Monday, January 17, 2011

This is a pretty good gig.

January 17, 2011
Tangalan, Aklan Province, Panay Island

This week was pretty crazy, as is every week here.  A lot of times I find myself just going with the flow, just doing everything I need, and forgetting "I'm in the Philippines, half a world away from home, speaking an entirely different language, teaching on a bamboo floor, and teaching people about salvation."  When I remember it, I think to myself "This is a pretty good gig."  It smashes the MTC to pieces, although I do miss warm showers - a lot.

Elders Waggoner & Ball
This week I went on splits with Elder Ball.  He's from my same batch in the MTC.  In fact, he was in my district there  We didn't always get on so well in the MTC, but something about being the only two Americans for miles made us get along well.  We collectively taught 11 lessons while our companions were in Iloilo for training.  We taught in a wide variety of places and situations, so our vocabulary also had to stretch.  The best lesson we taught was in his area though.  It was so good!  Just complete perfection!  We were walking to another person’s house through a short cut.  We were out with two teenagers from Elder Ball’s Branch (group, actually). They knew about a short cut.  We're two bago mga amerikana (Dad’s note: this translates to “new coat” and is apparently an idiom for greenhorns), so we decide to take it.   

Kids often yell out to us, especially me, "Hey Joe!"  As in GI Joe, as if all Americans are named Joe.  So, as we are walking, they call out to us, and we decide to go and give these kids high fives.  Some kids actually give really hard high fives.  So we go there and started high-fiving the kids, and a lady comes out of her house (bamboo shack).  We told her what we're doing in the Philippines, and asked if we could share a little about our church with her.  She and Elder Ball sat down on a bench, I grabbed a coconut to sit on, and the two teenagers (from the same recent convert family) stood.  We taught her about the importance of families, and the two teenagers testified about how the gospel has helped their family.  It was going very, very, well.  Then it got better.  Elder Ball asked her a question about her family.  She said she was often worried about them because she works away from them.  She says she prays for them, but wasn't really sure how to pray.  Oh man, prefect.  We taught her how to pray, bore testimonies about it, and then committed her to family prayer.  It was so good.  It's too bad she's in Elder Ball's area.  She also said the closing prayer!

In my area, the river flooded.  It had been a rainy day.  It was time to show Elder Ball the bukid (literally “field,” but contextually meaning “backwoods.”).  What a day.  We couldn't get to this one investigator’s home because the river had flooded!  We bushwhacked to find a way to get to it, but to no avail.  So then we made the muddy (putik) trek to another investigators house.  By the time we got there, our pants were so covered in mud that we couldn't actually teach, so we washed off our pants in a clean looking water pipe for irrigation.  It was at the source, so it was clean water.  It's better to be wet than muddy.  Then we hiked a ways longer and got to the house, but she wasn't there, so we hiked back.  Elder Ball was a little worried at the start of our day when I handed him a walking stick, but he was happy to have one later.  On the way back, we stopped by the place we couldn't get to at first.  The river had gone down just enough for us to get there.  We taught the lesson and walked another bajillion miles to Tangalan.

Last Monday was maybe the worst day ever.  Elder Pipit left his planner her at the internet place, and many other small things, including locking ourselves out of our apartment.  I told Elder Pipit “We can just get in through the upstairs window.”  We did, but first I wanted to find the safest way up there.  I tried a couple different places around the house.  I moved what I thought was an old piece of child’s play furniture against the wall and hopped up on it.  The plastic broke, just the top of it.  Since it looked really old and worn, and disregarded, I didn't think any more about it.  I tore the screen off of the wood and got inside.  We went to the store to get a some push pins to put the screen back on, and when we got back, the servant lady is mad as h-e-double hockey sticks.  We rent from a wealthy family, and they have some servants who live behind us.  So, the lady is super mad, and asked us about her washing machine.  I didn't know what she was talking about at first.  Yeah, that disregarded piece of junk was a washing machine, still being used, and still working.  She demanded we fix it.  I took a look at it, and only the lid was broken.  So we told her we'd get it fixed up.

The next day we had to go to Kalibo and look for a substitute lid and Elder Pipit's planner.  We found his planner.  We went to a few appliance stores and asked them.  One guy got the info from us, and was going to contact the manufacturer.  We headed back to Tangalan after wasting our entire morning.  She was sitting outside, and told us that we didn't need to go to Kalibo - we could just have given her 500 pesos.  500 pesos is like 60 bucks to a Filipino.  You have got to be kidding me!  500 pesos for a crappy piece of plastic?  Oh, come on.  I told Elder Pipit that I didn't want to pay that, but I did.  It's only like 12 bucks to us.  That is still too much for a crappy piece of plastic, but I paid it.  The lady was angry, and it affected our ability to work. 

I received your letters this last Saturday when Elder Pipit came back from Iloilo.  They were really nice.  I really enjoyed them a lot, thanks.  I don't need anything really, but let me tell you, in around four months I will.  I will need more mesquite spice for meat.  It's edible gold. 

In church we do a lot.  I try to be as social as I feel I can be - as a white guy who doesn't speak Aklanon.  I guess this amount isn't enough interaction.  The members here really watch the missionaries like hawks.  This past week, I blessed the sacrament, and I looked from the sacrament table to the congregation a couple times.  More people were looking at me than at the speaker.  Yeah, strange really.

While in Ibajay (Elder Ball’s area) I apparently didn't shake hands with a member there.  I thought that I had been really friendly while there.  So on Saturday evening, I found out that I had offended some one by not shaking their hand!  The entire Tangalan Branch knows about it already.  That is really frustrating.  The other night we were invited to eat at a lady's house at like 9:00 p.m. at night.  We still had to walk home quite a ways, so I declined as nicely as I could.  She was still offended, and told my companion to tell me proper Filipino etiquette.  She also told him to tell me to be friendlier.  It's true I have been kind of an introvert, as most people are in new situation, but people misread my introversion for something else, and now I have given the wrong impression to two areas.  Oh man, what a bummer.  I'm just not used to this kind of observation from others. 

Elder Ball had bought a guitar for like $20 US.  It was a piece of crap, but while I was in his area, I got to play it.  It was super nice to play.  We also ate at the same restaurant four times in two days.  They had the best rice there ever!  It was like 30 pesos a meal, which is cheaper than we could have cooked for ourselves, plus no dishes!

They have giant toads here!

The branch is kind of bad.  Not evil bad, but just kind of bickering bad.  It's a problem because people can't feel the spirit at church, and the ward will not retain the converts if it's like that.  We've been working with the ward really hands on to get to the root of it.  Why is there not unity?  We found out the problem goes super deep.  This morning we had an interview with the stake president.  He was glad we brought it to his attention, and it was nice for me because I got to talk to him about James Templo, the guy who is paralyzed.  He told me he'd get the paper work moving!

Yesterday (Sunday) afternoon we taught a girl named Ailyn.  She's kind of difficult, but understands Taglish.  (Dad’s note: Taglish is Tagalog and English mixed together.)  I can speak Taglish.  So we got in the entrance to her hut, and Elder Pipit hits me on my side and says "You lead."  So, I did.  It was cool to lead.  She hadn't read, and she hadn't prayed.  We expressed disappointment and moved on to opening prayer.  She didn't close her eyes for opening prayer, so I said we were going to do it again.  Since she hadn’t read, we read together for like thirty minutes.  She wouldn't follow along when she wasn't reading, so I handed her a Book of Mormon just for herself instead of passing it around.  She fiddled with her cell phone, and so I'd point to where we were in the chapter, and told her to read along.  She no doubt texted a friend to come bail her out, but when the friend came, we invited her to join.  It was cool, and by the end of the lesson I felt good about what we had done.  It was rough at first, but by the end we had had a good lesson.  She's been an investigator for a long time, but hasn't ever kept commitments.  I wasn't overly forceful, but I was very direct. 

Last night we ate dinner at a member’s house.  They made us ulam (Dad’s note: ulam is a generic word for the topping put over rice, which can be anything from vegetables to meat) and rice, plus a dessert called mango float.  It was masarap (delicious).  Mom, you should look up how to make mango float.  It was their 20-year-old daughter’s birthday.  We made sure to talk to her, but after dinner Elder Pipit talked to the lady about the ward, and the kids taught me Aklanon.  I tried to do the dishes after dinner, but the mother had a cow, so “no go” there.  It was an enjoyable evening.

Birthday Hammock
Today Elder Light bought me a hammock for my birthday!  It's the perfect gift!  I received an e-mail from Ben - that was super awesome.  I get so excited every time I get to e-mail.  I just got to read some stuff from you guys and Ben.  (It's ok to email each other since he's doing it from him mission e-mail now.)  He sounds so good.  I wish I could go to his farewell.  Jon Popp is going to the same mission as Ben!  Kyle Lefevre is going to Russia!  Oh man, that is so awesome.  I could not be more stoked.  I'm so happy for all of us.   

I had a halo-halo to celebrate my birthday.  It's like a Filipino banana split, but no banana.  Also, the sisters showed us a guitar shop.  We tried out a decent guitar, but it's like $120 US.  I don't know if it's worth it.  It's the only guitar I've seen here that's up to my standards, meaning it stays in tune and won't warp.  I didn't want to spend that kind of money.  I'll probably wait to buy a guitar until I get better at Aklanon.  It's a crazy language.  They have a completely ridiculous vowel.  I only think I can say the vowel if I have a serious cold.  The vowel sounds like death itself.  The kids laugh at me trying to do it.

I really like it here.  It's pretty it's rural.  I'm in the most rural part of my district, if not my entire zone.  Elder Ball thought he knew what bukid was until I took him to my investigators.  There's a difference between country and backwoods.  I'm in the Filipino backwoods. 

I love you so much.  I like my companion a lot.  He's super willing to help me.  I'm in really good hands.  We are a good companionship.  We cook together and stuff. He even understands sarcasm.

Much love! Peace!

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