ordinary… mostly

"We have nothing to offer each other, except a haven." — K. Nafziger


Phnom Penh

Cambodia, appendix 2 – Maps and money

I didn’t have a good place to compile maps of our travels and images of currency that I picked up along the way, so that stuff is going here as I finish “scrapbooking” our trip to Cambodia…


Map of Cambodia

A map of Cambodia showing the places that we visited outside of Phnom Penh.

Map of Phnom Penh

A map of Phnom Penh and the places we visited there.

Map of Siem Reap

A map of the area around Siem Reap with some of the locations that we visited.


I tried to collect some Cambodian money, but there isn’t much here. (4000 Riel = 1 US$)

At our stop at Incheon on the way home, I also picked up a little bit of South Korean Won. This is slightly more valuable. (5000 Won = 4.44 US$)


Cambodia, part 20 – Returning home

Well – after more than two months of blogging, it’s time to clear the shoes from in front of the door and bring the story of my family’s trip to Cambodia to a close…

All the shoes at The Guests Complacent's home

I’m sure that there was much more room at the front door after we left.

It ‘s hard waiting around all day for a late-night flight. We had managed to do a few things to keep busy during the day (a trip to USA Donut and to the Russian Market), but by supper time there wasn’t much left to do but twiddle our thumbs (and take one last evening shower to cool off after the heat and humidity of the day). After a round of farewells, we hopped in the van at around 9 p.m. Wednesday for one final trip. Last stop: Phnom Penh International Airport.

It’s hard taking a red-eye flight with children who generally go to bed around 8:30 p.m. Indeed, Youngest Daughter fell asleep, so we loaded her on the luggage cart and wheeled her around the airport.

Luggage cart

Anything will do for a bed if you’re sleepy enough.

Well… we wheeled her around until the officials at customs and immigration split up Ordinary Spouse and me. And they made Ordinary Spouse take the girls. That may have been the hardest part of the trip for her – trying to get three children and some carry-on luggage through the airport by herself. Eventually, I caught up with her and was able to help again.

The wait at the gate seemed to go on forever, but I guess that is how the wait for international flights always feels. Eventually we boarded (only a little late!), and shortly after midnight we were on our way to Seoul.

Gate pass

I think that we all managed to get some sleep during that flight, but Youngest Daughter may have been the only one who actually felt rested when we arrived in Korea on Thursday morning. We rested in a quiet part of the airport (the second level is wonderful!) until our next flight. My single goal was to visit a Starbucks, just so that I could say that I’d been to one overseas…

Find your favorite cup!
Find your favorite cup!

They would accept U.S. dollars, but change was in won. That was just fine with me – I wanted some Korean money – so I used cash rather than credit. Oldest Daughter and I both ordered a peppermint mocha…

Starbucks receipt

And we also purchased some souvenirs…

Starbucks Korea demi mugs

Elsewhere in the airport, my mother-in-law and older daughters visited the Korea Traditional Cultural Experience Center. (It doesn’t matter where we go – we’re still in school.) Middle and Oldest Daughters made dolls that they got to bring home…

Korea Traditional Cultural Experience Center

Fun and learning at Incheon

And some of us just slept.


Anything will do for a bed if you’re sleepy enough.

Finally, it was time for the final flight. Let’s be on our way.

Our plane to Chicago

It seemed to me that on both return flights, we had more turbulence than we did on the way over. The disconcerting feeling of being bounced around seven miles up in the air was made easier by the fact that we seemed to have a really strong tailwind speeding our trip. At one point, the information screen said that we were moving along at over 700 miles per hour. I’ve never seen a speed that high. I also noticed that we didn’t quite follow the great circle route between Soeul and Chicago. My guess is that they wanted to get into the jet stream.

Late Thursday evening, we crossed the international date line – back to Wednesday. But by the time we landed in Chicago, it was Thursday again, so our trip went Wednesday-Thursday-Wednesday-Thursday. The final run through customs and immigration seemed to go much better, especially when Youngest Daughter acted grumpy for the customs agent. Perhaps she felt sorry for us. In any case, we zipped through…

Waiting for our ride home

And on the other side of customs, we were delighted by another stretch limo to take us back home. It was the same driver that had taken us to the airport two weeks earlier!

Sleepy riders

And so ends a vacation to remember for the rest of our lives. Jack and Lexi were glad to welcome us home.

Jack is happy to have his family home

The end.

Well – that’s not quite the end. But almost. I’ll take on a few more posts to tie up some loose ends. Then it will be time to get back to blogging the routine stuff.

Cambodia, part 19 – The final day in Phnom Penh

Wednesday, November 30th was our final day in Phnom Penh. After thirteen days in Cambodia, our vacation had reached an end. However, the first leg of the return flight wasn’t scheduled to leave until around 11:40 in the evening, so we had one more day in front of us. Most of the day was spent packing and cleaning, but we did venture out for a few hours.

Everyone into the tuk-tuks! We’re off to USA Donut!

Express tuk-tuk to USA DONUT!
Express tuk-tuk to USA DONUT!
Our destination: USA DONUT!

USA Donut is an interesting place run by a Cambodian-American man. We went there to get hot dogs and hamburgers. Why? I’m not entirely sure at this point. Perhaps it was because it was the last day, and we wanted to try the best hamburgers in Phnom Penh.  (Oh – and donuts, of course.) Here’s the menu:

The USA Donut menu
The USA Donut menu

So – why do I call this an interesting place? For one thing, in addition to the food, the proprietor imports things from Costco and Sam’s Club – things that are hard to find elsewhere in Cambodia – and sells them there…

"Specialty" foods
"Specialty" foods

For another thing, the owner himself was an interesting guy. At one point, one of the girls brushed past a small shrine to the Buddha, and knocked an offering of donut holes onto the floor.

“Uh-oh,” I thought to myself. “Faux pas!”

“That’s ok,” said the owner as he dashed over. “Buddha has had enough to eat already!”

Anyway – I ordered the #1 with cheese. And here it is:

The #1 with fries and coke
The #1 with fries and coke

Near the end of the meal, the owner took a group photo for us. It may be the best family photo of the entire trip:

The whole family
The whole family

And I grabbed a business card on the way out:

USA Donut business card (front) USA Donut business card (back)

After lunch, my mother-in-law, Ordinary Spouse, Middle Daughter, and I made one more visit to the Russian Market and Rajana. I’m not sure what they were looking for. Probably fabric. I went for one more Khmer iced coffee. Did I mention that they have the best in Cambodia? Oh, yeah – I guess I did.

The Best Khmer Coffee

From there, we returned home and finished our packing. The Guests Complacent’s cook made one more wonderful meal for us…

The last supper
The last supper

And then we twiddled our thumbs for a few hours until it was time to leave for the airport.

Up next: The flight home

Cambodia, part 18b – Jackfruit chips, clothing factories, and Advent

(Or “Jesus came: Did we get what we expected?”)

In early November last year, Christine Sine invited bloggers to join a “synchroblog” for Advent. She proposed two questions for consideration:

  1. On November 23rd: Jesus is coming: What do we expect?
  2. On December 28th: Jesus came: Did we get what we expected?

I’d like to take on the second question now, even though I’m a month and a half too late. I apologize for the messiness of my thoughts…

A few weeks ago, I shared how the first question was in my mind in the days leading up to my family’s travel to Cambodia. I was disillusioned with American consumerism, with Black Friday, and with stores opening at 10 pm Thanksgiving Evening so that the holiday shopping season could get off to a roaring start. And so, even though Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday were atypical for me (since we were in Cambodia), they were very welcome. Those were days of genuine thanksgiving.

Jackfruit chipsIn my last blog post, I mentioned how my family’s time in Cambodia was nearing an end. As we returned from Kampong Som, we stopped at a rest area where I purchased some jackfruit chips. From there, we continued on and as we approached Phnom Penh, we began to pass trucks full of women. These were pickup-sized vehicles that may have had thirty people standing shoulder-to-shoulder in the back. Essentially, the trucks were serving as buses. The Guests Complacent told us that the women were coming from their jobs in clothing factories that were nearby – factories contracted by companies like Wal-Mart.

They make about two dollars a day…

This little fact from Mrs. Guest Complacent sent my mind in about a million directions at once. I thought about the connection between Wal-Mart and my disgust with American consumerism. Then I remembered the bag of jackfruit chips in my lap – the bag that I had purchased for $2.50 – and thought, “guilty as charged.” Then I thought about my yearly salary, and how I am paid about as much in two days as they’d receive all year. She continued…

But before you go judging Wal-Mart, consider this: two dollars isn’t a bad wage. It isn’t a good wage, either, but it’s not bad for someone who doesn’t have education. So before you begin your Wal-Mart boycott, think about the jobs you affect here.

I’m not sure if that’s exactly what she said, but that was the gist of it. I don’t even know if she was aware of my feelings about Black Friday sales (and the stores offering them), but she managed to ensure that I couldn’t settle for easy answers.

Just this evening, I took a survey of the clothes in my closet to see where they were made.* This map shows the results…

* This idea isn’t original with me. I saw someone else do this, but I can’t remember who. You’ll have to forgive me for not giving proper credit.

Clothes made in ???

(Click for a larger image.)

Each pin is a different country – 29 countries in all, or 31 depending on how you count Hong Kong and Macau. And it wasn’t an exhaustive survey. There were more clothes in the house.

What happens when I purchase my clothes? Do I see only the product? Or do I see beyond to the person who made it? Am I able to receive my clothes with thanksgiving for the hands that made them?

As I wrestle with this discomfort about wealth and poverty, as I struggle to discern God’s voice, and as I try to understand how to use this knowledge that some people are paid $2 per day, I think it’s helpful to begin by asking, “Who is my neighbor?” Clearly, I have neighbors living where each of those pins is located.

Two dollars isn’t a bad daily wage. It isn’t a good wage, either, but it’s not bad for someone who doesn’t have education…

“For someone who doesn’t have education…” That stuck with me, whether it was intended to or not. The Guests Complacent work with Mennonite Central Committee in southeast Asia. In Cambodia, MCC has a program that supports Angkearhdei Primary School – a school in the same province as my brother-in-law’s host family. My family decided that we wanted to help support the school, as one way of expressing concern for people making $2 a day.

Charitable giving can be a tricky thing. I think that if we’ve been blessed by God, it is so that we can bless others. But the temptation is to give some money somewhere, and then say that we’ve fulfilled some obligation. So what’s the difference here? How can we resist the urge to give and forget? Hopefully, we ask, “Who is my neighbor?” And when we answer that, we remember the people we saw in Cambodia; the homes we ate in; the hands the welcomed us in.

This is a lesson that we try to pass on to our children. This past summer, Oldest Daughter earned a little money by running a lemonade stand. After being in Cambodia, she decided that she wanted to share it with the same school.

So – getting around to the original question…

Jesus came: did we get what we expected?

Well, probably not. Not if I expected a rubber stamp on my righteous indignation with consumerism in the United States. I should know better by now…

I should know that I’m not the 99% (as it’s currently popular to claim). I’m the 1%.

I should know that it’s easier for a camel to go through the of a needle than it is for a rich person to enter the Kingdom.

And in spite of that, this is the image that keeps coming to mind…


This was our meal the day after Thanksgiving. How is it that we received such generous hospitality?

When Jesus comes, there is always grace.

That is my only explanation.

Am I able to receive grace when it is offered?

That is my hope.

Up next: The final day in Phnom Penh

Cambodia, part 18a – Returning to Phnom Penh

On the morning of November 29th, it felt like our time in Cambodia was drawing to an end much too quickly. We were still in Kampong Som, and the girls were eager to keep swimming for as long as they could. Middle Daughter went with Ordinary Spouse to the ocean, so that MD could perfect her body surfing technique. (The waves were never more than a foot, but hey — they don’t have to be large when you’re young.) Oldest Daughter, Youngest Daughter, and I stayed at the hotel pool. But by late morning, we needed to be checked out of our rooms. Since we were expecting our driver after lunch, the hotel graciously stowed our luggage for us while we took the opportunity to eat at Happy Herb Pizza one last time. But very soon we were on the National Road #4 back to Phnom Penh…

Orchids at the Orchidee Guesthouse

We bid a fond farewell to the Orchideé Guesthouse

The family van

And pile into the family van…

The long road back to Phnom Penh

For the long trip back to Phnom Penh.

Actually, it didn’t feel like an overly long trip. We stopped at Pech Nil pass to stretch our legs, as we did a few days earlier when we were driving in the other direction. I bought some dried jackfruit chips to try. They were tasty!

Jackfruit chips

Jackfruit chips: “The dried products are very delicious, crisp, and fit for all ages.” (So says the back of the bag.)

There were at least two interesting things that we saw during the trip home.  One was the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia. This is the place, also known as the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, where Khmer Rouge leaders are being tried for breaking Cambodian and international law during the mid and late 1970s – over 30 years ago. In fact, it was while we were in Cambodia that Case #002 was opened. There are three defendants, including Nuon Chea – the second in command during the Khmer Rouge years.

To be clear, we did not visit the court. We simply drove by it. But it was a reminder to me of the complexities that still exist within Cambodian society and of the difficulties in working toward reconciliation. (When we got home, there was an issue of The Economist waiting for me that commented a bit on these issues – there may never be a Case #003. Soon thereafter, the Phnom Penh Post had some interesting articles offering contrasting viewpoints from two of the actors: “Vietnam blame game” vs. “A search for redemption“. Of course, this is an ongoing story with additional news since then. I’ll let you search for more if you’re interested.)

The other thing of interest was trucks crammed full of women. Truck after truck went by, and it soon became clear that we were passing near an industrial area – in this case, garment factories for Adidas or Wal-Mart or some other large corporation. I’d like to reflect just a little more on this in another blog post, so I’ll stop for now.

It was getting dark by the time we got to Phnom Penh, and I had some fun experimenting with long exposure photographs of traffic through the front window of the van…

Supper was waiting when we got home – another wonderful meal from The Guests Complacent’s cook. Pancakes stuffed with sprouts, lettuce, cucumbers, mint, and dipping sauce.

Pancakes and sprouts


After the girls were in bed, the packing began for the trip back to the United States. We’re down to about twenty-four hours…

Up next: Thoughts on jackfruit chips, clothing factories, and Advent

Cambodia, part 15 – On the road to Kampong Som

After our day trip to Mesang on November 25th, we were back in Phnom Penh by supper time…

Since arriving in Cambodia eight days earlier, we had spent time in Phnom Penh and traveled to Siem Reap and Mesang. We planned to spend the final part of our vacation relaxing in Kampong Som (also frequently called ‘Sihanoukville’). We spent our time after supper on Friday packing suitcases and preparing for an early start on Saturday. Alas, after the brutal bouncing on the trip to Mesang, the van needed a few repairs. We still left early; just not as early as planned…



No van to this way...

No van this way…

No van this way, either.

No van this way, either.

Perfectly content.

Extraordinary Nephew is perfectly content. He doesn’t get impatient waiting for vans to arrive.

Soon enough, we were on our way. Well – we were on our way after a quick stop to purchase fried bananas…

Fried banana

The only way to justify eating this is to say that it’s a new and unique Cambodian food and that we should try it in order to broaden our horizons.

The road to Kampong Som

Our route to Kampong Som via National Road #4

Kampong Som is a port city on the Gulf of Thailand about 185 km from Phnom Penh…

[Sihanoukville] is named after King Father Norodom Sihanouk and grew up around the construction of Sihanoukville Port. Construction on the port began in June 1955 and it was the only deep water port in Cambodia. The port was built in part due to the waning power of the French leading to the Vietnamese tightening their control over the Mekong Delta and hence restricting river access to Cambodia. Sihanoukville’s beaches have made it a popular tourist destination.

(Sihanoukville on Wikipedia)

About halfway to Kampong Som (as I’ll call it from here on), we approached Pech Nil Pass and stopped for lunch. I didn’t get a picture of the rest area or the meal itself, but I photographed dessert!

Rice flour cake with coconut filling

If my memory serves correctly, this is a steamed rice flour cake that reminded me of a tamale. The filling was sweet and made from coconuts (and maybe bean curd?).

Pech Nil Pass was just about a half kilometer beyond the restaurant. From there, the road begins its descent toward the coast. However, before most Cambodians continue beyond the pass, they stop to venerate the ancestral spirit of Yeay Mao. There are numerous stories and legends surrounding her, and the actual details of her life have been lost. However, she is supposed to be quite powerful, wielding influence over a large portion of Cambodia in the area from Pech Nil toward the Gulf of Thailand. As a result, travelers stop to burn incense and leave offerings.

Shrines to Yeay Mao (and road construction) at Pech Nil Pass

After getting over the pass, there is a pleasant descent down the mountain and through the countryside…

Pech Nil to Kampong Som

Pech Nil to Kampong Som

Before long we were driving through Kampong Som and arriving at our hotel on the far side…

The Orchidee Guest House

The Orchideé Guest House

The front entrance to our hotel

The front entrance

And check out our room with its paintings!

Our room

Our room

Oldest Daughter ponders one of the paintings. Funky, huh?

Once we had settled in, there was still time in the day to visit the beach. But that will come in the next blog post.

Coming up: Hanging out around the Orchideé Guest House

Create a free website or blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: