Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Oct 20, 2014 Everyone is a Critic

I've had several experiences recently that have both been a little humbling and a little funny. To preface this, some back ground is necessary. There are different dialects of Khmer spoker here in Cambodia. Actually, they're not even really different dialects, more like different accents. In America when we think of a country accent compared to a city accent we might think that the city accent is clearer or more correct (I'm imagining people from small towns in the south compared to people from suburbs near big cities in the east). In Cambodia its a little different. The big city accent is slurred and unclear. Among other things, Rs are dropped, sub-consonants are routinely ignored and tones are kind of thrown into a language that isn't actually supposed to have tones. Those from the provinces, especially in the north like in  Batdombong, speak very clearly. All of the letters are pronounced the way they are written and their speech is almost clipped.

I've spent my entire mission in the city at this point, except for 7 months in Baku where they speak like those from Phnom Penh but even more pronounced. My speaking has been learned from those who supposedly don't speak very clearly. I'm very good at parroting what those around me say, and I pick up accents a lot better than I pick up words, reading or writing. Basically, I sound a lot like a Khmer that was born in the city.

 My companion is much younger in the mission than me, but he is also a very good listener and good at parroting and picking up accents. He however, has spent the last 6 months in Batdombong, an area that is known for its clear speakers. In the last couple of weeks as we have talked to people around our area we have been complimented on how good our Khmer is, especially my companion. Boy, they love how clearly he talks! "You (pointing to Elder Brewer) speak very beautifully," they say. "Much better than him (pointing to me). His words all run together and aren't pretty". I've spent all this time working on speaking exactly how Khmers do and in the end what do I get? Everyone is a critic. :P

This last Saturday night we went to visit one of the families we teach and were greeted by a somewhat pitiful sight. They were in the process of adding a floor to their one room house so that there would be enough room for everyone to lay down at night. Crossbeams were placed just above their heads (I have to duck to walk in but they're a little shorter than me so they're fine), floorboards were laid on the second floor and they started to lay bricks. The roof was to be raised just a couple of feet (the second floor is going to have a really low ceiling) and they were replacing the tin for the roof.

 In this process it was necessary for them to take the roof completely off for a few hours while the cement dried and stuff like that and then put the new roof on. Their sister also happened to be moving and had put all of her stuff in their house. Then it rained. Without a roof the rain was particularly frustrating. All available tarps and plastic bags were put over the recently laid wooden floorboards that would warp if wet. All of their exposed belongings sat in the rain. When we showed up they were just kind of staring at everything. Clothes, belongings, and construction materials filled the house. Only two of them were sitting (on bricks) while the rest of them stood. There wasn't enough space for them to sit. We stood just outside the front door as rain came down softly. I was fully expecting them to be pretty down but they were incredibly positive about things. We laughed together about their bad luck for a good 15 minutes before we left. Sunday morning we went to help them clean out their house and lay the bricks so the roof could get put on. 

I was really blown away by how optimistic they were. Nothing was getting them down! I guess we don't have to react to challenges negatively, we can just laugh it off. I really felt like I learned a lot from them.

Elder Brewer and I ran into a lady who was collecting recyclables to sell in front of our house as we went home this week. She dropped her cart when she saw us and started begging for money. That was a little uncomfortable because we aren't allowed to give money to beggars, but Elder Brewer had a couple of energy bars and he gave them to her. She was pretty drunk and reacted a little illogically. She threw the energy bars down and said, "I don't want these American cakes, I want Khmer food or money! Don't you have any rice?" She certainly wasn't very grateful and didn't seem to understand that the energy bars would help her a lot.

Later I was thinking about the Atonement. Sometimes I see people who learn about the Atonement of Jesus Christ and then choose not to follow Him or his gospel because the Atonement is not the gift they wanted. They wanted money. They wanted instant gratification. They wanted entertainment. They wanted rice. 

Sometimes we act like that. We want God to solve our problems. We want him to tell us what to do. We want Him to guide us financially. Instead, He has given us the Atonement. When we learn about and apply the Atonement in our lives, God will bless us, though not necessarily the way we want Him to. Often times it would help us a great deal if we would just focus on the things that God wants us to focus on. Jacob taught, "seek not to counsel the Lord but to take counsel from His hand." So, the next time God gives you a blessing or a challenge, try to apply that. I'll try too. Love y'all
Elder Vore

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