Holy Cow! It feels like I was just barely sitting at this computer last week. This week flew by! I'm glad because the first two weeks here seemed reaaally long! Things are starting to pick up!
Okay, so, to answer questions:
Zone conference was really great! We took a bus to Roi Et, which is east and a little south of Mahasarakham. Turns out it wasn't the whole zone, just Maha. and Roi Et missionaries. But it was fun to meet them all. We had a little training on street contacting and they did some examples of how to role play teaching situations. It was great! We were only there about two hours then we headed back. Roi Et is only about 35 minutes from Mahasarakham.
So far we haven't really done anything cultural or especially fun on P-day. I don't think there are really any attractions here. However, Sis อุต wants to take us to a mushroom museum... so, that may be the big exciting P-day adventure in this area. We need to ask around more to find out what there is to see. I feel like we've seen pretty much all the main areas of Maha. because we live on our bikes! Mahasarakham is a university town, so there are lots of students here.
We got a new investigator this week! We happened to stop by this little shop because Sis M needed water. A husband and wife own the store and they were so welcoming and wanted to keep talking to us. They asked about us, who we are, what we do as missionaries, etc... They are really open to learning about religion and wanted us to come by and visit again! I don't think they were particularly interested in changing anything about their beliefs, but they like to learn about religion. So, hey, it's a start! We've stopped by a few times just to visit. Last time we went we gave the wife a Book of Mormon and she agreed to read it! We're going over tonight to talk about what she (hopefully) has read and begin teaching her. Really praying she will like what we teach and be receptive to our message! Her son is also in town and we've visited with him, it would be so amazing to teach this family and actually have them be interested!!! We have two other progressing investigators, but they've been having some family issues/other things that are taking precedence and they are not making time for us to visit them. It's frustrating, but we have appointments scheduled for this week, so let's hope they don't all fall through again!
We've also been doing a lot of less-active work. In Thailand apparently retention in active church members is a problem. A lot of people get baptized but then they stop coming to church. I think one big problem (and this seems silly but it seriously is), is that Thai people like to sleep in. 9:00 am church is not an option for a lot of people! I really wish church was at 1 or something! We've been having some really good lessons with a less-active named Brother B. who is the nicest ever! He's 35 ish and has been a member for a long time, but he hasn't been coming to church for quite a long time. We asked why he's not coming and he basically said that the only reason he didn't go to church yesterday was because he was still sleeping. Ahhhh! haha But he also said that he told God if he gets the teaching job he's applying for then he'll start coming to church. Hmmm. So Sis Mullen explained that God does want to bless us, but sometimes we have to show our faith first. We tried to commit him to come to church this week... we'll see. We're going to visit him this week and call him Saturday night and tell him to go to bed early so that he can wake up for church! We'll see how that goes over... haha. I'm half-way considering calling him Sunday morning and waking him up, too! But, yesterday was great when we taught him because we spent a lot of time just having nice conversation and I think he feels comfortable with us. The elders also happened to stop by and they came in and talked for a while, too. Brother B. has a hedgehog and I think he was pleased that we found it so cute and played with it for a while. So, anyway, I love brother B. and I hope we can help him get back to church!
Okay, so, every week I always have a running list of things I want to write in my emails home so I'll start at the beginning of my list.
First thing, you probably already know, but in Thailand everyone has nicknames. Parents give their children real names, but no one actually uses those names. Everyone is known by their nicknames, which are usually just one or two syllables. So, my name, being English and long, is tough for most Thai people to say. In fact, there's this one lady at church that cannot say my name and always forgets it, even though I see her all the time! But my name sounds really close to a popular ice cream place that is all over Thailand called Swenson's. So, some of the ward members have started calling me Sis. Swenson or Sis. Ice cream! haha I like it!
Also, on this same note, we frequent the 7-11 by our house to get our water and snacks, soap, etc... There are always the same three workers on shift and they probably think the only place we go is 7-11! Anyway, they're fun to talk to and they like to practice their English on us. One of the ladies asked me if I had a nick-name. I told her I did not, and she decided to give me one. So, I now have an official nickname from the 7-11 lady! haha It is "Bua", which means "beautiful pink water-lily" according to her! Sweet! I'm becoming legit Thai! Sis M said I'm also starting to smell legit Thai because I'm always putting this bug bite itch ointment on that Thai people use all the time. The mosquitoes here are pretty bad!
At English class this week we had "showcase" which happens once a transfer and is supposed to be fun and a way for the students to "show" off what they've learned. We pretty much had the students play a whole bunch of language games. They all got into it and seemed like they had a great time! I did, at least! I need to get pics so you can see the English students! They're so cute. Afterward, we served them our brownies. The only pan at the church that even closely resembles a brownie pan is way skiwampy so one side of the pan was really thin and crispy, and the other side of the pan was extra gooey... haha Whatever, it still tasted good. We put little toothpicks in the brownies with a paper attached with the English class FB page for them to go home and "like."
Last Monday we had FHE at Sister Ud's house. She has a daughter out on a mission right now, and another daughter that served a few years ago. I'm pretty sure that she has 10 callings... she teaches seminary/institute/RS president/she taught Gospel doctrine one time, and she always has FHE at her house. So, thanks to which ever missionaries converted her 10 years ago! It's interesting here that hardly anyone has been a member of the church their whole life. Pretty much everyone is a convert. So, we are always asking how long people have been members. Something I would hardly ever even think to ask back home! The members here are just amazing! Love them all so much! Anyway, FHE was fun. Sis Ud's house is really awesome. It's on stilts and all made of wood. You can see through the floor to the ground below... kind of worrisome! haha But she served this great noodle dish, and then Sis Mod and Sis Aan brought a whole bunch of Thai desserts that were really good! I love being in members' homes. There are usually about 20 or so people that show up to FHE. They always like to end FHE by playing games. I'm learning some Thai games! Way fun! However, they decided to play some sort of version of "Mafia" where you all close your eyes and someone gets picked to be the killer, someone is the judge, and someone is something else... well, I got picked to be the judge and I had no idea what I was supposed to do. I don't get this game in English, and I definitely didn't catch the instructions in Thai. So, pretty sure that was the worst game of Mafia they have ever played in their life.
Oh, so, our Sister Training leader called and we are going to do switch-offs next month! That means Sister Phelps and Sister Greenwood (from MTC district/zone) and I will be together, and our comps will go with Sis Carter (Sister Training Leader) for training! Way excited to see them! Wahoo!
Okay, this was a crazy experience! Sister Carter called us last week and asked us to go visit her progressing investigator who was coming to Mahasarakham to visit her family for the weekend and invite her to church with us. Of course we agreed! We gave the directions to Sis Mod and asked her to tell us where she lives. Turns out she lives waaaaaay out in the boonies, so Sis Mod got a member, Brother John, to drive us out there. We went out on Saturday night and this investigator said she wanted to feed us. Her name is Yuwee. The drive out there was so pretty. We passed a million rice fields and palm trees, and when we finally got to her little street it was so tropical and beautiful! This is what I imagined "Esan" country to be like! Her house was extremely nice and her family was super welcoming! She decided to take us to a market nearby to get dinner. She asked us what we like to eat and we said we like anything. Mistake. When we got back to the house and started to dish up what she had bought I was a little surprised! She had bought a huge bag of grasshoppers, mealworms, queen ants, fried chicken feet, chicken cartilage salad, duck spam stuff, and a salad pretty much made from the pond scum on the nearby lake...haha. I have to admit it was far from appetizing, but I did try everything, except the pond scum... I just couldn't do it! Thank heavens she also had nam dok and a whole bunch of fruit! It was so funny! That was the craziest meal I've ever had. But, Yuwee is way sweet and I'm so glad that she is progressing with the Udon sisters! She accepted the invite to baptism from them. She did come to church with us yesterday. So great!
Okay, another thing, the dogs here are crazy! They are everywhere! Yesterday we were tracting down this lane that we'd never gone before. It was the fanciest street of houses I've seen here. They were more American-style and all gated. I was a little confused because I haven't seen anything like that yet. Anyway, we decided to walk down this street and see if anyone was out. As we started walking down, dogs started running out and barking at us. Most of them were fenced, but a few were skinny enough to slip between the grates and they started following us and barking... we just kept walking and ignoring them and hoping they'd go away. We wanted to just keep going and catch a connecting street and get away from them all. However, we soon found out it was a dead end and by this time there were about 20 dogs barking at us! If I wasn't so terrified and disgusted by dogs I probably would have started laughing because the people in their houses were probably wondering what on earth the whole neighborhood was barking about! haha Anyway, we had to turn around because the only other option was to wade through a rice field. So, again, we walked the same street, all the dogs started barking, but none of them got too close. One thing I know for sure, God protects his missionaries from angry dogs! It may have been a blessing, though, because it caused one lady to come out of her house and see what was going on. When she saw us she laughed and commented about the ruckus. We shared a flyer with her and she asked if we were the church that also teaches English. Yes, we are! So, she was interested in having her daughter come! Hope to see here there on Tuesday! Anyway, don't worry, I hate dogs, but they literally will come within 5 feet of us and then turn away... pretty sure there are dog-repelling angels that accompany Thai missionaries!
Oh, also, in the mornings a lot of times I will just go outside of our apt and jump rope for exercise. Every day without fail this dog that's down the lane and across the street will get up and walk toward me and come within jump rope distance of me and start barking. It makes me so mad... it messes up my workout, and the dog should realize by now that if the jump rope is going to upset it, it should just stay where it is across the street! Anyway, today it did the same thing, so I had to stop jump roping so it wouldn't freak out. But then it came up to me and was actually nice and wanted to be petted. So maybe it does like me. I stopped jump roping, but I was doing sit ups and pushups and it just sat there and watched me for like a half hour! Enough about the dogs.
Last night sister Wright invited us over for lasagna! She is Thai, but she lived almost all her life in Utah and just recently returned to Thailand. The lasagna was amazing and reminded me of home.
So, that's about it for this week! It was a great week and I'm learning a lot. I'm understanding Thai better... I can kind of gauge it by how much I get out of church. The first week here I hardly understood anything. Yesterday I feel like I caught a lot of what was said! Yay! It's coming a little at a time.
Yesterday I was studying in D&C 11: 12-14. I like these scriptures! We should put our trust in the Spirit, even when things are hard or uncertain. It says that the spirit always leads to do good, and will enlighten our minds, fill our souls with joy, and help us receive answers! It's true!
I love you all so much and miss you all so much! I hope you have an awesome week! Thank you so much for the updates, love and support! I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU!