Wow. Thailand. To say it's amazing would be an understatement. Words cannot express my love for it already!
That was my first word when I stepped off the plane, after jumping up and down in my seat for the last half of an hour of the descent. We were finally there, it almost felt surreal. In fact, it did feel surreal. The flight was long. We were tired and ready for bed but more excited than ever. The second we stepped off the plane, we heard announcements over the intercom in Thai and realized that A. that was indeed Thai and that B. We only understood the last two words of it. But we were finally there!
We were met at the airport by the mission president, his wife, and the APs and the office elders. We stepped out after we withdrew our baht and we went to the car outside after we packed an overnight bag. My first words when I stepped outside were something along the lines of "it's hot but it's not as bad as I thought it would be" So let's get on to your questions and I will tell you all about everything.
I have been doing great. A bit tired since the schedule takes a little bit of getting used to but I have been doing great! The food is amazing and I haven't gotten sick at all yet, let's keep our fingers crossed on that one. Seriously, the Thai food in America looks like nothing now. I have eaten some amazing stuff that really makes the American Thai look no good! Spicy? Yes. Delicious? Very much so! Yesterday I ate papaya salad that was pretty spicy but it was SO good I can't even begin to express how good it was. We walk almost everyplace and those places that are too far we take taxis. We ride our bikes occasionally which isn't that bad. But seriously, it's so great! I have lost quite a bit of weight but it's good.
And the language. Oh the language. Everyone here says l's rather than r's, speaks really quickly, and uses a lot of vocabulary that I have no idea what it means. But through lots of prayers of you and me, I have been able to communicate really well. My comprehension is getting better everyday. I am a huge fan of Thai. It's just so fun to listen and maybe get about 60% of what people are saying sometimes and then other times be surprised when I understand perfectly. It's hard, yes but it's really a testament to the fact that God has helped me a lot with the comprehension. And the teaching is going really well actually. I try really hard to do my best to teach the principles. Despite the language barrier, I am making strides everyday. I can say almost everything that I want to say, I just want to be able to express myself a little clearer.
Yesterday we had our fourth time teaching together. Elder Shill, my awesome new companion and I, were teaching a family. The dad was a taxi driver and he had a wife and two children one of which was home. It was such a tender experience as we explained prayer and how to talk to God. We then decided to kneel and pray right there with them. It was really quite touching and it made the whole day so great! The mom said she really loved it and I loved it too! So hopefully we can help them understand more. They also said they will be coming to Church this Sunday! And pray as a family! What a joy!
I am in an area of Bangkok called Bangapii. There are lots of people, lots of nice people. That's the BEST part about Thailand. The people are so nice, they love to smile and they love the fact that we foreigners are trying to speak Thai. It's really amazing. The Thai people are so patient and loving. My love for them has just increased exponentially everyday. The ward has about 60-80 active members. There are two elders (me and Elder Shill) and three sisters in our area. That's a bit unusual but one of the sisters will be finishing up her mission in a couple of weeks. She was companions with one who finished this week I believe. But now there is a threesome. The ward has some really awesome members who have been so helpful with us in our teaching. Most of the members are newer converts but there are a few who have been members for a really long time. The first Sunday in Church was a bit stressful because I couldn't understand much but it was really cool. They have a keyboard that plays the songs for them since no one can play the piano. They also had me bear my testimony. Every member was really cordial and said that I did very well. I was also called on in Gospel Essentials to talk about the physical and temporal blessings of tithing (luckily I understood the question perfectly otherwise that could have been hair rubbing!) Again, testimony of the power of prayer and lots of hard work.
Elder Shill is the best trainer I ever could have asked for. He's from Mesa Arizona and is just the best! He's so patient, loving, caring, and funny. We get along really well and we teach really well together. He has almost been out for two years so he will finish up in this area in about three months! So I think we will probably be together for the next couple of moves meetings. He's an outstanding missionary who has taught me a lot and has been super patient with the language. It's just awesome!
President Smith seems like my kind of mission president. He did interview us all briefly and it was really great. He just briefly talked to us about the things that we should expect. The day we got into Bangkok we were so tired. And it was so surreal. But we ate really well. We had some of the best fruit ever! Mother, I am sure you would have loved the somelo (I think that's what it's called) that we had. It was just the best! We also had a pear/apple fruit that was to die for. At night we ate Thai food that was nice and mild but all in all SUPER delicious! It was crazy. We were so tired so we got to bed early and then the morning after we had moves meeting.
I met Stop at moves meeting in Bangkhen since that's his ward house. It was way exciting! He's way nice and always helps out the missionaries. We got some pictures with him that I hope you got to see them on Facebook. Moves meeting, all the missionaries in Thailand came to because the President had to talk about some issues but it was great. I got to see all of our older Thais and see how they were doing. They all are doing great. Then I got to see where all of my district was going. It was crazy. Sister Larson ended up in the Isaan. Elder Burnett is in Chiang Rai. But most everyone else stayed here in Bangkok (which is Thai is krungtheb (city of angels).
My first meal in Thailand that was not with the mission president was Mexican food. It was pretty good. Surpising to be entirely honest but I think I will be eating a lot of Thai food over the next two years, so an occasional break is good. =) The food has been great though. Rice everymeal? Dream come true, answer to prayers- literally. The rice here is SO good too. And it's way nice because everyplace serves drinkable water because not even the Thais can drink the tap water. But I also have become best friends with Seven Eleven. They are EVERYWHERE in Thailand! Seriously. It's awesome. They also have something that's like a WallMart equivalent, but not... kind of more like a mall ish kind of Wall Mart called Tesco Lotus. We eat there ocassionally and it's pretty good.
Our apartment is really amazing. Huge fan. It has a front room, a bathroom and a kitchen on the main floor and then a study room and a bathroom along with a bedroom. We have not one but THREE airconditioners. In fact, sometimes I think it's cooler than our house, if that's possible. =)
You know I actually find that I really like the heat and humidity somedays. It's amazing when it rains because when it rains in Thailand it doesn't just rain, it POURS. The rain pours and pours and pours. But the weather makes Thailand all the more beautiful.
I haven’t seen any elephants yet. Hopefully someday soon! I have seen lots of animals though. And Thailand also has a lot of random dogs too. Love it.
Here's a neat story for you. Elder Shill and I were walking around a neighborhood one day because one of our appointments had cancelled and it was a nice neighborhood with security guards and stuff. And we were about to leave when the guards called us up and said that someone wanted to talked to us. We were confused but we went and we met an American whose mother was the first member of the Church baptized in Hong Kong! And he served his mission to Korea. He works for the US Embassy (I think) and he invited us in. He married a Thai women and though he travels all the time, lives in Thailand with his two children. His wife is Buddhist. But we like taught her almost the entire first lesson and left her with a Book of Mormon. She apparently will read the whole thing. Her husband said that she really would. It was a crazy random happening. Clearly there was some divine intervention going on there.
Our days are full of teaching appointments, finding new investigators by talking to people on the street, visiting members and less-actives along with new members, and trying to help as many people as we can. It's exhausting, but so fun. Learning the language and how to communicate effectively has been a great time. I haven't made any mistakes that I know of yet but we will have to see how that goes. Luckily I can do most things that I want to do right now!
But really everything is just going so great. I have never been more tired or more happy in my entire life. I love being here helping the Thai people in anyway I can. Let's think if there's anything else that would be good to share with you today...
Oh! The street by our apartment always smells amazing in the morning. There are street vendors nearby and the spices they use are simply divine. Thailand, for the most part, smells like Thai food everyplace. In fact, on my first day here I was thinking to myself "Thailand smells like Pawit's/Thai Ruby!" Crazy!
Anyway, I love being here in Thailand. The language is coming despite the fact that it's hard. Despite the fact that's it's hard my belief and confidence and faith in God has grown tremendously as I have seen the way the Gospel can change the Thai people. I love the light in the eyes of the members and the light that lies deep within all the Thai people. You all are so supportive! I love you all so much and I pray for you all all the time. Thanks for all the emails, I don't really have time to respond to them but I am quite a fan of all of them. They really lift me up when it's hot outside and it's hard. But it's really such a tender experience to be able to see how people change and how we can help them in their lives.
Today while we were riding into Bangkok to do some things (we went and bought a few really cheap ties. Word of advice for Elders going to Thailand: Buy your Thais here, they are SO much cheaper and so nice), we heard the Islamic call to prayer. Today we saw several priests and Wats on the way. Thailand is just beautiful all around!
Remember to choose the right, laugh at those times that you don't have a clue what someone's saying in Priesthood meeting (they were talking about welfare principles. I have never been more lost in my entire life!), and most importantly remember that God lives and that he knows His children.
With love, prayers, and blessings from the land of smiles where Elder Newman smiles everyday because he's here!
Elder Jacob Newman
p.s.- i am SO excited that you got to meet Bro. Sakhaa. I can't print off emails here but I will find someplace that I can. Anyway, off to teach English tonight. That should be quite an experience. And a half. I hope I can do it! Thanks for all your prayers. They REALLY do help!