Monday, October 27, 2014

Tempered and molded by the Lord

At the phsaa this morning. Looks just like HEB
Helloooooo. This week wasn't one of those weeks where I can say, "Wow it’s already been another week!" Haha . . . this past week was brutal. Full of people canceling appointments and telling us they're busy and making us ride all over the city just to stand us up when we get to their house. It was good though, because I am certainly learning a lot about patience.

Elder Vout and I got super lost in the boonies of Pochentong

It's kind of hard for me to complain about my situation, because at the same time I think, "How cool is it that the Lord is helping me become a better person?" We all want to be better people, and I feel like sometimes we don't know what we can do to really make that next step to becoming like Christ. Well the great thing about serving in Pochentong is that the Lord gives you a custom-made package of everything you need to be tempered and molded into a better person! I feel like I'm becoming a tailor-made glove for the Lord's hands, which is amazing, but by necessity it requires a lot of cutting and stitching and sewing back together. Painful, but absolutely worth it!

So yeah this week was long. We only taught 12 lessons. Have I ever told y’all what the phrase for "standing someone up" is in Khmae? It’s "baok kroab baek" which essentially translates to "they chunked a grenade at us". There's your fun Khmae fact of the day.

My lunch on Wednesday says hi by the way

Living with a Khmae 24/7 is definitely a once in a lifetime experience. I wouldn't be able to do anything like this if I didn't serve a mission in Cambodia. To answer your question, no I don't live with any Americans. In our house it is actually just me and Elder Vout. It’s weird because we live in the huge Tuk Thlaa house. It has 4 floors, and plenty of room for 6 elders, but it’s just us! Pretty interesting. There are many days where the only American I see that day is myself in the mirror. I'm glad I'm doing this after my training though. The culture shock was bad enough those first couple months, even though I was living with an American. Now everything is kind of normal. Sometimes I crave to talk to someone from America though, especially at the end of the day when we return home. It was fun coming home at the end of the day and unwinding and relaxing with Elder Johnson and Elder McGavin.

Elder Vout eating duck embryos. I have yet to try them. One day though! 
Steaming pig intestines cooling on ice. Yummy!

A little bit about my companion:  Elder Vout is the oldest of 9 siblings. 2 of his other siblings have joined the church, but nobody else has. He actually has a brother who is a Buddhist monk. Elder Vout is from Kampong Thom on the north side of Tonle Sap (large lake in Cambodia).

Elder Vout sipping tuk ampo, or sugarcane juice. It's so good, you can't even understand

Glad to hear your stake conference was so good! Elder Hamula is amazing. I read one of his talks recently in an old Liahona. I forget what it was about, I just remembered that I liked it a lot. And plus he talked at this recent General Conference, didn't he? That's really neat. What is President Spendlove up to these days now that he resigned from his job?

Dad you asked about a service we provided this last week. On Saturday we went to the home of this recent convert who is a widow who was moving out of her house to this other house a couple minutes away (on foot). We helped disassemble this huge, I don't really know what to call it, it’s called a kree in Khmae, it’s like a platform or a bed made of wood slats. I don't know. I feel like there is a word for it in English though. But anyway, it’s like a wood slat bed thing that everybody in Cambodia sits and eats and sleeps on. She had this super tall one in her shack, it was probably 6 feet off the ground. So we took it all apart with hammers and hatchets. It took about an hour and a half. And her house didn't have working electricity so we were doing it all by the light of flashlights in this dingy smoky little home. It was fun. I enjoyed it. 

A teaching moment I had this week was with this less-active in our ward Puu Vichet. He's actually been coming back strong these past few months. I love him to death. He's been a member for about 10 years. Anyway we were teaching him yesterday from 3 Nephi 27:27 about "what manner of men ought ye to be?". Elder Vout and I pulled a lot from Elder Hallstrom's talk on that subject which he gave in the Priesthood session. I felt prompted as we closed the lesson to challenge him to go and get a temple recommend from bishop. Elder Johnson and I had talked to him previously about setting a goal to go to the temple, but this time that isn't what I felt like committing him to do. I just wanted him to go and get the recommend. The Spirit really spoke through Elder Vout and I as we taught about the importance of holding a temple recommend, even if we don't yet have the opportunity to go. The temple recommend truly is one of the greatest reminders we have that we should live every single day of our life like we are going to go to the temple, even if that actually isn't possible because of where we live. We should constantly try and have that absolute worthiness, and we should always make sure that we have a current temple recommend. It truly shows both to ourselves and to Heavenly Father that we are trying to live our life in accordance with the sacred covenants that we have made, or will one day make, inside the temple. 

Suburbia in Pochentong

Haha, this week Elder Vout and I contacted a guy who was like "Joseph Smith? Oh yeah I already know about that guy. He founded y’all's church and also founded the Pepsi company." I was first amazed that this guy had heard about Joseph Smith before, because I don't think I have ever met somebody in Cambodia who had heard about him, but then after that I just laughed, because I realized that the crazy ridiculous rumors about Joseph Smith reach Cambodia as well. People come up with the most ridiculous things sometimes. We directed him to Mormon.org to learn more about Joseph Smith. Maybe we should have directed him to the Pepsi website as well. Obviously he has some facts that he needs straightened.

This week I saw clowns for the first time in Cambodia. They were entertaining at some marriage party thing. Let me tell you one thing: there is nothing in this world as pathetic, disturbing, or terrifying as Cambodian slum clowns. It was quite a sight. They look like American clowns, but American clowns that got lost in the slums of Phnom Penh for 2 or 3 decades.

That’s all I have folks. I love y’all! I love hearing about y’alls lives! Everybody keep sending me pictures of your lives as well! Keep the faith! Read the scriptures and re-watch General Conference talks and make prayer the biggest priority in your day and I promise that you will find strength beyond your imagination. 


Love Elder Burger

The water in all the ricefields looks like a mirror
There is sooo much water everywhere in Cambodia. Like you go down any random alley and you'll pop out on the other side and find a hidden river, or pond, or marsh, or lake, right in the middle of the city!

More pictures of the psaa


These pot-holes filled with mud are terrifying. Some of them could swallow me whole 
Pretty much describes how I felt on Thursday when all of our appointments fell through right before we left the house. That meant another day of contacting in the brutal tropical sun for hours and hours. I love it though! Contacting is super fun! It just comes along with the sideeffect of heat exhaustion

Monday, October 20, 2014

Moto accidents and missionary work

Cumriapsua neak teang ah knia!

I have more time to email this week! I explained to Elder Vuut that I needed more time to email and he was cool with it. That was my fault last week, I knew that Khmaes didn't like emailing for a long time and I failed to discuss it with him before we went. Sorry again!

This week was super fun and super hard. I'm learning a lot from Elder Vuut. He's seriously one of the funniest people I've ever met. It only makes it funnier that most of his jokes are in Khmae. Anybody who has ever learned another language knows that jokes are always funnier in that language. I don't really know why though. Maybe you laugh harder because you love that you can understand another language? Haha, I really don't know the reason behind it. But he's funny, that’s for sure.

I think that the rainy season is over for the most part. It only rained once or twice this week. One of the times it rained we were going back home at the end of the day and it just started pouring. Elder Vuut pulled over to the side of the road to throw a poncho over his backpack and I didn't seem him for a second.  So when I finally did see that he had stopped I slammed my brakes, which is not good when you're riding in pouring rain. I screeched/slid to a stop and a moto behind me hit my bike pretty hard (that was one of three times I was hit by a moto this week. I'm ok though, no worries!). I didn't fall off my bike or anything, but it jolted me pretty good, and somehow when the bike hit me it made the gears switch to a super low gear, which is a problem because my gear shift doesn't work so I couldn't switch it back. That happened late Saturday night so I haven't been able to get it fixed since then! I've looked ridiculous as I've had to bike everywhere, pedaling super fast but not really going fast at all. Haha, I'll go get it fixed today.

Have I told y’all that in Cambodia, dreams are incredibly important? For almost every investigator, receiving a dream about the truthfulness of the church is essential in the conversion process. One thing I pray for every day is for them to have good dreams! Definitely not something I would ever think I would be praying for my investigators to have, but it works! The Holy Ghost really does teach us according to what will have the greatest impact on our souls.

One thing that has really helped me on my mission, and outside my mission, is making a conscious effort, every second of every day, to see other people as people, and not just as dynamic objects in the background of our life's stage. My sophomore year of high school I read a book, and I don't remember the title at all so don't ask me, that helped me realize this. That everyone around us has their own thoughts, their own lives, their own successes, and their own struggles. I think to that point in my life I had been very self-centered in my thoughts. It's not like I looked at other people as objects per say, but I definitely didn't make a constant effort to see them as people, just like me. Since then, as I've really strived to change my perspective on the world in which I interact, life has been so much happier and made so much sense! It truly is incredible when you think about it. Just think about all the thoughts and memories and emotions stored in each of our heads! Then think about how many thoughts and memories and emotions are in a room of 30 people! Incredible! And what is even more incredible is that our Heavenly Father has a perfect knowledge of all of our thoughts, feelings, emotions, desires, and goals and those of every single one of His children! Wow!

Last week I didn't really share what I had learned from conference, but I learned a ton! It was amazing! I think my two favorite talks were those of Elder Robbins and Elder Richard G. Scott. I loved the quote from C.S. Lewis in Elder Robbins’ talk: "Courage is the form of every virtue at the testing point." 

So to answer your question, yes one of the sisters is an American. Her name is Sister Spangler. She's a new trainee. Its super fun watching the new trainees adapt to life here in Cambodia. It blows my mind that what now seems so completely ordinary to me is completely bizarre and alien to them. Haha, they get freaked out at the simplest things. Its crazy that just three months ago that is where I was. 

I am at a super weird stage in my life where I feel like I don't have a command over a single language. I have forgotten so much English, its insane. Like the other day I was laughing with Sister Kuac about her name, because it means "to whirl" in Khmae. When Sister Spangler asked me what “kuac” meant I didn't know what to tell her. I couldn't think of a word, so after a couple seconds I just made a spinning motion with my finger. Haha, I felt like an idiot. That sort of thing happens to me every single day. So yeah, I don't know English anymore, and I certainly don't know Khmae still. It's frustrating for me to speak English and it’s frustrating to speak Khmae. Haha, not very fun.

Here's a random event from this week: Elder Vuut and I were at this guy Siav's house and there was this literally kid crying and whining outside his shack which sounded exactly, I kid you not, like Ralphie's little brother in "A Christmas Story". It was uncanny.

Here's a another random event: Yesterday at church before Elder's quorum I heard Taa Saay, the 80 year-old man in our ward, telling someone about this hero in America, and I didn't catch the name he said so I was like "Taa who is a hero in America taa?" and he said the name again and I didn't recognize it. It sounded like MyyTeesone. Eventually I figured out that he was talking about Mike Tyson. I started laughing so hard. Just the fact that Taa Saay knows who Mike Tyson is, let alone that he thinks Mike Tyson is one of our heroes in America, was funny.

On Friday morning Elder Vuut and I went to teach a less-active member. He wasn't home so as I pondered what to do, a thought came into my head: "Go to Puu Mongkols house." At this point we hadn't met Lookpuu Mongkol for over a month and a half and we had only seen him once since he failed his baptismal interview 2 months ago. I thought that that was a weird idea because I was positive that he wouldn't be home, he is never home at that time. It would be a waste of our time to bike over there. So I pushed the thought out of my mind. But then immediately the thought came right back "Go to Puu Mongkols house." I told Elder Vuut that I feel like we should go over to Puu Mongkol's, so over we went. When we pulled up to his house I felt so sad and depressed in my stomach as I looked at the door and saw that he it was chained shut. I was convinced that we needed to come here! Had I misunderstood the impression? Had I made it up? Was there another reason that we needed to be there? I was super lost. I didn't know what to do. After a few seconds I turned around to leave and the second I turned around I saw Lookpuu Mongkol puttering down the hill on his moto. I had to turn away for a moment to wipe the tears out of my eyes. We were able to sit down with him and have a wonderful lesson with him. I was so touched by that experience with the Spirit on Friday. The tender mercies of the Lord are real in our lives. I am so grateful for the guidance of the Spirit in my life and I don't know what I would do without it. I am so grateful for the confirmation from my Heavenly Father that He is aware of me, that He loves me and that He wants to help me carry out His work here amongst His children in Cambodia. Even though I am just another missionary in His vast army, and even though sometimes I feel like I must be one of the duller or more misshapen tools in His shed, He still loves me perfectly and wants to help.

That is all I got for today. I love you all! I have just one more thing. I have an idea for what I would like for Christmas. Could everybody in the immediate family just type up a few special missionary experiences they've had recently? I'd love to hear about them! If you haven't had any recently, well then go out and have some and then type them up and tell me about them! And especially for you dad, I'd love to hear about your mission. Since I've come out I realize that I have really never asked about it at all! What was your mission like, what was your mission president like, how were your companions, what amazing experiences did you have with your investigators? So yeah, that’s all I want. I figured I should give y’all some heads-up. Love y’all, have a great week!

Love Elder Burger (I don't know if I've told y’all but I gave up on going by Elder Neuberger months ago. Everyone just calls me elder burger or elder hamburger)

These are fires on the railroad at night. There are always fires EVERYWHERE in Cambodia. They burn all of their trash outside their homes. At night Cambodia sometimes looks like a level in Dante's Inferno. Its super eerie looking. So yeah, everyday when I come home I smell like I've been on a campout for a week.

For those curious about the progress of my watch-tan, here it is. Haha, when I went to the phsaa this morning I forgot to put it on and I heard everybody around me saying "Look at that white guys watch tan!". I'm pretty sure it'll be permanent after another year and a half.



Monday, October 13, 2014

More of a note than a letter


Hey! Sorry my email this week is going to be kind of short. If I don't respond to a personal email from anyone this week please understand! Today is kind of hectic, plus Elder Vuut doesn't like emailing for a long time, so I'm doing what I can with what I have.


Dropping off Elder Johnson at the mission office for transfers.

It was sad saying goodbye to Elder Johnson on Friday, but I know that he is going to go do amazing things in Kampong Cham. On Friday I picked up my new companion Elder Vuut.  He's hilarious! He comes from Kampong Thom. He was just serving in Kampong Cham before he came down to Pochentong. He is 27 years old, which is 8 years older than I am. Kind of weird, haha. He was born in 1987. To give you some context:  when he was the age that I am now, I had just graduated elementary school. 


Elder Vuut
Elder Vuut is a great guy though, and I am really looking forward to serving with him in Pochentong. He speaks a ton of English too.  He definitely knows more English than I know Khmae. We speak Khmae and English almost an exact 50/50 split. Most of the time he speaks English to me and I speak Khmae to him, but we switch off sometimes. I don't know. I can't even remember what language my conversations are in anymore. People will ask me, "Was he/she speaking to you in Khmae or English?" and most of the time I have to tell people that I can't remember. It's all just pure meaning to me now. There's no difference between the two. I feel like I've made a lot of progress in the language the past couple weeks. My listening ability has certainly shot up recently. The gift of tongues is incredibly real!

I really want to write more, I'm so sorry, but Elder Vuut really wants to leave. I'm really sorry to have such a lame email this week. Conference was amazing, I loved it all. There was such a special spirit in the room as we all, as set apart servants of our Lord and Savior, finally got the opportunity to raise our arms and sustain the prophet and apostles of our Savior.


I'm so sorry, I'll try and email for longer next week and respond to everyone's personal emails! I love y'all, please don't be mad for my lame email! I didn't even get to read most of y'alls! But have great weeks, I'll talk to y'all next week!


Love, 

Elder Neuberger


Frog legs!  This is what living with a Khmae is like.  I would have totally been down to eat them, but I was 100% sure that these had gone bad already based off the smell, so Elder Vuut ate them on his own.

Mangosteen juice.  The best juice in the world.  That's Thai writing on the box by the way, not Khmae.  Everything packaged you buy at the store comes from Thailand, Vietnam, China, Korea, or Japan.  Cambodia contributes absolutely nothing to the packaged food industry.

Gas you purchase for motos.  These stands are EVERYWHERE.













Government buildings in Phnom Penh

 






The only skyscapers in Phnom Penh.  You can see them from literally any place in Phnom Penh.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Transfers


Me and Pu Sokcia, the Elder's Quorum President in our ward
Wow! Transfer calls were just as crazy as everyone thought they would be! So Elder Johnson will be heading to Kampong Cham this Friday to train again! I will be here in Pochentong at least one more transfer (so at least until November 21) and my new companion is Elder Vuat! He is from Kampong Thom. I think he is like 22 or 23 (pretty much all Khmae missionaries are in their 20's). They have to work a while to have enough money to go). He's currently serving in Kampong Cham. I'm super pumped to serve with him. It will be super interesting spending all day every day with someone from a completely different culture from my own but I'm ready for the challenge! The Lord is going to help me find more humility and charity these next few weeks! Can't wait to have this new experience, which will help me to become more like my Savior! I'm sure that I will learn a ton from Elder Vuat. Hopefully I can help him in some way as well. The key to having a great companionship definitely is serving one another!

I got my first haircut in Cambodia last week! It was long overdue. My hair was the longest it had been since my sophomore year of high school. My haircut cost a dollar. Cambodia is the greatest. Things are so cheap here. Like for instance, this morning I had baay sac jruuk, which is a great, filling breakfast (even though it destroys my insides every time haha). It costs 3000 rial or 75 cents. The typical lunchtime meal in a restaurant usually costs about 6000-7000 rial or $1.5-1.75. Those meals come with an endless supply of rice, so it’s literally almost like unlimited food. A half-liter of coke costs 2000 rial or 50 cents. To fill up your bike tire with air costs 200 rial, or 5 cents for one, or 300 rial or 7.5 cents for both. A water bottle usually costs about 500 rial or 12.5 cents. Those super cool Cambodian ties I have cost $3 each. Cambodia is so cheap! I love it. The things that aren't cheap whatsoever are things that actually come from America. Like a 10 oz. box of Frosted Flakes costs $9. It’s obscene. We literally just buy knockoff brands for everything because it’s so much cheaper.

Elder Johnson and I in a tuk-tuk on the way to Saen So

This week I saw my first cockfight. Elder Johnson and I were riding down the railroad until we came to this huge crowd of people, which completely obstructed the path. So we just stood with our bikes about 20 ft. away and watched this cockfight they were having. It was brutal. I don't think either of the chickens really won because in the last couple rounds they both were so beat up that they couldn't walk straight. They would take a step or do and just stumble and then fall on their face. It was pathetic. Khmaes love it though. Elder Johnson said he's seen 3 or 4 cockfights on his mission.

This week we got 17 people at English class in Pochentong! We've been contacting like crazy for it. Holding signs seriously works so well. Our previous high attendance was 5 people I think. This week English class just shot up. It was super cool. We split the group into advanced and beginner. Elder Johnson and I taught the advanced class. It was super fun. Its weird how much you learn about English when you try and teach it to people. Like last week we tried to teach people about all the subtle ways that we use the word "get". It was super hard to explain. Haha. it's good that they have missionaries like us teaching them though. We have perfect empathy for what it is like trying to learn another language!

Contacting people on the street to attend English class

Here's an update on where everyone else is headed: Elder LeNguyen is khaet-hopping from Siam Reap to Battambang, Elder Paramore is staying in Kampung Thom (and Elder McGavin, one of the elders I live with is going up to be his companion), Elder Elieson is coming down to North zone, Elder Zierenberg is going to east zone I believe, Sister Uresk is going to Battambang, Sister Lindley is staying in north zone, Elder Christensen is staying in north zone, and I'm pretty sure that Sister Earl, Matthew, and Allen are all staying in South and East zone. So it's going to be way fun!

So like I said Sister Uresk, who is serving in Pochentong with us right now, is leaving, and her companion Sister Hartley is dying this week! Sister Kuac, a Khmae sister, is coming to Pochentong to train. If her trainee is a Khmae, that means I'm serving with all Khmaes, and I'm the only person who has any experience in Pochentong at all! It’s pretty much like I'm leading out for two companionships! Scary, but definitely a great growing opportunity!

At church on Sunday we had four investigators! It was awesome. It’s been a few weeks since we had that many investigators come to church. They are all gaining such strong testimonies. The power of the Spirit in the process of conversion is extraordinary. It is so powerful and can soften any heart.

I hope all is well! I hope general conference was amazing! I can't wait to watch it next weekend! I'm so excited. All the missionaries watch it in their native language, so I will be going to the north stake center and watching it in English with all the other Americans (well, and Elder Caine, who’s from Mauritius).

Have a great week! I love all of y’all!


Love Elder Neuberger

Phsaa Thmei, one of the biggest markets in Phnom Penh, if not the biggest 
The ceiling of Phsaa Thmei 
A big house in Pochentong  Cambodia seriously looks super feudal sometimes.  It looks like an Asian version of medieval Europe.

Street outside this hang baay we eat at every week.  It turned into a 6 inch deep river in literally 5 minutes.  Continually got deeper.  It floods in the blink of an eye here.

Street in our area