Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Chiang Mai Letter--October 30, 2013

Hello dear family!! =D 
So last week Barbie told me that I had permission to eat fish. I was so shocked and also my ability to understand English has decreased so I instead let some fish eat my feet. (And here was me, thinking I was such a generous, benevolent big sister for relenting on the fish issue...) But in all reality. Sister Zatarain had to register for classes (she goes home in November) so while she was on the computer, I was making a thousand phone calls. The internet place that we went to also has a "fish spa". There are these tanks of fish (about the size of the fish in our tank at home) and you put your feet in. The fish then nibble on your dead skin I guess. It felt weird and don't really feel like it did anything. But now I can say that I did it. :)

So what happened this week? 
Monday - We woke up at 6 to play soccer with the Elders and some investigators. 

Tuesday - English class. I'm English leader again. I don't mind doing it because (as bad as it sounds) I like having responsibility. The English program in Chiang Mai is kind of small and so has a lot of room for improvement. It'll be fun. :)

Wednesday. So I guess before I tell you about Wednesday I need to explain a little about transportation in Chiang Mai. I still don't have my bike yet so our options are walking or public transport. Unlike the city, Chiang Mai doesn't have any somtaws or really any taxis. Our options are rotdangs. That literally translates to "Red Car." They are kind of like public taxis but cheaper. You tell the driver where you want to go like a taxi but there are multiple groups of people in the car (more like a truck or mini bus). So on Wednesday we wanted to take a Rotdang to an investigator's house. There were a couple people in the car around but the driver said that he would drop us off on the way to the other stops. He said it would take like 10ish minutes. He lied. He went in the opposite direction of where we wanted to go and we were in there for about 40 minutes. Luckily the investigator's home is also her place of work and she and the member that was going to help are really good friends. So our being late wasn't terrible but I still felt bad. 

Thursday was just a normal day. We planned for the upcoming week like usual. Ever since Monday, Sister Zatarain and I have been waking up at 6. We run for 30 minutes and then I teach her soccer for the next thirty. It's really funny because I have no idea what I'm doing. Monday was the second time in her life that she played. 

Friday. Taught an American. It is soooo hard teaching in English. It felt awkward and hard to think of certain words. I kept on wanting to teach in Thai. There is a reason I was called to teach the gospel in Thai and not in English. Haha it's so bad. Also now when I talk to Sister Zatarain in English, I mess up English grammar and I say words wrong a lot. So basically when you next see me, I won't be able to talk to anyone. Sorry. :) But don't worry, everyone. When she comes home, I will sit her down and she and I shall review English grammar and spelling for days until I am satisfied.

I don't have much time left soo... miracle story from one of our investigators: Sister Goy is one of our daters and she is such a miracle. She had an amazing experience with fasting this weekend. Earlier in her learning she had told her mom that she was thinking of changing religions and her mom told her that if she did that, she didn't need to ever come home again. This weekend Sister Goy wanted to tell her mom that she was planning on getting baptized so she fasted for the first time. Sister Goy and her mom stayed up to 2am talking about it. Her mom is fine with her getting baptized. Yay fasting! =D

Love you all! Take pictures of Halloween for me! 

~Sister Slaugh

Apparently one of the places they went to gives you the "history" of non-native foods. Or at least that's what I suppose.

Chiang Mai Pictures--October 21, 2013

Technically, we got these pictures on 10/28. But Abbie's subject line for this email (the pictures came as a separate email) says "this was from last week. the computer turned off before I could send it. working on this week's letter." So I say these are 10/21 pictures.
These captions are exactly as Sister Slaugh wrote them. Except for the quotation marks. I added those.

 "Sleeping on the bus"

"It rained a lot and flooded a tad. Picture of Sister Wiganda and Sister Weed (Sister Hughes' companion - they are in our district in Sinakarin)"

 "Sister Zatarain got attacked by a saledude at the Mall"

"tacos for dinner!!!"

Chiang Mai Letter--October 21, 2013

Sister Slaugh's subject title was "Third transfer. Third area."

Yup, I have moved yet again. And Sister Yim is now training. Yay :) So when I left Sister Orchard, she started training again and now that I left Sister Yim, she started training too. So yeah, third area. I'm pretty sure my companions from the MTC are still in their first area. 

I am currently in Chiang Mai with Sister Zatarain. I absolutely love it. And I love her so much. She is so amazing. Unfortunately she is finishing her mission in about 3 or 4 weeks (mid-transfer -> it's a long story). No one really knows what will happen then but I'm really hoping I won't move again. There might be another mini transfer when she leaves and there might be new missionaries coming in. No one really knows yet but I'll keep you posted. But yeah, she is so amazing. She's from Texas and says y'all a lot. It's fun. She is absolutely amazing at Thai and is an amazing missionary. The fact that she has less than a month left has not negatively affected her work. If anything, it motivated her to end strong. She is really fun and really enjoyable to be around. She loves joking around and laughing but she still works hard. Randomly during the day she starts speaking to me in Thai. That's actually really nice because then we have a nice little conversation in Thai. That helps me "think" in Thai more and be more comfortable talking to people in Thai. I don't need to take as long to figure out how to say stuff anymore. Thai is becoming a lot more natural. The only downside: talking to people (besides my companion) in English is super odd. Chiang Mai has so many farongs and a lot of the Branch members speak English. Some of them can't speak Thai. It feels really weird talking to them in English - like normal English, not simplified for people are speaking it as a second language. Speaking straight up English with people that aren't other missionaries is soo weird. My brain gets kinda confused. :) 

I feel like my Thai has improved a lot as well. The day before I left Srinakarin, the APs (assistants to the president) called Sister Wiganda to have her help out with taking the new missionaries coming in out contacting. Clarification: the first day missionaries come in to Thailand, the mission president likes having them go out with a more experienced missionary and give out a Book of Mormon. The APs called Sister Wiganda so her companionship (herself and Sister Bentley), my companionship (with Sister Yim) and another companionship that was staying at our house for the night (Sister Sararat and Sister Muller) went to Asoke to help out. It was fun. It reminded me when I was the first day I came into country. In three or four months, I have improved drastically. People can understand me (most of the time :)) and I can hold conversations fairly well. Reading in Thai has gotten easier. I've started reading the scriptures in Thai during personal study instead of just the English scriptures. One of the teachers in the MTC said that the sooner you can receive revelation from reading the Thai scriptures, the better. It's still really hard but the sooner I start, the sooner I will be able to do it. The members say I speak "chat," meaning very well and having good pronunciation. Of course, that being said, as soon as you start to see how much you've improved, Heavenly Father reminds you how much you still have to go and that none of that was possible without Him. Before church on Sunday (church starts at 1 here) I was calling people from English that said they were interested learning about the gospel. One guy asked to meet with us because he couldn't understand what I was saying and he was confused. Haha it was really funny though slightly sad. But hey, he came to the church and was actually interested in the gospel. Heavenly Father used that instance to keep me humble and to get one of His sons to church. It was great. 

So what else happened this week? Oh, HAPPY BIRTHDAY BARBIE!!!!!! =D 

I guess I should explain a little about traveling to Chiang Mai. We took a bus - kinda like those Charter buses in the US but less nice. The bus ride was about 8 or 9 hours long. We left about 9:15pm (the earliest tickets we could get) and got to the Chiang Mai around 7am...ish. I don't really remember. Luckily we were able to sleep on the bus so it wasn't too bad. All my years practicing sleeping in the car during road trips have paid off :) Chiang Mai is north of Bangkok. A lot of missionaries call it heaven because during the hot season, it is one of the coolest areas (not cold, but cooler than Bangkok). Also the air is a lot cleaner. If Bangkok is like New York (city wise), Chiang Mai is like Scotch Plains or probably Westfield. It is really touristy too though (which is kinda fun). So many farongs. I have decided that going home is going to be hard because it's so weird seeing so many farongs. But anyway, back to traveling. My bike never made it to transfer meeting (still in storage at the office) so the Office Elders said they would send it to Chiang Mai for me. It should get here around Tuesday. That actually made it easier to travel. 

Yup...what else? That's so cool that Andrew is entering the MTC this week! He is going to love it. A mission is so amazing. Soooo amazing. 

Um... miracle of this week: Heavenly Father really does answer prayers. It'll take too long to explain the situation (I have about 5 minutes left on the computer) so I'll just explain what I learned. A prayer made in faith truly has a lot of power. Sometimes all you can do in a situation is pray your heart out and then get up off your knees and work really hard. That's when miracles happen. And it is so evident that the results have nothing to do with you. Nothing you did had anything to do with the result. But God sees your effect and your desire and where your heart is and He helps out. I love the saying "Pray as if everything depended on the Lord and work as if everything depended on you." It's a fantastic method. On my mission I have learned to rely on the Lord so much, more than I ever have before. My prayers have changed and I love it. There is a lot of power and peace that comes from putting all of your trust in the Lord. I mean, He is all-powerful and all-knowing and loves you sooooooo much, why wouldn't you trust Him? 

Um... I guess that's it for this week. I love you all very much and am praying for you all. Have a great week!!! =D
~Sister Slaugh <3

Sinakarin Letter--October 14, 2013

General Conference was soooooooooooooooo good!!!!!!!! =D I loved watching it. I kept on thinking about how good the talks were and how much they would help certain investigators. We asked our investigators and recent converts that came to conference to write (before conference) 5 questions that they had. We promised them that they would get their answer while watching conference. We did it as well and I definitely got some answers. One of the members that we are working with came up to us afterward and told us about how conference answered her questions. One of her questions was about the section in the D&C that talks about the Priesthood. She didn't understand it but apparently the talks in Conference answered all her questions about that section. It was so cool.
Last week Mom commented that she wondered if my notes from conference would be the same as hers. It amazed me how much the talks were so general yet so specific. Let me explain. The talks are meant for the entire world and therefore for a very general audience. While listening to the talks, I could see how much they were for Thailand as well though. While listening to the talks I thought how perfect certain talks were for certain people. The talks were about things that we were teaching our investigators or about things this mission is focusing on. In Thailand we are focusing on tithing because that is needed in order to get a temple. We are also focusing on strengthening Priesthood holders. There were so many talks about the Priesthood. One of our investigators (Sister Beer) had a lot of questions about the Law of Moses and the 10 Commandments and I felt that that was mentioned a lot too. Thailand has a lot of issues with not worshiping other gods, with gender confusion, and with not keeping the Law of Chastity. All of those topics were touched on often. I also loved how much the talks talked about enduring to the end. Missionaries are here to help people enter into the covenant of baptism. That is our purpose. But if people don't endure, what's the point of being baptized? Enduring is sooooooooooo important. There are so many people that learn of the truth of this gospel, get baptized, but then for some reason or another they fall away. Sometimes it's because they are lazy. They stop reading their scriptures and stop praying. They don't keep the Sabbath Day holy. They don't keep the commandments. I felt like the talks talked so much about keeping the faith and always doing the little things (scripture study, praying, and attending church). I feel like I'm rambling, so this paragraph probably didn't make sense. Sorry. :)
Thanks for sending the pictures of the flowers and bushes. :) And I was very happy to see the Halloween decorations in the window. It's weird to think that Halloween is coming up. What is everyone going as? I think I will wear black and orange and dress up as a missionary. :) 
Mom asked a question about what I eat and where: We usually eat breakfast at the apartment. Currently I am in love with toasted sandwiches - toasted bread with peanut butter and jam. Soooo tasty. :) Sometimes I have yogurt. We almost always eat out for lunch and dinner. We frequent the same places because we know that food is good and safe. Sometimes we go to the food court at the mall (lots of different Thai food places). Sometimes we go to a market. Sometimes we go to these little places that sell food. They aren't restaurants per say but they are kind of like that. I guess they are kind of like street vendors. There are places to sit and you order food. Definitely not as fancy as a restaurant though. Sometimes we go to buffets. We went to three of those this week because Sister Wiganda is finishing up her mission this Thursday. Buffets are great but you are expected to eat so much. You eat and you get full. Then the native Thais that you are with tell you to eat more. And then you are stuffed. And then you eat more because you have to pay for any food not eaten. It's a lot of fun but there is just so much food. Native Thais are confused at how little us farongs can eat. Thais are all so small yet they can out-eat all of us farongs so easily. It's amazing. It's funny - at the end of the night at a buffet, Sister Yim, Sister Bentley, and I are all stuffed but the natives that we are with are still happily eating. I'm getting better at eating spicy food. It really depends on which food it is though. I still can't eat curry which is a problem because we have that basically every Sunday after church. One thing I love about eating out is that they make the food not-spicy but then you can add as many spices as you want once you get the food. I'm working on my ability to eat spicy food little by little. I just don't know what I'm going to do once I get home and everything is really plain... :) Sunday nights we make dinner at the church with the help of a member. Well... she makes dinner and we help her. Yay Thai food! =D
Dad's email about home teaching: That's one thing I really wish Thailand was better at. Because the church is still so new and there aren't that many active members, home teaching and visiting teaching doesn't really get done. It's so important though because it's a great method to keep members strong, to reactivate less actives, and to give every member a calling to magnify. I love home and visiting teaching so much. :) 
Oh, and don't worry, we are staying very safe. We are very cautious here and in Sinakarin we can't even use bikes because the roads aren't safe for biking. 
Raking leaves already? I guess I shouldn't keep you all posted on the temperature in Thailand then... :)

Mom's letter: that's so cool that so many people are going on missions! :) I feel like my theme for my mission has been Ether 12:27. That scriptures says that the closer you draw to the Lord, the more He shows you your weaknesses. A mission really helps you draw closer to the Lord and therefore I am seeing a lot of weaknesses. That's okay though because the scripture also says that if you rely on the Lord and are humble, He will make your weaknesses strengths. The closer you draw to the Lord, the more you see what you have to improve to be more like Him. But the more you draw unto Him, the more He helps you overcome your weaknesses. So I guess I would like that scripture on a plaque. Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ really want us to become more like Them. They won't force us though. We need to be humble first in order for Them to help us grow. 

How's seminary going? And girl scouts and music boosters? How's the neighborhood and the neighbors? How's the library? 
I am sorry to report that I don't think I had anything new and adventurous to eat this week. Last Monday a member took us to a really high-so (stands for high society. Thais use this word a lot to mean fancy and expensive) buffet at a hotel. At that we got cheese cake. It was sooooooo good. Cheese cake is super expensive here. Um... besides that... I'm eating more sushi. Um... I had liver the other day. We were at a buffet and a member had me try it. Not too bad. 

Um... I think that is all to report. Our investigators are so much fun and I love them so much. One of them is named Sister Beer. She's super cool. Have I explained the Thai nicknames yet? Thai people have a first name and a surname but they also have an official nickname. Their first and last names are very long and are used for documents and for school. Their nicknames are used for everything else. Sister Paula is our other amazing investigator. She wants to get baptized at the end of this month. 

Um... our zone leaders are having us focus on baptism a lot more while we are contacting. They want us to extend the invitation to get baptized with everyone we meet. It was hard at first just because I wasn't used to talking to people that way. Now it is a lot of fun. It's really good too because as missionaries, we are here to "invite people to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end." Our purpose is to prepare people for baptism and to teach them why it is important. Now we are being more direct in our contacting. People know exactly what we are about when they meet us. We want to help prepare them to get baptized so they can be washed from all their sins and so that they can have eternal life with Heavenly Father and their families forever. :) 
Um... I think I am timed on this computer (meaning I paid for two hours before I got on the computer) so I think I have to get off soon. I'll try to attach some pictures though.
Love you all very very very very very very much!!!! =D I'm really happy to hear about Benjamin and about the upcoming temple trip for Chris. Yay! =D
Sister Slaugh =D <3

Sinakarin Pictures--October 7, 2013

 Sister Slaugh and Sister Wiganda

 No commentary attached to this picture. It looks like Sister Slaugh playing some weird instrument.

 No attached commentary. Apparently they're Thai people that Sister Slaugh met.

 No attached commentary. I suppose this is Sister Slaugh and one of the puppies she mentioned.

 Sister Slaugh's roof. Or perhaps the view from her roof. The attached commentary is vague.

No attached commentary. This looks like Sister Wiganda and a member or at least a Thai person.

Sinakarin Letter--October 7, 2013

Yeah, yeah, I know. I'm really behind on this blog. Sorry. I'll try to do better.
Anyway, here's the letter.

Hello dear family :)

So I guess I will answer Daddy's question (about moving) first:
     When you are moving, you have to bring all your stuff and your bike to transfer meeting. Usually (for those in Bangkok) this is done via taxi. It takes a while to find a taxi that is okay with carrying your bike too. Taxis are usually how you get to your new area as well. Sinakarin is a tad different though because we don't ride bikes in this area. The office takes our bikes and puts them in storage. The traffic and streets are too crazy for it to be safe to bike in. We just walk or use public transportation. :) 

This week has been good. It's interesting seeing how different areas and different missionaries work. Because Sister Yim and I live with two other sisters, it's kinda like a four person companionship. It's a lot of fun. We eat lunch and sometimes dinner together. We usually also head home around the same time because we all end up at the church by the end of the day. It's so much fun being with Sister Yim, Sister Bentley, and Sister Wiganda.  

In Sinakarin we do a lot of RCLA work. RCLA stands for Recent Convert and Less Actives. We teach a lot of members to keep them strong and help make sure this ward is really strong. On average, about 60 or 65 people go to church each week. There are more families (or at least married couples) than Bangkapi but Bangkapi has more members. On coming to Sinarkarin, I was told to make sure I have a really good relationship with members. About 8 months ago, the Bishop didn't like missionaries (Elders) because he felt that they didn't work enough with the members and didn't care enough about them. Sister Wiganda has been here for the last 8 months fixing that. Now he really likes us Sisters but we need to make sure that we keep up that trust and that relationship. If the ward and the missionaries are not working together, this work can't progress as well. 
There are a lot of really strong members here. They are so much fun to be with. There is one member that is basically the mom of every missionary that comes to Sinakarin. She eats with us on Sunday nights too. Hm... I guess I should explain that: every Sunday night, we four Sisters make dinner at the church. This member (Mee Nong) helps us make the food and then stays for dinner. It's a lot of fun. It's a great way to get to know that member because her only daughter is now in the States so Mee is really lonely. She likes to help missionaries a lot though which is nice. 

Something I have learned from being a missionary: the harder you work, the happier you are. I have found that the days I am the happiest are the days that I work the hardest. Last Thursday was one of the days. We went Dan Jonesing for a long time Thursday just because we had nothing else to do. We had planned for going about two hours but it was more like 3 because the member we had wanted to visit hadn't gotten home from work yet. So we just went inviting around her neighborhood and then at a park and then down the main side street. It was a lot of fun. We were just talking to a lot of people and having a lot of fun. On the way to the member's house we met two really nice people. One of them - Mr. Nick as he calls himself - is a taxi driver. He's gone to our church before because there was a Christmas activity that had free food. He was really friendly. In Thai culture, if a male is around the age of your father, you call him Paa. Mr. Nick was exactly Dad's age so I called him Paa by the end of our conversation. I think he thought that was really funny. He gave us his number and said that if he could get off work he would come to church. We may have told him that there is free food after church each Sunday (the members always eat lunch together). 

While we were walking down the main side street near the member, we met this really nice Buddhist man that I think worked at a pet shop. The reason we started talking to him? His three puppies were outside and we wanted to look at them. He picked up one of the puppies for us to hold. The puppy's name is Jenny. She was so fluffy. That man was probably really amused at how excited we were about the puppies but that's okay. He has now had a good experience with missionaries. I feel like tracting is all about planting seeds. When we went down the member's street, everyone knew who we were. We visit that member weekly so her neighbors have seen us a lot. We always strike up conversations with them, not always about gospel stuff. Her neighbors really like us and have gotten more interested in who we are and what we do. We are planting seeds in good soil. And these seeds will sprout one day.
When we realized that that member wasn't home we went to a nearby park. There were a bunch of guys playing a Thai sport and there were people watching as well. We watched them play as we talked with some of the people also there. We met a really cool family there. The mom especially seemed interested in what we had to say (about why we were here and about how the gospel blesses families and about eternal families) but when we asked for her number, she refused. That was really sad but we gave her our number and the church's address. One day. But yeah, the moral of that story is that working hard makes you the happiest. I love the days where I am just talking to lots of people. I love going out tracting because it's so much fun to talk to everyone. My favorite method is going to a bus stop and just striking up conversations with everyone there. The conversation always goes to who I am and why am I here so I am always able to share about the gospel. I just do it in a way that no one gets freaked out. 

Of course, now our zone leaders want us to be more bold and extend the baptismal invitation with everyone we meet. Sister Yim and I tried that Thursday morning but it was hard. She's somewhat shy and not very confident in her Thai and the bold approach isn't in my comfort zone. We are going to do it a lot more this week though. It was really funny on Thursday. I went up to a couple and said that I was a representative of Jesus Christ. He wants them to return to Heaven and the only way to do that is to be baptized. Will you follow the example of Jesus Christ and be baptized? The girl said yes. We gave her a date (the 27th) and she agreed to it. I was so shocked. I was like, "Wait, what? Um... are you free this week so we can meet with you?" That's when the boyfriend stepped in and said that they weren't free. And then our bus came and we had to go. She has our number though so hopefully she calls. It was really funny though because I was really shocked. Then again, I'm not sure if she knew what I was talking about. When you ask Thai people a question, they always feel bad saying no. So...yeah. This week we are going to try that method a lot more. We'll see how it goes. 

The computer is going to turn off in about 10 minutes so I'm going to send this and then send some pictures. Love you much!
And Mom, thanks for the Conference talk summaries. We are going to watch them this Saturday and Sunday. Last Saturday we watched the Relief Society broadcast. It was really good. :)  [apparently Thailand gets conference a week late, partly because of the time difference (12 hours) and partly because of a delay in translation]

Much love from Sinakarin,
~Sister Slaugh

PS: One of my MTC teachers (Steven Thrap) is taking Microbiology from Uncle Bill. He says he is a good teacher. Brother Thrap was the teacher that I also had dance class with. Yup. Fun times.