Monday, July 28, 2014

We received an email and photos from Sam on Sunday evening, July 27, 2014.  We had asked him a series of questions in an email we had sent him earlier in the day.  Sam answers our questions in his email.  So that his letter makes more sense, I will preface Sam's email with the questions we asked:

Hey Sam,  

What does your Cambodian missionary cook for you?  When it rains, do you guys just get wet and then figure you will dry out later or try to take cover?  Do you have a regular mattress?   Do you have a shower?  Hot water?  Did you meet at the mission home today for any get together?   Do your shoes dry out between days? How many branches or wards are in your companionship area.  

Just wondering a few things.  I think it is good to figure out how to make sure your chip is safe from viruses before sending pics.  Maybe the mission home would let you transfer pictures from chip to flash drive or something.  I don't know. 
love , Mom and Dad

Okay--here's Sam's email back to us:

Subject: Look Good, Feel Good, Speak Good

Hi all,

First off, any questions that you want answered, send them to me specifically and I can probably answer them. They help me to remember other stuff to say too, so yeah

He just cooks stuff to put on rice. But apparently he just learned on his mission. I thought he was a native cook, so needless to say i was disappointed. Also, I messed up last week. 1 dollar is 4000 riel, not 400. Yeah, when it rains if we don't pull over and find shelter we just get soaked. I got absolutely drenched once last week and I'll send a picture. We just let it dry on us. It's kind of like a cheap version of a regular mattress, and a little bit nicer version of those foam camping things we have. But I sleep pretty well every night.

We have a shower. Our place actually has a bunch of showers, so I have my own. Mine doesn't have heat, but another one does. But it's not that bad. People here are really wise in the toilet-section of life. They don't use TP here. Just sprayers. They have them built in. I'm like this is great! No adjustment period needed for this method. Every time I flush my toilet, water comes out of the foundation of it. And it's like toilet water. As in whatever was in the toilet bowl when the toilet was flushed. So that's fun.

Yeah, we go to the mission home every Monday to get reimbursed, see people, etc. It's about a 30 minute bike ride. We bike everywhere and my bike is bad. I'm pretty much positive it's a woman's bicycle. You remember how emily said she wrapped duct tape around her bike so it wouldn't look too nice and no one would steal it? Yeah, that isn't really a problem with our bikes here. But I have an adorable little basket on the front, so that's nice.

My shoes dry out. They get pretty dirty. I need to find time to polish them. There's not very much time in here. Like basically no down time. It's absolutely exhausting. It's go, go, go, all the time. And it's a hard adjustment. I sweat like an animal.

There's an American grocery store here, and I bought bread, PB, and raspberry jam there last week. It was delicious. When I ran out of bread, I just started eating the peanut butter and the jam together because I'm in a 3rd world country. I think when I come back in two years, I'll have forgotten all about proper manners and etiquette for stuff, because that's not too highly valued here.

My area was just split in half when I got here because they were doing well, but it's still in the same ward. So we have 2 pairs of male missionaries in my ward and 1 sister missionary companionship. So 6 missionaries in every sacrament meeting. We had 136 people come out to church yesterday which was a ton for them. But we'll see if that number was artificially inflated or not. 

I want to take more pictures of the people and their houses and stuff, but I also don't want to be rude and just start snapping pictures of these people's lives. I'll have to find a better way because this stuff is too good not to see. Still anarchy on the roads.

In order to maintain sanity and keep morale high, I'm going to try and do one thing that is fun each day. Whether that's buy a fruit or something, that's what I'll do. I bought a little pineapple today. I had fried banana a couple of days ago and it's good. I don't think our kitchen would pass any cleaning inspections or anything like that.

When we talk to new people, I think it's really important for them to know that we're volunteers that aren't getting paid, and that we're only 19 and 20. Both of those things surprise a lot of people and I think they take us more seriously when they know that we're not doing it for money.

I'm starting to rock the sweet missionary tan which is tan on arms where the white shirt ends, high collar, and watch mark. Looks great. I made the executive decision that i'm going to try to put sunscreen on my face and ears more often than I have been on account of I thought about getting skin cancer and that didn't really appeal to me.

Flying into Cambodia over the brown waters of the Mekong River.

Sam said to look closely at this truck.  There is a man sitting on top of the truck's cab!

Sam's new missionary shoes... :)

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

We received the following email from Sam on Sunday, July 20, 2014:

First Week!

Hey all you guys,

I just wanted to let you guys know that I got to Cambodia safe and sound! Holy cow it's so different here. It's like a foreign country or something. Um I don't exactly know where to start, but I'll give you a rundown of the last week that I can remember.

So we flew to LA on Tuesday night, waited at the layover and I called you at home, then had that beast flight to Hong Kong. The flight wouldn't be so bad if you could watch movies because they had a ton of new, good movies that were free on the plane, but I didn't watch any. I had two sausage mcmuffins at Hong Kong airport. I got a couple of bills changed there so now I have a little bit of Hong Kong money, so that's cool. Then we hopped over to Cambodia from there. The Mekong is absolutely nasty-looking from the plane.

The humidity is big-time here. President and Sister Moon met us at the airport with the APs. They welcomed us and then took us into the city to do some preliminary contacting. Everyone just smiles big at you if you talk to them, and I'm pretty sure it's because you're white. That went kind of OK. Btw, not counting anyone involved in the mission, I have seen one white person since I got here. So I'm a minority. Then we stayed the night at the mission home, which is super nice, and got companions the next day.

I got to see Jessa and talk to her a little. Emily, I gave her your package, and she took a picture, so maybe we'll see that one day. My companion's name is Elder Yorgason and he's from Logan. He's been out a little over a year. We are in Teuk Thlia North, which is in Phnom Penh city, but a little ways from the center I think.

The first day we taught a few lessons. It's not that bad because Elder Yorgason can speak so well that I don't have to really worry. Basically the way I see it is that when I say something, I dig a little hole, then he comes along after and goes beastmode on the lesson and fills in the hole and even builds it up. If that makes any sense. There's 4 of us that live together. The first night, Elder Yorgason discovered, chased around, and killed a giant rat that had been living in the kitchen. I'll send a picture. You can imagine how I'm feeling at this point. Actually, aside from that the apartment is really nice. There's AC in our bedroom. One of the Elders living with us is a native, so he cooks great. All Cambodians can cook it seems like.

Everyone loves to see missionaries. We have one of the big stake center churches here, and it's basically like a YMCA building or something. Like people just kind of hang out there all day.

People here are really friendly. Everyone will give you the time of day to talk with you. If they can't meet, they just say that they're busy whether or not they really are. But I can go out on the street and wave and say suasdei to anyone and they'll get a big smile. Probably just because I'm white. We ride bikes everywhere. Traffic is probably the thing that's most different here than America. No one follows the laws because there are none. People turn when they want to, change lanes when they want to, and drive down the wrong side of the road when they want to. And it's always like that. Also, everyone drives little motos. Sometimes there's a dude "directing" traffic, but that doesn't help, and he doesn't even do it according to the stop lights, so it's pretty pointless. He basically just blows his whistle really loud when you ride by.

The rain comes randomly and when it rains it rains hard. Then it stops and it's just muddy. I've gotten more dirty here in about 20 minutes than I did during all of the MTC. One of these days I'll take a picture of the "stilt city" that we've been to a couple of times. It's about 10 feet above trash water. And there are little tin shacks on top. I haven't taken many pictures because A) you're not "supposed" to when you're proselyting, and B) I don't want to seem rude. But one of these times I'll get one. The second lesson we had here was in a little shack probably 10ft. by 10ft. and there were 10 of us in there. It's incredible. But you see these people and they're so excited about the Gospel and their scriptures are all marked up and they literally have nothing, and you realize that you can do more.

I really don't know how to do anything yet. That's why my companion is great. He knows everything. I learned today that 400 riel is about 1 dollar. I don't know why they deal with such big numbers. I understood less at church yesterday than I ever have. People must think it's so funny to see two white people all dressed up riding bikes around, speaking khmae, and going into the dirtiest, poorest parts of town. It's probably pretty funny.

That's about it. There's a lot more to say than in a week at the MTC. If you have anything specific you want to know, fire me an email and I'll see what I can do. Also, right now I'm not sure about pictures in emails because I want to make sure I don't get a virus, so I've got to be extra careful.

See you guys!

Sam's mission president emailed us the following two photos:
Sam with his mission president, David Moon, and his wife, Kathryn

This is the group of missionaries Sam traveled from Provo to Cambodia with.
Jessa Homer & Sam
This is the picture Sam mentioned in his email, along with "maybe we'll see that one day."  Jessa emailed this picture to her family, then her family emailed it to me, and now I am posting it on Sam's blog! 

Sam's first area:  Tuek Thla North, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Thursday, July 17, 2014


Sam left the MTC on Tuesday (July 15) and flew to LA where he caught a 14-hour connecting flight to Hong Kong.  From there he had a 2-hour flight into Phnom Pehn, Cambodia.  He sent us a short email at 2 am this morning (our time), which is 3 pm in Cambodia.  Cambodia is 13 hours ahead of us here.  Anyway, Sam made it there safely!  In his email he says everyone knows the Westovers. Paul & Mardi Westover served as a senior missionary couple in Cambodia, 2012-2014, and returned to their home in Riverton last March.  Sam got to meet them and spend an evening with them before he went into the MTC.  In Sam's email, he also mentions that he will probably see Jessa tomorrow.  Jessa Homer is a sister missionary who has been serving in Cambodia for the past 16 months or so.  Her family lives just a block from us and they have been dear friends of ours for years.   

Here is Sam's email:

Hey they're just giving me a few minutes to send you guys an email and let you know that I made it here alive. I smell absolutely terrible, but I'm here and everything is good. I don't know where I'm going or who my companion is yet. President and Sister Moon are really cool, and everyone knows the Westovers here. I think that's about it. They made us go try to contact in the market earlier today and that was something. Also they just told us that if you spit here, that means you want to fight someone, so I guess I'm going to have to stop doing that. I think I'll see Jessa tomorrow probably. We'll see.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Sam leaves the MTC & flies to Cambodia 
on Tuesday, July 15th!

We received the following email & photos from Sam on Monday, July 14, 2014:

Hi Guys,

So one interesting thing that somebody said is that since we're flying to Hong Kong from LA starting in the night, somehow we'll travel with the dark and not see sunlight for a day. I don't know if that's true, but if it is it'll be pretty weird.

There's really not to much that I can think of to say.

I'll have to tell the sisters that they'll get to see Jessa for sure on Friday. Emily sent me some earrings to take to her, so I'll get to give them to her. I liked that picture of Skibby. That's cool that she's doing that [doing humanitarian service in Peru]. Someone in here went and she said it changed her life. 

Yeah, I'd rather not have you guys at the frontrunner station. I think it would just be sad. I'll be sure to point out to them that I live right over there. And frontrunner isn't for sure yet, but I think that's what they'll make me take.
I'm doing pretty well. I've just gotten excited to go. Our teachers told us last week how hard it is and how pretty much everyone gets hit by cars at some point and you will get sick, and one of them said that they were talking to each other and said that if they had to go back to their first area and do it all over again even with their current gospel/language knowledge, they start to feel sick. So that was one of the more interesting "pump up" talks they could have given us. There's a little bit of homesickness. But not too bad. I've grown a lot in here.
I hope that my trainer is good and I know that life's about to get very different for me in a few days.

Thanks for everything
Love, Sam
Sam with Brady Early, a friend from high school
Sam & his companion, Elder Zierenberg (3rd from the left), & 2 other elders
Elder Zierenberg & Sam playing with their Nerf guns

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Sam sent the following email on Monday, July 7, 2014:

Ok guys, how are you all doing.

First of all, yes, I got my travel plans last Thursday. I leave on the 15th with a 6 pm flight out (on United whooooo). We report to the travel office here at 12:30 pm. Then according to this paper we arrive at 7:01 PM, and I'm not sure if that's Utah time or California time. But then we have a layover for 6 hours at LAX until we board the 1 AM flight to Hong Kong. So when I call, I'll probably call sometime during that layover. Then it says we arrive in Hong Kong at 6:45 AM on the 17th, so we'll be flying all day. Hopefully my bowels are up to task so I don't have to use the airplane toilet. And we have to fly in our suits, but you already knew that. Then we have a 2 hr layover in Hong Kong until we take Dragonair Hong Kong to Cambodia and arrive at 10:25 AM on July 17, 2014. I think that they will have us take the front runner up to the airport, so I won't get to pass our freeway exit like I've been thinking that I would for my entire life.  Everybody is flying together except for Zierenberg and a sister in my district who are on the same flight to HK, probably because they added in the two vietnamese who are going to Cambodia, and that bumped the flying arrangements. 

For the 4th of July they had a special devotional. We assembled at 7:40 and they had a few musical numbers, a speaker, and then they had us watch 17 Miracles. After that they had us go outside and they gave us a little ice cream thing and let us watch whatever we could see from the stadium of fire. We stayed inside MTC boundaries the whole time. So we didn't get back to the residence until about 10:45 and that's probably the only day of the year that missionaries are allowed to not follow the schedule. One of the best parts was when we were in the devotional and I was sitting next to one of the English elders who is still here because he tore his ACL and he was just hating it. He started singing God Save the Queen during my country tis of thee, and we were laughing.

I think that's about all I have. Nothing new really happens in here. If you want to know anything specific, let me know. 

Love your favorite son, Sam

PS I just remembered dad that we don't have cambodian typewriters here. We don't do much writing in it anyways. I guess it's such a complex thing that only now are there things that support the cambodian alphabet like on phones and stuff. And I guess when you type you have to use all kinds of shifts/control/buttons/etc. to get the right things. Anyways.

This is my district with one of our teachers and his wife at our temple walk yesterday.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Sam sent us the following email & photos on Monday, June 30, 2014.  In much of his letter, he makes reference to things we told him in previous letters.  To help you understand what he's talking about, here is some background information:

Paragraph 1:  My parents (G&B--Grammy & Bompa) have cherry trees and they sent him a package of fresh cherries last week.  I sent him a package containing plastic champagne glasses, pastries, and after-dinner mints.  In his email last week, Sam mentioned that the new mission presidents & their wives who were there at the MTC receiving training, appeared to be enjoying a few more niceties than the GI missionaries were.  We also sent Sam a "mind reading" magic trick he had requested.

Paragraph 2:  The picture Sam's referring to is one that appeared in last Saturday's issue of the Church News and shows the MTC choir which Sam has been singing in.  This choir has sung for some of the meetings for the new mission presidents.  We had asked Sam if his choir got to sit in on and listen to the training meetings, or if they just filed in to sing and then filed right back out.  

Paragraph 3:  Herbert is our 6-week-old duckling and his leg was injured last Saturday night when our dog, Cubby, accidentally stepped on it while trying to herd him into his pen.  I have been trying to contact a vet who I hope treats ducks...

Paragraph 4:  We went waterskiing last Saturday morning, and Peter felt something pop in his rib cage.  He assures us he will be fine.  Peter and Nate went up to Ogden that afternoon to see the air show at Hill Air Force base.

Paragraph 5:  We asked Sam if the missionaries will be allowed to view the Stadium of Fire's fireworks on the 4th of July.

Paragraph 6:  Skibby will be leaving for her humanitarian service trip to Peru next week, and we are helping her get packed.

Paragraph 7:  Sam is just 2 weeks from leaving for Cambodia now, and we asked how he was feeling--nervous? excited? both?

Paragraph 9:  My mom has noted on several occasions her observation that Pres. Uchtdorf is an amazing speaker, and also very handsome! 

Finally now, here is Sam's email:

Hey all you people,

I did indeed receive the 6 pounds of cherries from G&B. What a delight. I told them in the email i sent them that people kept asking me "where on earth did you get fresh cherries in here?" And I just told them that I had grandparents who loved me. I shared them with a bunch of people, but I probably ate 60-65% of them by myself. They were delicious. I also got the package with the "fine dining" materials. Much needed, thank you. I shared the donuts around with people in the zone. Big hit, mother. Made me feel like a human again to drink out of the fine glass. I've been living like an animal in here. No, just kidding. And I've blown about ten peoples' minds with the magic trick. I've done it 3 different times, and people have picked the yellow dot all three times. Good thing is that I already knew that....

I know what picture you're talking about. I saw it. I'm not in it, but that's it. I'm farther off to the right of the picture, but the left of the formation. We heard the "ordain woman" was excommunicated and everybody was soo ecstatic in here to hear that. She truly is a lunatic. Yeah, they're very strict so we entered and left the room every time. But the room was absolutely packed with (I think) 129 mission couples, so there wouldn't have been any room for us anyways. Did grammy and bompa go to one of those before they left? You should ask them about it and see who they got to hear speak.

Too bad to hear about herbert. But I feel like I've said before that I questioned the idea of raising ducklings in captivity. But that's neither here nor there. A duck specialist. Classic.

I hope peter's rib is ok. Sounds like you guys are doing fun things every night that I'm not there. Just trying to live it up without me. I want to go to the air show!

We get to watch the fireworks, but I'm not exactly sure how it'll be done. There's a paper that explains it, but I haven't looked at it yet. 

Lucky you guys get to pack again. I hope to see a lot of pictures from her trip. Maybe Peter can give her some photo-taking tips and some good ideas for angles to take pictures from.

Cambodian is pretty good. The more I try to read, the better I get. And I'm trying to expand my vocab by filling my room with sticky notes of normal vocab like "mirror" and "shoes." Isn't it weird that I went 6 weeks without knowing the word for "door," which I probably learned the first day of school spanish, but never even learned how to say something like "holy ghost." That's the difference in here. We Skyped last Monday night for TRC, which I think I told you about last week, and that was very hard. First of all, I hate skype because it's always weird and the connection is rarely good. But you just get worried and forget to do things. I feel like the lesson would have gone much better if I could have been in person with him instead of looking at the camera. We have to do it again tonight. But like there's a sister in here from cambodia who we talked to yesterday at the temple and you could understand a lot more of what she's saying. A little nervous, excited, yes.

Today they scheduled us to go clean the temple. When we got there and we changed into the white scrubs they told us (the men) that we'd be tearing the carpet out of the celestial room. So we ripped it all up and worked in there for about 3 1/2 hours. It was very hard work because the carpet came up easily, but the sticky stuff underneath didn't, so we had to scrape it and it still wouldn't really come up. But I'm very comfortable with the celestial room in the Provo temple now.

We sang "Oh, Sweet the Joy This Sentence Gives" on Tuesday for the meeting. Uchtdorf was speaking after. This was our knockout song. Everyone loved it and there were probably 9 GAs or so there. Almost all of the women were crying in the audience, and apparently a few general authorities were misty. Including Holland. After the song I made direct eye contact with Uchtdorf for probably 5 full seconds. Tell Grammy that he's just as handsome in real life as he is on tv. At Tuesday's devotional, Christofferson spoke. There were 5 other big guys in attendance: Oaks, Bednar, Nelson, Anderson, and Ballard. Then on Wednesday we sang "JS's First Prayer" for the thing. That one wasn't as good, but was still good. Apparently "Oh Sweet the Joy" was still all the rage even the next day and Bro. Eggett said he got several emails from the "brethren" about how good it was. Uchtdorf's talk was on "I know that my Redeemer lives," and nobody knew that beforehand, so it was really something. RM Nelson came in before the Wednesday thing and said good job, we appreciate the work you're doing. Boyd K Packer was speaking, which was a big deal that he was there, but I froze and forgot to look for him. I really didn't have time to look at any of them on that last day.

I wouldn't mind getting some stuff about how people have said the jazz's draft went. I was very excited to hear that we got Exum, because the talk was that he was pretty big time. And he fills shooting guard, because that's just where we needed him. And getting Harrison is pretty big time too. But I'd like to hear about what real critics think about it.

Because the "Oh Sweet the Joy" was so good, they requested us to sing it at last night's devotional as a special musical number. So we did and it was good.

Good luck guys, I love you and miss you all 
Sam's district or zone or something... (Sam is in the middle row, 2nd from the right)

Sam and a friend from Riverton High School

Sam's official Cambodian name badge!