Monday, August 11, 2014

Another amazing week in Pochentong

Hey! Good to hear from y’all! I'm glad y’all are having fun now that y’all are back in San Antonio! I never liked that transition after vacation though. Haha never fun having to return back to reality.

That’s sad about Papa. I continue to pray for the Lord to take him home. Hopefully none of us will have to see him in this state for much longer. It’s really sad, but that’s how life goes. Although, I don't feel sad thinking about him passing away soon. I only feel hope and love for him. Isn't that going to be an amazing experience for him?! Released from the weaknesses of his mortal body and entering into a state of peace where he can help prepare other souls for the resurrection. How neat! What a perfect plan our Heavenly Father has!

Haha, that dress code thing at USAA is weird. Glad you're sticking to pants Dad. Sometimes I think the world is becoming too casual (can a teenager say that? Is that allowed? If not, then I'm really sorry). It’s been so weird out here on the mission how my clothing perspective has changed. What is "casual" for me now are dress slacks, and a short-sleeve collared shirt and a tie. That is what "casual" means to me. Last week when we were playing soccer I felt weird being in public in basketball shorts and a t-shirt. I was like "what am I doing? I'm not dressed at all! This is terrible!".

Ohhh man! I crave breakfast tacos. Whewww!  Gotta stop thinking about them... The breakfast food here is just as delicious though! The typical Khmae breakfast is baay saec jruuk, or "rice and pork". It’s ridiculously good and it’s everywhere. It's basically seasoned strips of grilled pork, rice, and a fried egg. Super, super good. And you also usually get a bag of soup along with it! Yes all soup comes in bags here. They close the top of it with a rubber band which is almost impossible to take off sometimes because they twist it so good. Haha, I heard Elder Whitney, one of the elders in my zone, call it a "ming twist" the other day during our monthly zone training meeting. (A ming, or neakming, is a woman who is like an aunt younger than your parents, although the term is a little more general. So any woman between like 35 and 55ish I would call neakming. The term is relative to the person though. A neakming for you, mom and dad, would be someone between like 55 and 70ish.) Anyway I was laughing super hard at that phrase "ming twist". Haha, I have a feeling y’all won't find it as funny.

Wow, the Spurs hired Becky Hammon! Crazy! She’s a legend in the WNBA, but that is super interesting that Greg Poppovich would hire her for his assistant coach in the NBA! I wonder how that dynamic will work. That’s extremely cool though. Gregg Poppovich will seriously hire anyone, player or coach, that he thinks will contribute to the team being a championship contender. He doesn't care about your attributes or history, just your skill set. Viva los Spurs!

Swimming and dinner at Megan and Adams sounded like fun! Good old family barbeques. And Honey and Grandpa just got back from their Nauvoo pageant trip!

Have fun going back to work mom! I think it'll be really weird in December once Chloe starts driving because then you'll have two kids out of the house and one more kid at the house that can drive herself and Riley around. I bet you probably don't miss the good ole days of crisscrossing across all of San Antonio ten times a day to take us to all of our activities. We appreciated it though!

That’s cool that Brooke is going through the temple Saturday! Woohoo! Tell her good luck! (for her mission, not for the temple, haha). It's weird thinking about how long I've been out so far, then thinking that sisters who are leaving right now, like Brooke, still come home from their missions like 3 months before me. 

This week was super tiring. I struggled with just deep, deep exhaustion for a large portion of the week. It’s just so much to handle and adjust to! Not to mention that we ride our bikes miles and miles and miles in the hot sun over roads filled with craters (calling them potholes does them no justice). Whew, it’s rough. Elder Johnson and I are just planning on relaxing today. We decided to go to Tuol Slaeng next week. We still have to ride over to the mission home though and that is no small trip.  Look at a map of Phnom Penh to see how far we ride. Draw a direct east to west line from the airport to the Mekong and that’s the trip we make every Monday. (It’s honestly not that bad, I just like to complain about it). 

This week I had coconut water straight from a cold coconut for the first time! They just lop off the top part of it till there’s a hole about the size of a quarter and then they stick a straw in and you drink it straight out! It was sooo good. It was really cold and it tasted kind of like lemon-lime PowerAde almost, if you reduced the flavor and made it sweeter. It was so good, especially because it was like 7:45 at night when we had them and we were pouring sweat.

Have I told you that since I came to Cambodia I've eaten more fruits that I don’t' recognize than fruits that I do? I seriously couldn't tell you the names of 95% percent of the fruits and vegetables here. They're all so alien, but sooo good. A lot of the fruits look very different on the outside, but look the same on the inside. A lot of them have clear translucent flesh on the inside. Really cool looking.

One of the many types of strange fruits.  This is rambutan.  The center part you eat is sweet and delicious.

I also had my first experience with Buddhist monks! Elder Johnson and I were trying to visit the completely inactive son of one of the less-actives we teach, and there were two monks walking down the railroad in our direction, collecting funds for the school at their wat. They came up to us and asked us what we were doing, and we explained that we were missionaries trying to meet with a member of our congregation. They were so nice. It was an extremely respectful conversation: we were very respectful of them and they were very respectful of us. We talked to them for probably about 5 minutes and then one of them asked us for our phone number! While he took it down the other monk (both of them were about 30, by the way) was like yeah, come to our wat anytime! We would love to sit and talk with y’all! Elder Johnson and I were like “sweet, we don't have a ton of free time but maybe one day we'll try and come by!” Haha then just a couple hours later the monks called us and were like "hey do y’all want to come over to the wat for lunch?" We were like "ohh we're sorry we're busy (which we were), but thank you!" So that was cool.

Elder Johnson and I also had a sobering experience as we were teaching one of our brand new investigators which we contacted earlier this week. We had had to move his lesson to the next day because he was at the hospital for one of his relatives who had been in a bad moto accident (moto accidents are really common here, resulting in a lot of handicapped people). When we met with him the next day he told us that his aunt had passed away from her injuries. Elder Johnson and I realized that we had met this woman! We carried these big 20 kilo bags for her into her home! I guess later that day she died in a moto accident. Wow... It was a very spiritual lesson that we got to teach our investigator though, because our lesson happened to be the Plan of Salvation. It was amazing how strong the Spirit was. That investigator, Bong Maec, is awesome. He is maybe the most spiritually prepared person I've met out here so far.

Me, Bong Viasnaa and his fiance Bong Volai (who is a member).  They're the greatest.  Super funny and super nice.

So this next Sunday two of our investigators will be baptized! Bong Niro and Bong Viasnaa! They're both amazing investigators, very eager to keep the commitments we give them. I'm excited for both of them to be baptized and confirmed, then prepare to go to the temple with their respective families a year from now (hopefully). The church helps a TON here with trying to help people go to the temple here. The members still have to save a lot of money to go though, so it’s a very big sacrifice and requires sometimes years of diligent saving in order to go.  The closest temple is in Hong Kong. The members here talk all the time about the day that they will have a temple here in Cambodia. Elder Johnson and I were talking to the bishop's wife, Bong Navi, yesterday and she told us that she already learned English and is now working on learning both Thai and Vietnamese, in order to help as much as possible once they get a temple here. She said that she and the bishop are planning on working as much as possible in the temple. Woah!!! The members here truly exemplify what it means to be a latter-day SAINT.

Ok, answers to y’alls questions:
Has your companion been sick since he has been in Cambodia?  No. Elder Johnson has never been seriously ill here. He's had companions that have been though

Do you live in a free standing house, or in an apartment?  We live in a town house. Two stories. I'll take some pictures of it this week for y’all

Do you attend church in one of the more recently built buildings that we’ve seen pictures of, or are you in an older building converted to a chapel?  We attend church in the bottom floor of a building owned by a member (although that member is totally inactive). I go to the North Stake Center once a week for district meeting though (that’s one of the ones you’ve seen pictures of. It's super nice).

What time does Church start on Sundays?  My church is at 8 in the morning.  That sounds early, but I wake up at 5:30 every morning.  Plus Cambodians wake up super early.

Do the youth in the ward have Mutual (midweek activities)?  The youth do have Mutual, although there are not that many youth in our ward and it is a little unorganized.  Me and the other missionaries in my ward have been helping them with it.  We tell them about things we did in America that we liked.  

Where do you send email from?  I email from an internet cafe. It costs 2000 riel an hour, or about 50 cents

When you email the mission president is there a certain format, or just freeform? The weekly letter to President Moon is just free form. Nothing complicated. I usually just tell him in a paragraph or two how I'm doing and how the work is progressing in Pochentong.

Have you had your first zone conference with the mission president?  I have not had a zone conference yet.

In a couple of your letters you have alluded to Pochentong being one of the hardest areas in the mission.  What makes it so hard?  I’m sure the poverty is similar to other areas. Pochentong is known as a hard area just because it’s the smallest ward in the North stake, so it’s hard to have a lot of member help and involvement.  Also just because for whatever reason, in the past elders have struggled finding people here to teach. Elder Johnson and I are opening our mouths to everyone we see though, and the Lord is blessing us by helping us find many people to teach.

That's all I've got! The church and gospel are true! I love y’all, God bless!

Love,  Elder Neuberger

Looktaa Sae and his son Kung (who is deaf).  We go and read with them from the Book of Mormon quite a bit.  Looktaa Sae is one of the most active members in Pochentong and has been for years and years.  He and Kung got to go to the temple the week that I arrived in Cambodia.  There he was sealed to his wife who passed away a few years ago. He's amazing.

Meeting with our ward missionaries and the Sisters in our ward.

Earlier this week, while me and Elder Johnson were doing "The First Twelve Weeks" training program for new missionaries, we were watching certain clips from The District.  I was like, "oh hey, look, that's my mom!"  Haha, almost felt like she was here in Pochentong with us.  [Editor's note:  The District was filmed in our ward in San Antonio several years ago]
In the distance is a wat across from this swamp, wetland, rice field thing that we ride past pretty frequently.
My Book of Mormon reading.  I mark all the words I don't know.  Haha, the Book of Mormon has so many hard words, it's ridiculous.

Seriously, everything in Cambodia has Angkor Wat on it.  Even our spoons!  They are so proud of their heritage, and they should be.  They used to be the most advanced civilization in the world.

Bong Viasnaa's nephew . . . I think.  I'm not entirely sure of his relation.

These are some scenes from the market . . . aka the grocery store.

More pig heads.  Mmmmm

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