Friday, August 7, 2015

Jumping into the Light

It's been a little over a month since I visited Cambodia with 5 High School students and 4 other teachers. It was a memorable 2 week experience working with dedicated Khmer and expat people. Each person on my team from my school as asked to write a reflection of our time in Cambodia. I wanted to share it on my personal blog. To check out the other posts from my school's team here!

I didn’t know too much about Cambodia and its dark history before attending the summer service trip this year. As I prepared myself for this trip I looked up some interesting facts about Cambodia. Here are some that stuck out or surprised me.

-During the 4 year rule of the Khmer Rouge, one-fifth of Cambodia’s population was killed. They were mostly educated people, priests, and monks.

-Half of Cambodia’s current population is younger than 15 years old.

-Traditionally, birthdays are not celebrated in Cambodia. Older people might not even know their birthdays.

-The Cambodia flag is the only national flag that as an image of a building— the Angkor Wat.

-In recent times, the country’s biggest source of income has been the textile industry. The second largest source of Cambodia income is tourism.

Learning more about Cambodia’s history and actually seeing the Killing Fields and S21 was a shock to me. Khmer people in Cambodia and around the world are struggling to heal the painful scars from one of the worst genocides in modern times. So many people died within the 4 year reign of the Khmer Rouge, which decimated the Cambodia population and trapping the people left in terror. With a predominantly Buddhist culture, Cambodians struggle with the understanding of hope for the future. Many have never heard of grace. They have never felt forgiveness. They were left in the dark.

As many of the students and leaders mentioned on the trip, it is difficult for us to imagine a life without hope. Even though we live in China, all of our lives have been influenced by the Western world and perspectives. Many of us grew up with money, a home, an education, and a bright future. Because of the inconceivable poverty, the Cambodians turn desperate and turn to the only resource they think they have left: their bodies and/or children. Money traps trick women and girls in prostitution, where many parents often sell their young daughters for meager sums of money. The Cambodian boys and girls are traded as commodities and used to satisfy the twisted and sick desires of others. Many of them will never be to see the amount of money we have spent to even come to Cambodia. It was hard for me to see the young street kids already working their first “job” on the streets selling souvenirs and temple relics at ages 4-teens. Whereas I didn’t get my first job until I was a teenager. 


Even with this darkness glooming over the beautiful country of Cambodia, our team was able to work with some church groups and Christian NGOs to share with the Cambodian people there is a new hope through the grace and forgiveness of Jesus. We taught the at-risk street kids that every single life is precious by sharing the Gospel, singing worship songs, reciting Bible verses, and making art.

The song of the trip that basically became our theme song was “Jump Into The Light” by Jana Alayra. ( It is a catchy and uplifting tune with exciting hand motions that the kids of all ages loved learning in English. We sang it everywhere as a team. During classes, in the van, walking down the streets to dinner, etc. Kids would come up to us all the time singing it to us. Instead of the traditional “Hello” greeting at the door, the kids would greet us loudly with their new favorite song. The song has brought instant smiles for us as a team and for them. I’ve been teaching this song to my Kindergarteners for 2 years and I never imagined how much impact this one little song could have on me as I left Cambodia. This song will continue to give my heart an extra beat as I fond over this special memory of the worship song.

This bible verse has been stuck in my mind before, during, and after the trip.
Proverbs 31:8-9
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.

This verse I aspire to live my life by. To be the kind of woman, wife, and mother of God I want and strive to be. Jesus loves me. He loves you. He loves the high school students and staff who went on this trip. He loves the Khmer children and people. Sharing what I know about Cambodia and its people will help educate others what is really happening in this country. I promised my newly made friends I wouldn’t forget them when I left. How could I ever forget them when I learned how many of them still love God and strive to love him deeply every day even through their hardships.

As I have been reflecting on my time in Cambodia, I was realizing WE were the LIGHT for the Christians who live and work in Cambodia every day. We were not only serving the unbelievers but the believers who dedicated their whole life to help the Cambodians who are still lost in the darkness.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Happy Year of the Sheep/Ram/Goat! (Freebie)

Guo Nian Hao! aka Happy New Year!  Chinese New Year is the biggest holiday celebrated in China!  Many local schools take a whole month off to celebrate, visit family, or go on vacation.  Because my school already had 2 weeks off for the Christmas holiday in December, we get another 2 weeks off for Chinese New Year.  I love having this break!  Currently I'm on my second week off from school.  Last week I traveled to Chengdu, the city famous for the nation's beloved iconic animal, the Giant Panda.

Aren't they adorable?!

Couldn't resist only sharing one photo with you!

Every year, my school organizes an event at our school to celebrate our host country-- China.  We call it China day and set up the gymnasium with many different activities students and families can participate in.  We also let the kids dress up in traditional Chinese clothes or wear red.

Here's me and my class with a Sheep mascot. :)
I did many of the same activities I used last year with my current class.  Read my last year's post (CLICK HERE) of different ideas on what I did!

If you're still looking for an easy writing activity for your kids, I have a freebie for this year's Year of the Sheep.  Click on the picture below! 
Now I'm heading off to see more fireworks go off in my neighborhood!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

New Year, New Chapters of Life

I'm back out of the dark and ready to start sharing what has been happening in the middle kingdom!  With a new class this year, I ran into much higher demands from my students which set me back on the world of blogging.  I'll definitely need to find time to share all of the things I have been doing inside my classroom and living in China. 

Over Christmas break, I went back to the US to visit my family, boyfriend, and friends.  Literally as I landed in the O'Hare airport in Chicago, I saw my boyfriend and he immediately proposed to me!  When I replay that night, I kept thinking to myself it's just like in the movie Love Actually.  I was shocked since I thought he wouldn't propose until I came back to the states during the summer.  It was an awesome surprised since we were able to spend the rest of my Christmas break celebrating our newly engagement with family and friends. 

 I still can't believe I'm engaged to my new fiance!  I find myself staring at the new bling on my finger!  The long distance is hard but we are thankful and blessed our love is stronger than ever (We've been together for over 7 years!).  Because life is full of transitions, I'm now entering the zone of leaving my life in China well.  When looking at the calendar, I just realized I have about 5 more months living and working in China before I head back into the US to get ready to get married to a WONDERFUL man! 

It's hard to come to realization that from the moment I step onto that plane back to America, I'll always have a piece of me in China, a foot in my old life and another in my new life.  This verse (Genesis 2:24) resonated with me as I'm not only leaving my family to start a new one, I'm leaving my China family and China home as well.

Earlier this week, as I was doing calendar time with my students, it dawned on me that I need to break the ice and tell my current and former students that this is my last year at Tianjin International School.  That I won't be able to see them next year.  Even though it is not the first time I had to say good-bye to a school, students, or teacher friends, it is still painful and sad to say goodbye. 

All the time we make decisions, big ones and small ones.  As I'm getting used to my new BIG decision on leaving my China life and entering a new life of marriage, it's always tough to say goodbye to what was comfortable to me. 

"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LOrd, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope."   -Jeremiah 29:11