It's hard to believe, but we are commemorating two months since Team Kilday descended upon Cambodia on Jan. 24. Here's the latest on our zany Southeast Asian adventure:
1. You may have read about our not-so-friendly identity thief -- the mischievous stranger who fought so valiantly to extract funds from our bank accounts back home starting in mid-February. Well, it got much worse before it got better. After numerous fraudulent transactions in two U.S. bank accounts (all of which were promptly intercepted and stopped, thank you very much), our "friend" moved on to fraudulent iPhone purchases on a Kilday Amazon account and then tried to hit our credit card. It was absolute chaos. Many late nights, and the wee hours of many mornings, were spent in a cat-and-mouse game with a crook -- changing dozens of passwords, reversing and/or cancelling fraudulent transactions, setting up new accounts, talking with fraud investigators, corresponding with credit reporting agencies, filing online police reports, canceling accounts, setting up rules for automatic notifications for future transactions, expectantly ordering new credit cards (and praying for prompt delivery through somewhat perilous delivery channels) -- you get the frenzied picture. But we are happy to report that this unfortunate chapter appears to be behind us, and with absolutely zero actual harm done and zero apparent benefit to the swindler. (Whew!)
2. The moral of this story is -- don't mess with Thais. She will outwork you, outsmart you, and mess you up. She will leave you wishing you had never picked on someone her size. She is relentless. Please remind me to stay on her good side.
3. No, seriously. Please remind me.
4. Now, I am generally a very happy person. This journey into the unknown in a new country has been exhilarating for me most of the time. I have enjoyed the sense of adventure and the challenges that have come with each new day. It has been a thrill ride. But I will confess that I hit a wall when we were being attacked in the cyber wallet. It was deeply unsettling. I am a control freak, and this was starting to rock my world. I briefly wanted to just go home, where I could talk with banks and local Austin law enforcement personnel in person, and during my waking hours. Trying to manage all of this from here was close to impossible. I was rattled. We both were. But then something surprising happened. We had initially kept this battle private from most of our work colleagues, but I eventually decided to share what was going on with the whole team during our time of daily prayer at work. (What? Your office doesn't have a time of daily prayer?) The team listened to our story of hacks, fraud, and theft, with grave concern. As I was finishing the story, I mentioned that so far, thankfully, our thief had not yet succeeded in stealing a single penny. Well, you would've thought we had won the lottery. The room literally erupted into jubilant cheers. Everyone was smiling and cheering. I was sharing what I thought was a troubling and stressful story. But to my surprise, it turned into a celebration. One of our new friends endearingly stated, in his second language, "Hacker think he so very clever, but Doug and Thais even more clever!" They were all so happy for us, and so proud that we had managed to stay a step ahead. I was the last to know it, but my story of worry was a victory speech. What a lovely re-set on my pathetic and inwardly-focused self-pity. Yes, we were having to fight an injustice, but -- hello! -- welcome to how the rest of the world lives. Only we were actually managing to avoid any real harm. And what a humbling reminder that I constantly live with a spoiled, inwardly-focused, and first-world perspective.
5. My takeaways: Stop complaining. Be grateful. Count your blessings. Notice your blessings. Remember who is in control. Recognize that it's not me. Stop worrying so much about storing up and protecting those "treasures on earth." They don't ultimately matter. Trust in the one who is in control. And get back to work. Because what we are doing here actually does matter -- to real people and to God. Let's get after it.
6. Speaking of work, the job is fascinating and fun, heartbreaking and exhilarating, rewarding and challenging. We wish we could tell you all about it. But since we work under strict confidentiality obligations (for obvious reasons), we can't talk specifically about the work we are doing. Just send lots of prayers for lots of people, and that should cover it. If you want to get a sense of what IJM is all about, we have updated the "Our Year with IJM" page, to include a follow-up to the video about IJM's work. The second video tells the story of an actual rescue operation in Ghana that took place on the day we departed for Cambodia. The rescue was for some of the young boys on Lake Volta that were featured in the first video, which many of you saw last Fall. Good to see IJM's work leading to successful rescues for many people in need. Please continue to pray for more of this, and an end to slavery in all corners of the world.
7. We can tell you this: Thais works on the main floor, and I work one floor above. In a typical day, we don't spend much time together at the office. We catch a tuk tuk together in the morning around 8:15 for a 5-minute ride to the office, and then we go our separate ways. We are in the same room together at 11:30 when the team gathers daily. (We have each led devotions twice.) We have lunch together almost every day -- a pretty sweet perk of this IJM adventure, and one that we will sorely miss when the year is done. Then we catch a tuk tuk back "home" when the day is done.
8. About a month ago, we were pleased to hire a wonderful helper who meets the kids at their bus stop every day at 3:30 and stays with them until around 5:30 or 6:00 when we arrive home. Her name is Theara, and she is already part of the family. She speaks English very well, she cooks dinner for us twice a week, and she has introduced us to some wonderful Khmer cooking. She has a morning job at one of the best preschools in Phnom Penh, and she had previously worked for many years as a nanny for an expat family from France in the afternoon. That family no longer needed her help, and we did. So this worked out wonderfully well for everyone. Very thankful for Theara, and for IJM's patience as we worked to find this solution.
9. Rice. There is so much rice. Rice is available at every meal. Rice on its own, rice on the side, rice with vegetables, rice with curry sauce, fried rice, rice noodles, rice with stir-fry, rice paper spring rolls, sticky rice dessert. The list is never-ending. Rice provides more than one fifth of the calories consumed worldwide by humans. Many of those rice-eating humans are here. The Khmer word for the verb "to eat" (yam bai) translated literally, means "to eat rice." We are loving the rice. But we will likely take a short break from it when we get back home.
10. It is a truly bizarre and mind-blowing political season here. Off the charts. Cambodia right now is Donald Trump news on steroids, but without the checks and balances. We wish we could share all the details. This recent article will help you understand why we won't be providing you with any commentary, For those who are curious, I will add some recent articles from the local paper on the "Resources" page. (There will not be a test, so no obligation.)
11. Add the First Amendment to the long list of things we have taken for granted. And checks and balances too.
12. Mosquitoes. I've always been a mosquito magnet. Thais and I will go for a walk in Austin, and I'll outscore her twenty mosquito bites to zero. But it seems that Southeast Asian mosquitoes have different palates. Let's just say that the scorecard has been reversed here, and Asian mosquitoes are quite fond of my bride. I almost never use bug spray here, and two months have brought me just three mosquito bites. Thais has to spray down every day, and they still prefer her over me. (I'll enjoy this while I can.)
13. Haircuts are different here. Cheap too -- three cuts for a total of just two bucks. Not bad!
14. Life here is organized differently. Personal relationships and practical experience are of paramount importance. We have been amazed by the incredible memories of so many people we have met here. They don't forget anything. I buy mangoes from the same lady at the bustling BKK market every Saturday morning. There are many hundreds of people there, and probably twenty fruit vendors who sell mangoes. I always go to the same place. She spots me ten feet away, and she knows exactly what I want -- product and quantity. She also remembers the price we negotiated on the day of my first purchase. and she starts bagging up her best mangoes for me before I say a word. Same thing with the lady at the market who sells flowers. She always recognizes me, and she has enjoyed teaching us how to open and unfold a Cambodian lotus flower. Tuk tuk drivers know our routines and instantly know where we are going, whether it's work, home, church, whatever -- we just hop in and they remember. Once we hopped into a tuk tuk with a driver who had not seen us for several weeks, and he took us "home" to the temporary apartment where we had lived during our first ten days in the country. He had not given us a ride anywhere for six weeks, but he remembered our late January destination without us saying a word. (And now he knows the location of our apartment, and we'll never have to tell him again.) Pretty incredible. Or it could be that I am a giant here.
15. Our eldest is now managing local transportation without us. On Thursday night she ventured out to a church youth group gathering. This morning she got up early to go with friends to volunteer at a school carnival. This afternoon she is at the mall to see a movie. All three outings have involved tuk tuk rides with other kids from her school -- from Sweden, India, China, and Singapore. Three months ago we never would have dreamed that we would be sending one of our kids out into this town with other kids and non-English speaking drivers we don't know, and without a parent. A whole lot of growth on both sides, I suppose!
16. We are looking forward to seeing family and close friends here in the coming months. It has been fun to plan for hosting visitors and showing them where we live and work. We also look forward to exploring what's out there beyond Phnom Penh. First up will be Thais' parents and a visit to the amazing temples around Siem Reap. [Note: we will not be requesting reimbursement out of donated funds for our travels outside the city. Excursions beyond Phnom Penh will be entirely on us.]
There's your sweet sixteen -- more than enough for today. God bless you all, and thank you for following Kilday Family Adventure v.2017! We are so grateful for your prayers and support!