Monday, August 18, 2014

Always biking, always sweating

Hello.  Cumriapsua!  Sok sabbay te?! Happy birthday Mom!!! Happy birthday Riley!!!
On exchange in Saen Sok
This past week was exhausting, but great. On Tuesday I went on an exchange to Saen Sok with Elder Caine. Elder Long came down to Pochentong with Elder Johnson. Elder Johnson's the district leader and so had to conduct an exchange with the other companionship of elders in our district. So for the few people out there who aren't intimately familiar with the layout of northwestern Phnom Penh, Saen Sok is a community about 45 minutes to an hour north of Pochentong. It’s pretty rural, but not in the rice fields sort of sense. Saen Sok is kind of nothing but grass, dust (TONS AND TONS of it) and concrete slabs with little shacks and cows seriously everywhere. It’s not the most scenic place ever and there’s not much there but I loved the opportunity to do a 24 hour exchange up there! It was fun being with Elder Caine, he's super old (he dies in November), super tall, and super funny. He was born in South Africa but moved to Mauritius when he was 8 and has been there ever since. His accent is super cool haha. For dinner we bought a whole roasted chicken, head, feet and all. We were going to have rice with it but when Elder Caine opened the door to the kitchen a couple rats ran off along the counter so he shut the door and was like "well it looks like we won't be having rice" and it turned out that the plates and the silverware were still dirty in the kitchen too. So Elder Caine turns to me and goes "Have you ever eaten chicken with Khmaes?" I was like "um no..." and then he turned to the chicken and immediately tore off a huge chunk with his hands and started eating it. Well I was super duper hungry so I proceeded to do the same. So that was my dinner Tuesday night, just a plain whole roasted chicken eaten with my bare hands. Haha it was fun, although the chicken was bland and the whole feet and head thing kind of freaked me out. Felt really good to wash my hands afterwards...

Elder Johnson, me, Elder Caine

Elder Caine getting "doped".  To "dope" means "to ride on the back of".  Although I looked up the dictionary definition of it this week and it means "to appear to be glued on, as in riding".  So that's pretty cool.

Our beds when I was on exchange in Saen Sok

It felt really good to be reunited with Elder Johnson on Wednesday. The exchange was fun and I learned a lot but at the same time I was just like "This isn't my companion... This isn't my area... This feels kind of weird..." So it was nice to go back home to Pochentong and get back into our normal routine of things there.

Our normal routine of things was quick to be disrupted when we found out this week that we would indeed be moving to Tuk Thlaa (we had been hearing rumors that we would be moving houses for a few weeks). The AP called us and informed us we would be moving Monday (which is today). So yesterday we packed up all of our stuff and cleaned the entire house, because the house is being closed down by the mission. So we had to dig through tons and tons and tons of old documents, area books, former investigators books, pamphlets, liahonas, and other stuff like that to see what we needed to carry over to Tuk Thlaa and what we could just throw away. All of that took like 8 hours yesterday. I hope I never have to close a house again, it’s not fun at all. So this morning Elder Johnson and I took 2 tuk tuk trips with all our stuff over to our new house. Again, for those of y’all who fell asleep during the North Phnom Penh geography unit in Texas history class or algebra or whenever they teach that unit, Tuk Thlaa is the area immediately east of Pochentong. It’s about a 15 minute bike ride from our old house. It adds a lot more biking to our days, which is no fun, because we already bike more than almost anybody else in the city, because the Pochentong area is enormous. Elder Johnson and I already book it on our bikes all day everyday in order to make it to appointments or make it back to our house on time, and now I guess we'll just have to book it faster. Haha I don't know how, but somehow we'll manage. It’s ok, I know that President Moon has a good reason for it, although I'm not necessarily aware of that reason just yet. In the Tuk Thlaa house there is another companionship, Elder McGavin and Elder Tii. Elder McGavin is hilarious, so that'll be fun. Elder Christensen and Elder Yorgeson also live in that house, but they're moving to a new house later this afternoon, so it'll just be us and then Elder McGavin and Tii. The house is a lot dirtier and a lot bigger than our house in Pochentong. It also has rats from time to time. Haha Elder Christensen said that on his first night in the country (which was my first night too) Elder Yorgeson clubbed a rat the size of a cat with this big walking stick. So that'll be fun, really looking forward to rat hunts...

Our study area in our old house.
 Front room of our old house in Pochentong.  It's where we eat and also where my closet is! (well, was . . .)

Bathroom in our old house.  Stays clean because the entire room becomes the shower. 

Our bedroom in Pochentong

This past week we had a ton of people cancel on us, which was irritating and discouraging, but it just happens like that sometimes. The problem with such an extremely poor country like Cambodia is that even though most people are super humble and prepared for the gospel, they simply don't have enough time to meet with us. Like everyone we contact is like "yeah I really want to learn more, but I'm rovuel" ("busy". I seriously hate the word "rovuel" with a burning passion. Least favorite word in Khmae. I have to hear that word 30 times a day at least. "khnyom tumnay rohoot" is my favorite phrase. It means "I'm always free".) Most people have to work all day, every day. If they don't work one day, then their family doesn't get to eat that day. Thats just how it is. There's a phrase that a lot of people use to describe living day-to-day like that. It’s "roke sii". It means "searching to eat". Usually Elder Johnson and I can convince people to set aside time though. We are very persistent when we contact haha. I'll talk to someone about Christ, see if they're interested and prepared, and when they're like "oh I'm busy all the time" I'm like "oh ok, so which day are you free?" and then they're like "Oh I work every single day" and then I'm like "ok, well most of the time, what hour do you have free time?" and then they're like "ohhh I'm always busy, no free time" and then I'm like "ok well what hour do you stop work at?" and then they're like" Oh around 5"and then I'm like "great! So you and your family are free at 5! Can we come by tomorrow and teach?" and then they're usually like "Well, yeah I guess". Haha that’s like every single contact. I'm like, ok, why does it take 5 questions to determine that you actually do have free time every single day? It's really sad when people refuse to meet with us because they say they're always working. Please understand, I am very aware that these people have to work a ton to feed their family, but all we want is to meet with them for like half an hour once a week! I realize that feeding your family in this life is important but they just don't get that what we are teaching will benefit them and "feed their family" forever! FOREVERRR!. Think about how long that is! Elder Johnson and I try to convey that our message benefits people eternally, but they just refuse to wrap their minds around it a lot of the time. We're like "Please, just listen!! Please! We want you and your family to live with each other and with God for eternity! We're just asking for like half an hour. Just give us one shot. After the first lesson you can decide whether you still want to learn with us or not." and some people are still like no, I'm busy, and then walk away. It’s sad. I don't know what else I can do for people like that.

Language keeps progressing, the most noticeable difference in my language abilities since I came is my comprehension. My vocab has shot up too though, and so has my somleeng (pronunciation). In my word book I have now written down over 450 words in the last 3 weeks and I know almost every single one of them now! I've really been working on my pronunciation of just the consonants. I really want to come out of my training being able to say all of them very, very clearly. The vowels are a whole other beast. The vowels you work on for your whole mission, and even then you may not have them perfectly. Haha all the sounds are so so similar and there is really no way to describe the difference between them to y’all. I love that I think almost a hundred percent of the time in script now. I really started trying to do that in the MTC and now it's almost automatic. In order to really think and speak in Khmae you have to have your thoughts in the script. So that’s something that has become second nature almost for me now. Once again, I could not even say "hello how are you?" if it wasn't for divine assistance. It is so incredibly real.

Let me answer y’all’s questions:
Have you received any of the postal mail we’ve sent?  Still haven’t gotten the mail. I'm hoping that it’s there today at the mission home, fingers crossed!

Anything you need that you can’t get there?  Umm, well snack food would be nice I guess, but it’s really not a big deal. I like having to limit myself to 3 meals a day. I feel like it’s healthier and I feel like more of a grown up, haha. When y’all send a package for Christmas or something I wouldn't be opposed to some snack food being in there though...

Have you tried durian fruit yet?  I have not had durian yet. Nor have I had baby duck eggs. Elder Caine said that he eats them all the time (it’s because his companion is a Khmae). Pretty much everyone says that they're not great but that they're THAT bad.

Inside of a dragonfruit

Does your bike travel with you throughout your mission, or do you leave it with the apartment? Your bike travels with you if you stay in the same city when you're transferred. When you move to a different khaet or when you move back to the city you just leave your bike there and get a new one in your new area.

Are you as tired as last week, or are you getting used to it?   I'm more tired. I'm gradually getting used to it. I'm doing a lot better than I was my first week. Everyone says that the first 6 months is super tiring and exhausting though, so I've just gotta keep trudging along.

Does it rain every day, and is it just single downpours or all day events?  Ya it’s rained pretty much every single day. We actually had a stretch of like 5 days in a row this week where it didn't rain and it got crazy hot and dusty. It typically pours for like half an hour to an hour every afternoon. On Saturday it rained soooo hard. It was insane.

Cambodian storm a'brewin'

After the daily storm
How are your shoes working out?  Are they constantly covered in mud?  Do they dry out?  My shoes are doing good. I use one pair for proselyting and one pair for going to church and stuff like that. They're super, super dirty. They dry out pretty good I guess. My socks are doing good, no complaints.

Do you come home covered in mud and grime? Ya. I come home every single day covered in mud and sweat and slime and dust. Super fun. When we stop after a long bike ride, especially if we were biking on Phlov Deihoy, we'll stop and my face will be covered in mud. It’s from the copious amounts of sweat and dust. Haha, it’s gross.

Me after the hour bike ride to Saen Sok.  We rode all the way on the dustiest road in Cambodia, Phlov Deihoy (that literally means "dusty road").  When we ride bikes into the city or pretty much anywhere, we wear masks to keep out the dust, moto fumes, and pollution.  I didn't wear a mask for the first few weeks though, haha, it was gross.  But now I do!  Trying to be healthy.  I also don't know if you can tell but my shirt and slacks are completely soaked with sweat in this pic.  It was BAKING.  We had to ride up there to do a baptismal  interview.

Do you drink water bottles all day long?  Yup we drink tons of water.

My handy-dandy water bottle.  It's pretty cool.  Sister Moon gave em to us when we first came.
I was told that instead of gas stations, people sell gas in bottles at the side of the road.  Have you seen that?  Ya.  There are millions of those little "gas station" things. People put these little half liter glass bottles full of gasoline on these stands and then motos pull up and the owner of the gas grabs a funnel and empties the bottle into the moto. I didn't know what the liquid was for my first couple weeks. I thought it was some weird drink or maybe like some weird urine-medicinal thing. Haha, but then I asked Elder Johnson and he was like "it’s gas elder."

How were the baptisms?  Both of our baptisms this week are actually pushed back to next week. Had some complications. They'll be baptized next week though! One of the sisters' investigators was baptized yesterday though! It was so neat!

a lady the sister missionaries taught, Elder Johnson, me

Do you sleep in a hammock, I read on someone’s blog that elders sometimes do.  Haha no we sleep on foam pads, which are on these "beds". The beds are just like a few weak wood slats on a bed frame. Really creaky, not a ton of support, but we're so tired we just crash.

Killed any rats yet?  haven't had to kill any rats in my house yet, but now that I’m in the Tuk Thlaa house I'll probably have to kill one at one point or another.

Thanks for not forgetting to email me and stuff. I have this paranoia every Sunday night that when I log onto my email the next morning my entire family will have forgotten to email me. Haha. Thanks for putting lots of details into y’alls emails, I like hearing what y’alls lives are like back home. Make sure to keep doing that. I love y’all, have great weeks!

Paddy-marsh sort of thing.  This is what Cambodia looks like naturally in a lot of places 

Places in our area outside the city look like this. 

Got my visa extension!  When we came to Cambodia we all had 3 month business visas.  They want to make sure you're serious about staying before they give you the big one.  Looks like I won't get kicked out now till at least next August. 

We all happened to wear the same tie that day by coincidence.  The other elder is Elder Long.  He's in Saen Sok.

My collection of Khmae ties so far.  Pretty cool. 

Picture from our living room in Pochentong. 

"Baay sac jruuk"  aka my breakfast this morning.  Yummmm!

We use this pamphlet a lot, especially with less-active members.  It is called "My Family".  It's the church's new family history thing.  Y'all should use it back home if y'all aren't already.  And y'all should fill them out for yourselves as well!!  Seriously!! [Editors note:  Aren't new elders cute!  Fun to see them experience the gospel in a whole new light.  Everything is new]

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