Merry Christmas From Across the World

Trip Start Sep 30, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas!

It is Christmas day and we have experienced so much here in Cambodia. It has been interesting, great and very difficult without family, but it is an experience we will never forget.

Although the people of Cambodia do not celebrate Christmas, they do put out decorations for the tourists along the 'touristy' streets here. We managed to find a large and beautiful Christmas Tree inside a store, as well as Santa and his sleigh set up outside of one of the grander hotels. Without the snow, it is quite different, but it was very special to see these decorations in a country so different from our own, and they were welcome sights that made us feel a bit more like the Christmas's we miss so very much at home.

December 23rd was the day that Maria was having her huge Christmas Feast with her family, and we were invited. Maria's house was quite full as she was hostess to her parents, Jake and Trix, her aunt and uncle, Barbara and Martin, her collegues family, Eric, Katia, Tibeau & Lucas (their two boys) as well as Eric's parents from Holland. It was a great family atmosphere! We arrived at her house on our rented bicycles and were welcomed with Hot Chocolate. Some minor set backs tried to get in the way, such as Maria's oven didn't want to cook the Turkey! Katia saved the day by letting us use her oven.

For Christmas Eve, we were once again invited to join Maria for part of the day. We found ourselves at a church with chairs outside and a 'tent' set up to create more shade. This was the youth celebration. Maria has taught some of the youth here how to play instruments, and boy do they love it. The youth led the singing and basically ran things on there own, it was really neat to see. They were all between the ages of 12 and 17 or so. We have some video of this, because we want you to experience the noise level that we endured for the four hours that we were there. (The music didn't stop the entire time, except for the message). Just a warning, when you view some of the videos, you might want to turn the volume down a bi, we think our hearing may be permanently damaged!! Hee, Hee. The youth finished with a gift exchange, and then they kept on celebrating into the night and past midnight. Maria kindly dropped us off at our hotel, and we made plans to meet up with her later the next day for Christmas service.

That evening, just the two of us went out for drinks and appetizers. There is a street near our hotel that is called "Pub Steet". It is just that. All the way down this small street is pubs with staff trying to coax people in by offering the many specials that they have for that evening. We settled in at "The Funky Buddha", and enjoyed some beers and cocktails. I have to say, I miss my long island iced teas, but the vodka and orange juice was just fine considering they were about $1.00 each. Trevor's beers are usually $0.50 each, but being as it was Christmas, we payed a whopping $0.75! All of the staff along this street wore santa hats or reindeer antlers. There was even one man dressed as Santa! We finished our evening with some ice cream and hit the hay for a busy Christmas Day.

So far it has been a very different Christmas day indeed. Our day began with a bike ride to the church, where we joined Maria and her congregation. We arrived before Maria and were the only white people in the church. We walked in, only to be stared at by about 50 Cambodians, fully turned in their seats. They were very friendly and we learned quickly that a greeting here is easily done by putting your hands (palms) together, as if praying, infront of your face and giving a very slight bow or nod of your head. We were always given a huge smile and the same gesture right back. The service started off with singing. LOUD LOUD LOUD singing and music. We do not know why they have it so loud, neither does Maria, but she says they will not turn it down, no matter what she tells them! One song was "Joy To The World" and it was nice to have a tune that we recognized and could sing along in English, even though they sang it in Cambodian.

Following the singing, some young children performed some dances. They were very cute and had obviously practiced for this day. We have some pictures and video for you all to see. Once the dancing was finished, Maria's father went up to deliver the message. It was very nice for us because he spoke in English, and it was then translated into Cambodian, so we got to hear a Christmas message in English on Christmas Day. Immediately following the message, we slipped out to find a phone as it was time for us to call home. It was almost 11:00am here, and that meant that it was close to 9:00pm at home, and we had loved ones waiting to hear from us. We did manage to get through, and we treasure the time we had to hear their voices on Christmas day! It was pretty difficult to be away at this time though, and there were moments with tears. We are so blessed to have such wonderful families that love us so much and that we love so much.

We have seen so many interesting things and are very grateful to have been invited to share in the celebrations here. It has still been quite difficult for us though, as we greatly miss spending the holidays with our families. This is why we are also so grateful to have been invited to share Christmas with Maria and her family. She played hostess to her parents, her aunt and uncle and us. It was wonderful to be around a family at this time. Maria got some unexpected visitors Christmas Night, however, and we weren't sure there would be enough food, so Trevor and I, along with Martin and Barbara, (Maria's aunt and uncle), slipped out and had supper together at a pretty little restaurant. By the time we returned, the visitors were gone, and there were leftovers waiting for us! I have to tell you, as much as we would have loved to dig into that turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy and all the rest of the incredible food from our Christmas feast on the 23rd, we simply couldn't fit anymore into our bellies...until the cheesecake came out. One word: Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!

We finished Christmas evening singing carols together as Maria played the keyboard and Trevor strummed the guitar. It was a great night!

Hugs and Love on this Christmas Day!
Dana and Trevor
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