|Random ideas, comments, reflections, and information on mission and life in a mission country.|
|A picture of myself
An unintended byproduct of the rearview mirror law
25 December 2006
This is a photo that I used in the Daily Life segment on cold weather. But this version is cropped differently and gave me a surprise. I wasn't aware that I would be taking a picture of myself in the rearview mirrors that the motorcycle taxis are supposed to have now with the new mirror law!
|The Maryknoll Cambodia Mission Team
...planning our future
9 December 2006
Every 12-18 months, the Maryknoll Cambodia Mission Team (CMT) has a planning meeting to look at the situation in Cambodia, our current projects, and at what we should be doing. This meeting in December was a follow-up to a social analysis we did of the country. Next we will start a review of the ministries we are engaged in now to see if they are meeting the needs that we have identified.
...but missing so much
7 December 2006
This is one of four children of this disabled man. She is 10, although she looks much younger, and has never had the chance to go to school. There is not enough money for school; she doesn't even own a pair of shoes. She pulls the cart for her father while they collect recyclable stuff to sell. And so it goes in Cambodia.
Photo and text by Jim McLaughlin, Maryknoll lay missioner
|An MLM Prayer Day
led by Affiliate Kathy Morefield
2 December 2006
Last week Kathy Morefield, a Maryknoll Affiliate from Seattle, led a day of prayer and reflection for the five members of the Maryknoll Lay Missioners here in Cambodia. Here she explains while Jim McLaughlin listens.
|First the ISP...
...then my computer
15 November 2006
It's been a rough week for this website and for everything related to my computers. We have been having problems with out new ISP ever since we changed services because they can't put the antenna on our house up high enough to "see" their base station antenna. A good portion of the Internet services in Phnom Penh are wireless, using small microwave antennas on the tops of buildings to connect to the ISP's base stations located around the city. We are probably going to have to switch back to our old ISP.
But then I started getting Blue Screens of Death (BSOD), otherwise known as Windows fatal error messages, on my main computer. When I took it in for repairs after trying everything I knew how to do, the techs first identified that my hard drive is failing even though the computer is less than a year old. They replaced the drive and said they wanted to test to make sure there were no other problems. Sure enough the BSOD continued, so they replaced the RAM. The BSOD continued, and then in tinkering, one of the techs managed to burn out both the new RAM and mainboard. The computer is under warranty so they replaced everything. Then they found out that my old copy of Windows was corrupted so they replaced Windows XP. But in doing that I lost 35+ programs and utilities that I had installed.
Now I have a new computer (except for the case) but need to start reinstalling all the programs, about two or three weeks' work. Ugh...
20 October 2006
This is a picture of the port at Sihanoukville on Cambodia's southern coast. It is the only port in the country, connected to the capital Phnom Penh by a highway built by the United States at the time of the Vietnam War. On October 26, the MV Doulos, the world's oldest passenger ship (launched in 1930s) will arrive in Sihanoukville. It is run by a Christian organization that uses the ship as a floating library bringing all sorts of books to remote destinations all around the world. The Doulos will also host a series of Christian-themed gatherings for pastors, Christian women, Christian men, Christian youth, etc., while it is docked in Cambodia for ten days. This picture is taken from the Catholic center, on a hill above the port.
|Sewing Class for Deaf Students
DDP's Job Training Project
19 October 2006
Two deaf students (left) learning sewing and tailoring pay attention to the instructor's explanation while the interpreter (right) assists. In the background is Sou Poly, the project officer for the job skills training project.
|Farewell for Fran Kemmerer
..the last Saturday night
14 October 2006
Fran Kemmerer (seated) has been a Maryknoll Affiliate working in Cambodia for the past eight years. Now she is leaving to return to the United States for different work. Tonight after the Saturday evening mass--where we also said farewell--the Maryknoll community gathered at the sisters' house for pizza and ice cream. Here Fran opens some of her gifts. She will be greatly missed!
|Lay Missionary Meeting
Missioners from many countries working in Cambodia
8 October 2006
Every month lay missionaries from different groups meet together for camaraderie, support, and working together. This month they met at the office of Catholic Social Communications to view their work on the Mission Sunday theme for this month. The missionaries come from many countries. In this photo are Renaldo from the Philippines, Wendy from Hong Kong, Lieke from Belgium, and Denis, a priest from Canada.
|Ed and Charlie's House
A view not usually seen
5 October 2006
Ed McGovern and Charlie Dittmeier live together in this house on Street 334 in Phnom Penh's Boeung Keng Kong 1 neighborhood. We moved here at the height of the electricity shortages because this area has constant power because of UN agencies and government officials who live nearby. Actually we live on the second floor of what was once a large single-family dwelling. The ground floor below us has been divided into three long narrow dwellings. Because we are on the second floor, the large covered roof area belongs to us also. You can see a room built on the roof in the right rear, but it's pretty rustic and would take a lot of work to make it usable.
|Countering Terrorism Today
by Tzvetan Todorov of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris
30 August 2006
...Democratic societies must use both political and police tactics in confronting fanatical terrorists. Politics is necessary for the simple reason that occupying armies and police cannot force hundreds of millions of Muslims to shed their hostility.
Political action implies actually leaving Iraq quickly and finding a fair solution to the Palestinian conflict, which in turn requires ending the occupation of all Palestinian territories. Of course, extinguishing these hot spots will not erode the fanaticism of die-hard and suicidal activists; nor will it rid us of the avidity and hatred that is so evident among the leaders of Islamic rage. But it will deprive them of the masses of sympathetic Muslims who view the fanatics as the only people seeking to defend "Islamic" values and oppressed Muslim peoples....
19 August 2006
It is...the cry of the victim that creates the bond of community, for as the French writer Simone Weil says:
(From "Siding with Victims" by T. Michael McNulty, SJ, in the January, 2005 issue of Center Focus)
|A thank-you letter
One of the rewards of mission work
17 August 2006
I am continually impressed by the tolerance of pain by Cambodian people. And I am saddened by the need for them to suffer so much pain needlessly, just because they have no resources for avoiding it. We Americans, me included—and maybe most Westerners—encouraged by advertising and the mythos of our medical establishment, run for relief at the onset of even minor pain. But in a country like Cambodia, where there just is no money for doctors and medicines, people suffer unimaginable pain, day after day, and without complaint, just realizing that it is part of life for them.
I'm a soft touch when it comes to pain. I can't change the country's poverty and it's going to take decades to set up an education system for deaf people, but when I see people suffering just because they're poor, I usually find some money or some help somewhere to enable them to get some relief.
Recently two deaf students happened to come to me on the same day, talking about their toothaches that had them sleepless at nights and often in tears. And there was nothing they could do about it. Their families are poor and we're lucky to even get the students in our education program. I talked with one of our teachers who happened to go to a local dentist who has a deaf child, and I asked her to arrange for the dentist to see our two students. Yesterday afternoon we were able to pull them out of class and send them with our interpreter to the dentist who started treating them.
Today the girl came to me to thank me for her help, and she presented me with this letter from her father. I was really touched by it as he so genuinely expressed his thanks for our helping his daughter. He had seen her suffering at home and could do nothing, and now he was so grateful. It's time like these that it's great to be here and to be able to contribute a little bit. And that little bit is possible because of the generous people in the U.S. and elsewhere who give me the money to do things like this which are not possible with the funds from the major donors which must go for teachers' salaries, desks, etc.
16 August 2006
Maybe we can only help those with whom we share moral community. The issue is not our moral obligation to help so much as the recognition of the other as a fellow human. It is not in abstract principle but in human interaction that we find the connections of compassion and solidarity that make for practical community. Theologian Henri Nouwen defines compassion as follows:
Compassion is the recognition that everyone else is just like me.
(From "Siding with Victims" by T. Michael McNulty, SJ, in the January, 2005 issue of Center Focus)
6 August 2006
The last British governor of Hong Kong was Mr. Chris Patten, a really good man who served Britain and the people of Hong Kong well. He was also a Catholic, and occasionally he would come out to our Maryknoll center house for a cookout and just to talk. It was fascinating to hear some of the unofficial and personal insights into the dealings with the Chinese concerning democracy in Hong Kong and the lead up to the handover of the colony to China.
After Hong Kong he was Commissioner for External Affairs for the European Union and now he is chancellor of Oxford University. Recently he was in Bangkok representing Oxford at a meeting and he spoke to The Nation newspaper about his new book Not Quite the Diplomat. He had a very interesting quote in the interview in the newspaper:
Well said, Chris! You haven't lost your sharpness and insight!
3 August 2006
Yesterday a young deaf woman, who was the first deaf homeless person we encountered and the catalyst for establishing our two deaf hostels, showed up at our office to see me while I was meeting with the teachers. She waited a long time but had left when the meeting was finished. She returned this morning and presented me with a gift "because you're old and will die." The gift-wrapped contents turned out to be two loaves of bread! I'm not sure of the connection between the bread and my survival and good health, but the gesture sure was neat. Chenla is really cute in her simple way.
21 July 2006
Last night, after the heavy rainstorm, I was riding my bicycle through water up to my knees. This morning I had to cross town for an early morning mass for the Salesian Sisters. On the way back, my motordupe (motorcycle taxi) driver turned onto the main road in that part of town—and then immediately turned off to find another way when he saw the traffic stopped by water still quite deep twelve hours after the storm ended.
Riding a bicycle in a flood
20 July 2006
Three days we had a heavy rain (pictured in 17 July, below) and today we had an even heavier rain that lasted for 2½ hours. We were having a meeting for most of that time, and the rain pounding on the metal roofs over our porches made it almost impossible to hear. But then when I left, a half hour after the rain had tapered off, I found Street 63—a perennial trouble spot—and its intersecting streets flooded the worst I have seen in my six years here. I was on my bicycle and kept plowing through the water even when cars and four-wheel drives were turning around rather than test the depth of the flood water ahead. And finally I got to the point of today's enlightenment or learning: that I could continue to ride a bicycle in water up to my knees! I was really glad that I could shift to the lowest of my six gears as I labored through the water and against the waves thrown at me by large vehicles. It's too bad it was too dark for me to take pictures!