Southeast Asia Adventure

Katy, Alan, and Jonah: Visiting from Cambodia

You may remember these friends as the great people who helped show me around the beautiful country of Cambodia this past summer, from Angkor Wat to Battambang to Phnom Penh and Kep (photos of that are still to come).  Well, their family has since grown from this back in June:

IMG_3023

to this:

Beringer Family by JMP-10

They came home to the U.S. for Christmas and I had a great time catching up with them on a chilly Indianapolis day.  The weather didn’t cooperate much for an outdoor photoshoot, but we had fun nonetheless.  🙂

Here are a few more fun shots from our time at the beginning of this month.  Enjoy!

Beringer Family by JMP-1

This was what he was like when I first met him. We didn’t let it last long. 🙂

Beringer Family by JMP-7

Beringer Family by JMP-3

Beringer Family by JMP-9

Mass Ave Toys was a great place to warm up and check out some fun toys.  This little guy was very intent in checking out the world, with his fingers getting pretty close to pointing to the place where he was born… it’s like he knew.  🙂

Beringer Family by JMP-13

Such a contemplative look.

Such a contemplative look.

Beringer Family by JMP-22

Beringer Family by JMP-24

Beringer Family by JMP-25Beringer Family by JMP-28


The Market in Battambang, Cambodia- June 2012

The day after I went up the mountain to the Killing Caves outside Battambang, I was able to visit the Battambang market with a kind woman from the Green Mango Cafe & Bakery on her daily market run.  She has a very efficient system to her market run, which includes visiting regular vendors who she knows and having the Tuk Tuk driver appropriately parked and ready to come assist in retrieving the good when they’re ready.  She has friends with whom she leaves some of her buys to pick up on the way out, so she doesn’t have to carry everything around with her.  I appreciated her willingness to slow down a bit so I could capture some of the many sights of the market with my camera.  Please note that if you don’t enjoy the sight of raw meat, you may not want to proceed to some of the final photos… don’t say I didn’t warn you!  🙂

First, a photo of the lovely, kind woman who took me to the mountain and allowed me to tag along with her at the market the next day:

my wonderful market guide

my wonderful market guide

IMG_3771

IMG_3773

This is where the Tuk Tuk driver dropped us off.

IMG_3776

busy place

IMG_3780

IMG_3785

IMG_3787

IMG_3788

I have no idea how she sat there by the grill with long sleeves on in the Cambodian heat.

Yes, I believe those are yellow chickens... and yes, I wish that the pajamas as normal day wear trend would reach the U.S.

Yes, I believe those are yellow chickens… and yes, I wish that the pajamas as normal day wear trend would reach the U.S.

I love tropical fruit.

I love tropical fruit.

IMG_3799

IMG_3800

IMG_3801

Buddhists monks walk around in the mornings asking for donations for the temple.

I can't remember what these are... i think it might be some kind of fish paste?  Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.

I can’t remember what these are… i think it might be some kind of fish paste? Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.

IMG_3808

They sell everything!

They sell everything in those markets!

A meat section... not exactly the USA supermarket meat department!

A meat section… not exactly the USA supermarket meat department!

Yes, I did take a photo of the pig heads and I posted it here... just want you to get the full experience like I did!

Yes, I did take a photo of the pig heads and I posted it here… just want you to get the full experience like I did!

And finally we picked up a treat for the girls at the restaurant- fried bananas.

And finally we picked up a treat for the girls at the restaurant- fried bananas.


The Green Mango Cafe & Bakery in Battambang, Cambodia

As promised, it’s time to share about the great things happening in Cambodia that I was able to see this past June and July when I visited.  (Click here to see the previous posts from my trip, in succession.)

The Center for Global Impact has a fantastic thing going on in the city of Battambang in northern Cambodia.  Their website describes it well, so I’ll quote them here: “The Culinary Training Center (CTC) is the largest project undertaken by CGI to date. Students are enrolled in a two-year training program that will prepare them to enter into the most distinguished kitchens in Cambodia. The CTC plays a significant role in establishing a successful strategy for developing future employment opportunities for orphans, at-risk, and formerly trafficked women .”

My friends, Katy and Alan, and I were able to spend a few days in Battambang seeing The Green Mango Cafe & Bakery in action.  It was so fun to hang out with the head chef and teacher, Ryana, and get to know the girls in the school a bit. During those days, we ate a lot and I had a fun adventure at the market and on a bamboo train that I’ll post about in the future.  The food was SO delicious and the atmosphere was very comfortable.  It was fun to see how much business they were getting after the few short months they had been open.  Check out their website here.

I hope you enjoy a look at this great project that is providing work for some wonderful young women in Cambodia!  Oh, and since you probably can’t stop by for a food sampling anytime soon, please check out the Green Mango Cafe & Bakery Cookbook available for purchase here.  You won’t regret it!

IMG_4052

IMG_3615

PicMonkey Collage1

The food there is seriously delicious. I’m still craving the pickles and sauce (bottom left photo).  You really should go buy their cookbook (see link above).  🙂

IMG_3849

IMG_3621

IMG_3847

IMG_3857

They had a big group that day!

IMG_3865

IMG_3828

Chef and teacher, Ryana, does a great job keeping things running smoothly.

IMG_4055

The girls are able to build relationships with each other and volunteers. Through the school, they also have life skills and English classes, culinary teaching, and devotional times with mentors.

IMG_3743

They sell byTavi items there, another project of The Center for Global Impact.

IMG_3923

Place-mats out to dry.

IMG_3620

This makes you want to go buy the cookbook now, doesn’t it?

IMG_3540

The tuktuk is a moving advertisement for them. It goes to the market at least once a day! Stay tuned for a blog post about the sights, sounds, and smells of a Cambodian market. 🙂


Cambodia: …the Bad and the Ugly

As promised, this is the last post about the negative things I saw in Cambodia, with many beautiful and hopeful posts coming soon about all the great things happening there.  🙂

As I’ve mentioned before (click here to see previous posts), I was a bit surprised to find that Cambodia wasn’t as much like Thailand as I’d expected it to be.  There are a lot of similarities, but I didn’t expect Cambodia to be as underdeveloped as it appeared to me.  After learning about the effects of the Khmer Rouge’s rule on the country in the 70’s, it made more sense to me.  Cambodia has had a lot to overcome.

Below are some photos of some living conditions I was able to see in Phnom Penh.  It is known that some young women from this neighborhood have been sold into prostitution to help earn money for their family.  I was able to see some organizations that are working with people from this exact neighborhood, so that was encouraging.  I’ll be posting about that organization soon.    This web page explains Cambodia’s poverty situation in an understandable way (over 30% of Cambodians live below the poverty line).  The rural areas are even more affected by poverty as their traditional agricultural methods that don’t produce for quick profit.

This is the home of one of the girls being helped by a program that provides training and work for young women at risk of being sold into prostitution.

Another sad part of Cambodia’s story is its high rate of human trafficking.  Last fall, my friend led a book study on the book Not For Sale by David Batstone.  This book is very eye-opening to the problem of present-day human slavery all over the world.  The projects I visited, associated with the Center for Global Impact, and many others are working to fight against this problem.  Specifically in Cambodia, there is a problem with children being sold into prostitution.  Of Cambodia’s 15,000 prostitutes, 35% are under the age of 16 (click here for the source of this statistic and more information).  Here are some of the sights I saw that opened my eyes to this heart-breaking problem.

A sign in my hotel in Siem Reap

Sign from another hotel where I stayed in Battambang

Nighttime in Siem Reap on Pub Street

Pub Street in Siem Reap

One of the “motels” outside Phnom Penh

One of the “motels” outside Phnom Penh

One of the “motels” outside Phnom Penh

One of the karaoke bars near the airport that are known more for the prostitution available in the area than actual karaoke.

A karaoke bar near the airport where the women are lined up in chairs every night, basically a modern day brothel…

So, poverty and young women being sold into prostitution… sorry about the downer post.  However, there’s good news!  Organizations like Center for Global Impact, Hagar International, International Justice Mission, and many others are working to both help prevent and rescue women from this modern day slavery.  Just last night I heard an amazing woman, Somaly Mam, speak here in Indianapolis about her own experience of being sold in Cambodia’s sex trade as a little girl and now she’s helping save and assist in the recovery of thousands of girls.  Learn more about her organization by clicking here or read her book, The Road of Lost Innocence.  Stay tuned for more photos of beautiful Cambodia and the great things going on there.


The Killing Fields of Choeung Ek

Continuing the effort to get the sad posts over with, here is what I documented from the Killing Fields just outside of Phnom Penh, Cambodia.  Much like the previous post about the S21 prison in Phnom Penh, I must preface this by saying that some of the pictures and explanation below are graphic and tragic, so don’t feel pressured to continue looking.  The quick version is that the Khmer Rouge used this place to exterminate about 17,000 people who first went through  S-21 (Tuol Sleng prison) between 1975 and 1978.
The extermination camp of Choeung Ek is located about 15 km from central Phnom Penh.  It used to be a Chinese graveyard before the Khmer Rouge took over that area to dispose of people who didn’t fit into their plan for Cambodia.  Remains of thousands of people have been found in mass graves in this area.  In 1988, the Memorial Stupa was built with more than 8,000 skulls as a memorial to the victims.  I’ll allow the pictures to speak mostly for themselves.  Click here for Wikipedia’s information about the killing fields.  There was also a well-known movie called The Killing Fields made about the Khmer Rouge.  Thanks for bearing with me with these tough posts.  There are many hopeful projects and beautiful things about Cambodia to still share!

In an attempt to save bullets, they used things like trees to kill people.

Sites of some of the mass graves

There was an audio tour to listen to while walking around the area, including many survivors’ stories of the horrors that took place here.

The Memorial Stupa

The Memorial Stupa

There are more than 8000 skulls arranged by sex and age in the Memorial Stupa

In the museum, they had artifacts and information about many of the people killed by the Khmer Rouge.

These are the clothes that all prisoners and workers had to wear during the Khmer Rouge’s leadership of Cambodia.

The leader of the S-21 prison was recently convicted of his crimes.

Click here to see a video of his admittance of guilt in what happened at the prison.

Below are descriptions of sites on the land.

Discovery of a mass grave

Stay tuned for more information about the many ways the Khmer people are moving on from this horrible time

and all the great things that are happening now in Cambodia.


Cambodia: Tuol Sleng Museum (S-21 Prison)

Like ripping off a band-aid quickly, I’ve decided to post all of the sad stuff I saw in Cambodia in a row to get it out of the way.  As I continue to share Cambodia through my lens (click here to see previous posts), I do think it’s important to learn from history and not just brush over atrocities such as this.  I wanted to get a full look at what makes Cambodia the place it is and this is part of it.  Just a couple more posts of the bad and then I’ll post all the great, hopeful, beautiful things I saw.  So please stay-tuned!  The best is yet to come.  🙂

When I arrived in Cambodia, I was expecting it to be pretty similar to Thailand (where I spent the summer of 2003).  I was surprised to find that Cambodia seemed less developed than Thailand overall.  After learning more about the effect of the Khmer Rouge’s rule in the 70’s, it made a lot more sense.  When almost a quarter of a country’s population gets wiped out in four year period, it’s no wonder that it’s taking a while to get back on their feet.

When in Phnom Penh, my friends were gracious enough to accompany me on a very tough day visiting the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and The Killing Fields outside the city.  This post documents what I saw at the S-21 Prison, now called the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum.  Please know that some of the descriptions and photos below could be considered graphic and are very sad.
I am no expert on the Khmer Rouge and I realize that I cannot explain everything about it in this little blog post, so please feel free to do some research on your own if you’d like more information.  I read the book First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung and was given a heart-wrenching look into one girl’s experience living through the Khmer Rouge rule from 1975-1979.  Netflix also has a documentary on this specific prison.  Click here for Wikipedia’s information about the Khmer Rouge.  Basically, the Khmer Rouge, led by Pol Pot, took over Cambodia to restructure it into a peasant-dominated agrarian cooperative.  They had to get rid of much of the population to accomplish this goal.  Much of my information about this comes from what I learned from the Lonely Planet Cambodia guidebook, by the way.

Tuol Sleng was Tuol Svay Prey High School until the Khmer Rouge took it over and turned it into a prison in 1975.  From then until 1978, over 17,000 prisoners were taken through the school’s corridors before being taken to the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek (which I will post about soon) where the majority of those prisoners were killed.  Much like the Nazis, the leaders of the Khmer Rouge kept very detailed records of each prisoner who went through S21.  The museum was full or photos of men, women, and children who were brought there.  Virtually all of them were killed soon after.

I found Tuol Sleng to be a very disturbing and sad experience.  It quickly brought to mind other stories of genocide that have occurred across the world and throughout history.  The evil human beings are capable is almost inconceivable, yet there are evidences of it everywhere.  It’s hard for me to know what more to say about that except that seeing things like this reminds me once again how much we need God and how thankful I am for His work in the world through Christ.  As I said before, the positive stories are coming soon, so please stick around!

Until then, I’ll let these photos speak for themselves.

Hard to believe an educational institution could turn into a place of such sadness.

No laughing- though I can’t imagine anyone being tempted to do that in this place.

Looking through a cell door

It felt strange to look at the beautiful green and flowery trees and to think about how the prisoners must have felt about this place.

By far, the most heart-wrenching part of this visit was seeing all the photos of prisoners, men, women, children, and babies who came through those gates.  Seeing the look in their eyes as they anticipated what to come led me to tears.  I can’t imagine the horror they went through.

This shows how every prisoner was forced to be photographed with a contraption holding their head up behind them.

The Khmer Rouge tried to wipe out the educated class, so people had to try to hide the fact that they were educated to escape being killed. This man was a doctor of law.

Remains and a memorial for those killed

Many of these leaders have not yet been prosecuted for the atrocities that occurred so many years ago…


Cambodia: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Sorry, it’s been a while since I’ve posted about the trip… I continue to struggle with figuring out how to balance teaching full-time, editing photos, sleeping, sharing about my experience in Cambodia, etc.  I might figure this out sometime in the near future.  🙂

As you can imagine, sharing about a culture and travel experience through photos is a challenge.  It’s difficult to present a cohesive narrative, so I appreciate your willingness to follow along with the randomness of some of my posts.  Click here to see previous posts from my trip.

When I was given the opportunity to go to Cambodia, I told my friends who live there that I wanted to experience as much as I could of life there: including the good, the bad, and the ugly (knowing that all countries and cultures have good and bad to discover).  The day I’m presenting to you on this post included all of those things.  While in Battambang, I was given the opportunity to visit the Killing Caves of Phnom Sampeau.  A lovely Khmer woman from CGI came with me in the TukTuk and helped me find my way there.  I experienced a lot of the good of Khmer culture and country and some of the bad and ugly too… a typical Camobian pop bottle gas station, a moto ride, nice and helpful people, seeing beautiful artistry and a beautiful view of the countryside, and a very sad visit to a cave where thousands of killings took place in the 70’s.

Once arriving at the bottom of the mountain (or some may call it a really big hill… it’s about 12 km from Battambang), the next leg of the journey involved riding a moto up to the temple (with apologies to my father who is not a fan of such unsafe transportation!).  We had to stop for gas from the roadside “gas station” (aka old pop bottles filled with gasoline of varying types for easy moto fill-up).

A Khmer “gas station”

Filling up for our ride up the mountain.

Once there, I was able to see a freshly painted Buddhist temple still under construction.

This type of scaffolding was common throughout the country.

Then my guide led me to the Killing Caves of Phnom Sampeau.  This is a cavern area where the Khmer Rouge performed about 10,000 killings of Khmer people by throwing them off a ledge and into the cave below (please be aware that some of the photos below are very sad and disturbing).  The cave is now the home of a reclining Buddha and a memorial to the people killed there in the late 70’s.

A painting depicting the killings performed by the Khmer Rouge in that location

At the top of the staircase looking down toward the cave.

Before going down the stairs

Part of the memorial

The original memorial.

The new memorial stuppa

Sadly this is just a small representation of those who were killed in that place.

The official memorial

Looking up at the skylight through which people were thrown.

It was tough to process all of my thoughts and emotions as I left such a solemn place where such horrific things happened and then go up to the summit of the hill and see this beautiful view:

The valley below

There are some really great legends about these hills involving chickens, women, crocodiles, and other fun stories. I wish I could remember the details as they were pretty entertaining stories.

I’m not really sure how to close this post.  There really are no words to describe the sadness of seeing an example of what’s left behind from man’s inhumanity to man (something found throughout the world, not just in Cambodia).  Knowing there will be more posts about the bad and ugly that I saw in Cambodia, I can share that, overall, I experienced such good in Cambodia that I left feeling hopeful.  Stay tuned for the hopeful and thanks for bearing with me through the bad and the ugly.