The Shurtz Family: Blog en-us (C) The Shurtz Family (The Shurtz Family) Mon, 16 Mar 2020 06:55:00 GMT Mon, 16 Mar 2020 06:55:00 GMT The Shurtz Family: Blog 95 120 Nephi Was Commanded to Build a Boat [I know it's been a while since anything was posted here, but it's time to start again.  This week Rosa is sharing something from one of her classes.]

This week we are studying 1 Nephi Chapter 15-22.

Each of these chapters are full of information and stories about Lehi and his family.

My instructor said this in our class on Thursday about chapter 15, “The focus is the Justice of God.  In Lehi’s vision, there was a tree and a building. Church is just another way of saying a group of people.  The two groups are those that are with the Savior and those that are with the world.” My instructor asked us to look for truths that can help us understand God’s justice.

1 Nephi 16 is about the Liahona.  The Liahona has “two spindles” (1 Nephi 16:10) One of the spindle pointed Lehi’s family in the direction they need to go but the other spindle we don’t know what it is for.  The Liahona is teaching us how to receive revelation. The Lord speaks to us in two ways, in our mind and in our heart.  We must always prepare our heart and mind through prayer and fasting when we have a problem and need to go to the Lord for answers.

I Nephi 17 is the one I want to focus on and share why this chapter is important to me.  In this chapter, Nephi is commanded to build a ship.  At this time, his family was to take their journey into the wilderness; they traveled eastward and were, "wading through much affliction" during which their wives also bore children. Nephi did not murmur or complain about any of the trials and he continually felt gratitude for the Lord in blessing them.  For example, they didn’t need fire to cook their meals. They lived upon raw meat and their woman and children were as well nourished as the men.

Nephi and his family spent eight years in the wilderness. Eventually they came to the land “Bountiful”, named that because of its much fruits and wild honey. "All these things were prepared of the Lord that [they] might not parish". (1 Nephi 17:5) The Lord prepared everything they needed to survive. While he was in the land Bountiful the voice of the Lord came to him saying, “Arise, and get thee into the mountain.” (1 Nephi 17:7)  He obeyed the Lord’s voice and went up and cried unto the Lord. The Lord then spoke to him, telling him that he should construct a ship after the manner which he would show Nephi to carrying his people across the waters. Nephi didn’t say, "no way" or, "I can’t do it because I have never build a ship before".  Instead he said, “Lord, whither shall I go that I may find ore to molten, that I may make tools to construct the ship after the manner which thou hast shown unto me?” (1 Nephi 17:9The Lord tells him where to go to get it.

To make fire, Nephi smote two stones together and was able to keep it hot using bellows made out of the skins of beasts. They didn’t need fire during their travels because the Lord made their food sweet so they didn’t have to cook anything. And the Lord was their light. However, Nephi strove to keep the commandments of the Lord and told his brothers to be faithful and diligent, but instead they murmured against Nephi.  Even after all the miracles of their travels, they did not believe Nephi could build it. He was full of sorrow for his brethren's hard hearts. Nephi was filled with God’s power and was not harmed even when his brothers try to kill him. Nephi’s faith in Lord allowed him to finish the ship and his family was able to get in and continue their journey. 

This story is about faith in Jesus Christ and believing in him, and knowing that anything is possible - especially when we have the gospel principles to live by in our lives and use as a daily guide to help us stay on the right path that will lead us back to our heavenly home. No task or commandment can be too difficult.  We are not alone and the Lord will provide a way for us as he did for Nephi and his family.  There are wonderful truths we can learn in the Book of Mormon.  In these chapters are golden nuggets by which, if we study prayerfully, we can make our lives rich by applying the words of the prophets in our day-to-day life. 

]]> (The Shurtz Family) Sun, 11 Oct 2015 04:32:11 GMT
The Final Leg Since I'm so behind, for this post I'm going to take the lazy route and just describe a bunch of pictures.

Wednesday morning Rosa and I woke up early and walked across the bridge for breakfast.  The morning was beautiful and the day started out nice.  I do admit though that I can't wait to get home to a soft bed.  It seems the standard bed here, whether cheap hotel or expensive, is hard.  My back will be grateful for my bed back home.

Along the way we passed fields of potatoes, corn, all kinds of fruit, hay, and of course, rice.  I believe this is a potato field.

These are rubber trees grown in the Kompong Cham province.

This is one of the fruit stands along the way.  This is a fruit called Durian.  It smells like a stinky diaper.  No, I don't eat this fruit.  Ever.

The red fruit is called Dragon fruit and it tastes like kiwi.

Along the way we stopped by a road-side restaurant for lunch.  This one was a bit different than the other's we had previously gone to - mostly because we ate on the floor and could relax in hammocks.

Apparently, for this chicken dish they actually killed a chicken while we were there and cooked it up.  I suppose it doesn't get any fresher.

So there are geckos everywhere around here.  We got talking about them on one of the nights and I heard something that you may be interested in.  So they story goes that the geckos, specifically the Tokay gecko (say "tokay" in you head and that is kind of what the sound of the gecko sounds like).  Apparently on occation the gecko is unable to chirp as loud or as "manly" as it wants, so it opens its mouth and allows a small snake to enter in, go down and eat part of its liver - thereby relieving some of the pressure in its gut and allowing it to sing louder and stronger.  Since I doubt the snake is adept at liver surgery as the story goes, I didn't believe it for a second.  However, everyone around me swore it was true.  I did a quick search on the internet and found this link.  It tells the story better than I did but doesn't really explain it.  However, a little more searching turned up a more reasonable explaination.  It turns out that there is a small snake here that occationally gets hungry.  It knows that the gecko is pretty good at finding food and when it gets the opportunity it will wrap around the gecko and squeeze until it opens its mouth.  It then goes in and eats whatever food it can find around inside the gecko.  If the gecko is small enough and the snake is big enough, it just eats the gecko.  Anyway, this seems a much more logical explaination.

We also stopped at one of the bigger Wats in Kampong Cham for a bathroom break.  It was very pretty and was unique in that there were a bunch of monkeys running around on the ground and in the trees.  It was fun to hang out with them for a bit.

At this point we basically finished our trip into Phnom Penh.  The road between Kampong Cham and there was "bumpy".  That is to say, the road hardly existed and we were dodging giant potholes and random things in the road for most of the way there.  Needless to say, when we finally got into the big city we were very ready to find a place to rest.  Rosa's headache had come back with a vengence from the trip and so she and I checked into the first hotel we found, got a quick bite to eat, and slept until nearly 8 in the morning.

]]> (The Shurtz Family) Sat, 01 Sep 2012 07:33:04 GMT
Off the Grid Tuesday we said goodbye to Siem Reap. It was kind of a long goodbye considering that we didn’t check out of the hotel until around 11:00 and then went over to Chantha’s house to have lunch together. The plan was to check out and drive to Phnom Penh, which is about a 6 hour drive. However, Rosa’s sister was in no hurry to get there and decided that we would do a little site seeing on the way. So, we took our time getting out the door, so to speak.

I had mixed feelings about the scenic route - on one side I was really excited about seeing more of the country and getting a better feel for the area and its people, and on the other hand Rosa isn’t anywhere close to 100% yet and a long trip would probably not be good for her (by the way, this proved to be true). But, we were more or less just along for the ride here and so the long road it was!

Tuesday we made it as far as Kampong Thom before it was starting to get dark and we decided to stay there for the night (about 3 hours). The city of Kampong Thom is pretty small and there weren’t too many choices as far as hotels go. There was one fairly nice one that turned out to be full so we ended up down the street at a $13 dollar per night place. It was $13 because we paid a little extra for a room with air conditioning. If we just needed a fan then it would have only been $7 a night. :-)

Let me tell you, the countryside along the way was incredible and I just soaked it all up. The road was actually pretty good and we alternated between small towns or villages and long stretches of rice fields or other farmland.

One thing you might find interesting about traveling along the road is at various places there are roadside stands set up where people are selling whatever the product of the area is. For example, we passed people selling all kinds of fruit, corn, chickens (yes there were chicken stands) and fish. One particular fish stand caught the attention of the woman in the front seat so we stopped and procured a few bags full.

I can hear you from over here and I know what you are asking right now and the answer is yes, it does smell as bad as you think it does. And yes, they did put it in the trunk so we didn’t have to get up close and personal with it. And no, I will not be eating this. It is kind of pretty though.

The night was fairly comfortable, mostly because I had the AC blowing on me all night and we were up bright and early (as usual). By the way, our sleep schedule has been a little out of the ordinary since we’ve been here and I’m not sure why. It gets dark by about 7-7:30 so that may have something to do with it, but Rosa is usually snoring shortly after 9:00 and I will usually stay up and read or work on my projects until my eyes get heavy - which is about 10:30. Then, we’re up and going by 6am. Crazy huh? I suppose this is actually a “normal” sleep schedule, but I can honestly say that I’ve gotten more consistent sleep this vacation than… well, ever.

]]> (The Shurtz Family) Thu, 30 Aug 2012 06:43:28 GMT
Of Clean Feet and Water [Note: I’ve been off the grid for a couple of days and didn’t get a chance to post this until now. We’re in Phnom Penh now. More on that later.]

Monday was our last full day in Siam Reap and to be honest, I was going a little stir crazy. Rosa still isn’t feeling very great and as a result she spends most of the time in the hotel room resting and so far I’ve pretty much spent it with her. I admit that it has been kind of nice to read and work on some of my side projects, but I feel kind of bad traveling to the other side of the world only to sit in a hotel room and read. After breakfast Rosa went down for a massage and I took the opportunity to get in a workout in and a bit of a swim. When we got back Rosa could tell I was ready to get out and see the world so she had mercy on me and sent me off with Chantha (her nephew) to go see some sites.

Chantha suggested we go to the Tonle Sap and that sounded perfect! It was about 15 minutes drive on his scooter and I enjoyed the trip out there just as much as the lake itself.

The road out to the lake ran along side a river and I was fascinated by the way that the people live. The homes on the river side of the road were built out on top of the river, their homes built on stilts. On the other side the homes were a bit bigger and a lot nicer. Chantha tells me that because of the frequent flooding down the river and the instability that comes from that, they can’t build the nicer homes over it. Make sense. All I know is I enjoyed every minute of the trip.

At the end of the road we reached a spot where there was a bit of a tourist center set up where you could purchase a ticket to for a boat that would take us out to the lake. In a way it was like a tuk tuk on the water. Chantha made sure that we had our own boat and we began the trip down the channel.

The boat ride out to the lake was very beautiful and even more interesting than the ride over on land. The course through the channel took us through a floating village where people live their lives on the water. Really, it was pretty much exactly like life on land, except, well, they are on the water. There was even vendors of sorts. As we were going down the water, a smaller quicker boat pulled along side ours and a girl jumped over onto our boat with a basket of drinks for sale. It was fun to watch her jump back and forth between the various boats on the river.

After we had gone through the village we arrived at the lake. It was big. Really big. And brown. And a lake.

Since there really wasn’t much to see, we turned around and went back through the village. Apparently you can charter boats to go to Phom Penh from there (about 6 hours) or even to Vietnam. Speaking of the Vietnamese, the village has a lot of people from Vietnam, so much that many of the signs were in both languages. We even passed a wedding in progress and the music was in Vietnamese.

We made one stop in the village to get out and stretch for a few minutes. They had all kinds of things for sale and a little bit of touristy information about the village and lake. They also had crocodiles.

We made our way back to the dock and Chantha and I started our journey back. Along the way we passed a small mountain that had a temple built on top of it. I asked if it would be ok if we went up and away we went. There were stairs built that went up to the top, but we asked one of the men in the village and it turns out that there was a perfectly good road to take us there as well. It was hot and I chose they lazy route. The view at the top was incredible and gave a good look at both the view over the lake and the village we had gone through… well, the village is actually pretty far out there, but this gives you an idea anyway.  That big grey/brown square spot in the middle is where we started in the boat and the village is on the way to the lake.

And Siem Reap on the other side…

When we got back into the city, Chantha took me by the place where he works. It’s a company called Artisans Angkor and they employ over a thousand people in the area. It was started by a French couple who wanted to help the poorer people of Cambodia be able to learn a skill and earn a living. What they do is make “Cambodian fine arts and crafts” to sell in their shop. We did a bit of a tour through the various shops where people were working, from weaving silk scarfs to silk paintings to wood and stone carving. They did beautiful work and it was impressive to see the various men and women working at their trade. As an example, the silk paintings were done by a group of women who were deaf. The tour ended at a fantastic store where they sold all of the wares that were made at this shop and others like it around the country. I admit that there was a bit of a marketing ploy in the story behind the shop, and the wares were incredibly expensive - but I do feel like they were doing good in the community in helping those who otherwise wouldn’t have any way to earn a living.

That evening Rosa was feeling up to hitting the night market, so we rented a tuk tuk for the evening and went shopping. There’s not much to tell about the market. It was a market. With lots of stuff. We bought some of it. Probably more than we really needed.

But I have clean feet now. As you walk around the market area you’ll see large tanks with water and small fish in them. Here’s the deal. You pay them a dollar and you get to stick your feet in the water for 15-20 minutes. When you stick your feet in the water, the fish go crazy and start eating your feet. Well, specifically they eat the dead skin off of your feet and legs.

It tickles. A lot. And it’s a little odd feeling all of those little mouths chomping on your toes. I have a video of it that you’ll have to check out once we get home and I can get it uploaded. I’ve become somewhat partial to the dead skin on my feet, so I don’t know if this is something that I will do very often, but it was a cool experience. And now my feet feel fresh and clean and smooth as a baby’s bottom.

Oh, and you should see the farmers tan I have now! :-)

]]> (The Shurtz Family) Wed, 29 Aug 2012 14:54:31 GMT
A Good Sabbath It’s been nearly 20 years since I finished my mission. During my 2 years of service I would categorize the work with the southeast asians as “struggling”. And if you are talking specifically about the cambodian people I’d say doubly so. The closest thing to a cambodian branch we had was one in West Seattle where we met in the branch president’s home. There were perhaps 5-10 people that would come and for the most part the elders took care of everything. Besides the branch president there was one other brother that held the priesthood and the majority of the “congregation” was women and children. We would hold sacrament meeting and have a short Sunday school lesson, then everyone would pack up and go over to the local ward building for primary/priesthood/relief society. It was the closest thing I knew to what it would be like to hold services entirely in cambodian. Don’t get me wrong, it was a wonderful time and we worked really hard and really loved the people. I have some precious memories of working in that area. But we always had a dream of having enough people come each week to the point where it could be self-sustaining, where there was enough men who held the priesthood and enough people who came each week to where we could function as a full branch.

Today I saw what this would look like. Here in Siam Reap they are still classified as a branch, but they were practically bursting out of the building that they rent to hold services. I was told that they are in the process of building a new chapel and in the next 3 or 4 months it should be done. Perhaps at that point they will become an official ward. Rosa’s nephew has attended the branch before so he knew where it was and what time it started (8am, by the way). We got there about 15 minutes early and it felt like an American ward back home. There were a few people there and folks were quietly mingling with each other. We took a seat towards the back and a couple of people came over to talk with us. One young man introduced himself and as we talked I learned that he had just returned from a mission here in Cambodia and was now working with the mission as a family history consultant. He was so excited for the work he was doing and I could tell that family history is something that was being really emphasized here. In fact, there were four elders and an older missionary couple there. The older couple were from Texas and didn’t speak a word of cambodian, but man did they show love for the people. They were called to work specifically with the people to help organize their family history and they were there yesterday to help answer questions about it. It sounded like they kind of roam the mission doing this kind of thing. And, just like our American wards, it seems like everyone showed up in the five minutes and when the branch president got up to welcome everyone the room was packed.

I think there were two highlights of the meeting for me. One was being able to hear the sacrament prayer in cambodian again and really feel the spirit as that sacred ordinance was performed by their Aaronic priesthood. The second highlight was singing the hymns! In all my past experiences with the Cambodian people, I have never heard over a hundred people all singing together in the Khmer language. It was incredible and nearly brought tears to my eyes. I even had fun being the only guy there who could sing the bass line. :-) The talks were wonderful, the people were so friendly, and I can’t express how much I loved being there with them and how happy it makes me to see how the gospel is touching the lives of the people that I love so very much. It really is a dream come true and I can’t wait for the day when Rosa and I can come back and be part of the work here too.

]]> (The Shurtz Family) Mon, 27 Aug 2012 02:41:25 GMT
The Final Four I’m afraid from a reader’s perspective, the days are getting a little boring. With Rosa not feeling so well we tend to not get out very much and so there isn’t much to show you. However, it was a somewhat interesting day. Rosa’s sister Sokphy has 4 sons that we haven’t yet met. They are working in Thailand right now picking fruit and wanted to come see us before we left. So, we chipped in a little money so they could make the trip down and down they came. They arrived yesterday mid-morning so we were able to spend a little time with them.

I guess right now it’s hard to find work here in Cambodia and much like the migratory workers in the US, many of the people here will go up to Thailand for the seasonal work picking fruit. Of the four boys, three of them are married but only one of them brought his wife along as well. We spent the afternoon together here in the hotel and played games and got to know each other a bit more. While we were here, a storm rolled in and it rained pretty hard. I tried to get some pictures of it, but I don’t know if I did it justice.

That evening we all went to an all-you-can-eat buffet together. I wasn’t sure what to expect and what we discovered turned out to be pretty nice. It was essentially an all-you-can eat hot pot.

This was something a little unique from the normal hot pot that we do at home in that the pot had what I will describe as a dome surrounded by a moat of boiling liquid. The inside was headed by live coals and so you could cook your meat on the dome itself, or boil it in the water - or both. It was really yummy and I’m afraid I ate more than my fair share.

Afterwards Rosa’s sister wanted to take the boys to sing karaoke and we went along for a little while. So, I got to experience the whole room thing again only this time we stuck around for a little while. I thought the sign out front was kind of funny and I was glad that I hadn’t brought any hand-grenades. :-)

The night ended somewhat on a sad note though. We had only gone through a couple of songs when Rosa’s sister Sokphy got a call from her husband saying that their 16 year-old daughter was missing from their home outside of Battambang. Of course everyone was worried and all kinds of theories were bantered around. After a bunch of phone calls and discussion Sokphy and some of the boys got a ride back home and headed out. The remaining boys left this morning. As of this morning I can tell you that we still don’t know where she is, but they found a note from her saying that she was leaving with her boyfriend to go to one of the neighboring cities. Apparently she took all of her stuff with her so at least they know she wasn’t kidnapped. Still, as a dad of a 16 year-old, I really feel for what her parents are going through right now.

]]> (The Shurtz Family) Sun, 26 Aug 2012 09:23:19 GMT
Rest and Recuperation I’m afraid there isn’t much to report on the day yesterday. From the update you already know that I took Rosa to the hospital to have her checked out. The thing with Bells palsy is you basically just need to wait it out. This time is a little different than 4 years ago because of the pain behind her head, but unfortunately there’s not much that can be done to speed the process along. The medicine they gave her seems to be more for neurological issues (vs. the steroid treatment she got last time) so we’ll see how long it takes to get things more or less back go normal. Outside of the drowsiness caused by the medicine, Rosa does seem to be doing better today.

After we got released we grabbed a quick bite to eat and then went back to the hotel. Rosa slept for a little while longer then decided to try a head massage. While she was doing that I went swimming and generally just soaked it all up for a little while. The pool was perfect and it felt incredible in it. Dinner back in the room and then Rosa went to bed and I finished reading my book.

By the way, I decided that if we ever come back here to live I will open up a real American restaurant and show these people what non-Cambodian food supposed to look and taste like. :-) I ordered something called a “Grilled Cubano Sandwich”. I’m not sure what a “cubano” is, but the description was this, “With smoked pork and Gruyere cheese, served with French fries and coleslaw”. Sounds pretty good right? I was in the mood for something a little closer to home and I can see what this should look like in my mind - and let me tell you, it looks pretty good. Come over to the house sometime and I’ll make you what I’m talking about and your taste buds will thank me.

Anyway, you know those sandwich presses that are advertised as a hot pocket-like machine and kind of have the feel of a waffle iron? The ones where you put in a regular slice of bread, load on whatever, and another slice and then clamp it down? This is what they gave me, though by “smoked pork” they really meant, “single slice of bologna”. I suppose it was cubano cheese, though to be honest I’m not sure what that is. I don’t think it is a cheese meant to be melted. It was already mostly cold when they brought it up and the bread was a bit, limp. The fries were ok but the coleslaw was, um, not coleslaw. It had the right look and basic ingredient (cabbage) but that was it.

It was during this meal that I decided I would make my fortune by opening up restaurant here and doing it right. It may only appeal to the foreigners, but at least I could always get a good burger when I was craving it. Oh, and of course a shave ice stand on the side. :-)

Since I’m in a rambling mood, let me tell you about the tv stations over here. I’ve had quite a bit of time to flip through the channels over the last few days and I have a couple of observations that you may or may not find interesting. Cambodia is actually a pretty diverse as far as cultures and nationalities. For example, Japan has been very involved in the restoration of the various ancient temples for many years now and has had some influence and we’ve met tourists from Japan, Korea, Australia, and Russia (just a small sample I’m sure). The cable tv has stations from Thailand, China, Korea, America, Russia, India and of course Cambodia. Some of them are dubbed in the Khmer language, some are left in their native tongue.

Music has always been a part of the Cambodian culture and for as long as I’ve been involved with the people I’ve observed their great love of their music, especially in the form of karaoke. Over here there are no less than two stations (usually more) at any given time dedicated to showing Cambodian karaoke, not to mention those showing music videos in other languages (Korean and Thai seem the most popular). In fact, there are places here where you can come and rent a private room filled with disco lights and a large screen with all of your favorite songs projected onto it. You’re provided with microphones and plenty of food and drink and away you go - singing to your hearts content.

You may be asking yourself, how does he know so much about this? Has he frequented such establishments? The answer is yes, kind of. Last Saturday night Rosa’s sister wanted to take all of us to sing karaoke so we got dressed up and took the tuk tuk over to the place. It was after dark and the one we went to was lit up and full of flashing lights. We had greeters waiting for us as we went in and others waiting to escort us up to the third or fourth floor to one of the rooms described above. I was amazed by the number of workers there to assist us. It seemed every few feet there was someone there trying to help us get comfortable and ready to sing the night away. I’m not much of a karaoke singer so I was more or less just along for the ride - but Rosa walked into the room and immediately decided that she did not have a good feeling and this was not the place for her and she walked right back out the door. I, of course, was right there with her and after much placating of our hosts we all left and went to a restaurant downtown to eat. In the end it was a ton of fun for both Rosa and I because the restaurant we ate at catered specifically to the Europeans and after dinner they had a DJ that played mostly American music and we basically just boogied the night away.

I should also note that Rosa’s sister went to sing karaoke again last night with some of her friends and I saw the video. We didn’t miss much.

]]> (The Shurtz Family) Sat, 25 Aug 2012 09:07:45 GMT
A Humble Abode [Editor's note: I tried and tried to post this yesterday, but the internet just wasn't working here.  It's morning now and it seems to be up again.]

Before I get into the day’s report I want to give a quick update on Rosa. I’m writing this from the international hospital here in Siam Reap.

Don’t panic! All is well. Rosa’s head has continued to hurt for the past few days so we decided we’d better have them take a look at her just to be sure. They did a blood test and a CT scan and things came back normal. She has some medicine for help the nerves in her face, an anti-inflammatory and something for the pain. She also had a head massage when we got back to the hotel and that seems to have helped as well. We’ll see how tomorrow goes. By the way, if you want a good example of what affordable health care looks like, we went to the hospital and spent about 4 hours there, did blood tests and a CT scan, had the results looked at by specialists in Thailand, multiple consultations with the doctor and three different prescriptions filled. All for $216.  Not bad eh?

But today’s report will have to wait until at least the day is over. Thursday is in the books so let me give you an idea of how it went. I don’t know if I’ve talked about our hotel situation much but basically the original idea was we would come and stay the first couple of nights in a place I had reserved and then “go where the wind blows us”. It turns out that the wind doesn’t blow very hard because we’re still in the same place. Rosa likes to be comfortable, though I suppose that could be said about any of us, and our hotel here in Siam Reap is very nice and very comfortable. As hotels go around here it’s not the most expensive but it’s definitely not the cheapest either. Ours is rated 4 stars and is clean and very well ran. They have a fantastic breakfast buffet in the mornings and a beautiful pool and area in general. For $39/night you really can’t beat it. Rosa’s sister stayed in a place last time she came which was $15/night and she had reserved some rooms there again for the other family members who had come to see us. When Rosa saw their rooms she decided very quickly that she was happy where she was, thank you very much. So we added additional days to our stay and here we remain.

That was a really long way of saying that when we went to Battambang we stayed at a $15 hotel and let’s just say when you combine the room we were in with the way she felt physically she was very anxious to get back to where she was comfortable. We checked out Thursday morning and went back over to her sister Sokha’s house and we spent most of the day there before our return trip. It was very nice and I enjoyed the time there with everyone very much. Since we didn’t really go anywhere I’ll just describe some of the pictures I took around the house so you get a small idea about how they live over here. Before I do that let me tell you a little about state of living here. Generally you fall into one of two categories, rich or poor. I know that’s a pretty general statement, but from what I can tell its pretty accurate - at least from a standard of living perspective. I’ll try to take a picture of one of the nicer homes to give you an example, but those who have more money (or more likely, those who have relatives with more money) have nice, multi-story homes made from cement or brick. They are often built on their existing property so you’ll see a nice new home next to the older traditional stick built version. In the city it’s similar with the more humble homes crammed together in the alleys behind those who can afford the street front dwellings. Most people in the city rent their space but are responsible for the maintenance and improvements themselves. Generally multiple generations live together and they make use of all the space available to them. Rosa’s family definitely falls more into the humble category, but they are very happy and live comfortable lives given what they have to work with.

Rosa’s sister lives in Battambang city and her home has two stories and two families that live there. The adjacent home is where Sokha’s daughter’s husband’s mom and son and his family live.

At some point in the afternoon we decided it was time to start heading back to Siam Reap. Along the way we stopped by Sokphy’s house one more time to say goodbye and afterwards went over to see the Wat (Buddhist temple) where the tombstone is located which contain the ashes of Sokha’s husband who recently passed away. This is the same temple where Rosa and her sisters went to school when they were very young and they had a lot of memories of the place. For example, this is the old schoolhouse where Rosa learned how to read and write in the Khmer language (though not long enough to really become proficient).

In the back of the temple was the place where the tombstone had been erected. The family gathered around and paid their respects to him. In this picture, the girl and guy are two of Sokha’s children, so this is their dad’s grave. I walked around for just a little bit and took a few pictures.

In this one, the old women you see in white are the equivalent of nuns in the Buddhist faith. Here at the Wat is where the community comes together for all kinds of events - weddings, funerals, holidays, school, etc. It is very much central to the way of life over here. One interesting thing about this Wat. During the time when then Khmer Rouge were in control they managed all of the marriages in the village. Rosa’s two sisters, Sokha and Sokphy, were lined up with 8 other girls and 10 guys were lined up across from them. One of the Khmer Rouge leaders walked down the line and paired the girls and the guys together two by two - assigning them to be married. This is how Rosa’s sisters met and married their respective husbands.

Afterwards we went down the road just a little further to the place where Rosa’s grandmother was buried. There really isn’t anything marking the spot any more, just memories, but they left an offering for her there anyway. It’s now a rice field and gave me a good opportunity to get close to the fields for some pictures. It was really a very beautiful place.

When we finished there we went back to the main road and started back to Siam Reap. I’ve described getting around the city as “organized chaos”, but driving down the highway is more like barreling down a mountain. Rosa’s nephew-in-law, the dentist taxi driver, pretty much drove down the road constantly honking the horn and dodging around trucks, motorcycles and ox drawn carts alike. The road was actually quite good so there weren’t too many pot holes to dodge as well, but it made for an interesting drive.

Here’s another interesting thing about the country. There are not a lot of cars here, but the ones that are either use regular gasoline or have been converted to use propane. From what I am told, the rich use gasoline as kind of a status symbol since it costs about twice as much to fill up the car as propane. The propane stations are kind of scattered around and they fill up the tank by using a compressed tank and forcing the gas in through a nozzle in the trunk. We stopped at a place to fill up on the way home and while they were filling up the tank, Rosa’s sister Solarina noticed that the car was left running (the owner had gone off away for a smoke) and turned off the ignition because she was afraid of it catching on fire or something like that. I can’t say I blame her since this is how we are used to doing it in America with regular gasoline. Anyway, because the engine was off there was no pressure in the tank and as a result it was over-filled. When our nephew came back and noticed that the car was off he panicked a bit and sure enough, the car wouldn’t start. The owner of the station came over and a few other people and they all started working on the problem. In the end they had to release some of the gas to finally get it started again, but all was well.

One thing that happened as a result of the delay though was we were now finishing the last 20 km or so in the dark. Driving at night was just as interesting because instead of honking the horn at everything and everyone, he flashed his blinkers and high beams on and off as he drove. I admit it was a little scarier given that you couldn’t see very far in advance, and I’m pretty sure the other drivers didn’t appreciate him using his high beams as the default - but it all worked out and we arrived back and the hotel safe and sound. Rosa and I checked into the same room we had before and it kind of had that “we’re home” feeling. We ordered room service and Rosa went right to sleep. I stayed up reading and watching a little tv then turned in myself.

]]> (The Shurtz Family) Sat, 25 Aug 2012 00:26:12 GMT
A Rung Bell I’m not sure timing has ever been our strong suit, but hey, that’s how life is sometimes. Tuesday night while we were at dinner Rosa mentioned that things seemed a little off because she couldn’t taste the food very well. It seemed a little odd but things seemed normal otherwise so we didn’t worry too much about it. That night she complained a bit about a headache and a stiff neck and didn’t sleep as well as she would like. When we got up in the morning and I had a good look at her it was obvious that her Bells Palsy had come back. She had this once before almost exactly 4 years ago. Luckily, like last time it doesn’t seem to be too bad - though it is still pretty uncomfortable for her. I called our doctor in the US and he basically said that there wasn’t much we could do about it at this point and we should just let it run its course.

So Rosa is making the best of it. Breakfast was at a restaurant down the street from our hotel and we had a great dish of stir fried noodles with beef and a fried egg. You’ll notice the cat walking around? There are cats and dogs everywhere here. As far as I can tell they are all wild, though I imagine that some of them are considered something of a pet. In general my recommendation would be, don’t touch any of them. :-) Oh, they’re nice enough. In fact I haven’t had a single dog bark or bare its teeth at me, or anything like that. The cats all want to rub up against your leg and would probably love to get a good scratch. But again, don’t touch. As you might notice from the picture the cat’s eyes seem to be oozing something slimy. That seems to be a fairly common denominator. They all look very friendly, but then you take another look and feel like if you touch them you may need shots for something, or at the very least a good hand wash. :-)

One of the things that is very popular to do over here (for the Cambodian people) is to go to a place where they will dress you up and do your makeup and then take your picture. Rosa had planned on doing that and went ahead with the plan even though things weren’t exactly as she had wanted them to be. They did a good job of it and they were a bit over-photoshopped for my taste, the pictures turned nice. They even had me jump into a few of them. I may or may not decide to post some of them, later. :-)

Afterwords we decided to take a ride on the scooter with Rosa’s nephew and got to see a little of the city. It’s a little bigger than Siam Reap, but doesn’t seem as busy to me. Probably because it’s missing all the tourists. The gauze on Rosa’s eye is something she put on because she can’t involuntarily close her right eye and it gets dry pretty quick.

We stopped at a couple of the landmarks and on the way to Rosa’s sister’s house we passed by the local LDS church. It looked like there were people there so we pulled in to say hi. It looked like there were a few meetings going on, something for the adults and an English class for the youth. There were teenagers everywhere so I’m guessing it was the usual weekly youth night. We could see through the window that the English class was being taught by the elders and it finished up while we were waiting outside the door. They came out and we talked for a few minutes. One was from Colorado and had been out for a while and the other from Salt Lake and had only been there for 2 weeks. I asked them if they would be willing to help me give Rosa a blessing and so we went into one of the rooms and took care of her. It was kind of cool to hear the elder anoint in the Khmer language. That was something that I only remember doing a couple of times and there’s no way I could these days. They said the work was going well here. The church was very new - only built in the last year and shows the way the church has grown here. When I served my mission the country was still closed to the church and it only opened up in 1996. I’m not sure of the statistics, but I know the church has really grown since then.

The kids had one of those toys that has a couple of animals on the top and when you press them it says their name.  For some reason when you pressed the cow it would say, "cattle".  I tried to teach them "cow" but it just didn't sink in. For the most part the rest of the day was spent over at Rosa’s sister Sokha’s house. Everyone ate together and generally just “hung out”. While we were there I walked around a bit to explore and this little boy came up to me. He was so cute and his mom came over next to him and he started to talk to me in English, “Hello sir, how are you?”, “What is your name?” and I asked him questions in return. He is 2 years old and as cute as they come. I think I’m going to try to print this picture and send it to him somehow.

Speaking of pictures, one of the little ones drew one of (I think) me.  It started out pretty good, but then I was a little confused by the end.  I'm going to assume that I'm holding hands with myself. :-)

]]> (The Shurtz Family) Cambodia Thu, 23 Aug 2012 16:31:47 GMT
A Bit of a Homecoming First of all, a quick report on how we’re feeling. Monday was spent basically just laying around and sleeping on and off and I’m happy to report that we are now mostly back to normal. About the most ambitious thing we did was go for a walk by the pool. It was nice to get up yesterday morning and be hungry - really hungry.

I’m writing this from a hotel room in Battambang. We haven’t been around the city really at all yet, just getting to the hotel and then a quick drive over to the restaurant last night to eat. But, I can tell you already that it feels different. For one, there are very few tuk tuks on the streets. Siam Reap was all about the tourists and I now realize that the number of tuk tuks flying by was a result of that. Here in Battambang it’s more of a “normal” city that apparently doesn’t have as many foreign visitors. There are, however, a LOT of scooters.

Anyway, I’m getting side tracked. This post is more about the getting to Battambang. We had breakfast in the morning and then eventually packed up and checked out of the hotel. Rosa’s niece’s husband owns a car and uses it as a taxi (apparently he’s a dentist as well - go figure) and we crammed us all in for the two hour drive over. By crammed I mean no rules, no seat belts, the old fashioned sit on your lap kind of crammed. It wasn’t so bad really.

There were only 8 of us in the Camry and the car had air conditioning and I got to see the Cambodian countryside. By the way, the countryside is very flat and green with lots of rice fields. It was very interesting to see the people working and the various differences in living conditions. I am fascinated by how versatile the motorcycle is over here. I have seen all kinds of things carried on them - whole families, baskets filled with stuff, and farm equipment. I saw an old woman carrying a TV in front of her and even a stack of large mattresses (balanced very carefully no doubt). They seem to be able to two anything from a tuk tuk to a large container for hauling coconuts or really anything else.

About 20 minutes outside of Battambang we stopped at the place where Rosa and her family lived at one point when she was young.

The family that lives there now (they have a small store in the front and a newer place to live) is the brother of Sokha’s husband (the one that just passed away) and Rosa tells me that they are are about the same age and used to tend the cows and oxen together when they were little. Rosa even got a little teary-eyed as she remembered some of the memories she had of playing there.

By the way, interesting tidbit of information. I have seen along the road at various places these stands where they have large bottles of soda lined up seemingly for sale. Some of them are very colorful and I wasn’t sure what they were. While we were talking to the family I wandered a bit and noticed one out in front of their store.

While I was watching a motorcycle pulled up and they came out and took one of the bottles and added it to the tank. Mystery solved. It’s an interesting system that seems to work pretty good.

We got back in the car and went down the road another half mile or so to where Rosa’s sister Sophy lives with her husband and family. We stayed there for little while and visited with everyone.

They live about 15 minutes outside of Battambang and still live in the same place as they did when Rosa was a little girl. Sophy’s husband is a very friendly guy and was a lot of fun to talk to. He loves European soccer and boxing and seemed intrigued with me. :-) They raise pigs and chickens and have a small garden where they grow all kinds of vegetables and fruit. The oranges over here are green and stay green when ripened. I didn’t realize that this variety existed but hey, I’m learning all kinds of things this trip. They also had a guava tree and papaya and some that I didn’t recognize. Life is certainly simple over here, but they are starting to get more of the modern conveniences. For example, notice the satellite dish next to the papaya tree.

After a we visited for a while, Sophy’s husband jumped in the car with us (now 9 total) and we finished the trip into Battambang. Before we came we heard stories about the police stopping us on occasion to “inspect” or something like that. Apparently, this is how they earn their money and in order to get passed the checkpoint you pay a dollar or something along those lines. As we entered the city we passed one of those checkpoints and an officer started to waive us over to the side. However, the driver just yelled out something to him and he waived us on passed. It turns out that it was a relative of Sophy’s husband (sisters kid or something along those lines). So, squeaked by another one. :-)

We checked into a hotel and everyone went out for dinner together. Just after we arrived it started to rain really, really hard - but it only lasted 10 minutes or so. Supposedly this is the beginning of the rainy season over here, but so far this is the first time we’ve seen any real rain. We ate until we were stuffed and they headed back to the hotel. We had a very relaxing evening where we sat around and played games.

It was a nice way to end a very nice day.

]]> (The Shurtz Family) Cambodia Wed, 22 Aug 2012 05:35:19 GMT
Slow Noisy Connection By the way, although we have an internet connection here, it's not very good and it's been frustrating trying to upload the pictures.  I've finally been able to do it consistently, but only after changing it so that it uploads the pictures in a reduced size.  I'll replace everything with the originals when we get home.

]]> (The Shurtz Family) Mon, 20 Aug 2012 09:40:28 GMT
Bucket List and Battles Can you think of something that you’ve wanted to do for over 20 years and when it finally happens it happens so quick that it almost doesn’t seem real? Back in 1991 when I was first introduced to the country of Cambodia and it’s people, one of the first things I learned about was the magnificence of the symbol of the country, Angkor Wat. Yesterday we got up and took a tuk tuk over to Angkor Wat and it was an amazing experience. The ride over was very nice. I’m starting to think that the tuk tuk is the best way to get around - though I’m still amazed at the ability of everyone to work together so calmly and my description of “organized chaos” is still spot on. I’m starting to get used to pulling out onto the wrong side of the street and traveling head on to traffic until just at the last moment where they scoot over to the right side of the road. I’m fascinated by it actually. Here’s another thing that I love. In America some of the traffic lights have countdown displays for when the light is going to turn red. The few stoplights they have in Siam Reap are exactly opposite and countdown to the green light. It has a very race car feeling where you can almost hear the people revving their engines before it turns green. :-)

The ride over was very nice and was only 15 minutes or so from the hotel. As I’ve mentioned earlier, this is a trip full of firsts for me and one of the things I was interested in seeing was what the jungles of cambodia were like. I grew up in the desert where the moutains had trees but you could pretty much go anywhere you wanted as the foilage wasn’t too thick. I now live in a place where the trees and vegetation are so thick that it’s impossible to blaze your own trails and for the most part you need to stay on established trails if you want to go anywhere. I’d say the forests of Cambodia is somewhat in-between the two. It’s thick, but not so much that you couldn’t make your way through it if you need to. Over the years I’ve heard so many stories of people making their way out of the country, escaping the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge and all of the evils that went with it. Rosa herself was carried out on the back of her older sister and I know many people with similar stories. So, part of my experience here is to try to get a good picture of what it might have been like. Needless to say, I have a deeper respect for the perserverance of the Cambodian people and their ability to survive some pretty awful things.

Angor Wat is really, really big and includes some pretty fantastic sites. They don’t charge anything to the Cambodia people to visit but I had to get the day pass. I admit that I did try to convince them I was just a white Cambodian, but it didn’t work. :-)

Speaking of the language, Jen asked how it was going for me. I’m happy to report that I’m doing ok. I wouldn’t say I’m anywhere near fluent - but I’d call it passable. When I was on my mission it was hard to get immersed in the language because I was still living in the states and we worked with all of the southeast asian people, not just the Cambodians. It’s been fun to experience what it’s like to be immersed in the culture and language. To be honest, it’s not so different than some of the family gatherings back home and it feels quite natural to be here. There is one thing that’s a little odd for me though and it was just yesterday when it hit me what it was. In America all the kids speak English and I was always able to talk to them with no problem. Here the kids don’t speak a word of English and it’s odd to my ears to hear Cambodian coming from them. It’s kind of cute actually.

Angkor was great and hot. Really hot. Heat stroke kind of hot. 99% humidity, 100 degrees hot. Sweat like a pig and sunburn hot. At one point after we had gone through the main Angkor Wat temple we stopped for a rest in a small market area. I bought a couple of bottles of water and drank the first without stopping. The second followed afterwords and it wasn’t until I had sat for a while in the shade before I started to feel normal again. We were still with all the family and I think they were amazed at my reaction to the heat. I had to laugh because most of them were in long sleeve shirts or jackets and didn’t seem to even notice the heat. I am definitely from the northwest, where I start to boil at around 70 degrees.

After the main Angkor Wat temple we separated from the rest of the family and Rosa and I - along with a couple of the nieces and nephews continued the tour on the tuk tuk. We visited the Bayon temple and a bunch of other places, including the spot where Angelina Jolie made famous in Tomb Raider. There was restoration going on at many of the sites and (unrelated) there weren’t too many people there. Apparently this isn’t the most popular time to visit and it made it nice for us.

There’s an advantage in traveling with our nephew who lives here in Siam Reap. He knew about a place a little off the beaten path that was kind of fun. Apparently the Japanese found one of the tallest trees in the area and built a tree house in it. It was probably the best tree house I’ve ever had the privilege of climbing and had multiple levels to go through. The top had a fantastic view and it was well worth the climb up.

I had a conversation with Khalina earlier in the morning (our time) and her one request was that I find a monkey to bring home. I admit that I was pretty anxious as well because apparently there are monkey’s everywhere in the area. We didn’t see any throughout the day and were on our way home when suddenly we passed a brood(?) on the side of the road. We yelled at the tuk tuk driver and he kindly flipped around for us.

The monkeys were right there on the side of the road only a few feet away and they kindly sat there while I proceeded to take a bunch of pictures. There was a momma and a bunch of babies and Khalina, you would have cried to see them. They were so cute. Then the battle began. In my haste to grab my camera and squat down in front of the various monkeys I left my camera bag open back on the seat of the tuk tuk. While I was snapping pictures I heard a yell from Rosa’s nephew. Apparently one of the monkeys had ran around and was trying to steal the stuff out of my bag.

I ran around and we began a fierce battle where he was trying to assert that the contents of my bag were now his and I was disagreeing as best I could. The problem was he seemed to have pretty sharp teeth and I didn’t really have a good weapon to fight against them. In the end I resorted to using the strap from my camera as a whip of sorts and darted in and out with it - jumping back when he would bare his teeth at me. Eventually I persevered and he finally jumped off and ran away. I admit that I felt a surge of pride in my victory. :-)

Unfortunately, the battle wasn’t over. We had a bite to eat over at Rosa’s nephew’s apartment and then Rosa and I went back to the hotel to shower and freshen up. Within an hour we were both feeling the dreaded stomach ache and basically spent the night on the toilet.

Today we haven’t done anything other than lay around our room and try to recover. We’re both starting to feel better finally and hopefully it will all be gone by the time we need to leave for Battambang tomorrow. I can tell you this though - I’d rather be fighting the monkey.

]]> (The Shurtz Family) Mon, 20 Aug 2012 08:53:52 GMT
A day to explore It's been a very relaxing day today.  Rosa and I were up early and went down together to the fitness center.  By fitness center I mean a couple of exercise bikes and an old pulley weight set.  We spent a few minutes getting our heartrate up, showered and had an amazing breakfast - note that this isn't your typical American breakfast, but one of rice, noodles, curry and things like that.  The nicer hotels here pride themselves in serving a nice breakfast and they include it as part of your stay.  I admit that I was hoping for bacon and eggs and waffles, but this was still pretty nice.  I did discover in one of the corners a guy who would make an egg omlet on demand for you, but by then I had already stuffed myself silly and figure I'll try it tomorrow.

After breakfast we met the rest of the family in the lobby and headed over to the market to explore a little.  This is a fun place to drive around.  We rode around in a tuk tuk, which is basically a smaller scooter towing a small buggy.  
The drivers are a bit crazy and there were a few times that I thought for sure someone was going to get hit - but it all seemed to fit together.  I think organized chaos is probably the best way to describe it.  The ride was a ton of fun though and it was cool to finally see the city and all the comings and goings of it all.
They tell me he is carrying roots for medicine.
At one point we ended up in a small shopping plaza where they have the equivelent of a McDonalds.  I think it was called Lucky Burger or something along those lines.  I wasn't very hungry but felt obligated to order a burger and fries just to be able to say that I had traveled to the other side of the world and ate a burger.  It wasn't very good but hey, wasn't expecting greatness in this particular category.
Haha, couldn't resist the picture.
We went over to see Rosa's nephew's apartment and then headed back to the hotel.  A few of us went for a swim and basically spent the afternoon talking and playing games.
The weather here has been hot and muggy, but not so bad.  In fact it's been very comfortable for the most part and both Rosa and I have enjoyed the heat.  I could definitely see us spending more time here in our future.
]]> (The Shurtz Family) Cambodia Sun, 19 Aug 2012 02:55:28 GMT
Morning in Paradise What a way to wake up in the morning, eh?  We're in a beautiful hotel here in Siam Reap and it's already hot and muggy.

We arrived at the Airport in Siam Reap last night at around 10:30pm and things went smoothy.  After about 18 hours of being on a plane, we were ready to get some fresh air and a good night's rest.

The plane right over was actually pretty comfortable.  We flew on Korean Air and I think their motto translated into English is, "Feed them constantly and they won't complain."  We pretty much just ate, watched movies, and ate some more.  The food wasn't bad, but it will probably take a day or so to recover from the bloat.  My plan was to not sleep until we got here in order to more easily align my body to the new time - and so far it seems to be working.  I was pretty tired last night and slept great.  We woke up this morning at around 6:30 and as far as I can tell my body seems to think it's really morning.  We'll see how things go today and if that continues to be true.

One of the neat things about being here is that Rosa will finally get to see her two older sisters after more than 30 years separation.  When we got into the airport last night and came out the front we had our own cheering section. :-)

Rosa's sister Solarina had worked hard to make it a secret that Rosa and I were coming and you could see it in their faces how excited they were to see us - well, mostly Rosa. :-)  It was a fantastic night and there were lots of hugs and tears.  We got everything together, crammed into a van and went over to the hotel.  We all went up to our rooms and talked for a while longer.

This is a picture of Rosa and her three sisters (Solarina is in the blue and came with us).  Rosa's oldest sister Sokha is the one who recently had her husband pass away and she was so thankful for the money that everyone donated to help cover the funeral costs.

Well, we're about to take off to go see the city a bit.  Just as an FYI, my phone doesn't work and I haven't yet arranged anything as an alternative.  It's already been a great day and it's only just begun. :-)


]]> (The Shurtz Family) Sat, 18 Aug 2012 03:05:49 GMT
The Beginning

Well, we're off.  Tuesday was kind of an interesting day.  The plan was for me to take the kids to the airport and then head straight for work.  We ended up leaving the house a little later than planned and then topped it off by making a breakfast run at McD's.   Traffic wasn't too bad but when we got the the airport it seemed a little busier than I had hoped it would be.  But, we made it - just barely.  By the time we got through the baggage check in, security, and made our way to the gate they had already started lining up.  It kind of had that old MTC feeling.  Basically I just had time enough to shuffle them into their place in line and give them a quick kiss and a hug and then they were off and down the boarding ramp.  Just like that.

We spent the next two days cleaning the house. :-)

And now here we sit waiting for our flght to board.  It's hard to believe that in just a few short hours we'll be on the other side of the world experiencing a whole lot of things for the first time.  I can already tell that this is going to be an amazing trip!

I don't know how often I'll be able to update this, but I'm hoping to keep everyone up-to-date as the next couple of weeks progress.  I know this is a public site, but for the most part only family knows about it, so it should be fairly safe.  We'll keep the Facebook posts for when we get back. :-)

Love ya!

]]> (The Shurtz Family) airport cambodia Thu, 16 Aug 2012 20:46:02 GMT
A breaking change So I switched things around a bit and unfortunately it seems to have broken things.  I decided that I wanted to switch our subdomain ( to be the main site rather than the Blogger based blog site.  I haven't blogged in years and the site was just way too stale - plus Zenfolio now has blogging built into their site.  The problem is the way that I hook into Zenfolio means that I can only have the one main site pointing to our pictures.  Which means that the old web address is broken.

I'm still looking into a way to make the transition a little smoother, but until that happens if you have any old URLs pointing to photos, just replace the "" with "" and they will continue working.

Sorry for the trouble.

]]> (The Shurtz Family) Mon, 16 Jul 2012 04:25:16 GMT