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 depressing...you 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 like...no 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 DavisThe SMC house before transfers: Sister Nov, Sister Harris, Sister Young, me, Sister Ray and Sister Allen in front.
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.
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.