Thursday, June 30, 2016

Angkor Wat With Marla and Brenda

We were up and going early this morning, we wanted to be to the complimentary breakfast when it opened and then head to Angkor Wat. Since it is cooler in the morning we wanted to visit as many of the temples in the Angkor World Heritage park as we could before it got too hot.

Angkor is a Khmer word which means Capital City and a Wat is a Buddhist temple, so Angkor Wat is the Capital City Buddhist Temple. It is considered the largest religious monument in the world. It took 37 years to build and includes a moat that is one mile long and .80 miles wide. They estimate that there were over 350,000 slaves that were used to build it and they had to lay one very large stones every three seconds when it was being built. They not only had to lay the stones, but it has very intricate carvings all over the inside and outside of the temple. The temple has three levels and when it was in use only the king and priests were allowed to go up to the third level. The stairs that the king was allowed to climbed had a 45 degree angle, but the ones for the priests was an 80 degree angle. We climbed up to the top, but the modern stairs were about a 60 degree angle.

The Angkor World Heritage park has about 239 ruins, but only about 69 have names and not all of those 69 are restored. After Angkor Wat we went to Angkor Thom, which was the actual capital city of the Khmer Empire. Marla and Brenda wanted to go on an elephant ride, and that is where they could take one. Angkor Thom was built after Angkor Wat and they did not use as big of stones so it did not survive as well. One of the most prominent features is the four faces of Bayon on each of the fifty-four towers of the structure.

We also visited Ta Prohm or Tomb Raider temple before lunch. It is famous because the movie Tomb Raider used this temple as the backdrop. It was originally a university and monastery. It is unique because they did not cut down all of the over growth trees when they restored many of the structures.

After a relaxing lunch we went to Banteay Srei or Pink Lady Temple. This is a much smaller temple that was built by a priest instead of the king. It is also unique because it is built of red or pink sandstone. We had a very full day and it felt good to have a while to relax at our hotel before going out for dinner.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Cambodia Adventure Continues

One thing that Brenda and Marla told us that they would like to do with us is go on our  morning walk, so we got them up at 5:30.  Seeing the sights and sound of Cambodia in person has been a great addition to their experience.

This morning we went to the mission office, which was quite chaotic because it is transfer week. We will take them back there again next week when things are quieter. We also stopped at our office to send a few urgent emails (some things just won't wait for vacation to be done). We returned to our apartment, planning to connect to an internet meeting, but when we couldn't make the necessary connections we left the girls getting the last things packed for our trip to Siem Reap and we ran back to the office. It turned out great, we connected with most of the senior Self-Reliance couples in Asia.

We finally got on the road about noon to head North to the provinces. Driving through town we saw monkeys crossing the wires (something we had not seen in the city before). We had lunch of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as we drove. The trip took us about five hours, including a short rest stop. We were surprised yesterday that we didn't have any rain, but today we had gentle showers for much of our drive.

We arrived at our hotel and arranged for a driver to take us to the night market for dinner and shopping. Dinner at Red Piano was a good choice, the rain stopped while we ate, so our walk around the night market proved to very pleasant. We found two YSA friends who work at one of the shops. The girls had a lot of fun negotiating bargains for their purchases. They found almost everything they set out to buy. They told us to tell them they are done with the markets and don't need to buy anything else. We even made a few purchases and felt we came out okay!

At the end of the day we were all tired and ready for some rest. We are looking forward to another day of exploring sites around Angkor Wat tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

More Adventures In The Kingdom of Wonder

This morning at about 7:40 Marla & Brenda experienced their first Tuk-Tuk ride. We arranged for a boat ride to Silk Island and part of the tour included being picked up at our apartment to take us to the boat. We were the only ones on the boat for an hour boat trip from where we boarded until we reached the island in the Mekong River. We have been to Silk Island before so we thought that it would be a good adventure for Brenda and Marla. Marla's favorite part was a Talking Black Parrot that could laugh exactly like her. The amazing part was that it did not rain, when we looked at internet there was a 100% chance of rain this morning.

After lunch at our apartment the girls wanted to go to Tuol Sleng or S21 Genocide Museum, which was a torture center during the Khmer Rouge period. During this dark period of the history of Cambodia over two million or 25% of the population died. Tuol Sleng had been a school that they turned into a prison and torture center, where over 20,000 people were tortured and then sent to their death.

Marla wanted to look for a ukulele while she was here so we took her to the shops that we have seen. After we went to the first shop we were not hopeful, but the second one was great. Marla got a pineapple and watermelon shaped ukulele, and Brenda bought a Winnie the Pooh one. Since we still had time this afternoon we took them to the modern Aeon Mall and let them see that there is a little bit of advanced culture here as well. It all goes to prove that there are the small group of very rich and the larger majority that are very poor.

For dinner we went to Mama's New York Deli. Marla had promised that she would try fish and chips while she was here, since she does not like fish. Well tonight she liked the fish and everything else, especially the Dr. Pepper.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Exploring Cambodia: Markets in Phnom Penh

With our daughters, Brenda and Marla, visiting we felt the best place to start their adventures would be to explore the markets. Two prominent markets recommended for tourists are Central Market and Russian Market. They both have rows and rows of aisles to explore. We started at Central Market with a goal of looking for fabric for Khmer skirts for each of our daughters and our daughter in law.

Fabrics selected and stowed in the car, we still had time to look around. When exploring a new country, we were told, one needs to use all their senses. This applies to the markets with so much to see, touch, smell, hear, and even taste. We were given a taste of Jack Fruit, smelled Durian (a.k.a. Stinky Fruit), felt many different textures, saw much that was new, and heard many call to these obvious tourists to come buy from them.

This afternoon we had lunch at Brooklyn Pizza and Bistro, then with the assistance of the Sister Training Leaders we went to a seamstress to order skirts made.

The next stop was Russian Market. This market seems to be older with everything closer. It appears to be a series of structures joined together to be a large tin-roof market.  One of the vendors is CJF (Cambodia Job Fund), which carries a variety of goods made by Church members. We were able to find several of the other items on our list at this stop. As we explored the many varied shops we heard rain start, and soon felt the drips from the leaks in the tin roof. It was a new experience to wade through the streams trickling down the aisles. It was raining hard enough we thought we would wander a bit in the hopes the rain would subside. We finally just braved the rain and ran for the car.

We were all quite content to return to the apartment for the remainder of the day and eat at home. When they scheduled their trip to Cambodia, we are sure Brenda and Marla didn't expect to experience Raining Season and the cooler temperatures.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Showing Brenda and Marla The City

Since we did not make it back from the airport and to bed until 2:00 a.m. there was no way that we could be up and to Steung Mean Chey by 8:00 a.m. Besides Brenda and Marla wanted to go to the International Branch where they would understand what was happening. There were about fifty there today which is down a little. With it being summer several of the families have taken a vacation back to the U.S.  Still they had a real good Sacrament Meeting and Sunday School. The Sunday School teacher is a Nigerian and he teaches with a lot of enthusiasm.

After church and lunch we all just sat back and took it easy for a little while. Marla has been on a quest today to keep Brenda awake since she did not sleep last night because she slept too much on the plane. We took them up to the roof of the building where we live to give them a birds eye view of the city. Phnom Penh is an interesting city where they do not have restrictive building codes about where to build, so you will have a brand new building right in the middle of some really old and almost falling down buildings. We also took them down to the swimming pool area where the girls had to mimic the Apsara Dancers,  and they also found the large wooden guards by the elevator interesting to pose with.

This evening we took them on a ride around Phnom Penh to show them the sights and the traffic. It is amazing how slow traffic is and how patient you have to be driving through this city. The moto and tuk-tuk drivers think that they should not have to wait for anything, so they weave in and out to get ahead of the cars, SUVs and trucks. We drove along the river road and back down Norodom to our apartment. Without traffic that would take less than twenty minutes, with the crazy traffic tonight it took an hour and a half.

We finished off the day with sticky rice and mango, our first attempt at a very Khmer treat.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Brenda and Marla Are On Their Way

We will be grateful and thankful for until we go home for the wonderful participants in the Institute Class that we have the privilege to teach. One thing that we do is hand out quotes and scriptures for them to read in English. Many of them struggle with reading English but they do it and we are so very proud of them for trying so very hard. We always try and let them know if they are not there how much we missed them, even if they have a good reason for not attending. Our neighbors were up from last week, but not as good as two weeks ago, we only had twenty there today, that is still wonderful.

After Institute we did our normal FaceTime and Skype calls with family, well there were three that were not the normal calls. Spencer, Roman and Hudson took a trip to California to see Spencer's brother and his family, they also stopped in Las Vegas at his sister's family home. So this morning we FaceTimed with Wendy in Draper and Spencer and the boys in Las Vegas. Since Brenda is on her way to Cambodia we FaceTimed with Dave for a few minutes. We did find out that Brenda's little crises (she forgot to print her Cambodian Visa) was solved. Likewise, we FaceTimed with Connie (Marla's roommate) since Marla is also on her way here today.

As we went to go and get groceries we passed Elder Leavitt, he had walked over to get his haircut. Then when we got to the grocery store Sister Christensen had found a minute to sneak away and do some much needed grocery shopping. It is so fun to bump into our fellow Senior Missionaries. Elder Oveson talked to Elder & Sister Jones when he was at the Stake Center for his meeting.

Brenda and Marla let us know that they made it to China, they had a stop in Shanghai, the connection was not very good so we will wait to find out about their flight when they get here. We did find out that Marla did not sleep at all and Brenda was like a toddler, she would fall to sleep for a while, then wakeup for a while and then fall back to sleep. It will be interesting to see if either one of them sleep very well this evening. We will have a very short night tonight, their flight arrives at 11:15, so we probably will not be in bed before 1:00 a.m.

Update: they arrived at 12:30, but we didn't see them until about 1:00 a.m. We were happy to see them, and loved the cookies and treats they brought for us. We may have to extend our mission time to be able to finish all the goodies they brought!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Meeting With the Prime Minister and a Dinner Buffet

Today was busy with not so ordinary a schedule. We took our walk and went to office at our regularly scheduled time. That is about where our day took a divergence from our normal routine. We had only this morning to finish our office tasks before taking a break from the office for about ten days. We studied our institute lesson so we can be ready for class tomorrow, then ate an early lunch (11:30 a.m.).

This afternoon we had an invitation to a meeting with the Prime Minister, Hun Sen, and representatives from the Christian churches in Cambodia. We were told the meeting was to start at 2:00 p.m., but we should be in our seats about an hour before. All the senior couples were there, as well as President and Sister Christensen and many of the local Church leaders. We rode with Elder and Sister Thurston and Elder and Sister Jones.

We arrived at the location where we thought the meeting was to be held, but there were very few cars and hardly any people. As we approached the building we were told it was at the City Hall about a block away. We went in, and found our seats (VIP seats, second row, centered with the podium). Then we waited. And waited. And waited! The seats were quite narrow and very close together, with no extra space for shoulders or wide bodies.

The Prime Minister finally arrived just after 3:30 p.m., and the meeting began. Of course the entire program was in Khmer, but we were fortunate to be sitting next to President Eng, the Phnom Penh North Stake President, who translated for us. The Prime Minister spoke for over an hour. Then we had to make our way out through the crowd for our departure.

As we left the meeting we made our way through rush-hour traffic to take the Joneses home, then back to a dinner at SouSou BBQ Restaurant with the YSA Committee. (Elder and Sister Thurston and Elder and Sister VanBrocklin were also invited to this dinner.)

This was another unique buffet with a conveyer belt that provided a steady stream of options for you to cook your meal on the grill or in the soup pot at your own table. There was also a buffet table with additional meats and cooked items to add to your dinner. WOW! Elder Thurston was good at selecting foods to add to the pot. We selected meats for the grill and yummy drinks. We all had plenty to eat! They even had all-you-can-eat Ice Cream!

As we stopped to pick up our car from the office we checked our emails to find a message that our daughters Brenda and Marla are on their way to Cambodia. It was a good but very busy day!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Our Friends, Fellow Missionaries and Family

There are many mornings that we are up before the alarm clock goes off, this morning was one of those. That meant we were out on our walk a little earlier than normal and we were glad that we were. As we crossed the road by the monument President and Sister Christensen were just getting to the park. They needed to stretch out, since they jog and we just walk, so we continued on with our walk.  A little while later we waved at Sister Larsen and Sister Sheffield headed the other direction. Pretty soon President Christensen passed us on his jog, he was going so fast his picture is fuzzy and a little distant. Then we were surprised as all three sisters passed us. Again it is great to see our friends so early in the morning.

Today was a "Skype with our friends and fellow Self-Reliance Missionaries in Hong Kong" day. This morning we spent time with Sister Roberts working some of the last kinks out of our Delegation PowerPoint presentation. We felt good enough about it that we sent it on to Chad to review. Next week we have a Self-Reliance Missionary WebEx and we plan on sharing it with the others then. This afternoon we Skyped with Elder & Sister Chandler, they are always upbeat and doing such a wonderful job. The Church will start offering the Perpetual Education Fund loans in Hong Kong in two months and they are working hard to be prepared for that.

We both decided that our hair needed to be cut before our daughters got here, waiting two more weeks until they are gone just would not work. Elder Oveson tried a new $2 haircut shop, he still has not found one that he is completely comfortable with. He will know tomorrow after he washes his hair if this one passed the test. Sister Oveson went back to the French Element, the salon that most of the Senior Sister Missionaries go to. They did a good job and she seems satisfied with the results so far. Again, we just have to wait for tomorrow to see what happens when she washes it and tries to style it.

When you sprinkle in our other everyday work, today ended up being very full and fulfilling. In a little over two days our two youngest daughters will arrive for a ten day visit. After talking with them today and finding out that they have a little more room, we added some last minute requests, like a can of grated parmesan cheese. We look forward to seeing them and showing them Cambodia, but we are also excited for our big shipment of goodies.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Street Sweepers and Morning Exercise

This may be a 3rd world country, and there are lots of interesting things we see here. One thing we are impressed with, however, is that in spite of having trash just dropped on the ground there is an effort to keep things clean. As we take our walks every morning we see the remains of the crowds of people who converge on the park at night. The sidewalks also can be covered with leaves and blossoms that drop from the trees overnight. But there are always workers with their brooms sweeping the sidewalks and roads. By 7:00 each morning the sidewalks are swept and many of them washed, and the park is pretty well cleaned, with the trash removed and the streets and sidewalks in order.

This morning as we were just past the halfway point of our walk we were greeted by Sisters Sheffield and Larsen. They were in a hurry to finish their morning exercise and get back to their studies. They stopped just long enough to say hello and pose for our blog.

Today was our semi-monthly Self-Reliance Service Team video conference. Chad is in the U.S. on some well deserved vacation, so the Manager in Taiwan conducted today. He had forgotten he was suppose to, until Elder Oveson reminded him, and he received the agenda just as the meeting started. Phanna gave one of the country highlights on Cambodia today.

We have been working on another assigned project which is almost finished. With the help of the other Asia Area Self-Reliance couples we have created a PowerPoint presentation on Delegation. This is a subject so many leaders here need, most do not understand the real reason we delegate or the proper steps of delegation. We are working hard to get it completed before this weekend when two of our daughters arrive. They are in for an adventure!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Experiencing Water And Power Outages

Every so often we are reminded that even though we may have a very nice apartment we are still in a third world nation, with third world issues. Yesterday morning as we went to shower we did not have very good water pressure. We mentioned it to the apartment manager and she told us it was a pump problem, but that it was fixed. Since we have a very small washer we do some laundry every night, last night it was towels. The batch made it half way through and the washer started dinging that there was a problem, turned out to be no water at all. That meant we started our day today getting that batch rewashed before we headed to the office. Thankfully there was water this morning.

Tuesday morning is devoted to meetings. There is the Service Center Devotional that starts at 8:30 a.m. and can go for two plus hours, and District Meeting that starts at 10:00 and usually goes an our and a half. We decided to go to both of them today, that meant that we ducked out of the Service Center Devotional early. There is a new donut place in town, Krispy Kreme, just down the street from Big Apple Donuts. Since we do not make it to District Meeting very often we decided to treat the young missionaries today. There are three districts that meet at the South Stake Center, a total of twenty-two missionaries, so we had to buy two dozen donuts. We are always so impressed by the District Meetings and the strength of these valiant servants of the Lord.

As we sat working away at our desk a little after noon Rick Page, the Area General Council, stuck his head in and asked if we wanted to go to lunch. He was buying and there was a group of the managers and employees going. We went to Tonle Bassac II, the buffet that we have been to several times in the past. Going to lunch gave us the opportunity to sit across from Rick and to get to know him better.

To add to our third world experience this afternoon, the power at the Service Center kept going off and on. They have a generator to compensate for that, but it kicks on shortly after the power goes off and back off when the power comes back on. It probably cycled about ten different times, we gave up on turning the computers back on until it cleared up all the way.

Later this afternoon Sea Samnang, the Service Center Manager, came and brought us tickets to a gathering put on by the Ministry of Cults and Religions that will be this Friday. We have been to a couple of these meetings in the past and they are very interesting, we were honored to be invited and we even have VIP passes.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Rain, Mama's & Old Phnom Penh City

Today's forecast indicated there was 100% chance of rain in Phnom Penh. We wouldn't have guessed from the look of the sky this morning as we went out for our walk. The air was clear (thanks to rain overnight), and the sun was shining brightly as we returned from our walk. The rains didn't begin until late afternoon. We are hoping the rain trend will continue to add to the water supply for this drought stricken country.

We had the opportunity of getting to know Elder Carl and Sister Janis Jones better today. They stopped in the service center mid morning to meet some of the people who will be support for them as they move forward doing their mission assignment of Family History. They are just trying to get their feet under them as they move forward with such a daunting task. The biggest obstacle is lack of records. So much of that was destroyed during the war and especially during the Pol Pot regime.

We met up with the Joneses again about noon to show them around a few of the important places in the city, such as Mama's New York Deli. We had a great visit over lunch. Tomorrow they will try the adventure of driving. They said they are really not ready to drive here. We assured them neither is Elder Oveson, even though he has been doing it for 15 months now. They haven't even gotten behind the wheel, yet they already understand that when they go home they will have to change driving techniques they are sure they will have to use here. (Welcome to Cambodia!)

We haven't taken any pictures today so we borrowed some from a friend. This is housing in Old Phnom Penh City. Everything is stacked together with a small balcony for a place to dry the laundry. Some of the markets are housed under a series of large umbrellas instead of inside a building. Personal space is premium. Sometimes we just can't help but miss home!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Meeting Investigators at Church

Sometimes it is so very interesting trying to figure out why we do certain things, but other times it just seems that things just fall into place and we have a great understanding. That has happened twice to Elder Oveson over the last couple of days.

Yesterday afternoon he needed to go Stake Presidency meeting, so at about 12:40 he left to take the ten to twenty minute one mile drive to the Stake Center. When he got there the couple that he has been helping with questions about going to the Hong Kong Temple were sitting there waiting for Elder & Sister Jones, the new Family History couple. He did need to talk with them and let them know about a little snag and what they needed to do. It was only after talking with them that he realized that he was an hour early for his meeting. It was pretty clear that this issue needed to be taken care of so he was led to the building early.

Last night as we went to bed we knew that we needed to leave for Steung Mean Chey by 7:15 a.m. to be there early for the 8:00 a.m. Sacrament Meeting. For some reason the alarm got set for 5:15 instead of 5:45. That extra half hour allowed Elder Oveson the time to work on the issue for that couple so that when he saw them at Church he knew exactly what he needed.

We truly enjoy meeting the investigators that the young Elders and Sisters are teaching. Today in the Chaktomuk Ward we met a young man named David (his real name) who is Cambodian and speaks English extremely well. He had come with a friend who needed to leave after Sunday School, but he decided to stay even if he had to walk home. The young sister that was baptized and confirmed last week had a friend with her at Church today.

We continue to get a little bit of rain every day, we can always use more, but that helps keep the temperature down. In fact as we looked at The Weather Channel this morning the temperature was exactly the same here in Phnom Penh as it was back in South Jordan, Utah, our home in the United States. It also showed the exact same, partly cloudy picture behind the current temperature. That was one thing in common today. The biggest difference was Phnom Penh was on the way up for the day and South Jordan was on the way down.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Our Friend, My ("ME")

As we have served in Cambodia we have had the opportunity to get to know many people, some with simple names we would not have thought to be names before our adventure in Asia. We know people with names such as You, Ham, Touch, Long, Neth (Night), Um,  and Him Hen, just name a few. Someone we have come to know is My (Me).

We first met My when she was serving as a missionary in Cambodia in the Vietnamese program, and she was one of four sisters who rode with us to the meeting when Elder Holland came to visit Cambodia.

After My finished her mission and returned to Ho Chi Min City, Vietnam, we were asked to facilitate a Self-Reliance group with he via Skype. Today was the concluding lesson, which means we have been working with My for about 4 months now.  She has become a dear friend, and we will miss our weekly visits.

Just a few weeks ago there was exciting news for the Church in Vietnam as Elder Cook and Elder Stevenson made a visit to Hanoi as the government gave official recognition to the Church in Vietnam. Our friend My was blessed to attend the meeting when both Apostles spoke to the members gathered for the occasion. My is in the back left corner wearing a red dress. President and Sister Hassell (the mission president) are in the middle of the back row (at 6' 5" he stands much taller than the rest), and our former mission president, President and Sister Moon, are back row on the right.

This morning was our Institute class as well.  We knew of a conflict for several of our class members so we wondered how many we would have attend. There were 16 in attendance, which included one new student, we were pleased. We are enjoying these lessons on Teachings and Doctrine of the Book of Mormon.

This morning we were able to Skype with our daughter Becky without any problems, but as we started to talk to Janeene's family our internet went down. After about forty minutes we were going to give up and go and get groceries, but the internet came back up. We always love talking to our children and their family and are grateful for the technology that makes it possible.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Company On Our Morning Walks

As we take our morning walks we occasionally time it just right and get to walk with some of the other Senior Missionaries. This week we timed it just right twice. The first one was Sister Thurston, we came out of our front door the same time as she was headed out of her apartment. While Sister Thurston goes for a jog and walk, Elder Thurston goes on a thirty mile bike ride. She walked with us for half of our walk before continuing off on a little longer excursion. This morning we got to the park area just behind the Leavitts and walked  our round with them. It is always a joy to start our day with a walk and likewise fun to do it with our friends.

It feels like we have had more than plenty to do at our office this week. It seems like we are doing some each day between our various assignments. That definitely adds a variety to our day and makes sure that we are never bored. Today we worked on several PowerPoint presentations. The first one was helping Phanna for a presentation in next week's team video conference. We are also trying to complete an assignment that Chad, our Asia Area Manager, gave us focusing on Delegation. Elder Oveson is also training the new Assistant Executive Secretary how to do the agendas, that way they continue to use them when we leave.

We walked over to the Mission Office to return our passports to the safe, we hadn't taken them back since returning from Hong Kong. It is just safer not to have them with us or left in our apartment, we do have a copy that we carry with us if we are ever asked. We have only been asked for our passports at hotels and the airport, and hotels will use the copy.

Friday nights have traditionally been our night to eat out, even when we were Temple Ordinance Workers on Friday night. Even though we are on the other side of the world there have to be some things that do not change. Tonight we went to one of our favorites, Mama's New York Deli, and had fish and chips. She has many great dishes but her fish and chips are just so good that is what we get about fifty percent of the time.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

What A Difference the Rain Makes

Afternoon showers make a difference in the morning sunrise! Yesterday it rained off and on through the afternoon and evening, filling the streets with water and cleaning the air. This morning the sky was blue and only a few clouds. The sun was bright as it didn't have all the clouds or the haze to filter our view. The air was quite refreshing. And with the rains, the temperatures have dropped to the low 90's and high 80's. We hope the areas that are suffering most from the drought are getting rain as well.

Much of our time at the office today was on Skype and Internet Conference calls. We visited with Sister Roberts in Hong Kong, Elder and Sister Little in India, and Elder and Sister Ricks in Thailand. We also had the Area PEF Operations meeting, which included Mongolia, Thailand, India, Cambodia, and a visitor in Japan, which is the Asia North area. They are just beginning PEF in that area so he tagged into our meeting to better understand how we function. We are thoroughly enjoying our visits with the other senior couples throughout Asia. Each of them have such different needs and responsibilities. We can only imagine the struggles some of them deal with. Some problems are very similar to what we have in Cambodia.

Our morning walks have had some additional flare. The banners are to welcome some visiting dignitaries from Vietnam. This is the second time we have found a pile of shoes scattered on the sidewalk as we went on our walk. And as we go about the city it is often amusing to see the passenger seating. The moto in the truck was probably more comfortable than many of the rides we see.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Our New Family History Couple - Elder & Sister Jones

The Cambodia Phnom Penh Mission has been so blessed with new Senior Missionaries. Today Elder & Sister Jones from Rockland, Idaho arrived as the new Family History Couple. The previous Family History couple, Elder & Sister Hollenzer went home almost a year ago, so it is nice to have one again. It is especially important with the announcement a year ago about the Bangkok Thailand Temple, we need to get the members ready for the temple even though they have not started building it yet.

We had an interesting day at the office today. On Monday we had a university call to schedule an appointment to come and visit with us about their school. Limkokwing University has locations in several other nations including England and is considered a more expensive school than most here. They did tell us that there are discounts if the student does well on their admission test. We were impressed that they were proactive and came to recruit us to send PEF students to their school.

This afternoon as we were doing our gospel study, reading some General Conference talks, we heard it start to ran. It rained pretty good, but we did not think anything about it until we finally finished our studies and got up to look out the window. The street in front of the Service Center was a little river about seven inches deep. We park outside of the gate on the sidewalk and could tell that the water had not got all the way up to our car door yet. But since we had to go to the airport to meet the Joneses Elder Oveson had to use a ledge on the wall, up about two feet, to inch his way to the car, but he didn't get wet.

Along with the Elder & Sister Jones coming in, Elder & Sister Curtis were in town taking care of having the car that they drive appraised for trade in. This evening there were fourteen of us that went out to dinner at Fox Restaurant. It is so fun to get together with all of the other Senior Couples, they are all great and, we believe, perfectly matched to their assignments here.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Family Home Evening with Bishop Om

Today was the Service Center Devotional, each week a different department is assigned to do the training. Today But LumAng from the Translation Department taught about stress and how to control it. He has studied to be a medical doctor so it felt very natural for him to teach about how stress can affect us. We were able to spend more time at our office getting caught up on things we have neglected lately.  It feels like the longer we are here the more stuff that we have to do on a regular basis, and of course there are always the irregular things to do also.

We left the office a little early as we were invited to Family Home Evening with Bishop Om and his wife of the Chaktomuk Ward. As Sister Larsen and Sister Sheffield called to give the invitation they said the bishop was almost giggling with excitement that we might come to visit them for FHE. We prepared a short message on the Temple to share tonight. We think the sisters were almost as excited! We enjoy the young missionaries and look forward to being with them whenever we are able.

We had a very nice visit with the bishop, his wife and their daughter (and their cute little dog). The three of them went to the temple in 2014. They are working toward going back again. The bishop is working with the ward members, encouraging them to prepare and go to the temple as well.  After the lesson and treats came out, that dog was insistently giving "Sampeah" saying "soom" (Please)!

As we go around this city we find so many different things. Today's different picture was a large tree moving down the road. We first saw it as we started out on our walk. We saw it again as we were headed back toward the apartment. It looked like they must have been trying to find how to get around the narrow roads and low hanging wires to get to wherever they were going. The last we saw it was stopped under some of those low wires as men in the back were trying to lift the wires enough to free them to move forward. This was just one more evidence of not enough planning on so many levels.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Our Amazing Monday

As we took our walk this morning we talked about what we had on our schedule today and we could only remember the Self-Reliance Team weekly staff meeting. After last week we were looking forward to a slower Monday. Before we ever left home Sameth called to say that his moto was broke so he would be late, that pushed back the staff meeting.

Last Friday afternoon we had a couple potential appointments for today, but we did not hear back on either one of them, so we decided to check on them first thing this morning. It was a good thing that we checked because they completely filled our afternoon.

The mission is looking at trading in three vehicles and getting four different ones. We have one of two Corollas and they are so low that we scrape bottom almost everyday, pulling into a parking space or a garage. We had to take our car to the Toyota dealership to have it inspected for trade in value. It is so hard to know what traffic will be like so we gave ourselves 50 minutes for a trip that should take 30 minutes. It was good that we did because it took forty minutes to get there.

As soon as we got back from the Toyota dealership Elder Oveson went with Phanna to an appointment. We have been talking to a company that has a call center here and will be hiring more employees in the near future. They have partnered with a school that wants to train the Perpetual Education Fund (PEF) participants for these future jobs. We have to decide if the training will lead to a self-reliant job and is worth the cost. It was a great appointment and we got lots of questions answered but there are still more that we need answered.

Last Monday's blog about our little trip to Hong Kong became our most viewed page on our blog. We feel humbled and blessed to have so many family and friends that cared so much and checked in on us.

We only took two pictures today so we are doing another random Khmer collage today, including the various sky-scapes.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Ward Conference, A Confirmation & Random Khmer Pictures

It was Ward Conference in the Steung Mean Chey 3rd Ward today, so attendance was much more than usual. There were 97 in attendance today, which is more than double their normal numbers. They had a special musical number by the YSA and youth of the ward, which they also recruited youth from the 2nd ward as well. There were several newly called leaders. A new Relief Society presidency, a new Young Women president, as well as a new Elder's Quorum president (who until recently had been living by the Thai border). It was good to have him back as he also played the organ for Sacrament Meeting.

Chaktomuk Ward had their attendance up today as well, just not as high. There were between 50 and 60 there today. Lisa, who was baptized yesterday, was confirmed. It was interesting watching them explain that they would be putting their hands on her head, because culturally here you are not to touch the top of anyone's head.

As sacrament meeting was just about finished we could hear a heavy downpour as rains started to fall. Then just as the closing prayer concluded we heard a very loud clap of thunder. We are happy to see more rain which cleans the air and turns the trees and grass a vibrant green.

Sunday has many variables for us as we continue our service in Cambodia. One thing we can count on is seeing unique things in the traffic here. Last night as we went out we were amazed at the balancing capabilities of the moto passenger in front of us (bottom right). This woman seemed to be balancing one load on her right foot and another load in her left arm. At time some of the spelling we see takes a bit to understand what the word should really be, for instance the T-shirt message "ESPANYOL"!  [Thanks to one of our readers we have learned that "ESPANYOL" is the name of a soccer club in Barcelona, Spain. Now the shirt makes more sense.]  Today's traffic on the way to Steung Mean Chey had the family motos with children standing between the adults, but our favorite for the day was the bicycle riding the moto.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Institute, Baptism & Our Letter Home

Last night we were so tired that we were in bed before 10:00 p.m. It was also important because today is our 5:00 a.m. wake up day. What is amazing is how often we wake up even before the alarm goes off, even on our early day. That was true this morning.

We decided to try bribery on our Institute Class this morning. We told them if they were on time to class that they would get a treat and if they brought their scriptures that they would get two treats. It somewhat worked, the first class participant showed up fifteen minutes early and the second was ten minutes early. There were ten who got the treat today and we told them that we would do the same thing again next week. This class continues to amaze us in so many ways. Today we had twenty-six show up for class, and three of them were new. They also come up with great questions and help with equally wonderful answers.

This afternoon Elder Oveson did not have any meetings to attend so we were able to just stay home and get our letter to our family and friends written and sent. Because of our busy week it was a bit longer than normal, but we hope that the pictures kept their interest.

This evening we went to another baptism in the Chaktomuk Ward. This was the sister to the one baptized two weeks ago, her name is Lisa. In her testimony she said that she has been studying with the Sister Missionaries for four months now. One of the Cambodian Sister Missionaries that recently finished her mission, who helped teach her was also at the baptism. There was a lot of support from the ward and we know that they will do everything they can to hold on to her.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Friday Again -- The Weeks Fly By!

This week has simply evaporated, and there was not even a holiday in Cambodia! Taking a quick trip to Hong Kong and back, then Mission Conference tour with Elder Wong, one day to catch up on work, ending the week with Zone Training and a stake presidency lunch and meeting on Friday made for a very short week for Self-Reliance and PEF!

We enjoy going to zone "Symposium" training and learning from the young missionaries. The meeting today included discussion on how to better utilize the senior missionaries in the work. This was also discussed in our senior couples conference last week. Of course since we were there they asked for our input. We told them it is always good to receive information about baptisms or events so that if we are available we can put them into our schedule.

We truly wish that there was a way that every parent of these young Missionary could see them in action. These are eighteen, nineteen and early twenty year old Young Adults doing amazing things, in a very mature manner. They are always looking for ways to help others. Since most of the missionaries in the Zone are from the U.S. they conducted the meeting in English. But there were plenty of volunteers to translate for the two Cambodian Missionaries in the Zone. Each of them are a wonderful example of charity, as they show pure love for the Lord, each other and the work that they are about.

We left the zone meeting early to meet up with the stake presidency for lunch at Tonle Bassac II Restaurant, then back to the church for stake presidency meeting (while Sister Oveson waited in the lobby working with the iPad.) We were able to spend a couple of hours at the office this afternoon, which included an appointment with a member who is wanting to start a business. We hope he is successful.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Finally In The Office All Day

Here it is Thursday and we finally put in a full day at our office today, and it will be the only day this week that we will be in the office all day. It actually felt good to get back to our missionary work, which comes in a wide variety of different responsibilities.

Over a year ago one assignment that we were given was to make sure that the monthly report gets in on time. Hong Kong was frustrated because it had never been submitted timely. We discovered that part of the problem was that the Self-Reliance employees here did not understand the reports. They have now been submitted on time for more than a year.

Another thing that we had to get done today was preparing for our Institute class. If we just go in and teach the lesson without preparation it will be our lesson and they may or may not learn anything. But if we prepare and invite the spirit then it will be spirit to spirit which is always incredible. We always spend four hours or so every week to prepare to teach a one hour lesson. Throughout our lives we have learned that it takes that level of preparation to succeed.

This afternoon we had a Skype call with Elder & Sister Ricks in Thailand. They are absolutely amazing, they are working so hard and are doing so much we are blessed to associate with them. There has been a Perpetual Education Fund Specialist in Thailand for several years, but they only hired a Self-Reliance Manager at the first of this year. They are working so hard to get the Stakes and Districts trained and the groups up and going.

Along with our normal everyday work we are also asked to help various Service Center staff members with projects that they are working on. Sister Oveson helped Neth, the Material Manager, with some ideas on how to laminate some pictures for the Distribution Center. We were also pulled into a discussion about some different vehicles that they are looking at for the Senior Missionaries to drive. We feel honored that they trust us enough to seek our help and opinion

Last night as we went out to dinner there was a beautiful view of the sunset from the roof at the restaurant. We have beautiful sunsets in Utah, but they are different here in Cambodia.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Elder and Sister Wong -- Cambodia Mission Tour

One of the great things about being missionaries is gathering regularly along with the other missionaries for District meeting and Zone Conference. Today was a special treat to have Zone Conference as part of a mission visit from Elder Chi Hong Wong of the Seventy, along with his wife.

Zone Conference started at noon so we had the morning to try to catch up with some of immediate needs at the office. We also had a 12:30 web meeting with the Asia Area Self-Reliance team, so we had to excuse ourselves after lunch and missed being in the group photo and the first part of the meeting. Sister Thurston graciously kept our camera and took a shot of the group, so Elder Thurston is pointing showing where she should be.

The training was phenomenal. We are so blessed to be taught by such powerful leaders. Elder Wong's message throughout the meeting had a theme of stones. He referred to story of David and Goliath and asked how many stones David took with him, and how many he needed. After asking why David took 5 stones, but only needed one. His message was that we need to be prepared then allow the Lord to give direction in the details of what he must do. He also spoke of the stones mentioned in the Book of Ether. The brother of Jared brought 16 stones, 2 for each barge. Then asked if we had ever considered that we might be one of those stones. We need to be the light for others.

Sister Wong taught that the most important message we may receive is the prompting or whisperings of the spirit that were not part of the spoken message.

After that meeting the senior couples were invited to have dinner with Elder and Sister Wong at the Patio Restaurant. What a marvelous day! We have been fed both physically and spiritually today!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Back Home In Phnom Penh

These last four days have felt more like a week or two. It is amazing that we were able to cram so many things into such a short period of time. In fact Sunday night talking to the Ophthalmologist in Salt Lake City feels like yesterday in some ways and weeks ago in other ways.

First an update on Elder Oveson's eye. It does not feel as dry as it did, the weird floaties are still trying to drive him crazy, but Sister Oveson says it looks like his eye has gone through not feeling well today, it is more droopy. Still it is good to know that it is not as bad as originally thought, we will count that as a blessing and thank all of those who have been praying for us.

We caught a plane back to Phnom Penh this afternoon. Elder & Sister Leavitt braved the afternoon traffic to pick us up. They are the greatest Office Couple in the Church, and we are blessed that they were assigned to Cambodia.

We figure that since the purpose of our visit was complete we might as well get back to what we were called to do. Besides staying in the hotel in Hong Kong completely spoiled us, carpet on the floor, our best shower in fifteen months (the water flow and temperature did not fluctuate at all, and it was a big shower).

This morning we took a short walk from our hotel to the Church Offices in Hong Kong. We Skype regularly with Elder & Sister Chandler and Sister Roberts who serve there in Self-Reliance Services. Likewise, have met several of the other missionaries and Church employees when they came to visit Cambodia. Elder and Sister Chandler were our tour guides on the first nine floors and we found Sister Roberts on the tenth floor. We made new friends and got to meet in person several who are already our friends. We tried very hard to avoid interrupting the Area Presidency, but as we snuck past a Conference Room Elder Funk saw us and came out to talk. We are blessed to associate with such wonderful leaders and missionaries.

It is very nice to be back in our apartment in Cambodia. We know that is where we are suppose to be right now, doing what we are suppose to be doing and striving to help our fellow brothers and sisters in this part of the world.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Hong Kong and Guardian Angels

First we want to say thanks to so many who have kept us in your prayers. We feel so blessed! This has been a busy adventure filled day. We could not have asked for a better outcome. This has been an incredible day.

On Saturday Elder Oveson started having weird effects with his eye. He was quite concerned when the visual effects increased. Several years ago Elder Oveson had cornea transplants on both eyes, so his eyes are a great concern to him. There was enough issues that he called his eye doctor back home. All the symptoms indicated a detached and potentially torn retina. With worries about quality medical care, he encouraged us to take a trip to Hong Kong and see a specialist there.

We took the doctor's counsel and booked a flight for Hong Kong for today. That included a leap of faith that we would be able to get an appointment and that we would be able to arrive safely at our destination.  We went to the mission office first thing and made some phone calls, and were blessed to get an appointment for 4:15 this afternoon. The glitch was that our flight was scheduled to land at about 3:00, then we would have to find the train across town and make it before we were too late.

As we went to the check-in line at the airport we found that we would be on the flight with friends (a mom and her three daughters from the International Branch). The flight was smooth and everything went well, except that weather in Hong Kong made all the flights delay landing by about 10 minutes. 

As we landed we knew our time would be tight, but we managed to call the office we were heading to and let them know we were coming as quickly as possible. They let us know we needed to just make sure to be there before 5:00 p.m. Here's where the we found our guardian angel. As the train approached the station where we needed to get off, Elder Oveson asked another passenger for directions from there to the clinic. This man was so kind as to walk us through the terminal, then pay an additional ticket fee (we didn't have any Hong Kong dollars), then made sure we understood directions to walk the two or three blocks to our destination. We arrived at the office at 4:55.

The best news of all came when the doctor did his examination and determined that the eye had problems, but Elder Oveson did not need any procedures on it. The  retina was partly detaching, yet there was no tear. Long story short, there was no further treatment required, for now. He recommended Elder Oveson be seen again in four to six weeks to make sure there are no further problems. We were able to catch a taxi to a hotel that had been booked for us, then find a return flight for tomorrow. Now we are exhausted, but so grateful for so many of you who have taken a moment to let us know we are remembered and loved.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

We Love Helping Members In Any Way

One thing that we were told as we arrived in Cambodia is how respectful the members are to the Senior Missionaries. Since the Church has only been in Cambodia for twenty-two years most of us have almost three times as much experience as members as the Church has been here in this country. Because of that, they figure that we most know anything and everything about the Church.

As we came out of Sacrament Meeting in the Steung Mean Chey 3rd Ward today a Young Adult who got married about six months ago asked for our help. He and his wife want to go to the Hong Kong Temple on July 10th to be sealed. They are both returned missionaries and have been to the temple for their own endowments, but they did not know how to get ahold of the temple or what they needed to do. We told him that we had some friends in Hong Kong that were temple workers that we could contact and get some information. As we got home from our morning meetings we sent off an email to the Self-Reliance Missionaries in Hong Kong and got a reply shortly after that. It was good that we asked because the temple is closed for maintenance until July 19th. We will still follow up and find out what we need to do to schedule an appointment for the sealing, the patron housing and cafeteria. We like feeling that we can make a difference and that we can help those who are so new to the gospel.

Even though the Church is fairly young it is amazing to see that most of their Fast & Testimony Meetings are filled without any lapses. In each ward they usually remind the members to keep their testimonies short, three to five minutes, but then the one conducting always takes more than five minutes and so do most of the rest. Just like in wards in Utah, there are those who get up and you wonder what they were really talking about, that happens here as well. The difference is that the missionary that is translating for us usually stops and says "I have no idea what they are talking about."  That is okay, if it does not make sense to them it would not make sense to us either.

We have often said that we see some of the most interesting things on our way to and from Steung Mean Chey. Here in Cambodia they do not use hearses to carry the caskets to the Wat, they have what look like parade floats. Today we went by two of them on our way home, we do not see these on a regular basis. Likewise there was a girl carrying her desk on the back of her moto. It was not a big desk, but it is amazing what they can carry on motos. Finally they are continuing to progress on the addition at the Steung Mean Chey Building.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

God Bless America

Saturdays seem to be a different schedule every week, and today was no exception. We had such an incredibly busy week, our legs and body let us know we are not as young as we used to be, and that hiking a thousand stairs is not what we are used to doing.

Our Saturday routine starts early enough that we don't try to do our walk, but totally love going early to teach our Institute class. It is such a joy to interact with these amazing young adults, and to have 22 in attendance is amazing. We are so thankful for each and every one of them. One of our regular participants was absent today as she was opening her mission call with her family. Pharun and her sister both have receive calls to serve in the Cambodia Phnom Penh Mission. They will be strong addition to our missionary force here. Pharun will begin a mini mission here on August 10th, and report to the MTC October 16th. Her sister goes to the MTC on the same date.

As we made calls home to family today we were excited most of them were together. It is always fun to have our grandchildren come to report on their week and the things they are doing. We are so blessed to see them even as we serve on the other side of the world.

This afternoon Elder Oveson had meeting with his stake assignment and Sister Oveson tagged along with some of the other senior missionaries to the American Summerfest Celebration (combining Memorial Day and the 4th of July). It feels so good to be together with other Americans, having a  boy scout troop join with US Marines to present the Colors (Flag presentation), and hear the US National Anthem. We also had lunch options to purchase such as hamburgers, hotdogs, ribs, tacos or BBQ to name a few. We are so grateful for our heritage and the blessing of being citizens of The United States of America.  We feel to say, as the words of a patriotic hymn, "God Bless America, Land That We Love."

Friday, June 3, 2016

Another Week Down and a Khmer Wedding

With being out of the office the last two days today almost felt like another Monday. Since it is a new month we started looking at how we did last month in our various areas. We have mentioned more than once that the month of May had at least one holiday each week. Added on top of that was a major computer programing change for the Perpetual Education Fund, and we did not have a great month on our loan collections. We are still up significantly compared to last year and we did have four participants pay off their loans, but we were down about seventeen from last month.

Last Tuesday we were tossed a hot potato of a project that needed to get done right away. In April we put together the 1st Quarter Report for the Ministry of Cults and Religions but then it sat for about a month waiting for the last items that we needed to have it finished. As we previously mentioned, Tuesday we were told that it was needed for a presentation next Wednesday. The Translation Department promised to have it done by next Tuesday, but they emailed the finished product today. We have a couple of the Service Center staff giving it a final look over before it is printed. It is great to have it this far and know that we will get it done on time.

We had to finish preparing for our Institute class today. Normally we spend a little time each day, but there has not been any extra time the last two days. Still we feel prepared and we are hoping and praying for another big class tomorrow.

This evening we were invited to a Khmer Wedding reception. The father of the bride is the bishop in the Steung Mean Chey 3rd Ward that we attend. The bride has been the music leader for Sacrament Meeting for most of the time that we have been here. Touch Sophornn, the Seminary and Institute Director asked if he could ride with us to the wedding, which we were just fine with. That way we will have someone to translate for us if needed, since he speaks very good English.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Senior Couple Excurson -- Odong

Today was our final activity of our Senior Couple Conference, which was more like a missionary field trip. Sister Christensen, our mission president's wife, has spent a lot of time planning and scheduling this three-day conference and the excursions and cultural activities for memorable bonding experiences for all of us.

The group was asked what time we should start, and since it was split with some saying 8:00 and others 9:00, President Christensen made the decision to start at 8:30. That gave time for morning exercise of our choice. We, of course, choose our walk, but Elder Thurston was able to go on a 30 mile bike ride.

Of course other factors made it so we didn't get started until about 9:30, then with traffic and road construction it took us until about 11:30 to get to our destination.

We learned that Odong was the royal residence and Cambodia's capital or more than 250 years. The remaining structures are impressive, set on top of a Phnom (hill) overlooking beautiful green countryside. It was extensively damaged during the Khmer Rouge.

As we arrived at the base of the Phnom, we had a lot of stairs to climb to reach the stupa. Just below the last set of stairs we were required to remove our shoes and hats. The sun was hot but the view was magnificent. Access to the stupa is not allowed, but there are beautiful gold doors on all four sides.  As with everywhere else in Cambodia, we were followed by children who were eager to sell flowers or services of fanning guests during their climb. Some of those children are included in our group photo  which was taken as we completed our descent.

One final stop on our return to Phnom Penh was at the Blue Pumpkin restaurant for lunch. We finished our day exhausted and having thoroughly enjoyed our time spent with so many amazing senior missionaries. We can hardly wait for the next senior conference in about six months.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Learning From & With The Other Senior Couples

Over the years we have learned that blessed are the flexible for they shall not get bent out of shape. Today's session of the Senior Couples Conference was suppose to be at the Service Center in the Conference Room. We went over early to the Service Center with the Thurstons to do a little work before the conference, and found the Conference Room full of the Translation Department having a meeting. We quickly called Sister Christensen to change the meeting to the Mission Office.

One of the problems with a Senior Couple Conference is that there are so many things to talk about that it is almost impossible to get everything done. Sister Christensen had a beautiful agenda for today's meeting along with how much time each item was suppose to take. It did not take long to be behind, and some items got completely skipped, but it was a great conference.

One of our favorite parts was the Sister Training Leaders, Sister Larsen and Sister Sheffield, who shared some cultural dos and don'ts with us. We have not had any formal training on what to do and what not to do prior to coming to Cambodia, that is something that they do with the young missionaries at the MTC. It was good to see and understand some of those important cultural traditions. They also shared with us how much the young missionaries enjoy working with the Senior Couples.

President Christensen shared the state of the mission in a little bit different way than he did at the Zone Conferences. The statistics were interesting to see and to better understand. There were also several presentations by some of the Senior Couples and a counselor in the Mission Presidency.

This evening we all took a Tuk-Tuk ride to the river to catch a dinner cruise. As we got in the Tuk-Tuks it looked like it might rain, but as we got to the boat and left it was a beautiful evening. It was a great time to just chat with the other couples and enjoy a meal out on the river. That may be the only time we take the dinner cruise, but it was definitely worth the cost, because of the opportunity to be with all of the other Senior Missionaries.