Wednesday, December 30, 2015

History, Hotels, Homes, and Happiness (and a handful of Humility)

29 Dec 2015

Christmas 2015 has now become fond memories and history.   This Christmas was very different than most.  We were not in our own home nor in any of our children's homes, instead we began our Christmas Day in a hotel room in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Skype filled our quiet room with the voices of children and grandchildren having just finished their Christmas Eve dinner.   The room quickly bubbled over miraculously through magic wires and well placed satellites. Through the computer and from the other side of the world, we saw the grandchildren counting down the moments of Santa's arrival.  Some were thrilled with the anticipation of opening their one gift before bedtime while some of the others (Jack) were a bit underwhelmed well-knowing that "the one gift" is just another pair of pajamas!  My heart and my arms yearned to reach through the screen and hug them all (big children included).

We drove the mission van the 6 hours to Siem Reap bringing beds and wicker book cases to the missionaries.  We had to take some of the seats out to get all that furniture into the van.  So it seemed like the 1980's again when we loaded up all 10 missionaries into the back of the van to take them to the Church for the first part of our Christmas evening with them.  (There are no seat belt laws nor are there any seat belts in Cambodia!!) We watched the 1st Presidency's Devotional and had a testimony meeting.   It was beautiful. We then took them to dinner.  It was a simple evening filled with love and the Spirit, not unlike the first Christmas.   

Boxing Day was extraordinary.  We went to one of the wonders of the world.... Angkor Wat.   This was a series of ancient Cambodian Temples.  It was completed in 1181!
The history of these people were carved on every wall.   We had a guide that was able to explain meaning of the chiseled walls.

Even after 834 years some of the carvings were clear and detailed.
The Wat was magnificent.   Yet it was a place that only the King could live and the upper class could worship.
Still after more than eight centuries a woman's prayers and the smoke of the incense drifted upward in hopes that a sandstone statue could grant her her heart's desires.  So it seemed fitting that we walked through a hollow temple of old.  Even in its best years I don't think this temple could offer much more than what it was offering right now.
 All it could ever give was its beauty and splendor which was fascinating. 

 Flanked on either side of the building was what they called The Libraries. 
 Not very much was preserved because they wrote everything on "leaves" is what we were told.  They didn't know how to write on gold to save their heritage.  I couldn't help but think of the people of Mulek and Hagoth in the Book of Mormon and how they left their homes to explore and were never seen again.  Is this where they ended up?
We kept thinking that it has the same feel of the Mayan structures in Mexico.
The sprawling grounds were equally as beautiful.  They seemed to be self maintained.   I don't think we ever saw a grounds keeper or any workers there. Just tourists and tour guides.
We went to several Wats that day.  One was referred to as Tomb Raider.  This is where all the Tomb Raider movies were produced.  It had this fabulous tree right in the middle of it.  I am not sure how long the tree has been there in relationship to the Wat.

We were there with our friends, the Ovesons.  Great people from South Jordan, Utah.
This was once an entrance gate.  It is some what spell binding to stand there and let the history wash over you wondering who and how many have walked through that same gate you stand in.
The centuries have taken their toll on the structure and now modern supports need to be used to preserve the heavy arms of the tree.

Some things stayed just a clear and detailed as the day the carver blew the last bit of dust off and said, "this is done".
 The last two Wats we saw were my favorites.  Pink Lady and Bayon Temples.  It was so intricate that at times you felt as if time had stood still and they had just finished it last week!

Bayon means four faces, which is exactly what is on the top of the temple. 
 There's nothing like a picture frame doorway...
 All in all, this is a magnificent display of history.  What is so ironic about this is that you can ask any Cambodian who King #7 (his name is too long and difficult to say so they just refer to him as #7) is and what wars he won, or who built Angkor Wat, or who was in power in the 13th century.  They will tell you.  But if you ask them what was your grandfather or grandmother's name or to name the grandparent's siblings they will tell you they don't know. That is all due to Pol Pot and his evil.  But they have a history.... it has some gaps... but history gives us hope, faith, knowledge, and a sense of belonging. 

The last thing we did that day was go to the Floating Village to watch the sunset.  The Floating Village is just that... a neighborhood on a lake.   The anchored houses were made of corrigated tin sitting on hollow oil barrels bobbing to and fro as boats went by. 
Along with the houses were about 3 restaurants/gift shops for all the tourists.  We rode a rickety old boat to get out there.   I caught myself at times gawking at the people's poverty and feeling sorry for their plight in life. 
The sunset was beautiful.....

Living on a lake in a tin house has its own beauty.   I realized that I was seeing just a house but these people see it as their home.   Its not the stuff that makes the house a home... it is the love inside.  The children looked happy and well taken care of.   These children are just growing up with a different playground than I grew up with. 

I think I am here to learn humility.   I hope I learn it quickly.   I get a handful of it everywhere I go in Cambodia!