Monday, November 5, 2012

First week in the Philippines

Kumusta Pamilya ko!                                                                              November 5, 2012

This is my first week in the Phils, and it has been very interesting, and busy, haha.
Firstly, it was great talking to everyone on the phone last week. I wish I had a 6 hour phone card - I would have used the whole thing. 
Secondly, I forgot my aux. I don't have any pictures this week. I will get a whole bunch up next week though.

So, you are all probably wondering where I am about now. I am sitting in an internet cafe, surrounded by Filipinos playing WOW and watching youtube videos, haha. I am in Paniqui, which is the main city in my zone. My area is Cuyapo...a small group of barangays (neighborhoods) out in the bukit (rice fields). There is one very small branch here, with about 70 members (about 30 or forty attend every week). My trainer is Elder Janolgue (han-ol-gee). He is very quiet, but speaks great English. He is about 5' I feel like a giant around him, haha. 

Actually, I feel like a giant everywhere here, haha. Everyone here, for the most part, is under 5'6 so it gives me one reason to be happy, haha. 

I will tell you my whole travel story:
So, after a long flight from San Fran to Hong Kong (I got some weird noodles in the HK airport...I had no clue what was in them...I will send the picture next week) and then another flight to Manila, I hopped into a van with Elders Williams, Morgan, Clark, and Sister Huddleston. Our driver was named Joni...and he was awesome. He told me that someday he would visit Canada, and I told him to add me on Facebook, haha. Everyone drives like a maniac here. It's astiq (cool), but there were a few times on that first van ride that I thought I would die. In one case our driver turned into oncoming traffic, pedal to the floor, and motored it for a whole block , dodging tricycles and pedestrians. There are little to no traffic rules here, and there are people everywhere. I have yet to see an accident though, everyone just signals with their horns and whoever is driving the smaller vehicle yields, haha.

We got to the mission home in one piece, and spent one night there with President and Sister Martino. They are both super nice, and from Texas (sometimes I'm not sure if it is easier to understand the filipinos or them, haha). President took us all out for ice cream the night before we left and gave us a quick tour of his part of Angeles. We met our trainers the next day and got assigned to our various areas. Elder Morgan got assigned to Baler, which is by the beach, so everyone is saying that he is really lucky. Apparently, the work is very slow there though. Elder Williams got sent to a place out in the boonies called Santa Ignacia, which apparently is pretty rough. I forget where Elder Clark was sent. 

We took a bus and then a trike to get to Cuyapo, which is really far up North. I talked to the trike driver in Taglish about the church, and got him to commit to a visit from the sisters (he was out of our area). He spoke pretty good English, so I don't know if it really counts, haha. 

When we got to our flat, I was pretty grossed out. The first thing I saw was a lizard on the cupboard and a dead cockroach on the floor. There were ants everywhere. The floor is filthy, and the sink and counter are gross. The CR (bathroom/ Comfort Room)...I could write a whole paragraph about how nasty it is, but I'll just say this: Picture the nastiest outhouse you've ever seen, give it a tile floor and a shower faucet, and times its nastiness by thirty. I'd still take it over our bathroom, haha. The toilet is more like half of a toilet (you'll see when I send the pictures, haha), and the ceiling is rotten. Everything from the shower drains down a whole in the middle of the floor, and there is no toilet paper (I will explain that much later...although, it is not as gross as you are probably thinking, haha). I shake all of the ants out of my bedsheet every night before I climb in. 
My first thought was: "Wow. The church really shelled out for this." But then we started visiting the members, and I realized that what I have here is a luxury. I am lucky to have a toilet and shower, and a sink with running water. I am so lucky to have a bed, with a mattress and a sheet and a nice electric fan to keep me cool at night. The people in Cuyapo are so poor (for the most part), and we have taught lessons to people in bamboo huts with dirt floors and no electricity, with 7 or 8 people living there in a space about as big as my bedroom. Many of them are rice farmers, who spend all day outside in the heat and mosquitoes just to come back to a dark, sweaty hut. Everyone is so nice here though. We rarely have anything rude said to us, and many people offer us food and 'sopt drrinks!' (roll the 'r's - Filipino for pop, haha), even though they barely have enough to feed their families that day. My first night here, one of the neighbors brought us some Ube cake (purple sweet potato cake) topped with cheese, and some sticky rice with a huge bottle of Sparkle (really yummy orange pop). She knew that I was new, and she wanted to welcome me. The members also feed us twice a week, which is a really big sacrifice for them sometimes. We try to be polite and not eat too much, but they wont let us. They will wait until we are finished eating sometimes before they will begin, and they won't let us leave the table until we've had at least two helpings. These are the nicest people in the world, and I've been so touched by their kindness in the last few days. 

The food here is really good...we eat rice for every meal, which I've actually started to like. My Comp. loves to eat eggs in the morning, with rice and Magic Sarap (literally, a packet of pure MSG and chicken flavor that you put in food). I have to admit, it's pretty good, haha. 
We were walking through one of the barangays on saturday, and I saw a little boy (probably about 9 or 10) with a fishing pole and a big net. Elder Janolgue walked up to him and started talking with him. I caught enough of the conversation to know that the net was full of frogs from the Bukit, and that Elder Janolque was negotiating a price for them. They made a deal, despite my attempts to protest (Okay lang, Elder! Ayow! Huminto na! haha), and the little boy (who is probably Jamesons size) proceeded to cut up the frogs with a machete and put them in a bag for us. On Sunday morning, Elder Janolgue cleaned them up and threw them in a pan with some soy sauce and garlic. It was surprisingly delicious. The meat tasted exactly like chicken. 

That is my only crazy food experience as of yet...but I will have more. 

There are many investigators here, and a lot of recent converts. We found a new investigator on friday named Glen. He came to visit one of our recent converts while we were teaching her. He asked us a few questions, and we asked him if he wanted to hear a message. He said, "I am Catholic, and I will not change religions...but I am interested in discussing god with you." We kind of grinned a little bit, and started our 'discussion', which was all about the restoration of Joseph Smith. He listened very intently, and the spirit was really strong. He understood English well, so I was able to add things to the lesson and bear my testimony in Taglish at the end. I could tell that our message of the restored gospel had really hit home for him. We asked him if we could meet with him on Wednesday, and he said, "Yes...we can have another talk on Wednesday about religion." I think our next 'talk' will be on eternal families, haha. 

We have a lot of investigators, but Glen sticks out the most this week. I will have to tell you more next week. 

I am doing well. I am healthy and pretty happy. I have a lot of nosebleeds every day, haha, but other than that I am doing good. The heat is brutal, and the bugs are huge, but I love this country already, and I love the people. I have many challenges still, but I know that the Lord will help me overcome them in his way and in his time. 

I love you guys,
Thanks for everything,

Love Jared.

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