Monday, June 29, 2015

Sam sent the following email and pictures on Sunday, June 29, 2015:

From: Samuel Christensen <>
Subject: A Ballpoint Banana!
Date: June 28, 2015 10:01:21 PM MDT

What's up guys?

So we had a really solid week. We had 25 lessons; 14 of which were investigator lessons. Our area has come a long ways. This week I kept feeling like all of that seeding that we did several weeks ago really payed off. We can ride down roads and I feel like the atmosphere or the attitude towards us is much more positive and open. We haven't been counting seeds for a while, but by now we just wave and say hi to more people regularly. We've had a bunch of good contacts of nice people who are willing to meet with us. I feel like it all comes from the good karma of planting those early seeds. 

Here's a handy tip for missionaries that I just learned: When you contact someone or talk to someone else to try and set up an appointment, don't just ask them when they're free and then try and schedule it, but say "ok, so do you want to meet Tuesday or Wednesday? Oh, ok Wednesday. Morning or night? Night oh ok. 6 or 7?" Gotcha. When you ask people if they have free time they'll say no or just say Sat/Sun, but this nails people down by only giving them two options. I could really care less when we meet people because that's what we do all day everyday. All I care about is that we get to meet them. Another missionary told me about this and when I tried it I found out how genius it is. So take notes, Skibby and Nate.

A lot of random people here are like hey I saw your picture on facebook of you holding an English sign. And I'm like hey I've never met you before. So the facebook page has a pretty wide reach.

One of the new guys that we started teaching this week is funny. He interrupts us all the time, but he's a really smart kid. But we taught him lesson one and about the plates becoming the book of mormon. He speaks English with us. After we taught that part about the plates he paused and said "It would be good to have these." No kidding, buddy.

I was also thinking about how interesting it is that Christ's church should bear His name, so why is it that so few churches actually have the whole name of Jesus Christ in them? Like we have it, I can't actually think of any other sect that does have it even though I'm sure there are some. But like Methodist, Catholic, Protestant, Seventh Day, Korean Church, The Timothy Vision Center (there was one in BB), et al. We are the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It seems so obvious from that perspective.

They shuffled around districts for transfers and now my district is us, the APs, and Phnom Penh's only STLs [Sister Training Leaders]. Last week the APs asked President who he wanted to be the district leader and he literally made a "flip of the coin" motion. So it must have landed on tails because I have to do it now. No, it's because I have the least experience and I'm not an AP or STL. So I have to do the lesson every week, but that's ok because I don't really mind studying for it. It makes me feel like I can think deeply about stuff again.

You'll be getting a new mission president on July 1, right? Yep, President and Sister Moon are out of the office on Wednesday. They've been fantastic leaders for the mission. I really do look up to President Moon and all that he has to go through in being the president of this mission. It would be so hard and he's done the best job possible. We'll meet the new president on Thursday. You can't go wrong with that name, so he'll probably be a pretty good president also.

I've gotta go now, but I'll email some pictures later.


PS: What's yellow and goes 'click click'?  [for the answer, read Sam's "Subject" line above...]

The Cambodians are a sleepy people

The classic "ball point banana" joke on the back of the cereal box

Cambodian Bath

Friday, June 26, 2015

Sam sent the following email & pictures on Sunday, June 21, 2015. Our questions & comments are in italics.

From: Samuel Christensen <>
Subject: Summer
Date: June 22, 2015 12:38:37 AM MDT

Hey Guys,

Wow, summer is just starting up for you guys and it sounds super exciting. I'm going on my probably 12th month of summer in a row, or something like that.

I was wondering, when your bike is broke (or tire) do you fix it or do you have to take it to a repair person?  Do you need more green slime?  Does that stuff work?  There's people that fix bikes on every corner. The slime didn't work for some reason, so I wont need anymore. I think it really freaked the guy out who fixed it though. Was that picture of you eating at Burger King on your birthday?  I’ll bet that was a treat. Burger king was on P-day. A week ago, while we were gone, Kevin Gust was made the Bishop of the First Ward.  Can you believe it?  I am so excited for him.  He is a good man and has a neat opportunity in front of him.  Kevin will do great.  Kevin was the called “trail boss” for the upcoming pioneer trek.  Since he became a bishop, it was felt he needed to be released.  Guess, who gets to take over that calling?  I have been called as the trail boss and Heidi is my partner.  I have been quite involved anyway, being the YM president and Trainer for  Ma’s and Pa’s, so it makes sense for them.  I feel a lot of responsibility.  Anyway, I thought you would be happy for Kevin and his family as well.  Trek is in about 45 days.  Since my new calling I have started a trek beard.  We’ll see how long that lasts.  And good luck with the extra trek responsibilities. You might as well keep the beard and see how far you can get it, because now you've got an excuse. Just keep it tamed. We have had fun looking at the pictures of you on the Rean English Class website.  This English class is sponsored by the LDS church, right?  It looks like the classes are held in an LDS church building.  What does "Rean" mean? Does this class generate a lot of investigators for the missionaries? Yeah, we do the english class. Rean means learn. It's probably our greatest generator of investigators overall. Plus it's good because it generally targets the type of people we'd like in our church. I'm glad your birthday package got to you, and I'm glad you liked it.  I was hoping the food mixes were things that sounded good to you.  Have you used any of them this past week?  I didn't know if you'd have access to a CD player, but I thought the songs on the CD I sent were some you would like. We eat some of the stuff you sent every week. The CD is nice. For the next package you send, you could send a Josh Groban CD and maybe a Les Mis soundtrack if you want.

Elder Yorgason died ["died" is missionary jargon for "completed his mission"] last Tuesday. He's a good guy and they got Battambang on fire again.
Elder Yorgason (Sam's trainer) with Sam

As far as missionary work goes, it was a little bit of a downer week for us again. We lost a good investigator to a different area, but gained one more who we'll see about. We need to do more contacting because we need more people to teach.

Hey we finally killed the rat in our house. It was, apparently, a rat and not a mouse, but now it's dead so who really cares. It didn't die from the permethrin, then the second trap we set up for it didn't work, so finally Myers bought a trap. The first time it stole the meat from the trap and got away, but the second time it died. The last thing that went through it's head was a metal bar. It felt like I was living an episode of Tom and Jerry.

With you guys being on vacation it made me think of vacation memories as it relates to me now. For example, Elder Myers dodges traffic and shoots gaps in traffic all the time and I get left behind struggling to keep up but ultimately lost in a crowd of Asians. When our family goes to Disneyland, Peter is shooting gaps and speed walking and I get left behind struggling to keep up, but ultimately lost in a crowd of Asians. The same!

For the first time I got to go contacting with the brand new missionaries. Fresh off the plane for 30 minutes they drop them at a Phnom Penh hotspot market and tell them to go contact people. So I finally got to go do that and was with a guy from my original MTC group, so that was fun.

We were told that we were not allowed to go to the mission home for transfers because we were not transferring. But after repeated requests (with legitimate reasons) the APs conceded that it was our zone, and we do get a lunch hour, sooooo. Yeah so we went, but when we were there we got a call from Elder Kim. There's two people of that name in our mission. The one that we got the call from was not the infamous one. He said he was joining our companionship for a few days because he's sick and now he's getting treatment. We were supposed to go to the mission home and pick him up. Lucky for us, we were already there! And now we were supposed to be. Elder Kim is awesome, he's the best missionary I've ever met I think. His personality reminds me of Bompa a little bit, like his sense of humor. But I've never been with a Khmae that can teach like him. He was only with us for like 2 days, but I hope someday I can go with him for a whole transfer. It was fun to be in a three-some because all of us can teach so we just took even turns and it was great.

On the way back to taking him to the mission home last night, some short white guy walking along the road saw us and yelled something at us. We didn't pick up the whole thing, but it was something along the lines of "F(swear word) you mother F(swear word)" Elder Kim thought that was hilarious.

I think it's amazing how humor is universal. Not all humor translates, but most of it does. If it's funny in America, it's generally funny in Cambodia and any other language and culture for that matter. Like pantsing. That's hilarious in America. Hilarious here too. Off-color jokes, the same. Pretty much you name it, it transfers. Humor is a language that all people can speak.

The other thing is that yesterday I went to the international branch with the office elders because I was going to do an interview that didn't happen. But I just could not feel comfortable in that branch. It's ironic that the place that I feel like I fit in most isn't in the international branch, but in any regular old cambodian branch.

Thanks for your guys' support and everything. Until next week

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

I'm still running behind on posting Sam's emails and pictures, but I am trying!  Sam sent us the following email, pictures, and video clips on Sunday, June 14, 2015:

From: Samuel Christensen <>
Subject: Transfer Calls: I'm Going.......
Date: June 15, 2015 12:38:05 AM MDT be the same. Yeah, I'm with Elder Myers for another transfer and still in Tuol Tompung. We're losing our sisters though, so now we're going to have to take up trying to cover and meet all the women too and that's always a bit of a pain.

So of the videos I sent, one is of a little Cambodian kid singing Let it Go in Russian. Don't ask me how he learned that. One is when I went on an exchange to Stung Meanchey area, which borders the famous (infamous?) Trash Mountain. One guy living nearby mentioned how he so enjoys living next to a mountain. That it was peaceful or something. "Beautiful scenery?" I suggested. Yes, he confirmed it. I think that since they've put dirt on the top lots of people have forgotten that there's still several stories of garbage underneath. But that's how a lot of these people think--very surface level. One of our investigators was telling us how successful Cambodia was in the 60s, but then some "problems" happened after that. It's pretty sad, pretty tragic. I've heard from a lot of people who lived in that time period that because they weren't supposed to be reading books or studying foreign languages during Pol Pot they'd have to kind of lock themselves in so they could privately sneak trying to study French in or something without the government knowing. It truly looked like a nuclear waste-zone of garbage and old plastic bags down there.There's extreme poverty down there, but for the most part I feel numb to it and don't really notice lots of it.

I don't know if I've ever mentioned it or not, but it's amazing because no one in Cambodia has any idea what a McDonalds is or Subway. Pretty much anything that is world famous like that they've never heard of. They do know KFC and Burger King though. Most people don't really know what to think of America. I think they think it's all just palaces and gold-paved roads.

In last week's English class we were learning words about travel or the world or something. One of the vocab words was Africa and an example sentence was "When I think of Africa, I think of ________" So we were going over that question and 3 people in a row answered "black skin." I'm guessing it's just a lack of vocabulary?? They're super racist here too. Probably like Missouri or something. I don't know, when I think of Africa I think of giraffes and lions and stuff but that's just me.

We decided that we had a mouse in our house, so we left some bait out for it: a piece of chicken that Elder Myers soaked in permethrin, and I drizzled some My Boy on the top for good measure. Come morning, that whole piece of chicken had been eaten. So now either the mouse is sick and dead, or it is immune to permethrin and is grateful for the large protein meal we left out for it.

Both of our bike tires were broken yesterday morning, so we ended up walking everywhere instead. Let me tell you: If our mission was a walking mission like South America, nothing would get done. Until we have more missionaries here the areas have to stay big. One day I hope there'll be more missionaries here so it can be zoned down and more people will be likely to be contacted by missionaries.

They're playing the news here in the email shop today, and there is noooo censoring on this stuff. They're showing graphically dead bodies lying on the roads bleeding out, and them doing CPR on some guy who electrocuted himself while doing construction or something. Like this stuff would not fly in America.

That's all I got. We'll try to do more fun stuff this week so we have stuff to report on

Safe flying

Video Clip:

The pictures above and below are of Stung Meanchey, or "Trash Mountain"

Elder Myers & Sam

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

We were away on vacation Sunday, June 7th, when Sam emailed us.  I didn't get his blog updated that week, but I'm now going to post the letter and pictures he sent that day.  Our questions/comments are in italics:

From: Samuel Christensen <>
Subject: Hello From Hawaii
Date: June 8, 2015 12:23:49 AM MDT

Oh no, wait, that's you guys in Hawaii. 

Hello from Cambodia,

First of all, I've got to say that in this email place they have movies playing on a tv. Like new American movies that I've never seen. But the sound is down and the captions are in chinese, so I can't get much out of them. But as these movies that I've never seen before come on (Dawn of the planet of the apes, percy jackson movie, Guardians of the Galaxy, Hunger Games catching Fire, etc. etc.), I just can't help thinking: WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO ME? No just kidding, but seriously, I used to know all kinds of movies.

Oh well. Yeah it was a good, normal week. I enjoyed listening to the speaker yesterday in sacrament meeting telling everyone about how our parents have done the Atonement for us. So if I haven't said it before, thanks, mom and dad, for doing the Atonement for me.

You all seem to be having a good time in Hawaii. If we go again when I get back I'd rather just go to Kauai.

I've heard that the package [Sam's birthday package we sent him] is at the mission home, so I'll go pick it up in a little bit. You can stash the shirt [a Hawaiian shirt we bought for him while we were on vacation] until I get back.

Has your rainy season begun yet? Real rainy season hasn't started yet, but it rains a little bit here and the streets are beginning to get flooded when it does, so soon it'll be here. Rainy season is good because then i can get cool pictures that you all like to look at, but bad because then my feet are wet all day.

I was thinking yesterday at church how "Elder" kind of has a special culture here because every single person in the church here has learned with and had experiences with Elders. From the very first day. So "Elder" is not just said like a person, but as more of a time of life that all these people share in common. It takes on a figure greater than just being one or 2 people. Larger than life. 

Which leads me into what Elder Myers was saying last night about how our mission is like the movie El Dorado. I completely agree. These people worship the white people, and in the words of Tulio or whoever it is, says "They think we're Gods." When you guys get home you'll have to watch that movie and then you'll know how my mission feels like with two idiots running around and everyone thinks they're invincible and all-knowing and powerful and stuff. On the other hand, another missionary told me that all the white people that are here are exactly like the "projections" that are in dreams in Inception. Especially when they're in the trial dream and explaining about dream land. Because they avoid eye contact or give you really annoyed looks or stuff. You'll have to check that out too because it's true.

We had a mission leadership counsel on Tuesday, the Moons' final zone conference on Thursday. They were both good. President Moon has done incredible things for the church in Cambodia. You'll also be interested to hear that President Holland will officially be coming to our mission in August and we'll most likely be getting to hear from him in a special meeting. So get pumped!

We have a few good investigators that we're helping to work through some stuff right now, but they're truly good. I love that they care and that they're trying. And at church yesterday 2 new people randomly showed up and we got their information and we'll try to teach them. They seem good too. We always love new people to teach, cause if we don't then it's lame.

We had Om Hen come help us teach a guy this week. Om Hen is an 82 or so year old who is the president of the high council. Dad, you've talked about people being celestial. Well, this guy is truly celestial. When we got to his house he had a nice shirt and pants on, called us in so we could pray before we went, then he hopped on his bike and off we went. He's adorable. Helping missionaries isn't just for youth preparing for missions or young people, but if you guys can make free time, help the missionaries cause they need it. Well I don't know if they need it in America, but we need it here.

Crap, I'm about to verge onto devotional stuff again so endure for a sec. I wrote in my journal on June 6th that "I'm glad to be out here on my birthday. I wouldn't feel as fulfilled in life if I was just home eating cake and opening presents; rather, I get to try and help other people with their problems while sitting in their humble homes. So I'm glad with where I am and deep down I wouldn't rather be anywhere else." So feast on that.

I love and miss you all! Have a good vacation!!

“Punk kids that kept ramming into my bike.”

“The beauty in garbage land.”

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Sam sent us the following email & video clip on Sunday, May 31, 2015.  When Sam wrote the subject for this email, I think it was with reference to what he describes below in paragraph 4.  I hope that's it, anyway!  Our questions and comments to him are in italics:

From: Samuel Christensen <>
Subject: I don't really like white people anymore
Date: May 31, 2015 11:59:21 PM MDT

Hey what's up,

This Saturday and Sunday were pretty cool because we had stake conference and we had Elder Woo come. He was super cool. His voice was awesome and he said some good stuff. It was good to see a lot of solid members in one place at the same time. One of the first things that he said on saturday when he got up was "Learn English. God's not going to call a Cambodian to be an area 70 unless he knows English." Probably true. He told them how there's 5 things in life that'll really make you rich. The 5 C's: Christ, Covenants, Church, Calling, and Charity. It was super interesting to listen to him speak.

I had a thought this week how I forget how truly tragic peoples' life circumstances here are. Because I see it all day everyday. But when we were at one guy's house and his neighbor who lives in the area next to his with 4 walls came over and talked to us he had a little daughter. She was happy and stuff like a little kid. But, man, she lives in a recycling plant, her dad collects garbage to recycle for a living, there's just so much missing from what we would see as reasonable living circumstances. Isn't there a long, technical word for the way that people are born into society? I can't think of it. I have forgotten lots of cool English words that I used to know. My vocabulary is constantly shrinking I think.

Are you having rainy season yet?  How are things going with your new companion?  How is Pu Pan? Are you getting used to your new area?  Is your new bike any better than your other one?  There's not much rain here yet. But it's pretty dang hot. We're still visiting Pu Pan and he's making progress, but not very fast. He doesn't do much to help himself get better. I feel a bit more comfortable in the area than before. My bike is bad. I think I patched the back tire 4 different times this week, and then it was a little bit disheartening when my front tire all of a sudden was flat yesterday and we had to dope each other on one bike while Myers held my back from behind. But I put some of the slime into the back tire and I think that'll fix it.

Hey if you want to see some pictures of me, go onto facebook to Rean English Class and look through the pictures. Mine are really popular and I don't know why. Probably my extreme beauty.
Those pictures on facebook are kind of cool. I wish there was an all-time photographer to get cool pictures because, sadly, so much of what we do everyday goes undocumented. I got chewed out by some guy with an English or Australian accent for contacting like that for English. He was bothered that it upset his flow of traffic. I was thinking "bro, you're driving here in Cambodia, what do you expect?" In the thousands of people that have driven by, he's the first one who had a problem. He was not very nice. Nor did he look very sanitary. But the next day when we saw him we waved at him and he waved back and I hope he felt kind of dumb for being a jerk to volunteers.

Those two little boys in the video are super cool. The whole family is members but none of them go, obey the laws, or really believe. But that little 13 year old kid takes care of his little 5 or so kids younger than him, makes food, cleans the house, does everything so his dad doesn't get mad at him, then rides his bike a few miles to church all by himself. Gangster. 

They had 6 baptisms in my old branch of Battambang 2 on Saturday. I started teaching all of those people with Elder Kim. I really only feel connection to the family though. I'll forward the picture along too.

Have a good week, a good graduation, a safe plane ride, and enjoy the hot Hawaiian sun for me!

Now it's just me and Cubby who don't get to go to Hawaii.... He's good company to be in though.

Note:  The video clip Sam sent shows some cute little Cambodian children trying to imitate a magic trick Sam does with the lid of a glue stick. :)

Another Note:  The pictures below came from the Rean English Class facebook page.

Sam teaching an English class

Above & below:  Advertising free English classes