Saturday, April 22, 2017

Zoe 3 Months and Ezra 3 Years

We've been experiencing the early rains foreigners call "mango rains" that come before rainy season in between humid, scorching days. School has returned to normal after the Khmer New Year holiday and time keeps marching on. Look at these kids!
Can you believe this very-loved baby is 3 months old already?
Both boys love her very much. It's sweet to see a new side of them, that will one day make them good fathers, emerge.
This boy turns 3 this weekend!
He is mischievous, curious, into everything (especially water lately: water hoses, bathroom sprayers, water bottles- and always making a mess) energetic and a sweetheart.

Thinking of the fear that accompanied his birth f(rom being forced to birth in a hospital so far from family and in a culture I had a hard time trusting) I am very thankful for the lesson in trust. Everything went perfectly. Looking back I see many things that worked out perfectly for his birth: the quick, 6-hour labor, the hospital leaving me alone and letting me sign refusal forms and then, this... He was born just a few months before my best friend died, and there's nothing so comforting as rocking a baby through your tears to find hope for the future.

Ezra means "God is my help" and that's what his birth and life so far have taught me. I'm sure I'll also need much more of God's help to raise this curious, energetic boy into adulthood! 😂

We love you, Ezra! Happy birthday!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Khmer New Year 2017

"Mama, take a picture of me with the two babies!"
This past week we've had a break from school for Khmer New Year. It is celebrating the end of harvest and the beginning of rainy season. Since we are almost finished with the paperwork process for Zoe, we needed to stick close to home still.
When you miss Spain and churros...
The people around us have given us lots of fruit, and some build mounds of fruit decorated with twinkling lights in their houses. Monks have walking around waiting for someone to pay them to chant a blessing over their new year.
New Year picnic on top floor balcony.
Monks then take feathers, dip them in water and flick it everywhere. Someone told me it's customary for Khmer to spray people who pass by with water during this holiday. Maybe that's why the kids come in SOAKED several times a day this week. I've tried to keep them dry since the boys have bad coughs and a weird rash, but that means they can't go outside. I've seen several neighbors with water hoses and the neighbor kids with big water guns.
Ezra enjoyed his Easter surprise.
So we have had picnics and races on the top floor where we dry our clothes. Since Khmer New Year also falls on Easter, Ben got the kids a surprise of Danish butter cookies and hot chocolate. They were excited.

Maybe if you are looking for a new chance to resume your January resolutions, you can celebrate Khmer New Year also. 

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Khmer Curry

There is an argument over who curry really belongs to, the English or the Indian, but today I'm going to show you a completely different version of curry; Khmer.
We started out chopping up lemon grass, turmeric, garlic, and some kind of fragrant leaf that I didn't know the name of, and the person teaching me only knew in Khmer. My friends told me it was Kaffir lime leaf.

We had some dried red peppers soaking while we did this. 

Next we blended up the lemon grass, turmeric, Kafir lime leaf, and garlic with..... roasted peanuts! Then, we blended up the red peppers. These two were kept in separate bowls.
Of course, anything Khmer style has all of the bones. They just chop it up, bone and all. We chose to do a chicken version.
One of the coconut vendors nearby had a machine to extract the juice and oil of  the coconut. We started by boiling a small bag of coconut oil/juice to evaporate the water and leave the coconut oil.
When it had evaporated, she added the blended up mixtures and some curry powder.
When the spices were cooked and fragrant, we added the chicken.
After the chicken was well on its way, we added a big bag of coconut milk, (being sure to discard the brown pulpy part in the bottom of the bag from the husk of the coconut) and let it boil a while.
Last, we added salt, a little teaspoon of sugar and vegetables. It is usually cooked with green beans, sweet potato or pumpkin, and onions. I made it with what we had, so regular potatoes, carrot, onion and green beans.

It is usually eaten over rice or with fresh baguettes from the local bakery. Everybody really liked it and asked if we can make it once a week!

Monday, April 3, 2017

Rain, Rides and Random Tidbits

April is usually the hottest month of the year here, making life miserable for the many who live in the provinces without air conditioning, but this month has been different. Rainy season has started a little bit early! This is good for a little cooler weather, but brings its own challenges with the downstairs of many homes flooding and the deep water making roads dangerous.
The buckets were to catch the water from the leaking pipe.

We have it better than many people, but when it rains hard the drain in the downstairs kitchen bathroom begins flooding the house with black stuff. One cleaning lady, for example, says they live with their bottom floor flooded for half of each year because of the poor drainage. Last Saturday it rained really hard and the kitchen flooded, not only the floor, but the sink drains had black stuff coming up out of them. And worms. Yuck. The worms were trying to crawl out of the sink. I kept washing them back down, but it wouldn't drain until much later when it stopped raining. The drain pipe under the sink chose that day to spring a leak along with one of the faucets. I'm thankful for bleach! Of course, people didn't stop getting hungry, so the dishes piled up until that got fixed. I'm thinking next time I should wash them in the bathroom. Though the water draining might still be a problem. I'm sure we'll figure something out.
You can't quite tell, but everything is covered in water...

Next week everyone has a week off for Khmer New Year. Elias and Ezra have been learning a song in Khmer at school.

Zoe smirking before her embassy appointment.
We had our appointment at the embassy to get Zoe her passport. It went smoothly and they said we should have it soon. On the way home it started raining. Most tuk tuks have canvas flaps that they pull down and velcro to the poles when it rains, but this tuk tuk didn't have them. We got a little wet, but after living in deserts, the rain is still nice. I do wonder if that's why Zoe has a cold today, though I kept her wrapped up in her blanket.
You've got to respect a man who can tune his ukulele while holding a baby.

Talia said they had a monkey fall out of a tree into the pool at their school. She was excited to report that monkeys can, in fact, swim, because he swam to the edge and climbed out.
Elias was proud of a sailboat he drew.

Our neighbors have two sons that are really nice and play with our kids. Their father was telling Benjamin about how school works for them here: His son rides his bicycle through city traffic to school and then pays to park it. Then, each day he must pay his teacher 1,000 riel. That adds up to about $5 a month. That doesn't sound like much, but it is for this country. Teachers only make $200 a month here, and that is after the recent raise from the government. That is barely enough for even a frugal Cambodian to make ends meet. Most people live with their families for this reason, in tall houses like this:
Crazy that you can see at least 7 different houses here. Some have more than one family inside.
If you live in a country where education is free, count your blessings!