Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Counting Our Blessings

Getting up before the alarm meant our morning walk was earlier than usual. The sky changed from dark with the early morning glow to full morning light in the 30 minutes it takes us to walk our usual course. Because we were earlier there were more people still sleeping, including the security guard in our building.

The weather is changing and we noticed the flag at the monument blowing in the Northerly breeze. More often it has been blowing from the South. Rainy season seems to be subsiding and we have seen more clear or partly cloudy skies in recent days.

There is more evidence that Christmas may find it's way to Cambodia, even if it is not on the official holiday list. More shops and show windows have put up the Christmas trees, some even have artificial snow. That is the only snow we will see for Christmas this year.

Our day was spent working through projects to help in turning over those responsibilities we have had. When we arrived there was no instruction manual or anyone to give us a starting point on how to implement Self-Reliance in Cambodia. The former senior couples were PEF Missionaries, and we really had to start over in everything including PEF support. We received training and guidance from couples in the Area office, but we still had some restrictions we had to work through and couldn't do everything from our training. As we prepare to leave there are no replacement missionaries for our position. Phanna and Sameth are doing so well in their positions, most of the bugs have been worked out so that Self-Reliance Services can roll forward and bless so many people.

What we have done as Area Self-Reliance Missionary Communication couple will soon assigned to another couple. That was another area we had to start over and define our role. We are putting together a file that will give a summary of what we have learned from each couple during our Skype visits with them. Reviewing our notes has reminded us what a blessing we have received in serving among the valiant senior missionaries serving in Asia.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Snow In Utah, Sun In Cambodia

As we FaceTimed with our family last weekend they told us that snow was on its way, the first major storm of the season. In email responses to our weekly letter to friends and family we were again told of the pending storms. Because of that we have been watching the weather reports for Salt Lake Valley the last couple of days to see if the forecast was correct. The best evidence of the snow was a beautiful picture of the snow covered temple posted by a friend on Facebook. So that picture became part of our collage today along with the beautiful sunset and green trees here in Phnom Penh.

In an email to one of our daughters we told her that we had looked at the weather app and it said the temperature in South Jordan was 30 degrees and in Phnom Penh it showed only 29 degree. She did not buy in to our story, knowing one was in fahrenheit and the other was celsius. The real high temperature in fahrenheit in Phnom Penh was 88 degrees with a feels like of 94 degrees.

Today was a "normal" Tuesday at our office. We attended the Service Center Devotional that went for about an hour and a half. We worked on the preparation for the lesson for our Institute Class. We helped Phanna and Sameth on Self-Reliance and Perpetual Education Fund issues. We helped several of the Service Center staff with questions about what something really meant that was in English and not Khmer, or how to put something in English. Elder Oveson worked on reviewing Perpetual Education Fund applications from several countries. We also did our daily scripture reading.

The non-normal part is putting together reports for when we go home and we can hand off some of the assignments that we have been given. We want to leave things better than when we came, and to have made a difference by being here. Elder Oveson is still telling people we have three months left, November, December and January. He will have to change to two months in less than two days.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Blessings of Service

After a long busy weekend it was good to be back to our regular Monday schedule. The morning walk included a full array of flags posted around the monument, likely for a dignitary visit from Laos mentioned on the banners posted across from the monument. We made one quick family call then were out the door in plenty of time to be to the office before 8:00 a.m.

Because of holidays there were two weeks we missed our weekly Cambodia Self-Reliance Team meeting. It was good to meet today, which made two weeks in a row. We told Sameth and Phanna they need to keep doing these meetings even after we go home, to which Phanna told Sameth he had to hold the meetings even when Phanna was out of town on visits. Sameth figured it would just be a quiet meeting.

This afternoon we took a walk to the mission office, making note of of the truckload of mangled rebar as it went by. The shoes outside the door of the mission home was a reminder that today was P-day and several young missionaries were inside.

Getting things ready for Christmas means Sister Oveson has a new nativity on display, made by one of our friends, Seyha Cheung. He is selling handcrafted items to earn money for a mission. His English skills are excellent so we would not be surprised to see him serve somewhere outside of Cambodia. Wherever he serves he will be an awesome missionary!

Tonight ended with another glorious sunset, and we continue to be thankful for the beauties of the world and opportunity to serve. We encourage all who are considering a senior mission to make the plans that will give them the opportunity to retire and serve. We are truly blessed to be here!

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Phnom Penh South Stake Conference

Six months ago Elder Khanakam of the Seventy was the visiting authority for the Phnom Penh South Stake Conference. After the conference he encouraged them to hold two sessions of the General or Sunday Session of conference. He felt that by doing two sessions that it would  provide more of an opportunity for the members of the Stake to attend Stake Conference. In the past the Stake Conference has been at the Stake Center in Chamkarmorn which is about a twenty to thirty minute drive without bad traffic from Steung Mean Chey. The problem is most of the members in Steung Mean Chey do not have cars and many do not even have motos. The previous two conferences the stake hired a bus to bring members from the Steung Mean Chey Building to the Stake Center.

With two sessions they also partially had to come up with different sets of speakers, the Stake Presidency and Mission President were the same for both. That gave an opportunity for more of the members to participate in the conference. They also had a forty member adult choir that sang in both sessions. We do not know the final count, but at the least they had about fifty of the same members in both session, which should up their attendance numbers.

One of our Institute class members, Khenna Monikeo, played a major role in Stake Conference both days. Last night she translated for one of the speakers and lead the music, today she again translated for one of the speakers and was the very next speaker. We count her as one of our dear Cambodian friends, she was in last night's collage with her mom. Also, Lisa, one of the members that we had a Family Home Evening with last Sunday Evening, was another of the speakers and did a wonderful job.

The center picture in our blog tonight is President Uk Sophal, his wife Bolinda and their children David, Mara and Daniel. The choir had to line up for a picture at Steung Mean Chey so we took advantage of their gathering. The YSA in our picture tonight is Sasha from Canada that attends our Institute class. And finally the couple is Pam & Jerry Bowman that are visiting Cambodia and ended up at the Stake Conference today.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

It's Beginning To Look Like Christmas

One of our holiday traditions is to put up the tree just after Thanksgiving. Today seemed like a good day to keep that tradition. After our standard Saturday morning routine of Institute, calls home, and grocery shopping, we pulled down the box with the little Christmas tree we "inherited" from a previous missionary couple and all the trimmings to go with it. It took about 15 minutes to set up and decorate the tree. There was still tinsel garland left over, so we added it to some decorative bell ornaments that were too large for the tree and created a simple wreath for the door. We purchased a hand made paper quilled nativity from one of our friends who is earning money for a mission. He was part of a team that created the Cambodian Paper Quilled Nativity nativities that are now on sale at Deseret Book.

This afternoon Elder Oveson had leadership meeting for Stake Conference. Sister Oveson hired a Tuk Tuk to go to the evening adult meeting.  It is always good to gather with the Saints for these meetings. Having been in Cambodia for 21 months we have gotten to know so many of the members in the Phnom Penh South Stake. The people will be what we miss the most as we complete our mission and return home.

After the meetings we stopped at Mama's New York Deli for dinner. Mama has become a great friend, and she will be missed. She was very sad when we told her that we will be leaving in January. She remembers what our favorite menu items are and adds extra sauces that she knows we enjoy. When talking to her recently we figure she is in her 80's. She survived the Pol Pot genocide, moved to the U.S., raised her family, and was a restauranteur in New York. After her husband passed away she decided to return to Cambodia to live.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Morning Calls - It Was Still Thanksgiving

One thing about being fourteen hours ahead of our family back home in the U.S., when we get up in the morning here it is still the previous day there. That meant we could call part of our family this morning to Skype with them on Thanksgiving Day. We spoke to three out of our five daughters along with two thirds of our grandchildren. And we had the perfect reason to stay home this morning, on the fourth Friday of each month we have Skype calls with a Senior Missionary couple in Taiwan and another in Hong Kong. The first one was at 8:00 a.m. and only lasted for half an hour and the second was at 10:00 a.m. that gave us an hour and a half in between calls.

We continue to be amazed at the wonderful Self-Reliance Service Missionaries that we have the opportunity to serve with. Both of our Skype calls went very well and the couples are doing such a wonderful job in their country. We will miss these opportunities when we are replaced, but we have been blessed to make some wonderful friends via Skype.

A lot of the electronics in the world are manufactured in Asia because of the cheap labor factor. That also means a lot of the after market repair parts are also manufactured in Asia. A few months ago the iPad got dropped and cracked the screen, and shortly after that the speaker started having problems. One of the local Stake Presidents told us about a shop owned by a member to take it to, so we finally got around to getting it fixed. The total repair cost was less than a third of the price that we would have paid in the U.S.

We had a fairly quiet afternoon at our office today. Sameth took the day off to take their baby for her shots, Phanna was out visiting businesses as part of his job and Neth that sits by us was off in other parts of the Service Center. It is nice to have a quiet afternoon, we were able to work on some projects that need to be done in the next couple of weeks.

Tonight's collage is the sunset over a thirty minute period. It is amazing how the colors transform before our eyes. The camera does a fairly good job of capturing the various hues, but nothing can compare to the actual view.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving in Cambodia

There are so many holidays on the calendar in Cambodia, but no Thanksgiving.  Our day started with a walk just after the overnight rain had stopped.  Back home we would have been making preparations for family gathering for a feast and family visit. But in Cambodia, this was just another day.

Today we did something we have never done on Thanksgiving before; take the car to the dealership for an oil change.  We commented on the lack of color in the lineup of cars being serviced. There are far more white cars in Cambodia than any other color, but it was still surprising to see 80% of the cars in the service bay were white.

Today was also a regular day for the young missionaries. They went about their normal schedule teaching and serving. However, there was a special Family Home Evening for this evening with senior couples each hosting a zone. We were assigned the Phnom Penh South Zone. In working with the zone leaders each district was assigned a part. Our assignment was the refreshments and a brief lesson. We found a deal for Pumpkin Pies at a little bakery and restaurant, Jars of Clay, where we also ate a wonderful lunch.

The zone gathered for Family Home Evening at about 4:00, and we really got started about 4:20.  There were 4 short Thanksgiving video messages mixed in with games such as water balloon fight (for which the group went out to the parking lot), a thankful web, charades, human battleship with a large exercise ball, and finally the spiritual lesson about giving thanks by "Thanks Living" every day. Pumpkin pies and fresh fruit were a great hit at the end. It was so good to hear them tell of things they were so grateful for.

At the end of the day we realize there are so many things we are grateful for, such as friends, family, and serving in Cambodia. We are especially thankful for our Savior and a loving Heavenly Father.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Rain again?

As we got up this morning at 5:15 and looked out there were raindrops on the window, but as we put our hand out for the second test we did not feel anything. Still as we watched we could see lighting from cloud to cloud, which looked very foreboding. We decided to do our typical morning preparation and then check for rain again. Again it really looked like it could start raining any time and the streets were damper than before. We decided to see if we could go on at least a short walk, but as we got out of the gate the skies did not look as threatening as before. Our short walk turned into our normal walk and it felt good to take our morning walk, even though it was super humid.

Before our mission we would always kid that our children knew when we were praying because that is when the phone rang the most. This morning we had just begun our personal prayers when  the phone rang with a FaceTime call. It was our six year old grandson calling to let us know that he had got the postcard from Taiwan that our friend Chad mailed for us. Then since he had us on the phone and he was just in the car heading somewhere he wanted to chat. We were told that FaceTime was created so grandmas could go on missions.

We were still to our office before 8:00 and working away when we realized that we had intended to have a video chat with one of our children this morning. Since we do not have privacy at our desks we sent into the Conference Room to make our call, but we forgot to tell the others in our department. By time we came back to our desks they were looking for us, Steve in Taiwan wanted Elder Oveson to give him a call on Skype. They needed to work out some kinks in some PEF applications.

This afternoon we had our bimonthly Team Meeting via the internet. Most of the Managers and Specialists were there but we had one of the SRS Missionary couples whose internet just was not going to work today. They eventual called their country manager on the phone and just listened to the meeting over the phone.

Time marches on and our time left is getting shorter, but we know that there is a lot left for us to do in the next 50+ days. We want to leave with as much done as we can, knowing that with the Lord's help the work will go forward.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

A Rainy Day and Young Visitor

We had a rare day today when rains were falling enough that we canceled our morning walk. We heard the rain several times throughout the night, beginning about 1:30, we heard thunder and heavy rain still falling when the alarm sounded at 5:15. We still got up and started our day which gave time for a couple calls to family before heading to the office.

The Tuesday devotional today was the Area Presidency devotional, with Elder David Evans and his wife Mary as the speakers. Because of the rains the internet feed was reduced causing the video to stall frequently. The devotional which should have taken about 45 minutes stretched to about twice the time. Even with that it was worth staying for the entire devotional.

Sameth's work schedule is changing, which also led to his daughter, 7 year old Yuri changing her school schedule. With that change Yuri spent the afternoon at our office. It was such a joy to have her with us. Sister Oveson printed several color pages and worksheets. Too bad we can't get Yuri together with our granddaughter Ariana, who just turned 8. They would have so much fun! We will just miss Yuri's 8th birthday in January by just a week after we return home.

Elder Oveson was kept busy reviewing Perpetual Education Fund applications from several counties and helping Sameth with some critical emails. We know how important education is to the members in these developing nations in Asia.

The photos for today are Sister Oveson and Yuri, the trash collectors use a mat to pick up piles of garbage from the street. The holiday lights are likely because of Water Festival, but we will enjoy them as Christmas lights. And finally, the skies and clouds continue to amaze us. This week of giving thanks, we are truly thankful for the beautiful world around us.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Second Family Home Evening This Week

We have told the young missionaries that if they would like us to go with them on appointments or visits to just let us know. We always enjoy being with them and watching as the gospel moves forward here in Cambodia. Sister Schwab and Sister Ormax (she is Cambodian and her name is pronounce Ow-mah) invited us for the second evening in a row to go with them for a Family Home Evening at a recent converts home. They assigned us again to come up with the activity, and today's topic was gratitude. We are so grateful for the internet and the ideas that we are able to pull off of it. This is an older Sister that was baptized about six months ago and who is raising her two year old grandson. Here neighbor that was baptized a couple of weeks ago also came. this was their very first Family Home Evening ever.

This morning we got to the office before 8:00 in great hopes that they may have fixed the air conditioner over the weekend, but they had not. They did show up and work on it this morning and spent about two hours before they packed up and left with the air still not working. Apparently it is a brand that is hard to get parts for and it is not even a year old (we moved into the office December 1st last year). We did work at the office until lunch, but then we came home to eat lunch and stayed to work where it was nice and cool. With the miracle of the internet we are able to do everything that we needed to from the comforts of our apartment. We received word late this afternoon that the air conditioner is working again, so we will be back to our office tomorrow.

We also worked on our assigned gathering with the missionaries for Thanksgiving. We ordered the pumpkin pies and talked with the helper at the Mission Home about having her buy some good fresh fruit to go with the pies. She is not only going to buy the fruit, but she will have it already for us to just pick up and serve on Thursday.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Missionaries, Members and Making Memories

Sundays following transfers are exciting. It is kind of like anticipating opening a gift to find what treasures are inside. This transfer brought us some pleasant surprises. At Steung Mean Chey the elders "white washed", which means a complete change in those assigned to the area. Our new elders are Elder Scheifer from Mesa Arizona who has been out just a year, and Elder Lackey from Texas who arrived three days ago from the MTC. What added to our surprise was the change for sisters. We keep Sister Winder, and welcome back Sister Clark who served in this same area several months ago. We are excited to work with this amazing group of missionaries.

Our afternoon at the Chaktomuk Ward had some changes as well. Elder Lauritzen has completed his mission and he brought his family to the ward. His release also meant a new Assistant was called as Elder Palmer's companion. We guessed correctly that Elder Denkers would fill that role. His first area was in Steung Mean Chey about 16 months ago. His smile and willing attitude have served him well and will take him far throughout his life. The sisters did not change, so happy to keep Sister Schwab and Sister Ormax.

This evening Sisters Schwab and Ormax invited us to participate in Family Home Evening with a family who are recent converts. Lisa started learning about the church first, then invited her sister who was going through some struggles. Their mother was baptized last week and confirmed today. The three of them were so excited to have us come to their home. They said the Church has made a big difference for all of them. It has been a blessing to know this little family.

As we sat on the floor of this humble home sharing a Family Home Evening message we realize there are reasons they have the young missionaries do so much. Our old bones would not allow us to do this very often, nevertheless we are thankful for the sweet memories.

Our photos include a bakery cart strapped on a moto, construction workers putting up a huge billboard close to our apartment, the Steung Mean Chey missionaries, and Family Home Evening.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

First Generation Of Members

As we serve here in Cambodia we are reminded over and over that the members here now are really the first generation of Church. They are the pioneers for this country who are forging the future for generations to come. They face challenges and problems that were faced by the early saints as the Church was restored.

Our Institute lesson today was about temple worship and family history, which are both a trial for them here. The nearest temples right now are either in Hong Kong or the Philippines, which are both a long distance, and the cost of attending is prohibitive. There is a temple announced for Bangkok Thailand but that is still at least four years away, and they dream of a temple here in Cambodia. We remind them that it took the early pioneers of the Church forty years to build the Salt Lake Temple. Family history is difficult for several reasons. The Khmer Rouge destroyed a lot of records, the current government does not allow access to the records that exist, and the general lack of record keeping. The Church has already recorded oral histories of some of members here, but that is only a beginning.

We had eighteen wonderful participants in our class today that need to be the future of the Church right here in Cambodia. Even with that having been said, they have a difficult road ahead of them, not unlike the early pioneers of the Church. There is the constant issue of establishing a gospel centered family. In our class today we had twelve sisters and six brethren. Unfortunately there are more worthy sisters than worthy priesthood holders in Cambodia. There have been times in the past that we have had about equal numbers of males versus females, but the dear sisters just seem to be more faithful.

It is good for us to see in some small ways the struggles that the first generation of members go through, but to also try to help them prepare for the future. We hope to make a difference in some small ways that will help smooth out the bumps that they must and will face.  

Friday, November 18, 2016

Planning the Next Holiday: Thanksgiving

Cambodia may not have any holidays on the calendar for next week, but that won't stop us from celebrating Thanksgiving.  The senior couples were each assigned a zone to hosts for a Family Home Evening, we will be with the South Zone. We met with Elder Rom and Elder Ros, the South Zone leaders, this afternoon to plan for the event. Past years there have been bigger celebrations. Last year all the missionaries serving in the Phnom Penh areas converged on Tonle Bassac II Restaurant, but this year such events were ruled out. It is time to take things back to basics instead of trying to create holiday gatherings like back home in the US.

Such activities work better when they are planned with a coordinated effort. We are hosting, but it truly is a zone event. As we met with the zone leaders we suggested some agenda ideas and welcomed their input. The next step will be assignments by the zone leaders to each of the districts, who will in turn develop plans. Each district will be asked to prepare an activity, a skit, or a musical number. There will not be a meal but there will be Thanksgiving desserts.  We will give more details on Thursday as we report how Thanksgiving unfolds.

The air conditioning is still not working in our corner of the office so things have been pretty warm. Our desk are directly under a fan, so we were doing better than Phanna and Sameth. Even with the windows open they were warm enough to melt. Sameth moved to Sister Oveson's desk yesterday when we left early to attend meeting on the internet. Today when the technicians came and went and the air was still not working Sameth said he may need us to leave early again so he could be by the fan. We also joked that our team should just trade offices with the Facilities Management team and enjoy their cold air until it was fixed.

Today's pictures are more random things we see while driving around the city. It is good to see the little moto passengers wearing helmets. The load of green is either feed for the cattle or greens for the market, we are never sure. The way it is bundled it is likely for the market. This is not the first time we have seen a moto being hauled in a Tuk Tuk. The roadside band are a blind group singing for traffic in hopes of contributions. We figure it is a step up from begging. The bottom right photo may be difficult to tell but the cargo is plucked chickens headed to the market.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Arrival Of The New Missionaries

As some missionaries get to close to going home they begin to slack off and just coast into the finish of their mission. We are wondering if some at the Service Center are wondering if that is what we are doing or not. This morning we did not show up at the Service Center until after 10:00 a.m. and we left to head home at 3:30 p.m.. Of course there were legitimate reasons when we came in late and why we left early and they all focused around Skype, phone calls and a video conference.

We use Google Hangout with one of children every Thursday morning before heading to the office, but this morning we ended up also FaceTiming another one of children. On top of that our contact at Church Headquarters asked us to give him a call. Apparently our Self-Reliance Area, along with one other, is doing so well with the Senior Couples they are going to take more of a hands off approach with us. We can call them if we need, but they will not be contacting us or being part of our monthly Area Video Training Meeting. We also had a Skype call with one of the Self-Reliance Missionaries in Hong Kong.

When we got to the office the air conditioner was still not working and they said that it would not be fixed until this afternoon. This afternoon they came and said the repair company was so busy that they would not make it there until tomorrow. It was a good thing that we were going home because we were very warm.

This afternoon we had the Asia Area Self-Reliance Committee Meeting, that is held in Hong Kong, which we join via a video link. We have enjoyed being part of this committee and watching the chairman, one of the Area Presidency, direct the work. The current chairman is Elder David Evans and he is very soft spoken, but also has a keen understanding of the ways of the kingdom. This was likely our last time attending this meeting.

On the way home from our office we stopped at the Mission Office to get a picture of the Manila Temple for our Institute Class. We timed it right and got to meet the seven new Elders that just arrived today. They are from a variety of places, and one is from England. We wish that we could understand Khmer better to see if he speaks with a British accent.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Khmer "Holiday Shopping"

Today was the third day of Water Festival holiday. The office was closed but there was still work to do. The rest of the world doesn't stop working just because Cambodia has a holiday, so there were still internet meetings to attend, an institute lesson to prepare, and errands to run. With our experience yesterday at the office when the air conditioner didn't work in our area of the building it made for an easy decision to stay home for our meetings and other activities.

This morning we gathered through the internet with all the Self-Reliance missionaries throughout Asia. We discussed the importance of remembering the little things like focusing on prayers and scripture study. There was a great discussion about how these simple things have made a difference, and suggestions on how to do better. It is always such a blessing to learn from these amazing missionaries who have become our friends.

This afternoon we had the Asia Area Operations Meeting, which is the Perpetual Education Fund team. The SRS Missionaries were invited to this meeting as well. There were several who had difficulty logging in. We represented the Cambodia Self-Reliance team as Phanna and Sameth were still out for the holiday.

When the meetings were completed we headed out for errands. Sister Oveson's blow dryer sparked and almost exploded, so we were on a quest to find a new one. With only two months left we didn't want to spend much money, but still wanted a good one. We felt we did pretty well paying $15 for one that seems pretty sturdy. One more thing for someone to inherit when we leave in January. Our market finds also included new tops for Sister Oveson and fabric and gifts to take home. In just one hour we made a pretty good dent in our Central Market shopping list.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Apartment Inspection and Trying To Catch Up

We have become so accustomed to getting up early and taking our walk that even when we have a holiday our internal clocks do not let us really sleep in. The alarm clock was set for later, but at 5:30 we were both awake so we got up and going on the day. We were a little longer getting out the door so as we left at 6:10 we commented that some days we are done with our walk by then.

There was one more missionary apartment to inspect today out in Steung Mean Chey. We could tell that the Elders had spent time preparing for the inspection, even though Elder Walker is transferring to a new area tomorrow. They definitely earned their donuts today.

We went to the office to try and take care of some work, we are feeling the pressure of not having much time left. It was very quiet with nobody else there, but the air conditioner in our area was not working so it was really hot. We decided to just head home and work there where it was nice and cool.

In the collage for today, both of the family moto pictures were from our drives out to Steung Mean Chey. It takes about a half hour to go from our apartment to out there, but we get some of our best and most interesting pictures on that drive. You could tell on the top one that the mother had taught her children to hold on to her jacket tight, because they had a tight grip which is unusual. The other little family is so typical, including no helmets. Also, in the collage is a picture of the ceremonial table set for the holiday in the lobby area of our apartment not to be eaten but for their ancestors and the super moon over Phnom Penh.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Water Festival, A Super Moon, and Our 41st Anniversary

"Bon Om Tuk" or Water Festival in Cambodia marks the reversal of the Tonle Sap River. As rainy season progresses Lake Tonle Sap fills and more than double in size. The Tonle Sap River drains the swollen lake to the Mekong River beginning about November. As the lake dries the river becomes stagnant, then reverses its flow from the Mekong to the lake in about April. In October and November celebrations take place in each province and town, concluding in Phnom Penh. These celebrations include boat races and lighted boats on the river, and of course fireworks.

Water Festival November 13-15. With all the activities and extra people in Phnom Penh the area around the Palace is closed to motor vehicles and the festival has begun. This afternoon we walked with the Leavitts and Thurstons down to the waterfront to watch some of the boat races. It was much like walking through the state fair with the main attraction being the riverfront for the races. There were hundreds of vendors among the thousands of people gathered in the area.

Along with Water Festival, November 14, 2016 happens to be the closest and brightest supermoon in 68 years. The moon was amazingly bright and big in the sky tonight.

And for us the 14th is our 41st anniversary. We have had such an amazing life together. The two of us sharing this adventure as missionaries in Cambodia has been one of the highlights of our life. We look forward to many more adventures. 41 years is a good beginning.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Primary Program and Birthday Cake

As it was time for Sacrament Meeting to start at the Steung Mean Chey 3rd Ward we noticed about ten children and a couple of sisters on the back row on the stand. We were excited to experience our first Primary Program here in Cambodia. Both of the wards that we attend do not have very many Primary age children and they do not have anyone to play the piano in Primary to help them learn the songs. Still they gave it their all to sing and to share their parts. We were very proud of them and know that the programs in the Church have to start somewhere and progress from there.

In the Chaktomuk Ward there are two Sunday School Classes that we can choose from,  Gospel Doctrine and Gospel Principles. The other missionaries go to Gospel Principles because that is where their investigators and new converts attend. If we want translation during Sunday School that is where we go also. It was a good thing that we went into Gospel Principles today. They finished lesson with five minutes left of the class time so we figured that they had a cake for Elder Lauritzen since this was his last week. There was a cake, but it was not for Elder Lauritzen, it was a belated cake for Sister Oveson. It is so nice to have friends that remember us even here on this side of the world.

After the block there were two being baptized today in the Chaktomuk Ward. The mother of two recent converts that we have grown to love and appreciate and a fifteen year old girl who has a lot of friends that support her. The bishop performed the baptisms, which was really great as well. Once you pull a camera out at the building everyone wants to get in on the action.

Rainy Season is finally slowing down, but we are still getting beautiful sunsets that are wonderful with the clouds as an accent. The Thurstons are on the sunrise side of the building and as they saw the sunset they ran for their camera, so we got some pictures as well.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

A Day With Missionaries

Things have been so busy for so many weeks that it was refreshing to have a fairly "normal" Saturday for a change. There were 19 in our Institute class today, then we returned home to call most of our family. Since we went grocery shopping to three stores earlier this week, Lucky's will wait a few more days.

Transfers will be next week and one of our translators will be taking the long transfer home. We invited Sisters Schwab and Ormax as well as Elders Palmer and Lauritzen for lunch. They chose "Sou Sou" which is buffet with a conveyer that brings foods to your table where you put the foods into a boiling pot to cook. They all enjoyed the adventure and the delicious lunch.

Transfer week also means apartment inspections are up again. We arranged to make three of the four inspection visits this afternoon. As always we point out the things that need improvement and end our visit with a reward of Krispy Kreme Donuts.

An important focus for the mission is to become deliberate disciples, and that includes keeping their apartments clean to invite the spirit. Last apartment inspections was just after a deep clean day, so the apartments were really good then. Today they were definitely better than our first inspections almost eighteen months ago, but not as good as last time. They were good enough to give them their donuts. Our granddaughter told us that if they were not good then we should eat their donuts in front of them. We really would not ever want to do that, but it is an idea. We will inspect the last apartment this time on Tuesday and then we only one more round of apartment inspections before we go home.

Friday, November 11, 2016

We Love Beautiful Clear Mornings

Most mornings lately have been overcast and not very bright, but this morning was beautiful and brilliant. The air was clear, because of rain over night, and there were only a few wispy clouds in the sky. Our morning walks are even more enjoyable on a morning like today and it felt like we even walked a little faster. As we walked we watched two small children playing as they followed their mother along the raised curb of the sidewalk, so of course they had to make our blog.

We did not have any Skype calls to make before going to the office, we are through with our string of family birthdays, so we made it out the door earlier than normal. Which meant we were the first ones in our area of the office today. We had several comment that we were there early and wanted to know why. We should give credit to the beautiful morning or no Skype calls.

Just before 10:00 we went back to our apartment to make a Skype call to East Malaysia, to Elder and Sister Harrison. Over the six months plus that we have been the Communication Couple they have been the hardest to contact. They have not been dodging us, the internet in East Malaysia is just as bad or worst than Cambodia, so getting Skype to connect has been a challenge.

While we were home we did our scripture study, we are just finishing the New Testament, and then we plan on reading The Book of Mormon one more time before we go home. We decided to eat our lunch at home. In looking at the internet Elder Oveson found that the University of Utah was playing their football game right then and got to hear part of the game.

Back at the office we were able to help with Perpetual Education Plan applications and concerns, edit a leader Self-Reliance success story and help on several projects in our department and others that had questions. It is nice to feel needed and appreciated.

This next week is Water Festival, that we will explain in a post then, but traffic this afternoon was already very heavy. They are expecting about two million extra people here in Phnom Penh, which is already too crowded.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

What Day Is It Today?

Weekend travel followed by a mid-week holiday has made it difficult to keep track of the day and date. Monday felt more like Saturday, Tuesday wasn't quite a Monday, then Wednesday was a holiday. Then today was Thursday but it felt like we started the week over, and we are not sure what to call tomorrow. When we can't keep track of what day of the week it is, it is almost impossible to keep the date number straight as well. So we have asked each other several times today, "What day is it?"

This morning's walk let us know yesterday's holiday may have been only one day on the calendar, but was still being celebrated today. The Independence Monument was decked out with green plants and wreaths, an honor guard stood at attention around a ceremonial flame in the interior pedestal of the monument. The trees lining the streets around the monument were draped with lights almost like Christmas decorations.

We are not quite sure how someone can sleep comfortably stretched out on the seat of a moto, or how they could maintain their balance in such a position. Their neighbor who we greet every day was amused that we stopped for a photo.

With a short work week our time at the office was very busy today. We started with Skype calls to missionaries before leaving the apartment, then on to reports and work that has been put off by a busy schedule.  Study for our Institute lesson finally fit into the afternoon agenda, with one more "What day is it?" Tomorrow we will need to do the finishing touches in our preparation.

This evening as we fixed dinner we noticed the beautiful sunset. The sun was a red glow behind the clouds. Ten minutes later the clouds were aflame with a red glow of their own. The brilliant red sunsets will be missed as we leave Cambodia.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Independence Day in Cambodia

It is interesting that today is Independence Day here in Cambodia and Election Day back home in the United States. We are told as missionaries that it is important to vote, which we did, but we need to stay very politically neutral, especially about the country where we serve.

As we went to take our walk this morning we wondered if we were early enough to avoid the Independence Day celebrations around the Independence Monument. As we got closer we realized that we were not and would need to alter the course of our walk today. In making our detour we saw some fun, interesting and out of the ordinary things to add to our collage for today. Here in Phnom Penh it is not unusual to see balloon vendors with a variety of balloons attached to their Motos. This morning they were prepared to take advantage of the large gathering, even at 6:30 a.m. The group of students were walking to Indpendence Monument and we also saw busloads of students headed that way as well to participate in the festivities. We have always been amused by the sandwich vendors that have their ware ready for a quick breakfast on the way.

Today we had a Skype call with the Self-Reliance Couple in Thailand and a Self-Reliance Team video conference. We also had not made it grocery shopping in over a week, so we actually went to three different grocery stores to find what we needed.

This evening's sunset had such brilliant reds and pinks, as you can tell from our blog, we love the sunrises and sunsets here in Cambodia. Of course every Independence Day has to have fireworks, which we were able to watch from the roof or our apartment building. Even though today was a holiday we had more than plenty to do all day long.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Preparing for A Holiday . . . or Two

Cambodia is preparing for another holiday . . . or two. Tomorrow is Independence Day, so the Independence Monument was draped with curtains and pots of greenery all around. We'll have to see how things are in the morning as we take our walk.

Before going to the office this morning we made a quick trip for donuts to share at the service center devotional. We planned on Big Apple Donuts, but couldn't turn onto the street, and since we happened to be right next to Krispy Kreme we stopped there then chose a different route afterward.

As we gassed up the car we noticed the sign for for "Promo Day Day".  The flavors listed were Bird Nest and Summer Melon (cucumber). Flavors here follow a different trend than we would find back home.

Traffic was quite busy this morning, but there was one vehicle in particular that seemed to catch everyone's attention. This little car is somewhat smaller than a "Smart Car", but we guess it would be better than the motos out in the rain. It just broadens the spectrum of vehicle sizes from this tiny "toy" car all the way to the huge trucks that are about the size of a house.

Even though we were only gone part of yesterday, it felt like we were running to catch up all day. Probably because of the holidays tomorrow and next week. It is great to be busy and feel like we are making a difference.

There is much being said about next week's holiday of Water Festival. Predictions are that there will be an additional 2-3 million people flock to the city for the boat races and festivities. We have been warned about staying away from certain ares, which are not very far from our apartment. We may just stay home for a few days.

Monday, November 7, 2016

There's No Place Like Home

Some of the Senior Missionary Couples, like the LDS Charities, do a lot more travel than we do, but fortunately they have a lot more comfortable vehicle than we do. After three days on the road it was sure nice to be back in our own apartment tonight. It will take a few days for these old bones to stop aching, still we truly enjoyed being with Chad and Phanna and having some great discussions and meetings.

We headed out of Battambang back to Phnom Penh about 8:40 this morning. We did make one quick stop to top off the tank, but then we had an over five hour straight drive. On the way to Siem Reap we stopped for lunch after about three hours which made it bearable. The road from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap is newer than the one from Battambang to Phnom Penh. It is also wider and does not have the terrible potholes. On top of the road condition we had to deal with rain on and off all day. When it rains here the traffic gets even slower and crazier than normal. In other words, today's drive was a lot more challenging.

As we got back in town we had Sameth meet us at Mike's Burger for a team lunch together.  In our opinion they have probably the best American hamburger here in Cambodia. It was good to just sit around and talk over a wonderful lunch.

After dropping Chad off at his hotel and saying goodbye for the last time in person, we went over to the Mission Office for a minute. We knew that they were going to do flu shots today but we thought that they would be done long before we made it there. Fortunately they were still wrapping up so we got our's so we do not need to go to a nearby clinic and waste an hour.

Elder & Sister Thurston live straight across the hall from our apartment and this last weekend they had the missionaries from Ta Khmau over to their place for lunch. We told them that they could borrow our table and chairs, so we left them a key to our apartment. When we got home this afternoon they had left a lot of balloons and a Happy Birthday sign for Sister Oveson on the table. A while later they brought over some fresh cookies and sang "Happy Birthday To You" for her. The cookies were fantastic and the song was pretty good too.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Siem Reap and Battambang One More Time

One of the wonders we enjoy is being able to travel around a country on the other side of the world and still keep in touch with family back home. We started the day early so we could make a couple of calls to family before breakfast and attending Church in Siem Reap. This is one of the biggest tourist areas in the country so there is always English translation available for visitors. We have learned to appreciate being able to understand what is being taught.

We met one visitor, Alan Churchill, who has taken a sabbatical for a year to travel around the world. He has spent time in Argentina and around South America, last week he was in Vietnam now here in Cambodia. Next he will go to Thailand, then on to other countries in Asia. When he finishes his world travels he plans to go back to school maybe at Harvard or one of the "big five". We wish him great success in his travels and future plans.

After lunch at Red Piano in the market district we headed out for Battambang. This evening was another training for the leaders and Self-Reliance committee. Again we were happy to see so many members and missionaries we have come to love.  There were 14 members in attendance plus Sisters Clark and Benson as translators and Elder Spencer who has double duty as District President. Add in our group and we were up to 21, which is a good size group for this training.

The end of the day brought us to dinner with Elder and Sister Spencer in their apartment. Our thoughtful friends made it possible for a visit and delicious meal, including a lovely fruit bowl, long beans, cucumber salad, mixed rice, and Khmer pork dish, followed by dessert and a Happy Birthday chorus for Sister Oveson. What a good way to end a wonderful day, surrounded by great friends and wrapped in the love of so many.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Another Trip To Siem Reap

When our daughters visited us in July one of the places we knew that they needed to visit was Siem Reap. As we headed back to Phnom Penh on that trip we told them that would be our last time to Siem Reap. Well we were wrong, we are back for our second time since they went home. This is probably our last time, but we now know to not be too definitive in our statement.

This morning we had the opportunity of teaching Institute to twenty-two wonderful friends in the Eternal Family class. There were eight who were there on time, but by the time we were half way through we were glad to see so many that made an effort to come. The lessons today were about the roles of women and men.

After a quick stop at our apartment to get our stuff and another quick stop at the Service Center to pick up some other items that we needed, we picked up Chad at his hotel. We met Phanna on our way out of town. It was about a five hour drive to Siem Reap.

We came to Siem Reap for a Leadership Training Meeting at 4:00, which about fourteen local leaders came. Then at 5:00 there was a Symposium that we were asked to share our PowerPoint presentation on the Value of Work. Chad was the other presenter at the Symposium. There were about forty that attended.

Our collage tonight includes pictures from our Institute class this morning and the Leadership Training. Also there is a great picture of some Water Buffalo being herded by two boys and a dish from our lunch, frog (look real close it is the whole frog).

Friday, November 4, 2016

"Odds and Ends" and a visitor from Taiwan

The alarm went off earlier than usual so we could take our walk and still have time to make calls to some of our family before starting work for the day. As we stepped out of the apartment building we were met with some light rain. We chose to still walk but took a different much shorter route than usual, which allowed for extra time for family calls.

Chad Furness, the Asia Area Self-Reliance Manager, landed in Cambodia last night for a quick country visit. We met Chad at his hotel this morning for breakfast. He has become a close friend as well as our Area leader for our Self-reliance assignment. This was a good start for a long weekend visit.

After a busy week with all the senior couples we still had things we needed to finish at the office before the week was finished.  We needed to take advantage of every minute preparing for Institute and a variety of Self-Reliance meetings for this weekend. Elder Oveson also has a new computer that required some remote set-up with the computer specialist in Thailand. We will be making a presentation in Siem Reap tomorrow so we also had to go through our PowerPoint to prepare. This afternoon we were reminded of a training meeting we needed to attend this evening.

Our daily picture includes our Self-Reliance committee training tonight along with a few of the peculiar things we have seen lately. The sign is posted next to the elevator in our building. There seems to be a great need for proofreaders before notices like this are posted. We did not know that we needed to be excused because of their construction. But our peace has been disturbed, especially with the mess that they are making. The Sinet building is the front of the building across from our apartment that we have shown under construction . Notice the child asleep on the moto in front of the driver. And, it is always interesting where we see hammocks strung up for a good night sleep, this one was on the sidewalk along one of the busiest roads in the city.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Senior Conference - Getting Down To Business

Senior Conferences are extremely fun to be with the other Missionary Couples, even more important it is an opportunity to be taught by President & Sister Christensen. Today we met at the Mission Home for a three hour meeting together to discuss a variety of issues and to catch up on concerns and happenings in the mission.

The Church has learned that we have to be reminded on a constant basis of things that we should not do, even though they are well meaning. It is so hard to watch the suffering that happens in a third world nation and not want to help in some small way. The problem is when you help one, others want to know why you don't help them as well. That also sets up the future couples for an expectation that they need to help since the previous couple were so generous.

We had a great discussion about what should happen with the young missionaries during the upcoming holidays. Last year we gathered for some wonderful meals together, but found out that the mission should not be paying for feasts. So the focus will be more on helping and serving others instead of eating a lot.

On November 13th through the 15th is Water Festival here in Phnom Penh and they are expecting up to two million extra people to come to Phnom Penh from the Kaits. The problem is with that many extra people the city can get a little iffy, so they want the missionaries to stay away from the festivities and the big crowds. That is always wise advise.

After our meeting we went to the new Carl's Jr. in town for lunch. We were not big Carl's Jr. fans before our mission, but it was a nice taste of home.

We went back to the office after lunch for a while and we were extremely busy. We had to finish getting ready for a visit from Chad who arrived this evening and will be here until next Tuesday morning. We were so busy that we did not have any time to work on our Institute lesson or our symposium presentation that both happen on Saturday.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Senior Conference Service Trip

Senior Missionary Conference day two took us on a road trip through the country. We all met at the mission home where we loaded into three vehicles for a 4 hour drive into parts of Cambodia we had not seen before. The rains of the past few months have made the fields green and puddles and mud were plentiful all along the drive.  We took along lunch and found a parking lot with some shade at about noon to eat a "tailgate" meal before continuing through muddy streets to our destination Tuol Kdey Secondary School for a bicycle distribution.

Out in the country there are many young people who have such great distances to travel for school that their attendance is not always what it should be. LDS Charities purchased 500 bicycle to help these young people with transportation. The senior trip was to the little town Tuol Kdey where 150 students from three schools gathered on the first day of school. The older students living farthest from the schools were presented with bicycles of their own. It was great to see their joy as they received this gift. Tomorrow the other 350 bicycles will be taken to another community close to the Vietnam border for a second distribution by another group representing the Church.

To make sure we didn't just visit with the same people all day Sister Christensen had groups change for the return trip. This was a great way to better get to know the other senior couples. The return trip only took 3 hours as we made less stops and drove a little faster. We were content to be passengers instead of driving. Our little car is not the best for off-road or long drives, and the back seat has almost no leg room.

Dinner tonight was a simple meal at the mission home with more time to visit. As we finished someone suggested we go out for dessert, so off we went to ColdStone for ice cream. We look forward to getting together tomorrow morning for the conclusion and training with these marvelous friends.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Semi-Annual Senior Conference

We always enjoy meeting with the young missionaries for Zone Conference, they are full of enthusiasm and desire to serve, but we absolutely love getting together with the other Senior Missionaries twice a year. It is hard to believe that it has been six months since our last Senior Conference but what a joy to be with these fellow servants of the Lord.

We did have a full work day before the start of the Senior Conference at 3:00 this afternoon. Elder Oveson had a phone call with Hong Kong this morning for about forty-five minutes that we did from home before going to the office. Originally we thought it would be a Skype call but it came in as a phone call. Either they tried us on Skype and the internet was already down or they were inspired to call instead of Skype because we realized the internet was down during the call. Yesterday Phanna asked us to help with a three-year plan that needed to be sent to Chad this afternoon. We started working on it this morning but then we had a WebEx with all of the Asia Team to discuss what Chad needed. After that we had to work hard and fast to have it done before we had to go.

We started out the Senior Conference sorting out the Helping Hands vests that the YSA used for their last service project. We threw away some and sorted others that need to be washed, while some were just fine to use again.

This evening we took a dinner cruise on the river. We did a similar dinner cruise last Senior Conference and it was such a success they decided to do it again. In two weeks is the Water Festival where they have boat races in paddled boats, we got to see one go by on a practice run. The sunset with the clouds and the water was just beautiful. But the best part about the whole thing was just sitting and talking with the other Senior Missionaries. For the dinner portion we sat with Sister Leavitt and Elder and Sister Spencer. We now know more about the Spencers than before and we have served for eighteen months in the same mission, just different cities.

Our collage tonight is from the dinner cruise.