Saturday, June 30, 2012

Happy Birthday Canada - Cambodian Style

Today it was fun to just relax and finally chill a bit after what has been a few hectic weeks. Tomorrow July 1st is Canada Day ---Canada's birthday, so Sreyhem one of consultants who has helped us immensely during the hiring process of our staff opened her house to the Ratanak staff and invited us all including family members to lunch.
Some of our Ratanak staff and their families!

In Canada normally everyone brings a dish but in Cambodia, entertaining and hospitality is a bit different. We were invited to come at around 10am for lunch and I was trying to figure out why we needed to go so early. As is typical of my ''western mindset'' ---- I was wondering what we would do for 2 hours---I'm so task oriented its sad! :-) Anyway, thankfully we have great staff who are teaching me much about Cambodian culture so I don't hopefully make any major faux paxs! Nary our Operations Manager explained to me that the reason we go early is to help prepare the food. In Cambodian culture, it is customary to go and help the hostess prepare the food, one does not just show up and eat! Drats :-).
Sophea and Sina our home advisors frying spring rolls and sampling them as well!
So some of our staff arrived ahead of time with their family members to help with the food preparation. Cambodian culture like many Asian cultures is a family affair and it was nice to meet and spend time with some of the extended family of our staff.

Soklin our counselor with her son
Sereyrom our Social Worker and Nary our Operations manager hanging out on the swing set
Sreyhem and Malak our Psychosocial Coordinator are actually cousins
Events like these provide a wonderful opportunity to bond and hang out together. It builds a spirit of unity and provides time to just sit and relax and enjoy each other's company instead of talking about work. Part of the recommendations to reduce the potential for burnout and reduce the stress is to have these kind of events where our staff can unwind with their family.

We are so thankful to Sreyhem who generously provided a place of refuge for all of us. She is married to a Canadian Mike who has lived in Cambodia for over 20 years. Being at their home which is outside the city is located in a place that is so quiet and peaceful that one can feel the serenity as soon as you step onto the property.
Sreyhem, her son Aaron and her husband Mike
Well lunch time was upon us and it was time to eat the Ban Xiao and spring rolls. For those who don't know what Ban Xiao is its an omelette that has pork, shrimp and vegetables in it. You wrap it in a lettuce leaf with some mint leaves and cucumbers and dip it into fish sauce. Its the perfect type of meal to eat when it is hot as it is light and yet healthy with all those veggies. Some Cambodians tend to cook their meals outside on a clay type pot--so there is an inside kitchen and an outside kitchen where the real cooking is done. One of the reasons of cooking outside is that the smell dissipates. Makes perfect sense!

Sreyhem's helper making the Ban Xiao outside over a clay pot

Lunch is ready!

Of course one has to have a bit of grease and so Sreyhem also had her helpers prepare fried spring rolls---I inhaled several of those as they taste so good. But such a meal would not be completed if we didn't have a bit of ''boratay (white) food'' on this Canada day so I ordered a cake from our friends at Bloom Cafe and brought some ice cream to celebrate Canada's birthday!

Happy Birthday Canada!
One of the joys of hanging out with the extended family of our staff is the opportunity to play with their babies! Yes my maternal instincts come out during such times as I have come to the conclusion that Cambodian kids are "one" of the cutests if not ''the" cutests babies in the world. I love their big eyes and long eye lashes. I would adopt them all if I could but one of the advantages of being an ''aunt'' is one gets to play with them and when you are tired, hand them back to their parents! :-) Its the best of both worlds!
Sereyrom our social worker and her daughter

All in all it was a fun filled day to eat and be merry. In the months to come as we open our RAP community home, our staff will be busy on a variety of levels. So we are grateful for today's activities which allow us to rest and relax. It is part of cultivating a sabbath heart --- something that is so often difficult to do in Cambodia because there is always work to do, yet, the importance of taking time to rest, to have a time out enables us to pace ourselves so that we do not burnout. Psalm 147:13-14 says: He strengthens the bars of your gates and blesses your people within you.He grants peace to your borders and satisfies you with the finest of wheat.  Thank you Lord for this time of rest in which You strengthen the bars of our gates and grant us peace and rest to recalibrate our souls for the journey you have set before us!

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