Dear friends and partners,
Every so often I have a site visit that truly leaves me in a state of wonder. We travelled to our villages in Romae Heck in Svay Rieng province. As usual when we arrived – I got a warm welcome from the villagers. In this case the main greeter was a woman named Oun Ni. Our trip into the village was an education – Tabitha is in the process of turning the dry fallow land into a sea of emerald green through the wells we had installed. It was truly beautiful. Another village on its way to prosperity!
That fact was driven home by the effusive welcome of Oun Ni. She grasped my hands in glee and babbled for several minutes expressing everyone’s joy and thankfulness. What a difference from when we had first met a number of years ago. Life then was very harsh – huts were homes, eating each day a struggle. Now homes were being rebuilt and people were busy – busy doing the myriad of things to bring about a better life. Oun Ni finished by giving me a hug – a real close, tight hug – oh I thought – this does not bode well for me. Cambodians are by nature a very tactile people – they love touching people of the same sex – at least that part was safe or so I thought.
Oun Ni, her husband and a number of villagers were excited to show us their latest venture – the raising of fresh water lobsters (crayfish) We walked to the back of her home and there were three ponds made of brick and cement. In each pond was pieces of PVC pipe, water and a fresh water plant called compleau. As they lifted the pieces of pipe a lobster would crawl out ready to take a piece out of our hands with their claws. We went to the neighbor’s house were Sok’s pen was homemade with bamboo and plastic – he was raising catfish and had started on the lobsters. He was so excited to show me a small basket with a mama lobster who had just released her eggs – so very tiny and the offspring were miniscule – smaller than the top of a pin. I marveled at how something so tiny could end up being something so big. I have told God I want to be on the creation team when my time comes. I want to know how He put all this together. Miracles!
We walked out to the rice fields – Heng and Srie insisting I put on this ridiculous hat – it was a very hot and sunny day. I couldn’t get over how much work had been done by our families and our project staff – changing what was barren desert like land into a sea of green – food and money to live by. I was so thankful.
It was time for us to leave and as we walked on the rice dikes, Oun Ni turned to me in glee. She grabbed my two breasts and started chortling – 2 kilos – Oh Lord, here we go. I was a bit dumbstruck but laughed a little. Omni was chewing betel nut so she was in a world of her own, feeling no pain. The other ladies gathered round and she once again grabbed hold of my breasts – how good mine were compared to her. The next thing I knew all the women around us lifted their shirts’ showing off their perky little breasts. My staff, Heng and Srie were no help – they stood by laughing – not so good.
Oun Ni turned to her husband and the men who were following us encouraging them to come and feel and see my breasts – I found my voice and just said NO! Okay she said, give me one last hug – you are so soft as she clasped my body to hers. Truly time to go.
As we left, Srei told me this is what Cambodian women to in the countryside – it’s just being friends. How lucky you are Janne, that they feel you are a true friend! Culture clash – big time!
I marvel at how much has changed for these families – how they are families now with husbands and wives working together, I marvel at how when we first met those years ago, women like Oun Ni could not even look me in the face – that’s what poverty does – it destroys peoples sense of self-worth. How far had we come together over these past 5 years – how good that is!
I am thankful to my God that He continues to show me the miracles of His creation each day – I am thankful that each of you are part of these miracles. It cannot get any better.