Word of the Week Wednesday 5/10/17

Hey there!

Quick word this week from the wonderful town of Kampong Cham!


Language: English

Part of speech: Noun

Definition: a small insect typically having a sting and living in a complex social colony with one or more breeding queens. It is wingless except for fertile adults, which form large mating swarms, and is proverbial for its industriousness.

Pronunciation: ˈant

A couple other volunteers and I made our way to Kampong Cham for a couple days of exploring. Little did we know that the males were VERY much fertile and our window did not have a screen.  They were huge, winged, and swarming, and our room was covered in them! Let’s just say I will never see a small ant the same again. They are much better than the alternative!

Keep Shining,



Word of the Week Wednesday 5/3/17

Sou S’dai,

This week I have been inspried by the book I am currently reading. It talks about how English formed from many other languages or a very long time. Click here if that sounds interesting to you! Not only is this book fascinating, it gave me a really cool word of the week in my native language.


Language: English
Part of speech: Noun, verb, participial adjective
Pronunciation: sɛt
Definition: Just click here.

So, what makes this word so amazing? Well, if you took the time to click the link for the definition, you would find out that there are HUNDREDS of ways to define it. In fact, the Oxford English Dictionary lists 58 noun uses, 126 verb uses, and 10 participial adjective uses. When all is said and done, approximately 60,000 words are used to define this ONE! If I did not think about it before, this book is definitely showing the parts of English that never occur to me as a native speaker. There are many more than I expected. Either way, this is a fun word, and now you can impress your friends with a fun fact at you rnext dinner party (or book club.)

Keep Shining,



A friend recently sent me an article about language in The Economist. It focused on the idea of “What makes a language difficult?” The concept of this piece was very interesting to me because it seems that any time I delve into learning a new language, there is a question that always arises about its difficulty. Friends and family members want to know if the language is “hard.” Each time I am asked this question, I usually respond with no, and then attempt to explain why.

Languages are different for a reason. Learning Khmer may show me more challenges than learning Spanish, but that does not make the language more difficult. Each one has its own set of rules, alphabet, grammar, and vocabulary and as I drift into languages outside the Latin-based family, there will be more challenges. These differences are what makes the language interesting, and oftentimes unique.

When I first started studying Hebrew, it took me so long to remember that I needed to read from right to left. I grew up reading left to right, and so it felt uncomfortable to what I was used to. However, someone who grew up reading right to left would say the same thing if he or she needed to switch. One is not more difficult, they are just different.

The same is true of my time in Cambodia. At first, I was very frustrated with how slowly I was learning this new language. But then, I thought about the facts of my study: I was learning the language by immersion instead of classes, it is my first language with a Pali/Sanskrit background for pronunciation, and I was learning a completely new alphabet. When I put all of these reasons together, I realized that instead of getting frustrated with myself, or labeling this language as “hard,” I should give myself some credit.

I am now many months into my journey here and I would probably not label myself above beginner level Khmer, but I am learning. Speaking, reading, writing, and progressing every day. Not because this language is more difficult than others I have learned, but because learning takes time. And that seems like an easy thing to comprehend compared to another alphabet.

Keep Shining,


Word of the Week Wednesday 3/22/16


So, this week, I really struggled to pick a word. Not because none came to my mind, but because too many did. In going through this decision process, I then decided to stick with English this week and use a word that encompasses most of the others.


Language: English

Part of Speech: Noun

Pronunciation: ˈstȯr-ē

Definition: an account of imaginary or real people and events told for entertainment.

This week I am participating in a storytelling workshop at my site placement. Not only that, but if you are an avid reader of this blog (or know about my time here in Cambodia), you know that I attended a storytelling conference last September. Funny enough, this is run by the same organization. Simply the Story hosts workshops all over the world and continually tries to teach about sharing the Gospel through story. Although the workshop this week is literally the same workshop as the one I attended in the fall, this time the entire thing is presented or translated into Khmer.

As I compare my two experiences in this workshop, I keep finding ways that I have grown in the past six months. Last time I stared with some people chose to tell a story in Khmer. I was lucky to understand Keenyom (the word for “I”.) Their language put me in a state of awe. Now, I still cannot comprehend large portions of what is being said, but I can pick up enough words that I get the gist of the story. Khmer still puts me into a state of awe, but now I can appreciate more deeply just how rich and beautiful words can be in the language.

At the same time, I also realize that the changes between then and now are not only changes, but are now part of my story. The story of my life in Cambodia. The story of the people I meet, the food I eat, the songs I sing, the conversations I have, the memories I make, the words I learn, and the moments I cannot fully express. Cambodia’s story is formed by the people here. God’s story is intricately woven throughout the people here. My story is richer because of the people here. Stories are important, and every new day I spend here makes me want to hear more tales from the people around me. Each of them are happy, sad, excited, scared, angry, joyful, nostalgic, mundane, holy, or somewhere in between, and I want to know every one of them. Share your stories, because they deserve to be told.

Keep Shining,


P.s. While enlisting help for the word of the week I had a few fun suggestions from friends that I think deserve honorable mentions: Chickens, Neeyay (Khmer for talk/say/tell), and meticulous.

Word of the Week Wednesday 1/25/17


Today is short and simple because being on the internet recently has been a difficult task for my mental well-being. Our word this week is:


Language: English

Part of Speech: Adverb, Adjective, Noun, or Verb (We are focusing on one of the adverb meanings)

Pronunciation: for·ward

Definition: Onward so as to make progress.

I chose this word because I am in Cambodia, and many things are happening in America that I feel both connected to and disconnected from. The majority of these issues come down to one thing: moving forward. To quote my friend Rafiki from the Lion King: “Oh, yes, the past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it or learn from it.” And I say we learn from it and make progress forward. Keep moving, keep going, keep fighting.

Keep Shining,


Word of the Week Wednesday 1/11/17


Welcome back to another wonderful wednesday of words! Today our word is short and simple, albeit very important in our lives. Plus, I have a disagreement with its definition!


Language: English

Part of Speech: Noun

Pronunciation: ˈhōm

Definition: the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household.

Home. Now, this definition states that home is somewhere that someone lives permanently, and that has not been my experience. I’ve come to associate this word with a feeling of transience. Home is constantly forming in new places and new ways. I’ve been in Cambodia for about four and a half months now, and can say without a doubt I have a new home forming here. It is hard to imagine leaving this home later this year, but I try to think about that yet. While at college, I felt at home, but I knew that was not permanent because I would leave. In essence, I do not think that you must live in a home permanently. But, I do think that anywhere you consider “home” permanently lives in you. Sure, that sounds a little cheesy and hallmark-y, but I have found it to be true. For every place that I have considered home, there is a piece of my heart that always hold that place. Eventually, I will leave Cambodia, but there will always be a spot for it in my heart. For now, I will feel the love and joy of my current home, and the family that often comes with it.

Keep Shining,


Word of the Week Wednesday 12/8/16



What a world full of paradoxes we live in, and I think I found one this past week. Which makes our word of the week in my first and only fluent language, English:


Language: English

Part of Speech: Adjective, noun, and adverb (But we are focusing on the noun today!)

Pronunciation: kōld


  1. a low temperature; cold weather; a cold environment.
    “my teeth chattered with the cold
  2. a common infection in which the mucous membrane of the nose and throat becomes inflamed, typically causing running at the nose, sneezing, and a sore throat.

So, I am living in Cambodia right now and “cold” is not a word most would associate with here. In fact, many of my co-workers and friends are telling me how cold it is right now (which is true for the country) and then I show them the temperatures from my hometown in Iowa. One of their responses was asking me how we can possibly live there if it’s that cold. I explained gloves, hats, scarfs, and sweaters. Since this is the environment of my life right now, and I am not living in “the cold,” we will now move to the second definition, which I am more focused on.

Now, I am not the type of person who gets colds. In fact, I almost never get colds. My normal states are either healthy, or dying sick where you cannot do anything. You could say live a life of extremes, never living a lukewarm life. No matter how true this fact may be, it does not excuse the reality that this past week I had a cold, in Cambodia. To be fair, I live in a hostel with 60 college students, and a family including three little kids. The likelihood of anyone in that situation having a cold is high, and once one person has it, the infection only spreads. To be honest, I can’t complain too much about a sore throat, and stuffy nose. It did not overwhelmingly interfere with my life, other than a hard English class where we worked on pronunciation and even I couldn’t say the words normally. This cold, though paradoxical, was only another one of my many lessons here. And I am grateful for that.

Keep Shining,