Back on January 6th, we wrote about a group of girls we met one day on our way to get dinner at Atwood Business Center. Prior to that we had met a young girl hanging outside a squatty looking home a bit further into the commune itself and she also greeted us in English but we only saw her a couple more times and then she was not seen again, so either she had been visiting family, or perhaps her family had moved away (the front of the house changed too). Even before then though, we had been trying to engage the community as we strolled along and we have to say here and now that more and more of the adults are greeting us in passing, so they realize that we are not just here for a bit as we go through their neighborhood.
So yesterday being Sunday, after church we headed out to a coffee shop as we both had some serious things to accomplish, and that environment would set us down and let us get that done. We both had our headsets on and in a few hours accomplished a lot. Then it was time to eat and head home on the bus. I don’t recall ever having seen such a crowded bus. There were very few seats in general but wide open standing room for everyone who piled on. Two very young people gave us their seats so we were securing fastened for the ride. Just after that in the next two stops more people than ever climbed aboard, so many that some had to enter through the rear doors. For a Sunday night we thought it was really crowded, but then again maybe people were getting an early start on the Chinese New Year.
An elderly lady (watch this adjective) was next to me. She so wanted to ask me a ton of questions but needed to find a willing soul to help her. She kept talking abut the number of people on the bus and shaking her head, but then again I heard Ratanakiri in her talking and figured out that not that many people even live in Banlung where she was from that were on the bus.
Anyway, a kind young man nearby helped her out and asked questions. First off, how old was I? I told him 67 and he translated and she let out this chuckle with “I’m 64.” She then asked how old George was and I replied 66. Her eyes lit up and she said “you are older than him, and he looks old and you don’t.” (And I called her an ‘elderly’ lady, LOL). I could have given that girl some roses for that compliment. She invited me to come and stay in her home up in Ratanakiri. I thanked her for her gracious hospitality.
So we got off near Atwood Business Center to go the ‘back’ way home, our usual route. It was getting dark by this time.
All of a sudden I have someone grab my arm and say “hello, I want to talk English with you. Please come visit my home.” This is how we met Mentang and his grandmother and mother, along with his brother, sister, aunt, and two cousins. Out came the chairs and some water and a very happy eager boy whose excitement was almost difficult to contain, but he was such a wonderful little guy of 12 who wanted to learn English so he could “travel to another country.” Needless to say he was very engaging, and much to our surprise, everything we talked to him about in English, he would quickly translate it to his grandmother and mom who were both sitting close by. There was a lot of nodding going on. While I have no clue as to the length of this conversation, fairly soon it was really dark out and then George said “you know we are going to eat dinner with them, right?” Hmmm I already ate dinner. Oh well.
Yup, and so the conversation, part two, was on the floor of his grandmother’s home, where he had come with his mom and siblings, to spend the day. I will let each of you take note of the variety of foods that was brought out by the photo. Interestingly Mentang disappeared for a while in the midst of all of this, leaving us on the floor waiting. Finally, I whispered his name aloud and he said “I am making you an egg all by myself and I will be there soon.” Proudly he shortly arrived with a bowl with a scrambled egg for us accompanied with a huge smile of satisfaction.
If I could march back a bit to the first part of this conversation when we are sitting in chairs in the front of the building, Mentang’s mom was full of questions too and interested in knowing what we were doing in Cambodia. We explained that we were Christians and had come to work in the villages with school development, farming and crops, and teach English, and tell people about Jesus. I happened to have on my ipad the photos of the previous day’s trip on a water well project in Kamphong Cham. She zeroed into those photos and came across the one I have enclosed here of the sign for the well with the cross and the word ‘Jesus’ on it. I think it was at that point she realized what the word Christian meant because it showed in her facial expression. “So, do you have to be a Christian to get one of these water wells” she asked? No was the answer that I gave her, explaining that these five or so families who received this well were not Christian. They needed clean safe drinking water and had no source for that choice in their village. There were no streams, lakes, or ponds in the area. “Oh,” she said with a huge smile. “You are a good person then that you can do that for these people.”
We left our card with her and Mentang and told them that we would come again to see them and practice more English with them. Mentang’s brother also has had some English instruction and tried it out with us as well.
So, is this the ‘in’ to the community that we prayed about and wanted to find, I’m not sure as I write this today. I do know that I am glad that I checked myself at the ‘back door’ to extend to this really brave young guy the courtesy of our time he obviously wanted. For only being age 12, he sure shows a lot of confidence and urgency to reach his dream. Yes, he attends a school here in Phnom Penh. He learns English there and said he has already had 5 years of study. Most people after that long usually do not master language at that depth. Yet he sure had. His family was very supportive and obviously very proud of his achievement thus far. I wonder what he told his English teachers at school today?
The five younger members of the family walked us all the way home just to be sure that we stayed safe. 🙂