Monday, February 8, 2016

In Which I Celebrate Groundhog's Day 2016!!

Gong Xi Fa Cai!

So you know that moment when you forget you live in Asia and then you leave you house on a Sunday morning and everyone's out in the street burning paper money, monks are chanting, and the smell of incense is enough to block out any other aroma? Happy Chinese New Year! And you've been to three different less-actives' homes to no avail (all doors are padlocked and they've gone to their homelands to party), you're biking against the unseasonably strong winds, and nobody wants to talk to you because their too busy worshiping their ancestors. That's when I was tempted to pull out a picture of the temple and use the line: "Do you want to know the real way to help your ancestors?" But alas, I did not. Cultural sensitivity, I suppose. In those moments I stop and remember I've got less than three weeks. LESS THAN THREE WEEKS? How did that happen? As our English class students would say, "I don't too" (I should teach them the word "either"). I kind of expected this transfer to go slow, anticipating the end of everything, but it's been flying by. So here's to making the most of the last few weeks!

And this transfer has been quite the party so far. The highlight of which has been Siem Reap! You need to know, this was a long-awaited occurrence. During the dark days and rough transfer, the image of riding elephants with my MTC buddies was a beacon in the darkness. I'm happy to tell you, dreams do come true. 

We went up last Monday at about noon. It's about a seven-hour bus ride from the city to Siem Reap, so we had plenty of chat time. Between the rest stop pit toilets and Khmer music videos they play on the bus, I'm really going to miss those bus rides. So many fond memories going between the city and Battambang. And unlike in America, no one cares how you sit in a bus. So we squished three on one bench, took off the head rests of the bench in front, so all five of us could sit comfortably and chat about our lives. 

We pulled into Siem Reap at about 7:00 pm, and the sisters there were very accommodating.  We ordered pizza and laid out mattresses on the floor and had a sleepover. The next morning our tuk tuk driver (the district president in Siem Reap--also very accommodating and he knew exactly where to go) picked us up at 4:30 am so that we could see the sunrise over Angkor Wat. We paid a whopping $20 for a one-day park pass and we got to the classic Ancient Angkor temple just as the sky started to turn pink. It was beautiful! 

It didn't quite look like the pictures because it did have any water in front. It's the dry season and typically tourist season is rainy season. But that didn't stop anyone; the place was still packed! I sometimes got distracted from the temple sites because I was people watching. So many tourists from all around the world. And for the first time on my whole mission I got recognized as a missionary! A guy from Florida on business in Thailand said, "Sisters? I didn't know we had sisters in Cambodia!" So fun. 

Because we were only there for a morning, we opted not to get a tour guide. The downside was we didn't really know what we were looking at. I can't tell you much more about the place now than I could before. But the upside was we got to go wherever we wanted. And unlike ruins or museums anyplace I've ever been before, there were pretty much no rules. And we could walk and climb anywhere we wanted. That's not totally true, but there was a lot of freedom. It felt kind of like I was in line for the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland. 

After the big temple, we got some breakfast and then rode an elephant. You don't want to know how much money all five of us paid to get on an elephant, so I won't tell you. I also won't tell you if it was worth it or not... But it was way cool. And we got such fun pictures. And we walked through an ancient archway on an elephant. And the other sister's mahout whistled "Jingle Bells" and "On the Floor" using a leaf the elephant handed him with his trunk. So that was cool. Then we contacted the mahouts and got their numbers to give the Elders there, so you tell me if it wasn't worth $20....a person...

We hit up two more temples after that. One was super old and it had trees growing out of it. I can't explain it. Just scroll to the pictures below. It was beautiful. Someday I'll go back and spend more time, but after about six hours, we felt like we had seen a good chunk of it. We went the the Old Market and spent more money (I got a couple really cute skirts), I got a fruit shake, the other sisters got their feet eaten by fish, and we hopped back in the tuk tuk and got back just in time to catch the bus home. It was a craazy trip. And after traffic, I didn't get home until 10:00 pm! Which is crazy late in this mission. Good thing we had the office elders to pick us up. So it was definitely an adventure. If you're in the area, check it out. Best Groundhog's Day I've ever spent! We decided we should make it a tradition. Every Groundhog's Day we'll meet back up at Angkor Wat. 

So that happened this week. And then the rest of the week flew by! Investigator update: Things are going well. People are progressing fairly well and then they have friends who also want to learn. Whoever's here in March will have a ton of baptisms on their hands (you're welcome). 

I'll just share one investigator experience from this week. Remember Ming Pov? She's the one who sells sugarcane juice from last week. Well, while I was gone the sisters went to go see her, but she wasn't at her usual corner selling. The next day she called us, and it takes me about five minutes to figure out who she is. But the important thing is, she called us! Investigators never call, especially when we've never even called her. I'm not sure how she got our number. No, I do; it was on the back of the pamphlet we gave her, but still. She said that she was at the hospital with her granddaughter when we came last. We went the next day to meet her, and we could tell she was really worried about her granddaughter. She's only two months old, and I guess has been having digestive problems and has been constipated for over a week. It was the perfect opportunity for us to teach her about prayer again. And even though she had learned it with us before, I could tell it took on whole new meaning for her. She really wanted to learn how to pray. We taught her "Dear Heavenly Father" and "In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen" for 15 minutes straight. She kept messing up a little part of it over and over, but she kept re-correcting herself and was determined to say it right. Ultimately, she did pray, and we committed her to keep praying whenever she felt worried or sad. And I really think she will too. I think this could be a perfect faith building experience for her. So, stay tuned!

Okay, one more random anecdote. We were contacting the other day and I pulled up next to two Oms and started telling them about our English class, when one of them says in perfect English, "Good for you, teaching about Christ." Turns out this woman is from South Dakota and on vacation in Cambodia to visit family. She starts telling me how her husband says it's all frozen over in South Dakota and she's so glad she's here. We get talking and she tells me she used to go to a Christian church in America, but then they told her she couldn't be saved or something like that. So I got to tell her a little about the Restoration in English! We got interrupted and then she got busy, but I gave her our website. So basically between getting recognized as Mormons and contacting in English, I got a taste of being a state-side missionary this week. 

Okay, to wrap up I want to share something I learned in Zone Conference this week. It was cool because going into it, I thought I would learn good things; but it would probably only be applicable for the next three weeks of my life. But turns out I was wrong. We spent the whole morning talking about personal gospel study and how we need to make it a habit for our whole lives. The Christensens have been teaching about what it means to be a deliberate disciple, and they taught that it is through a deliberate study of the scriptures that we learn what it means to be a true disciple. Daily scripture study opens the door to revelation and daily revelation ensures daily re-conversion. Why do we need daily re-conversion? Because conversion is not a one-time event; it is a process (#hmong). It got me pumped to have a good personal study now, and when I go home too. Just maybe not at seven in the morning...

Okay, that's all for this week. My days as a full-time missionary are dwindling. So here's to making the most of it! 

Have a good week everyone!


Sister Fields

Sunrise at the Ancient Temple.

This is to show the masses of tourists.

 Breakfast!  Baay Sac Churu--It's pork and egg on rice. It's the classic Khmer breakfast. Does it look yummy?

This is my Where's Waldo picture.

And this is my friend I found. We are matching.

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