Monday, November 24, 2014

In Which I Become a Khmer Princess

Sister E. and I in traditional Khmer clothes
Hello, hello!

Happy Thanksgiving week! I can't really wrap my head around that. It's weird to think we're already most of the way through November. It's as hot as ever here. That's not true, it's cooled a bit. Probably low 90s most days. We have plans to eat together as a zone. The lucky ducks in the city get to go to the mission home and eat with the Moons for a real Thanksgiving dinner, turkey included! But we learned we each get subsidized $3.50. The elders just came by and asked for an additional $5.00 from each of us. Apparently, we're going all out. Not sure what that means in relation to the lack of traditional Thanksgiving ingredients we have access to, but stay tuned. 

Okay. So last Monday I somehow got roped into thinking it would be a fun idea to do the make-up/dress-up/take pictures of me thing. Let's just say it took 3.5 hours. 3.5 hours is always precious, but as a missionary on a p-day it is especially precious. It was bizarre experience. Sister E. was determined to do it. And she convinced me, and we thought that the other two would do it but they didn't. But after seeing the final result Sister P. wants to do it too! So maybe next week... 

It was a singularly unique experience, and I think the only opportunity in life I will have to feel like a model, which is good I think. Once was enough. We had a team of about eight people working on us. Makeup took 75 minutes alone. Powders and powders and powders. And then they teased my hair for about 45 minutes. I wasn't facing a mirror when they did this, but I'd catch glimpses of myself when they weren't working on me. And I freaked myself out every time! It was not me. 

And then the costume... It was a bit of a challenge because most of their dresses didn't have sleeves. But we eventually found two that worked. Mine was yellow. And with my hair in a ponytail to the side the sisters decided I looked like Belle. Then we did the photo shoot. We only did a couple pictures professionally, and then they let us take some on our cameras too. We'll go pick up the real pictures today. I'm excited. They will do a background of Angkor Wat. It's gonna be so funny. At the end of the session I was more than excited to have my body back. It was just a lot of touching by a lot of different people who I couldn't communicate well with. We rode home on our bikes with full makeup and hair and got some pretty strange looks. See pictures for full effect. 

Tuesday we held an Family Home Evening with a less active family. I think I've written about them earlier. It's mostly a bunch of young women and their moms who are all less active for the most part. We decided to hold it at 5:00 because that's when more people would be home. But it didn't go quite as planned. Turns out the members were mostly concerned about making a meal for us, which was very nice of them. But we were mostly concerned about teaching them. So the lesson itself was more just sharing a scripture over dinner. But we had fun together! And it was good to see the whole family together. Often times our branch feels like a collection of individuals. People don't really attend as families. So I think it was just a good thing to have everyone together to pray and read scriptures together. 

The farming life continues this week. We planted more jicama and corn this time. And on Saturday morning, we harvested rice! We had sickles and everything. We "thrusted in our sickles with all our might," so to speak. It was dry rice, so we just walked out into the fields, grabbed a bundle and started hacking at the stems. It was pretty fun, and we got some fun pictures. Now I've harvested wet rice (in Laos) and dry rice (in Cambodia)! I'm practically Asian. 

Okay, but the real exciting news this week is: WE HAVE INVESTIGATORS! Like real, actual, progressing, church-attending investigators. It's pretty exciting. So I told you last week about Bong Naid (the woman who learned ten years ago and decided to learn again). She's really cool. Her daughter is also learning with us and we just found out she has another kid over 8, so we'll try to get her to learn too. She brought all 5 of her kids to church last week. She asks us every time we visit if we're coming back the next day. She's relatively reserved, but she's very eager to learn. And she just seems so solid already. We sat down with her and her daughter and read the first chapter of 1st Nephi together. And I think she'll keep going. 

We're also teaching her neighbors across the street. They are two girls about our age who are living in a rental apartment and going to school. They are both shy, but very nice. We've taught them two lessons so far, and they stayed for all three hours on Sunday! Both of these families are referrals from our really cool 2nd counselor. He's so solid. He used to drink and smoke; but he totally turned his life around, or so I'm told by other missionaries. He's baptized his whole family and a lot of his extended family and now he's working on his neighbors. He drives a tuk tuk for a living, and so every Sunday he loads up his whole family and brings everyone to church. We were so happy to see him pull in with our new investigators stuffed in there along with everyone else. 

We met with another family last night. They live across the street from the family we had the FHE with on Tuesday. We met her that night, and asked if we could come back. They are a young couple with a little toddler girl. We didn't have much time last night, so we just taught them about Heavenly Father, and taught them how to pray. We gave them a little sheet to help them remember how to pray; and as we were leaving, the mom was helping the little girl say all the words. It was really cute. I'm really excited to teach them! The more time I spend here the more I realize that getting families to learn and come to church all together is really the key. 

Lastlyyyyy. I saved the best for last. We have and English-speaking investigator!! Tomorrow we are teaching the first lesson in ENGLISH!! Okay, so this woman is Taiwanese and moved here six months ago. All the missionaries know her because she owns a little ice cream shop that we go to a lot. She doesn't really know Khmer, but speaks Mandarin and very good English. The elders invited her to come to church this week and she stayed all three hours! Sister P translated for her. I'm not sure how genuinely interested she is or if she's just curious or what. It would be hard for her to attend church not knowing Khmer, but I think she is in the process of learning. Either way, tomorrow should be really interesting! 

So it was a good week! It was a good way to end the transfer. Yep. I am officially in my second transfer as of today. In some ways it feels like I've been here much longer than six weeks! But it's nice to know I have another full six weeks left of training. And then things get real. 

And just real quick I wanted to share a scripture that I came across again this week. It's one of my favorites in Moroni 8. About teaching the truth (and correcting errors that were going on in the church at that time) Mormon says, "Behold, I speak with boldness, having authority from God; and I fear not what man can do; for perfect love casteth out all fear."   I'm not doing the crazy calling anyone to repentance over here, but I am trying to get out of my comfort zone every day. Sharing my testimony, contacting, teaching in Khmer, alone. It's all still kind of a scary thing to me. But what helps me is to think about Heavenly Father. And His love for these people. I don't really love everyone I meet yet (not even close, actually) but I am trying harder and harder to feel His love for other people. I think I understand a little bit how He feels about me. And when I realize He loves everyone else on this planet just as much as me, it blows my mind a little bit.  When I do this, I stop thinking about myself. I stop thinking about what they're thinking about me, and how terribly I am speaking. I think of how I can, hopefully, maybe, help them a little bit. I just got my copy of the Liahona with conference addresses. And there's a good talk called "Which way do you face" I think, by a Seventy, that inspired some of these thoughts as well. It's a good one to read about having courage. 

That's all for this week! Hopefully everyone has a good Thanksgiving! Eat a lot of pie and rolls for me. 

Sister Fields


After because the before and after are just so scarily stark. 

My servants.

They posed every last part of me down to the inch. I'm excited to see the final product.

The team.

The four of us.

If I only got up at 2:30 am I'd look like this everyday.

Me and Sister Khut harvesting dry rice.

All four of us.

"The field is white all ready to harvest."

Me and Sister P.

Ate this at an investigator's house this week. She saw a lady selling them across the street and made us try some. She laughed at our timidness to try them. But they really weren't bad. They were crickets. They had a lot of seasoning. They kind of tasted like those roasted chickpeas Spencer makes. A little bit. And a little bit like crickets.  We pulled the legs off before we ate them.

Family Home Evening.

Monday, November 17, 2014

In Which I Become a Farmer

Me and Sister Khut

Hello, yes. It's me again. Another exciting week in Cambodia! 

This week we got to do a couple different service activities. Our branch's area is by far the most city-ish. The sisters in the other branch have a rural area and ride out pretty far into rice fields to visit people. On Tuesday we got a chance to go to their area and help plant jicama. We went barefoot in the dirt and planted row after row after row. One person would stand with a pole creating a million little two-inch holes in the ground, and the rest of us would follow putting one little seed in each hole. It actually made me pretty sore after a few hours of bending over! But it was beautiful, and we took lots of pictures. A lot of missionaries from our zone came, so it was a lot of fun. 

Then on Thursday we joined them for another service project (apparently it's planting season?) This time we planted peanuts. The field was right on the banks of the Mekong River. We dropped them in little rows in ditches that cows pulling a plow would make. We went around and around in circles and the goal was to plant all the seeds before the cows came. It was kind of like a game. 

Also on Tuesday it was Sister E.'s birthday. We met for pizza at lunch, so that was fun. Anything that mixes up the routine a little bit makes it fun. For language study that night we decided to celebrate by pulling out a Monopoly game we found in the closet. It was fun teaching Sister Khut to play, and it turned out to be a good language study for her learning "mortgage" "property" "banker" etc. 

In addition to planting season, it is also wedding season. I can't remember if I've mentioned weddings or not yet. But whenever there's a wedding, they pop up a big tent in the middle of the street and pull out enormous speakers and do karaoke and dance. It's fun to drive around them in the day and see all the people dressed up with crazy make up and clothes (people go all out for weddings here). But when they go on all night it's not as fun. We had one right outside our driveway this week. Even when all the doors were shut we could hear the music perfectly clear. So we opened the door and stood up on our balcony and people watched. 

On Thursday we did another exchange, just with the sisters in the other branch. Sister P. went with Sister Khut, so I got to lead Sister E. in my area! We were both a little nervous because she's only two months ahead of me in the field. But we did well! And I didn't get us lost. Sometimes it's hard to not have anyone in my level/vantage point to compare myself with. It's kind of nice just to be able to get a sense of where I should be. I think I look to other missionaries who have been out much longer and measure myself against them, which is not helpful at all. So I've been working on trying not to compare myself. When I just look at how much I've progressed in this past month, I can see that I'm getting so much better! And exchanges are fun because you get to see how other missionaries interact with people, the questions they ask, the way they teach certain topics, etc. Plus Sister E. and I get along really well, so we had a lot of fun. And got pizza for the second time in a week... It was delicious. 

Also this week we decided to get a little creative. We've started a "reading group" in Phum Tenang (our neighborhood with a lot of less actives and recent converts). The vast majority of these members cannot read, so we decided to get them all together to read The Book of Mormon and those who can read can read and the rest can listen and add their thoughts. A lot of these women have never had formal schooling, and the concept of reading and discussing and sharing thoughts is all very foreign to them. We sat down and read 1 Nephi 3 together and tried to ask questions to get everyone to participate. It was a bit like pulling teeth, but they seemed eager to listen at the very least. But it's okay. It was only the first time. We hold it at Bong Ya Daen's house. Have I talked about her yet? She's awesome! So many people in this neighborhood look so worn down by life and poverty and substance issues and family issues. But she just has this light. You can see it in her eyes. And she's just so alive and outgoing and excited about the gospel. She's a boss. She was more than happy to lead the group. We mentioned that we want to have it every Saturday afternoon. But she said no, that's not enough. These women can't read, but they need to hear the scriptures. So she suggested Tuesday. And the other two women in attendance were eager as well. So now we just have to get the rest of the neighborhood on board! 

Another cool thing we did this week was teach one recent convert about family history. Have you heard of the Church's "My Family" book? It's an easy way to start helping people record information and stories about their close family members. Because of the Khmer Rouge, so many people don't have records or birth certificates or anything. And the older generation are the only people who know about their family members that died during that time and before. So it's actually kind of urgent that we start recording the little information we do have. This woman we met with couldn't read or write, so recording was a little slow-going. But it was cool to see her get excited about talking about her family. Mom, I thought you would think this was cool!

Also, we have a new investigator!! We met with her last night and are meeting her again this evening. She is a referral from a member. She actually started learning ten years ago but then stopped. She has a five young kids. We're hoping that we can get her husband learning and get the whole family involved! It struck me last night that it's cool to think that even all these years later she remembered meeting with the missionaries and wanted to learn more. It made me realize that when we have to let non-progressing investigators go or when contacts don't seem interested that these are all important seeds we are planting. 

Okay, spiritual thought today is about gaining a testimony. Applicable to investigators and to members as well I think. Alma the Younger is a great example of the work it takes to gain a testimony. In Alma 5, Alma is testifying of what he knows to be true. In verse 45 he asks, "how do I know these things?" In verse 46 he answers that it is through fasting and prayer that he has gained his testimony. Dad pointed this out in his letter to me last week that even though Alma had seen an angel and had an incredible conversion experience, it was through fasting and prayer that he came to know that it was true. Later on, in chapter 40, when Alma is talking to his son about the Resurrection, he tells his son that God has many mysteries, and Alma doesn't pretend to know everything. But he shares with his son what he does know about the Resurrection. And he says that he came to know these things through inquiring diligently of God.  

My thought in regards to this is that answers don't come easily. They're not supposed to. It takes a lot of faith. We have to work to receive a confirmation that a certain concept of the gospel is true. After a first lesson, we often end with reading Moroni 10:3-5 and testifying that they can come to know that the Book of Mormon is true if they read and pray. But it's also important to stress that the answer probably won't come right away. And it probably won't come in the way we are expecting. We have to work for the answer and then have faith that it will come. We have to be open to receiving answers and listening for the Spirit in more subtle ways than we might be expecting. But the answers do come. 

Well, that's all for me this week. The good news is next week it should get down to 88 degrees. So I might need to pull out my sweater!


Sister Fields

planting the jicama

the four of us

me and the view

me and my buddy, the bike

peanut field on the river bank

me and the cow

Sister E. and I trying a jumping picture

Monday, November 10, 2014

In Which I Go to the City

Me with Sis L. and Sis F. my companions for a day
Hello, Hello!

It was a good week! I'll start from the top:

Monday night we got to go to the letter opening of two young adults in our branch! The branch hasn't had anyone leave for a long time, so it was pretty exciting. There was a guy and a girl. The guy opened his call and is joining our Cambodia, Phnom Penh mission next month! He reports at the beginning of December! The young woman opened her call next. And she is headed to Hawaii to work in the Visitors Center at the temple! It was really pretty exciting. Most everyone from Cambodia gets called to serve here. The funny thing was that the first time she read it, she read it as the Taiwan visitor center! I think she was just shocked, and must have gotten the A's, I's and W's mixed up? She didn't realize it was the wrong place until like five minutes later. I think she's nervous about learning English, but she's actually not bad at it already. She's gone out with us once before. She'll be a great missionary!

On Tuesday we proselyted in the morning and then headed to the city right after lunch! Because my companion is a sister training leader, we both got to go down for a big leadership meeting at the mission home in Phnom Penh. We took a van down, and it only took us about two hours. The road has a lot of potholes, so it was a very bumpy ride, but we made it in one piece. 

We had some time after we got to the city to hang out, so we went to a big market and went shopping. I officially have Cambodian pants now! And then we went to dinner at a burger place. And I realized how different it feels to be a tourist. I'm really quite adept at being a tourist. I've never come to a different place like this to live. Even when I was in Thailand doing research, we were still very much tourists--visiting wats, going out to eat, shopping. So even though it's not my purpose here, it was still fun to pretend to be a tourist for the afternoon. 

Our trip to the city coincided with one of the biggest holidays, the Water Festival. We didn't have the opportunity to go down to the waterfront and be a part of any of it, but we still saw lots of signs of the festival. The city was packed, and it had a lot of people from around the world. We met people from Japan, Germany, and Australia just in passing. I don't know very much about the holiday, but the biggest feature is the boat races. These enormous boats with like ten people on each side paddling in perfect synchronization as a leader at the end of the boat yells the directions. When we were coming into the city, we saw one race going on. And when I went out proselyting the next day the races were playing on everyone's TVs. 

It was really fun to be able to see my old friends again! Sister K. came down from Battambong with her trainer and shared a room with us in the mission home. It was a two-night sleepover! And the next morning I saw Sister H. and Sister Y. (we were only missing my comp, Sister S.!). We only got to see those two briefly in the morning and then in the evening when we all came back, but it was so good to be together. Even though it has only been a month, it had felt like so long! It was nice to be able to talk to people who were in the same boat as me. And to be assured that we were all struggling together.

On Wednesday I went out with two sisters who were serving in the city. We had a lot of fun together! We studied at their apartment, and then went out and met with a couple recent converts and less actives and did some contacting. I realized that I can understand people in the city much more clearly. That's not to say I could understand everything (not even close actually) but they just don't have the lazy drawl to their speech that the Kampongcham accent has. My language all around went very well that day. And everyone we met with was super nice and welcoming. For lunch we got pizza and cheesecake! It was a dream come true. And they took me to see the new stake center in their area. There are two stakes in Phnom Penh. This is the North Stake building below. It's beautiful! It's the first real church building I've been in in Cambodia. All in all, I think I would like serving in the city (which is good, because at some point I probably will.) I was a bit nervous about the biking situation, but it wasn't too bad. I'm glad I got to get used to biking in a province, though. 

The trip to the city was just rejuvenating. It was nice to see people, take a hot shower, eat Western food. But it also felt good to get back to Kampongcham and back to our routine again. It's starting to feel more like home here. Our apartment, my bed, my bike, and our area. It's all becoming more familiar. I officially moved here a month ago today. We start week five of our transfer this week. That means transfer calls come this Sunday! That doesn't mean much for me, because I'm still training, so me and my trainer will stay here for sure. But it's crazy to think my first transfer is almost done! Time is a strange thing.

Thursday evening the Sisters from Kampongtom came down for our zone training meeting on Friday morning, which meant more sleepovers. We really had no time to proselyte this week! But it was a good meeting. Our zone leaders and sister training leader (aka my valiant trainer) taught us well. 

Friday afternoon, Saturday, and Sunday life went back to normal. We tried to go around and meet with a lot of our less actives in the past few days and invite them to come to church. We had a bit higher attendance at sacrament meeting on Sunday

Sometimes I get hit by a sense of futility when meeting with less actives here. We go to visit and sometimes they pretend they're not home until they realize that we know they're not and they can't escape us. One woman the other day was napping in a hammock, peeked her eyes open, made eye contact with us, then pretended like she was still sleeping. It didn't work. 

For example, on Saturday we met with a woman who has a drinking problem. We had a really good lesson with her last week about faith and committed her to try to stop drinking. We came back this week and shared (what I thought) was a powerful lesson on the enabling power of the Atonement and we asked her to close with prayer and she said she forgot how. We had to re-teach her how to pray. Sometimes it just feels like everything is going in one ear and out the other. I think before I served my mission I would have thought, well okay, they don't really care about this, so what's the point in my teaching them? But these people are members. They've already been baptized, and they've already made covenants. There are 600 people in Kampongcham who have stopped going to church. 

I was talking with Sister P. about this, and she told me that it helps her to take a step back. To think how far the church has come in the past ten years alone. The church is still just so new here. Twenty years ago, most of these people probably didn't even know about God. Ultimately, all we can do is just try to share this message of hope. Just offer it as a way they might receive more comfort and hope in their lives. 

This month I've been studying a lot about grace. I've come to understand grace as the enabling power of the Atonement. I never really understood that before, but knowing that has given me greater insight into a lot more scriptures. I wanted to share Ether 12:27And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.
I love the phrase "my grace is sufficient." I talked a little bit about this a few weeks ago, but I think that as we draw closer to Christ we become more self-aware. We realize our weaknesses more, and we become more humble about them. Here, it's easy to get discouraged, because we realize how much we have to work on and how far we have to go. But immediately after Christ says this, He tells us that through His grace, through the enabling power of the Atonement, we can become strong. Because He experienced our struggles and trials and fears and insecurities, He knows exactly the way to help us.

Second thought: But this doesn't come immediately. Making weak things become strong is a lengthy process. D&C 67:13 says:   Ye are not able to abide the presence of God now, neither the ministering of angels; wherefore, continue in patience until ye are perfected.   We are not expected to be perfect now. It takes work and it takes a lot of patience. I read a talk this morning by President Uchtdorf about patience. He defines it as a "process of perfection". Sometimes we think patience just means waiting, but it requires more action than that, at least in a spiritual sense. Patience means we must actively be working to reach goals. We must have hope that we can improve and faith that through our own abilities with Christ's help we will be able to achieve what we hope to do. Mormon talks frequently about his weakness when it comes to writing. Perhaps he was just being humble, but it seems like it was something that he really felt inadequate about. Both Moses and Enoch felt they could not be leaders because they were slow of speech. I think it's interesting that not only does the Lord take these weaknesses and makes them strengths, He makes them their single greatest strengths for which they are tools in His hands. Mormon compiled and wrote the Book of Mormon. His greatest weakness became his greatest strength. 

Ultimately, this work just takes patience. Patience in ourselves and patience for others. Patience to endure and to never give up. Because it's worth it. Or so I'm told. 

Okay. Enough deep thoughts for this week. Hopefully that made some semblance of sense. Here's to another good week! Be nice to the missionaries! Don't avoid them like I did up until I became one...


Sister Fields

I was tempted to buy this for a second. I love that it's not, "I love Cambodia, but just "I survived in Cambodia." Sounds more like my experience of the last month. 

Three elders from my zone. We all squeezed into a tuk tuk with all of our luggage and shopping bags after our trip to the market in Phnom Penh.

Brand new stake center in Phnom Penh.

Terrible selfie,but we were so excited to be reunited! 

Monday, November 3, 2014

In Which I Go Camping (sorta)

Halloween outfit!
Greetings from Cambodia!

It was a busy week, but a good one! And this one will be another crazy week too! One of the nice things about being companions with a sister training leader is you get the perks of traveling without the responsibility. This week we went to Kampongtom, and tomorrow we leave for Phnom Penh!

But I'll start at the beginning of the week. Last Monday after I emailed we went to lunch at a new place. They have Western food, and it was funny because we walked in and there were only white people there! There were about eight or so. A good portion of the white people in town, probably. The restaurant was called Smiles, and it reminded me of the place we went in Vietnam called Smiles. Family? Do you remember that? I think it might be a similar thing because it had a bunch of pictures of teenagers who were working there, and I think I remember the restaurant being a place to help give teenagers skills or something like that? Either way, the food was good. I had a tomato, basil sandwich. And a brownie. The brownie was a little disappointing, but hey. It was chocolate!

Tuesday we had a really good lesson with one of our investigators. I can't remember if I've mentioned her or not. Her name is Bong Linkgaa. We've actually only taught her once because she had to go to Phnom Penh for a while. But she's back. We taught her about the Plan of Salvation and set a tentative baptismal date with her.

What we're really focusing on though this transfer is helping our less actives and recent converts. We met with the elders in our branch last night, and I learned we have 400 plus people in our branch!! I couldn't believe it. We had 66 come to church on Sunday. Our numbers are dropping. Somewhere along the line missionaries here were just baptizing and baptizing without trying to hang on to recent converts. At least not as much as they should. So we have a new plan. On Saturday we are going to try to visit every member. Just drive around and invite everyone to church. All day. We'll see how it works.

Wednesday we had English class. To answer your question, Dad, we have two classes. A beginner class and a more advanced. Sister P. and I teach the beginner level. We teach for an hour and then have a half hour spiritual thought in Khmer and English. The other sisters teach that half. It's been a bit of a challenge getting a group to come though. The age limit is supposed to be 15 and up. The primary purpose is for it to be a finding tool. But lots of time we just have a few primary age kids show up. So we teach anyways. Last week we had three little boys, so we just went over the alphabet.

Thursday morning we left for Kampongtom. Sister P. told me it's a thing that something (or everything) will always go wrong when you go on exchanges. We definitely had some hiccups. Our bus took off at 7:30, and we left the house late. In our rush, we realized after we were halfway there that we forgot the phone. So we could either run back and get it and miss the bus or get on the bus without it. We decided to keep going. But when we got there, we found out we couldn't take our bikes (even though we had Sister Khut call and confirm last night). So we had to call our sisters and have them take care of the bikes and maybe bring our phone. We made the bus 20 min late, but we got the phone. 

The bus was 3.5 hours on a verryyy bumpy, windy road. Sister P. got sick, which at first we just thought was carsick. It turned out to be some kind of bug. And she was sick the whole time we were there! The Kampongtom sisters were very nice. Sister S. and Sister Khim. I went out with Sister Khim first. She speaks really good English, but I tried to speak more Khmer with her too. We borrowed a bike from the member and ended up biking for an hour and 15 minutes on the same road! Kampongtom is in the middle of NOWHERE. The road is dusty and the potholes are unavoidable. As I was bumping down the road on that uncomfortable bike seat, I told myself I could NEVER get called to Kampongtom. 

After a few lessons we headed back to their house only to find out they were out of gas! Because there are no ovens here, no gas means no stove, which means no food. So we made do with cooking a soup in the rice cooker! And the next night we made pasta in the rice cooker! It wasn't terrible, but it did feel like camping. The other reason it felt like camping was because they didn't have beds for us. So Sister P. and I slept in their main room on wooden couch/chair things (they are not couches) with fans blowing hard (because there was no A/C.) For two nights. Our hips are still bruised! I just kept telling myself I was camping. 

The next day I went out with Sister S.. She is just out of training, so we were both a little apprehensive about being together for a full day. But we had two service projects. Service projects are great because they require little talking! At one member's house, we helped lay out soybeans to dry in the sun on these big tarps. At the other member's, we "cut dirt" which meant ripping out the grass to create soil to plant in. It was at noon in the direct sun! We were dying! But the elders were there too. So we all got some good work done together. 

In the afternoon, we rode out far to a more rural part. It was beautiful!! We took so many pictures. Rice fields on both sides, and everything was so vibrantly green! I realized with her in lessons and in contacting, I spoke a lot more. She speaks Khmer better than me, but not a whole lot more. I knew I couldn't rely on her to answer every question so I tried to focus harder than usual. And it actually turned out pretty well! We had two lessons and contacted sixteen people! 

On the way, home giant clouds rolled in very quickly. It looked so cool! And I saw the biggest rainbow I think I've ever seen. We took more pictures. But then minutes later it just started dumping and dumping. So we swam the rest of the way home.

Saturday morning coming home was also an adventure. The bus was supposed to take off at 10:00; but when we got to the bus station at 9:50, it was already gone! We were not about to spend another night in Kampongtom. It was fun, but just like camping, when you're done, you're done. Eventually we found out another bus was coming and we squeezed into it. We sat at the very back. Sister P. had two kids lying on her, and I sat on the stoop above the engine on top of a bag of clothes because it was burning hot! But we made it home. That's the important thing. 

And tomorrow we head out to Phnom Penh! We are taking a car, which hopefully will make things less stressful. We'll spend Tuesday and Wednesday night at the mission home and then come back Thursday. Then the sisters from Kampongtom are coming here, and we have a training meeting for our zone on Friday. So hardly no time for proselyting this week. But I'm excited to go to the mission home. I've heard Sister Moon makes lasagna! I'll probably just be contacting on Wednesday when the leaders are  in meetings. And I'll get to see Sister H. from the MTC!!!

Yesterday was Fast Sunday. I was a little worried about how I was going to go biking all day without food or water, but it wasn't bad. We fasted for a family who don't have a way to come to church because they work on Sundays. It was cool because we taught them a lesson last Monday about fasting and committed them to fast as well. We'll meet with them tonight and see how it went. I've realized that when I'm fasting for other people and thinking about other people, fasting is so much easier. Like I'm learning with nearly every aspect of missionary work, when I stop thinking about myself and focus on others, things get easier and more meaningful. 

Another cool moment on Sunday. We have a guard who works at our church building. Nearly every building in Cambodia has a guard who sits there and watches the bikes and motos. He is a member in our branch. As he works he reads Preach My Gospel (the missionary training book) and the scriptures in English. His English is excellent! And he's so kind. He'll always speak English with me. He's sat in a few of our investigator lessons that we've had at the church. Out of the blue on Sunday he came up to me and told me that he noticed that when I speak Khmer it's hard for me and that I shake a lot. I laughed and taught him the word for "stutter" in English. He then told me that he was hoping and praying for me that I would learn Khmer well. I think if I hadn't known Khmer culture a little bit and knew that Khmer people are very blunt, it would have come across as a backwards compliment. But I told him thank you. And it really meant a lot to me because I am trying hard! And it is getting easier. And I'm getting more comfortable. As I get more comfortable and confident, the stuttering subsides. But his kindness was an answer to a prayer I didn't even really say. It was a tender mercy.

Funny story: this actually happened last week. But we met with a recent convert who is about 18 and VERY talkative. It was the late afternoon and we were both tired, so we both just let her talk for a while. After about half an hour she was still going. Sister P. would get a word or a sentence in here and there; but I had lost all track of the conversation LONG ago. All of a sudden, she turns to me and asks "Is eating dogs against the Word of Wisdom?" It took me so off guard I laughed out loud. I have no idea how we drifted there. To answer the question, in case anyone is contemplating eating a dog: no. We don't think it's against the Word of Wisdom. Just eat dogs, along with all meat, sparingly

Okay, typically my schedule is wake up at 5:30 am. We have been trying to do better at being timely, so we're usually (okay maybe half the time) up pretty quickly and exercising in the kitchen. Sister E. has some quick workout routines that we do together. We eat breakfast. I usually eat an American breakfast. Cereal from the American store and milk (I drink milk!), bread, eggs, fruit, or some combo of that. Then personal study time for an hour and then companion study for two hours (because I'm still training). Then we have two hours to proselyte in the morning. We usually eat lunch at home, and have an hour to do that. Then it's back out to the heat (that's probably the hardest part of the day, going back out again), and we work until 6:00 pm or so. Sisters have to be home no later than 6:30 pm.  That's the rule for the kites (provinces). All sisters in my 6:30. It gets dark by 5:45, and there aren't a lot of street lights, except if you're on a main road.   Then we plan for the next day, eat, do an hour of language study, shower and bed by 9:30. Roal thngai (aka everyday). 

Here we probably bike maybe 6-8 miles a day. Maybe less. I'm terrible at estimating distances. But our area is not too big. Biking is much easier than it used to be. I kind of like it now. It's so much faster than walking!  And using the member's bike in Kampongtom made me appreciate my bike more! Even if it has it's quirks. 

We don't really proselyte door-to-door here. I thought it was against the rules, but when I was with Sister S., we did it, so I was a little confused. I think the rule is if they are outside their home, then we can talk to them. But since homes are very open here (no front doors to knock on really) everyone is always outside anyway. Here we do a lot of our contacting work just as we run errands or visit other members and people. The goal is to speak with ten people a day. I still do not like it very much, mostly becuase my conversational skills are seriously lacking. But spending the day with Sister S. made me realize I'm better than I think I am. 

Well, that's all for this week. It's been a good one. Time is starting to go by faster now. And the language comes along more an more each day. I surprise myself by how much I can understand. I still have a long way to go, but I can do it! I'm so grateful for this opportunity to serve. I can say that honestly now. Yes, it's a sacrifice, but I can see how the blessings are just going to outweigh the hard things infinitely more. That's how life goes I think. When we try to give back to the Savior and our Heavenly Father, we are only blessed even more in return.

Hope everyone had a good Halloween! I missed America a bit that day. I wore my Halloween outfit for the occasion.

Sister Fields

Updated picture from last week's post.  The building that was built on a sandy foundation.
Bike selfie with Sister S.

Amazing rainbow!


The lovely bus ride (my seat was near Sister P.'s feet).

Me and my other mother.