Back in Battambang

It’s about 8:30 at night in Battambang, but it feels much later. I still haven’t completely gotten over the jet lag. I can get up in the morning and feel fine, but I get sleepy early at night and tend to wake up a lot. That’s one of the reasons I’m not doing a particularly good job at blogging. That, and the intermittent quality and duration of internet connectivity is keeping me from updating as often as I’d like.

I am, for the very first time, not staying at the venerable TeO, Battambang’s most established hotel. Vando, one of our orphan home directors, booked us at a brand new place called The President. For its grand opening, the hotel is offering some kind of promotion, and we’ve landed ourselves in a ridiculously large room for $17 per night. It’s very Cambodian, whilst trying very hard to be Western.

There’s an extensive list of regulations and requests including “Thanks for not using towels for cleaning foots or as a cigarette astray” and “It’s also prohibited to carry out sex trade.” I can’t speak for the towels, but the latter seems to not be enforced here at The President.

At any rate, it’s good to be back in this town. I love the people, and I enjoy the relatively sleepy pace; I just wish they would move it closer to Phnom Penh. The 6-1/2 hour bus ride was grueling, and Andy arrived here feeling quite under the rainy and surprisingly chilly weather. While he rested, I went to our main Battambang campus and enjoyed a large and late lunch with our staff.

I spent the next couple of hours hanging out with the kids at BB1 (sponsored by Westview Bible Church in Montreal), BB4 (sponsored by Wooster Grace Brethren Church in Wooster, Ohio) and BB5 (sponsored by Western Reserve Grace Church in Macedonia, Ohio). It’s been raining non-stop for the past few days -- we’re getting the remnants of the typhoon that has devastated other parts of Southeast Asia – so our campus’ outdoor common areas are now more marsh than park. I joked with Savorn, complementing him on his beautiful volleyball pool.

So, instead of playing giant, unruly games of volleyball, capture the flag or even duck duck goose, I visited each of the homes that share our main Battambang campus and sat quietly with the kids and told them the following things:

  1. I missed you all, even the new kids I haven’t met. I think of you all the time, and pray for you day and night. I am so glad that we are part of a family, and I look forward to returning to see you again and again, and I am so happy that we are going to know each other when you have grown up and I have grown old.
  2. For those of you who are new here, I want to tell you that you will always be welcome here, always safe, and always have enough food to eat. You will get an education, and you will have opportunities for a good future. Your mom and dad and brothers and sisters love you and will take care of you. When you are sad, you can talk to your brothers and sisters, because their life has been very similar to you. And you can always talk to God, because he loves you and always watches over you.
  3. You have many people in North America who love you as well. When I walk into your sponsoring churches, what do I see? Pictures of you! Those churches are so proud of you, and they pray for you all the time. When they have Sunday morning services, they talk about you. When the pastors get together for meetings, they pray for you. And Asia’s Hope has a board and many supporters who pray for you often as well.
  4. My wife and kids wish that they could see you. I wanted to bring them this time, but we could not raise the money. But we are working hard to raise funds, and I pray that next summer they will be able to all come to visit. You will love my wife. I am very loud and funny. She is gentle and sweet and has very good hugs.

We joked, we jostled, we hugged. I whooped them up into cheers for this Saturday’s excursion to Angkor Wat, and then I left and returned to the weirdly shabby elegance of The President Hotel to rouse a recuperating Andy for dinner.

I’m hoping that the rain stops today and we can run and roughhouse with the kids. If not, we’ll find some quiet indoor games. Or maybe we’ll just ignore the rain and play outside anyway…

John McCollumComment