Cumriapsua!!!! I'm in Cambodia! Wow, can you even believe that?! It was so weird stepping off the plane, because I set foot in Cambodia exactly 6 months, almost to the exact hour, after I opened my mission call. It was so surreal. I seriously don't even know where to start for y’all. How about the trip here?
The trip was long but not nearly as bad as I expected. We left the MTC at 12:30 on Tuesday, took the train to the airport, and then flew out of Salt Lake at 6pm. We flew the two hours to LA, and then walked/rode the bus to our terminal, found our gate, then went our separate ways in order to find payphones. That was so much fun talking to y’all! It feels like its only been a couple weeks, but at the same time it feels like its been years since we were together. It’s going to be really cool talking to y’all at Christmas; I promise y’all I'll be a much different (hopefully better) person. I'll have the same personality and stuff, don’t worry, but oh my word, you would not believe the things that I've already seen in just 4 days here. After another 5.5 months, who knows what I'll have seen and experienced! I'm so excited!!!
So anyways, we left LA on time at 1 am and then arrived in Hong Kong the next morning at 6:30am. That flight was about 14-15 hours but it didn't seem that long. I slept/dozed for probably about 9-10 hours of that. We all kind of sat in two big clumps about twenty rows apart. I sat right next to Elder Morris. I love that kid, he's one of the funniest people I've ever met. Hahaha he also has the best language story of anyone at this point. In TRC one day (in the MTC) he was giving a lesson on tithing and he was trying to say "We are commanded to give tithing to the church." but he messed the tones up (he's Viet speaking, not Khmae) and he actually said "we are commanded to give our little fairy poops to the church" Hahaha and the s-word is actually a better translation than the wording I used. Haha oh man, I hope I never mess up that badly. But it makes a good story! Anyway, the Hong Kong airport has got to be the coolest airport in the world! It is so big and clean and nice, unlike LAX, which is just big. It was so cool looking out the windows because there are these huge jungle covered mountains everywhere! So pretty! And you can also see these high-rise apartment buildings that are almost incomprehensible in size. Then we left Hong Kong at 8:45am and got to Phnom Penh at 10:25, so it was a 2.5-hour flight (Hong Kong is an hour ahead).
President Moon, Sister Moon, the APs, and a senior couple were there at the airport to greet us. President Moon and Sister Moon are so incredibly nice. Its good that they've been here for two years already, because that means that pretty much have mission life in Cambodia figured out. They really know what they're doing. So they put us all in 3 vans, and then divided us, the sisters took two vans, and the elders went in another and we went to the phsaa (market) straight away to do contacting. We were placed with an experience elder once we got to the market (just temporarily, not our trainer) and then we went out and started proselyting for 45 minutes! It was so much fun, and a great way to experience Cambodia right off the bat! My companion, Elder Martinson, and me got to talk to some really great people about the gospel! After that we drove over to the mission home. It’s pretty dang big, especially for a home in Cambodia. We had training for the rest of the afternoon, and then we had dinner, and then went to bed. The next morning we woke up, received some additional training, then got our companions, were given our assignments, got a little more training, then all went our separate ways! Elder LeNguyen along with Elder Medley are up in Siem Riep, Elder Paramore and Sister Syndergaard are in Kampong Thom, Elder Zierenberg and Elder Elieson are in Kampong Cham, and then Elder Christensen, Sister Lindley, Sister Uresk, Sister Matthews, Sister Earl, Sister Allen, and I are all in the general Phnom Penh area, although I think we're all spread out across the area pretty well.
So I'm in this area called Pochentong! Its on the northwest side of the city, its the area with the airport! Its a huge area, my companion says it technically goes all the way to the coast. It’s got a lot of variety. There are a lot of slums in Pochentong. Like a ton. We seem to do most of our proselyting and teaching in those parts. There are some nice parts too (its weird what I consider to be nice now. Nice in Cambodia would be considered a real poor part of town in San Antonio). It’s got everything. We also have countryside. We have to bike way far out sometimes to meet investigators and less-actives. The countryside is super pretty, but the countryside we're in isn't really a bunch of rice fields and stuff. Those are more out in the provinces.
Pochentong is such an amazing place to be born (start your mission) in. I love it so much. The Pochentong Ward is the smallest ward in the North Stake. We have about 70 people at sacrament meeting every week. We really focus a lot of work here on less-actives. Actually a lot of the work in all of Cambodia is focused on less actives. Cambodia has about 12,500 members, but only about 2,500 of those are active. So reactivation and rescuing are big emphases here. I love the members so much! It is so amazing to see their faith! It is also incredibly humbling to go to church with them, see them in that environment, then to go and visit them afterwards and see where they live. Most of them live in these little plywood-and-tin shacks, which are kind of just sunk into the mud and trash. I don't know how they live like that, but they do. It's easy to see that I'm never going to look at the world the same after this mission. I already view it in an almost entirely different light than I saw it last time I emailed y’all. I wish everyone could see the poverty and dire circumstances of these people. It is so incredibly humbling.
Its cool being in this area because I think a couple of my teachers served here. The members always ask about my teachers and they almost always know one, if not two or three, of my lookruus!
So the food here is crazy good! Every meal I''ve eaten so far pretty much consists of rice, pork, vegetables, eggs, and fruit. It’s all delicious! I've had some cool fruits since I got here too! Dragonfruit and mangosteen are now my two favorite fruits. I also had this super good fruit in the market this morning, but I have no idea what it’s called though. We have to be super careful about what we eat here though. We aren't allowed to eat off any carts that have wheels, and we have to wash all our food from the market in water and bleach right when we get back to our house. We aren't allowed to drink any water of any kind from the tap, its all bottled water. We have those huge water dispensers in our house.
Yesterday after church me and my companion were at the church building for a ward mission meeting and there were a lot of people there practicing a dance for the pioneer day celebration later this week. They had a bag of this fruit and sauce thing and I tried it and I had to chug water afterwards to get the taste out of my mouth. It turned out to be a cross-section of a unripe banana, peel and all. It was so weird. It instantly coated my entire mouth so I couldn't salivate. I didn't like the feeling at all, but Cambodians love it. It’s a candy for them.
I have gotten used to the vegetable sprayer! Its really nice! I don't know why we don't use them in the States. [Editor’s note: Cambodian’s do not use toilet paper] Our house is super nice. It’s just me and Elder Johnson here so we have two bathrooms and a ton of space to ourselves. The shower is nice, we have hot water. The shower is in the bathroom though, like in it. The bathroom is the tub. I don't know how to explain it. Like imagine a bathroom with a sink and a toilet than imagine a shower on the wall and a drain in the floor. That’s what it is. I'll take a picture next week for y’all. And yes, our house is right in the middle of our area.
My companion is Elder Johnson and he is the greatest! He's from Orem and he's been out for 16 months! He's really good at the language so he's a great help to me with that. I'm super glad to have him as my trainer!
With regard to the language, I have no idea what anyone is saying here! Like no idea! I understand the gist of what’s going on maybe like a quarter of the time. It's a little bit reassuring that people always tell me that I speak very clearly, but I'm like "well that's all well and good, but it really doesn't do me a ton of good that I can speak Khmae clearly if I have no idea what you're saying most of the time!" It's alright though, I know that the Lord will facilitate understanding and language comprehension with time. I'm continuing to work super hard with the language. I ask my companion a ton of language questions, probably to the point of being really annoying. The language is frustrating and super difficult but I'm loving the journey of learning it. How many people get the opportunity to learn such an amazing and ancient language? I love speaking to people and explaining the gospel to them in their native tongue. I love it more than anything else in the world.
Have I seen or done anything crazy yet? Hahaha yes every second of every day. I don't know what to tell you about. It’s all crazy. Maybe the craziest part is riding our bikes on the streets. Don’t worry though, we're safe. We ride smart and the Lord protects us.
Questions that I haven't yet answered:
-Yes, the food on the flight was awesome. Cathay Pacific is sooo nice
-My bikes good (now). The first couple of days we were at bike shops (which are everywhere) all the time because my chain kept falling off. But it's all good now.
- We are allowed to eat one meal a week with members as long as we set that meal up through the ward mission leader. That is to ensure that we don't get sick and that we only eat at places where the ward mission leader knows that the members can afford to feed us.
-I have a poncho but I only use it to cover my backpack. I just get wet. It feels nice.
Well that’s all I've got time for. I love y’all! I hope y’all are having a great time back at home! Have fun in Florida! I'm sad I'm not there with y’all but just know that I don't want to be anywhere but Pocentong right now! The mission is so hard, especially right now, but the Lord is carrying me. With Him I cannot fail.