Friday, January 21, 2011
Well I'm tired! Definitely more tired than I have been on my whole mission. You know they say that being tired is good, because it means you are working hard. Yesterday I was translating at a leadership meeting. Translating from English to Thai for the Thai missionaries that were wearing headsets. At one point I fell asleep mid-sentence and my companion had to reach over and wake me up. It was pretty funny. I didn't really know that it was possible to fall asleep while talking, but apparently it is.
So, I got my drivers license. Pretty terrifying. The thing that is the hardest for me right now is just driving such a big van into such small areas. The streets are so small and are packed with cars and people. Very hard to not crash into anything. Luckily, there are crash sensors in most of the cars here so whenever I get close to crashing into something the sensor lights will turn on. In terms of the driving etiquette here. I actually like it. There are three main rules to driving in Thailand.
1: Pick - Pick is really important. If you don't know how to pick, you basically will never get anywhere. In America we refer to picking as "cutting someone off" but in Thailand it is fair game. As long as you can get your front bumper in front of traffic, you have the right-of-way.
2: Flow - Flow is hard to get used to. Regardless of how crazy people are driving. Example: Driving on the wrong side of the road, cutting across multiple lanes of traffic, six lanes going down a four lane road, etc. You just go with the flow. Don't ask questions.
3: Big - This one is simple. The bigger your car is, the more right-of-way you have. Buses hit their brakes for no one. So when you think about pulling out in front of traffic, you have to see if you are pulling in front of something small like a motorcycle or something big like a bus. Luckily, we drive a really big van so often times we win the battle.
After I was cleared by the embassy and got my documents it was ridiculously easy to get a license. There was no driving test, no written test, they didn't even check to see if I could read Thai road signs. There was a slight vision test, but not like any vision test in America. They checked long-distance color-blindness, weird. They tested reaction speed, really really easy. Lastly, they tested peripheral color-blindness. I totally couldn't do this last test at all, but they passed me anyways. I paid a couple of bucks then I was on the road.
So I've been in the office for two weeks now. I'm starting to understand my role a lot better. I'm still pretty lost, but there is a lot of change that I need to start assimilating quicker. Another three weeks and Elder Chiu will be gone and I'll have to run it by myself. This is basically our schedule:
Monday: In the morning we might be with President Smith for about two hours. We talk about the previous weeks efforts. We talk about individual companionships, districts, zones, and the mission as a whole. We discuss business that needs to be taken care of and other things that we need to do. Monday then turns into an office day. Lots of administrative tasks: calendars, emails, travel plans, hotels, interviews, exchanges, etc.. Then we call all six of the zone leader companionships to talk about their results and responsibilities. It serves as a weekly accountability interview. We try to make it out of the office by 5-6 to go out and work in our area.
Tuesday: Similar idea. We finish up all the stuff that we were given to do on Monday. We tend to get out to work in our area a lot quicker. One bonus about being here is that we don't teach English Class. Yay! One less thing to think about. The district leader takes care of English class for us.
Wednesday-Friday: Usually should be normal days. However, recently we have been having three-day leadership trainings all over the country so basically all these days have been shot. Those should be over soon so we will be getting more time in our area soon.
Saturday: Preparation day. Kinda. Basically preparation day doesn't really happen. We send email, but sometimes we just send it from our cellphone. Preparation day ends at six, but typically we are doing missionary activities the whole day anyways.
Sunday: We come into the office at around seven or eight to start collecting the missions weekly results. We call all the zone leaders and collect their individual key-indicator results. We also take the names of the people who are baptized. We put all the information into the computer. After making some graphs and lists we print them off and stumble home at around midnight.
That is our weekly schedule, but that doesn't really include some other duties. Every month we have to exchange with all six zone leader companionships for at least 24 hours a piece. Sometimes it is slightly hard because three of the companionships are over six hours away so often times we have to travel. Luckily, the common choice of travel for us is airplane. Aside from the zone leaders we exchange with other companionships that are struggling or companionships that President Smith assigns us to exchange with.
We collect daily key indicators from the zone leaders every night before going to bed. This usually keeps us up pretty late every night. We also talk to them quickly about questions or help that they need.
Once a month we organize transfer meetings. I haven't done this yet so I'm not really sure how much of a role we play. I know that we have to organize travel and stuff. Make sure everyone gets down here ok and help them get visas. Also we have to pick up new missionaries from the airport and send old missionaries to the airport. The first day the new missionaries come in, we get to work with them for an evening.
Once a month we have a zone leader council meeting where we get to train the zone leaders and follow-up on their goals. Several days a month we have specialized training meetings where we have to translate and also evaluate missionary roleplays.
We also get a lot of calls from members and missionaries that have questions. Basically we serve as a filter service for President Smith.
Yeah. As for now, that is a short list of what I am doing. It is pretty fun, kinda exhausting. We still get to work in our area fairly often. We still find, teach, and baptize investigators, just some of the other time gets sucked up by new responsibilities.
Anyways. I'm out of time.
Sorry, This email was kind of boring.
Friday, January 7, 2011
I'm all moved in here in Pakkret. Too bad I'll have to pack up and move again soon. I won't be moving areas, but we are moving houses real soon. We will probably change houses in about two weeks. As for me, I am really tired! The last few evenings I have been dead tired. Not really quite sure why, just really exhausted. I guess that is a sign that I am working hard.
My new companion is Elder C. He is a missionary that I have looked up to for a long time now, I am really glad to be able to serve with him. He was in the group ahead of me in the MTC, so I have known him since then. He was also my zone leader for a transfers while I was serving as a district leader in Bangnaa. He grew up on the East Coast and he is half Chinese. We live in the same house with the office elders. The companionship in the office right now is Elder P and Elder M. I knew Elder M from my student ward at BYU. Also serving as our district leader is Elder H, he was my companion in the MTC.
Here in Pakkret it is much hotter than it was in Kohn Kaen. We are just north of Bankok, we are touching the city so it is hard to even distinguish a difference between here and Bangkok. The first few days in an area are always a little bit weird. I don't know anyone, I don't know where anything is, and I don't know what any of my responsibilities are. I always feel bad for my companion for the first week or so. I pretty much am forced to watch and try to assist where I can.
This coming week will be my first trip up north. Everyone has always said that Northern Thailand is the best part of the county, but we have such few missionaries up there that I have never had the chance to serve there. However, I will be going up there to assistant in the leadership training meeting. In the month of January there will be three meetings. One in Chiang Mai(north), one in Asook(bangkok), and one in Roiett(isaan). Each one of these meetings is three days long. Each day is about ten hours long. That right there is nine days out of the month in meetings.
I am excited for my new duties as an assistant. A lot of time is spent out of our area, but we still have enough time in the area to scrounge together some investigators and baptize them. The assistants had three baptisms last transfers, so it seems like we are still able to baptize fairly well.
I think we are going to always try to email Saturday afternoon. But I bet there will be times where that will change. For example next Saturday I will be on a plane coming back to Bangkok around this time. So not quite sure what will happen...
Yeah. I still get to do a lot of on-the-street missionary work. Probably actually more than my last assignment. The thing is, about half of the work that I will be doing will be in other areas. We just have to travel so much.
I'm not really sure what my assignment entails yet, I'm going to have to work for a week or two to see. We still have an area, we still get to teach. Sometimes it is just abroad. As for when we are in our area, some of the deadhours(afternoon time) will be spent in the office. We will always be working on the streets in the evenings though.
On Monday I will be getting my drivers license. I am kinda scared for that. A couple of reasons:
1. They drive on the left side of the road here.
2. The steering wheel is on the right side of the car.
3. Driving etiquette in Asia is way different than driving etiquette in America.
4. I haven't driven anything but a bike in like two years.
5. Bangkok traffic is frightening even as a pedestrian.
Well that's about it. Wish me luck.
Monday, January 3, 2011
Well somehow transfers number twelve is coming to an end this week. I now am a teenager! Transfer number thirteen is about to start up. Elder Ritchie will be staying in Kohn Kaen and I will be moving to Bakkret. I really will miss Kohn Kaen. I was here for less than three months but I feel very close to the area, the branch, the converts, and the members. This week Kohn Kaen will be having another baptism. That makes eleven baptisms in the last six weeks. The work really has exploded here. We were talking to President Smith last night and he was mentioning the possibility of new buildings. One of the possibilities for future buildings he listed off was Kohn Kaen. The Area Supervisors were a little bit skeptical because Kohn Kaen's membership is still pretty low but he told them that Kohn Kaen now has families. That made me really happy to hear. Kohn Kaen is the District Center but it has always kinda struggled. I hope that this is the chance to change that.
I really don't know what to say about the work. It seems like so much has happened and it is really hard to express it concisely and in a manner that you could understand. Suffice to say, I have changed a lot the last three months. Not just as a missionary or in terms of missionary work, but as a person too. I haven't changed this much as a person since winter last year in Ubon. Last year was more of a forced change, this year was more of self-motivated decision. A lot of these changes have to do with communication. There were some specific weaknesses in the way that I communicate that I am really trying to fix. I feel that these things have helped me motivate and uplift the missionaries that I serve. A lot of these changes have to do with faith. I feel I have made leaps of progress in understanding the principle of faith and have figured out ways to build and use my faith. A lot of these changes have to do with pride. I'm a prideful person. It has to be my greatest weakness. This last month I have really come to terms with this weakness and have made a lot of progress towards being meek and humble.
I was realizing the other day one thing that I have learned on my mission. Just how every single person is unique. More unique than I previously thought. There are countless amounts of attributes, gifts, talents, etc. and everyone has a random assortment of them. Some people have a lot, some people have a few. Everyone has something that they are given. Everyone has the ability to increase the things that they struggle with. They also can hone the skills that they already have and make them even better. I'm grateful for the gifts that I have been blessed with.
On a lighter note. My old, disgusting helmet got stolen. Not sure who in the world would want to steal a two year old helmet that only fits an American sized large head. But oh well. I was too cheap to buy a new one, so Elder Ritchie and I have been riding helmetless for the ten days. I didn't want to buy a new one because I thought next transfers I wouldn't need one. Bangkok doesn't really use bikes. My foresight paid off. I just hope I don't hit a car in the next two days. Cross your fingers!
Last thing I want to talk about today is the guy who is getting baptized this week. His name is "M" and he is thirty-two years old. It's very interesting because as I have been striving to teach more efficiently I have noticed that God has prepared people to meet our teaching ability. Before I met M I thought that I had met prepared people, but this guy just blew everyone out of the water. He showed up at the church building last Sunday. He came in the afternoon hoping that there was a church service. He had been to one of our church services in Bangkok a year previous. He saw the name of our church and recognized it and was impressed to come in. On the first day we talked about baptism and committed him to be baptized in two weeks. He was very excited and accepted. The next time we met him we were on an exchange with President Smith. It was a pretty short lesson, only about twenty minutes but we taught the whole restoration message, parts of the gospel, the word of wisdom, the law of chastity, and many other things. He sucked it all up and was able to recite it all by memory. We met him for the third time this last week. Finished teaching him in about an hour. His comprehension and memory was absolutely out of control. He was able to grasp onto concepts such as the fall with ease without us ever teaching him. His main concern in life is to get married and have a family. We committed him to live the law of the sabbath and he agreed even though this week he went back home to be with his family for new years. That didn't stop him, he traveled over 100 kilometers from his house into the city and found a member to stay with that night in order to attend church the next morning. He is going to be interviewed today and I am confident he will pass. We only taught the guy three times. I know God prepares his children.