Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Week 2 in Cambodia. I love my beach cruiser.

Hello family,

For me, the week was yet another big adventure. However, I'm starting to settle into the swing of things. I’ve noticed that I don't get overly freaked out when an abnormally large cockroach scrambles over my foot during personal study, or when a big, hairy tarantula is already sitting on the toilet when I get up to use the restroom in the middle of the night. I’m beginning to enjoy the ability to focus my energy on serving the people of Cambodia.

Mom won’t like this story. But, yesterday I went on an exchange with a native Cambodian missionary, named Elder Hem (pronounced heem), He's 26 years old and doesn't speak any English at all. I concluded it was a fun and funny day. We ended one appointment way out in the middle of jungle, nowhere and had to be at another appointment on the other side of the city in 20 minutes. It was the craziest 20 minutes of my life at this point.  That could change by next week though.

 Remember in the Disney movie, Aladdin? In the very beginning, Aladdin was running from guards? and ditching in and out of crowded markets, camels, weird alleys and stuff? That’s exactly what it was like for me today.

We started in the jungle, went on a narrow path through huge rice fields, then through a market that reminded me more of a carnival, then to the main road where it started pouring rain.  I mean pouring when I say pouring. Then, straight through another busy market where we found ourselves in a crazy Cambodian traffic jam.  So, Hem quickly began weaving in and out of traffic (sorry mom), then a short cut through an alley where a little lady was drying clothes, then somehow we were shuffling through a Buddhist temple (where we had to take our helmets off out of respect, then roared through narrow dirt roads with unusually tall fences on either side. More jungle, then calmly arrived at a very small house made out of bamboo sticks.  Needless to say, it was awesome!

This appointment was especially cool because she was preparing for her baptism, most of the meeting was spent asking the pre-baptismal questions and hearing her bear her testimony. Pretty special stuff to hear.

Some great news, we had our first baptism last week! His name is Phiaron, he is a stud, and I'm almost positive he will go on to serve a mission. A cool thing.  The baptismal font is just a random, big, white tank that they fill with water outside the building. It was a highlight to see my first Cambodian baptism. We're hoping for 3 more by the end of the transfer but we will see. 

The sunsets here are absolutely breathtaking, Every night I think, "I know mom would want to paint that."

Also mom, there is water next to some of the rice fields that is your favorite color. It's a really bright blue.  The grass is neon green in some fields. It actually hurts my eyes when I look at it.  Its like what would happen if you "over enhanced" a photo on the computer.  
There is also a wide array of butterflies. I figured out a way to stick my finger out and they will come land on it when I'm riding my bike. Its pretty cool.  

Oh man! I have officially seen every type of motorcycle there is. I could write a cool Doctor Seuss book from of all the bizarre, insane motos I've seen.   

Basic Cambodian knowledge and survival tips gained this week:

-If I do anything out of the ordinary people are just completely amazed. like pop a wheelie or ride my bike with no hands. 

-I haven't seen one plane fly over since I've been here.

-My only interactions with Buddhist monks are stare downs.

-Do not rationalize yourself into thinking its possible to cut straight through a rice paddy on a beach cruiser. We stupidly tried it a few days ago. We got half way through, our wheels started spinning and sinking until we were knee deep in water.  Bummer.
-An annoying, weird looking, over sized chicken, is actually a Peacock.

-Never pay more than 12 cents for a fried banana.

-Cane sugar juice is very delicious.

-Breast feeding is NOT a private matter here... at all.

-Beach Cruisers can handle a lot more than you would originally think.

-But, Beach Cruisers were never meant to "catch air."

-Holding on to a moving Tuk Tuk is easier than peddling, and its free.

-Very Important:  many people here say "God" every time someone else says it. (I was at an appointment where I was bearing my testimony in Cambodian, and I said, “through God’s plan, I know I can have happiness.” In Cambodian the word for God is, “Preahvwobeida.” I said that and then the woman we were teaching immediately said it too.  I of course assumed she was helping me with pronunciation. So then I said it back to her slower and more clear.And then she said it back to me... slower. And so I tried to say it correctly again, slower and more clear, and she said it back slower and more clear. We probably ended up saying it back and forth 20 times. While, I wondered why my native companion was laughing the whole time, I concluded I would never get that word right no matter how hard I try. Hem went on to explain the custom and I felt dumb.) 

-Don't ask what you're eating.

-You can do anything and it will impress Cambodians. At this one house, I do the "move my head/ears trick" and the two little girls try and try and just can't do it. It blows their mind. They are so cute. They're as cute as Julia but a Cambodian version. This family has pretty much adopted me. The wife has me call her mom, and the girls, I consider my little sisters. I can't wait for you all to meet them.

-Apparently whipping your child with a bamboo rod is normal in Cambodia? The kids always start out laughing, then after a while, they realize that its supposed to hurt and they just sit down and are quiet.  I find it sad and strange.

-Always, always bring a camera wherever you go. Pictures coming soon.

It was an eventful week. No time to tell all the stories, but I have some funny journal entries.

My testimony grows each week, and so does my relationship with my Heavenly Father. I feel like I have grown up so much in 2 weeks. I feel more like a man, its weird. All the difficult parts of the mission is outweighed by all the good parts. Any time I teach the gospel no matter where I am, I feel really good. On the one hand, I wish that I could do this my whole life but on the other, I'm still trying to comprehend that I'll be here for 2 years.  It's odd, but I'm getting more and more used to it every day. 

And, yes, Mom, I'm very happy. Any time I sacrifice, whether it's riding my bike through a ridiculous rainstorm, being uncomfortably sweaty when I fall asleep, waking up, still sweating with damp sheets, having my bike break down for the 4th time in a day, in the middle of nowhere, being bitten by who knows what all night or a dangerous thought like, how nice it would be to taste a tootsie roll or any other American candy, or to just talk with someone in English...  I just think to myself, there is no other time in my life I would rather sacrifice to be in the service of my Savior. It's also really nice, not to have to think about myself all the time. I'm loving it here.

I love you all,

Elder Nelson

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