Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Sam sent the following email & pictures on Sunday, August 24, 2014:

Subject: I Still Cry Everyday...
...when I'm cutting the onions to put in our lunch. It's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it.

Thanks for all the emails and updates from you guys. It's nice to know that life trudges on back in the 801. Also, I love hearing about the baseball guys from back home, so if you could keep telling me how they're doing that would be great.

Ok, so Ty sent me a copy of his talk, so I've read it already and I thought it was very, very good. The second day [at the MTC] was probably the longest, most boring, worst day of the whole thing. It gets better when you start to get gym time.

The new apartment is super nice! It's brand new, never been lived in by missionaries. It has guards and stuff and totally does not feel like Cambodia. On the one hand I'm glad to have it, on the other, I feel spoiled like I'm not living the hard life like everybody else. But, they haven't delivered a lot of the basic stuff yet, so we've had to boil all our water for a week, cut everything (meat included) with a butter knife, and yeah that's about it. It's actually really great. Nothing to complain about. It even has a couch!!!!!

My bike still breaks pretty much every other day. Right now I left it with a member family who is either just pumping the front tire up, or patching a hole. We're not sure what the problem is because we've had them check for holes before and they say there are none, but it loses its pump in 2 days time. Also probably about 5 days ago the back tire had a hole and we had to be to the apartment because it was late and we were still a little ways away. So I ended up riding my companion's bike, threw him on the back and "doped" him (dop means to "give someone a ride"--much easier than saying "give someone a ride") while he held my bike on the side of him as I pedaled. We got pretty far like that and then his shoulder was sore from holding it or something, so I got off and ran it the rest of the way home. And I was totally soaked in sweat. The doping would have made a great picture...

The language is still coming. I know that I'm getting a lot better and that my reading is progressing too. I've found that getting to have a decent amount of time to study the language in the morning really, really helps me. It like wakes it up in my mind or something. A few days ago I didn't feel like I was learning stuff as fast as I should be, so I've been making a concentrated effort to write down words I don't know and spell them in my little vocab book in khmae. So it's coming, I guess.

Yeah, I still get sunburned, but I try to put sunscreen on sometime. I don't really know. Sometimes it's just unavoidable, so I just take it. Everybody here that is native prides not getting sunburned, so they all wear long sleeves and stuff and try to stay white. So I guess I'm still pretty light. One guy the other day told me that I must be so white because I eat soap. Long story but basically sok sabbay means i'm doing good, and si sa boo means eat soap. So they always tease about stuff like that.

Transfers are this week, and we got calls last night, but, as expected, nothing is happening. Pretty much nobody is moving. 

Nothing really that I need. When you guys do send a package over sometime (to be clear, I'm not requesting a package, I'm just saying when), you can put a cool little magic trick or two in there, because they really do love to see magic tricks. It's like my calling card now.

We're happy because we finally have a lot of people to meet with and teach who we actually think are good. One guy, who we have only met one time and only got to have a partial first lesson with because some old guy who was in there too kept interrupting. I'm really almost positive that the old guy was from Satan and he was supposed to interrupt us because the young guy that we're meeting is so good. I'm only partly joking. But this young guy was taking notes on our spiritual thought during English class last week, which nobody does, so we knew he was special or crazy or something. And he came to church yesterday and I guess he tracked down the bishop and asked if he could pay tithing. Which is all good and great and stuff, but way crazier when you consider that we've never even told him about tithing, much less taught a lesson on it. So that was a little weird, but good I guess. He seems pretty cash.

Then last thing. There's this old guy that we meet and everytime someone finishes saying a prayer, he throws his arms up like "voila!" I don't think he does it consciously. It took be a while to realize where I'd seen something like that before because I knew that I had but I couldn't pin it down. Then I remembered that it reminds me of Bompa Lloyd how he does that all the time. Tell him I'm thinking about him and hope that he's doing well and staying healthy.

And as a final note, we had 140 people at sacrament meeting yesterday, which was the most we have had since I've been here, and is the highest in the stake. By Priesthood hour we had 9 people still in attendance for Elders quorum: 2 active members (one being the EQP), 3 of our investigators, and 4 missionaries. Our investigators are the only people that are staying all three hours for church. Seems like a problem, doesn't it? 

OK, I love and miss you all. Even though these emails are kind of cynical, I really am having a good time and I'm learning a lot. I'm just trying to be funny and have fun. Peace!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Peter, Skibby, Nate, & I went on a little vacation to CA.  We were gone Wed. Aug 13-Wed. Aug 20.  On Sunday, Aug. 17th, we sent Sam an email telling him about our trip to see the redwood forests, San Francisco, & the Oakland Temple.  We received the following email and pictures back from him:

Subject:  Vacation without the favorite, eh?  

Well, well, well. Someone decided to take a trip without me.

Yes, I did get all the pictures, and they're all very cool. I'm jealous. I've heard the oregon coast is so much fun and so pretty. Also, what's up with nate looking like a gangster at the temple? That sounds like an exciting and fun vacation though! That would be cool to see trees that big. I'm afraid you may have fallen victim to a bit of misadvertising on the Cambodia front. As of now I am yet to see anything actually jungle-y like I think everybody thinks I am seeing. Literally all I see is motos and dirty, dusty roads. 

I don't know much about Oakland. All I do know is that generally you want to spend as little time as possible there. Just kidding. And San Fran will be cool too. 

Everybody here is shocked when I tell them that I'm 19. They're like WOW, you are big. And I mean yeah, compared to tiny little 4 and a half footers I guess I'm pretty big. I just say yeah thanks, I eat a lot.

Everyone assumes here that white people are French. Which, you know, we're not. But we'll ride down the street and hear people say "Barang," which means French person. Sometimes you just respond with "Bonjour" or sometimes you're like "French person?! Where?!" But when I get to tell people I'm from America, I feel so proud. America truly is a promised land. It's so great. And the hamburgers are so much bigger there. Seriously, a few weeks ago we ate at a KFC that they have here and I ordered a mashed potatoes thing cause I thought that would be good. I got the small. And then it arrived and it was slightly bigger than a sacrament cup. JK, it was a little bigger, but still, the portions here are noticeably so much smaller here than in America. People here seriously have a bad problem with staring.

We're moving houses today. We're still in the same Teuk Thla North area, but we're going to move our house into the north area instead of the South area because it's going to save us a lot of time biking. So that's happening.

As bad as I said church was last week, it was super good yesterday. It kind of goes in waves. I told Emily this already, but it's like one week I have 0% faith in the Church in Cambodia, and the next day I'm like wow, this is really happening here. Things work here when the Stake President comes to our ward. Which is his actual ward, but he knows how things are supposed to run and everybody is on their best behavior when he comes. He owns a company here called Flyworks that makes flies to sell in America. He just looks like a million bucks. 

All that most of the little kids know how to say in english is "hello" and "my name is." And the teaching must be a little weak here because most of the time they don't say my name is (name), they just know "my name is ........" They haven't been taught that they are supposed to say their name after that. Also most of them know "how are you" and it's pretty fun to say that to them too because then they say "I am fine, thank you."

I think that's all I've got for you this week. Hope all is going well. Stay safe on the drive home.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Sam sent us the following email and pictures on Sunday, August 10, 2014.  We had asked him several questions in an email we had sent him earlier, and in his reply, he answers our questions.  I will include our questions in italics.

  • Hi guys,

    How are your socks?  Socks are super good. So glad I got those switched out. They definitely got too little and they're just rough. I love these ones now.  Are you wearing sunglasses?  I haven't been wearing sunglasses, but I probably will sometime when we go to a little phsaa and they have cool fake sunglasses for cheap. Fake oakleys for like $2. Thanks for the ideas on games.How many investigators do you have right now?  We have about idk 4 investigators or so. But people here are so shaky that it's hard to know which ones you can actually call real investigators.

    Can most of the Cambodian people read and write, or do you have to read to them?  Most people can read. I don't know about writing. There's a few who can't read and have to be read to. It's hard to commit them to do stuff when they can't read. 

    Are you allowed to ride on a moto?  Can't ride on a moto. I should be able to though because there's millions of them. Actually as hard as biking always is, I'm glad that we bike. We were waiting to teach this one guy last week and he stood us up, but two other guys rolled up on motos and asked for the same guy. He never came and we left. But before we left we went over and talked to them and as Elder Yorgason kind of suspected they were JW missionaries. They were Japanese and were wearing like button shirt with the top button open and they have these nice motos and helmets. One of the guys had been here 6 years and already my companion could speak better Khmae than he could. It was funny to talk to them, but if I was a poor Cambodian person and I saw white people laboring on these terrible bikes I'd be more inclined to listen to them than if we just rolled up on these nice motos.

    Are there any pianos in the churches there, and if so, have you gotten to play yet?  There are a few pianos. No real ones, though. We teach a weekly piano lesson every saturday for an hour. Well mostly Elder Yorgason teaches it. We get like 1 or 2 people. And the bishop wants us to teach his wife to play the piano because he wants her to play hymns in sacrament. But it's kind of sad because we teach these people, and they don't realize how long of a road it really is to get good. Unfortunately we can teach them all that we can, but they can't practice without coming to the church, and they just don't know that it really is hard. The best thing that we can try to do is teach them enough to be able to teach themselves.

    What kinds of things do you do on your P-days besides email us?  We email on P day then usually go to the mission home for a little bit to get reimbursed, get stuff, then usually we go play soccer or something with other people, then we go to the American place to get some groceries, then we go home and start doing missionary stuff again. P days go so fast.

    How do you do laundry?  We actually have a really nice laundry machine that we use. We have to hang up our clothes to air dry because we don't have a dryer, but the washer is nice. And I can use it whenever the Cambodian who lives with us isn't using it because it seems like he washes his clothes about every day or so.

    Have you done any grocery shopping in outdoor markets?  We go to a phsaa which is an outdoor market every morning on p day before our studies to get stuff for the week. Meat, and vegetables. They're just so like dirty and stuff, but I've really stopped being too concerned about germs and stuff because at this point it's a bit of a lost cause. People prepare all of the food with their bare hands and I'm about positive that they guy who handles and cuts all the raw pig meat doesn't clean his hands when he's done. I'm sure he just wipes it on his clothes or something.

    Is the fruit there delicious?  I really haven't eaten as much fruit here as I should. There's some that's really good like dragon fruit. Watermelon has a ton of seeds in it. I've had a lychee, but I need to track more of those down. It's just a matter of stopping on my bike some time and buying some because it's pretty cheap. They have even smaller bananas than the ones I sent a picture of last week, and they're good. They're almost the size of baby carrots.

    Are you keeping a healthy supply of PB&J on hand?  I ate the last of my peanut butter out of the jar last night. It's becoming a sunday night ritual to eat the peanut butter plain because I run out of bread by that time. I never thought in my life I would go through a thing of peanut butter in one week, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

    Are there mosquitoes or other pesky insects around?  Not many problems with bugs. People out in the country have way bigger problems with stuff than I've had here in the city. Yorgason killed another rat in our apartment, but this one was much smaller. I got some good footage though.

    Do the little Cambodian children love you?  what do they think of your height, red hair, & blue eyes?  The pictures you’ve sent of the little kids are precious!  I think they probably just think I look freaky. Everyone that I talk to and tell that I'm 19 is like no way you are very, very big. BIG. I'm not as sure that they love me as I am sure that they love my camera. Every time we go to this one place the little kids attack us and ride on our bikes and stuff and start yelling "tot muay" which is like take a picture or I want to take a picture or something. So they love posing and looking at their pictures. But I start getting a little worried when they're handling my camera. The best way to get pictures of the kids though is to have one of them take it because then it doesn't seem like I'm just taking pictures of their poor life. They like hang on my bike and I don't know how to tell them to get off so I'm kind of just stuck. They also love my watch and my little thing that keeps my pant leg from getting greasy in the chain.

    I got my bike fixed here twice this week because it kept breaking.

    Is it quiet or noisy at night when you go to sleep?  It's very quiet inside where we sleep. We have a very nice place compared to most of the people here. 

    Yesterday they had a holiday where everybody stays home and gets drunk. Heck of an idea.

    One thing that is really maddening here is that nobody knows how the church SHOULD run. I'm going to write what I wrote in my journal this morning about church yesterday:
    Speaking of relying on missionaries, and I think I've hit on this once already, they seriously couldn't have church each week without us. For example: yesterday we are waiting to start priesthood, but there's no member of the bishopric present to start. So everyone just sits there and looks at each other until we go out to find a member of the bishopric. We find one, bring him back, he starts it and then they break the young men off. What do you know, there is no Elders Quorum teacher. The EQP (who I don't necessarily blame b/c he's new and doesn't know how things run) gets up there with the 2nd counselor and they're basically like well, Elders, what are you waiting for. No one's here, you've got to teach, duh. A: I guess they promised the other elders last week that they would for sure have a teacher this week (we were teaching the young men's class that didn't have a teacher). B: There were only 9 people in there to start. 4 were missionaries! Then halfway through, the other companionship had to go get their baptism ready, and took their candidate with them, so there was 6, two elders included. Where are the (theoretically) strongest male members of the ward during this you ask? i.e. ENTIRE bishopric, ward clerk, etc. Oh yeah, they're just chilling at the bishop's office doing who-knows-what like they literally do every single Sunday. They never come to the 3rd hour Priesthood for sure, and I don't think they go to 2nd hour class, either. The aforementioned 2nd counselor just peaced out after he handed off the lesson to us (obviously we were teaching). The assigned elder's quorum teacher just bailed and didn't worry about finding a sub. The bishopric can't just do that and not come to priesthood. I think they just don't know or something, but it's bad and it is so maddening.

    So yeah that drives me nuts. Ok that's all for now I think. There's a lot more stuff in my journal, so I'm not forgetting all these other experiences. It's a good thing that I have it.

    Peace and love you guys. I miss you


Monday, August 4, 2014

Sam sent the following email and pictures on Sunday, Aug. 3, 2014:

Hi all,

Maybe nate could read a book about Cambodia during Pol Pot. I don't know very much about what exactly happened, just that people here really aren't that educated about anything. It's getting better, and it's so happy to see tons of little kids with their big backpacks riding to school either on the back of a moto or riding their little bikes. But this country has a long ways to go before it goes anywhere. It really is like 30 years behind. People just don't know anything about sanitization or safety and throwing garbage on the ground. You just hope that this rising generation can pull them out of this, but it will probably take much longer than that. Also, in this part of the city there is absolutely no tourism. Like in Mexico, people try to sell you stuff and have all kinds of little trinkets. But here all that they have are food motos and things that allow for other work to be done. Until they make a reason for people to come to this part of Cambodia and spend their money, they'll be playing with the same money for a long time. Some things on the streets here smell really good, and some things smell absolutely nasty. There's lots of piles of burning, smoldering garbage here.

Our schedule is bumped up one hour, so we wake up at 5:30 and go to bed at 9. People just do things an hour earlier here I guess.  We don't leave the house usually until 11 because all of our studies are done then. So we leave, do something, come back and eat lunch for an hour or less, then stay out until 8 or 8:30 when we come back in and plan for the next day and eat dinner. Then we do it all over again. 

You asked how much time I have for emailing.  As a mission rule, we have as much time as we want to read and respond to emails. We have to pay for what we use though. 
One of our investigators got baptized yesterday. She was pretty far when I got here, so my job was easy. She's a grandma of a family that's already members, and she's super old and funny and doesn't remember anything. But we've got a few people who are promising, and we also have to find a bunch more people who actually care to learn.

Contacting isn't too bad, but I'm bad at it and I try to avoid it as much as possible. I'll probably try to do more of it. One idea that we had is that we're going to try to make them do the majority of the talking when we contact. We can explain to them that we're volunteers and don't get any money for doing this. That we're 19 and 20 and from America. And then I want to, instead of telling them why I'm here, ask them why they think I'm here. Then they'll kind of do the contacting for us from there. We haven't really done much of this yet, but I want to try soon. But I have found that right now that's the best way to testify for me is to tell them that I'm 19, from America, only been in Cambodia for 2 1/2 weeks where I don't know the language or the culture, and I'm not getting paid to do it. But I do it because I know that it's true and that I want to share that message and knowledge with other people. If I didn't believe it, why on earth would I be here.

When we teach, my companion and I split up parts of the lesson and I try to teach some points, and then he's able to smooth it over and explain a lot better. We try to have at least 3 lessons a day.

The power that we hold as white males in Cambodia is great. We can basically do or get whatever we want. Especially because we're dressed up nice.

You asked about the language.  I learn a lot every day, but I understand basically nothing when natives speak. Here it's dry most of the time, but I'm usually always sweating somewhere. There's one family-the family of the old lady that got baptized. They're always so happy to have missionaries come over and talk with them. They always get their book of mormons out and just love it. They were only baptized in February. A few weeks ago we were cleaning the church, and through another missionary who translated for me someone asked them how long they'd been members and they said "long time. Five months already." I thought that was so funny. But they love to come and do member missionary work and their kids are cute. The 16 year old kid works everyday to help support his family. The dad, poo monih, was just called last week as the first elder's quorum president in the ward. The first counselor in the bishopric was inactive just a year ago. Isn't that funny?

The president met with all of the missionaries in my zone last week, so I got to talk to him again. 
Ok thanks guys. See you, love you.

Sam with his companion, Elder Yorgason