Word of the Week Wednesday 6/7/17


Today starts my last month in placement, and that is a little too real for me. But, I have some exciting things coming up too, which brings me to this week’s word:


Language: Biblical Greek

Part of Speech: verb

Pronunciation: martyr-oh-my

Translation: To testify, witness, address solemnly, insist, urge
One of my exciting times this last months started today with a three day training on the Lutheran Confessions with Pastors of the Lutheran Church in Cambodia (LCC) and the Cambodian Lutheran Church (CLC.) This is a wonderful opportunity to learn about our Lutheran heritage and grow as two hutch bodies under one Church. On our first day today we mostly talked about the history of how the reformation started. Although there are many stories that have been made about Luther, he truthfully was not planning a reformation movement when he first nailed those 95 theses to the door.

As his path continued and his work was translated into German and distributed to the general population, there were a few events the really showed where Luther decided that he was going to push for the changes he wrote about. One was in an event that we could describe as a type of council meeting and after some explanation whether he will recant his statements or stand behind them and say that the pope can be wrong. He chooses to insist on his theses. That was a BIG DEAL back then and the fact that he questioned the pope’s authority was step one in sealing his fate.

Step two was when he received a letter that could have been his last way out. He had to answer questions so his old comments were then moot, or he was going to be excommunicated for what he did believe. He took the letter and burnt it in the town square. So, that killed any chance he had to return to the church and could also have cost him his life.

Our word of the week fits into all things because Luther chose not to back down. He had a Gospel revelation and was not intending to see those new thoughts and understandings of the Bible be pushed aside. He testified that there was corruption, witnessed on what he now understood as Gospel, addressed the issues solemnly, insisted on change, and urged that something be done. This word in Greek is also where we get the word martyr, which literally means witness.

Luther chose to stand up for the Gospel that was revealed to him, and got in a whole lot of trouble for it. But he continued, he did not back down, and he eventually when on to be a huge part of the history of Protestantism, and lutherans in particular. Hopefully you enjoyed a little church history today, and I urge you to find the things in your life worth testifying.

Keep Shining,



Rice Rice Baby

It is an age old story that cultures make up more words for the things that are important to them. The classic example is that Eskimos have many words for snow because they need to know what type of snow something is. Fluffy, fresh, packed, blizzard, etc. Well, here in Cambodia, I have learned just how important eating, and particularly rice, are to society.

First, let us start with eating. There are five main words for eating in Khmer depending on who is speaking and who they are speaking about/to. Those are:

ស៊ី See

  • For animals (impolite word, although it seems to be an acquired slang for university age students between close friends. Either that or cockroaches count as animals and the hostel students are talking to them.)

ញុំា Nyam

  • For someone younger, or the same age

ហូប Hope

  • For someone the same age or slightly older

ពិសា Pisa

  • For someone older than

សោយ Sowey

  • For the king and God

Just looking at the specifications with which they classify the verb “to eat,” it is clear how important food is to Khmer culture!

Now, let’s look at the ways that rice has integrated itself into society. It is important to note that rice production is one of the biggest ways that many families provide for themselves in Cambodia. Not only that, but every meal is served with rice. I could eat rice for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert if we have it! In fact, I usually do! To start with some basics, let’s look at a couple places associated with food:

ហាងបាយ Hang bai

  • Restaurant (literally “shop/store of rice”)

ផ្ទះបាយ P’teh-ah bai

  • Kitchen (literally “house/home of rice”

What about if we follow rice through its process of production?

ស្រូវ Skroh

  • Patty rice

អង្ករ Angkaw

  • Uncooked rice

ដាំ Dahm

  • Cooking rice verb

បាយ Bai

  • Cooked rice you eat

And finally, how about when you are talking about eating, or being hungry in general?

ញុំាបាយហើយ Nyam bai howee?

  • Have you eaten? (Literally: Have you eaten rice already?)

ញុំាបាយជាមួយខ្ញុំ Nyam bai chea-moi knyohm

  • Come eat with me. (Eat rice with me.)

ខ្ញុំឃ្លានបាយ Knyohm klee-en bai

  •  I am hungry. (Literally: I am hungry for rice.)
  • Note on this one. Sometimes hostel students will joke about this one and say “Klee-en mee” (I am hungry for noodles.)

Well folks, that’s all and sadly it is time to say good-bai! If you are in a particularly rice-y mood, or enjoy rice related humor, go on over and check out the post featuring An Ode to Rice on my other blog!

Keep Shining,


Word of the Week Wednesday 5/17/17

Good morning/afternoon/evening to you!

What a wonderful we this has been. Full of new experiences, new memories, and new words! Today though, I bring in an old word. One that I have known since I first came to Cambodia. Before I could read the Khmer letters for it, and before I even know how to say I was tired or full or busy, I could say this.


Language: Khmer

Part of Speech: Noun/adjective

Pronunciation: Sah-bai

Translation: Happy, fun

My day is filled with questions of “Sok sabai dte?” How are you? Although it is easy to just say good or fine in English, I find myself being honest in Khmer. Sabai, or aht sabai. Happy or not happy. Albeit, many of my days here are happy, or fun, or indescribably wonderful, so usually I answer with a simple sabai. I hope your next week is full of fun, and you too can say you are sabai!

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 1/4/17

Happy New Year!

2017 is a new year, and it will be full of many new words! Our first word of the week for the year 2017 is one that I really should know by now, but realized yesterday that I do not! So, let’s take a look:


Language: Khmer

Part of Speech: Noun

Pronunciation: Suhm-noo-ah

Definition: Question

I ask a LOT of questions here, so I am not quite sure why it never occurred to me that knowing the word for question might be a good idea! As we enter this new year, I hope that your world is filled with many questions, even if there are not always answers! Stay curious and learn about the wonderful world of words this year!

Keep Shining,