Saturday, August 1, 2015

Scenes through a tuk-tuk

At an apartment building, waiting for someone to come to the door.

So the new transfer started yesterday. As I was sitting here thinking about that I realized that this is my 10th transfer! It’s crazy to think that I've been on a mission that long (not that I've been out very long yet). If y’all don't know, foreign elders serve for 16 transfers, foreign sisters serve for 12 transfers, native Khmae elders serve for 17 transfers and native sisters serve for 13 transfers. So yeah, the sisters in my group are almost through already! They'll be finishing with Elder Eppley, Elder Brewer, and Elder Gardiner the first week of December.

Transfer day actually went really smooth. We didn't really have too much chaos or stress aside from the adrenaline of shuttling people to the bus station on time. There's ALWAYS at least someone that arrives to the bus station (which is about 5ish minutes from the mission home) that realizes that they forgot to grab their new set of keys or cellphone from the old companionship in that area which means we leave them there, race back to the mission home, run in, form-tackle whoever has the keys (just kidding. Sort of...), grab em, race back to the bus station, all the while hoping that the bus hasn't left with those missionaries on it. We're considering changing our nametags to to អែលឌើរ បូន (Elder Bourne). 

This was the most crowded the van got. 10 missionaries ( there's three of us in the front, I was riding in the girlfriend seat) and over 20 bags of luggage. We don't mess around with efficiency.

Yesterday was also President Christensen's birthday! Sister Christensen had us going on errands (both with and without her) to buy chocolate cake and ice cream and so on. We used those pirate decorations y’all sent me in my birthday package. It was super fun! President and Sister Christensen went out to lunch and when they came back at 1:00, which is the official transfer time, about 50 missionaries jumped out with kazoos and shouts of happy birthday. Haha, President and Sister Christensen are so funny together. They play so well off each other, it’s ridiculous. 

Elder Eppley and I on starboard and port sides respectively. We had to shuttle the hordes of missionaries to the bus station so they could get out to the khaets. Decorations are from President Christensen's surprise party, which was a few minutes beforehand.

So with this transfer Elder Eppley and I are staying the same (this is Elder Eppley's fourth transfer as AP!) but sadly, Elder Le Nguyen has moved on to bigger and better things. He has moved to the promised land, yes, just as all of y’all were thinking in your heads, Stung Mean Chey! He's going to First Ward, not Second, but it’s close enough. He's going to love it over there. He's gonna be serving as district leader. Joining Elder Morris in the office is Elder Olsen! He's a great guy, super nice and diligent, from Oregon. He's in the group below me, if you were curious about age in the mish. 

Yesterday we had two missionaries finish their mission: Elder ទី (Ty) and Elder វូត (Vout). If you remember, back in my training I lived with Elder ទី​ (Ty) in Tuk Thlaa. And of course Elder វូត (Vout) was my mother and served with me in Pochentong. I'm so proud of him for finishing. He really is a great guy and was able to finish out his mission strong. That's great for him. I hope he does great things back in Kampong Thom.

It's definitely weird sitting in on those Departure Devotional meetings, which are on Friday nights for the departing missionaries and their families (if they choose to come and pick up their children). Elder Eppley and I always translate for it. I think for Elder Eppley it’s a lot weirder than it is for me. I'm still at the point in my mission where my mission just kind of seems like my whole life, because the light at the end of the tunnel is still way too far away to even begin to see clearly (that's a good thing). But it’s weird. It makes you think about how you wanna feel in that Departure Devotional as you get up to bear your final testimony with the other members in your group. I'm so blessed to have such a wonderful MTC group. Elder Zierenberg, Christensen, Paramore, Elieson, Le Nguyen, Morris, and Phat are all such wonderful examples to me and it’s been so special so far to share this experience with them. I'm excited for the continued growth and learning that we'll have with each other over the next 10 months! It'll definitely be a powerful moment to sit in that departure devotional with all of them.

This cute little girl was holding on for dear life. It was only funny because normally little kids on motos in Cambodia are totally chill about it, not a care in the world. She must not be a native...

This week we were riding in the car down one of the main streets of Phnom Penh, Sihanouk Road. As we were going down I see this tuk-tuk start to pass us on the right side. I look inside and see a foreigner, who looked like an American (For some reason I've gotten way good at guessing foreigners' nationalities. I can usually look at someone and guess whether they're French, American, or Australian). As they slowly pull along aside us I couldn't see the tourist's face anymore. A surreal experience began to occur. I felt like I was in a movie because I was watching this through the square-shaped sideways view of a tuk-tuk. Through the tuk-tuk I saw on the side of the road a little beggar boy, maybe 4 years old, dressed in rags holding his little brother's hand. I wondered what the barang woman thought of that. But just a couple seconds after that I saw another little beggar child through the tuk-tuk's frame, this time a girl, maybe 2-3 years old, sitting down as she held her baby sister who couldn't have been older than 6 months, in a sling across her chest. They were both smudged with dirt and grime. Now I really wondered what the barang was thinking of Cambodia. I wondered if she was really feeling something for the Khmae people, or just feeling nauseated because of the dirt and grime. Just then another figure came into the view of the tuk-tuks frame, another tiny little girl, dressed in rags yet again, playing on a concrete wall with a bottle full of dirt. This all happened in the span of about 10 seconds. Just then our car started to pull just ahead of the tuk-tuk, enough so that I could see the backseat. I was so curious as to how this woman would react. As I peered inside I saw this tourist quietly sobbing, with tears running down her cheeks. I think I might be the only person to have seen her just then. She pulled herself together pretty quickly. I was so touched though  that this tourist was touched. That she had felt and understood, just for a second maybe, the temporal plight of the children here.

Since coming to Cambodia a year ago, I have seen thousands and thousands of poor, destitute, beggar children. It’s not as big an emotional shock as it was the first few times, but every time it still causes that twinge inside of me. As my love for the Khmae people continues to grow and swell within me, so does my desire to share the gospel. Those kids are starving, and in more ways than one. They don't have supportive families. Maybe just a single mom who forces them to go out and beg all day while she lays down in a lean-to all day long. The gospel will fix that. I know that one day though, all of this is going to be made right. I hope for that day when the Savior will come again and He will call all the children of God, young and old, to come before Him, so that He may embrace and bless them. I know that there will be many, many Cambodians there on that day of the first Resurrection, and that makes my heart soar. Hopefully all of those kids will be able to make it. Hopefully that barang woman will make it too. Hopefully I'll make it. 

I'm truly grateful for those random, unusually poignant moments in our lives where we have the time to pull back and truly think and reflect on the grandeur of the Plan of Salvation, and the fleeting moments which we call mortality.I know that all of us will be able to be there when the Savior comes again in glory. We all have that ability as we follow and rely on our Savior. He knows each of us. He loves each of us. He likes each of us too, regardless of how weird or awkward or uninteresting we might think we are. I know that he knows all of His children, especially those five little beggar children. He is aware, and will succor them according to their needs.

And when he had said these words, he wept, and the multitude bare record of it, and he took their little children, one by one, and blessed them, and prayed unto the Father for them.  And when he had done this he wept again;  And he spake unto the multitude, and said unto them: Behold your little ones.  And as they looked to behold they cast their eyes towards heaven, and they saw the heavens open, and they saw angels descending out of heaven as it were in the midst of fire; and they came down and encircled those little ones about, and they were encircled about with fire; and the angels did minister unto them. 
3 Nephi 17:21-24

Love Elder Burger

Pick-up soccer on a red dirt field outside of Olympic Stadium

Eating nothing but rice with some sushi seasoning on it and then some seaweed for breakfast. We're so dang Asian.

I use that salsa y'all sent me on eggs. Reminds me of home. Also in Asia tortilla chips don't exist, so instead I eat that bean dip with sesame flavored rice crackers. Pretty good...

This moto actually had a baby seat! Most of the time their little babies and toddlers just stand on that little space between the seat and the steering column. Haha a ton of the time they're just completely slumped over the handlebars asleep. Pretty rare to see a baby seat though, so I had to get a pic.

Our air freshener, aka a fresh wreath of flowers which are sold at every single intersection in Phnom Penh. Costs 75 cents. Also you can see our dancing solar-powered dashboard rabbit. 
Apartments in Chaktomuk

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