Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Regular Life


I've been thinking about you guys today! I hope the drive is going well. It's funny to think that you guys will be here tomorrow! Send me Dear Elders throughout the week and keep me updated! Hopefully the move-ins go well. I wish I could be there (here) to help. 

Okay, so highlights of this week: 

The MTC is starting to feel like regular life. Which is both a good and a bad thing. We'll have been here three weeks on Wednesday, but it feels like it's been much longer. Our district gets to host this Wednesday! Which means we get to pick up the newbies from the curb and show them around. 

I learned to read! And it's craaaazyy. In Khmer you read left to right, but in circles. Everything in a word is built around the consonant. So you look for the consonant first, and then the sub consonants, and then the vowels. The tricky thing is, depending on the consonant, the vowel might make different sounds. Also, there are new spaces in between letters, so until you familiarize yourself with what a lot of words look like, it's impossible to tell when one word starts and one word ends. So it's gonna take a while to get used to it. And I've decided that I'm going to make sure I always put speaking/listening first. For me, speaking and listening is more important than reading or writing. But SOMEDAY I'll be able to do them all. Maybe. 

We had our first TRC this week on Saturday. In TRC we teach volunteers who come in. The lessons are home/visiting teacher style, so all of the volunteers are usually members. Either returned missionaries or natives. It's pretty nerve-wracking. It's one thing to be teaching "investigators" that are just your teachers, but real people is another thing. Eventually, we will be skyping members in Cambodia and teaching 40 minute lessons. I'm not sure how that will work with the time difference. So we'll see. So this week Sis S. and I taught two sets of returned missionaries. We taught on the Holy Ghost. It didn't go too terrible. It's actually kind of nice teaching members, because it's a whole different type of teaching. They all contributed a lot and then praised us on our Cambodian afterwords. So that was nice. 

Our lessons have been going pretty well this week. We're on a pretty regular schedule now where we teach one of our teachers every day (except Sunday and P-day night) and then TRC on Saturday. Now for the most part we're able to go in with two note cards: one that's a brief lesson plan in English, and one with vocabulary we haven't memorized that we might need. 

One lesson this week with an investigator was about the Atonement. We felt pretty good about it going in, and it was going great until he asked "Why did Christ have to die?" We both sat there for a minute. And I'm not sure I could answer that question fully if I was speaking English. We didn't really end up giving him an answer. I told him that it was a good question and that we would talk about it more next time. Hahah. So now we've got to figure out the answer. It spurred an interesting conversation within our district. And I suppose the answer is that justice needed to be satisfied. It's true that in order for us not have to pay for our sins, He did. But why did He die? But give me your thoughts, I'd love to hear them.

I had another interesting experience in class last week. Two of our teachers were demonstrating giving a lesson. We were supposed to be observing the investigator and trying to decipher what they were thinking/feeling, etc. The lesson was about Christ and he was showing the investigator a picture of him in the pamphlet. And it struck me how impossible this would be if it weren't true. I imagined a Cambodian man in a dirt floor bamboo hut in Cambodia looking at a picture of a bearded Caucasian man who lived 2000 years ago, and trying to explain to him that this man was Jesus Christ and that he took upon his sins and perfectly understands everything he's going though. But it works. And it's been done over and over and over again. So that's why the spirit is important I suppose. Sometimes it's a relieving thought to know that I am just the messenger. That it's not my work I'm doing, but Heavenly Father's. He has to do the hard work, preparing all of these people.

For a while I've had issue with the idea of coming into someone's country and home and pushing my religion/beliefs/outlook of the world on them. But someone explained it well in an orientation the first week. We're not here to tear away everything they know and all their previous understandings of the world. We take their basic understanding of love and family and an all-knowing, all-loving being and build on top of that basic foundation. And that is the "preparation" that everyone talks about already taking place. Kelsey sent me a great quote by Madeleine L'Engle that spoke to this idea, but I forgot to bring it with me! Well, I'll send it next week. I really liked it. 

Anyways, we've been having some crazy weather here. We've had a ton of thunder storms and it's been really chilly for August in Provo. We'll see if it sticks around for when you guys are here. Friday night the storm was really close and thunder went off for a long time in the middle of the night. The first time it woke me up it shook the whole building! It was crazy. It hasn't helped my sleep schedule. And it made TRC hard to do. My brain was moving slowly. One of the annoying things is that if you get a bad night of sleep, there's no way to catch up. 

Yesterday was really nice. Sundays are my favorite days of the week. Definitely the most relaxing. I get my music and my movie fix. The MTC is severely lacking in the form of entertainment. My music fix comes from Music and the Spoken Word. So that's what my life has come too... Also, I might have mentioned this last week, but Sunday nights they show four different films. Usually one is a "good one" while the others recorded devotionals. So as soon as the Sunday night devotional is over everyone books it to the other building to the movie. We've learned to sit near the side door so that as soon as they say amen we can run out the door and literally run across campus to get a seat. I wish I were joking. Last week was Legacy, this week was the Joseph Smith Movie. So that's life now. 

But other than that, things are going well in the MTC. We're getting to be good friends with our district, which is fun, but also bad for the four hours of studying we have at night. I've learned that some people are not as adept at studying as others. These elders that come straight out of high school admit that they've never had to study before in their lives! Another good reason to go after college. I'm coming up with a good list. I'm so glad I came at this point in my life. 

Thank you everyone for the Dear Elders! I'm writing snail mail letters back! So don't think I've given up on you if you haven't heard from me yet. Love you all!

Sister Fields

Monday, August 18, 2014

Much to Learn about Khmer

Hello everyone!

First of all, thank you everyone for all the Dear Elders you've been sending! Our district leader passes out mail at the end of the night just before we head back home, and it's so fun to get letters! So keep them coming! I don't have too much time to email back to everyone, so handwritten letters will be coming!

I'm happy to say this week went much faster than last week did. This place is starting to feel more like home. Actually, it really feels like I've been here forever! I'm getting kind of sick of the cafeteria food already. It's a lot of meat and not a lot of vegetables. And far too many tempting treats. But I'm still not used to the sleeping schedule. I might not ever get used to it.10:30 hits and my brain just won't turn off. But it is getting progressively easier to roll out of bed each morning at 6:30.

Okay, how about this? I'll give you guys a play-by-play of an average day here. It is extremely-scheduled out, but I'm getting used to it. 

We have gym time in the morning, so rather than getting breakfast at the cafeteria (which we can't go in without missionary dress on) we pick up a sack breakfast in the main building on campus. 

We're lucky to have gym in the morning. It's actually nice to work out earlier once I start going. I usually run on a track upstairs, and it's nice because we don't have to be with our companions during it. So it's nice alone time/study time if I take flash cards with me.

After showering we usually head to class, though on Thursday mornings we have service. Last Thursday my companion and roommates and I had the fun job of picking up and hanging up all the international flags at the front of the building! We made sure that Cambodia was front and center! We're hoping to get that job every week. 

We usually have two 3-hour blocks of class a day, though usually our investigator lessons take up some of that time. The beginning of last week marked the end of meeting with our first investigator. We committed him to baptism! I'm pretty sure our explanation of what it was didn't make any sense at all, but we still felt successful nonetheless! Then, turns out, the investigator (who we knew wasn't real) became one of our teachers. That way he had the experience of sitting on the other end and getting first hand knowledge of what we know/are lacking. We all thought he was actually Cambodian, but turns out he's a Korean-American RM from Lehi... Whoops! 

So now we have three teachers who we rotate through. And our first teacher, Locruu Michelson, is going to be our new investigator. Sister S. and I teach him for the first time tonight! So we'll see how that goes... We're going to get to know him and share a short message about families. But even short lessons take a lot of planning and vocabulary. One thing we've gotten a lot better at is not scripting out our lessons like we used to. Tonight we're going in with just an index card with what we plan to say in English and a list of vocab words for reference. 

Khmer is coming along... Khmer is how it's spelled in English, but in the romanization it's spelled Khmae (prounounced Ka-mai). We learned this week, though, that this romanization is not universal; and that it's only used at the MTC. So they're quickly trying to switch us over to reading/and writing the script. We started learning the alphabet last week. There are 52 letters I think? (Though don't quote me on that). So far we've only worked on the consonants. And they still pretty much look all the same to me. 

We've had lots of goal-setting lessons in class lately. It's nice because during the 6 hours of class, we typically switch off from learning strictly language, to learning teaching principles every hour. It mixes it up nicely. I've set a goal to learn 1000 words before I leave the MTC, so I need to learn 15-20 words a day. I have a ring of flash cards that I carry around with me everywhere.

We've gotten a little better at SYL (speak your language), but we still don't do it very much. Yesterday we tried only speak Khmer/Khmenglish at all our meals yesterday; but the problem is, if we're not speaking about the gospel, there's not a whole lot we can actually say. But I'm pretty comfortable at praying and bearing my testimony in Khmer, so that's good at least. And hopefully that will be what's most useful eventually. 

We still have dinner every night at 4:30, which is annoying, but I'm getting used to it. After dinner on most days we have 4 hours of studying. Personal, companion, and language. I've gotten a lot better at using my time now that I have goals. And it's kind of fun at night, because all of us are tired from the whole day.  So sometimes we just hang out in the halls with all our other language buddies. We share the floor with Hmong(!), Vietnamese, Lao, Thai, and Cantonese speakers. But actually, all the Cantonese kids left this morning for Hong Kong. They took up about half of our zone, so it will be weird without them. But we get a new big batch of them on Wednesday. It was fun when all the new missionaries got here last Wednesday. It's nice to not be the youngest here anymore. 

On Tuesdays and Sunday nights we have devotional. So far they've all been pretty good. All the missionaries from West Campus (Yview and Raintree) come over and join us. Yesterday the speaker was Jenny Oaks Baker, who is the daughter of Elder Oaks and is a world-renowned violinist. 

Also, you'll be surprised to hear this, I'm in choir... It's not my favorite thing ever, but my companion and our two other roommates (we're pretty much a qua-companionship) wanted to. So I go. It's Sunday and Tuesday nights. We practice Sunday and then sing Tuesday night at the devotional. It's actually kind of a nice break just to sit there and sing and not think about the language or anything. Aaaand, he dropped a hint that we might be singing in conference this October. Actually he didn't exactly say that, but he said that we want to have a full, strong choir for "things that might be coming up in the future." So that would be really cool! And it would definitely make choir worth it. 

Hmmm. What else? Then we just go back to our residences (not "dorms") and go to bed. It's a pretty full day. I'm realizing it's good to be really busy, because I don't have time to have a bad attitude about things. When we have to prep for a lesson in an hour we don't have time to complain about how much we don't know in Khmer, so we just have to do it! 

All in all, things are going well here. I can't say I love MTC life, but I know I'm supposed to be here. And the more I learn, the more excited I am to go to Cambodia. Speaking of which! My companion's cousin (my freshman FHE brother actually...) is on the inside (AKA he works here) and he went into the system and checked on our flight plans! Currently (these are subject to change of course), I'm headed out Oct 7th at 4:30, through LA, through Hong Kong, and then to Phenom Penh! 

Thank you everyone for your prayers. I know that they are helping me. It's been hard work, but I feel like I am capable of doing it. Most of the time at least!

Sister Fields and her former BYU roommate ran into each other on the Provo temple grounds.

Monday, August 11, 2014

First Impressions


So it's finally P-day and I get an hour to email. I took a couple photos, but these computers are weird and I haven't figured out how to upload them. So hopefully I can figure that out before I'm out of time. 

This first week has been a blur. It's been super crazy busy, but overall it's been good. On Wednesday when I arrived I had a sister meet me at the front and help carry my luggage in. We went from building to building getting supplies (I have a ton of books!). We checked into my room and went straight to "class."

My companion's name is Sister S. She is 19 and from Utah. She's really nice, and I like her a lot. It's weird to think that we only met on Wednesday, because it feels like we've known each other forever. Time is weird here. There are two other sisters in our district and we share a room with them. Sister H. and Sister Hm. Sis S and H. are going to Cambodia, but Sis Hm. is going to Tacoma Cambodian speaking! So that's pretty cool. We have 8 elders in our district. They're all nice and we'll get along well, but also they are very young. On the first day we were here we had an orientation meeting with all the new missionaries (500 of us!) and they asked everyone to stand up if they had just graduated from high school and a wall of guys stood up. So many! So, a lot of people here do seem verryy young. I'm the oldest sister in my zone by far (most everyone is 19. But usually (with the sisters at least) the age isn't very noticeable. 

The language is actually coming along much better than expected! Lo Cru Michelson is our teacher. He's really nice and funny, but he only will ever speak in Khmae with us ever since the very first day! At this point understanding him is still a lot like playing charades, but it's getting a little easier. We'll recognize a few more words here and there. At this point we are just learning the romanization. It's mostly english letters, with a couple extra ones (like backwards c for example is pronounced like "ah"). In a few more weeks we will start learning how to write in the script. 

Sis S. and I have officially taught two lessons to our investigator (pronounced like: Bong Narat). We bring in lots of notes, and the first lesson was less than 3 minutes long, but it's all in Khmae! We learned to pray in Khmae and we're supposed to say all our prayers in the language. The first few days were rough, but now I've got the basic structure and words down. 

The schedule has probably been the hardest thing for me. For the first few days my body was not happy with me. We wake up and 6:30 everyday, eat dinner at 4:30, and go to bed and 10:30. So I get really hungry at night. I'm glad I took all those snacks! I still can't sleep that well, but I'm hoping I'll eventually get adjusted, it just takes a while. The food is alright. I know I'm going to be sooo sick of it in 9 weeks, but I'm trying to pick the healthy things to eat. 

One of the hard things is staying self-motivated. At night we have 4 hours of study time in a row (personal, companion, language, and additional) and it's hard time keep focused. Lots of times we'll be in our tiny little classroom with our whole district and we'll just end up talking. 

Yesterday and today have been a really welcome break. On Sundays we have a Relief society meeting with all of the sisters. They usually invite a speaker to come and talk. A sister from the RS general board talked yesterday, and it was really great. We had sacrament meeting and a devotional at night. We also got to go on a temple walk. I got a picture of our district in front of the temple I'll send you. It was weird to be let out of the gates. It kind of feels like jail sometimes. It's so weird to think I'm in Provo. It was strange to walk outside and realize I was just a block away from my old home. From the third floor of the gym I can look out over campus as I run along the track. I can see the SWKT and it makes me a little homesick. I can't imagine serving a mission straight out of high school. I feel like all the experiences I've had in college and in Thailand living away from home has prepped me for this. Some of these little boys look like Spencer's age! It's harder than I thought it would be being cut off from the outside world. 

Overall though, it's been good so far! It's hard work, but it's good work and it's really rewarding. It's overwhelming, but I try not to think about the future and just take it one day at a time. And by the time October comes, we'll be so ready to go to Cambodia!

Also, I know I've only been out less than a week, but I get it! I'm so sorry I never wrote any missionaries! So I don't deserve mail, but I would LOVE some! Use Dear Elder!

I forgot to add that we are in the same zone as Hmong! We're with Cantonese, Thai, Lao, and Vietnamese. The Vietnamese are not going to our mission though, they're going to Anaheim and somewhere in Texas!

Love you!

Sister Lindsey Blythe Fields

Here is how to send a "dear elder"

Sister Fields with her companion.  The red dot on her name tag means it is her first day in the MTC.

Sister Fields and fellow Cambodian speaking sister missionaries.

Sister Fields and her district.

Her name tag in Khmae.