Monday, September 29, 2014

Pchum Ben is over!!!

Kids of some families we visit with each week
Yes, Pchum Ben is over!! Finally! The long exodus is over and people have returned to Phnom Penh! We have people to teach! This past week though was still Pchum Ben. So it was still super hard to find people to teach and to contact. But I'm hopeful for this next week though! Pchum Ben ended this weekend. It's no longer just us and the hordes of rats and armies of stray dogs!

So this last week we had zone conference! It was amazing, such a great way to be spiritually uplifted and renewed. We (the North Zone) had it combined with the Central Zone, which is the official name for the Vietnamese program. It was funny because our zone conference happened in 3 languages! Everyone would just speak in their native language, and then we had translators interpreting the whole time. Its very cool to participate in a part of the Lord's vineyard that is so diverse!

So at zone conference, first thing after the opening song and prayer, President Moon gets up and says "I have a very special announcement. I just got the final clearances and permissions last night so I feel comfortable announcing it now. You all are the first people to hear about this. I'm very excited to say that this next transfer we will be opening the provinces of Pursat and Prey Veng!" 

We were all like WHATTTTTTTTTT?!!!!!!!!! Talk about getting your mind blown... We were all speechless. There has been rumors going around for a while that a new khaet would probably be opened some time in the near future, but no one knew that it would be this transfer, and no one knew that it would be not just one khaet, but two! And no one even discussed it ever being Pursat and Prey Veng! We all thought it would be Takeo, like for sure. And if not Takeo, than possibly Kompung Chnang. Interesting how the Lord rolls His work forth. It's a very good thing that He does it according to His knowledge and not ours! So yeah! Starting this next transfer the Church will be in the provinces of Battombang, Siam Riap, Kompung Thom, Kompung Cham, Prey Veng, and Pursat! I can't wait till the church extends to every part of Cambodia! Who knows, maybe one day one of my children will serve in the Cambodia Pochentong Mission! Or maybe one day I'll be able to come back and go through the Pochentong temple! One step at a time though...

The North and Central Zones Conference, September 2014

This week we ate with President Lom Ang (a counselor in the stake presidency) and his family at the church a couple of times. There was nothing better to do at all, we had no one to teach and there is no one on the streets to contact, so we were like sure! It was a great time getting to know President Lom Ang and his family better. They are the greatest. So faithful. They're so young too! President and his wife Marida are both like 30.

Making fried bananas at the church during Pchum Ben.  We were hanging out with Brawthian Lom Ang and his family. 

Sister Uresk and Sister Hartley

Quick side note: I am so grateful that emails do not carry scent, because this one would smell so sweaty. I'm sweating all over the place in this email cafe right now. That's all. Continue...

So also this week, on Saturday morning, which would have been the same time y’all were playing games with each other I think, I went to Kompung Spuu! Bishop lives out there! For all of y’all who are completely ignorant of Cambodian political geography, which is probably just one or two of you, Kompung Spuu is the khaet directly to the west of Phnom Penh (our area's boundary technically goes west all the way to the ocean). So Bishop picked us up from the church at 8:30 on Saturday morning and we drove like an hour and fifteen minutes out to his house. He raises chickens for a living, so we helped clean out his coops for a few hours. It was super fun. Kompung Spuu is super pretty, like all the provinces are. It was nice to leave the city for a few hours. And Kompung Spuu has some mountains too! I didn't realize that before. I thought you had to go further west than that to find the mountains. It was super duper fun. I love Cambodia. It is the prettiest place in the world. I don't remember who was telling me, but before the Vietnam War and Pol Pot and the genocide, the other countries of Indochina (Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, etc.) were talking about turning Cambodia into a huge nature preserve because it is so beautiful. Unfortunately, Cambodia has lost a lot of its beauty because of war and deforestation but for the most part it is still unbelievably beautiful!

A cow on the bishop's farm 

The chicken coop

Me inside the chicken coop.  I'm wearing the traditional Khmae scarf, the krama, on my head.
The bishop sleeping after a hard day on the farm.

Pictures and words cannot describe the shades of green in Cambodia. Imagine the brightest, most vibrant green color you can imagine, square it, than multiply it by 100 and that is the shade of green that Cambodia is. It also is just the most surreal feeling when I look out at rice fields as far as the eye can see, and you just see farmers out there with there traditional harvesting tools, and in their traditional Khmae farmer clothing, with the kramas and all that. Its like stepping back in time 3000 years. All of Cambodia could be a Smithsonian history exhibit, but instead of wax figures, its real people! These farmers are seriously such an anachronism in today’s world. Sorry to use a weird word like anachronism, but that’s the best word to describe what it's like watching them, as the haunting, lilting voice of a monk chanting in Pali floats through the air, coming from the countryside wat over in the distance. You are just like "there is no way I am living in the year 2014. I have been sucked several millennia back in time." Gosh, so many unreal sights in Cambodia which are impossible to describe. This is why email time on p-days is the most frustrating time of the week...

Pictures of Kompung Spuu 

Yesterday at church we had the worst church attendance since I came here because it started pouring like an hour before church started and rained for the entire duration of church as well. Have I told y’all how Cambodian's refuse to do anything if it's raining? They think that it will make them sick. So yeah needless to say, only the super duper active people came.

Let me answer your questions from the last couple weeks. Sorry I forgot last week, I walked out of the internet cafe and slapped myself on the head because I realized that I had forgotten:

Bug bites?  Do you get a lot of them?  With the rain I assume the mosquitos are out in full force. Tons of mosquitos and other bugs, but I haven't really been bit at all. But that's how I have always been. Even when other people at tennis tournaments and stuff would be eaten alive I wouldn't even have a single bite. I guess I have really sour blood or something. Maybe I just smell too terrible...

Do you do things with the Young Men in your ward?  Do they go on exchanges?  We've done a couple of splits with the young men in our ward yes.

What do you do for English class?  Is it just you and Elder Johnson?  How many people attend? For English class Sister Hartley is the assigned English class leader for Pochentong. She always asks either me or Sister Uresk to teach the class (trainee hazing). The way the class works is we have a lesson (taken from the standardized mission English class curriculum) for an hour than we share a gospel thought in English (with translation) for half an hour. So we have it from 6-7:30 every Wednesday night.

Holding signs for English class.  We get a ridiculous amount of contacts from doing this.  So many people come up and are like "English? Free? Where? When?", and then we speak with them about Jesus Christ and lots of them want to learn.
This street is about 2 minutes from the church building.  It is a nicer street in Pochentong.

Have you had an interview with Pres Moon since the one you had when first arrived?  Yes I had a quarterly interview with President Moon about 4 or 5 weeks after I got here. He is the greatest mission president of all time. His name is said with so much reverence by missionaries and members alike.

Have you gone to Swenson's or the other American type places on pdays?
Yeah I've gone to Swenson's a few times! It's really good! On p-days we go and eat American food pretty often. There are two places, Mama's and USA Donut, which all the missionaries frequent. They would probably make zero money in the U.S., but here there isn't a ton of options so we go and it tastes good to us so we don't complain!

Contacting on the streets of Pochentong
Have you seen anyone play or have you tried to play sepak takraw?  Nope, haven't seen anyone playing sepak takraw yet. Volleyball and soccer are the two sports everybody plays here. That and you see everybody playing with this Cambodian hacky sack thing. They call it a "sei"

Next Sunday do you find out about transfers?  Is this the last week with you and Elder Johnson?  First transfers are tough because you bond with your trainer is so special.  Yup, next Sunday we get transfer calls! This transfer is going to be CRAZY. We have 30 new missionaries coming in, 2 new khaets being opened, plus last transfer not a whole lot of people were transferred so EVERYONE for the most part is getting transferred this transfer. It’s going to be insane. Elder Johnson and I still have 2 weeks left together because even though the calls come next Sunday, transfer day isn't till that next Friday. So transfer day is a little less than two weeks away.

Elder Johnson and me in Kompung Spuu

Your bishop looks like he might be a little better off than the average?  He’s pretty well off. He works his tail off for it though. Farming and raising chickens is hard. But yeah, he's very well off for a Cambodian.

Have fun at BYU this next week dad! Have fun at home Chloe, Riley, and Mom! Have fun with midterms Maddie! Have fun with NanEtte at General Conference Nana! Everybody else have fun too, with whatever you're doing! If you're not doing anything, feel free to come and visit the greatest country of all time, the Kingdom of Cambodia.

The Church is true and always will be, for time and for all eternity. If anyone wants to watch some amazing talks this week I encourage yall to watch Elder Holland's "Lord I Believe" and Elder Christofferson's "The Divine Gift of Repentance". Both talks are absolutely incredible. I can't wait for General Conference in a couple of weeks!

Love y’all!

Love Elder Neuberger

Elder Johnson

Cambodia's amazing sky
We made friends with this puppy on the farm

More pictures of the farm
Sisters Uresk and Hartley and Bong Navi cleaning the floor of the chicken coop
Bong Navi and the Bishop on the drive out to the farm
Riding out to the farm

Kompong Spuu rice fields.  It was so beautiful, the pictures don't show the real colors.

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