Monday, January 26, 2015

In Which I Find Myself Alone in Cambodia

Us doing service with the elders in our proselyting clothes.

It's been another week. This one went by really quickly. It feels like I was just doing this! But it was a good week. I got a fun surprise on Tuesday. I got mail! It was like Christmas! Especially because the mail consisted of Christmas cards from a bunch of people. So thank you to those who sent Christmas cards! They found their way to me. And it didn't even take too long, I was impressed. 

This week started off pretty exciting. We got two referrals from the elders on Monday night! They took us around to meet two different families who they started to teach, but the husbands lost interest and so they couldn't keep meeting them. As the week went on though, they didn't turn out to be quite as promising as they originally seemed. One said she couldn't learn because her mom wouldn't allow it (despite the fact that she was well into her 30s..?) The other one is very busy and works every Sunday. So.... We'll see how those progress. Well, the latter one at least. 

We do have one other investigator now. She lives across the street from our new recent convert Srei Khuat. She came to church last week and we taught her the first lesson that night. She seems really eager to learn, but we have yet to have taught her again... It's a little strange. She's super friendly and her husband wants to learn too. They originally started learning with elders a little while ago but then stopped. So we were hoping to be able to teach them all together but that has yet to pan out. She's funny. She calls us elders every time despite the fact that we've told her we are called sisters. Now it's gone on too long it's to awkward to correct her. Stay tuned on that situation...

Thursday I went on exchanges with Sister A. We live in the same house with her and her comp Sister Chan. Sister Chan finishes this transfer in three weeks! And Sister A. is two transfers ahead of me, and super good at Khmer! They are good roommates. We cook dinner (and by we I mean the Khmer sisters cook. At our house the American sisters do the eating and the dishes) together every night. It's been kind of a strange thing going to the city and coming in later at night. Most nights we get home around 7:00 or 7:30. Plan, shower, and cook. So we don't eat til 8:45 or 9:00 most nights!

Anyways, exchanges with Sister A. It was fun! We went to KFC together for lunch! I think I'm a little too into food. The big events in my life these days involve going out to eat. Her area is a bit more city-ish then mine. So it was fun to be in a new area. A couple of the lessons fell through in a row, so we did a lot of contacting. I hate contacting. Have I talked about how much I hate contacting? But I'm getting more used to it the more I do it. When I was in my traininghood, I never did it. Partly because I was too shy/scared and partly because Sis P was just so good at it. But my current comp is a much more timid, so I'm having to step up to the plate when it comes to contacting. One thing I have learned to appreciate about it though is that random people on the street don't know you're supposed to speak Khmer. So when you go up to them and start chatting (even if it's not that good) they're still impressed/amused. I love it when people ask me how long I've been here and I start to say three... and they fill in years when I was about to say months. 

On Wednesday we had lunch at a member's house. They live right next to the airport. The airport is in our area, but it's a long ways to our house. Finding this member's house is a challenge! We literally take like 24 different turns to get there. We've only been there twice, but I'm going to be in trouble when Sister Choek leaves (if she leaves this transfer). Pochentong is much bigger and more confusing than Kampongcham! But we ate lunch outside (fish, rice, veggies, and dipping sauce--it was pretty good!) on a bamboo bed/table thing (they call it a krei). From our spot, we could watch all the planes coming in and taking off. Mason would have enjoyed it. And with the breeze going, it made for a pleasant afternoon. 

One nice thing about December and January is the wind. While it doesn't really get cool here, the breeze keeps it nice and comfortable. I wore a sweater to church the other day (because of the AC) and I was comfortable wearing it biking to church in the morning!

Okay. Now it's time for the bike incident. There's always a bike incident. Okay so my bike is weird. It's what they call an 'elder's bike" because the bar is really high. Also it has gears. That don't work. Anyways. The spokes on it have been coming loose. Occasionally they will rub against the frame, and I'll have to stop and bend them back. Well the other day when leaving a lesson I was biking along and they started to make that noise. But we weren't going very far, so I figured it would be fine. I would fix it once we got to the next house. But the noise got louder. And then my bike got slower until it came to a halt. I knelt down and realized that the spokes had gotten caught in the gear and the more I rode it the tighter it wound around the gears. If I had stopped when I first heard the noise, it wouldn't have been a problem. There's a spiritual parallel here... which I will refrain from expounding upon because I have not yet become THAT missionary. But it did remind me of a story you would tell, Dad, at a standard's night or something. Something about a vehicle with a similar problem on the ranch...

Anyways. By this time my comp is around the corner and out of sight. So (because my wheel won't turn) I lifted up my bike and carried it along. Eventually Sis Choek realized I wasn't there. And came around the corner and miraculously pulled a pair of pliers out of her bag and got it unwound. Problem solved. Except I had messed up the gear. And now the chain kept falling off. I know nothing about bikes. I could be calling these parts the wrong names. But now the chain wouldn't stay on. I would go a few yards and it would fall off. After going from bike shop to bike shop trying to find someone who would fix it, we eventually found a place. It would take two hours, but we hadn't eaten lunch yet. So that was fine. We left the bike there and I rode Sister Choek's bike and doped her (she rode on the back). Because the other way around would not work very well. I'm not the best doper, but I'm getting better. And we made it home in one piece. When it was time to go back and get the bike again, we hopped on her bike and went along the road. The road we live on is constantly under construction. It goes from a dirt road to a paved road in stages. So there are times when it shifts to dirt and the transition is really bumpy. So she'd hop off and back on for those parts no problem. We got to the end of the road and turned off to find the bike shop no problem. I even turned around to her and said something like, "see, it's easy! No problem". Only to realize, I was talking to myself. 

I was immediately horrified. I realized I was alone and did not know at what point I had left my companion stranded! I turned around and biked up the road as fast as I could to get to the main road. As I turned on to it I saw her maybe 50 yards back walking up the road in the midst of traffic carrying my bag (her's was in the basket of the bike). And then I started laughing. Thankfully she had a good sense of humor about it. I apologized profusely. I had been thinking as I was biking a long that I'm getting quite good at this balancing thing. It's easy! Oh goodness.... So that's my absent-minded story of the week. But, oh man it makes me laugh so much. I've been thinking about it all week. Every time I think of the image of her walking down the street with the "did you really just abandon me?" look on her face it makes me laugh.

Well, that's it for this week! Stay tuned for more adventures in this strange country. Have a good week, friends!


Sister Fields

Lunch at a member's house. This is Bong Ryna. She is a branch missionary and helps us all the time!

My desk with all my pretty pictures! (The Merrill calendar is hanging by my bed). 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

In Which I Learn to Appreciate the Little Things

Baptism! Srei Khuat and some of her family members/the family of the neighbor that baptized her.

It's that time of the week again. When 5:00 pm rolls around on P-day, it feels like the week will take forever. But it always goes by relatively quickly. I think there's something about doing the same thing every day that makes time go by fast. 

So this week I want to talk about tender mercies because I'm realizing that they really are a thing. This week started off a bit rough. I know I sound like a broken record complaining about the language, but it still just keeps hitting me in the face. And even though now with a local companion my language is improving, I'm also placed in so many more situations a day in which I have to use my Khmer unsuccessfully. I found myself really dreading leaving the house. But then when we were out I found myself dreading going back home. I felt like I had nothing to look forward to. And I started to realize I was going through culture shock a little bit. 

Cambodia is the least Westernized place I've ever been in my life. We never hear American music or see familiar billboards or ads. There are two American chain restaurants here. The "western" food is a Cambodia take on pizza or hamburgers. Even though the city has a lot more of that kind of food than Kampongcham, it still isn't the same. 

As I was in the midst of my depression last week I started to get frustrated with myself. I'm an anthropologist!! I should LOVE my life right now. Living in the middle of Cambodia. Learning the language from the locals. Eating local food made by my Khmer companions. But here's the thing. Missionary life is nothing like the life of a tourist. And every time I've come to SE Asia before, I've been a tourist. I'm an excellent tourist. I love wats and museums and taking pictures. I buy way too much at markets where they hike up their prices as they see me coming. And then I like to go back to my hotel, and go on Facebook and speak English.

This took a turn... what I'm saying is I think these past few weeks in Pochentong I've been dealing with another round of culture shock. I don't love Cambodia yet. Is that too honest? I don't. But the other day as I was riding my bike with dust in my lungs, the smell of raw meat from the markets wafting my way, and the mechanical ice cream truck tune mixing with the chanting of monks, I realized something. I'm not going to be here forever. And maybe I won't ever really learn to love all the details about life in Cambodia. But on some day in the not so distant future I'll be on one of those planes that flies over my area every day. And I want to be able to say that I enjoyed these 18 months. Not just that I grew spiritually and formed good relationships (because I know those things will happen and they already have so far) but that I had fun. President Moon says that a lot. "I want you to have fun on your mission." 

And sometimes that's hard. Because every day I do EXACTLY THE SAME THING. But this is where you have to look out for the little things. Just finding humor in little things and the little miracles and tender mercies too. Here are three examples from this week:

Tuesday night I was having a rough time. On my ride home that night I had a conversation with Heavenly Father. I felt really alone. And I doubted His ability to help me feel better. Who could help me? Everyone I love is on another continent. Or, at the very least, in a different part of Cambodia. That night Sis Choek had me call Sis Moon about some medicine she needed. After we got that figured out Sister Moon asked me, "Sister Fields, how are you doing? I've been thinking about you and praying for you the past few days?" She said she noticed I looked a little down at the mission home (really just because my package wasn't there)! And then she told me that she knew coming the city for the first time can be a hard adjustment. And being with a local companion for the first time is definitely an adjustment. President Moon is great for spiritual upliftment. But Sister Moon I feel like just understands and commiserates from a mom's perspective. She told me all her kids who served missions had a really rough time for the first six months, but that it gets better. And it will continue to get better. I shouldn't have doubted Heavenly Father. Far too often I forget this, but He is always aware of us and all the little details. All the feelings that even us at the time feel stupid for feeling. He knows and He cares. 

Tender mercy number two. THE SUPER STORE! Okay. So the "TESCO" of Cambodia is called "Lucky's." I still haven't been to it. But I've heard it carries American food and brands and things. I wanted to stop there on the way home, but Sister Choek suggested the Superstore because it's on the way home. I walked in and almost cried. That's not an exaggeration. It was clean! And empty! And they were playing "The Prayer" (I don't know why about that last one). And there was produce! Not being sold at a market by a Neakming! It had stickers! Of course I didn't buy any. Don't be silly. That is what the market is for after all. But I did stock up. Cereal, cookies, chocolate, toilet paper. I'm in love.

Tender mercy number three. Sister Som! A recently returned missionary in our branch from England! We've been struggling to get members to help us with our lessons this week (well this whole time really). And on Thursday Sister Som called us. She came along and I realized how much I miss just chatting with people. (I still can't really just "chat"in Khmer). Hopefully she will continue to be able to help us. It's always great when we can get members to help out. But when a RM comes along it's really helpful. Because they just get it. 

So basically things are going okay. Sorry, this email turned a bit melodramatic in the middle there. I promise I'm not depressed. Actually, my emotions are kind of all over the place. Am I the only missionary who feels like that? Some moments are really really cool. And I feel the Spirit so strong and I know why I'm supposed to be here. And some moments I just want to hop a tuk tuk to the airport and get on a plane. I just have to focus on the good moments. 

I had one of those "I'm really doing this" moments this week. It happened as I was doping our member helper on the back of my bike. Have I talked about doping? I hate it so much. But I can do it now. You put someone on the back of the bike above the wheel and give them a ride. As I biked along the potholed road, chatting in Khmer with my member's hands on my seat, I thought. Okay. I'm doing this. I don't have it all down totally yet. But I'm well on my way. 

Now for some updates! This week we had a baptism! Srei Khuat got baptized on Saturday. I think I've mentioned her before. She's about 20 and she's married and 7 months pregnant. She lives along the train tracks in a very small room of a rental building. She doesn't know how to read, and she's not the fastest at catching on to things. But she has faith! To be honest I was a bit worried about baptizing her because she's only been able to come to church twice (she's sick a lot and pregnant). But she learned quickly because she has a lot of free time; and seeing as she was our only progressing investigator, so did we. 

The baptism was a bit chaotic, a bit being an understatement here. It was supposed to start at three. But it ended up happening around 4:30. Our BM forgot about it/didn't really understand everything he's supposed to do because he's only 18. Basically no one turned on the font to fill it up in time. Then we didn't have the right keys. Because it was on Saturday, none of the members knew about it. Me and the American elder ended up giving talks (with a 30 second warning)--don't ask me why he asked the foreigners to wing talks out of two Khmers! And then the member doing the baptism didn't have the whole procedure down, so she ended up going under three times. 

I'm not gonna lie, I was stressed out and a little bit frustrated. But I learned some things. Don't trust anyone. Just kidding. But I learned the importance of following up and not assuming that things are just going to happen. If there's one thing I'm learning here in Pochentong, it's to be more proactive! And the important thing is that Srei Khuat had a good experience and I really think she did. Her whole face was lit up as she shared a short and sweet testimony after the baptism. And it's really cool that a member could baptize her. He's her next-door neighbor, and he originally referred the sisters to her before I got here. And then she got confirmed the next day during sacrament meeting. We will continue to visit her a lot and support her. It'll be a bit tricky in the next few months as she has the baby. But I have faith in her and her faith. 

And here's a cool thing! So the night of the baptism we stopped by her house to share a quick lesson about the gift of the Holy Ghost to help her prepare for her confirmation tomorrow, and we met her neighbor who also wants to learn. She and her husband learned with the missionaries a long time ago, but she hadn't been to church yet or gotten baptized. But her husband still reads The Book of Mormon. We invited her to church the next day and she came and stayed two hours! We taught her the first lesson last night. It was a bit chaotic (music blaring, baby crying) but I'm learning that's just kind of how life goes around here. And the Spirit knows how to work around it I think. So I'm looking forward to teaching her. She likes to talk a LOT. She told us she has seen God in her dreams before. Which I think at first I would have dismissed. But I'm learning that's a reoccurring thing here, which goes to show again, I think, that Heavenly Father is so aware of us. He understands culture quite a bit I think. And He knows how we will best receive spiritual experiences. Khmer place a lot of significance in dreams. 

So things are looking up over here in Pochentong! Things are good. God is good. Over and out. 

Sister Fields

Even though we're in the city, we still see things like this! This was a flock of ducks blocking the road on the way out to our recent convert's house. 

Going out to lunch last p-day (a perk of living in the city, lots of friends!) My comp is sitting across from me. She doesn't like pictures... 

This gives you a good view of our area from the balcony of an apartment of a member.

Monday, January 12, 2015

In Which I eat DQ! (welcome to city life)

Hello Friends!

It's been another week. I'm getting adjusted to life in Pochentong and in the city. I'm not gonna lie. I miss Kampongcham! I didn't appreciate what I had til it was gone. So I want to serve in the khets again someday. But until then I'm learning to like city life. It's not all railroads, factories, and less-actives (and let's be real, there's plenty of less-actives to go around no matter where you go). Last Monday after emailing we went to the mission home and serendipitously met up with Sisters S. and H. We went out and got Blizzards together! From Dairy Queen! You can't get that in Kampongcham... And I also went to a little supermarket and found wheat bread and Kraft mac and cheese! So like I said, city life has it's perks. There is, however a lot of traffic. The ride to the mission home is not a fun one. But I'm getting more used to it. So far the semi trucks haven't hit me yet. 

The highlight of this week was zone training on Friday! We had it at our stake center (we have one of those!). And it was fun to see everyone in our zone. They're planning a "zone hangout"at the stake center next p-day. So stay tuned for that. Exciting stuff. My current zone leader is actually my old district leader. And my zone leader (one of the elders in my branch) is in my zone now as well as Sister Khut! So it's going to be fun all around. We learned about working with members and focusing on our mission's new theme for this year "Teach ye diligently, Labor ye diligently, Serve ye diligently, Prepare ye the way of the Lord" (or whatever the order actually is of those three things. And then we had pizza! It wasn't too bad. They don't have Domino's or any chain pizza restaurants here or any American chains really. They have KFC and Burger King and Dairy Queen. I think that might be all. 

But the best part of zone training was the Moon's showed up! And the elders and sisters in my district got interviews with him. Which also means that we each got a loaf of homemade banana bread from Sister Moon. So it's a good time all around. I had a really good interview with President. Every time I meet with him I feel like he's a doctor. Like I want to spill all of my problems and thoughts over the past two transfers for him to fix. And even though it doesn't really end up working out that way, I always leave feeling rejuvenated. 

One of the things I expressed to him was my (relatively) new found desire to really do this well. I feel like all during training I was kind of just doing what I could to scrape by. Like I was doing just enough to keep my head above the water because that's all I could do. But now I really want to do this well. To be an effective missionary. To build real relationships with people and really help them change their lives as they come to accept the gospel. But there are still obstacles in the way of me becoming that missionary (person) I want to be. The number one is still communication. I feel like by the time I will really know how to do this well will be the day I go home. Pres Moon told me that in some ways that's probably true. But that's how life is. He told me that's how parenting is. But that's also the way it's supposed to be because we learn from our mistakes. But it's because of Christ and his Atonement that we can get rid of the guilt and regret and pain that accompanies those mistakes. And just take the good growth that comes from it. 

And what's helpful to me when I get discouraged is to look back at where I've come. When I was packing and moving I found my notebook from the MTC. I looked back through it and found goals I had set the very first week. Things I wanted to accomplish before I left the MTC and before I finished my mission. One of the goals I set was, and I quote: "not to resent the fact that I am here." Hahaha. Sooooo I have changed. If anything just my attitude about serving has changed. And I will continue to grow and improve. I make a fool of myself here every day. But the more times I do something the easier it gets and the less I care about making a fool of myself. 

As far as our area, I'm getting more familiar with it. It's big. And we have LOTSS of less active members. But I think you will find that anywhere. So the majority of members who attend are recent converts. I think a lot of them are quite strong. But it's hard because the older members don't want to attend because they don't know anyone who goes now. There also has been a history of gossiping and bad feelings between lots of the members. It's hard because I don't understand a lot of the details (or any of the details really). 

It's hard to know what to focus on. President has set some pretty steep goals for this year. One of which is to find two new investigators a week. So that's a thing. But we have two full binders of lost members to be found. And recent converts to strengthen. And members who still need encouragement. And as of yet, not a whole lot of support from the Bishopric. I feel like I'm still just trying to get my footing in this ward. 

We do have one investigator scheduled for baptism this weekend. She was unable to make it to church this week (she's been sick and she's seven months pregnant, which makes things difficult for her). So we might hold off a bit until she can attend again. She's only come twice. And I would feel a lot better about baptizing her if she came once (or twice) more and had a regular for sure way of attending each week. I think I got a little bit spoiled in Kampongcham. With my solid investigators who would come every week all three hours and then help out at all the branch parties! Miss them....

We taught English class on Wednesday as per usual and that was fun. It's always nice to feel like I know something. And English is something I can speak. They have a smaller turn out than we had in Kamponcham in seems like. But they have a regular two or three that come every week. Me and the American elder in our branch teach it together. One boy comes whose probably 15 (that's our cut-off point) and he's really funny. He knows a lot of English. And two nights ago on my way home I heard someone yelling "Teacher Fiel! Teacher Fiel!" (That's how you pronounce my name in Khmer, you don't say the "ds" and I turned around and it was him on a moto. It made me smile.

To end off on a spiritual note I want to share a scripture I came across in personal study this week. This comes from D&C 123. It talks about the imperative nature of spreading the light to the world. I love that in verse 13 it tells us "to waste and wear out our lives in bringing light to all the hidden things of darkness".  I think it's interesting that the word "waste" is used. I think it means to spend our whole lives . To wear out our lives in the Lord's work. And sometimes it feels like this work is a waste. Like it's doing nothing because we aren't reaping the benefits of the work we are doing. But verse 15 counsels to "let no man count them as small things, because there is much that lies in futurity." I like to think about Bong Naid. Who started learning from the missionaries ten years ago. Initially when things didn't work out, I wonder if the missionaries felt like it had been a waste (probably not, they're probably better missionaries than me!). But now look. Ten years later she is baptized. And her children are baptized and her husband will be soon. And they are so solid!

And then to end off: 
17 Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we  stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed."
I love the phrase STAND STILL. We just have to work hard consistently and than realize that the Lord is in control. He knows what He's doing because this is his work. This provides the peace of mind and conscience I need every day. This is not my work. I do what I can and than I stand back. And let the miracles happen. Because I have faith that they will.

Anyways. That's all for this week. Until next time!

Sister Fields

Monday, January 5, 2015

In Which I Learn to Speak Khmer

The little girls at Bong Naid's house put a garden in my hair. 
Cumriabsua everyone!

Happy New Year! It's kind of crazy that it's 2015 already. Tomorrow I will have officially been out for five months, which is kind of crazy and kind of not at the same time. Time is weird. Sometimes I get scared about how quickly time is going by. And then sometimes I think I am going to be in this country for the entire year of 2015. So it goes both ways.

It's been a crazy week! I'm finally settled in my new area in Pochentong. But I'll start back at the beginning.
Monday after emailing, the other sisters and I decided to go visit Phnom Bro Phnom Srei. This is one of the more famous spots in Kampongcham. It is two temples on two hills. The story goes that for some reason a group of boys and a group of girls were in competition to see who could build the taller hill. The girls won, and that is the reason why boys have to propose/lead out in courtship, etc. Okay, I didn't catch the whole story. I was too distracted by MONKEYS! They were everywhere! As soon as we got out of the tuk tuk we saw one on the steps and we all had to stop and take pictures. And then once we got up to the temple the whole place was crawling with them. For whatever reason we were the only people visiting (besides people trying to sell us stuff) and all of a sudden they started picking on us! They would jump on us and try to steal our stuff! You could see in their eyes when they were about to pounce. They stole Sister Khut's giant water bottle out of the side pocket of her backpack and opened it and poured the whole thing out on the ground! I don't know who they thought they were... but we got some fun pictures.

It was a week of adventures. On Wednesday we took the bamboo bridge accross the Mekong to go visit the island in our area! There are only a couple families out there that the elders usually meet with, but because both elders are leaving our area, Sister P wanted to be familiar with the area so she could show the new elders. So we went out to visit one morning. The bridge was a little freaky to ride. Even though it's strong (plenty of cars drive over it) the bamboo bends as you bike across it. The island was beautiful! It has a sandy beach area and then once you ride up the sand hill (not fun on a bike) you hit the jungle. Eventually the jungle clears and there are lots of picturesque hills and a couple different wats. It's a big island. We got lots of good pics. It made me wish that we had come out to the island before! It felt a little bit like vacation. It was quite different from other parts of our area. 

That night the branch had an FHE for the whole branch. It was a very low-key event, but we had a good turnout, and I think it went well. The Branch President gave a good lesson and encouraged everyone to have FHE's on their own in their houses. We played Pictionary and a game called balloon stomp. Everyone ties a balloon to their ankle and on the count of three everyone tries to stomp on everyone else's balloon. I got a hilarious video of it. And Bong Vanna (Bong Vaid's husband who hasn't been able to come to church yet) was able to come! He hopes that he will be able to come to church now because we switch to afternoon with the new year.
Thursday was my last day in Kampongcham. I made the rounds and said some goodbyes. Saying goodbye to Bong Vaid was quite sad because I hadn't had the opportunity to tell her yet that I was leaving. And she's a new investigator so she didn't know about transfers... So at the end of the lesson I told her I was leaving tomorrow and she started tearing up and said she didn't want to believe me! I'm really sad I'll miss her baptism. I'm making Sister P send me pics of that. 

Oh! And on Thursday I had the opportunity to teach Bong Naid's husband the first lesson! The first day of the new year. And he is going to be great. Even though it took him a while to learn, he is very sincere about it. And their whole family is just great, and I will really miss them. 

At the FHE on Wednesday, the branch president invited us over to dinner, but it's a mission rule that we have to schedule in advance through the Branch Mission Leader in order to eat with members (to make sure that they have the means to give us dinner and aren't just being really nice). So Thursday night just after we came in for the night we got a call. And the second counselor was outside in his tuk tuk with the elders inviting us to "PEC" that night. We ended up at a restaurant. It was really funny. And really nice of them.
Friday was transfer day! So I packed up my stuff, said goodbye to my apartment and Kampongcham, and got on a bus headed to Phnom Penh. Transfers take place at the mission home. It was a busy one. But it was nice, because I had a long while to chat with Sister S. and Sister H. Both of them are staying in the city. So we plan on seeing each other once and a while! Also I am taking over Sister S's area and with her companion. So she gave me the low-down on everything, which was both helpful and a bit anxiety inducing.
My new companion is Sister Choek. She is 28 and from PP. She speaks VERY little English. And is quiet. But she's very nice. It's going to be a learning curve (for both of us I'm sure) learning to communicate and work together well. It's DEFINITELY going to help my Khmer. It already has so much.

Our apartment is really nice and really big! We live with two other sisters, Sister Chan and Sister A. So two Khmers and two Americans, which is a good ratio I think. They are all quite quiet though and because the house is so big (three stories, two rooms on each floor,) we don't spend a whole lot of time together. We do eat meals together, which is good for me who still has not begun to learn how to cook Khmer food! It's just quite a different feel from my last house. All three of the sisters I lived with last transfer are super loud and we all slept in the same room. So it's a change of pace. A little lonely sometimes, but also kind nice. I've missed alone time the past five months. Sister S. wrote me a letter and left it in my room. She gave me the lowdown on everything about her companion/apartment/ward. So that was nice of her. It made me feel like I could do this!

And honestly, it hasn't been as bad as I thought it would be. I speak Khmer 85% of the day. Which is good for me. I'm still very bad, but I'm improving. I have a really hard time understanding Sister Choek. She speaks softly and quickly. But we're learning how to communicate. It's hard to form a relationship with someone it's hard to communicate with, but I'm working on it.
As for the area itself it's quite industrial. If this were the Hunger Games, it would be District 12. Just kidding there aren't mines (that I know of). Whatever district has all the factories,I don't know Hunger Games, this is it. There's a big train that runs down the middle of our area and a lot of our members live right on the tracks. And when I say right on the tracks I mean right on the tracks. We met with an investigator and had a lesson sitting on the railroad tracks. 

I'm having fun getting to know the members. I don't know if it's because I'm out of training and I have more confidence or because I'm in a new area and I get to start afresh or because my companion this transfer is much less outgoing than my trainer, but I am being much more proactive about getting to know people. My small talk abilities are still about a zero, but I'm getting better at it. And people are noticeably easier to understand here (without the kite accent). 

The ward seems good, though very small. It's a ward only by the name. It's a lot like my branch in Kampongcham. They meet in a rental building. LOTSSS of inactive members. We only had about 45 or 50 at Sacrament meeting on Sunday. So we have some work to do. But the elders had a baptism after church so we stayed and helped with that. That was good.

All in all, this is quite different from my training, but I think I will really like it. I'm growing a lot. And my anxieties about being a real missionary are diminishing. All in all. It's gonna be a good time I think.
I'll end with a thought about being proactive. I hate being proactive. I like being passive. I like letting other people take the lead. But I'm learning the importance of doing things. Something I've been struggling with while I've been out is listening to and following the Spirit. I feel like lots of times I don't know if thoughts are inspiration or just me thinking of things. And I'm always hesitant to act on them. And so I convince myself it's not important. But I've realized the importance of just acting anyways. I have a quote on my wall (came from my desk calendar) that says "Don't be too squeamish about life. All life is an experiment." Don't know who said that. But I like it. I think sometimes we have to just trust in ourselves and trust in our ability to receive inspiration. And then just do it and move on. On Sunday I felt prompted to share my testimony so I just got up and did it. Today when we were getting our bikes fixed I felt like I should invite the man fixing bikes to learn. They're just little things. I don't think either one of those decisions really affected anyone much, but they gave me more courage to keep stepping out of my comfort zone. Fear and anxiety are the worst. I haven't found the solution to avoid them completely. But this is one thing that's helping me.

Anyways, that's all for this crazy week. Keep praying for me! It's going to be an interesting week. But it'll be good!

Sister Fields

Staring competition with a monkey.

Monkey stealing Sister Khut's water bottle

At Phnom Bro in Kampong Cham.

Biking across the bamboo bridge over the Mekong River.

Electricity island style--no need for poles.

On the island with Sister P.!
Playing balloon stomp.

Bong Phiap who helped us out in so many lessons! And hopes to turn in her papers in April to serve a mission.

Saying goodbye to Bong Vaid!

Last picture with Sister P! She gave me this dress as a going away present.