Becky's Blog

Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink! 30/01/2014

Filed under: A Little Indonesia — beckyhaldane @ 4:22 am

There are times when my life settles into such a smooth routine that I run out of interesting things to write about…and then there are days that are so extraordinary that I don’t know where to begin!

We started the 15th of January with a power cut, sitting in our tiny, wifi and a/c free office, thinking that this would be the low point of our day.  Within an hour we had packed up our van to evacuate the House to escape to higher ground, discovered that we were too late to make our escape, and were in our one upstairs room piling up everything important that we could save from the flood waters filling our ground floor.

This was my first natural disaster, and if I’m quite honest, I hope it was my last.

Thirteen of us spent the day watching the water levels rising in utter disbelief.  We watched as our (thankfully) empty rabbit hutch began to rise, as items from our office, kitchen and bedrooms began to float to freedom over our 7ft gates.  We watched as cars turned into amphibious vehicles coasting driverless down our street before finally piling up outside our house.  


We watched boats full of men drive up and down looking for people more vulnerable than ourselves to rescue.  We watched one of our former security guys make his way through 8ft of water to climb up the remaining foot of dry wall, clambering onto the balcony like the man from the Milk Tray ads, (but sadly without the chocolates).  We made plans to escape onto the neighbours roof if the water reached a certain mark on the wall.  We felt relief for the things we had thought to bring up with us and regret at the things we had forgotten.  We mourned for our security guard whose house we knew was destroyed.  We rejoiced with those secure in the knowledge that their houses and families were safe and dry on higher ground.  We tried to remember how high the ceilings were on the ground floor of the place where we lived, taking bets on which stair the water might have reached. We told  flood jokes and ate energy drinks powders and twiglets.  We experienced the full spectrum of emotions in shifts, taking it it turns to feel strong and just to look strong  

Finally we watched as the tide mark appeared on the outside wall, and the 4th step reappeared, then the 5th, then the 6th…We sent the guys out to see if there was a safe route out, like Noah releasing the raven and the dove.  At 2.30am we got the call to say that two of our security staff had made it to within safe walking distance of our place.  We took what we had come to work with that morning, and the girls in our care with overnight bags, and headed out, single file, through the inches of mud and debris, mostly in flip flops.  It felt, and probably looked, like a scene from a movie as we were joined by our neighbours, all venturing out, overwhelmed and exhausted.

It will be a long time for some before they are able to return to normal life.  In the mean time, I am encouraged daily by the truck loads of volunteers driving to the worst affected areas, by the communities pulling together to clean up their streets and homes, to distribute food, water and clothes, by fancy cars slowing down to give donations to people standing in the street with boxes asking for help.  I know I’ve said this before, but I love this place, I love these people…even on its worst day there is no where else I would rather be.



Puddle List 02/11/2013

Filed under: A Little Indonesia — beckyhaldane @ 11:15 am

I have a Bucket List of sorts, it’s not very long and most of the items on it are totally do-able if I put a bit of effort in to it!

What I discovered recently is that I also have a Puddle List.  It’s the opposite of a Bucket List.  Things I could quite happily go to the grave without ever experiencing.  I realised this a couple of weeks ago when I was doing some things that I never thought I would…and I now  know that I never want to do again!

To be honest, it was so bizarre that it’s not so much that I’d thought I would never do them, so much as I’d never given it a second’s thought that this might actually be a thing I would do!

Are you wondering what on earth I was up to?  Allow me to enlighten you…

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so imagine how many words you can convey with a film. With this in mind we had a brief visit earlier this month from Daniel Cegla of Brickwork Productions, to make a short film to tell the story of Compassion First in Indonesia.

This was not my first time meeting Daniel.  Last September, when I was working in Haiti, he came to make a film about the disaster response work the Foursquare Church is doing there.  When I saw the final results I was impressed with how he had managed to capture not only the desperate situation of the reality of a post devastation city, but also the innate beauty of the country and its people, and the potential of a restored nation.

With that memory still fairly fresh in my mind I was pretty excited when I heard that Daniel would be coming to Indonesia.

It was a packed few, very long and sometimes frustrating, days filled with interviews and driving to places of interest and beauty.  You could easily make a film that purely show cased the amazing heart of the Indonesians we work with, filled with incredible shots of mountains, volcanoes and the sun setting over the sea.  Sadly though, the story we have to tell also has a much darker side, and it was getting the footage to tell this side of the story that first made me aware of my Puddle List!

We spent our evenings filming in places where girls are systematically forced to allow themselves to be abused by paying customers.  I never thought I would spend an evening driving slowly around town trying to spot girls selling their wares, or looking for men doing late night business transactions. I was reminded that there is a certain amount of gall and tenacity required to do this kind of work well.  Fortunately for us Mr Cegla has it in spades…I, on the other hand, was just faking it, and making a mental list of “Things that are not my favourite”!

We went to one place which is definitely on my list of places to never visit ever again.  Without becoming overly melodramatic, I think I can safely say it was the darkest place that I have ever been in.  What was most disturbing to me was a conversation I had with the owner.  I didn’t actually catch her name as the singer was pretty loud, but it was close to mine and we had a lovely chat!  She explained to me the services she provides and what a good time the men have.  I heard all about the history of the place, and went outside with her to see the top half of the mango tree that is growing out of the middle of the club.  She could not have been more charming or accommodating… even offering me the glorious opportunity of taking a turn entertaining the room with my (non-existent) singing talents!  I bashfully declined, and added that to my Puddle List!

The question I was left with was this, “How can someone who appears to be so lovely, not only be involved in, but be controlling, something which is so blatantly evil?”  I have no idea, but I suspect that this is the same question that most of her girls ask themselves every night.


Danny Filming


To end on a slightly brighter note here’s a couple of photos from those days that do not involve our dubious evening activities!

And in case you were wondering…

We actually calculated how many words an 10 minute film would be worth and it came out to approximately… a bazillion gazillion!!!


First Impressions 14/10/2013

Filed under: A Little Indonesia — beckyhaldane @ 8:57 am

I arrived in Indonesia for the first time five weeks ago.  I had a rough idea of what I was expecting to find.  I’d read the blogs, the Compassion First website, ‘liked’ the Facebook page.  I’d met a couple of staff on Skype…I was as prepared as a person can be.

However, that first week I was here, I confess that I felt completely overwhelmed.  The task at hand is overwhelming for sure.  The reality of what this house represents is more than most of us can get our heads around.  I actually hope that I never get to the point where I accept these things as being normal.  The day we get used to girls being treated in this way is the day that the traffickers win and we pack up shop!


What impressed me the most, and what continues to blow me away, is the incredible atmosphere of unconditional love in this house. This is not my first time in a place like this, but I have never before experienced this level of mutual love and respect between all the staff and the girls.  This is not only a safe place, but a nurturing family home.  The girls that come in to our care don’t just have House Mom’s and Social Workers, they have Aunts and Uncles, sisters and cousins.  It thrills my heart to watch the Admin girl sitting playing the guitar with the girls, or the security men joining in the Zumba class on a Friday morning.

What overwhelmed me the most, in that first week, was the idea that not only does this place exist, but that I get the chance to become a part of the incredible Compassion First family.


At least I’m not bored! 10/09/2013

Filed under: A Little Indonesia — beckyhaldane @ 8:01 am

Four years ago, if I had heard someone complaining about the fact that they were running out of room in their passport, I have a suspicion that my response might possibly have been less than generous.

I have to confess though, that this is a conversation I have had with several people recently and I feel enormously blessed and spoilt to have this problem.

I am now living in my fourth country, in the space of 12 months, not including a wonderful month of R&R with friends in Portland last November.


Four years ago, if you had asked me what I knew about Indonesia I would have told you that it was a really big string of islands, (because  I’m never sure how to pronounce “archipelago”) kinda west of PNG, and that would honestly have been the sum total of my knowledge.  To be perfectly honest, I’m only slightly more clued up now, but I can tell you that I am currently living on North Sulawesi…and I can point to it on a map (given a few seconds to search!)

When I was in Portland I was introduced to an organisation called Compassion First by their founder and CEO Mike Mercer.  As the work that they are involved in dovetails with Elim’s Freedom Project, I have relocated here to explore the potential of Elim partnering with CF.

Due to the sensitive nature of the work here there is a limit to how much I can share publicly, but I would encourage you to check out the link above to their website to see what they are up to.  The past couple of weeks have been pretty overwhelming, but I feel very excited, and honoured to be able to come here and be even a small part of the story of Compassion First.


Great Expectations 17/08/2013

Filed under: Random Musings — beckyhaldane @ 6:21 am

I read a blog post this week on Jon Acuff’s Blog called “The Problem With Expectations”

What I got from it was the idea to go into new situations with an expectation of great results, based not on blind faith, but on memories of when awesome things have happened in the past.  To avoid the danger of living with a string of disappointments, when you don’t get to relive the best moments of your life over and over, he also cautions to be quick to dismiss those memories as you move forward and appreciate everything that is happening in this specific moment.

So, thinking ahead about the next six months or so of my life I decided to make a list of things that I can reasonable expect to happen.  I thought about great times from my past, special events, miraculous provisions etc and fairly quickly came up with a list of 10 Great Expectations to take with me into this next phase.

You’ll probably be relieved to hear that I’m not going to share them all with you.  Some of them are quite personal and I don’t want to be that blogger!

What I will share with you is how amazed I was to find that there has been a constant string of unexpectedly brilliant moments in my life.  I’d never really thought about them all together before.

You know how many people will say that they never win anything…not me!  I’ve won loads of things!!!  Some of them have been due to my hard work or natural giftings.  I’m thinking here about my prowess at the sponsored spell when I was 10, and winning a colouring in competition around the same age.  (Winning the creative dance competition at the National Eisteddfod the following year was due entirely to the talents of my team as I had the smallest of chorus parts possible without not actually being on stage!)

That same year my name got picked from a hat to go to Glan Llyn, a welsh language camp for 11 yr olds that only 1/3 of our year go to go to.  Jump forward 7 years to my name being first out the hat for a ticket to the opening day of Wimbeldon! (Add to that the joy of my name NOT being randomly picked two years in a row to give a speech at our Sixth Form Dinner…although, I should confess the rumour was that those girls were picked with a bent pin according to who they thought would have to do a to of public speaking in the future…who knew eh!?!)

Two years later I was given one of two places on the Student Exchange Programme from my faculty at Uni to study in the States…I didn’t deserve it, I just really wanted it!

Most of the really great random things that have happened have had one thing in common.  Its not good luck, or chance, its rarely my own innate awesomeness, hard work occasionally skirts around the periphery…

You know what’s coming…yup, its prayer.  There’s rarely been anything noteworthy happen in my life that I could hand on heart say, “Yes, that was all me guys!  That’s just how good I am…feel free to marvel at me…”

I say rarely…perhaps never.

So I have a list of 10 Great  Expectations.

Being honest though, it is equally easy for me to look back on my life and pick out moments and events that have been more on a scale from “rubbish to devastating”.  Similarly, many of those, while not the result of prayer, have not been of my own doing.  Using the same logic as above I suppose I should also allow for the expectation of there being some not so fantastic things in my future as well.

So let me finish with a quote from Great Expectations, and a quote from the Bible, to add some balance to all this.

“Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching, and has taught me to understand what your heart used to be. I have been bent and broken, but – I hope – into a better shape.”
Charles Dickens

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose”      Romans 8 v 28  


Election Fever 27/07/2013

Filed under: Every day life in Cambodia — beckyhaldane @ 8:50 am

votingThere are many things that I find myself grateful to be able to take for granted in the UK.

With the elections being held tomorrow in Cambodia, I am reminded of the luxury that we have of being able to vote as we please, without any fear of reprisal.  We can debate politics as freely as we choose without having to look over our shoulders to see who might be listening.  We know that if our chosen party doesn’t get in its not the end of the world and we have no fear that the new leadership might maintain power by force, or that they might incite a coup from the opposition or the military.  For many its just not a big deal.

The last time I voted in the UK it was for the General Election in 2010.  As I was in my booth, deliberating over the choice I had actually made around the age of 18, I over heard the gentleman who had come in behind me talking to the woman handing out the ballot papers.  I remember seeing him outside…and avoiding his gaze!  He asked the woman  which election this was and if it was, “…for Alex Salmond an’ tha’ ?” making me question once again the concept of universal suffrage!

(For my non British friends I should point out that the answer to his question was “NO!”  He was mistakenly thinking that he was coming to vote for the Scottish Parliament, not the UK Government…and yet his vote still carried the same weight as mine…and that, my friends, is the beauty of democracy!!!)


So, Cambodia goes to the polls tomorrow.  The roads out of Phnom Penh are full of people returning to their provinces to vote.  Many feel that the result is a forgone conclusion and time will tell if they are correct.  In the mean time there is a loud call for change and a concern about what will happen if that doesn’t come…and equally…if it does!


We had been advised to avoid all political rallies and demonstrations, which is hard to do when they are mostly conducted at 25 mph on the backs of trucks and motorbikes on any and every street in the city!

We were also told not to take any photos, but I have found a couple on Google which I will share with you, one of each party so you don’t know which side I come down on.  In a similar way to the Haitian elections of 2010/11 my heart would vote one way and my head another if I were Khmer.

We have also been advised to pack a bag…just in case!  I have a list of items to pack which I was given when we did security training shortly after arriving in Haiti.  I am ashamed to admit there are items on there that I have still failed to procure.  I do have an emergency dental kit…but I still do not have a parachute!

Ultimately the prayer of everyone in this country is for a free and peaceful election period as the polls open until the results are announced.

Until then, as Imelda Marcos once said, “Win or lose, we go shopping after the election”!!!


Pardon My Khmer 08/06/2013

Filed under: Every day life in Cambodia — beckyhaldane @ 11:23 am

This blog post is very difficult for me to write.

Don’t worry, there’s nothing wrong, it’s just that after having started my Khmer language classes this week I’m finding it hard to remember how to speak English! (And before you ask…no, that’s not the truth that Jesus loves to hear!)

I’m taking classes at two different schools.  I have 1-2-1 lessons with a lovely, and patient, girl called Anin who is teaching me everything I need to know to survive in Cambodia.  Its been a while since someone was excited at my being able to count…and even longer since I forgot how to say 4!  My homework for this week end  is to buy a bottle of water…without pointing and shrugging.

bb8a6478eef9daec414db46f9a373a21My other school, LINK,  teaches Khmer the “natural way”.  The idea is that you acquire the language through listening, like children do.  We just sit in the class room while two teachers talk, and point, and mime, and draw pictures.   I think they are trained to spot the level of our comprehension by the blankness of our expressions.  It’s still so far over my head that I mostly just sit there laughing at the performance.  I haven’t had so much fun learning a language since Mrs. Royles’ Welsh class in 2nd year High School! (And before you ask…ydw, rydwi’n siarad Cymraeg)

Speaking Khmer in the class is discouraged and there is no homework.  Seriously, what’s not to love???

The other plus side, as if that wasn’t enough, is that I’m getting to meet more people and explore another part of the city.  The combination of the two approaches means that I was confident to get in a Tuk Tuk with a driver I didn’t know, tell him where I live, in Khmer, and recognise a good 40% of the random route that he took to get me back to the pagoda at the bottom of my street.

It may sound like a small victory…but it’s definitely heading in the right direction, and another goal I can tick off my list towards becoming a fully functioning citizen of Phnom Penh.


There’s no I in Team! 01/06/2013

Filed under: Every day life in Cambodia — beckyhaldane @ 9:01 am

Well, not in English anyway…please feel free to check out the khmer and let me know!

This last week we’ve had a team with us from Dewsbury Elim, led by our fearless new International Missions Director (in waiting) Paul Hudson.

One of the days that impacted me the most when I came here for a short visit in January, was when we visited the Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh, and the Killing Fields outside the city, where people were taken to be executed from that prison.  To even begin to understand the culture of modern day Cambodia, it is vital to take this brief glimpse into their recent history.  I’m sure I’m not the only one who still can not even begin to get their head around the atrocities that these people suffered during the Khmer Rouge regime.  There were a couple of women on the team who were much the same age as me at the time and we talked about how we  learnt everything we knew about Cambodia from Blue Peter.  We dutifully collected and milk bottle tops, and felt sorry for the poor people who we were helping to feed, with absolutely no idea of what had actually gone on over here.  It is beyond horrifying.


The team will no doubt write somewhere about their highlights of the week, but my favourite place to visit is Oudong and a community there who were forcibly evicted from the slum where they lived in Phnom Penh three years ago.  This place is a testament to the resilience of the Khmer people, and to what can happen when just a couple of folks make the sacrifice to stand up for the rights of others.  Kevin Knight and his wife Leakhena live in a traditional Khmer house in the new village and have been instrumental in helping to establish a fully functional community with leaders who take care of their people.  I could not respect them more.

Sadly, the story of this community is far from being an isolated event.  This is just one of the legacies of the Khmer Rouge and the level of corruption that those years opened the door to.

On the positive side…the story of Kevin and Leakhena is not unique either, but you can read more about them on their Facebook page, Manna 4 Life.


Walking in the Light 21/05/2013

Filed under: Every day life in Cambodia — beckyhaldane @ 5:05 am

Thomas Jefferson once said, “Walking is the best possible exercise. Habituate yourself to walk very fast.”

(Yes, I did get that quote from Google!)

I couldn’t agree more with the man, I love to walk!  Don’t get me wrong, I also love travelling by trains, planes and automobiles…but I do love the independence of Shanks’s pony.  Clearly this man had never been in 21st Century Cambodia though!

When I was in Haiti the security situation dictated that expats stick to their 4x4s.  I can remember being very jealous watching Haitians just going about their business, walking along the streets, pausing at market stalls, chatting with their friends…and here we were, constantly locked in to our cars.

I’m embarrassed to confess that my legs would ache for a few days each time I left Haiti, just from walking about like a normal person.

Coming to Cambodia I have been very excited at the level of freedom we have here.  Heat stroke permitting, I can walk wherever I like!  The thing is…I now live in a country where NO ONE walks!  Pretty much the only people I see wearing out their flip flops on the city streets are expats.  I’m very much looking forward to knowing how all the streets in my area fit together, to being able to walk to my language classes without the constant feeling that I may have just missed my turning…but I don’t mind admitting I am a little nervous about the daily game of chicken with the giant Lexuses (lexi, lexus, lexra?), the blue vans and the plethora of motor bikes that fill every gap in the traffic.  I’m told the trick is just to move forward v e r y   s  l  o  w  l  y.

So far…I’ve walked to church…once…

Every blog you read will stand as testament to another week of surviving the Herculean task of …walking along a street in Phnom Penh!


Snorkeling on Dry Land 10/05/2013

Filed under: Every day life in Cambodia — beckyhaldane @ 9:06 am

snorkelingIts over a week now since I landed in Phnom Penh.  Its not my first time here, but there is a big difference between coming with a group for a few days and actually relocating!

So far, I would have to say that I am definitely in my ‘honeymoon’ phase and loving every minute of it.

I moved into my new pad on Sunday.  Its more than I could have hoped for.  The one frustration that I’ve felt, with the majority of my previous flats, is that I’ve had no private outside space.  I now have a balcony that runs the whole length of my appartment.  I feel completely spoilt!  Any time I forget momentarily where I am, all I have to do is step through my screen door and gaze out at my city view.  There’s no mistaking where I am…and, should a shadow of doubt appear, the pagoda at the bottom of my street settles that!

So…I bet you’re wondering why I have a picture of a girl snorkeling…

Despite having left Haiti nearly six months ago, I still have this slight urge to adopt the same security measures we had to live by there.  It reminds me of the first time I went snorkeling.  My gut reaction when my face is anywhere less than an inch away from water is to hold my breath.  For the first ten minutes of snorkeling I had to keep reminding myself that it was safe to breathe, that I wasn’t in danger, that I wasn’t going to drown, that it was OK, it was OK, it was OK.

Walking freely along the streets here sometimes feels almost as unnatural as breathing under water.  It is the most delicious self reassurance to have to make…Its OK!!!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not out and about, walking the streets alone from morning to night, far from it…but I think I know the way to our church from my flat and plan to walk there on Sunday morning.  As ridiculous as this may sound…I’m so excited at the idea of such a level of independence!  I’m beginning to recognise a few land marks around my area, and look forward to some quality exploring in the not too distant future.  (…and yes, don’t worry, I will take my mobile with me!)