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.

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