat cake, and I judge it. If I don't like it, I stop eating.' (Apparently that sort of response scares customers away!) Where was I? Yes, the cake! My only caution around cupcakes is whether the icing gets so much attention that the actual cake misses out... Fear Not!! At Blossom, beautiful cakes are topped with just the right amount of icing, and in beautiful flavour combinations that leave you perfectly satisfied, and not overwhelmed or with aching teeth! I first sampled a delicate combination, Apple and Almond. The sponge was beautifully light and airy, complemented by a cinnamon cream cheese icing that didn't overwhelm the flavours. The flavour built as I ate through the cake, leaving me with the perfect flavour balance at the end of the cupcake. Exquisite!
And here my words my fail me - I then went on to the Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake Cupcake. Yes, you read correctly, it exists. I don't think I can put into words how utterly beautiful this cake was. I'm always a sucker for a Cherry and Chocolate combination, but this cake takes the biscuit. Hubby happily watched as I ate this one, slowly, thoughtfully and wide eyed at how beautiful it could be. Why was he so happy... because absolute silence fell. After all the cake I've eaten in almost 28 years, I have discovered the best cake I've ever eaten. The best.

There is just one problem as far as I can see - I've only tried two flavours. (Apart from a sneaky bite of hubby's Oreo and Chocolate which was brilliant too, but doesn't officially count! ;) )
Which means more testing simply MUST be carried out. But for you, dear TripAdvisor readers, I will make that sacrifice. It's a hard job, an arduous task, as I'm sure you can tell... but I will, for you, undertake it.

See you there.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

So's your face, So's your mum!

Anyone else started/ended a conversation with those words?

I've noticed more and more over recent days and months that Phil and I are very good at laughing. Of course there are times you don't laugh - coming off your bike in the rain, realising you've been cheated and charged Barang prices at the market from your usual very friendly stall holder, or feeling a bit rough around the edges. For the most part though we laugh... a lot. Mostly at each other, or maybe just at me. Silly voices, stupid jokes, silly sound effects all add to the hilarity in the Parky household. We might have just celebrated 4 years of marriage, but occasionally - you'd be mistaken for thinking we were celebrating the 4th birthday of my inner child!! Yes, I am that silly. 

In case you can't quite figure out why the phrase in this Blog's title would ever be funny, let me explain...
Take an inconspicuous comment, such as, 'The floor's a bit wet', add a precocious wife, and the response is likely to be 'So's your face!'. Depending on the original comment the standard response back from the first party is 'So's your mum!'. Now this can be a highly dangerous game, especially when in the vicinity of either of the parties' mothers, but obviously, the more ridiculous the comment, the greater the hilarity. 
NB. This is not a wise game to play with your sister, at the dining table, discussing a lemon dessert. 'This is a bit tart' followed by 'So's your face' was irresistibly followed by 'So's your mum' who was in fact, mother to both of us, and separated by only a stack of plates from the guilty offspring. Raucous laughter led to explanation, and being the unfortunate party to have been left with the second response, I of course landed in more trouble - after mum stopped laughing and sighing over how ridiculous we were!

Back to the point - there is one, I promise! There is another context to this phrase being used, as a response to an actual question, 'Who's the Queen of England?' for example, is easily answered with the phrase 'Your mum.' Or if you're feeling particularly ghetto - 'Yo' momma'. 
This was the variation used when Phil and I were happily listening to Chris Evans Breakfast Show on BBC Radio iPlayer (at lunchtime, given the time difference). This in itself is a happy occurrence, especially for me, as I sang along to all the jingles (whether I knew them all or not), giggled at Chris' son Noah making various announcements, and danced round like a loon to the songs, making up new words and again, collapsing in giggles. On this specific occasion, we were listening to an featurette on the Friday Night is Music Night Show coming later that with showcasing lots of beautiful pomp and ceremony. Following the interview Chris started playing a piece that would be featured on the night, which Phil then asked of me, as it started, 'Who's this by?' My answer was of course, 'Your mum', but on this occasion - I elaborated...

Your mum.
Oh really?
Yes, you see, she plays the violin, you can hear the violins.... now. That's her. Your mum's playing this.
And now you see, this bit, the vocals that go with it are 'Your mum, your mum, your mum, youuuur mum, your mum, your muuuum.'
(Laughing) are they?
And if you listen, you see this bit.... (dramatic pause) is your mum walking out into the garden... listen to the birds... and she's doing some gardening. (Pauses) This bit, that's Tanya popping her head over the fence and chatting... ooh, and now, hear that? It's the neighbours' kids kicking a ball over the fence. And now your mum is taking a run up, listen, step, step step, step and kiiiiiiick! She's launched it back over the hedge. And then it repeats - listen, step step step kick!!!
What's this bit?
This is your dad coming to the back door and asking if your mum wants a cup of tea. She does. This bit is him going to the kitchen, filling up the teabag pot with teabags, and putting the kettle on. That's the cups clinking, and he's singing while he does it. That's the sugar going in.... now the milk. Now he goes to call her in from the garden, Tanya jumps over the fence, and your dad, your mum, Tanya and  Meg (the dog), all march into the house, do a couple of laps around the living room, then through to the lounge, where again they all do a couple of laps, showing how wonderful your mum is, then she sits on the sofa, puts her feet up (like it's her very own throne) and your dad presents her with a cup of tea. 

And that's what this song's about. 

So today, on your birthday Sharon Parkinson, I'd like to dedicate this blog entry to you. A marvellous mum, who really should have her own royal theme-tune, but perhaps who shouldn't be given a sceptre... I get the feeling I'd be bopped on the head with it too often for my liking. I love you so very much, and so does that boy of yours that I've absconded with/married. I'm grateful for the influence, encouragement and hilarity you bring to my life. I'm richer for knowing you, and am utterly blessed not only to have my own brilliant mum to giggle with, but to have you as my mother-in-law too. 

Happy Birthday Mum x

NB. To any concerned readers: This was not a dream. It was indeed an actual conversation between Phil and I, and it goes a long way to show what goes on in my head. Please also note that if you don't find this hilarious, you probably shouldn't spend too much time with me in person, especially after I've had some sugar. Laughing at me is just as good as laughing with me... so if you can manage either, pop over for a brew sometime - it could be rather entertaining. Especially if there's a foreign language channel on and we start doing voiceovers. 

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Foreign fourth...

How do you celebrate 4 whole years of wonderment in marriage, in a far away country, on a budget?
You ask the Parkys for ideas!!

Originally having planned to head to Bangkok for a 3 day city break for our wedding anniversary, things changed and we stayed in our cute apartment in Siem Reap instead over the special day. To begin with I was a little at a loss as to what we should do... I've visited a beautiful 5* hotel and seen the private massage suites for couples (with waterfalls indoors, private gardens, his and hers bath tubs) and sighed longingly... but we've been making other things priority, so I knew this year wasn't going to be the all out luxury celebration...

So I got creative. Did you know that 4 years married means gifts of flowers and or fruit? Google's top results tells me this is the case, so I started the day by dashing (I say dashing - it was an incredibly leisurely affair!) to the local market and picking up a watermelon and a pineapple for 50c each - that's right, 34p each (and yes, they taste even better when that's the price without even haggling!).
Having got home, I banned Mr P from entering the kitchen, which, as he pointed out, is easier said than done given that we live in an open plan apartment and therefore limited him to sitting in the bathroom, the cupboard or outside! The creative juices (get it?) then flowed, with the result below! Good job I carved the melon, not the pineapple, not sure the message would have come across so well otherwise!

'Happy fruity 4th'

What next? Well, I had pancake batter ready for breakfast time already, and had been mulling over the fact that we hadn't followed through with our plans to go to Bangkok and whilst there go to the zoo (including taking a paddle boat out onto the lake there, which is a must... so that's a postponed plan rather than a cancelled one!). So, we couldn't go to the zoo, but the zoo came to us!


As you may or may not be able to tell we have (starting top left) Giraffe, elephant and zebra, followed by fat monkey and lioness, duck/parrot and gecko and last but not least octopus (the only way I really enjoy seafood is to have it made out of batter instead!). Such fun to make, and I even had an outfit on to match. For those who know it, my white dress/top with silhouettes of animals on... perfect!

What to do next? Well, we'd been thinking about getting mugs for the house, as the ones we have are made of glass, and a little frightening to pour boiling water into - and a little off-putting when you can see the weird brown colour of your tea or coffee! People here don't use mugs though... Tea is often served over ice in a beaker or glass, and cups without handles are the norm... so... off we trotted to 'treat ' ourselves to some normal mugs. Having surveyed some particularly horrific ones with gilded pheasant/peacock mongrels on them, we found some simple white ones that came with coasters... perfect! So we duly popped back home (first buying that other romantic essential... floorcleaner) and put the kettle on. And it's true - the cup makes all the difference, the teabag has more room to move around, we can use just boiled water and not be worried the cup will smash, and the white colour gives a better surface indication of brewing time/taste etc. The tea just tastes so much better!! Two very happy bunnies, I then decided, given that they were identical, to make them unique... in case of rinsing out and making another brew, we now have his and hers labels, fashioned (bizarrely) from a flannel/dishcloth and lengths of ribbon.

'His and hers' mugs

Having made, and drunk beautiful cups of tea, we then went out to an early dinner we'd booked at a recommended local restaurant, Haven. I can't recommend this place highly enough! Impeccable service, big portions, relaxing atmosphere and gorgeous food!! And, 'fully booked' when we popped in earlier today to look at the menu, they squeezed us in for an early sitting. So very helpful, and an absolutely gorgeous meal where we chatted, laughed, pulled faces at each other, sang along to Queen songs in the background, and ate a lot of food!

Given it was an early tea, what next? We'd also looked earlier in the day for some fitness tops for me to wear to classes, given that I've been wearing 'normal' tops and want to make sure my wardrobe lasts as long as possible... Along to the Adidas shop we went, knowing it would be pricier than the markets, but not expecting the $30 price tag on most t-shirts - if not more. And the really cute little double-layered top - just $70. Needless to say we refrained from running around waving our arms screaming when we saw the prices, but calmly and politely looked around for a few more minutes, offered each other some particularly silly items (Phil didn't seem too interested in the grey and red speedos I found for him.. shame, they were stunning), and then retreated. So a new mission for the evening was to go to the Night Market, find a t-shirt or two for me, some for Phil, (given he has an even smaller selection of clothes than me), and some new headphones for me - given my extraordinary knack or breaking mine very quickly - at least 2, if not 3 pairs in a row now only work in one ear... 
So to the Night Market we went, paid a bit too much at the first place, but not ridiculously, and got a 'free' Cambodian scarf thrown in (proof we paid too much), then found a t-shirt for Phil, but not in the right colour - found some VERY genuine 'beatz' headphones for me, haggled a bit for those too, and then found a lovely lady who asked $2.5/t-shirt instead of the special price of $4 each! We found perfect colourways for Phil and came home, showed off to our neighbours/bezzie mates/co-conspirators Tashia and Sandor, who very politely showed interest far longer than they probably needed too, and then headed home, (it was a long walk of about 10m! Metres... not miles) for another brew and bed. 
And that was our day... relaxed, food-filled and a heap load of fun.

 It's the simple things that make a big difference on special days, playing with your food, spending time with people you love and making the perfect brew. On days like today, I feel incredibly blessed. 

And for my very final thought (on this blog entry - not forever - well... maybe for tonight too) I'd like to say a huge thank you to both sets of our parents, Philip and Sharon, and Don and Angie... Philip and Sharon celebrated their 37th wedding anniversary yesterday, and mum usually tries to avoid the question when I ask when theirs is, but I think it's later this month too... You guys have not only shown us how to stick it out in marriage, but also how to work on it, nurture it and grow through it. Thank you for your influence, your love and your support. We wouldn't be here without you guys. Like. Literally!

Happy Thursday everyone!

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Oi! Parkys... are you still alive?!

So, we're rather overdue an update aren't we?

Sorry folks, July has been and gone, and a few of you may have been left wondering what on earth the Parkys were up to, whether they were still alive and well, or if they'd jumped off the face of the planet never to be heard of again. The good news, for those of you who like us at any rate, is that we're alive and well, and just remembering that there are some things we need to knuckle down and get on with as soon as we remember it's time to do them and to obey the jobs list in your diary, rather than procrastinate and then feel guilty! Note to self over, let's get on with some news shall we?

First item on today's agenda is:

I managed to electrocute myself whilst making dinner last night... twice!
You'd think it impossible, in fact I hear voices crying, 'But, Beth, aren't you cooking on a gas stove?!' And you'd be correct - I do have a double gas burner for cooking, which should make it near impossible for electrocution to occur at meal-prep, (though I'm sure you could manage if you were incredibly determined!). But, dear reader, I was feeling 'experimental' and was making a pork, ginger, bamboo and bean risotto style dish in the rice cooker. Which does use electricity. I still can't work out how I electrocuted myself, given that although the first time I had a knife in my hand, I made no contact with the metal inner bowl of the cooker, and the second time I simply dropped the chopped meat in from my hand, into the centre of the bowl, far away from every metal surface - albeit said hand was adorned by wedding rings. So, it would seem that electricity can and will jump short or longer distances with the express view of making my cooking experience more entertaining. Or something like that. I've been giving the cooker dirty looks today though it still hasn't apologised.

In other news... I've been reading Miranda Hart's book 'Is it just me?' on my Kindle, and laughing incredibly hard... crying in fact, and must apologise/explain that some of the more flamboyant style of writing you're witnessing may in fact be due to her influence, hopefully with no ill effects!

House move!
Some of you may know that we moved into a little apartment and out of the guesthouse we'd been staying in. While we loved having breakfast being included, as well as the use of a swimming pool, and the great staff and owners working there becoming real friends, we'd been umm-ing and aah-ing for a while over the possibility of moving into an apartment - so when the opportunity arose to move into an small open-plan apartment/room with minimum lease of 3 months (rather than a standard 6 months/1 year!) we jumped at the chance. And I'm loving it!! We, or I, can now cook most of our meals, returning the act of going out for a meal into a treat and not a twice-daily chore! I'm now shopping at the local markets, practicing my numbers in Khmer and generally providing amusement for the locals as I try to explain what I want and then haggle a bit. Shopping locally and cooking for ourselves means saving money too, which is brilliant, meaning we can justify the luxury of buying breakfast cereal and bread for toast!! It also gives us our own space, and our front door, which is just lovely! We miss being around the rest of the team on a daily basis, and are trying to become more intentional about meeting up with them, otherwise it's very easy to settle into 'normal' life, completing our roles for church, practicing and performing at gigs, and almost living life as if we could in the UK... which is more than a bit silly! So we're being purposeful in inviting over couples and individuals from the church, which is great fun, and is adding to the depth of connection and sense of belonging that we have with them, and hopefully that they have with us, and with the Freedom Church family!

Gigs and Pilates!
We've been getting more gigs and my classes have grown in popularity, meaning we are able to learn some great principles regarding money even more thoroughly. We're so blessed to have the support that we do coming from so many generous hearts looking to see relevant local church grow all around the world. Through both of these we're continually learning about stewardship of money, and are excited about  the ways God's showing us that He wants to use us both now and in the future. God has been using this time away to teach us about not burying our heads in the sand, but to knuckle down and sort out previous money decisions, and clear the way to give ourselves a better financial future, and I've heard Him say so very clearly on multiple occasions 'Let go, and I will bless you'. As we hand over the worry, the stress, the striving over money, and as we follow what He lays out as His best plan, God has stepped in and blessed us, allowing us the finance to not only cover what we sacrificially give in order to be generous, but beyond. And I write that not to pat myself on the back, but to show gratitude that God really has got our back, that He is never outgiven, and looks with pleasure to a heart seeking to be generous. He really is the God of the overflow, and we see that verse acted out in our day-to-day life, 'Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.' Luke 6:38
 This is something that we started learning before we came out here, and there's been a real sense of God stripping back everything so that He has our full attention and can get to the root of issues, and sort us out properly. With both of us having heard so much great teaching on stewardship of money, we've been amazed to see as we've honoured God more and more with our finances, we've seen increased provision, and the ability to sort out previous financial commitments, and get to the very exciting point of wiping out old debts - things like student overdraft, which can hang over your head for so many years after graduating. It's an exciting time. A continuing lesson in discipline which we're still working through, but we are so unbelievably grateful to be able to learn it!

What else...well it's tipped it down again briefly tonight - apparently there are patterns in the rainfall, it'll rain mostly in the morning for a few weeks, then over lunchtime, then in the evenings and then at night... I keep thinking that I've worked out the pattern, but then it changes on me and I'm as clueless as anyone else... though it definitely was raining early afternoon each day for a week - especially on days I'd put a load of washing on!! It now may have shifted to an evening downpour, but we shall see... another month or so of this and we'll be at towards the end of rainy season and the humidity should go down a little - which will also mean less hair product needed to stop me having a frizzy afro! And no... there won't be *intentional* photos!! ;)
On that note though - here are some of my musings whilst out in a massive rainstorm last week:

You know it's Rainy Season when...

...the sound of the rain making you need a wee is no longer a problem, because you've got so utterly drenched, no one would notice if you wet yourself.
...you genuinely try cycling with your eyes closed, because it's simply too difficult to keep them open.
...tuk-tuk drivers park up in foot-deep puddles to use the rainwater for a free wash-down of their bikes and tuk-tuks.

And after all of those long overdue ramblings I shall sign off... I aim to write an incredibly amusing (in my mind) account of a conversation between Phil and I the other day before the end of the week, mostly because I'm still giggling over it! Do let us know how you are, we love hearing news from the UK/where you are!

Beth x

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

And welcome to Rainy Season

This post is set to be a little less dramatic than my last, but it's about time I rolled up my computer sleeves and let you out there know what we're up to in sunny Cambodia...

Or, not so sunny... believe it or not, both Mr P and I have worn cardigans in the past few days! We're just edging through the beginnings of rainy season here, and perhaps slightly prematurely congratulating ourselves on not being overwhelmed by the speed or quantity of the downpours. It looks like we'll get through this! With plastic ponchos now the regular inhabitants of whatever handbag I'm using (Pink for me, Orange for him) we're ready at a moments notice to don the plastics and protect the hairdo's from absolute ruin. Wet season here is unlike anything I've experienced before... for several reasons. Let's set some context in place:

Drains and sewerage are still relatively new in a lot of areas here. In Siem Reap itself there are sewers alongside a fair few roads, but not like any you'd see in the UK. 'Drain covers' here consist on a big piece of concrete or metal resting on top of two smaller lengths of concrete, which are either side of the access point to the sewer - which is effectively a big hole. These covers are often used as a depositing place for the rubbish from nearby houses for the Rubbish collectors (who sometimes come and sometimes don't, but do always charge for their services, rendered or not). This then means if not purposefully stuffed into the sewers to avoid charges, rubbish can inadvertently fall or be washed into the sewers. There are no grills covering the sewers and no 'Dyna-Rod' companies ready at the flash of an orange van to come and unblock any nasties - so any blockages cause problems... fast.

There aren't any drainage systems as such - while the sewers are there to receive waste water, and do take some of the rainwater too - the roads are flat, there are no gutters to collect water at the side of the road, so the usual course of water is to end up in whatever potholes may be adorning the surface of the road rather than run away from the road keeping them clear for traffic... which as a side note then causes a lot of people to go wherever the heck they like on the road to avoid puddles.

People love to live on the side of the road. Here, living roadside means living as close to your customers as you can get. With nearly every house also being a shop frontage for a pharmacy, laundry, phone shop, clothes shop, corner shop, bits and bobs shop, hairdressers or bike repair shop everyone wants to live as close to the road as possible. With no real street names, and nobody really knowing the ones that do exist, live somewhere off the beaten track and you'll get no customers. Even if you have an income working in a regular job, most people have a business from home as well to supplement it, so people live as close to the roads as they can. Come rainy season, as water almost piles up on the roads and with no quick drainage, barriers are put in place to cope with the wash of water rolling into homes with each passing bicycle or moto. The Cambodian ingenuity is evident at this point with little ridges or steps made in the concrete floors of people's homes where people can afford to have more than a mud floor, which slow and divert these unwanted tides, and for the rest you'll often see someone stood on their stoop sweeping the water away.

What we have seen in the relatively short space of time that we've been here is the quick building of new larger sewers going alongside roads around the edge of central Siem Reap. When people get making something here, it happens, and it happens fast. While certain developments, and getting official documents can drag it's feet for months - get something that needs manual labour and you will see a fast-moving project. Driving alongside these new sewers both in progress and once completed is a reality check in so many ways. As they're being made deep deep channels are dug to accommodate walls of concrete that will reach 3m base to top, reinforced with iron gables, and bridged multiple times for residents of premises just behind these new systems to reach their abodes. The people making them? For some reason it still surprises me as I cycle past to see the number of women working on these projects. Ever friendly, most workers will stop to smile or wave as you cycle by, clearly bemused by the white girl in flip flops cycling down the dirt roads instead of off in the direction of Pub Street ('Wave at Whitey/Beep at the Barang' should definitely be a national sport here!). The work ethic here seems to be, 'If you want work and you can do it, it's yours'. So teens, women, and children all work harder than I think I ever have physically. Health and safety doesn't really exist - barriers blocking roads are ignored - evident by the fact that recently Mr P and I cycled around the edge of a JCB style digger to go to a meeting, timing our cycling so that we didn't get clonked on the head by the scoop. Yes, we actually were that close that we could've leant on it as we skirted round the edge, and yes, my heart did skip a beat for a moment as it swung back towards my beloved's bonce.
Back to the sewers... Open sewers here are just that - open. They are great big structures, and a massive advance for the people living next to or near them, but they are open. Signs alongside them boast 'Having water system improves health of the people' and it's exciting to see people's lives improved, but there is still such a long way to go. On hot days, the stench is something else. With the open sewers even more so than the closed ones along the busiest of roads, everyday rubbish is thrown in rather than collected, or burnt. If you dare to look you can see all sorts of things you'll probably wish you couldn't recognise. They're littered with plastic and have plants growing up in them as testament to the more 'earthy' deposits in there. They do the job though for the most part, and as people are taught not to throw rubbish in, which blocks drainage, the sewage passes through and away from the area. When it rains though... when it rains. Here there are occasional showers, there are light spatterings and then there are moments when the heavens open. If you've used this phrase in the UK, you really have no idea how heavy it can get. The proof is the sewers... Structures 3m deep and usually only 1m full can be suddenly full to the brim, if not overflowing within 30 mins of a heavy downpour beginning. When cycling in the rain (there are times you can't just wait it out) it's best not to think what your toes will be covered in by the time you get home, as your feet pump up and down, round and round through water a foot or more deep, churning up goodness knows what, and simply wash it off as soon as you can, reminding yourself all the while of the vaccines you had before you came out here, and how blessed you are that this is anything other than normal.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

To God be the Glory

Cycling home tonight, just a minute from Sunny Villa, I felt someone grab the strap of my shoulder-bag. Slowing down and turning to smile at the person, I assumed it was Jordan or Hanc or someone else I knew playing a trick.

"Give me your bag or I'll kill you." 
(Obviously not Jord.)
"BUGGER off!" Punch to his shoulder for emphasis (Sorry mum and Sharon for swearing!)
THWACK!!! Cue punch to face in response.
Mugger turns his bike around, saying "You're crazy!!!" And cycles off.

Having cycled the very short distance back to the Villa, and decided that I really would need ice, given that the swelling started immediately, I then went up to my room and collapsed into a puddle of tears on the anxious (to say the least) hubby. 
Painkillers taken, more ice fetched and settling down to try to sleep, several thoughts came to me.

I had in my bag the money for our visas for the next 6 months. That's the equivalent of about 4 months wages for people over here. And  if you're a teacher or a police officer- more like 8 months (if you don't include bribes). He didn't get a bit of it. But he did make me think. I had that money through the amazing support of family and friends, but what situation is he in that he would attack a girl by herself. What desperation, corruption and poverty has made mugging a way of life, or at least a viable option to him? 
And you know what else? How much is there for me to do here? For several weeks I've been struggling with our finances. We're so blessed and thankful to have the support that we do- and have been touched that it's so often the people who miss us most, and would love us to come home that give most sacrificially into what God has called us to do. But there's been very little wriggle room - coffee is a treat. So is meat. It's been a (mostly) fun challenge being 'friends with the facts' as our amazing Campus Pastor, Jan, would say, but as we've chosen to steward our money responsibly, seek work and increase finance to allow us to also be generous, God has honoured that in an amazing way even over this weekend. Going through our bank accounts, we've been blown away by the 'extras' that people have gifted to us, and the generosity of our regular supporters. God even blessed the savings we'd put aside to use wisely on our next 'tech  purchase' (ie new computer etc as our current one stumbles into OAPness), so there was more then we thought, and will enable us to invest in a moto instead. Over the space of a week  we went from not knowing how we would pay for our next visa, to having enough finance to buy a 6month one EACH, and  potentially get a moto (we'll start saving again for a computer with our next gig). So then the enemy tried his hand at discouraging me with how far I have to go as a leader, how others are doing so much better, and that I'm probably no use out here anyway. Having listened to the stonking preach by Pastor G (thank you so much Pastor!!!!), on offence and un-forgiveness twice in one day, I decided not to feel condemned but to rise up and face the challenge, to seek Godly counsel, but most of all to get before God and sort myself out. 
So what's next? A physical attack. Literally. And if the guy had got my bag he would've not only had our visa money, potentially causing us to return to the UK early,  my room key (with a really cute key ring from Jo K), he would've had my phone and the podcasts from Freedom including the one on gratitude that I was listening to as he tried to mug me.
Financial, emotional, spiritual and physical attack. You know what that adds up to? An enemy overplaying his hand, trying to send me back to the UK, crushed and useless. Who won? The God I love more than anything showing me once again that He has an amazing plan for my life, that He will bring me through all things, and that this country, my home for the next 6 months at least, needs Him a whole lot more than I've yet realised.

Enemy, back off. This is one SHE Warrior who has tasted victory mixed with suffering and is not going to back down. Jesus gets my all. 

Friday, 3 May 2013

Partner with the Parkys

Well, that's been an exciting couple of days!

Last night we played out first gig as a group - Hanc, Mr P and myself, along with our saxophonist friend Graham. We performed a mixture of pop and jazz covers for the evening at a 4/5* hotel, with people getting up to dance and lots of smiles all round! A heartening success, and a huge encouragement to pursue more gigs! The hardest gig done, with a massive pool of songs learned and practised, we're eager to perfect our selections and get out there again! What a joy to get paid for doing something you love!

The great news is that our earnings from the gig will almost cover the next 2.5 months of Visas for Phil and myself. This time we're planning on getting a 6 month Visa to give us a bit more stability and also allow us to travel to neighbouring countries if necessary without invalidating the visa and having to buy a new one! With the help of another one off gift we've received, we're getting there in raising the finance and so we're going to step out in faith and buy the 6 month Visas on Monday. At this point we would absolutely love it if you would partner with us to help us stay in Cambodia for the next 6 months if you feel led to. We're planning on being out here for a fair stretch, and we're excited about how God has already provided, and this is an incredibly practical way you can help us in this next step. We're being strategic in looking for work that we can fit around our church-planting commitments here, and do feel so very blessed to be supported by friends and family back home making our day to day life here possible. Currently the work we have is still limited, and while we're planning, believing for and stepping out to see future Visas, travel fees and even a moto (!) come from our earnings over here, we would like to ask for your support in keeping us right now.

We're learning a heck of a lot, growing and being stretched, but we know there's a lot more for us out here yet. If you'd like to 'Partner with the Parkys' please get in touch, either through facebook, direct message on Twitter, or email me on parkysgirl@gmail.com

Thanks guys, we love and miss you, and are so grateful for each of you in our lives!


Friday, 12 April 2013

My Team(s)

Hello again,

So I thought I'd let you guys know about what I get up to over here in far flung foreign climes!
My roles over here are as Connect Team Leader, and also currently as Production Manager. For those of you who know me from Freedom Church Hereford, you may well know that I was a part of the VIP team and also on the Baking Team. Needless to say, my roles have changed a lot in the last few months, and I've developed a load of skills I never thought I would have. Production-fizzin-Manager!!! Still making me laugh!

The exciting thing has been that as I've stepped up in those areas, I've seen God challenge my willingness to obey, to learn and to grow. I've also had my ability to lead challenged, and wow, that's a learning curve and a half! We were so blessed when we started Freedom Church Siem Reap to partner with a local team from Pastor Chhay's church. This team had been led and taught by Pastor Jan and Marleen in the 3 months leading up to the rest of us arriving, and brought such passion to the team as we started the buildup to launch. I had several great team members in the Production and Connect Teams, and began to learn to lead. And I learned a lot through that process. Other team leaders showed by example how to love the person and not see them as a project, that when we encourage and lead with love we see the most growth, and Jan shared the great principle that when something goes wrong, the responsibility lies mostly with the leader, and their communication. All of these examples from the leaders around me have challenged and encouraged to get the best from my team by wanting the best FOR them, getting vision for the individuals within my teams, and letting go when that vision means that my team is not where they need to be. So I've gone from the at very start having two teams with combined numbers of 5 volunteers, to now having a team of one. And that's been humbling. The biggest lesson from that has been that it's so much better to let go and let God take out people who He wants in other places, and then trust that He will bring the right people in and grow the teams again.

Before you all panic that no-one is on Production and no-one is being connected with, we do have the awesome Socheat who has stepped up to become the new Production Manager, and take over from me This will release me to grow the Connect Team, and invest more heavily in getting people rooted into Freedom, and release Phil more into Worship Leading, as he has been walking me through the new skills I've needed. We're currently handing over Production Managing to Socheat gradually, given that this legendary armour bearer is our key translator and during the Sunday event is busy making us English speakers make sense. As I'm currently operating as the sound and media side of production, 'managing' the team currently consists of staying focused and giving myself a good talking to if I get stressed or panicked! Obviously we're not expecting Socheat to simultaneously operate words, creatives, music, wave at the Rosana lighting guy*, talk to the venue staff backstage and translate all at the same time, so we're aiming to train up a team to take on various production roles that he can then oversee. It's a really exciting time, we're expectant for it to go to a whole new level under his leadership, and excited for the release that it will bring to other areas within the campus. What it does mean is that we need that influx of strategic people willing to Get, Own and Carry the vision and take on Production as their area. any prayers you've got on that one would be awesome! As well as Production, I need at least one person to join me on Connect, as I currently run that by myself. My vision for that team is for it to grow to at least 4 people, who can serve on alternate weeks, and for each week to be led by a local volunteer, and for me to step back and take a Co-ordinating role, and release local guys to take ownership. This is such an exciting vision for the team, and I'm excited to see it come to fruition as volunteers step up.

So as you may gather, I'm basically trying to put myself out of a job! :)
During the week, I'm just about to start working on Scriptwriting for Boomtown creatives again, a fun, and incredibly challenging task as the Freedom Movement expands and the creatives need to relate to an expanding sphere of cultures. I had a hoot writing and filming the Pirate series, and can't wait to see the finished result of the next series to be written. Around that I'm now teaching two Pilates classes a week, with varying levels of attendance and am aiming to put some more practice in to both my Pilates and also my vocals so that some of the team can make the most of opportunities to perform gigs locally too.  I've also got an exciting opportunity to work on a secret project! ooh! Intriguing! You may hear more about that in the future, but for now, I better get back to actually working on it, otherwise it won't happen at all!

I hope this feeds your imagination a little, excited you to know what we're up to and gives you some prayer fodder too!
With heaps of love, and a hope you kept up with the race from subject to subject and thought to thought!

(and the ever-so handsome Phil!)

Thursday, 11 April 2013

In Sickness and in Health

Hope I didn't have you worried with that title!!
The search for my love of writing is on. I used to love creative writing, and could go on for reams and reams about imagined places and made up creatures. The time has definitely come to resurrect that old passion, and you my friends shall be the guinea-pigs... starting with that title, it's more creative than saying 'some of us have been a bit poorly you know'

But yes, some of us have been poorly. The joy of cheap eating out at some of the food stalls is that you tend to share your dining table with others... I had two frogs sat under my plastic chair the other day - waiting for the bugs above my head to knock themselves out on the light hanging from the roof and fall helplessly to the ground. I won't give you all the details, but it's fair enough to say that you guys should be really grateful now for food hygiene laws in Britain. They might be annoying at times, but boy, do I miss them! We've seen while we were looking round some flats and houses that a common thing in Cambodia is to have a WC coming straight off the kitchen. Again I won't elaborate further, but it's clear why a few of us have had tummy bugs at various points. Hanc especially had a really vicious bout of illness, and had to get serious treatment, so for all I joke, and 'save you from the details' we could really do with continued prayer covering the team's health. Where we currently live we don't really have many choices for what to do for food - eating out is a must because we don't have our own kitchen, and so we get in the habit of looking for some of the cheaper places to keep costs down, understandably.

The other thing is the heat - it's very easy to get dehydrated, or a bit burned, just because the climate requires so much more energy for doing normal things. Add that to the fact that we all now cycle several miles a day at least, having previously not had to, it means tiredness can set in quickly.

That said, we've seen answered prayer in return to health over each of us, but this is not an area we are happy to accept continuing attack in. We know that to be fully effective here, we need to be fit and well. We're thinking creatively about food choices, improving our fitness and getting so much better at keeping hydrated. We're upping our game on the practical side of things, and have seen God move in the Spiritual. So this is a very little blog, but a definite request to stand with us in prayers of protection and health. We know we walk in favour as children of God, and we are so excited and honoured to be a part of the change in lives we see around us. God is good and on the move. We know this nation will be changed, because what God has done in our lives, bringing freedom, purpose and new hope, He can do in all of us, regardless of nation or nationality. Stand with us team as we step out.
Thank you!

With love!

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Catch up time...

Hello all!

Apologies for the delay writing this blog, our aim is to update you around every two weeks about the shenanigans we're getting up to over here, but we're a tad behind and have been here nearly 2 months now!! It seems like we arrived just last week, and yet life here is so very different to anything we've experienced before our old jobs and schedules feel like a life a million hours gone away.

So here's my plan, stick with me friends, I've got so much to write about, I'm going to try and curb my habit for wittering and get through a couple of sub-titles to this blog to give you a bit of a more rounded view of life here. Please do ask questions and let us know what you want to know about - whether that's toilets (no they're not that bad... mostly) or temples (yes, they are everywhere, and hauntingly beautiful). I'd love the feedback of knowing that the words don't just go out into a void to sit and get fat by themselves!!

The Weather (what a great place to start, being British and all!!)

Every now and then we convince ourselves as we're cycling along that it's no different to a beautiful summer's day in England. Then we twig that it's 38C and at least 10 degrees hotter than nearly every summer we've ever experienced on that lush green Isle! We were fully immersed in the reality of the climate here last weekend as we had a 4-day power-cut. We'd previously experienced planned cuts where we had no day-time electricity, but it came back on in time for us to find our way to bed, plug in our gadgets and have the air-con and/or fan on overnight. This time however, with no warning at all the electricity went off and we had nothing. The reason? A lorry drove smack into a hefty concrete pylon and took it down, causing a domino effect for 11 pylons and interrupting supply from Thailand. The local power station only produces a 1/4 of the electricity required by the city, and so power was dished out to the shops and pubs in town to keep trade going, and hotels, restaurants and everybody else resorted to generators to keep their clients happy. The amazing managers of the Dream Villa Guesthouse where we stay sourced a couple of generators they could put on for a few hours a day, and though this wasn't enough to get electricity back through the hotel it gave us a couple of plugs for charging things, and also, much more importantly, kept the water pump working, so that the tank on top of the roof would continue working. This meant we could take cold showers before bed and during the night when we woke up, to facilitate sleep. It was a crazy couple of days, ones I hope we don't have to repeat, especially given the huge jump in mosquito bites we got as a result of sleeping with windows open! The good news was that the driver of the lorry fled the scene - and if he could run away, I'm taking that to mean he wasn't too badly injured himself!!
The heat continues to ramp up - we're expecting it to reach into the 40's quite easily during April, but it has rained twice now since we've been here, for about an hour each time, so hopefully there'll be a couple of spells of rain to ease the humidity a bit and bring a fresher breeze! Most days are 'Double Deodorant Days' here, and that label that says '48 hour protection'? It lies!! Maybe don't visit until the hot season is done, and we all smell peachy again! ;)

A Normal Day

I wanted to let you all know what we do on a normal day - but I don't think we've had one yet!! The best I can do is go for generalities, as I'm sure that you wonder what we get up to, especially as most of the photos you'll see are from our downtime or days off. This is usually because those are times we have good wifi and the time to take and post pictures of what's going on
Breakfast interspersed with chatter with our beautiful chef, who daily teaches us new words in Khmer, and practises her English. Breakfast for me is followed by admin - for Production and Connect - getting out my trusty 'to-do' lists and prioritising what needs to be done first. Batteries were last week's biggest achievement after much cycling around and price-comparing. This week we're getting moving on a printer/copier/scanner for us to use. Who said it wasn't a glamourous life hey? Some days I get a pile of hand-washing done, my skills in this definitely need honing, and I won't be sad to get a washing machine at some point!! Washing usually has a worship or preach podcast soundtrack - because without it, who knows what I'd end up singing to distract myself and this is shared accommodation!!
Lunch is often with hubby, sometimes with the team. We'll have meetings over coffee with team/volunteer members, or just to be social. The afternoon for me is often the time to get out and about - fetching things, doing a little shopping, or going to Khmer class twice a week. Then the evening is usually more of a social time - the team are getting quite a nose for bargains - places with free tapas when you buy a drink etc, so that's an occasional treat, or we'll pop to one of our preferred eating spots as a team or in smaller groups. The great thing to see is that as we settle into our different roles here, we all become more independent, spending more and more time with our new friends and contacts here, and not remaining isolated as a group of ex-pats over here. Shout-out to Sarah on this one - she's massively intentional, and follows up 'chance meetings' with regular contact and on an un-related note, the best example of Everything's a Gift I've ever seen!!

I'm not quite sure why - but today's blog has taken ever so long to write. Partly to do with me searching for birthday gifts for various family members, but just a hard one to know what you'd like to hear about! Perhaps all the words have fallen out of my head today?! We love looking through instagram and seeing so very many of our friends and family, but we'd absolutely love to have a word or two in an email - I'm not always the best at replying quickly, or the most eloquent - but we love you guys out there, our family, our extended family, our adopted family, our friends. We love you, we miss you, we'd love to be praying for you where you have need, and share our prayer needs with you too.

Be in touch. I'll be back soon... hopefully with a few more words between my ears and making their way to my fingertips...
With love

Beth, of 'Phil and Beth' fame!