Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Cambodia Adventure - Book

Cambodia Adventure Book

We put together one more book using some of the photos from our blog and newsletters. We thought we would share with you.

Our blog will remain here, but with having returned home our new posts will no longer be daily. There will be occasional posts as we have events related to the mission.

Thank you for your support of our amazing Cambodia Adventure! We learned so much during our two years on the other side of the world.

Any comments you may make will still reach us.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

A Warm Welcome Home

Friday the 13 January 2017 was one of the longest days we have ever experienced. After 22 hours of travel, our flight landed at Salt Lake International airport just 10 minutes later than scheduled. We were down the gangplank fairly quickly and headed for the exit.

When we rounded the corner and walked through the final security gates heading toward baggage pickup we could see a large group of familiar faces, including a dozen children holding balloons and several held signs. After two years away from home and family this was a very warm welcome!

Our hearts are full of gratitude for so many who have shown their love and support as we have served in Cambodia. And how happy we are to be back with such a wonderful group of family.

As we gathered at our home to visit and for oriental food for dinner, complete with the noise of our happy grandchildren. Four year old Kate insisted on having Grandma sit next to her.

Our Friday lasted about 36 hours. We finally made it to bed about 10:00, exhausted and happy.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Goodbye Cambodia!!!

It feels like it was only a couple of months ago that we arrived in Cambodia. At that time it felt like Twenty-two and a half months seemed like such a long time. Now as we look back it feels so very short.

We did sleep for a little while last night, We both probably got about five hours of sleep before getting up to finish getting ready to go. There were still a few things that we needed to pack and put away and we wanted to load up to head to the airport about 5:15.

Our plan was to go and checkin before visiting with those who came to say goodbye. We were surprised that President Ul Phornn, 2nd Councilor in the South Stake Presidency, and In Tithtara, the Stake Clerk, were already there. We were in to check our bags and get our boarding passes just before 6:00, but it took us a little over a half hour.

We were so surprised to see so many wonderful members that came. including at least eight from our Institute Class, at least five from Service Center, six Senior Missionaries and several wonderful families. There were over thirty people there to tell us goodbye. As you can see from the picture we even received a Cambodian flag as a gift.

On our flight from China to Los Angeles we sat by a very interesting man named Jian Chen that is going to be a visiting researcher at the University of Utah for a year. He reads English fairly well but does not speak or listen very well yet. We encouraged him to visit Temple Square and the Conference Center while he is here. He gave us his phone number, so we will have some of our friends that speaks Chinese contact him.

We'll tell about our arrival in Salt Lake in our blogpost tomorrow night.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Hardest Part of Leaving

Even with exit interviews we have known that we would see our friends again before we leave Cambodia, but it is oh so different when you get down to the very last goodbyes. Our office has been in the Cambodia Service Center for the last thirteen plus months and the employees there have become very good friends in many ways. We had promised our friends that we would be in until our last day, which meant we did not have to bid them fond farewell before today. As we decided to leave around 3:00 and say our final goodbyes it was not really easy, but we did survive. As we left the Service Center we went to gas up the car and picked up some bread, that is when we realized we had forgotten our computer and iPad. This time Sister Oveson stayed in the car and Elder Oveson made a mad dash in and out real fast.

We took our last warm walk, for a while, this morning. We enjoy saying hello to so many on our route every day. There were some that we tried to let know that today was our last day, but with our limited Cambodian and their limited English we are not sure they completely got it. We also spent some extra time this morning at the apartment getting things ready, so we did not make it to the office until around 10:00.

The Material Management Manager, Neth, at the Service Center agreed to go with us to Orussey Market to look for some last minute items. Some of the markets cater to foreigners, but Orussey is not one of those, so it was very helpful to have a Cambodian speaker with us. We also ended up going over to Central Market, but we were not able to find what we were looking for there.

This evening we went to Mama's New York Deli for dinner with Elder & Sister Thurston and President & Sister Christensen. We needed one more time of Mama's fish and chips, we have always enjoyed them very much. She told us tonight that she will be moving at the end of this month to a new location where the rent is cheaper. She promised to Skype us so we can see when her new location is set up. We miss Cambodia already!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

"Last" Experiences and Exit Interview

Our mission is so close to the end, but we are just fine. There are no butterflies, just a peaceful feeling of a mission complete and a little anticipation and excitement to return home. Cambodia will be forever in our hearts. The people and experiences of the past two years have changed our lives. For any who are considering a senior mission, we highly recommend it!

During our mission adventures we have learned things we didn't know that we needed to know, such as "you cross the road one inch at a time". We have felt God's love for our brothers and sisters on the other side of the world.

Today's schedule included more "last" experiences. There was one last Asia Area Self-Reliance team meeting. This gave us a chance to say goodbye to many of our friends we have worked with in the area. Then this afternoon was our exit interview with President Christensen. What an amazing mission president! President and Sister Christensen have become some of our dearest eternal friends. We look forward to future reunions with so many amazing couples who have shared our Cambodia Adventure experiences.

Tonight we did a little of our "last" housekeeping, preparing our apartment for our departure. There has not been another couple called as yet to take our place, so the lease on our apartment will not be renewed as the contract expires the end of February. This has required us to separate the items furnished with the apartment from the items we brought with us.

As we leave Cambodia we will miss the beautiful sunsets and our tropical morning walks. We will especially miss the people. But we look forward to whatever adventures that are just ahead.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Service Center Devotional & Lunch With The Staff

Prior to moving offices to the Service Center we got ourselves invited to the monthly Area Devotionals. As we moved to our new offices we were included in the rotation to conduct, pray, give thoughts and training for the weekly Service Center Devotional. We have felt fully accepted by the staff, even though we are the unpaid volunteers.

When Elder and Sister Meinzer went home they took the full Service Center Staff to Tonle Bassac Restaurant. We told them that they had set some high expectations for us. About two weeks ago we asked the Service Center Manager, Sea Samnang, if we could take the whole staff out for lunch. We knew that they had been given directions to not go out or have the Christmas party catered so we wanted to comply with what the Area Leadership desired. After thinking about it, he told us that they could go, but they had to be there and back in less than two hours. Tonle Bassac is about a twenty minute drive from the office. It was a great gathering and everyone completely stuffed themselves. We are amazed at how much some of our skinny Cambodian friends can eat.

This afternoon we had a final Skype call with Chad Furness, the Asia Area Self-Reliance Manager. Over the last eighteen months we have come to be friends with Chad, not only as the Area Manager, but also when he came with his oldest son, Christian, and one of his friends to Cambodia. When we were the Communication Couple we had a monthly Skype call that lasted for about an hour. He also has a home and extended family in Utah so we told him that we want to meet his wife and daughter next time they are in town. There are those that we work with that are so much more than just fellow workers, they are friends for an eternity.

We have whittled down the amount of food that we have left at our apartment. We have either eaten it or shared it with the other Senior Couples, especially the Thurstons across the hall. Sister Thurston is so gracious, she knows we don't just want to throw food away so she has been willing to take so many little things.

Monday, January 9, 2017

"We Must Leave It In His Hands"

About three years ago in preparation for a move from our home of 35 years we evaluated our "stuff" that had accumulated over the years to decide what to keep and what to let go. It seems much the same now as we are completing our mission and prepare to return home. It might be different if there was a couple coming to replace us, but instead much of what has been accumulated to make a mission apartment a home is being given to others who will stay and serve in Cambodia. We have attended the two wards here twice as long as we had lived in our current home ward. In spite of all we see ahead of us, it is time to time for the change. We have learned so much. It's time for new adventures.

We have been experiencing so many "last" things for our Cambodia adventure, yet looking forward to the "firsts" that are just around the corner. There are so many friends to tell goodbye among members and missionaries. We have seen amazing growth in our young adult friends, and look forward to seeing the changes in our grandchildren.

Tonight was the "last supper" with the senior couples. It made us think of the parallels between a mission and life. Coming to the end of one adventure means you are beginning another.

Thank you to so many who have given of their time and efforts to serve missions, especially those we have been blessed to know in Cambodia. We miss you already! Just a few more days to finish those final details before we board a plane and take Cambodia home with us, always in our hearts. "God alone knows when we shall see each other again. Then we must leave it in His hands."

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Church, Dinner Guests and Goodbyes

With picking up the Thurstons last night at the airport we did not make it to bed until 1:30 this morning, but our bodies are not used to sleeping in so we were still up by 6:00. It felt real nice to have a leisure morning, since our first Ward did not start until 1:00 p.m. We were able to read some conference talks and do some final preparation for our dinner this evening.

It has always been hard to gauge how long it will take to drive to Steung Mean Chey, and since we believe if you cannot be on time be early, that is what we try to do. Traffic flowed really good today so we were out there by 12:40, but that gave us chance to hand out some of our departure cards to our Cambodian friends. We have been attending the Wards here in Cambodia longer than we attended our home Ward in South Jordan. They had their Fast and Testimony Meeting today so we both took the opportunity to share our testimonies and to say goodbye. After Sacrament Meeting we handed out some more cards and got some pictures with one of our favorite couples.

Traffic was a lot more congested on our way to the Chaktomuk Ward, so we did not have as much time before Sacrament Meeting to hand out cards. That was alright since we were staying for the full block and had time to catch our friends between meetings. Chaktomuk Ward did their Fast and Testimony Meeting last week and they had speakers assigned so we thought we were safe. But we were still called on to share our testimonies and to say a few words. We have made many dear friends in this ward as well. Again we had to take pictures and say goodbye.

This evening we invited Sameth and Phanna's families to our house for dinner. We cooked chicken breasts yesterday and mashed potatoes this morning. We also got asparagus, salad with Mama's Ranch dressing, and of course rice. It was a great meal and we have really grown to love these little families.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

One Last . . .

Today we woke early and got started on a very busy day. First on the agenda was writing yesterday's blog, then head out the door to teach our last Institute class. There were enough competing activities for our class members we were not sure how many would be there. With all that, it was exciting to have 16 there.

After giving our farewells, we left Institute and made a quick run home where Sister Oveson was dropped off to make calls to family, and Elder Oveson headed back to the Church for one last Stake Presidency Meeting. After calls Sister Oveson took a Tuk Tuk back to the Church to join in Stake Council, where we were both invited to share our feelings. We have learned to truly love the leaders of the Phnom Penh South Stake and the members. Following Stake Council, we joined them for lunch at a Khmer restaurant. Several of our friends made sure we were able to order foods we would enjoy. One of the leaders asked us if it was our last meal. We assured him we have several more meals with friends before our return home.

This afternoon we were able to focus on completing three photo books of our adventures in Cambodia. We were excited with how they turned out, but a little disappointed the vendor did not give the option to share our project. These books will be on display at our open house to give a glimpse of what we have seen in our two years in Cambodia.

We volunteered to pick up the Thurstons from the airport tonight as they return from their trip to the Manila Temple with a group of members. The flight is scheduled to arrive around midnight. It is a good thing we don't have early church tomorrow!

Friday, January 6, 2017

Our Time Here Is Just Flying By

We are a little late in posting to our Blog for the 6th of January. Yesterday went by so quickly and we were so focused on completing some projects that it got forgotten completely. You would think that after writing every day for almost two years it would be like breathing or eating, something that you just do without being reminded.

One of the highlights of our day was a Skype call with Elder and Sister Chandler, the new Asia Area Self-Reliance Communication Couple. This was our first and last call with them, and they told us that we were the first couple they Skyped with in their new assignment. It was a joy to chat with them and reflect on the opportunities and blessings that we have felt as we have served in Cambodia.

Elder Oveson also had a Skype call with Steve Yang, the Area Operations Manager, about the Perpetual Education Loans. Elder Oveson has been helping review them for the last nine or ten months, but that will now fall on Steve to do. He is trying really hard to talk us into going home for a few months and then coming back to Taiwan to serve another mission. We also found out today that one of our friends from back home has been called as a Mission President. They also are trying to recruit us to serve in their mission when we are ready to go again.

Sister Oveson is still taking the lead on preparing three photo books to be published. We have most of the pictures that will be used in them pulled together and one basically done, but there is still a lot to do before they go to the internet publisher. It takes hours go through the thousands of pictures we have taken and deciding which ones to us. Today's collage is another one of the pictures that will be used in the photo books.

This evening we decided that we needed to go to Mama's New York Deli for dinner. We now have less than a week to go and she is one of our friends that we will miss when we go home. We love her fish and chips, but they were out of french fries. She told us that a bunch of the young Elders had been in and she used up her complete supply.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Wrapping Up Our Cambodia Adventures

It has been a while since we have seen any of our Senior Missionary friends during our morning walks. This morning as we crossed the monument to the park there was Sister Christensen stretching out for her morning exercise. It was such a joy to walk and talk with her for a few minutes. President Christensen caught up with us on his morning run just before we parted with Sister Christensen. They are such wonderful friends and amazing leaders for this mission. How blessed we have been to have them lead us!

Things at the office are in wind-down mode. Elder Oveson met with Phanna to help with his personal goals for 2017, as well as a report for Area and Headquarters on how the country goals relate with the Area and Headquarters goals.

Sister Oveson had to get her computer fixed for the second time in less than a month. Some of the programs have not been responding properly and blocking her from access. Thankfully the IT employee assigned to our area was able to do a remote access, uninstall then reinstall the program. Hopefully now it is fixed.

Our food and supplies in our cupboards and refrigerator are getting low. Hopefully things have been gaged about right to not have too much left over. One thing for sure, we won't be taking the supplies home with us!

With all the photos in our files from two years of adventures, it is difficult to choose which photos will come together to represent our time in Cambodia. Our photo collage is one for the books.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Bump, Hump, Slump and Dump

We have mentioned before when Elder Oveson served his first mission a common slang term that was used by the missionaries was bump, hump, slump and dump. Bump meant they had been out six months, hump was twelve months, slump was at eighteen months and dump was going home. Hopefully we have not done that here on this mission, in fact it feels like we have gotten even busier the longer we have been serving. Even with that there comes a time to wrap things up so that there are not a lot of loose ends when we go home. We are definitely in that wrap up phase.

One project that we were asked to do was update the preferred job list. We have entered job postings into an Excel spreadsheet to get a feel for which jobs have the most openings, what the pay is at various levels and the job requirements that employers were seeking. Elder Oveson thought that it was interesting that Accountants had the second most job postings but he was not interested in the pay scale of $200 to $1,000 per month.

Over the last twenty-two months we have taken literally thousands of pictures, many have been used in our daily blog. Sister Oveson got an offer for get two free books when you purchase one so she has been pulling together some collages to use in the books. She has twelve out of the sixty plus covers that she needs, but based on the past she will get them done. Tonight's collage is one that will be in the books.

This afternoon we had a little visitor at our office, Sameth's oldest daughter, Yuri. She goes to two different schools, a Cambodian school in the morning and an English speaking school in the afternoon. The English school did not have classes today so she was Sister Oveson's little friend today. Yuri will be eight years old on the 21st of January and will be baptized that day, so she is the same age as our granddaughter Ari, who just turned eight and was baptized. Ari had sent a picture she had drawn and a couple of photos to Yuri, so Yuri was reciprocating with some butterflies and other pictures that she made this afternoon.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Temple Trip to Manila - Unfortunately We Had to Pass

Three or four months ago we were invited to travel with a group of members who were going to the Manila Philippines Temple. Originally they thought the trip would be November, which would work for us. When they went to schedule the trip the temple housing for November was fully booked, so the group was changed to January 3rd - 7th. With our upcoming departure from the mission we decided it was just too close, and too much travel in such a short time, but Elder and Sister Thurston and Elder and Sister Dowd were available. Sister Leavitt, who did so much planning and preparation for the trip, met the group at the airport to see them safely on their way. We volunteered to take the Thurstons to the airport then pick them up about midnight on Saturday night. In exchange they are planning to take us to the airport for our long transfer home on the 13th.

There is always some major construction around Phnom Penh, and the road to the airport has gone through more than its share. Today didn't seem too bad as we went through a segment where a "fly-over" bridge is being built. The Thurstons may be here long enough to see the bridge completed. One thing with construction season in Cambodia, they don't have to work through snow, and rainy season has ended now.

While Elder Oveson attended a presidency meeting, Sister Oveson went shopping for a few last requested items. She explored areas of IBC (International Book Center) she hadn't seen before. She found a couple of books that we hope our grandchildren will enjoy, written in both English and Khmer.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Our Visit To The Khenna's Home

A couple of weeks ago one of our favorite families here in Cambodia, the Khennas, invited us to come and visit their home. The mother, Peak Vannah, is the Stake Relief Society President and all three of her children have been in the Institute Class that we teach. They are a remarkable family, the oldest son, Dawath, is in the Stake Young Mens Presidency, the second son, Vatanak, is the Ward Clerk, and the daughter, Monikeo, is the Ward Young Women President.

As we looked at the calendar, today looked like a perfect fit since it was a holiday and they would be home. They invited us to come at 5:00 p.m. We did not know what to expect, but we were treated like a king and a queen. They treated us to a meal of Cambodian food that was absolutely delicious and way more than we could ever eat. We thought that we would be eating with them but they wanted us to eat and they just sat and visited with us. They told us that they usually eat later and they had fixed all of the meal for us. We assured them that it was impossible for us to eat all that they had prepared. We had several dishes that we had never tried before, including two different desserts. All three of the Young Adults plan on serving missions in the next one to three years. We told them if they go to the Provo MTC we get to pick them up at the airport and take them down to Provo. All three speak very good English and will be a blessing to whatever mission they are called to serve.

With it being a holiday here and Sunday evening back home we decided to take advantage of that and call all of our children again. We got to speak to all of our children, son-in-laws and all but one of our grandchildren. Even though we will be home in just eleven days, it is always good to talk to them and find out how they are doing.

Also with having a holiday we finally pulled out our suitcases and started packing them. We packed all of the gifts that we are taking home, along with stuff that we do not expect that we will need in the next ten days. Right now it looks like we will be under the weight limit, if we do not buy much more to take to our family.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Welcome the New Year 2017

Watching the changing of years is always a time of reflection and evaluation of the past year, as well as setting goals and making plans for the new. 2016 was a good year of service and adventures in Cambodia, while 2017 is a clean slate with adventures we cannot even imagine. The one thing we know is our time in Cambodia is coming to a close and we look forward to being together with our family once more.

New Year's Eve is always a good time to gather with friends to celebrate. Elder and Sister Thurston hosted the senior couples for snacks and a few games. All of us are getting old enough that having the party from 6-8 p.m. was late enough for us. There were even party hats for the occasion!

With the new year comes changes is meeting schedules at Church. Both wards are now in the afternoon with Steung Mean Chey at 1 and Chaktomuk at 3. This meant  Sunday morning was a good time for gospel study and to create a letter to friends and family about our return home on January 13th, and an open house for friends the following Saturday. No word yet as to when we will be speaking in Church.

The addition to the Steung Mean Chey building is coming along nicely, but it will not be completed until after we are gone. We had the opportunity to walk through the new stake offices and cultural hall. This adds significant size to the building.

Transfers this week meant changes to the young missionaries in Steung Mean Chey. We are excited to welcome Sister Hall to join Sister K. Chin, while Sister Clark moved to Chaktomuk Ward and Sister Winder moved to Battambang to get to know Elder and Sister Spencer.

Starting later also means we were not out of Church until 6:00 p.m., but only for one more Sunday.