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.

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