Monday, February 29, 2016

Back to the Future

With Puu Jan, our golden investigator. Way hard to say goodbye

And with Ming Phen, and her two daughters Leak and Liap. They should be baptized in the next couple weeks! Haha her daughters, who are 10 or 11 (twins) were like, "when you go back to America and get married you have to make sure to send us a wedding invitation!" Haha . . . deal

Ohhhh, what am I going to do myself when life becomes constant again and it doesn't do a 180 every six weeks? This last week has been insane. Tuesday I rode down on the bus with the other elders going down to the city, whether for transfers or leadership meeting. With me were Elder Hall (Texas), Elder Hall (Utah), Elder Paramore, Elder Uhi, Elder Lamborn . . . So much fun riding back down to Phnom Penh. That was my second and probably final bus ride in Cambodia. I only ever rode the bus 2 times! That blows other missionaries' minds when I tell them that, haha. I'll have spent 14 of my 16 transfers in Phnom Penh. City rat for life! 

Saying goodbye to Elder Walker

So after we arrived in Phnom Penh, the office elders picked us up in the madness of rush-hour Phsaa Orussey and they took us over to the mission home, where the leadership meeting had already began. It was a good meeting. So fun seeing Elder Elieson, Christensen, Zierenberg, Nguyen, and LeNguyen again! Man I love my group. I wish I could have seen Elder Morris before he left. He is now in Vietnam, whitewashing in Hanoi. He's the first non ethnically-Vietnamese missionary to serve in Vietnam in 40 years! I hear he's simultaneously whitewash training, serving as zone leader for the northern portion of the mission, and serving as the single assistant to the president. Rumors yet to be confirmed... 

So Tuesday night Elder Khiev and I went back to the Tuk La'ak/Tuol Goke elders’ home. They just moved a couple weeks ago into this crazy nice apartment. We're on the sixth floor. It’s so nice, it’s insane. Elder Khiev and I don't technically have a room in it though; we're waiting on Elder Leavitt, who is about to sign a lease on another room in the same building for us. So we've been squatting in the living room for the past week. It's been a bit crowded, but so fun. The four other elders we live with are hilarious, and we always make food with each other and unwind at the end of the day. This place has hot water in both the shower and faucet! I've never had that on my mission. Our door lock is way high-tech. It's a touch screen pad, and you enter the code in. It's made by Samsung for crying out loud.

Me and the guys. Elder Khiev is behind me, then Elder Slavens and Elder Mias who serve in Tuk La'ak (the adjoining ward). We live together, along with 2 Vietnamese elders (one of whom is Elder Quang, who is another old buddy). We all have a blast together. Haha I don't think I've ever laughed so hard on my mission. 

So I've been going through quite a bit of culture shock going from Prey Cho to here. Tuol Goke is where anybody who's anybody lives in Phnom Penh. It is full of villa after villa after villa. These aren't just run of the mill villas either. They are unbelievably large. Like I'm talking 40/50/60,000 sq ft. I'm not even kidding. Some of them are 6 stories tall and others stretch as long as a football field. They are palaces. I remember telling you about these houses a year and a half ago when I went on exchange in Tuol Kouk in my training. They're insane. So there's not really any middle class in Tuol Kouk. Just all those mega millionaires, then the poorest of the poor.

The poorest live along the railroad. The poorest section of the railroad (which stretches across all northern Phnom Penh) is in Tuol Kouk. It's even poorer than the section in Pochentong. It's insane going in there. We were in there late last night. There were four of us, Elder Slavens, Eldre Meas, Elder Khiev and me. Elder Slavens was showing us a recent convert. Everyone down there is high on drugs and drunk all the time. You just go down off the railroad down these dirt paths into shacks and trash up to knee level. There's rotting old boardwalk things that go over the trash in-between the shacks.  Imagine the slummiest slum you've seen in NatGeo and that's what it looks like. Then imagine the most beautiful picture of a millionaire's home, and that’s the other people. It's night and day.

It's so weird riding down streets here, with the craziness of Phnom Penh all around. It feels like coming home, but at the same time it’s so weird coming from Prey Cho. Prey Cho is literally like living in the year 1832. The church is super, super young, with just a handful of members, all of whom have been members for just a couple years. You're out in the country, with very few of the luxuries of modern living. Many of the villages out there don't have electricity. None have running water. Many people don't even own motos. Just water buffalo... Haha contrast that with Tuol Kouk, parts of which could pass for the Dominion or Anaqua Springs, with Range Rovers and BMW's passing you all day on every side. It's literally like coming back into the future. Many of the members in the Tuol Kouk ward have been members since the late 90's and early 2000's. Those members know how the church works. It’s very different. 

Serving with Elder Khiev is a dream come true. I've known him for a long, long time now, and have been good friends with him since I first met him. I've had the chance to go on a couple exchanges with him and do a lot of translating for him in interviews and conferences and stuff, so it's great to finally be comps with him full time! This last week has been hard, since the area doesn't have any progressing investigators and most of the less-actives have been less active for more than 10 years already. We've been going around, finding all the members' houses, both active and less-active, as well as meeting different ward members and having them give us info about the area.  People we’ve met with include the former district president Saramanni, the sisters, the bishop, and the ward mission leader. We're starting to kind of have somewhat of a grip on the area. We get lost a lot, haha. Good news is that the area isn't too large, so even if you get lost you find your way within a few minutes. We've found almost all the CBR's already. We'll see how the work continues to progress this next week.

Leaving the apartments one day. Those are the Tuk La'ak and Tuol Goke sisters. So many Khmaes in north zone, I love it! Our mission was in a Khmae missionary drought for about a year, but over the last 6 months or so it's been building back up

It's so great being with a Khmae comp again. I went over a year with just straight Americans. While with my first two Khmae comps I was set on only speaking Khmae, I have repented of my selfishness since then and am determined to help Elder Khiev become conversational in English before we part!

Life is good. It's hard, and it's hectic, and it's hot, but it's good. What would life be without a little sweat and grit?

I love the mission so much. I could have never imagined how wonderfully rewarding the mission would be.

Love Elder Neuberger

We went to some ancient ruins last Monday. It had a modern wat built around it and the largest Buddha statue I've ever laid eyes on. You just walk around the temple and it looms out of the trees at you all of a sudden. It's enormous!

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