My teammate and I recently adventured to a new country for some much needed rest. We didn’t do a lot in the way of sight-seeing or tourist-y things, but here are a few of my favorite gifts from our trip.
We stayed at a retreat center on an island a 45-minute ferry ride away from the hustle and bustle of the city of Hong Kong, where the narrow streets were too small for cars and bird calls that we couldn’t identify woke us each morning. It was a steep hike up from the main village, and we were always amazed by what creatures we might see crossing our path: lizards with bright blue tails, fat bamboo snakes and other varieties of various sizes, and lots of toads. There is almost constant noise where I live and sometimes I don’t realize it until I am in a place where I can hear myself think.
Every night we gathered for a community dinner with a home cooked meal and new friends to meet. “Have you been down the trail to see the ‘Little Great Wall’,” one of the women asked us as we waited for the bell to ring to signal it was time to eat. She promised to take us and so after our plates were cleared we hiked down a path that wound around toward the shore. The next morning I set off to follow our footsteps from the night before, and I found a little side trail that led to a large rock overlooking the water. With the ocean breeze in my face, my heart open to whatever my Father might speak, this became one of my favorite spots during our stay. I’m not sure I came to any fantastic conclusions there but it was a special spot for communing with the Creator of the beauty I saw around me.
We were on our own for lunches, so one day we packed a picnic of deli turkey (I honestly can’t remember the last time I had such a treat!), cheddar cheese, carrot sticks, and potato chips, and wandered down one of the trails to see if we could find a lonely beach spot. We thought we would find it one direction, but then realized we were heading up instead of down and that wasn’t going to work. The other direction produced what we thought was a dead end, but then we realized if we climbed over a little fence there was a flat rock that might make a good eating spot. We were greeted with a stunning view of the water and rocks below, and there was even a perfect little table for our food. After enjoying our lunch and the view, we hopped back over the fence and found a sign that said specifically not to go beyond the fence. Oops! Oh well, it was worth it. 🙂
Maybe it is because I spent 5 years in the metropolis of Dallas, but I have a special place in my heart for skyscrapers outlined against a bright blue sky. We took a ferry ride back to the city to meet up with some new friends, and I loved seeing the view as we arrived. Finding a mall with an amazing health food and gluten-free section just down from the ferry pier was pretty exciting as well.
Because we are in the midst of a drought in Cambodia, everything is brown and dead. It was a treat to live in the bright greens of trees and soft blue of the water. Boats of all shapes and sizes added brilliant color to the landscape. It was lovely!
After 2 weeks in more developed countries and temperatures in the 70s and 80s F, entering the oppressive heat and dusty chaos of Cambodia was hard. We squeezed into the back seat of our taxi bound for Battambang, our luggage stuffed in the trunk and our fellow passengers’ chickens tied securely on the top of it all. First they stared at us, making comments in Khmer until they realized we could understand. Then came the questions we have heard thousands of times: “You are sisters, yes? Twins? When will you marry a Cambodian husband?” I seriously considered seeing if I could make an escape out the side door, pondering broken bones and how to tuck and role successfully. But then the driver stopped for yet another smoking break and we all sort of bonded over our desire to get to our destination. Rice cakes with coconut and palm sugar, and hot, fresh ears of corn were passed our way and we all snacked and gave grace when someone needed to shift to a more comfortable position, and I found my heart softening just a bit. This life is not easy, no, but even in the chaos there are gifts.