Thursday, April 30, 2015

Another Full Day of Serving and Growing

More times than not as we go to our office we are not 100% sure what will keep us going that day.  In some ways, that is probably to test our faith and to keep us praying sincerely as we start each day. We are completely convinced that as we ask, then we are blessed in ways that cannot be completely explained other than blessings from heaven.

Sampson in India, Panguestura in Pakistan, Elder Francom and Miigaa from Mongolia,
Elder & Sister Kentjana in Indonesia, Ann in Thailand, Marco in Hong Kong
One thing that was already on our schedule today was an Asia Perpetual Education Fund video conference call.  This group includes Church employees, Senior Missionary Couples and Church Volunteers who come from India, Pakistan, Mongolia, Indonesia, Thailand, Hong Kong and of course Cambodia.  Sister Oveson was asked to spend two minutes and tell something about herself to the rest of the group.  These video conferences are always very helpful as we continue to understand the new software and our role here.

After the video conference we realized that we had some additional information to record based on our phone calls over the last couple weeks.  In the future we will be able to record key information as we go along instead of going back later.

Today was also full of correspondence in many ways.  We have been working with President Moon on several different items, dealing with the Local Cambodian Missionaries as they prepare to go home to qualify for PEF loans to teaching Self Reliance principles to members.  We saw several of those projects make big steps forward today.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Crosswalk Entertainment and Other Random Observations


Here in Cambodia even the crosswalks can be entertaining. This video clip was difficult to get, but here it is (and we hope it works). Please note that as the time counts down at the crosswalk, the animated walking person gets faster and faster.  Isn't that what the pedestrians do? Except, of course, here in Cambodia the pedestrians seem to go at any time, along with the Motos and Tuk Tuks. Let's face it; Traffic here is just CRAZY!
video
Another interesting observation, we have noticed that the meetinghouses are one of the local gathering places. It is interesting almost any time throughout the day there are people meeting in the church buildings. Sometimes there are individuals hanging out, probably using the Wi-Fi and doing homework. Other times we have seen groups visiting there. We have even seen some taking naps on the bench on the open balcony area upstairs by the chapel.  The parking lots are also a popular place for anyone to park, we will come out of the building and very few people are there put there are lots of motos.  There are also times in the morning when there are cars there when we get there and stay there all day, but they do not belong to the Church employees, because they all drive motos.

We have told you about our parking attendants here at our apartments, but there are also guards at most of the Church properties, including the Mission Home and Church Service Center.  It is just one of those things here in Cambodia, but it does provide employment to part of their population, as well as increase the security of the buildings.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Our Sister Sign Wavers, A Package From Home and Understanding Our Blessings

Sister Harris and Sister Fife
This morning as we drove into the Phnom Penh South Stake parking lot four of the Sister Missionaries were out front with the English Class signs.  We had never seen them in the morning before so we went and talked with them to see if we had just missed them in the past.  They explained that they usually do it at night but were trying to get a new demographic of potential English Class participants, so they decided to try the morning drive time.  We figured that they needed to be our picture for today.

Last night as we met with the Senior Missionaries, President Moon asked for some help with putting together a Twister game for Saturday's Returned Missionary Reunion.  Elder Oveson volunteered Sister Oveson for the project, which she did accept.  This morning she jumped right into figuring out how to do it, and we already had the material that we need in our little cabinet.  She was going to do three sets and had one all the way done when we got a call from the Mission Office. Sister Moon had asked a Sister missionary with some health problems to do that project.  That was alright with Sister Oveson, and we promised to take what we had to the Mission Home this afternoon.

Also this morning we got an email from Hong Kong telling us that Elder Randy Funk, of the Second Quorum of Seventy who is also a member of the Asia Area Presidency, wanted to Skype with us at 11:00 our time.  He gave us an assignment to followup with some Church Leaders that he had visited with in his prior visits to Cambodia.  We are always willing to take assignments from any of the Brethren.

Our trip to the Mission Home actually turned out for our benefit instead of the other way around.  The package that Marla had sent to us arrived today.  Marla truly knows her parents well, along with the items that we had requested was a bag of Almond M&Ms.  We will have to see how long we can make them stretch, we still have some left from the previous package that we have been rationing.  A taste of the U.S. is always a welcome treat.

Last week when we had the big wind storm it knocked out power to Siem Reap, the second largest city in Cambodia, for four days.  We were talking to Sameth about that and he said that his power was out for one day.  We asked him what they did with the food in their refrigerator, and he told me that they do not have one. The electricity is too expensive to have one.  That just broke our hearts for them.  Then today we were talking about where Sameth and Phanna live.  Sameth has a one room flat that is about 300 square feet total, but Phanna has about 690 square feet.  Those are both very small, even for their little families.  We have been so blessed in our lives, we have no room to complain about what the Lord has shared with us.



Monday, April 27, 2015

Another day, Another traffic jam!

It has been a mostly uneventful day, that is until this evening. We returned to our apartment for not quite an hour this evening to heat some Mango Chicken Sauce we were contributing to a Senior Couples dinner/FHE get together at the Hollenzer's. When we were ready to leave we were double blocked in in the garage (which was just the beginning). We don't know what was going on in the city tonight but the roads were all packed with cars, mottos, tuk tuks and any imaginable form of transportation. We thought 30 minutes would be plenty of time, since it usually takes about 15 to 20 minutes to get there. Our alley out to the main road was even completely packed. We considered taking a picture, but 1000 words a picture speaks would not begin to cover the traffic tonight.  Because of the gridlock at each intersection we had to wait a minimum of four light changes to get through a light, and that was after inching our way to be close enough to see the light.

We never figured out what was the reason for the delay. Maybe everyone was making up for how empty the streets were during new year. Whatever the reason, it took us almost an hour to get there.

In the meantime, Sister Oveson had the crock pot at her feet to keep her warm, since the car said it was 35 degrees, which is 95 Fahrenheit. Let's just say she didn't have a chance of being too cold!

Once we arrived we had a wonderful evening with the seniors group. Good food, good company, and Family Home Evening!  We received good news that next week a new coupe will arrive, so we won't be the newest much longer. Also, there has been concern that the Hollenzers are leaving in Augut and didn't know who would replace them in the office. Yesterday, however, they received word of another couple coming to Cambodia in June. This couple had originally been called to serve in India, but visa issues had them reassigned here! What a blessing for us!

At least traffic had calmed down before we returned home tonight.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Church in two Wards, PEF My Path Meeting and Elder Oveson's obsession with numbers

We enjoy being assigned to visit two Wards every Sunday, that gives us something to do and more wonderful Cambodian members to meet.  This morning for the Chaktomuk Ward we had to move the Sacrament Meeting to a large classroom across from our office.  The chapel and cultural hall were being used by the Phnom Penh East District for their District Conference.  The building that we attend at is referred to as the Phnom Penh South Stake Building, but it is really in the East District boundaries.  It will be interesting to see what happens when and if the East District becomes a stake, will they build a new South Stake Center? We will have to wait and see.

Sister Jeppsen and Sister Spangler
In the Steang Mean Chey 3 Ward we have the privilege of serving with two awesome Sisters that play the organ in Sacrament Meeting and also translated for us today.  Sister Jeppsen is from Preston Idaho and Sister Spangler is from Draper Utah.  We only attended Sacrament Meeting in the Steang Mean Chey 3 Ward because we had a My Path devotional to go to this evening in the Phnom Penh North Stake.  The traffic leaving Steang Mean Chey was almost as bad as the first week we went out there.  What should have taken us 30 to 40 minutes took an hour and fourty-five minutes.  It was a typical Cambodian traffic jam, the motos keep whizzing past until every little spot is completely packed.

We originally had not planned on going to the My Path, but Phanna left some items at the office that he needed for it and we promised to take them to him.  There were about 30 members there for the My Path tonight, which is our biggest group so far.  Sister Oveson ended up entertaining six to eight children that came with their parents.  Phanna lives in the North Stake, and that is the stake that has done the most with the Self Reliance Initiative here in Cambodia.

Our mission is 23 months, which boils down to basically 700 days.  Today is our 70th day on our mission so we are officially 1/10th of the way through.  Why count months when you can break the total into 10ths instead?  We have now been in Cambodia eight weeks and in just a couple of weeks we will no longer be the newest Senior Couple.   Elder and Sister Spencer come the first part of May into the mission, they are called as Member Leadership Support missionaries (MLS), which gives the Mission President a lot of flexibility of how to use them.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Geckos, Institute, Self Reliance Group, Preparation Day and Surprises

This is one shy little gecko
who knows how to give big surprises!
Some days are full of surprises. That has been the case here for sure. Yesterday as we got home, Sister Oveson went to wash her hands in the bathroom. As she turned on the light switch there was a funny sound and a little gecko jumped from the ceiling, landing just in front of her, then hurried out of the room and under the curtain of the patio door and basically disappeared. Then this morning after breakfast as she went to rinse the dishes, a gecko jumped out of the sink and scurried under the microwave. (We did get pictures of this one!) This was much more startling than really being scary.  We didn't have time to look for it after that, we'll just have to see where the little critter jumps out from tomorrow!

Reaksmey, Dawath, Phally, Si Pheng, Vathanak,
Vannanoeun, Sony, Hanh, Somaly, and Monikeo.
A second surprise was our Institute class. We have jokingly commented that we usually have 6 students, just not the same 6 each time. Today we started with 6, then gradually went up until we ended with 10! What a wonderful group of young adults. This is such a wonderful part of our service in Cambodia.

After a couple of FaceTime calls and a quick shopping trip to Lucky's, we had a little time to relax at the apartment. Elder Oveson even had a rare nap. Our preparation day was mostly otherwise uneventful.

This evening we had another appointment to attend a Self Reliance devotional at the North Stake center. There was a Bayon Market we had planned to check out that could be visited on our way to the meeting, so we made our plan. The surprising thing with this store visit is that we have been there before! On the day we arrived in Phnom Penh, President and Sister Moon took us there on our way to the Mission Home, we just had no idea where we were at the time. We found a few items at this market that we will probably visit there again, just not one of our regular stops.

One more surprise today was the Self Reliance group. It was supposed to start at 5:30, but not enough of the group was there to start on time. The facilitator arrived at about 5:20, and there should have been about 14 participants. By 6:00 there were still not enough to begin. Finally a couple more came and we would have had enough to start, but it was getting too late. Instead they discussed options of when else they might hold the class, but Saturday evening was the only option for some of them. They discussed why they should have the class, the need to be committed to attending, the importance of always being on time to the class could proceed. The group seemed to be ready to try again. We hope everything will move with more success next time. Then as we reported to Phanna about what happened with this group meeting we learned we need to be to another devotional tomorrow evening. Surprise!

Friday, April 24, 2015

The Joy of Being Able to Select Our Own Missionary Companion

Every six to twelve weeks most of the young missionaries face transfers, which also often means that they get a new companion.  Those new companions are selected by the Mission President, often after counseling with his Assistants to the President.  Often these changes can cause a bit of anxiety, if the new companions either know or don't know each other.

With Senior Missionaries, we get to bring our companions with us and we do not need to worry about those six to twelve week transfers.  A great advantage is that you get to understand roles, based on each others strengths.

Tonight's picture is one of Sister Oveson's great strengths, organizing things to make them look good and understandable.  She also calls this talent, her scrapbooking skills.  When we came to Cambodia there was a wall in our office, where there were pictures of the Perpetual Education Loan participants.  That is a great blessing in being able to recognize who we are working with and talking with on the phone.  The only problem was, it had not been updated in at least six months.  Sister Oveson has been working on it and tonight you see the significantly updates wall.

Elder Oveson has become the designated primary email and letter writer, but then Sister Oveson is the proof reader.  We decided that we would split up the Perpetual Education Fund participants that we have to call, Elder Oveson is calling the male participants and Sister Oveson is calling the female ones.  We even team teach the Saturday Morning Institute Class, we trade off who starts and who concludes.

These Senior Missionary Companionships are wonderful!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

"Use It Up, Wear It Out, Make It do, or Do Without!"

Look close and you will see the table legs
sticking out below the blue tarp. We just have
not figured the purpose of the bucket. 
Every day we see random things here in Cambodia. One of the things we notice around here is the building materials they use. For instance, looking out the window of our office the buildings behind the church the neighbors have been getting ready for the rainy season.  At first glance you might think this tarp is just covering something in the back yard. But look closer and you see that this is a kitchen table being used to close a window opening about 15 feet off the ground. I guess the murphy bed has nothing on the table wall! And what about the banner signs? They are perfect to finish covering the corner to keep more of the rain out. There is not much discarded that is not repurposed around here. Even the rubble from demolishing some building we have
seen be used to fill pot-holes.
In the markets we see chickens hanging waiting to be taken home (both fresh plucked and roasted ready to eat.)

Construction is mostly done with manual labor.  We have seen piles of sand and brick, or stacks of rebar, be transformed into walls and buildings. It is pretty amazing how quickly the project can move along. It is pretty clear they are not worried about earthquakes here. Most of the buildings are done without permits or inspections.  We were told with a storm overnight last night, producing rain and hail in some areas, left its mark. There were about 700 dwellings that fell with the storms.

You also see the inventive nature of transporting things here. What if all you have is a moto but you have to carry several boxes across town? No problem! Just strap it on behind the driver. Or have the passenger hold it while you drive. I don't know how many ladders we have seen go down the road being held by either the passenger or the moto driver!  That is just a fraction of the Random you will see in Cambodia!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Our Love/Hate Relationship With Computers and the Internet


Elder Lau one of our friendly translators 
We are so very grateful to live in the time of computers and the internet.  When our parents served their missions we did talk with them on the phone occasionally, but not very often, and we had to rely on the U.S. Postal for the weekly news.  We are so blessed to be able to FaceTime with our children and their families just about anytime they and we are awake at the same time.  This morning we ended up FaceTiming with all of our grandchildren and their parents for one reason or another.  The most traumatic was Hudson, he fell off of a Monkey Bar and broke two bones in his arm. He had to show us his cast, and the transformer motorcycle he got today.

The computers and the internet also help tremendously with our work in Self Reliance and Perpetual Education Fund.  We have a list of PEF participants who we are trying to call and speak to about their school, jobs and loans.  We put together an Excel Spreadsheet to help us track those calls.  Right now we are less than 50% successful in getting a hold of the ones that we are calling, but we will catch up to them.

Elder Hibbert aka the tall Elder & companion
Just before lunch a couple of workers came into our part of the Church Building installing new internet cabling.  Right now our internet is so very slow and part of the employees are working through the Wi-Fi.  All of the computers will now be hard wired, hopefully that will make a difference.  Now for the only problem with the new project.  They have to attach the wiring to the wall and boy are they noisy.  At 4:00 p.m. they came in to work in our office, so we decided that it was time to go home.

For lunch today we decided to go to a small restaurant not far from the Stake Center that several missionaries had recommended, Mama's New York Deli.  The owner is Cambodian and had lived in New York for 30 years, but it really isn't like the delis back home.  Sister Oveson had Fish & Chips that were fantastic and Elder Oveson had a Chicken Caesar Salad.  We will go back.


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Weather ... Here and There

Today as we worked in our office we received a phone call. Elder Oveson has finally received his official Cambodian Driver's License! This means we needed to make a trip to the Mission office this afternoon. We thought maybe we would drop the car a few blocks away from the Mission home to get it washed and take a walk .... that is until we left our air conditioned office and went outside.  Back home in Utah the thermometer reading 38 to 40 degrees may just require adding a jacket. Here, when the thermometer says 38 to 40 degrees, think again about taking a walk in the sun.

According to our Weather app, South Jordan was 45, and about the same time Phnom Penh was 99 (or 38 C) and, with today's high at 104 (or 40 C). Today's low was 79 F. No wonder the office was extra warm even with the air going all day.

Tomorrow should be a little cooler, with 80% chance of thunder showers. We will take the cooler. We are just not so sure about the humidity that will come with the rain.  We are grateful to know that this month is the hottest of the year and it is almost over.  Even though Cambodia is in the Northern hemisphere, it is only a little above the equator.  And the rainy season that is suppose to start in May cools off the temperatures.

We are still finding plenty to do at the office.  Elder Oveson made the statement when he retired from work that the one thing he would not miss was calling people about late payments.  Today he spent several hours preparing and calling PEF participants about late payments.  What goes around, comes around.


Monday, April 20, 2015

SWOT, SRS, PEF and Other Acronyms

It was great to be back to the office again today with a full week of service ahead of us.  On Monday mornings we have our weekly SRS/PEF staff meeting.  We only allocate a half hour for it, we like short meetings versus long ones, but the last two weeks they have been long.  Today we had to prepare a Self Analysis Operation Survey Report on PEF for Hong Kong, that was due today.  Last week it was a SWOT Analysis for the SRS for Hong Kong.  We also had a Vidyo conference schedule to review the SWOT Analysis from last week.  It was just about then that all the acronyms caught up with us and Elder Oveson final said, "What is Swot?"  Sameth said that is a really a great way to analyze a business that they teach about in University classes.  It is either something that is well known in Asia and not in the U.S. or we have been out of school way too long.

Okay, for some of you that are old like us, SWOT is Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.  We had identified those in our analysis, but we did not remember that is what they called the exercise.  In case you had not guessed, SRS is Self Reliance Services and PEF is Perpetual Education Fund.  Isn't it interesting that sometimes in our attempt to keep things simple by using acronyms, we actually make it harder?

Our day was packed with stuff to do, from the projects that we were already working on, to new projects and emails that needed to be taken care of today and would not wait.  This afternoon we had a one hour video conference with Hong Kong that went very well.  They understand the issues that we continue to face with licensing from the government to run the full program, but they are supportive of what we are doing.

Sisters Fife, Dy, and Hum
Sisters Killian and Q
We decided that for our picture today we would put in some of the Sister Missionaries who we rub shoulders with here.  Between 25% and 30% of the missionaries here are Sisters, they are a great strength to the mission.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Back to a NORMAL Sunday

Today we had our Normal Sunday schedule. (Whatever Normal is!) We attended church in the Chaktomuk Ward this morning. It was good to see so many of the members had returned from the provinces in time for church, but attendance was still low. One of the members brought fresh Mangos from her trip to the province and gave us some. What a wonderful treat! We also were blessed to attend a convert baptism immediately after the meeting block. This young man has been attending church regularly for several years, and has taken the discussions for about 5 years. He will be a great addition to the Chaktomuk Ward!

For lunch we figured we should have our heavier meal for the day before time to go to Steang Mean Chey for the afternoon. And, since we had all those Mangos, we enjoyed Mango Chicken. The recipes we found online had too many ingredients not to be found in our kitchen, so we improvised. This is definitely a meal to make again, and it was really quite simple. We loved the mango sauce and might try it on some pork chops sometime soon.

Our trip to Steang Mean Chey proved interesting, as always. With everyone returning to the city this weekend from having gone to the provinces for Khmer New Year, we expected to see the roads crowded. They really were not as packed as we thought, but we found the vehicles were fully loaded (or overloaded)! They looked like the doubled the capacity of passengers in many of them. Overflow seating was on the roof! We were pleasantly surprised by the relatively light traffic after church as well. We expect the city's traffic will be back to the crazy normal tomorrow.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Another Saturday Preparation Day

Saturday here is our early start day. We are up at 5:00 a.m. and have to be to the church by about 6:30. Today we were curious as to how many of our Institute students would attend. We knew most of them had gone out to the provinces for Khmer New Year.  We were pleasantly surprised to have 4 of them come (instead of our typical 6).  We were surprised, but pleased, that we had that many. This is a wonderful group of young adults!

After our class we visited on FaceTime with family, then went on out weekly grocery shopping errand. At Lucky's we found all but one item on our list, and that was an item that can wait.  We spent the rest of the morning at the apartment. We felt we needed to do more than just sit around this afternoon. After looking at the internet for ideas and options, we opted for trying to check a new store which is close to home. No luck, however. This store was still shuttered for the New Year holiday. Plan B: we went back to the Aeon mall for an item. This required going into new territory as we were sent on a detour.  We were successful with our mall trip. With having entered the mall in a different entrance turned into a blessing. We were also able to find a store we had not seen before which carried a printer cartridge we had been looking for. Double bonus: we were in and out of the mall in less than 30 minutes and had accomplished what we needed.

At the mall was an interesting display, likely because of the holiday. We thought this modern mall would be of interest for our photo today.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Back to The Office

We found out today that Cambodia is a lot like the U.S., most of the people decided that they did not want to spoil a perfectly good week by going back to work today.  There was a lot more traffic today, but it was still only about 50% of normal.  Those 50% were trying to make up for those who were not there, by driving especially crazy.

We went into the office today because Sameth was going to be back today, even though Phanna and the Seminary and Institute staff were gone.  It was kind of fun to just be the three of us, because we actually sat and talked more than usual.  We had some ideas about what to put in notes in the PEF participant files and he helped us refine what was good and what was not.  Sameth is such a good man and the PEF is lucky to have him working for them, to us he is a man without guile.

We shared with you some of the different foods, especially fruits that we have tried while here in Cambodia.  Some of you may be interested in the American food that we are able to buy here.  Our first American comfort food was breakfast cereal.  The variety is not fantastic, we have eaten a lot of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Honey Bunch of Oats, Shredded Wheat, Granola, and then some from Australia.  When you see one that you like, you have to buy extra, because it most likely will not be there next time.  Another comfort item has been Mentos, it is surprising how many places carry them, but not in rolls like in the U.S., in either individual wrappers or loose in a small container.  Another comfort food is Pepperidge Farm cookies, we do not know if they are from Cache Valley, but they are a taste from home for us.  We have also purchased Old Mission Tortilla Chips (but only once, we should have grabbed more before they were gone), Nutella, Skippy Peanut Butter, Smuckers Jam, Ritz Crackers and Philadelphia Cream Cheese.  So not everything is new to our tastebuds, and as we have shown in other blogs, we do make dishes that we enjoyed before our Cambodian adventure.  

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Central Market

With one more day of Khmer New Year we went through more of our online training this morning, then we decided to go explore the city while things were quiet here. Because of the long holiday there were a lot of shops still closed. Becky asked us to take pictures at Central Market, so we went to check it out. One of the advantage of everything being so quiet and less people in the city is that the market was not very crowded. The disadvantage is that much of the market was closed. We did get a few pictures. We will have to come back another day to find the full effect of the market.

We found where everyone in the city went with everything closed. In spite of the holiday Aeon Mall was open. (Yes, Elder Oveson even went shopping at the Mall!) The parking lot was full enough that we were directed to the roof-top parking. We were looking for a couple of items, but no luck. We came out empty handed.

We figured we were done shopping, so we went searching for a Cambodian History lesson. We found the Tuol Sleng Genecide Museum not far from our apartment. This museum had been a High School built in 1962. However in 1972 when Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge took power, they used this school as a place of torture and interrogation, and called it SR21.  Of the 12,000 to 20,000 people (men, women and children) processed through, there were only 7 who survived. The atrocities during this time rivaled the Holocaust.  It is estimated there were 25% of the population, estimated at more than 2,000,000, were either killed or died of starvation or disease.  It is no wonder 65%+ of the current population is under the age of 30.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Riikriay Chnam Thmei - Second Day

We stayed home from our office again today, but that does not mean we just kicked back and did nothing all day.  A month ago when we went to Siem Reap there was training on the new Perpetual Education Fund software, that we did not go through.  We figured that these three days would give us a chance to catchup on watching the 30 plus training videos.  We are two-thirds of the way through them and will finish them tomorrow.

Even though it is New Year in Cambodia, that is not true for the rest of Asia or the world.  We were still getting and sending emails to Hong Kong and even Utah.  On top of that President Moon had some questions and concerns that he asked us to think about and look into how to handle.  Like we have said before it is nice to feel needed.

This afternoon we went to an early dinner with the Holenzers (the office senior missionaries), and the VanBrocklins (the Public Affairs senior missionaries).  The VanBrocklins actually knew of a restaurant that was open today.  We went at 3:00 because the mission had scheduled a movie night to watch Meet The Mormons.  It was good that we went early because the service was really slow, even though there were not many other customers.  We left the restaurant at 4:50.

President Moon invited all of the missionaries in the Phnom Penh area to the movie night this evening.  There were about 70 young missionaries and four couples, counting the Moons, that is more than half of the missionaries in the mission.  It was good to be with them and see them interacting with each other, it was great to see the love that they have for one another.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Phnom Penh Sunset

Today was quite different from our past weeks and days. We stayed home! We took the day off from the office as all the others had gone for a holiday break. We spent this morning answering emails, looking at facebook, working at the apartment, and doing FaceTime with some of our family back home. It was unusual for us to not go anywhere.

With taking the break from our regular routine, maybe we can fill you in on some of the little things that are unique here as compared to our home in Utah. Every evening we hear a chirping outside. Sometimes it sounds like a bird pecking on the window. We have realized it is not a bird but a little gecko that has taken up residency by our window. That's fine with us as long as he takes care of any bugs that might be trying to get in!

Another typical thing here is there is no carpet on the floors. All our floors are tile or stone. The tile in our bedroom looks like wood, but it is tile as well. The transition out from the bathroom is about an inch up. I guess that way any water problem is contained in the bathroom and does not overflow into the rest of the apartment. (This is not just our apartment, but we have seen this in the other apartments as well.) Just be careful not to stub your toe.

We don't drink the water from the tap, even though our water might be just fine. We have about a 5 gallon jug of water on our counter that we use to drink. The tap water is VERY HOT, so we are confident in using the tap water to wash our dishes. Also, we wash all our produce when we bring it home. Many of the couples use clorox for this, however we use some Vegetable and Fruit Washing Solution and soak them for about 15 minutes. A capful of clorox in a tub of water will do the same thing.

There are more small shops or stands here than we have seen in any other city. It seems everyone wants to run their own business. Then the like kind of shops are together. All the auto supply shops are lined up one after another. We went looking for a fan a few weeks ago. We hunted all over the city, then when we found fans there was a whole row of shops selling them. There are lots of little produce stands or carts on every street. We have even seen a produce stand at the corner of our alley. (We have not yet been brave enough to buy our produce from these vendors. We probably will soon, though.) There are also lots of little food venders, especially at breakfast time. Of course they all have rice! Sameth and Phanna frequently get their breakfast from the cart just outside the gate of the church.

Finally we are sharing the sunset view from our balcony today. The sky has been clear and the
weather very nice. If only you could hear the roosters crow and the little sounds of the neighborhood!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Riikriay Chnam Thmei - Happy New Year

As we got to Cambodia some of the couples told us that we had just missed Chinese New Year, but they also told us not to worry, because Cambodian New Year was still coming.  According to an article, Cambodian New Year is based around the end of the rice harvest and before the rainy season.  They do not just celebrate one day, it is a three day holiday.  Since most Cambodians are Buddhist they base the years from when Buddha was born, so this is year 2559.  The full-time Church employees get eighteen holidays a year.

We were told that as many as can leave the city and most of the businesses close down for the whole week.  Driving to the Stake Center this morning was amazing, we did not have to dodge lots of motos (the little motorcycles or scooters) and there even were very few Tuk-Tuks out today.  After lunch today we went to a grocery store to stock up before everything is closed, again the traffic was real light and the store had less customers than usual.

Phanna and Sameth were at the office today, but Phanna is gone until next Monday and Sameth will be back on Friday.  We received an email from Hong Kong on Friday right at the end of the day asking all of the different Self Reliance Managers and Senior Couple Missionaries to respond concerning a proposal by Wednesday.  With the holiday, that meant we needed to respond today.  Since we saw the email on Friday we had a chance to think and talk about it a little, which gave us a good starting point, but it was truly a joint effort.  The report was submitted and Hong Kong was happy before we left the office today.

We have mentioned in our previous posts about the vehicles that we share the road with here in Phnom Penh.  There are the thousands of motos and then the Tuk-Tuks. Motos also pull almost anything that you can imagine.  But there is another amazing group of vehicles, the very high class and expensive vehicles.  Today's picture is an Audi Dealership that we pass everyday on our way home.  Just from our perspective, there are more Lexus, LandRovers and RangeRovers here than in Salt Lake Valley.  Toyota is the dominant brand of cars here in Cambodia, but you also see BMW, Audis and Mercedes Benz.  There are the haves and the have nots, our Corolla puts us in the have nots.  :-)


Sunday, April 12, 2015

General Conference in Cambodia

Here in Cambodia we may be 13 hours ahead of home, but General Conference for us is a week late. We have had a wonderful weekend watching conference along with the other full time missionaries and some of the local members. This was a powerful conference! There are lots of conference messages worth going back and listening to or watching again!

 Between sessions of conference today the International Branch provided a lunch and invited us to join them. The senior couples stayed and enjoyed the visit and the food. They had prepared soup, pasta salad, and lots of fruits. The young missionaries chose instead to go the mission home where Sister Moon had prepared lasagna and chocolate chip cookies. (They reported that the cookies were all gone in very short order.)

It was nice to come home this evening and not have to worry about traffic coming home from church in Steung Mean Chey. Instead we made use of our little oven and made Crumby Chicken and mashed potatoes for dinner. Thanks to seasonings in the recent package from our family, dinner tasted almost like home!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Institute, Yuri, General Conference, and Dinner

As much as things become routine, they are really not the same! This morning we taught the Institute class. There were 6 students in attendance. We chuckle that we usually have six, but it's not the same six two weeks in a row. This week was no exception.

We only had a short time between Institute and General Conference, so we used our time to Skype some of our family. As we were ready to FaceTime, Sameth was there with his daughter Yuri. She is such a cute girl. We let her talk to Kaylee and Gabby on FaceTime for a minute.

Conference was scheduled to be shown at 9:00 this morning, but Sister Oveson also promised Phanna's wife, Sokhom, to help her review a research paper.  As Sokhom was running behind,  we were just headed into the room for Conference as President and Sister Moon asked if Elder Oveson was available to go help give a blessing to a Sister missionary. That gave us a change of plans. We followed President & Sister Moon to the clinic, where the sister had been seen, then to the mission home for the blessing, then Sister Moon took the Sister for additional medical care, and President Moon returned with us to the church for Conference. Sokhom was there by that time. Busy morning!

Sister Oveson helped Sokhom with her paper while Elder Oveson enjoyed conference. (A big thanks to Becky and Marla for reviewing the paper. Sokhom was very thankful for all the help and her paper was almost finished when she left for home just after noon.)

The afternoon session of conference was to begin at 2:00, so we had time to go to Lucky's for a few groceries ($90 worth), and take them home before conference again. But wait... the trunk wouldn't latch closed after opening it to take the groceries in. The parking attendants jumped into action to help. Elder Oveson was grateful for the help.  With their help, and the help of our landlord, it took about 15 minutes.  (Looks like we need to take the car to the dealer for some warranty work.)

After all that we had just enough time to eat a quick lunch before returning to the church for conference. The rest of the day was much less eventful. The missionaries only scheduled 30 minutes between the afternoon and the Priesthood sessions.  There were three senior couples (including us) there for the sessions, so the sisters stayed for the meetings. We couldn't pass the chance to visit with the Meinzers and Vanbrocklins, so dinner at Brooklyn Pizza was our final activity of the day.  What a great visit, but it was also good to go home!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Missions Are Like Babies

Elder Oveson made the observation recently, that missions are like babies.  When a baby is first born, we say how many days old they are. The same is true with missions, the first while is counted in days.  Then with babies we move on to how many weeks old they are, and the same is likewise true about missions.  After a baby is about three months old, then we say they are so many months old. We have not made it to three months yet, but other missionaries who have use either months or transfers (transfers are every six weeks).  Finally when a baby is a year old, we start using years as the gauge, including year and a half, also true about missionaries.

So why the above analogy? Because we have been in our apartment now for a whole month.  That is amazing! In someways it was just yesterday and in others it seems longer.  It is a safe haven for us to return to every evening and a comfortable place to call home for a while.  We have not met many of the other occupants. We have met a young adult male from the Netherlands and another is the building owner, but they are all quiet and respectful of each others privacy.  Our friendly parking attendants are the only ones that we see on a regular basis.

The senior missionary couple in the Mission Office, the Hollenzers, said to us a couple of times that we needed to go have lunch together someday, so today was that someday.  We met them at the Mission Office. They have a tight schedule of when they can be gone, since someone has to be there to cover.  We went to a Mexican Restaurant that we have been to before, it was a good choice and we enjoyed the excellent company.

Just so that you know that we still mainly eat food that we have for years, tonights dinner was pancakes, one of those comfort foods.  Senior Missionaries really can choose what they eat, the only limitations are what is available in the stores.



Thursday, April 9, 2015

Another first: Cambodian Haircuts

It is inevitable...  we have to have haircuts. Before our mission we would visit Wendy about every 5 to 6 weeks to take care of those too long spots that no longer cooperate.  It has been 6 weeks since we had Wendy cut our hair that one last time before we left, and our hair was is great need of a cut. (We can't wait until Wendy might be able to come for a visit to Cambodia.)  We have been asking around to find who to trust with this important task.  At the recommendation of one of the mission couples, we selected a spa to do the job.  The price was a little more than we had been told,   Elder Oveson's cut was $5, while Sister Oveson was more: $9 for the cut and $4 for a shampoo. The massage was worth it! When all was said and done we feel they did a very nice job, and so far no pop-up-timers have been noticed. 

Today was also when we had the web training for the Asia Area Self Reliance team, and the presentation from Phanna and Jitender which we have been helping with for the past few weeks. There was a minor glitch or two. First, we had a hard time being accepted into the conference call. Then as they were ready to begin their presentation, Jitender had a difficult time sharing the PowerPoint with the group. It finally worked, and they both did a wonderful job. We could not have been more proud if Phanna and Jitender had been our own children!

This evening after fixing a quick dinner, we sat down to watch more of General Conference. We are grateful for the words of these inspired men and women.  Isn't it wonderful that even though we are around the world in some little country that we can still hear all of conference! (It takes a few more days to get through all of conference here).  We will gather with the Saints here on Saturday and Sunday to participate with the members here in conference. We can hardly wait!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

We Feel the Lord's Hand in Many Ways

This morning we had a very rewarding, but humbling experience.  One of the Perpetual Education Fund participants came in to payoff his loan.  An interesting part of the current PEF program is the incentives that the participants receive as they do certain things.  The incentives are for graduating, having good grades, finding a good job in the profession that you studied in, having a mentor that helps you keep your commitments and paying off the loan early.  These incentives have not been available to those with older loans, but just a couple weeks ago they were extended to those who would have qualified on older loans.  The participant that came in today, qualified for three of these incentives and received a significant discount on his loan as he paid it off.  What made it even more special for us, is that he is the first participant in all of Asia to take advantage of these incentives.  After he had paid off his loan, he was so excited and wanted to give both of us a big hug.  That is called a payday in the Church.

We had another wonderful treat today, our first package from home.  Some of our children told us that they wanted to put together a small package for us for Easter.  The small package grew bigger as additional requests for things that we wish that we had were added.  The postage was a lot more than we ever imagined, we will have to be careful with our requests in the future.  Sister Oveson now has seasonings that she could not find Cambodia and Ranch Dressing mix.  Elder Oveson now has the type of pant hangers that he likes, which will help, so that his pants are not wrinkled and need ironing. We received M&M's (both almond and coconut) which were greatly appreciated, along with some peeps that we shared.

One of the ways that we will be helping with the Perpetual Education Fund is contacting the participants and making sure how they are doing, including keeping on track with their payments.  Sameth had given us a list of seventeen participants that should speak well enough for us to contact them.  As we looked for contact information on the PEF software, we noticed that all seventeen had email addresses.  After talking to Sameth about it, we decided to email them for our first contact, if they do not reply, we will call them.  There are a lot more participants that have email addresses that we will email also. We plan to gradually make regular contact with as many as can communicate in English via email or phone to keep them on course.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Pork Roll-ups, dinner was delicious!

As we complete one project it seems two are added! Elder Oveson has pretty well completed the Cash Flow report he was working up for Hong Kong.  This completed report has led to another project for Elder Oveson. In the meantime, Sister Oveson has begun a project to update the picture board of all the PEF students in Cambodia.  Some of the information for this project is directly from working up the Cash Flow Report.  Another spin-off project we have been given is to call the PEF students.  Late this afternoon we received a sheet of names of students who speak English for us to begin calling.  We have 17 on our list; Sameth has 54.  With that we are scratching the surface phoning 71 out of the 272 with PEF loans.  I guess we better get started!

One more project we have almost completed is the PowerPoint presentation with Phanna and Jitender (from India).  The web training is Thursday morning when they will present their project.  Phanna practiced his part by Skyping with Elder Oveson.  We are very proud of Phanna for the progress he has made on this project. We are hoping to do a similar run-through with Jitender tomorrow.

At the end of a long day at the office we are glad we have only a short distance to go through the CRAZY Cambodia traffic to get home to our apartment, and glad we don't have to go out again tonight.  Instead we can sit and listen to more of General Conference while we made pork roll-ups for dinner.  We were able to pull together all the ingredients we needed.  The little oven worked great!  We improvised for the baking dishes to go with our little oven.  Dinner was delicious!




Monday, April 6, 2015

Did you hear. . . temple in Thailand was announced!

This morning as we went to leave our apartment, there was a text from our daughter Wendy that said, "Did you hear . . . temple in Thailand was announced!"  You can only imagine the stir that caused here in Cambodia!  If you are not familiar with the geography of Asia, Cambodia is next door to Thailand.  Currently to go to the temple the worthy members have to either go to Hong Kong or the Philippines, which is an expensive plane ride away.  Thailand is a $30 round trip bus trip, which will be a great blessing to the members here.  Comparatively speaking there are few endowed members here in Cambodia.  The tough part was telling them that they are still five or six years away from the completion and dedication of the temple.  But, at least they now have hope with the announcement that one is coming.

We forgot to mention that the Phnom Penh South Stake sustained a Patriarch this last weekend, so both of the stakes here now have one.  The Church continues to progress, which will bless the lives of the members in so many wonderful ways.

This evening as we were sitting watching a download of General Conference, all of a sudden the wind really kicked up and didn't really subside.  It was the strongest wind that we have heard while we have been here.  There are no double pane windows or weather stripping on the patio doors of our apartment and the wind was blowing the curtains into the room about two or three feet.  We had our first thunderstorm in Cambodia and the rain was coming down in sheets.  We did not actually see the streaks of lightning, just the bright flashes.  We may not get the seasons of the year while we serve, but that does not mean that there is not wild weather.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Happy Easter!

Today may be Easter, but we had a very different holiday than past years.  There was no candy or treats, no egg hunt.  We didn't even have a normal General Conference schedule. As church started at 8:00 a.m. at the Chaktamuk Ward where we attended, General Priesthood Session would have been about halfway through back.  It was fast Sunday here. After our meetings we went back to our apartment to watch the recorded Saturday Morning session of General Conference before eating our lunch. General Conference Sunday here will be next week.

There was one special event this afternoon. Elder and Sister Vanbrocklin, the Public Relations Senior Couple, were given 10 tickets to a Multi-denomination Easter Program.  We decided to follow the rule that if other missionary couples invited us to do something, we should do it!  We caught a ride with Elder and Sister Hollenzer and President and Sister Moon.  The Vanbrocklins and Meinzers were there somewhere, but we never saw them.

As we went to find seats, President Moon showed his VIP ticket to one of the ushers, who showed us all the way to the front, to the 4th row of seats.  Before we were seated, however, President and Sister Moon were invited by the Deputy Minister of Religion and Cults to take seats on the stage.  After about 10 minutes we were asked to move up to the 2nd row. They wanted all the seats in the front section to be full.

This was a very interesting cultural program in a nice large auditorium.   There were beautiful Khmer dancers, drum performers, flag twirlers and more. Very entertaining!  The program was entirely in Khmer, so we spent the time listening for the few words we might recognize.  One word we picked out that they used quite a bit was "Kampuchea".  We asked the meaning and learned that is the country of Cambodia. Khmer is the language.  We learned something new today!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

What A Difference A Week Makes

Last Saturday as we went to leave our apartment at 6:15 a.m. to go teach our Institute class, our car was blocked and the parking staff had to wake several people, including the building owner, to get our car out.  This week as we went done everything was cleared out of the way and the gates to the garage were open for us to leave.  What great service!

We had six at our Institute class this morning, which was great and exciting, we enjoy teaching them.  After the class we Skyped with all of our children and their families, except for Israel and Melissa, they were both at work.  There were several good news stories, congratulations to Melissa on her new job and to Paul on being accepted to go the the U this fall.  Elder Oveson worked with Sameth on reviewing some PEF renewal loans, before we left our office.  We made our weekly journey to Lucky's for groceries.  As we have said before, some items are very reasonable and others are really high since they are imported.

This afternoon we went to a My Path Devotional at the Tuol Sang Ke Ward In the Phnom Penh North Stake, which is Phanna's Ward.  The bishop was hoping for about thirty, but ten members and an investigator showed up.  In Utah we say that Mormon Standard Time is five to ten minutes late, in Cambodia Khmer Time is half hour to an hour late, we even had a member show up basically two hours late.

Unlike many of the other Church Buildings in Cambodia, the one that we went to today was not built and owned by the Church.  It is a rented building that has three floors.  The bottom or ground floor is the chapel, and the others are classrooms and offices.  A Cambodian Ward and Vietnamese Branch meets in this building.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Khmer Banks and Elder Hall's shared blog

Some days you might think we sit around and say, "What new thing can we do today?" Well, let us tell you abut our NEW items of today. This may not sound like much, but we made our first stop at an ATM to withdraw some cash from home. That cash was spent on another NEW event: going to a (different) bank to make a deposit for our car rent payment.  Banks here are a little different than in the US.  There are security guards around the ATMs and around the bank.  Elder Oveson stayed with the car as Sister Oveson went inside for the deposit.  Once inside, you receive a number for the order to be helped.  The tellers are behind a plexiglass screen, and of course there are more guards in the waiting area.  The tellers are watched over by a senior employee as well.  None of the personal space invasion opportunities here.

We did spend most of the morning at the office where we accomplished a great deal. Elder Oveson and Phanna worked on the upcoming PowerPoint presentation. They spent a couple of hours refining slides as well as rehearsing the actual presentation. We also have been putting the report together for Hong Kong, which we got sent off today.  We are not sure how soon they will be reviewing it, though, as their offices are closed this weekend for Easter. (No such holiday observance here in Cambodia).  Instead of Easter break here, we are quickly coming up on Khmer New Year.  That should be interesting!  We are told the city will be pretty empty that week as most people go home to the Provinces.


Tonight we had the opportunity of teaching an institute class at the Phnom Penh North Stake.  This class is the one Elder and Sister Vanbrocklin usually teach, but they had to go out of town with their Public Relations assignment.  We enjoyed getting to know four young single adults tonight. The lesson tonight was on Tithing.  We will be teaching the same lesson again tomorrow morning at the South Stake Center.

I have received permission to copy an entry from the blog of one of the new elders here.  Elder Hall was one of the missionaries we had meals with about 6 weeks ago.  Elder Hall has given a very good description of first impressions of Cambodia.  Here is a post from his blog:
“So there are also three main smells that I have seemed to mainly smell here in the city. 1. Rubber and tires 2. burning wood/ campfire smell 3. fish that are either being cooked or rotting. All of the smells that I have smelled here consist of one or two of these smells. In fact the rubber and campfire combination isn't that bad, and the campfire and fish isn't that bad either, but when you combine the fish and rubber it makes me almost gag. But it's all good...I have 2 years to get used to it.

"I have a whole new perspective on traffic lights and it only took 3 days. Right after my mission I'll probably rack up a few tickets from running red lights. But let me explain: There are basically three types of roads. Big, Medium, and Small. So when two big roads intersect they usually have a traffic light. Which most people obey and would be dangerous  not to, but the people that really need to be somewhere can make it across fine. And as the light starts to count down (they have timers, which if they didn't I feel like they would totally ignore the lights altogether) at about 5 seconds left everyone just starts going. So here is where I needed to practice because taking a right turn and going straight is super easy but turning left is tricky (yes, I may need to mention that the roads are just like the US, they drive on the right). SO here is what you do. you go left before anyone starts across the intersection coming from the other side, and you start riding into oncoming traffic (mom just try to imagine that the cars and motos are made out of pillows) so then once you are on the very left side of the road you wait till there is a break and you shoot over across however many lanes of oncoming traffic there are, and then you go all the way across the lanes that are going your direction to get to the very right side of the road and then you're good to go. Until you need to make another left turn."

 If you are interested,  you can find his blog (which he sends letters to his mom and she puts together the blog) at:  elderwyattjhall.blogspot.com  

Thursday, April 2, 2015

What We Love The Most, Are The People That We Meet

Before we left on our mission, we met several couples and younger returned missionaries that we asked the same question, what did they the love the most about their mission?  The answer was always the same, the people they met.  After one short month we can truly say the same.  But we didn't understand what that meant completely.  We did not understand how big that circle of people and friends truly was and how fast that circle grows.

The other couples serving here in Cambodia are a very important part of that group.  Add in the faithful young Elders and Sisters that are out in the heat sweating every day to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ to the honest in heart.  Then there are the Church employees that we get to rub shoulders with on a very regular basis.  Add in the leaders that work so many hours to care for their own families and then serve without any complaints.  We have even made friends in other Asian Countries as we have been trained, Skyped and worked on presentations.  The members are a happy and faithful group, that have been willing to sacrifice, because they believe.  Now we are starting to meet and love the Young Adults of Cambodia, as we get to know them in the PEF office and Institute.  What a total joy.

Every morning as we kneel down to pray, we ask for the Lord to help give us work that we can do and that will be helpful and he does.  And every day so far our prayers have been answered.  We also already know projects in the future, like calling the PEF loan participants that speak English.

In Cambodia most apartments do not have ovens, including ours.  One day while we were at the Mission Office we say a countertop oven just sitting in a box.  We asked if it was available and they said that they would find out.  Next time that we were there they told us to take it.  Tonight Sister Oveson decided to give it a try with on Pao de queijo.  For a first try, they came out really good.  We do need to find some different baking dishes to make it work better in the future.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Our life in Cambodia is becoming routine... Only if Routine means every day is different!

The one thing we can count on to be the same ever day, is that every day the Lord provides something new for us to do.

We are enjoying working with Sameth and Phanna. Amazingly enough, they are both relatively new to the office as well. Phanna has been the Self Reliance Manage since October.  Sameth has been a full-time employee as the PEF Manager since January.  Sameth was a contract employee before that.  There are plans for a new Self-Reliance Model Center, which will create a new space for our SR/PEF offices, but things move a bit slow in Cambodia sometimes.

Today we had another Video Conference with seven Countries. This was with the Asia Self Reliance group, and included Cambodia, Mongolia, India, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Indonesia. This is about our 5th meeting with this group.  The representative from India is Jitender, who is part of a group with us and Phanna for a PowerPoint presentation at the meeting next week.  This is a wonderful office of people to work with. It is amazing how through technology we can be connected from such long distances.

We took a break from the office this afternoon and went out to lunch with Elder and Sister Vanbrocklin, the Public Affairs couple here.  We joked that they have been here twice as long as we have; two whole months! We introduced them to Brooklyn Pizza., which has an American menu that really is American cooking! It was good to visit with the Vanbrocklins as well as to have a taste of food from Home. (The ribs were yummy!)

As part of the responsibilities the Vanbrocklins have, they meet with lots of different dignitaries. Before joining us for lunch today they had a meeting with the Minister of Religions and Cults. (Budhaism is the religion, all others are cults).  They invited us to join them this Sunday for a multi-denominational Easter program.  This should be another wonderful new adventure!