Growing up in a third-world country that worships evil spirits and ancestors definitely has its adjustments. Everyday life is different and traditions and customs have to be learned and observed. Here are a few things my kids have learned along the way.
- Everyone gets a shower. No bathtubs here. In order to make the transition from American tubs to a no-tub life, I tried the kitchen sink. There is no hot water in the house, so I boiled water and let it cool down. At the age of 8, my son successfully squeezed into the kitchen sink. When a Cambodian friend came over, he was in the sink and asked me to tell her to go upstairs so he could get out and dry off. She obliged, but it wouldn’t have phased her in the least. Public bathing is commonplace. Later, we bought large basins to bathe the kids in. Now? We just all take cold showers!
- Rats, centipedes, jumping spiders and cockroaches are a part of life.At times I hear my kids squealing in the other room. They are cheering on their German Shepherd as she hunts after the unwelcomed rats that like to visit our unsealed home.
- Clothing is optional. When we first came to Cambodia, a couple of kids my daughters ages, ran past me–completely naked. All I could say in response to their shocked looks was, “Sorry girls!” Now, they don’t even blink an eye at the naked kids in the streets who are playing in the dirt mounds.
- Stomach bugs and food poisonings will come. My kids have learned how to become professional throw-upers at a young age. They know to keep trash cans near-by and what to do to stay hydrated.
- American life is more convenient. My kids are shocked when I tell them about the following:
- ice that falls out of the freezer door with a touch
- vending machines
- carpeted, insulated houses
- houses that are entirely air-conditioned and heated
- machines that dry your clothes
- large buildings full of books and DVDs that you can borrow for free
- restaurants where you can order and pick up your food without getting out of the car
- traffic laws that have to be obeyed
- seat-belt laws
- sales tax
- kids meals that come with a toy and drink
- weddings inside a church building instead of sitting on a busy street blocking all traffic
- you can return an item and get your money back if you decide it wasn’t what you really wanted
- noise ordinances
- laws against leaving young children at home unattended
- Spying is a necessary skill. My kids know the drill when repair men come. They go into “watcher” and “spy-team mode.” All workers and our family’s belongings are thoroughly monitored.
- There are no Second Amendments in Asia. My son dreams of the day when he can at least hold a BB gun. Even those are outlawed in many third-world countries.
- Barred windows are great for climbing. Since all the doors and windows are barred with small rectangles, each kid has become an avid climber. We have lots of “little monkeys” around our house now!
- Seafood seasonings mixed with flour make great packaged snacks. Some of our kid’s favorite snacks are seaweed chips, crab flavored puffs, and prawn crackers. Not to mention Soursop and Sugar Cane Juice!
- If you’re white, you’re rich and famous. My kids are photographed by complete strangers, grabbed, hugged, kissed and given treats just because their skin is white. Then the complete strangers ask everyone around them, “Who do you think is the prettiest?” They all give their unsolicited opinions– whether you want to hear them or not!
- Sometimes it is better to wait! When we travel and the kids need to go for a pit-stop, many times the girls return with frowns.
“Mom, they’re all squatty-potties!”
These are non-western style toilets that sit very low to the ground and require squatting. Instead of toilet paper being offered in the bathroom, a community sprayer(like the one on your kitchen sink,) is offered for “better” cleaning. You also get to dip a plastic, small pot-shaped dipper into stagnant water and pour the water down the toilet to make it flush. I try not to think of all the possible germies lying around! The girls always choose to wait it out if there are no other options.
- Crickets, spiders and other bugs are tasty, fried snacks. Cambodians have tried to convince our family of this, but we are yet to become believers!
- Hide-and-seek is more fun when the power is out! With frequent power outtages, our kids have taken lemons and made lemonade. They take the opportunity of a dark house to grab flashlights and play hide-and seek with daddy. When the lights go out at our house, the squeals begin!
- Mosquitoes must die. Our kids learn to watch out for these flying insects that are waiting to inject you with some undesirable sickness. Many times the kids can be seen waving electric tennis rackets around the house to zap the menacing pests!
- Table manners are different for different countries. Our kids have learned to reach over people and grab their food. It is rude to ask an item to be passed to you in Cambodian culture. When we are with Americans, they quickly adjust their manners.
- Americans only eat bread, butter and cheese. You didn’t know that, did you? Neither did we. But that is what everyone tells us!
- Shaking hands is not the proper greeting. Our children have learned to greet visitors, strangers and friends with a tiny bow and hands in a prayer position.
Among all these “new” things our kids have learned, this one thing has been the best of all:
- Idol-worshipers and spirit worshipers can turn to the true and living God! Our kids have seen people that once were afraid of evil spirits causing harm to their loved ones, find peace that only exists in the Lord Jesus Christ. Our kids have seen people that once thought they were good, realize that no man is good and salvation is only received through the finished work of Jesus Christ. Our kids have learned that even though our family has had to experience many changes, we are privileged and blessed to be the bearers of good news to people that live in a dark, hopeless land. Now, many of them have heard that there is hope in Jesus Christ!
*Most pictures are courtesy of free digital photos.*