Thursday, January 3, 2013

 The sky does some crazy things is absolutely beautiful some nights. 
 A funny little kid...he reminded me of Jarom, haha. 
 The front of our house...our house is actually on our landlord's property, which is fenced and gated, so we are very safe from thieves/kidnappers and such. The window to the left of the picture is part of our landlord's tindahan (store). 
 Trike! We ride in one of these things four or five times a week. Sometimes they can fit like 6-7 people in one of them, haha. 
  Getting ready to go Secret Santa with Brother Louie.
 Some of the Stuff that we put in the smaller packages (Five of the bigger ones had a whole chicken in them well as milk powder and other supplies)
Pogi pa rin at handa na umalis. (still handsome and ready to leave)

 Again, ready to leave 
 magandang langit (beautiful sky)
 One of the magnificent sunsets that I get to see every day. 
 Some of the Christmas Decorations at Town Hall

 Baby Ducks! It's funny, I've eaten one of those just wasn't out of the shell yet, haha. 
 Elder Janolgue licking one of those worms (his tongue isn't actually touching it...don't worry)
You’ve probably heard of Rhinoceros beetles…these worms eventually turn into them. 

Dear Family,

This week started out tough but has become considerably better since. It was great to be able to see you all and talk to you over Skype. I was shocked at first because of how white everybody looked, and when Grandpa said it was -24 outside I just couldn’t comprehend it. Couch coat or no couch coat…I think I would probably freeze to death in that kind of weather now. It’s amazing how the human body can adapt so quickly to different climates. You all look great and it only made me a little bit homesick talking to you, haha.

Today is New Years Eve here. I can kind of relate to dad when he said that New Years in Japan was a huge deal, and bigger than Christmas. I guess the thing about Christmas here, is that not everyone can afford to celebrate it, but all they need for new years is some fireworks, which are everywhere and super cheap here. I am told that the countdown to the new year is spectacular here…all of the trike drivers rev their engines really loud, and everyone sets off fireworks all over the towns and blasts music. People crowd the streets and parties are everywhere. Consequently…we will be in our house by 6 pm and will celebrate the coming of 2013 with our portable DVD player, a copy of the Testaments, and some chicken adobo and rice (and graham cake – I will send a recipe soon…so good, haha). Two of the Elders from Anao (Elder Olsen and Elder Espinosa) are coming to our apartment, so it will hopefully be a good time. We might even see some fireworks if we open our windows, haha.

It has been very difficult to find people that will listen to us here in Cuyapo. I don’t know why, but it seems like almost everyone has been taught already by the missionaries, or they are just not interested. We have six investigators with baptismal goal dates , but none of them are coming to church (in order to be baptized here, people need to attend church for four consecutive weeks). To make things worse, we saw one of them smoking yesterday (we thought he had quit a long time ago), which made us kind of depressed. We have been eternally extending their baptismal dates for the last two months, and it seems like none of them are progressing. We have been trying really hard this week to find some new people to teach, and it’s been interesting. We had a lesson a few days ago with a young mother that we had OYMed before, but we ended up leaving halfway through because her neighbors wouldn’t turn down their stereo (it is hard to feel the spirit when Quiet Riot is blasting through your head). That was really frustrating. We did have a really good lesson this week with a Nanay. We were teaching her about the Restoration, and while we were talking her 20 year old daughter and one of her cousins came in and sat down too. They are all devout Jehovah’s Witnesses, but they were very open and polite and had a lot of questions. It was the best lesson we’ve had in a long time, and I’m really excited to go back. The nanay’s (mom’s) name is Naomi, and her daughter’s name is Princess. The cousin is named April. You might think the name Princess is odd, but it is much more normal than Precious and Cinderella, which are also quite common here, haha.

On a weird cultural note: Here, it is not weird for women to marry someone a lot older than them. A lot of the women we teach are around my age, and it is pretty normal for them to be married to a man who is almost 30, and have two or three kids already. A lot of old American men come here to get young wives...especially retired military guys. We taught a lesson to a girl, she was 20 and married to a 54 year old man who worked on and off in California. The weirdest thing I’ve seen though regarding age gaps in marriage (I might have told you this already) was a Nanay that we taught – she is 65 years old, and her husband is 32. I couldn’t really figure that one out, haha. At least the YSA culture will be easy to accept for a lot of people here, haha.
We didn’t get to teach Brother Oliveros this week, which is too bad. Sister Oliveros is working in Manila right now, so he wasn’t around when we went to their house. He is very shy, and I think it is hard for him to come to church and meet with us if his wife isn’t with him. We are trying to get a fellowshipper for him to help with that, but it is hard because there are only 6 or 7 active Elders/High Priests in the Branch. We ended up teaching their two sons, and afterwards they took us out back and showed us these huge worms that live in rotten palm trees. You’ve probably heard of Rhinoceros beetles…these worms eventually turn into them, haha. They are apparently really tasty if you fry them up (quite a few people I’ve talked to you have eaten them…I don’t think I can do it though). Anyways, we followed Brother Lybbert’s advice and strapped a firecracker to one. The resulting explosion was fantastic…but we didn’t think about the splatter zone and some of the worm ended hitting us. We haven’t been able to catch a cockroach and blow it up yet, but I am excited for that, haha. (See pictures for the worms)

Church this week was good. Our attendance went up to 60 this week and a lot of less actives actually turned up. It helped me feel a little bit better about the week. I am so grateful to be able to play the ‘organ’ (keyboard) in sacrament meeting…the singing here is less than melodious, but I still feel a good spirit as everyone sings the hymns together. We also planned a youth activity this week (we are going to hike one of the mountains here…I’m pumped) which will hopefully attract a lot of the less active youth and get them fired up about church stuff again. The new church building will be finished in April, and I will probably still be here to see it. I am excited for that, and for the progress that this branch will be making in the future. The work is hard, but there is so much potential here.

It makes me kind of sad…Elder Janolgue only has a couple more weeks left, and then he will be transferred. He has been a great companion and trainer. I hope that I don’t have to train next transfer (it happens a lot actually), because I am definitely not ready. It will be interesting to have to lead the area. I am nervous and excited at the same time.

Your Christmas sounds like it was fantastic, and I’m so happy that it was a good one. It was a good one for me too, and it gave me an opportunity to think about the Savior and about the real purpose of Christmas.

I love you all,

Thank you for all that you do for me.
Love, Jared.

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