Monday, October 13, 2014

In Which I Find Out I'm Not a Biker

Hello! Cumriabsua! 

Greetings from Srok Khmer! I did indeed make it to the other side of the world. And it has been a crazy ride so far. So I'll just start from the top. After a VERY long flight across the ocean, a layover in Hong Kong, and a final flight, we landed in Phnom Penh. It was a very clear morning, so we could see the whole countryside and city stretched out before us. Cambodia is similar to Thailand in a lot of ways, and not in many others. Same, same but different, if you will. The most striking difference is probably the poverty. I've seen more poverty here in the past 4 days than I have in any other SE Asian country. But more about that later on...

We landed around 10:30 am and the mission president and his wife were there to greet us, President and Sister Moon. They are very kind, and I think I will like them a lot. President Moon decided to immediately throw us in and we went contacting! We met up with some experienced missionaries and paired off around the outskirts of a market. I and another new sister were paired up with a Khmer sister. Mostly we just trailed along behind her. It was all kind of a whirlwind. And lots of culture shock all around! 

We only did that for about an hour, and then we went to the mission home for lunch and orientation. We had sandwiches and then later lasagna for dinner! They were giving us a last taste of America. At the mission home we met up with 8 other local missionaries from Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. With all of us together there are 30 new missionaries, the biggest group they've had yet! 

To be honest, I remember little to nothing from the orientation. We were all struggling to keep our eyes open. It''s good that they kept us up though, because it hasn't been too bad to adjust to the time change. We crashed around 7:30. We spread out all around their house on a bunch of mattresses. The sisters got bunk beds. It's a pretty cool house. It's tall and skinny with these really cool carved wood stairs. 

The next morning we got up at 5:30 am. That is our usual schedule. Get up at 5:30 and go to bed at 9:30. I'm sure once I get used to the time change it'll be harder, but right now, I'm about ready to collapse by the time 9:30 comes around. That morning we had more orientation and then headed over to the church to meet our trainers! This was the part I was quite nervous for. I knew it would be a good thing if I got a local companion, but I was also terrified of not being able to communicate! But don't fear, my companion is American. Her name is Sister P. and she has been out just over a year. We got sent out to a province. Which means we're not in Phnom Penh where a good bulk of the missionaries are. We are in a place called Kampongcham. You could try googling it. It's about a 3 hour bus ride from Phnom Penh. It's definitely a city, but our area in it is more suburban-ish you could say. Some of the roads are dirt. 

We got to the city around 7 or so, so we loaded all our luggage into a tuk tuk and got to our new apartment. We are living with two other sisters. Sister E. and Sister Khut. The apartment is pretty nice. It's above another apartment. It was a gated driveway where we can park bikes. We have two rooms (one is just an office, and a bedroom for the four of us), two bathrooms, and a very hot kitchen without A/C.  

We are doing something called "whitewashing" which means that we are both new to the area. And the sisters who were here last did not keep very good records. So it's proving to be a bit of a challenge. More about that in a minute...

This weekend was general conference round 2, which I am infinitely glad about. The English speaking missionaries in our zone all got to watch it in an upstairs room in English! It was a nice way to ease into the field lifestyle, because it meant we got to spend 8 hours not having to be out working. 

On Saturday in between sessions, the zone leaders took us around our areas. On bikes. The bikes are shared by the mission and just go with the apartment, but we're asked to contribute $75 if we can to the bike fund. Biking is not the most enjoyable thing I've ever done in my life. My bike is quite sketchy. It sometimes jerks randomly like I'm switching gears while I'm riding it. But I put the seat way low to the ground for now. It was actually good practice to go around our area with them, because the elders just got on their bikes and took off. And I had no choice but to follow. Sister P. is great though, she will always turn back to make sure I'm doing okay. Kambongcham has a lot of traffic circles. I hate traffic circles in a car, so a bike was a bit of a nightmare. Like in other SE Asian countries, there are traffic laws, but they are rarely followed. I've learned to stick near cars or bigger vehicles, because they are less likely to get hit. Basically, please pray for me. That's what I do as I'm flying along playing frogger. 

Yesterday we thought that the English translated conference was out at the other branch's building, so we road out for probably 30 minutes to the building only to find it was in Khmer. So we road back another 30 minutes to the original building. But then we had to go drop off Sister Khut again for the second session so we made the trip twice. Over the past few days I've probably biked over 20 miles. Oh did i mention the skirt thing? That makes it all the more fun. We're supposed to wear biking shorts, but mine only go down halfway to my thighs, so my white knees are usually blinding traffic. I need to buy some longer ones. 

Okay now let's talk about the heat. I don't think I have ever sweat so much in my life. I'm dripping 80% of the day. It's much hotter than Thailand was. Particularly when I'm biking uphill in the sun. We do have A/C in our room and office though, which I am very grateful for. It's still hot, but it's not unbearable. 

Food: Let's just say, visiting a market as a tourist and visiting a market as your weekly grocery store are two completely different experiences. This morning at the market we bought a fish that was still flopping back in forth before the seller smacked it with a butcher's knife. But the food I've had so far is not bad. We have typically been cooking for all our meals. We're not supposed to buy food from anything that has wheels. But it's been pretty tasty so far! Veggies, pork, eggs all served on rice. And I haven't had a lot of fruit yet, but I will! Once I get the money system down. It's interesting. They use khmer currency for change, but use US dollars as well. 

So we haven't had a lot of time to proselyte, but we've done a little bit of work. Saturday in between sessions we met a lot of members. In our mission it sounds like we'll be doing about just as much re-activating as we do teaching investigators. And even the members do not really understand what it means to be active. It sounds like nobody really comes to church every week. There's just such a different conception of what church is and what it means to be a member. 

Yesterday we taught our first official lesson to a semi-active Om (meaning she's about 50ish. In Khmer they don't have a word for ""you"". You fill in a title or their name instead). We taught about prophets and a little bit about what we learned at conference. It was interesting how similar the experience was to my lessons in the MTC and how INCREDIBLY DIFFERENT it was. Her house is a tiny little shack that is completely flooded. Apparently it's always that way. There are a couple logs between the road and the house so you avoid the water. But there's just water in the house and broken floor boards, it's crazy! I almost lost my balance and fell in after knocking over my bike and causing a domino effect (I'm kind of a disaster here). We sat on a little bamboo platform and taught her as the sun set. It was kind of a surreal experience. I'm finally doing this mission thing for real now. 

Okay, now a bit about the language. I'm not exaggerating when I say I can't understand a thing. Like nothing anyone says to me. I can get some of what my companion and other non-native missionaries say, but when anyone else starts talking I'm out. People out in the kites (Provinces) do not speak very clearly. They slur their words together. And the pronunciation is what throws me the most. Turns out my teacher in the MTC (one in particular...) speaks Khmer like an American. Everyone here speaks so nasaly! Even the missionaries. So it's going to be an incredibly long, incredibly steep learning curve. It's what is stressing me the most. I'm coveting all the time I used to have to study in the MTC!

But even in the midst of these struggles, I've had many tender mercies. Like not being hit by a bus, for example. I know it's going to take a while (maybe 18 months) but I'm going to be able to do this. I'm doing what I'm supposed to and I'm trying hard! 

Until next week!

Sister Fields

Riding the Front Runner from Provo to the airport.  Sister Fields was one of the more experienced riders and felt like the mother of the group.

Sister Fields and her new companion Sister P.

View of rural Cambodia on her bus ride to her first area.

"My new grocery store."

"View from my bedroom window"

1 comment:

  1. I just re-lived our biking adventure around Luang Prabong, and I couldn't help but giggle. :) I love you, Sister Fields! You are such an inspiration to me!