Monday, July 29, 2013

Thailand: A Country for Men

Me, Gaew, and Sister Weed at the Lu'au last week.

Seriously, this is a country for real men. Sister Weed and I have noted that every day since arriving in Saphaan Suung, we have seen men free-welding. Wherever. Whenever. No big deal. I don’t ask questions.

But my favorite manly act of the week was walking out of the Peridot House and seeing my neighbor: shirtless, decked out in Buddha bling, pruning his tree with nothing less than a meat cleaver. Because, come on, what is more manly than that? I really can’t get over it.

Ok, so the day-by-day format worked really well for me last week, so I’ll try it again this week :)


We taught Ploy on Monday evening with Sister Gaew (the Branch President’s wife, remember?). Oh, it turned into the funniest Thai and English lesson ever...we practiced our Thai pronunciations with them and then we somehow got onto the R and L English pronunciations—the hardest thing is to tell the difference between the R and L sounds. Turns out if they plugged their noses, they could say the R and when they didn’t, they could say the L. Fun fact for the day!

Sister Na had her baptismal interview! We taught English that night at the church, but it had rained so much during the afternoon that riding our bikes there was a bit treacherous. We had umbrellas in one hand to keep us dry(ish) and the water in the streets was up to our calves. Crazy. Shamuu also decided to break on me...the kickstand came loose so he fell over and the basket came off. So riding home was interesting because I rode home in the dark, through the flood, in the rain, with a basket in one hand and some groceries on the handlebars. I would just like everyone to know that I am now a boss at riding my bike in the dark, through floods, in the rain, with a basket in one hand and groceries on the handlebars. I feel pretty good about it.

We met with an American family in our ward, they are so AWESOME. Sister Becky, the mom, has been having the sisters come teach her Thai once a week. They just got back from summer in Utah so it was our first time meeting with her. Her daughters, Giada and Lizzy, are five and three. Little Lizzy stole my heart, just so everyone knows. And Sister Becky is so fun. Anyway, after that we went contacting at this park, but then there was kind of a that didn’t work out too well. The wind was blowing so hard that at one point I thought we might fall over haha. We were soaked completely. It was CRAZY. About half way through the ride, Sister Weed goes, “Hey Sister Hughes! I have your umbrella in my basket! Do you want it?” to which I said “Um. No thanks, I think I’m ok.” We were both drenched at that point. It was pretty funny, but maybe you had to be there. Haha. That night when we tried to go contacting again, we ended up accidentally taking the wrong SongTaw...and we got we took a taxi home. Haha. It was quite the adventure :)

We found out PLOY COULD GET BAPTIZED on Saturday. So we met with her at the church to explain this all to her. She was excited. So were we. We also saw my favorite little old man, Pa Kiam, at the church. There is an institute class on Thursday evenings. He is the best...he is so old, with the craziest white eyebrows you have ever seen. And he is nearly blind and literally reads his Book of Mormon with a monocle. He holds his book about an inch away from his face. He told me I was prettier than my bike, which isn’t much of a compliment considering shamuu’s slightly broken, but I took it as the highest compliment a mostly blind man could give.   :)

Every Friday we teach English at this courthouse in Minburi, one of the districts of Bangkok. It is always great. And they feed us lunch :) We also spent a good chunk of the afternoon planning the baptism for Sister Na and Sister Ploy! During planning, Sister Weed and I let ourselves get Magnum bars from 7/11.

(Side note: Sevens are the most popular chain in Thailand; we have four within a five- minute walk from our house, and we frequent them because they are actually fantastic. Also if you don’t know what a magnum bar is, they are these amazing ice cream bars similar to Hagen Daas or however you spell it.)

During our studies, Sister Bay in the ward called us in a panic because she and her husband were speaking on Sunday but her husband had lost his copy of the conference talk he was supposed to use to speak on. We made a copy of it for them and ran it over to their house, where they had cold water and fruit waiting for us. They are the cutest couple ever and have this little baby named Japan. Bay joined the church about ten months ago and their family is planning on going to the Hong Kong temple together this November. :)

The baptism was such a great experience. I actually was one of the speakers, believe it or not...which was kind of scary...but I think it went pretty well. Sister Na and Sister Ploy were both so happy. They were all smiles all evening. It was so good. My favorite part of the whole thing was just after both had been baptized and Sister Weed and I met them after they had changed and we got to hug them and squeeze them and listen to them as they told us how happy they were.

There is seriously SO MUCH LOVE in Thailand. Sometimes I can’t even handle it. People just love you and as a missionary you love them back, even though you can’t understand each other perfectly. It's a bit of a miracle; I don’t know how it works—but it does—and it’s so great. This was the first Sunday at church that I felt really comfortable walking up to people and talking to them on my own. I knew everyone’s names and I knew how to actually say things to them. I’m finally feeling like maybe I am actually saying things that make sense :) I am feeling so at home now, and it makes me so happy to be serving in a country where there is so much love. It’s the best.

And to answer your question, I love everything I am studying :) Personal study isn’t really personal—it’s always for your investigators, so I’m studying lots of things. This morning I studied baptism because we are teaching a 13-year-old girl who came to the baptism :)

Well, that’s about it for this week! Today Sister Weed and I have plans to go to Swensen’s. It’s an American ice cream shop that is now in Thailand...every P-Day, baby. It’s our thang.


Sister Hungry

Me: “Hey, nice houndstooth!” (referring to the pattern on Elder Creer’s tie)
Elder Creer: (blank look...) "What is that supposed to mean?"

Brother Dominic: “I’m deathly allergic to cats.” (Sister Becky’s husband, by the way)
Me: “I wish I had that excuse.”

Me: “Sometimes during a lesson I just sit there and try to shoot love beams out of my eyeballs.” 
(I was referring to when I can’t understand what’s going on in a lesson but I want the people to know that I love them. Sometimes I can’t control the things that come out of my mouth.)

Riding Shamuu in the dark, through the flood, in the rain,
with a basket in one hand and some groceries on the handlebars. Boom.
Somtam. It’s delicious.
Our taxi driver from last week. Note how his hands are nowhere near the wheel of the car.

Pa Kiam :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :)

Jom and his drink—MAN SOME.

At the Baptism. Sister Weed, Sister Na, Sister Ploy, Sister Gaew and me.

The whole group.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Thailand: The Land of Smiles, Sweat, and Sparkles. Week 3.

I love Mondays! :)

Ok, for this letter we're going to organize by day.
Because this week was CRAY. Seriously. 

Got up early to go into Asoke to sign our work permits! I got to see a bunch of my peeps from the MTC, which was wonderful. Oh, I have missed them. We also had very entertaining taxi rides both ways...the radio music is oh so sappy and I kinda love it. A lot. Sister Weed and I also teach English every Tuesday night at the church. We teach the advanced section, and it is always exciting. There is a boy who comes every week and his name is Chicken. Enough said. Everyone calls me Sister Hungry, which they loooooooooove. Also, a man named Sam comes. He is a highly entertaining character. He lives in his trailer and owns an invention company. Apparently he gives the Sister missionaries a Welcome to Thailand present each time they move into Saphaan Suung. He gave us a "washer and dryer." It was a clip with a washer tied onto it. Awesome.

We had exchanges with the Sisters in Sinakharin. Sister Weed stayed in Saphaan Suung and I went with Sister Wiganda (khon Thai—or from Thailand) to Sinakharin. It was so fun. We had dinner with a family from the ward there and we ate at their neighbor's house. There were about 6,000 kids and I had no idea who belonged to who and it was very loud and I understood approximately 4% of what was said, but I loved it. Plus, we got to walk down the street with the family and the little girl, Nong Fom, who is probably 5, decided to grab my hand and then point out all of the colors she could find in English. I was so perfectly happy in that moment. Also, Sister Wiganda's response to any of my questions was "Everything. Jingle bells." Such as, "Hey Sister Wiganda, what are we going to do for dinner?" "Everything. Jingle bells." "Hey Sister Wiganda, what is your best advice for a greenie like me?" "Everything. Jingle bells." "Hey Sister Wiganda, when do we need to do this or that?" "Everything. Jingle bells." You get the idea. I don't entirely understand, either. But I love her. She's crazy.

The day of Taxis. We took taxis all over Sinakharin and into Bangkapi and then back to Saphaan Suung. I thoroughly enjoyed it because in every taxi, we happened to be listening to 93.5 Listen to Your Heart Radio. I got to enjoy hits such as "Play that Funky Music White Boy," "How Do I Live Without You?" some Gwen Stefani and Bruno Mars, "’Til You Come Back to Me," "Big Girls Don’t Cry," and "How Sweet It Is to be Loved by You." Also "You are so Beautiful to Me." I couldn't not think of little Alfalfa from Little Rascals. Also another common theme was that every single taxi driver (and every other khon thai in Thailand) told me I had a Baby Face that day. So that was fun. Sister Weed and I also taught Brother Boss and Brother Jom how to make brownies from a box. They had never done that before. They video recorded the entire process. Haha, so good. 

We were literally so busy with appointments that we had no time to study. We are supposed to have set hours to study every morning...we didn't get any hours in because people kept calling us and it was ridiculous. We taught English at the courthouse in Minburi (our service hour for the week! We love it plus we get free lunch every week so we are in no way complaining) and at the end of every lesson we give, we share a spiritual thought. Sister Weed asked me do it...and it went so well. I felt like I finally could say what I wanted to say without having to take long pauses or anything.

OH on Saturday there was a YSA activity at our building. OH it was so entertaining. We had a live band in the chapel. Not sure how kosher that was, since they were singing Adelle and things from Titanic, but hey. It was fun. We are actually going to be teaching the lead singer this week! She told us she wanted to learn more. She has red contacts. She is awesome. The rest of the activity was a luau. Oh I wish I had my card reader so I could send some photos home...I have never seen anything so entertaining as that wonderful huge group of Thais learning how to limbo. So good. Also, our friend Sam from English class was there in a tie dye shirt and Hawaiian floral shorts and some sweet Nikes. The outfit was completed by his invention toolbelt slash fanny pack, so it was definitely a good day.

Well here's a wonderful thing that happened at church. I translated Primary into French. What?! There is a family in our branch that speaks French. The mom is Thai and the dad is from the Marshall Islands. They both speak English and French, but taught their kids only French in the Islands. Now they are back in Thailand and usually the mom or dad will translate for the kids, but yesterday they asked me to do it. My French is definitely rusty, but it was SO fun. We also had 5 walk-ins at church, which was AWESOME. We taught one of them and she wants to know more about the Book of Mormon...we'll be meeting with her again tomorrow. And then we also met with Sister Bay from the ward to get to know her better. We were at her house for a good while and she told us the story of her conversion. Every other word out of her mouth was either "happy" or "happiness." She doesn't have much, just a one room apartment with a bed and a tv and a sewing machine, but she proudly displays all of the photos from her baptism on her wall and the loves talking about that day. She has the biggest and prettiest smile I've ever seen. She also wanted to see all of the photos on my camera...which still has photos from FRANCE on there. And she went through every single one of them haha. She loved it, though, and so did I. She seriously is the epitome of joy and I want to be more like her.

This morning I went to the hospital! Haha, before you freak out, Sister Weed had a doctor's appointment, but since we're in Bangkok, we get to go to the international hospital here because it has the best medical care. It was very HighSo and super fun to explore. We even found a Dunkin' Donuts so that was a highlight.

Tomorrow morning Sister Na is having her baptismal interview! She is so sweet. We have had so many people walk into our path to teach this past week, it is crazy! We're excited and we love the work and all is well in Thailand.


Sister Hungry

Thailand: the land of Smiles, Sweat, and Sparkles. (Referring to the sparkling sandals that everyone wears here, including me. You can bet I purchased a couple pairs of those babies.)

Monday, July 15, 2013

This is life. This is Thailand.

All right, first thing's first.

Monday night we went to Bratan's house for dinner. (Bratan = Branch President.) His wife and another member, Sister Na, made CRAZY delicious food. We had this really good green curry with these interesting little green things that are maybe fruits but also maybe not. There's really no way of knowing. It also had what I thought at the time was brown tofu, so yeah, I ate that too. Later found out it was coagulated blood. It kinda creeps me out a little. I have no idea where the blood came from. There's really no way of knowing. It's all good though, cause I didn't die. Also Sister Weed and I have discovered a Bummy stand. Yes, Bummy. Sounds funny, but it's some delicious noodle/meat/greens dish that we eat like...well...daily.
Desserts - I tried this tapioca/taro/corn/coconut concoction. Delicious. I will eat it all. Every day.

PS Fam: Anthony Bourdain. I am him, all day, every day with a dribbley forehead hahaha. And yes, it's so true. Changing your shirt halfway through the day is needless, because it's soaked in about 5 minutes. It's a pretty sweaty country here. But I love it :) 
(Also we are not similar because I don't swear and I'm not a man and I'm a missionary.)
PPS I've decided that the first rule of thumb when it comes to eating food in Southeast Asia is to just not ask. It's better that way. Haha.

This week while riding through a residential neighborhood, Sister Weed and I happened upon a pair of oxen. Surprising. But this is Thailand, so I don't really ask questions because there's really no way of knowing. (Yes, that is a new favorite phrase.)
Still no monkeys.

I am serving in a Branch! I feel so at home :) It's pretty big though.
I am in a middle income area...but Thailand is very interesting in that it has HighSo and LowSo neighborhoods right next to each other, so you see it all in a very small area. It's been very eye opening, to say the least. You see things that you never would have thought you would see in real life and it makes you think a lot.

We ride our bikes every day, pretty much everywhere. It's way fun. At first I was not too keen on the idea...Shamuu and I hadn't been getting along too well. He likes to bite my heels and give me grease stains on my calf. I was seriously considering enrolling in Bike Training School for Missionaries and their Disobedient Bikes. But, as of late, he's been treating me pretty well and we have fun! Except for the other day when the wind was out of control and I had a near death moment when suddenly my skirt was actually in my face. That was exciting. Luckily the Lord loves His missionaries and I am alive and well :)

Also I like Song Taw's...pick up trucks that have two benches in the bed of the truck that you get to ride. It's like a bus's not.
The Peridot house is kind of green on the inside. Mostly it's white, though. The outside is quite green :) I don't have any photos of the inside right now, so I''ll work on that for next week!

I'm not quite sure how mail works entirely...but I know that I can get mail FOR SURE at zone conferences and transfers. DearElders can be sent to the mission home, so if anyone would like to continue using that, go for it! :)

Sister Weed and I are finally feeling like we've figured out our area. We are loving it and everyone here. We have two investigators who are getting baptized on the 27th! Their names are Sister Ploy and Sister Na. It has been so amazing to watch them open up with us and change as they have progressed in the gospel. I love how even though Sister Weed and I can barely speak Thai, this message has the power to change people. All I know is it's definitely not me doing the teaching, and there is no way I can take the credit. It's so amazing.

We are also teaching a couple of other people and are talking to everyone we can. President Senior has challenged us to spend 2 hours each day contacting, which is hard, because I can say what I need to about the gospel, but I still don't understand much of what people say back to me haha. It's fun though. And I love just talking to everyone! The Thai people are so friendly and are always willing to (try to) listen.  :)

One thing that Sister Weed and I have really felt this week is the amount of love in our area, and I think in Thailand in general. People are so kind and generous. The other day we stopped to get some smoothies from our favorite smoothie stand and found out that the woman who makes the smoothies is married to a man who comes to our English class each week. He saw us and gave us the smoothies for free and said, "Welcome to Thailand, Sisters!" So cute. Sister Na told us this week that we are "good missionaries" and that she "prays for us every day to speak Thai." Which is just about the sweetest thing ever. It made me so happy. I love her! She is so cute. On Sunday, Sister Ploy came up to us and gave us cookies that she bought for us. Yesterday we stopped by a recent convert's house and she sent us home with an entire bag of Mangosteens (which, yes, Chester Chocolate, are the fruit of the gods and I will be so sad when I am back in America and they are not readily available like they are here because I am CONVINCED that they are what we will eat in heaven). Apparently, she took my name "Sister Hugh, haha, like Sister Hungry" very seriously and also sent us home with popcorn and tried to give us even more food but we stopped her haha. But what I'm trying to get at is that we are so well taken care of. People here love and care and show it so readily. I'm so blessed.

Things in Thailand are starting to become more comfortable. Not that I was ever uncomfortable, but things are getting more familiar. That's what I'm going for. The other day I was riding my bike down the street and I realized that all of the smells that seemed so strange and foreign are still strange but aren't nearly as foreign as they were when I first got here. The heat is still so impressive, but it's not unbearable like I had feared my first two days in country haha. And Sister Weed and I just keep growing! We're both figuring out missionary work together, and it's way fun. We love it!

Also, fun fact, we sometimes play badminton in the mornings with the Bratan's wife. She is obsessed with exercise and wants us to exercise for hours every day but we have to tell her we can't haha. Such good times.

Also, yesterday in Relief Society, we had a really good "branch" moment when we watched a movie about Lorenzo Snow and tithing that was made in the 70s. it was in English. We watched it on someone's iPad. And she stood at the front of the room holding the iPad and translated the ENTIRE movie (a full 40+ minutes) into Thai. Like I said, I feel very at home in that branch. I love it.

Also I have a million mosquito bites, but it's all good because I'm happy and loving everything.


Sister Hungry

"This is life. This is Thailand." —The Sisters Weed and Hungry


All day. Every day.

Because it just wouldn't be right if my bike didn't have sparkles.

The dessert I mentioned!