New season, new challenges

It’s been a big last two and a half months and we have much to report! I (Zoe) completed my first full term at ACE and the second term has just begun. At the end of last year,  Simon connected with coffee roaster and cafe owner Gus down in the riverside city of Kampot just south of Phnom Penh. We visited him at his business Cafe Espresso Kampot and from there, Simon became the Siem Reap distributor of Rumblefish Specialty Coffee. Simon now supplies five cafes (Seraiah, The Hive, Common Grounds, Blend and Pages) with coffee beans and also has some regular expat clients who get coffee beans on a weekly basis. Since arriving in Siem Reap, we have seen a big swing in the quality of coffee in Siem Reap. This has been a great job for Simon as he loves coffee and gets to interact with baristas and cafe owners, he has been training the staff at Common Grounds for the past month, and has enjoyed seeing them get more excited about making better coffee.

Rumblefish Coffee beans, Simon’s coldbrew concentrate and cold brew milk and black coffee.

We welcomed our puppy Wombat into the family at the beginning of February and he has provided much entertainment and love since then.

Wombat after bath time!

During March we had a ball with our friend Pip staying with us and a wonderful holiday and visit from my parents.

Outside Angkor Wat with Mum and Dad!
Cruising Tonle Sap with Pip!

Since the middle of March the temperature has really started to climb and it has been hard to find relief from the heat and humidity between power outages and electricity-hungry airconditioners! The hot season is unforgiving and many locals say even they never get used to it! Easter is largely a non-event in Cambodia, being a predominantly Buddhist country. We missed the traditions surrounding the remembering of Jesus’ death and resurrection – no hot cross buns, easter eggs or public holidays! Cambodia’s focus at the beginning of April was instead the lead up to Khmer New Year, one of the most important events on the Cambodian calender. This is the third and biggest lot of new year celebrations so far this year, having already celebrated ‘International’ New Year (January 1) and Chinese New Year (mid February). Many Khmer travel back to their homeland to celebrate the new year with family, food, ceremonies and dancing!

Traditional dance for Khmer New Year

It’s been a great year so far and we’re so thankful for all the amazing people we’ve met and the experiences we’ve had. We came to a cross roads about 2 months ago, we found a great location to open a small espresso bar and organic market, and came close to signing the lease. We thought this could have been the opportunity we were looking for. We both really wanted to start a business, but were also drawn to the idea of starting a family together. We chose to have a family first and are now expecting our first child in November!

Baby CJ
Baby CJ

What we didn’t expect when we made this decision would be the change in perspective that knowing you will be responsible for the life of a young child would bring (everyone now chuckle at our naivety!). We started to think about access to healthcare, proximity of grandparents and uncles and aunties, and realised that all these things we grew up with, we also wanted our own child to have. So at the end of June we will be returning to Australia on a one way ticket. While it’s sad to leave, the friends we’ve made and the opportunities that could have been, we don’t think we have been part of a wasted experience, to live overseas even for a short amount of time is to gain experience and knowledge which is priceless. We are so deeply thankful for everyone who has supported, prayed and thought of us through our adventure in Cambodia and we look forward to the next adventure that we know our great God has planned for us.

If you pray, please pray for:
– the packing up process, selling things and organising shipping back to Australia
– Zoe and baby CJ’s health
– Cambodia and it’s people
– job opportunities for both of us in Australia
– wisdom for the many small decisions involved in relocating

Zoe, Simon and Baby CJ x

Happy Busy New Year!

We’ve been living in Siem Reap for almost 4 months now and it feels as if we have moved into second gear! Both of us are working now, we have made some good friends, and our business ideas are starting to take shape.

At the beginning of January, Zoe started full-time work teaching English at the Australian Centre for Education. She now starts her first class at 6:00am three times a week, and doesn’t get home till 8:30pm (thankfully with 2 breaks throughout the day). While this is keeping Zoe busy, she still manages to find time to shop for and prepare her dips and nut butters for the Sunday morning farmer’s market.
About two months ago, a weekly Sunday farmer’s market started in the centre of town. We took a chance and decided to start making dips, nut butters and other delicious whole or raw produce. There has been a positive response at the markets as there is a lack of fresh and healthy homemade products in Siem Reap. Every Saturday we work in the kitchen, using our Magimix to create naturally gluten free, dairy free and sugar free products to sell. We’ve called it Siem Reap Wholefoods.

Siem Reap Wholefoods

I (Simon) have been busy building up my own small business. Over a week ago, I finished up a short term contract with an Australian couple to help them open a café. It was a fun experience as well as a “learning” experience. I now have a greater idea of what it will take to open a small business in this town. I am thankful Jeremy and Kelly gave me the chance to work for them, and am confident they are happy with how it all worked out. When you visit Siem Reap, make sure to put Seraiah Cafe and Community Centre on your list of cafes to visit. Since finishing up there, I have started focusing on supplying fresh roasted coffee to local cafes. Through a connection I made with a fellow coffee geek in another part of Cambodia, I am now the supplier of Rumble Fish Specialty Coffee in Siem Reap. I already supply coffee to a number of cafes in town, and am looking to increase my clients. I love the taste of this coffee and hope to help other cafes in Siem get excited about serving great coffee.

Through the Sunday market, we have met some great people, and have ideas collaborate with them in the future. We’re eager to open a shop to make a home for my speciality coffee and our wholefoods products. More info coming soon!

We have settled in to a church called Christian Fellowship of Siem Reap. It is an English speaking Church, pastored by Ivor Greer from Ireland (he gave me plenty of grief when the Wallabies lost to Ireland last year). As the church is an international church, it has been great to worship with fellow Christians from all different backgrounds and experiences. I have been asked to play percussion and guitar on separate occasions, and think this will happen again in the future.

Our Khmer lessons have been going well. We have a great teacher who has also become our friend. Zoe is a fast learner and has almost caught up to me!

At the beginning of the year we listed our spare room on AirBNB . It’s been great fun to show people around our new home. We’ve already hosted 3 times!

Our spare room listed on AirBNB!
Our spare room listed on AirBNB!

Zoe’s leg has fully healed (albeit a mean scar!) and she is now getting around on her own motorbike. She rides to and from work in the dark and is confident on the busy main roads too!

Zoe's motorbike
Zoe’s motorbike

We also celebrated our first wedding anniversary earlier this month! It’s been a busy start to the year, but we wouldn’t have it any other way! We’re incredibly thankful for the people we’ve met and the experiences we’ve had so far in Siem Reap. If you are a praying person, please pray for:

• Wisdom in making business decisions
• Patience
• Good communication
• Language learning

Simon

Thanksgiving!

We have never really celebrated Thanksgiving. Not because we don’t like the idea, but because it’s never been apart of the way we grew up in Australia. Since moving to Siem Reap, we’ve started to get to know a few of the many Americans living here, and hence, how important Thanksgiving is to them. What a wonderful thing it is to take a moment to intentionally reflect on what we are thankful for. It’s been a rollercoaster month of busyness! So much has happened. This is what we are particularly thankful for:

A place to live
After looking at many places, we eventually found a house we felt we could call home. It’s a two-bedroom house with lots of trees and plants surrounding it. Our landlords live in the house next door and they are lovely! What an answer to prayer! Con and Vy, our landlords, have two sons in primary school, Preyo and Preya. They have been very welcoming to us and Vy regularly knocks on our door with delicious homemade Khmer desserts and snacks!

Sweet corn in coconut milk
Sweet corn in coconut milk
Tiny fried fish and vegetable soup
Tiny fried fish and vegetable soup

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Safety and protection
Three weeks ago, I (Zoe) was ambitiously trying to get our motorbike out of a ditch in front of our place when I revved a little too much, the bike flew forward without me and the kickstand caught my leg on the way through. This resulted in quite a large deep wound. Thankfully, it was a public holiday and Con and Vy were home at the time. Simon rushed outside, as well as most of the neighbours on our street to see what had happened. Con swiftly organised a tuktuk from down the road to take us to the international hospital. Con came with Simon and I to the hospital and was very caring and supportive. I was quickly attended to at the hospital with stitches and pain relief. When we arrived home, Vy washed my feet before I went inside, as I couldn’t do it myself. This was an incredibly humbling experience, as it would be in any culture, but especially in Cambodia as feet are considered the dirtiest and least sacred part of the body. Three weeks on, the stitches are out, a mean scar is developing and I’m walking almost normally!

How to elevate an injured leg in a tuktuk!
How to elevate an injured leg in a tuktuk!


Work

This week I started two jobs. The first is a two-week contract teaching an intensive English course for 18 staff at the Angkor National Museum. It was originally spread out over one month, but I had to postpone the course for two weeks after my accident. I’m so thankful that the museum was so flexible. I am also covering a few classes at ACE for the last two weeks of the term. I will start full time at ACE in the new term in January. It has been great to be able to ease back into work after my accident and having some time to settle in and set up our life in Siem Reap!

Simon has started working as Coffee Consultant. He has just begun a contract with an Australian couple to help them set up their new café in Siem Reap. From everything to sourcing a coffee machine to training the new staff, Simon is their man! Simon is looking to do similar work in the future as well as in-house training for existing cafes and hotels. At the same time, he is busy making connections and researching for our own venture!

Our new home in Siem Reap!
Our new home in Siem Reap!

We have so much more to be thankful for. We meet great people on a daily basis here in Siem Reap and have been blessed to join a bible study with like-minded people. This week we also started Khmer language lessons…stay tuned on our progress!

If you pray, we’d love prayer for:

  • Zoe’s leg to continue to heal
  • Simon’s work as a Coffee Consultant
  • New friendships and faith community

Thank you to everyone who has checked in with how we’ve been going, especially after my accident! We encourage you all to reflect on what you can be thankful for too.

Zoe

Five days, five observations

We made it to Siem Reap, Cambodia! It was so hard to say ‘see ya later’ to our family and friends in Australia. After a frustrating saga of last minute flight time changes and delays, we had pleasant and safe flights to Melbourne and then Bangkok, a four-hour bus trip to Poipet (where Simon lived back in 2012) to cross the border, and then a two-hour taxi to Siem Reap! It’s taken us a good five days to get our energy back from our journey here!

Meet Basil – a typical Cambodian dog (unidentifiable breed)

We’ve already met some great people and have been so generously welcomed by Scott, Janelle, Rosie, Isaac and Cate (and pets Basil and Cinder) who are letting us stay with them until we find our own place. It’s been super to find some fellow card and board game lovers! Thanks guys!

We’ve packed a whirlwind of new experiences into less than a week! So here are five things that have stood out to me (Zoe) since we arrived five days ago…

A traditional Khmer breakfast – yum!


Attack on the senses

Siem Reap, and Cambodia as a whole is definitely a sensory experience! The heat and humidity hits you as soon as you step off the plane. I think I’ve sweat more in the last five days than in one Australian summer! Consequently, cold showers have become a welcome relief for a sticky sweaty body, although they are still, well…cold! My nose has experienced many new smells, most of them pleasant! The constant buzzing sounds of motorbikes, construction and chanting is a change from the relative quietness of Seven Hills in Sydney. My stomach is getting used to some new foods (thankfully no stomach aches yet!). Simon and I have enjoyed a traditional Khmer breakfast the last two mornings which consists of rice with pork, a fried egg and some vegies, as well as clear soup and a cold drink for only $1! Lastly, my eyes have had the privilege of taking in the sights and landscapes of Siem Reap – the bustling markets, crazy traffic and leafy riverside.

Organised chaos
I’m sure a lot of you have seen photos or videos of traffic chaos in cities of South East Asia, some of them might even have been Siem Reap! Simon and I have been out riding on a motorbike multiple times a day since we arrived and I’ve come to the conclusion that yes, the traffic is chaos, but it’s organised chaos. Impossible, I hear you say! Well, there are a few unofficial ‘guidelines’ that Siem Reap residents follow…most of the time:

  1. Drive/ride on the right side of the road. Unless you’re turning left and couldn’t make it across in time or if your left hand turn is coming up in less than 5 minutes or if you prefer to drive/ride down the dividing line and weave in and out.
  2. Wait your turn. Unless you’re in a rush and the traffic light colour is unwelcome advice or you’ve been waiting too long.
  3. Don’t miss your go. If you miss your go, see above.
    Siem Reap’s organised chaos – bicycles, motorbikes, tuk tuks, cars and trucks ‘interpreting’ the traffic ‘rules’!

    Resourcefulness
    Along with photos of chaotic traffic, you’ve probably seen photos of hugely overloaded bicycles or motorbikes piled with whole soccer teams or a year’s supply of something. Khmer people are highly resourceful. Not much goes to waste if it can be repaired, washed, reused or upcycled in some way. After only a few days I’ve been challenged to change some of my wasteful habits (more on this another time).

A typical mini petrol station (reusing soft drink & spirit bottles) and a fully loaded cart!

Mystery
You never quite know what is going to happen or what you’ll get in Siem Reap. Riding around with a real estate agent looking at potential places to live has been a mysterious experience. We might have told one real estate man quite clearly what kind of place we were looking for, but that didn’t deter him from taking us to several places that were out of our budget, too far away or too small. It’s all part of the adventure, and we were able to laugh it off and move on to the next place that was out of our budget, too far away or too small!

Dusty streets, leafy riverside and bustling traffic!

Contrast
This is a city of contrast. There are lots of cheap things ($1 breakfast) and things that are very expensive (decent red wine). Some people live in big multi-storey houses and some in small one room tin sheds. There are things that are very easy to find (bottles of water) and other things that are very rare (pants that fit me!). It can be deafening when shops play loud karaoke style music to attract/deter customers, and peacefully quiet just 5 minutes away in a hammock under a tree.

All these things and so much more (that I am yet to discover) make Siem Reap such a quirky, interesting, lively and rich place to be! I love it so far and look forward to learning and experiencing more and more (you can experience all of the above too if you come and visit us!).

If you pray, we would love prayer for finding a place to live and for finding jobs!

Joup knear bel krowy!

Zoe

Counting down…

In just over a month, we’ll be getting on a plane to Siem Reap, Cambodia. As things start to wrap up for us in Australia (Zoe finishing work, final nights at youth group and church), we’ve been reflecting on the journey that has brought us to this point as well as looking forward with much excitement and anticipation. To give you a bit of an insight, we’ve worked through five big questions we’ve encountered along the way…

 

Why are we moving overseas?
Since the day we met, we’ve had a yearning to live overseas as a couple, but it started in us as individuals before we met in 2011.

For Simon the call to live and work missionally overseas wasn’t always a part of his life. Upon finishing high school, he was looking to join the army for a year. Through a series of events including a bout of Glandular Fever and some long term injuries flaring up, he ended up studying a Certificate IV at Morling Theological College to help him gain access into higher learning.  During that year at bible college, he was introduced to the phrase ‘Missio Dei’ in an Old Testament class. Simon had a moment of realisation that his life up until that point had been focussed on him only doing what he wanted to do with his life. He latched on to this idea of ‘Missio Dei’ and started to search for how he could be involved in God’s mission both locally and internationally. That led him to spending 10 months serving with Global Interaction in Cambodia. That Certificate IV was a catalyst for him that drastically changed his direction in life.

Zoe grew up living with her family in the inner city of Sydney. Her father was the director of HopeStreet and she grew up engaging with those on the margins of society. At the age of 5 her parents took she and her sister to Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe to see if their family could move there long term as missionaries. Zoe recognises this trip as the beginning of God giving her a passion for serving Him overseas. Zoe has a degree in Development and has been involved in many internationally focused campaigns and organisations in Australia such as the Make Poverty History Roadtrip in 2010, an internship at Micah Challenge and embody.

So when we announced that we were going to be moving overseas it wasn’t a shock to our close friends. Although we feel this is a strong leading from God, God is in no way dragging us kicking and screaming to Cambodia!

 

Why Cambodia?Flag_of_Cambodia
Simon lived in Poipet, Cambodia for almost a year in 2012 with Global Interaction. Zoe visited him toward the end of his stay and really enjoyed her time there. Cambodia has been on our radar for a few years. We find the people and culture very welcoming and we have both already made some strong friends in the country. We’ll be writing a blog about the country and people of Cambodia soon.

 

Why now?
After we got married in January this year (2014), everything in our new life together was going really well. Off the back of a crappy 2013, we were excited to have just been married, moved into a great unit in Westmead, gained full time work, and immersed in a thriving young adults community at church and youth group… so much to be thankful for!Comfort is the great adventure thief!

In the midst of all of this, we still had the desire to move overseas sometime in the next 5 years. March arrived and we headed down to Victoria for SURRENDER:14. We were energised by people sharing their stories of serving God and His people overseas. We met several people who had spent time in Cambodia. God began to nudge us again. Why don’t we go sooner rather than later? It might seem counter-intuitive to move your life to another country when things are going so well, but we knew that if we got too comfortable, our dream and call to live overseas was less likely to happen. We left SURRENDER raring to go to Cambodia.

 

How long are we going for?
It’s open-ended! Which is both exciting and scary! We have a plan to stay in Siem Reap for at least 12 months initially to learn the language and culture, get settled in a home and local church community and start researching for our cafe project.

 

What will we do over there?
Simon has lived and breathed coffee for the past 6 years, and after being positively impacted by his time spent with a social enterprise café as a teenager, he has for the past few years wanted to open a café that would help young people. When he was in Siem Reap in 2012, he noticed a lack of good coffee in the city. He also did some training with a small cafe called Kinyei in Battambang and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. So with Zoe’s skills in the kitchen and Simon’s coffee knowledge and passion we thought that Siem Reap would be an ideal place to open a successful café enabling positive change in the lives of those who interact with it. Our desire is to train and employ young people in hospitality, as well as building personal and life skills. We hope the cafe will be people-centred rather than money-centred, for both staff and customers. We have both seen first hand the positive influence that regular work and place to call your second home can have on a young persons life and want to offer that to young people in Siem Reap.

We’re acutely aware that the cafe will not start overnight, and that a huge amount of work is needed to start a business. This means we don’t want to rush it. When we arrive, we’ll start working in regular jobs (Simon in hospitality and Zoe teaching English) while we get to know Siem Reap. Although we’ve been there before, we know there’s a big difference between being a tourist and moving in! We’re lucky to know some great people in Siem Reap already, and we look forward to meeting many more who will become part of our lives there.

 

Ways to support us:

Pray
– Our preparations over the next few weeks
– Health and safety
– Our language learning
– Opportunities for connection in Siem Reap
– For Cambodia

Keep us accountable and encourage us
– Make sure we’re not just having a holiday!
– Check in with us to see how we’re going

Visit us!
– Anytime! We’d love to see you in Siem Reap some time in the future.

 

So stay tuned! We’ll be sharing our thoughts and stories on this blog and we’d love you to journey with us!
If you want to be notified by email when we pubilsh a new post, click the ‘Follow’ pop up in the bottom right corner.

S + Z

Here goes…

In mid October 2014, we’re making the move from Sydney, Australia to Siem Reap, Cambodia. We hope to use this blog as a space to share some of our experiences of life in Cambodia; observations, thoughts and stories.

If you want to be notified by email when we write is a new post, click the ‘Follow’ pop up in the bottom right corner.

Looking forward to sharing the journey with you,

S + Z