Monday, December 15, 2014

Adventures in Trash Mountain: The Return of Sister VEEH

Yes, I did go back to trash mountain this past week on an exchange with Sister Young. Nope, I did not take any pictures. Sorry, we were actually kinda busy. It smelled just like I remembered. That smell will probably haunt me for the rest of my life. And the fact that I got my croc ( stuck in black-sludge-trash runoff and it was NASTY. Highlight of that day, you ask? Teaching one of Sister Young's investigators in her little hut built on a legitimate hill of trash and having a Buddhist monk (this guy was far less respectful than your average monk, and he was dressed different.....I think he was like a monk/gypsy hybrid) walk into her home, uninvited, grab my hand and place a buddhist charm in it and then hold out his little money jar for payment. And I was So I tried to tell him that I could not pay him and tried to hand it back and he just assumed I didnt know any khmer because im really pale and stuff and so I tried to explain and literally the second I opened my mouth he just goes
"No, no." *shakes his head, holds out the money jar*
Me: "khnom...."
Him:""No, no" *shakes his head, holds out the money jar*
Me: "Ot yook...."
Him: "No, no" *shakes his head, holds out the money jar*
(This went on for a while).

The man LITERALLY wouldn't let me get a word in edgewise and everytime I tried to give him the charm back he would push my hand away, say "No, no"  and hold out the money jar until I finally was like "I'm NOT giving you any money!!!!"  And then he looked really confused, and took all the jewels and bracelets he had handed to me, Sister Young and our investigator and walked out. 

**Here's how I know he wasn't a real monk. A real monk never would have touched me. Not kidding. I'm supposed to avoid touching monks or their clothing in any way at all costs, apparently.

So it was a good day. nothing else much happened except for my croc deabcle, and the fact that we ended up teaching someone who was neither a member NOR an investigator and we didnt even realize it because Sister Young didn't know what her investigator looked like and as a Sister Training Leader, I'm really on top of things. But that's a story for another time. 

ON that topic, heres a really funny quote from SIster Ray, who is Sister Young's companion, and who clearly still doesn't understand how harsh the phrase "shut up" is (don't worry, I explained it to her).
Sister Young: "Oh. It looks like it might rain."
Sister Ray: "Oh my goodness, Sister Young, will you please shut up."
I laughed so dang hard when I heard that one. 

Bong Sokha is still doing great, by the way. The second or third time we met with her, we followed up and asked if she had been reading and she was like "yeah, I read with my kids every night." (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) and then we asked if she was praying and she goes "well........yeah. Because when I read I also pray to help me understand better." That's like, AMAZING. Thats something not even seasoned American Christians do! And its not even something we told her to do! She's incredible. Yesterday at church, Elder Kim was teaching about baptism and confirmation and all the other ordinances people receive in our church and out of nowhere bong Sokha just goes "I haven't done any of those. I wanna do them all! Super fast! really quick!"  She's just a whole bunch of miracles all wrapped up into one lady. We started officially teaching her sons this week too, but on Sunday they went off to dau leeng somewhere and by the time it was 2:15 (aka the time she leaves to WALK TO CHURCH....yep, I'm bringing it up again) he hadn't come home and she was like "I dont know where he is, so Im just taking my daughter today."  He was off galavanting somewhere random in the streets of Phnom Penh and she didnt know where she was, AND I wasnt even slightly alarmed because.....I get it.It's Cambodia. 
Speaking of that, Sister Harris and I have started this thing where every time we see something that impresses us about Cambodia (like paved roads, sanitizing handsoap, a real mattress or a display of genuine human courtesy) we say "Hey! Good Job Cambodia." So hopefully next week I'll have some more pictures of that. I've taken so far. Its hard to get my camera out of my backpack while im biking okay?!

SIDENOTE: remember how last week I was talking about how mullets are a thing on young children here?  Well.......two days after I sent that email, Sister Harris and I were contacting and I ran into a boy, maybe 12 years of age with THE LONGEST MULLET I HAVE SEEN IN MY ENTIRE LIFE. And probably ever will see. It was like probably half-way down his back and definitely long enough to be featured in a Pantene commercial. I was awe-struck. Truly. I could barely speak.

Sister Harris and I also came up with a new game (nope, not related to contacting sadly). We read the General Conference talks from the leaders of the church, and pick out the most crazy, eloquent phrases we can find, find them in Khmer, and then make it a contest to see who can use it in a lesson the most. So far, I'm winning. We went straight to Uchtdorf, for those crazy analogies and big-boy words and ended up using "healing the wounds of the heart" in our next lesson. That one doesn't sound too crazy, but you'd have to know a little bit about Khmer to understand how funny it was, and how hard Sister Harris was trying not to laugh when I said it. (I was too, but I failed and my voice cracked because of all the held-back laughter).

Also, yesterday Sister Harris and I came across the craziest thing. We were on a random sideroad, on our way to the church, and there was this HUGE crowd gathering outside of some random building. We had to stop our bikes because the crowd was literally so big that we couldn't even move through it. And then out of nowhere, the people in the crowd start shoving each other/trying to get out of the way of something/running away(at this point Im ready to just drop my bike and make a mad-dash away from what looked like the next human stampede) and before I know it, there is this skinny man with blood on his face running past Sister Harris and I on our bikes with his hands tied behind his back and a white banner for some sale flailing behind him.  A couple big men without shirts on (obviously....NOT good job, cambodia) were running after him, and two seconds later, the crowd cleared. I just gave Sister Harris the most confused look and it took us a couple minutes to put it all together but we finally got this much: some crazy guy (thief, bar-brawler, etc) did something really bad, and so these peoples' idea of taking care of it were to tie him to the fence by the string banner. As we were biking by, he broke free and started runnin' from the law. 
Then the next day, aka this morning, we were talking about it again and Sister Harris goes"WAIT! I had scissors in my backpack! I shouldve cut his hands free!"  And I was like should not have. And she goes "yeah nevermind. I bet he ate it on his face half a second later. Nobody can run with their hands tied behind their back!"  

So yep. That happened. Random stories from this week, because nothing super eventful really happened. You can tell how eventful our week is by the number of English class flyers we hang up throughout the city. Its an indirectly proportional relationship.(also the reason Sister Harris had tape and scissors in her bike basket...dont get too alarmed).

So, thats pretty much all I've got. We dont have a P-day next week because our leaders want us to be miserable. JUST KIDDING!!!!! Thats because I'll see you guys next week on Christmas! Get stoked. Anyway, dont expect an email next monday, but meet me in Cambodia over Skype, k? I miss you guys and love you all a lot. 

In the Spirit of Christmas, I'll end with this one: "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:6

Love, Sister Davis

 I know this one is blurry, but its just so important. The place of my shame: where I buy my papaya salad. I'm addicted. Its true. Sister Harris is on her game with candids.

 Me with some random street kids. There were like 3 photos taken and in every single one that kid has his eyes closed because he couldn't handle the flash.

Me and Sister Harris teaching English Class (mostly Sister Harris): okay really good stuff this past week. We played a game where Sister Harris would call out a word and the students would have to write the opposite on the board. Here's how it went down with this one old lookpuu.
Sister Harris: "GRANDMA."
Lookpuu: **writes: "Small port."


Then later, Sister Harris drawing a stick figure family, and pointing to a girl with a dress and long hair: "Who is this?"
Random student: "UNCLE!"

We're in the basic class, okay?

 A flooded area of SMC. Yep, those are roofs you are seeing. Interesting or no? 

Me with Mei and Sokha at choir practice. They are gearing up for a Christmas themed conference and it sounds.......not. horrific. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Deck the harrs with boughs of horry Farararara rararara

^^^^For those of you who understand that reference, I'm finally living my dream. #christmaswithasians
Well, this was was pretty great for Sister Harris and I. I'm gonna start off with the main story of the week, to get that out of the way.
So I think I may have mentioned last week our new almost-investigator, Bong Sokha. She is probably about 30+ years old and has three kids and a husband. She's the neighbor of our favorite recent convert, Om Im.
**It was kinda funny because the first time we had a real conversation with her we were teaching Om Im about temples and the whole Plan of Salvation thing came up so Om Im was talking about after we die and when we get resurrected and being the blunt, old lady Cambodian that she is, Om Im yelled out "So when you get resurrected your body will be perfect! Right now you've only got one arm! After the resurrection you'll have TWO!!!" And I was like.......what? THE WOMAN IS MISSING HER ENTIRE LEFT ARM AND I DIDNT EVEN NOTICE. The funnier part was after we left the lesson and I turned to Sister Harris (who is still having a little trouble understanding Khmer) and I go "Hey did you know Bong Sokha only has one arm?" And Sister Harris goes "SHE ONLY HAS ONE ARM?!?!" You could say we're a pretty observant duo.
Anyway, when we first contacted her, we let her know about church and she seemed interested in learning, but she came back and told us "my husband doesn't want me to go to church in the evening because I have to take care of the kids." SO that was a real bummer for us. Husbands here are always geting in the way. BUT THEN she came to church anyway, and was like "My husband doesn't know Shhhh!!!" and we were like "ok!!" and then she came to stake conference too! Half of our active members didnt even come to stake conference! We were stoked. So then we finally set up an appt to teach her on saturday, two days ago. So we taught her lesson one and literally, im not mkidding, so many incredible, wonderful thiungs happened during that lesson that im just gonna bullet-point them:
- She read the last paragraph of the BoM intro and told us "It already feels right with my heart. I already believe its true." 
- She offered top say the closing prayer and started crying as she asked heavenly father to bless her family and forgive her of her sins
- when we taught about baptism she said she weanted her children to be baptized with her, because she doesnt want her family to be split up. They all have to be in the same religion together.
- She asked us questions to make sure she understood what we were teaching (particularly about prophets) and that is a BIGGIE for cambodians.
- She said that right now her husband drinks but she wants him to stop and that she believes that when she goes to church with her family, they will be happier. 
Guys......this was like the miracle lesson that i have been waiting my whole mission for. SIster Harris and I left her house and stopped our bikes around the corner because we were smiling and laughing from excitement and almost crying about how amazing it was. And then it was all followed up by Bong Sokha coming to church yesterday for all three hours AND bringing all of her kids. When I asked her how she got there she goes, "I walked from my house...its not too far." And I was like, "tell that to all the grumpy people i contact who lives 3 minutes from here and tell me its too far for them!!!!" It felt like my heart ripped in half. I told Sister Harris that she had walked all the way with her kids and Sis Harris just grabbed her heart and yelled "SHE ONLY HAS ONE ARM THOUGH!!!!"  She is absolutely GOLDEN. I already love her so much and want to help her and her family with all of my heart. She is SO SWEET and sincere and faithful. I just cant even handle it. She's still new, and we don't know exactly where things will go from here, because new investigators are so unpredictable, but so far she has been one of the greatest blessings/miracles of my mission.
Speaking of Sunday, it was probavbly one of the best SUndays of my whole mission. We had Bong Sokha and her family, plus all of our recent converts, plus a less-active family who used to be very offended but they came AND the mom bore her testimony, plus an inactive young women who got help from Mei and Mian to come to church, PLUS we got a referral from a member Sister Harris and I call "the beautiful lady" because she's probably the prettiest Cambodian I have ever seen. Her referral came to church with her (!!!!!!) and was like "Here is my phone number, this is where my house is, these are the hours Im free, call me anytime." She was great. AND THEN (no Im not done, just chill for a sec) a random woman that Sis Harris and I contacted came top church too! We don't ever expect our contacts to be fruitful because everyone rejects or is like "uhhhhhhh......yeah i mean i guess you can come back, i dont really care......" and then they turn into non-progressing investigators. SO we didn't get too excited when this woman told us she wanted to learn. Still, I went back to teach her when I was on an exchange with Sister Matthews, and her husband joined in and they said they were gonna come to church. Lo and behold, SHE ACTUALLY CAME and she stayed for all three hours AND the third hour lesson was on tithing and instead of running away and screaming she turned to another member and asked, "Can I pay my tithing now?"  
***Cue the "Hallelujah" chorus. ***
So, miracles. They are real. They are available to all (even if you are whitewashing Steungmeanchey) and they WILL happen if you just keep on being patient and "look up" instead of getting discouraged. He knows your hard work! Keep on going, and you will see the miracles not far off. As they say in Cambodia, Suu Suu!!!
Okay, so thats enough of that. But, a random thing: another great moment this week was when President Moon informed us during zone conference that FINALLY FINALLY FINALLY CAMBODIA IS GETTING REAL HYMNBOOKS!!!!! 
This has been a great frustration of my mission. They currently have a little paperback hymnbook in Khmer that has about 50 songs in it, and approximately 10 of them are actually sung because the Cambodians never want to learn the other ones. Do you have any idea how many times I have heard tone-deaf Cambodians singing "Do what is right"?? DO YOU?!  Well, no longer. I found the hymnbook transcript in the Kampong Cham house when I was in my training. The hymns have been translated into Khmer for a looooong time, but it has just been sitting in Salt Lake waiting to be approved. President Moon actually expected them to get to the country last Christmas, but they never arrived. Well, they are finally on their way. I am SO excited. Someone sent some copies of the christmas hymns in Khmer to the choir director in our branch and it got be so excited. 
On that note, I am re-writing "The Christmas Song" to fit the lifestyle of a Cambodian missionary. So far all I've got is this: "Fish heads roasting on a open fire, stray dogs nipping at your heels, off-key church hymns being sung by khmers......." and then something else. Thats where my long bike-rides go in case you were wondering. 
Stories about little Cambodian children:
It's a really good thing "Stranger Danger" isn't a thing here. Sister Harris and I were trying to get in touch with this one inactive member who hasn't come to church since like maybe 2004. She nice enough, but just hard to get hold of because she works a ton. So we went to her house which has this annoying bamboo gate out front, and we were calling her name from outside the gate but were getting no response, except for the blank stare of a tiny asian boy (who had a mullet, no less. Thats right: Cambodians love to give relaly young kids mullets. I just.....I dont even know.) So I asked him like three questions about if Sophoan was home or not, all of which got me more silence. I just started rattling at this awful gate trying to get it open and get inside but I couldn't unlatch it. If it were me, I probably would have freaked out that a stranger was trying to get in my house unannounced. Eventually he just hopped off his perch and unlatched the gate and let us inside even though he had legit NO IDEA who we were. I asked again if Sophoan was home and he just shook his head. But anyway, the point is, it amused me that he just let two random white strangers into his house without question. 
Second story: So, all Cambodian children here are taught how to talk to Americans. Its actually super annoying. They never see white people, so when they do see us its like one big joke to them and you get random drunk men yelling "HELLOOOO" in your face because its the only english they know. BUT, the cute part is the kids. You get HOARDS of tiny children gathering together rujnning alongside your bike yelling out "Hello! Hello! Hello!" waving at you and trying to grab your hand. So, some of the older children, if they have been taught in school, they know one other sentence: "What is your name?" and they say it the exact. same. way. every time. Its like an asian accent and they say it super fast: "HELLOWHATISYONAME?" If you respond and say "my name is sister davis. What is your name?" they will just laugh and have no idea what you're saying becuase its just a random sentence they memorized in school. So one day SIster Harris turned around and was like "Hey! Whats your name?" in a normal american accent. They didn't respond. And I was like "Sister Harris, they'll never understand you if you say it like that. You have to say it with an asian accent." and she was like, "Oh whatever, sister davis, you're full of it." So she gets back on her bike, and just for my own satisfaction I yelled out "HELLOWHATISYONAME?" and immediately came the response "MYNAMEISPISETH!" 
Sister Harris just goes "Ohh, COME ON!!!" It was one of the better moments of her training Im sure. If she remembers nothing about missionary work, at least she'll remember that. 
So to sign off, I'll share on other thing. Earlier in the week, before the whole Bong Sokha thing happened, Sister Harris and I were having a hard time. We've had little to no success since we've been here, and at the beginning of next week, things weren't looking up. We had gotten a "referral" for a girl named Bong Chan who the elders told us wanted to learn, and we went all the way out to her house which was in CHINA just to have her be like....I dont care about your church. I just wanna know about the free english class you teach. So I was getting bummed and honestly, pretty frustrated. But then recently President Moon had this teaching that came to mind. He talked about how we have our numbers that we report on every week, called key indicators, and they are things like number of lessons taught, number of new investigators, number of contacts and referrals....etc. He said, "Yes, those numbers are important in reporting and setting goals. We have to set goals to improve our work. BUT, I'm far more interested in the key indicators that never get reported. How many people smiled today because our missionaries stopped to help them? How many people were kinder to their spouse or children because the missionaries gave them a call and it reminded them to be more Christlike? How many people felt LOVED because our missionaries stopped in just to say Hi? How many people served someone else because of the example of our missionaries? And on and on....he gave so many. And I'm gonna be really honest here.......I have gotten to be one of those missionaries who gets really concerned about the numbers and gets really stressed when I'm not making my goals. It's something that, for the past few transfers, has really frustrated me. But that training made me realize a few things: When I finish my mission, I am not going to have a count of "total lessons taught". BUT I'll have a ton of memories to think back on and a lifetime to think "Did I do everything I could to help others and be the best person I could be?" SO should I care if I met my goals? Yes, I should care because that is what will help me progress, but I should also keep in my mind that Heavenly Father knows our hearts and desires, not just the numbers written in our planners. So, thats my piece for this week. 
I love you guys and miss you guys, and hope you are gearing up for Christmas like we are! I am definitely PUMPED for this Christmas! Way different from last Christmas when I was in KC and homesick like nobody's business. 
Send me some snow and peppermint bark.

Love, Sister Davis

I dont know how it got here....but I was pretty pleased.

What I look like during candid photos, thanks to Sister Harris's stellar eye for timing. This is the face I make when I remember that I'm not supposed to be taking pictures while proselyting so I can avoid looking like a tourist.
---> who made that rule anyway? Unfortunately, as long as I'm in Asia, I ALWAYS look like a tourist.

Monday, December 1, 2014

"This tastes like giraffe cage."

^^^^^How Sister Harris describes canned soymilk. Sage words from my companion.
On the topic of soymilk, Om Im did not make us any when we visited her this week, but she still had her moments. 1) Sister Harris and I offered to help her hang up her wet laundry, and obviously she said no (they always do). So instead, Sister Harris and I snuck behind her while she was talking to a neighbor and started hanging things up. When she saw she yelled "NO! STOP!"and waddled over like lightning and snagged this MASSIVE pile of clothes and started running away from us so we couldn't help. And then when I offered to help fold the dry clothes she grabbed my arm with one of her hands and with the other hand she gave me a WHACK. It hurt pretty bad but the crazy thing is that it was meant in love. Go figure. Then she sat us down and put a bunch of bananas on the table and just pointed her finger out and yelled "EAT!" Trust me, that word is way funnier in Khmer. She's actually not a scary or mean woman, she's just a very classic old Khmer woman. I love her to pieces.
Other classic Cambodian things: Their love of rice. We're all aware of that one. The other day, Sister Ray and Sister Nov got into a fake fight over soemthing and Sister Nov yelled, "FINE! We break up now!" And Sister Ray yelled back "Okay we break up! YOU CAN'T EAT MY RICE ANYMORE!!" I died laughing and ran upstairs to write it down. You know things are SERIOUS when a Khmer tells you that you can't eat their rice anymore.
Last of the cultural mishaps this week: Cambodians are Buddhist. And they put their little buddhist shrines EVERYWHERE. Complete with the idols, incense, and food offerings. And all i've been told by Khmers is that those thigns are sacred to people and I shouldn't even touch them. Well, Sister Harris and I were walking in a phsaa and I totally ran into a shrine. It should've been in a movie. I wasn't looking where I was going, walked right into it, and ended up kicking a silver bowl. It bounced and rolled for like ten feet and made a clattering sound so everyone turned around and looked at me. I just ran away and hid behind sister Harris. We wont be going back there anytime soon.
So back to America. It was Thanksgiving this week, wasn't it! We got to go to the senior couples house for an hour and they made mashed potatoes and turkey and stuffing, and after an hour, it was back to regular proselyting. No football games, no Macy's parade.....just a lot of less-actives. But it was a pretty good thanksgiving lunch otherwise. While we were there, we got to see the new church ad "He is the Gift." SO GOOD. I'll get into that later.
Also, speaking of America, Sister Harris and I were curious how Black Friday went over. The day after thanksgiving, which was thanksgiving night for you guys, Sister Harris looked at her watch while we were biking and goes, "According to my watch its 12:04 on Black Friday. Do you think anyone has died yet?" We tried explaining the craziness of black friday to the khmers and they were so confused. Our only advice to them: "If you're ever in America, DON"T go to Walmart the day after thanksgiving." **Not sure that was helpful. I dont think they know what Walmart is.**
So, Thaksgiving night, SIster Harris FINALLY gave me persmission to set up my Christmas tree from last year that Sister Homer gave me and start playing christmas music. We have a tree, ornaments, wrapped gifts, fake snow, flashing lights, a nativity scene (lego style....thanks mom) and a scented pinecone. It's basically like we're in America, except for the fact that I'm sweating from the heat and our house smells like fried fish instead of pie. 
So, we also had Stake Conference for South Zone this past Saturday and Sunday. It was at the South Stake Center in Chamkarmon instead of in Steungmeanchey, so a lot of the members from SMC didn't come because it was too far. BUT our faithful Om Im called a tuk tuk and made her way over. When we taught her the day before she was like, Its so far and I dont know where it is! And we were like, we'll talk to your neighbors (long time members) they can explain to you where it is, and you can totally come! You can do it Om! And she was like Yeah!!! I can get a tuk tuk! And she totally followed through! We later found out that she rode her tuk tuk to our other recent converts house and was like "hop in!" She is too awesome. Even better, she brought her neighbor, a woman named Bong Sokha who is ineterested in learning with us. Right now her schedule is a littel nuts, so it has been difficult, but she has been to church once, and brought her kids, and she came to stake conference so we are super impressed with her, especially since 80% of our members didn't even go to stake conference. 
BUT we are not getting too down about it. Even though the numbers were way less than they should be, it was still fun to go. There were about 250 people there from 6 wards, and the room was pretty packed. We started the opening hymn and lots of people were still coming in, and it was awesome because we heard the intro to the hymn, and as soon as the congregation started singing, they opened the doors for the overflow room because we needed more space for people to sit down. And I am used to hearing about 40 people singing off key, so to hear 250 people singing loud and proud together as a congregation was super awesome. Gave me chills. Another movie moment for the week.
Fun story about Sister Harris this week though. She got SASSY with the choir director at Stake Conference. The director for the choir is a woman named Seila and she has about fifty callings. She's young, and really cool and fashionable and sort of one of the key members in Cambodia. So she's a bit intimidating and Sister Harris and I have been happy to be her slaves for a while, playing the piano for the choir. But the night before stake conference, she asked us to stay late (past our curfew) to practice and we were like, Seila, we have no elders to take us home past curfew, and we have to BIKE home 40 minutes away. We can't stay! The main issue was that there was a piano player there who was more than capable of taking Sister Harris' spot for the night. And Seila was like, "no. you have to stay." So Sister Harris took matters into her own hands and asked the guy to play the piano so we could go home and he was fine with it, and she went up to seila and was like ok, its taken care of we're leaving now. and seila goes, "You can't leave!" (not in a desperate way, shes a bit scary). And Sister Harris goes back änd days "You don't own me Seila!!! We're going home!!!" It was kind of hilarious from my perspective. I was a little terrified of both of them, but also super happy Sister Harris stood her ground so that we could be home on time. I was like, well you handled it in a very gruff manner, but I'm still proud of ya. Thats my girl.
So anyway, the main conversation Sister Harris and I have been having this week is this: missions are LONG. Since this is my second time going through the Christmas season in Cambodia, I have come to a realization: missions are, in fact, quite long. And everybodydoes that thing where they are like "oh it goes by so fast!" and thats true. But DANGIT!!! I've been here for forever!!!! I just didn't realize it until now. The only logical explanation is that missions are so wonderful and so worth it, and thats why it goes by lickety-split. 
Okay my other thoguht for this week: The church advertisement for "He is the Gift". Okay, this video almost made me cry. It was so dang inspirational that all I wated to do was go outside and tell every unassuming Cambodian "HEY!! GOD LOVES YOU!!! So He sent His Son just for you!!! Christ IS the Gift!!!!" But unfortunately, they wold have ZERO clue what I would be talking about, so that would be a less-effective approach. But here are my thoughts:
1) watch the video. Its like 2 minutes and absolutely worth it. Here it is:
2) be grateful for the greatest Gift that mankind has ever known. The birth, life, example, ministry, and Atonement of Jesus Christ. That is God's gift to you. Every single day. there is no greater gift in the world. 
3) Share the gift. I read a quote by someone important (forgive me for not remembering who or exactly what they said) but they essentiqally said that the beauty of the Christmas season is that everyone is touched by the Spirit of Christmas, which in reality is the Spirit of CHRIST. People want to love more, to serve more, to be a little kinder, to be a little more grateful. Use that Spirit to your advantage, and share the gift of Christ's life with a dear friend, a family member, someone who needs that gift in their life. Because we all need it. 
I'm going to end with a really cliche scripture. We all know this one, but I love it now more than ever, because every time i think about it, it holds new meaning for me. This Christmas season, think long and hard about this scripture. Think about what God's gift has done for you, and think about how it can help everyone around you, too.
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son
......that the world through him might be saved." John 3:16
I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas season. Wish me luck in SMC. 
Let's do this again next week. 

Love, Sister Davis

 My Christmas Display!!!!! Fake snow, a tree with ornaments and a skirt and lights (thank you SIster Homer) a nativity scene and presents!!!! I STINKIN LOVE CHRISTMAS.

 Mother and daughter decorating the tree together.

 We went to this one investigators house and Sister Harris saw this withering green plant at the top of her door and she goes, "What, is that supposed to be mistletoe??" I love my sarcastic companion. #tistheseasonincambodia
Happy Thanksgiving from the SMC missionaries!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Ceh tae mian mong

Not sure where to start this email, so I'll just jump right into it:

For all of you who were wondering about so-called "Trash Mountain" well......I've finally made it as a missionary in Cambodia. Trash mountain is approximately five minutes from my house so its actually in SMC, but its in third branch, so I wasn't sure I would ever get to see it. But luckily I still get to do exchanges here and I did one with Sister Ray who's serving in third branch.
PAUSE: Sister Ray is one of my favorite Khmer Sisters here and I love her so much that on a whim i offered to sponsor her if she wanted to go to BYU, sooooooooooo Mommy and Daddy, you're up.
OKAY. So I went into Sister Ray's branch and got to go to the infamous trash mountain. I don't have any great pictures of it myself but I have a couple of me on the outskirts. You have to really bike inside of it to get the full effect but im sure you could google it. Anyway, for those of you who don't know, Trash mountain was a landfill that the garbage companies dumped all their trash into. And what may surprise you is that recycling is actually a big thing in cambodia. the really, super poor people rummage through garbage piles and pick out things that they can recycle for a few cents. Anyway, at a certain point, people just started building their homes on top of the trash and behold! It became trash mountain. I think it used to be a lot worse a year or so ago, because right now that have moved the site for the landfill and so everyone is actually moving their houses too. But the principle is generally the same. People building their houses on mounds of trash. Building it out of the trash, really. In all honesty, I wasn't hugely impressed because so many people built it up, but that could also be because I'm just very jaded by now. In my head, it was an extreme version of the tracks from Tuolkork. Remember the train tracks that were lined with trash that people built their houses on? Same idea. But anyway, while we were there, Sister Ray and I helped some less-active members recycle their trash. It was pretty disgusting, but worth the good deed. They walk around the streets hauling these huge carts and filling them with any trash they can scavenge and find. The members there are mostly less active and very very poor, but Sister Ray is doing an awesome job in that area. She's such a trooper.

On that delicious note, I have some food comments to make. First: remember when I couldn't handle spicy food, and I was eating Chili flavored Ramen to train myself for Cambodia? (I was SUCH a fool). Well, I'm over that. The more Thai chili peppers the better. Thai chili peppers are these really tiny red and green peppers that are super spicy. I put them in EVERYTHING. the other day I bought some Papaya Salad ( SO DELICIOUS. I want to make that for you guys if i can) on the side of the road and asked her to put in twice the amount of chili peppers that she normally does. I was eating it at home and my nose was running and I was breathing like a dragon because my tongue was on fire BUT IT IS SO DELICIOUS so i just kept eating anyway and Sister Nov just starts laughing at me and she goes (pay attention because you guys will really like this part): "Sister Davis, you know what we say in Cambodia? People who eat spicy food are always STUBBORN people. Its to hot for them but they are too stubborn to stop eating." Valid. I thought you guys might enjoy that since we all know my number one personality trait is stubborn. 
Second: Sugar cane juice. This stuff exists in abundance here. Its on every street corner and its my favorite thing in the world. Its legit sugar cane and they have a little machine that rolls and presses the sugar cane so you get the fresh pressed juice from it and then they put it in a little baggie with ice and a straw. My favorite treat. I get it all the time. (I have justified the fact that Im straight up DRINKING SUGAR byt telling myself that its natural sugar, so don't even worry about it). The other day I got some and Sister Harris was like "Is that the thing you're gonna miss most from your mission?"  Uh, yes, most likely. Its gone so far that now my contacting goal is to find one new sugar cane person every week. Thats one more new person to contact! You probably think I'm joking...

OH also I totally forgot to tell you guys last week that we all got transfer calls. I forgot to tell you because it was a teeny tiny transfer. Almost nobody changed. Pretty much all the trainers are still with their trainees, including me and Sister Harris. So not much to report there. Although, Sister Soun got transferred to Kampong Thom. So sad! I'm gonna miss being with her in the city. Before she left she sent me this letter, which cracked me up. When I trained her, I taught her the phrase "Do as I say, not as I do." (You can all use your imaginations as to why that even came up) So here's a picture of the letter she sent me:
Anywho, we also had Special Activity Night for Englsih class since it was the end of the transfer. One of the elders in our area was Elder Khem (a Khmer but born and raised in Texas) and he was hysterical. He's one of those people thats really into science and scifi type stuff and engineering and he's wildly creative. The general idea in our zone is, if you just let him go on a rant, you'll proabbly get a cool idea out of him. So we were trying to figure out what to do for activity night and Elder Khem shouts out "Mission Impossible on the Moon!" and we all started laughing at him like, Elder Khem, what does that even mean? and Sister Allen goes "SHH! Just let him start talking!" So even though Elder Khem doesn't even know what he's talking about he just starts in hoping to get somewhere and comes up with this crazy story where we all are on a spaceship and then it crashes on the moon and we have to repair the spaceship, kill the aliens and save the astronauts (complete with sound effects). And guess what? We actually did that. And it was super fun! Elder Khem cut out pieces from an old refridgerator box to turn his bike into a "spaceship" and then he crashed. Sister Harris and I were in charge of the aliens game. All in all, it was a success. 

Sister Harris and I also had a couple fun experiences with our recent converts. First is Ming Puang, the former Christian who sings in her prayers (who know what I'm talking about). Christians here have a habit of always saying "Thank you God" (in Khmer obviously) and she is the one who does it best. Just a sample from our most recent lesson:
"This is such a good scripture. Thank you God."
"Where's my pencil? I need my pencil to mark the scripture. Oh! I found it, Thank you God."
"Tonight, I'm having fish for dinner, Thank you God."
It's like ANYTHING can be followed by that sentence for them. So Sister Harris and I find that pretty funny. But even better than that is Om Im. She is also a former Christian and the other day we went to go teach her and walked into her Bible study circle with her and two of her friends from another nearby church. Which was totally fine and dandy, until they started a weird prayer circle and Sister Harris and I lost it. These women are NUTS and went off on so many random rants about Jesus that I seriously couldn't handle it. I realized at a certain point that there was no way we would be able to share anything in time because we had another appointment, so I just offered to say a prayer with them and then part ways. Well, they took that as an invitation to start a prayer circle. After I finished, one of them went "Thank you Teacher ( a lot of people who don't know us as well call us "Teacher" which is actually kind of cool because it's a very respectful term, especially coming from someone older than you) "I will go now....." and then she went into the "HALLELUJAH"s and "THANK YOU GOD"s it was odd. and then the next woman went, and then Om Im went and sister harris and i were like uhhh.......what do we do? so we just sat as quietly as possible trying not to laugh too hard. Its not a disrespectful kind of laughing when these things occur, its really more just like......what is even happening right now? And when its an old lady its always funnier. 

We also did some more CBR finding this week and had a bit of success. One day, we spent a while looking for this one girls house, who has been inactive pretty much since 2003. We found her house but she wasn't home. Her name is Sophoan. Anyway, a couple days later we wanted to go find a recent new member who has also been inactive and nobody knows her (a little wonder how those things happen but hey...this is Cambodia). So we followed her CBR, another badly drawn map. It turns out, these girls are essentially neighbors. But the maps were drawn from different perspectives and they were very badly detailed so we came to the same street, one from a main road, and the other way through maze-like alleys and back roads. We popped out on this corner in the middle of this maze and we were way. They're ten steps away from each other! So anyway, we were able to meet both of them that day, so that was cool. 

Fun story about Sister Harris this week: I was downstairs making dinner and I just hear Sister Harris upstairs from our room "SISTER DAVIS!!!!" and then she comes pounding down the stairs, panting and sounding like she's having an anxiety attack and holding the phone out to me -  "SISTER DAVIS TAKE THE PHONE. THEY'RE TALKING TO ME! AND THEY'RE SPEAKING KHMER!"  I just about died laughing. You will most likely only find that funny if you have an understanding of how difficult it is to understand Khmer, especially on the phone, and how nobody can understand a word when they are brand new. It was pretty funny because it reminded me of when I was in Kampong Cham and the phone rang and it was a recent convert and I started yelling at Sister Homer who was in the bathroom "WHAT DO I DO? WHAT DO I DO?!" and she was like/......pick it up, you fool. So I answered back, "Cant you do it?!?" and she was like..."Sister DAvis....IM IN THE BATHROOM JUST PICK IT UP!" So i answered the phone and it took me five minutes just to understand the NAME of the person talking and then I was like "okay, wait, sister homer, bye" because thats all i could manage to say, and then hung up. good times.

So to end this scattered email, here's a quote from Elder Khem who has sice left SMC and gone to Kean Svaay:
"It's the word of God, and that is NOT awkward."  
Our district meetings are very enlightening.

Well, that's all for this week. Its been a little disappointing with a lot of appointments falling through the last couple weeks, but we're not getting down and still working hard. Steungmeanchey is doing well. Love you guys! 

Love, Sister Davis
 The SMC house before transfers: Sister Nov, Sister Harris, Sister Young, me, Sister Ray and Sister Allen in front. 
Remember Mei and Mian? The twins from Tuolkork? Well they moved to SMC while I was in Battambang and now I'm serving in their branch again! Its funny because when I came back they were like "Sister you know so much more khmer now!"  so instead of making fun of me like they used to, they now make fun of sister harris. Its interesting to be on the other side. They kind of remind me of the pixies from harry potter 2. I love em both. 
 Sister Harris doing some roadside bike work. The bikes we get are AWFUL and constantly falling apart. PS I got Sister Homer's old bike. Its purple and I call it Penelope. 

                                                                   Trash Mountain!
This is on the very very outskirts of trash mountain. On the inside, they have another big trash pile but I didn't want to take pictures there because people watch and its awkward.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Soymilk from the world's armepit

This week as a compliment during our weekly planning, Sister Harris told me that she has observed that I'm good at controlling my temper. I'm still laughing about it. 
I would like to contend that I still don't know how to control my temper, it's just that Cambodia has sucked the temper out of me. There is only so much to be angry at when you are in a country that's always sunny and has people who wear pajamas everywhere and laugh when they rub your arm hair. (Sister Harris got her first taste of that the other day. I think she was less than pleased.)

So it turns out that all of my companions, Sister Harris included, have taken it upon themselves to teach me all of the songs from the Children's Songbook. Since it's Christmastime, Sister Harris has taken her job seriously. She won't let me listen to Christmas music until after Thanksgiving, but she has marked the pages in my songbook for the Children's Christmas songs. She goes, "Joseph goes to Bethlehem, The Nativity song and Picture a Christmas. those are the heavy hitters. You have to know them for when you get called to work in the Primary."  That wasn't even a funny joke.

Om Im, one of our hilarious recent converts (the super old, roly-poly woman) is definitely starting to warm up to us. At first, I think she was reluctant to let go of the elders and have the sisters teach her instead. It only took her a couple weeks. Now she is really starting to love us. Whenever she sees me she waddles over and smiles real big and squeezes my arms and everytime we go to visit her at her house she gives us her homemade soymilk. (Poor Sister Harris is just going to have to accept the fact that I write unfortunate bathroom stories about most of my companions). So, I haven't had any problems with the soymilk, but Sister Harris has a very sensitive stomach and she is straight up CONVINCED that the stuff is evil. She had had it twice already and noticed similar......consequences both times. So this past week We sit down at Om Im's and she goes "Let me grab the soymilk." I don't thnk Sister Harris understood what she said though because Om Im wentinside and SIster Harris goes, "Oh no. OH NO. Is she getting the milk?" I just sort of smirked at her and when Om Im came out with the pitcher Sister Harris is like "Oh no. h gosh. Here she comes. She's coming. That stuff is straight up laxatives is what it is!!"    was in tears laughing so hard at my companion's pain. I'm a great mom. Always lookin out for her. (Although I will say that I did offer to drink her cup when Om wasn't looking.) Anyway, that's how you know someone loves you - when they offer you homemade soymilk that acts as an atomic bomb to your system.

Well, we contacted a lot and picked up a couple new investigators this week. They both are familiar with Christianity a little, and they both seem pretty sincere, but neither of them came to church this week because they were both going back to their "homeland" this past week. recently everyone and their dog has been headed back to the provinces for long weekends and its getting super annoying. It just makes me wish I could go with them back to Battambang or Kampong Cham. PLus, they dont come to church and thats also pretty annoying. 

Also this past week Sister Harris taught English class and it was AWESOME. Elder Plothow, who normally teaches our class, was sick and he texted me asking to fill in as English Class Leader (I had some PTSD flashbacks from when I was in Battambang as the English class leader when he asked me) and to find someone to teach. So I asked Sister Harris to teach because she actually really likes teaching. It was super cool. She was totally in her element. She was making everyone laugh and I got to sort of assist her. It was super funny. We read the story of the Boy who cried wolf and she did a pretty good rendition. Then we taught them about the word "rather" which is way more difficult to explain than you think. Sometimes english cass is so dumb (This is how you pronounce the letter 'P': "Puhh!") So stupid. But SIster Harris made it really funny for them I think. I was so proud of her. She didnt think it was that big of a deal though. She goes, " I may not be able to speak Khmer, but I am an EXPERT at English. No problem!"

Another fun Sister Harris-biking story. So her bike chain keeps on getting all messed up. And it has happened so many times til this point that we have worked out a system where she will scooter herself on the bike to catch up to me and then grab onto the scarf that I tie onto my backpack (i have told you guys about these scarves. they work for many, MANY situations). So then I just tow her on her bike behind me. Hopefully we'll get a picture of it one day. It's hard work for em but also hilarious. For some reason, when Sister Harris loses the abilty to bike, she also loses the ability to remember to STEER herself. So I go by a moto or a tuk tuk and all I can tell from behind me is that she has let go of my scarf, almost run herself into the opposing vehicle and I usually her an "Oh no!" and a squeal of fear before she falls off her bike. Pretty funny for me. Last night I was towing her like normal back home at night in a pretty quiet area near our house and she just goes "It's like I'm in a parade. Hello Cambodia."  Her sense of humor is something you have to hear in person. It's got me doubled over every day.

Another good quote from her about contacting people: "Some people are such HATERS! It doesn't have to be hard!" Good advice for all you normal people out there. If you meet the missionaries, be nice and pleasant. If you really ask them to, they will just go away. We are not like mosquitos that just keep on coming back no matter how many times you swat. Dont be awkward like cambodians and just laugh and beat around the bush. Just be normal and nice and honest. It doesn't have to be hard!

Here's my one complaint about the Cambodian society this week: these people need to get on top of their addresses. I can't remember if I mentioned this part to you guys when I was trying to explain how difficult CBR finding is here. There really is no such thing as an address here. Few people actually have a house number, most people don't live on main roads, and almost no one can tell you what nieghborhood they currently reside in. It's downright impossible. All I do is go up to a person and Im like, "Sorry, to bother you, but I'm just looking for Russei village, group 6. Do you know where that is?"
Most common responses:
1) No.
2) I don't know my own group.
3) I don't think that place exists.

Number 3 is real. If they don't know where it is, they will just tell you it doesn't exist. THIS IS MY LIFE.

Another random quote from Sister Harris about that one offended less-active family: "They're not the only people that hate us. They were just the first."

The coolest thing that happened this week was that Brother Gibson and Brother Tanner came to our mission. The First Counselors in the General Sunday School Presidency and the General Young Men's Presidency from Salt Lake. Sister Harris was playing a special musical number for a meeting they had with the members and so we got to meet them and say hello and when brother tanner asked me where i was from, he was like "Oh New Canaan! We had an Elder Larson from there!" Turns out he was the mission president in Brazil over Nick Larson's mission. Small world.  I love little connections like that. He was a really nice guy. So theres your shout out for the week.

I think thats pretty much it. I'll leave some stuff for next week. Nothing new with any people we are teaching but we're hoping that things start happening soon. We're both loving Steungmeanchey and the members here. 
Love you guys and miss you so much!\

Love, Sister Davis

PS You guys are all slacking. I got a postcard from 9-year-old Luke Bryant this week, which went as follows:

"Dear Chole,
Are you haveing fun in the armepit of the world? hahahaha Do you like being where you are? because I wouldnt because I don't like liveing in a armepit. good luck love, luke."

This is the best mail I have received on my whole mission. The rest of you better keep up to Luke's standard. 

Sorry i didnt really take any pictures of myself this week but you can have some random ones of sister harris if you want!