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.

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