Retreat: Tuesday

Gathering for breakfast after morning prayer.
Later in the morning we were back in the dining area for a break after the morning talk.
This first mass of the retreat gathered all the Phnom Penh priests with Bishop Olivier as presider.
Bishop Olivier is keen on recording in photos and text all that goes on in the diocese and usually has several staff from the Catholic Social Communications office at events. Here one man takes still photos while another uses video.
In the afternoon session Archbishop Julian Leow continued his theme of relationships, talking today about our relationship with ourselves.
Kampong Som Province is the wettest of all the provinces and we have been having several showers a day, some of them real downpours drowning out the archbishop’s voice even though he is using a PA system.

Retreat: Monday

Four of us drove from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville this morning on the new highway just opened up. It is like the Interstate highways in the U.S. and cut the travel time from 5 or 6 hours to just 3 hours. A great improvement!
The highway is finished but the rest areas are not. This one had a functioning gas station but all the planned commercial sites were empty except for one coffee shop.
While no one could use the Catholic center during Covid, they did a lot of renovations. Because of my advanced age–not because of any significant achievements!- -I got a room in the VIP section where the four bishops stayed. This is a far cry from what it used to be with a small bed and bare concrete walls!
The first official act of the retreat was vespers together at 5:00 PM.
Then Bishop Olivier had a formal welcome for everyone in the outdoor dining area.
Then the electricity at the center went out. A generator powered three or four lights in the courtyard but our dinner was in darkness broken by phone lights.
The retreat sessions were held in a different building apart from the residence buildings. The meeting room, too, has been completely redone and is so much nicer now.


The priests of Cambodia came together today at the Catholic center in Kampong Som on the southern coast for a week long retreat. Internet connections were almost non-existent so I have had trouble getting online. I think I have found a workaround so now I will be able to follow up with daily posts.

Above is Archbishop Julian Leow, the bishop of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, who will be guiding our reflections through this week.

Health Update

In the last year I have spent quite a bit of time in the Surgery Department at BNH Hospital in Bangkok. A routine physical exam in May, 2022 discovered cancer on my kidney and I had surgery then. After that I was back in November for a post-op follow up and in going through that they found more spots on the kidney. So I had to come back this week for CT scans to see what they were, but two scans indicated the spots were not cancer but scar tissue from the previous surgery. So all is well. Deo gratias.

The other part of BNH where I spend a lot of time is the fourth floor, the general medical area where I have my physical exams. This is an interior courtyard on the fourth floor. It used to be all grass and landscaping but during the Covid time, they added some small offices and consultation rooms for an allergy unit. They made a good mix of work space and pleasant landscaping.

The architects created very comfortable and aesthetically pleasing connections between the existing interior rooms and the now-more-visible garden area outside.

A Good Idea…

For me, one of the real irritants in air travel is waiting for luggage at the big airports. I don’t mind the waiting so much, but people crowd up right to the edge of the carousel so that others cannot see the bags that are coming. And it’s even worse when they bring the luggage trolleys up to the carousel. Bangkok puts this red-and-blue line around the carousel and asks people to stay behind it, and then everyone can see. Obviously (see the photo) not everyone follows this directive but it sure makes things better.

November Trip to Bangkok

Tomorrow I go to see the surgeon in Bangkok who in May removed part of my kidney, for a six-month checkup. I suspect it will all be rather routine but it requires a trip to Bangkok. The beginning of that trip was not routine–beset by horrendous Phnom Penh traffic–but then, maybe that unfortunately is becoming routine also.

The first thirty minutes on the tuk-tuk ride to the airport were not so bad but then about a mile from the airport chaos reigned. This is on the street in front of the airport. These are the three westbound lanes with cars going in every direction, some trying to turn into the airport, others trying to turn around and go back the way they came. But the eastbound lanes are just the same. Gridlock.
This is a view back to the highway from inside the airport grounds. I sat in my tuk-tuk in that mess for about fifteen minutes and then paid off the driver and just walked between cars in the middle of the highway to the airport entrance.
These are cars and tuk-tuks trying to get out of the airport on to the highway.
Once I got in the airport, I checked in within three minutes. Finally it was time to board. This view from the jetway shows much less congestion on the airside of the airport.

I was on an economy airline and limited to just a carryon so I exited quickly, bought a Thailand SIM card, and headed for the airport bus stop. I took at A3 bus to Lumphini Park, the closest I could get by bus to the Maryknoll house. From the park I then took a taxi to Maryknoll. Today the the US dollar = 34.21 Thai baht so the 50-minute airport bus ride was 50 baht, about US$1.50.

Siem Reap MKLM Retreat

While the Asia Area Director, Steve Veryser, is in Cambodia, the Maryknoll Lay Missioners here are having a short retreat experience in Siem Reap where Angkor Wat is located. Today was a travel day.

A pleasant initial surprise was how well organized and clean the Larryta bus service is! Their terminal is really well planned and their staff very helpful. Here a manager in a tie assists an elderly woman to a seat in the waiting area.
There were two stops in the six-hour ride to Siem Reap. At this first site, Cambodia’s obsession with heavy, immovable, impractical tables and stools made of luxury wood was obvious, but the restaurant was most pleasant and friendly.
Another characteristic of Cambodian travel spots are the men’s urinals open to public view.
At the second stop, two hours beyond the first, it was again spacious and clean and very well organized.
Another feature of every stopping place on the trip is the ubiquitous spirit shrine, this one quite large.
Julie Lawler and I traveled together in the van above. Here at the Larryta terminal in Siem Reap, Julie negotiates with tuk-tuk drivers for a ride to the Jesuit reflection center.
Finally we arrived at the Metta Karuna Center. It is a delightful and most accommodating center for retreats and reflection groups with spacious grounds filled with all sorts of meaningful layouts and statues and thought-provoking arrangements. Here is a statue of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet.

Beth Goldring is a Buddhist nun who is leading our reflection, working from her Buddhist studies and experience to help us develop a theme of nonviolence.

Post-Trip Photo

I’m a pilot (although I haven’t flown for a while) and have always loved planes. Now I am especially enamored of the A380 double-decker aircraft. I was booked on one of those on the return trip between Los Angeles and Seoul, Korea, and I chose a seat on the upper deck.

It was really surprising to me how roomy the upper deck was, with more space than many of the single-aisle aircraft I fly. One noticeable difference is the width of the rows. On the wider lower deck, there are ten seats across. On the upper deck there are only eight.

The upper deck of an A380.

USA Trip 2022

Thursday / 8 October 2022

I’m used to seeing more and more and bigger and better in-seat screens in airplanes these days but Asiana Airlines had a twist on that that was new for me. This was a smaller A319 aircraft and the seats didn’t have built-in screens for movies and entertainment. The plane had an entertainment system, though. It just used the passengers’ phone and tablets for the display. The seatbacks had a built-in phone holder that popped open so passengers could watch movies, etc., from the plane’s system on their own devices. The holder was a first for me.