Monday, January 3, 2011

"Will you wet the Book of Mormon?"

January 3, 2011
Tangalan, Aklan Province, Panay Island

I'm in the Philippines.  This place is nuts, and it's so incredibly poor.

It was a long, strange trip here.  Monday (Dec 27) morning I washed all my clothes and packed all my stuff.  It was tough to pack to just 44 pounds each.  So I'll just skip to LA.  When I said that I had to go, and end our conversation in LA, it turned out I didn't really.  My watch was still on Utah time, and I forgot about the time difference.  Sorry.  It was so nice to talk to you guys.  I loved it. I really miss you guys.

The flight to Hong Kong was way long.  I sat in between Elder Tran and Elder Wilson.  I slept on Elder Wilson's shoulder.  What a pal.  I didn't sleep much, though- I really couldn't.  Elder Tran watched Inception on the plane.  (Yeah, that's a no-no.)  Elder Wilson just read the Book of Mormon and slept.  I did crosswords with Sister Salway, and listened to missionary-appropriate music on the airplane’s entertainment service.

Elder Light in Hong Kong
The Hong Kong airport was wild.  Security was really low key for us.  Three people ran our stuff through a machine.  We didn't even take off our shoes or anything.  They did give a few of us really hard time though.  Elder Galloway had nail clippers, and that didn't go well.  They interrogated him in broken English.  We walked around the airport and felt so out-of-place.  I don't think they really like Americans there.  It was so cool to look outside.  They have really cool mountains.  The security people were not low key, though.  They were carrying around shotguns and machine guns. That was kind of wild for us.

On the plane to Manila, I sat beside Elder Tran and a man named Alden.  I tried to share the gospel with him, but to no avail.  He really wasn't all that interested.  He said he'd talk to the missionaries next time he saw them, but he didn't want to give me his address so they could visit them.  It was cool to try though.

Manila was nuts, especially with such a large travel group.  Our travel leader Elder Ball pretty much threw up his hands and said "Not my problem."  Getting through customs was a blast.  Elder Thayne couldn't get through, but because he and I had similar documents, they just let us through.  I thought that was wild.  It took a while to get our luggage.  Sister Salway never got hers.  After that, we all changed our money.  I changed about 45 dollars to pera.  Our next flight left in about an hour at that point, and that terminal was not nearby – it was not connected to the rest of the airport.  We were going to take a shuttle, but we couldn’t all fit, the next shuttle wasn’t coming for thirty minutes.  That was rough.  Elder Galloway and I just said “We need to take a taxi.  We have to.” 

So, we all got into taxis.  It was fun trying to communicate with the taxi drivers.  It was a sink or swim situation.  We swam.  It helped that I was with one of the Soderquist twins.  They're so good at Tagalog.  I handed him my money and told him to pay.  We got charged a lot, but we didn't have time to barter.  The drive was so crazy.  We went through small roadways, through neighborhoods - just ghettos - barely missing people and other vehicles, including motorcycles and trikes.  I didn't have time to worry about dying, but I'm sure if we weren't so pressed on time I would have been scared.

We got to the new terminal and through security.  Our plane was leaving in like 25 minutes. They open up some more lines just for us.  Then we noticed the Sisters were nowhere to be found, so Elder Galloway ran back and helped them carry their luggage.  All the while we were sweating bullets, because it's so hot here.  We got our luggage weighed and we had to pay yet another fee.  It took all the rest of my Filipino money, but I don't have time to worry about it.  We got through yet another security checkpoint, and barely made it on the plane.  The last one of us gets on the plane without his shoes.  He hadn't even put them on again.

The plane ride was relaxing.  It was so nice to have all gotten on.  It was crazy to go through that. We had to speak Tagalog or we'd have never made it on the plane.

Iloilo is so pretty, and very jungle-like.  It's really hot and humid.  There are rice fields, beer huts, water buffalo, chickens, and bamboo shacks.  It's really cool.  Plus it has pretty mountainous.  I like that. 

We had orientation at the La Paz chapel for a while.  They taught us a little Ilonggo, and we had a question and answer session.

Tired Travelers
That night (Wednesday, Dec 29) we had interviews with President Pagaduan.  Mine was very brief.  He mostly just thanked me for coming.  I said something like “you’re welcome.”  We had dinner at the mission home.  I tried to carry on a conversation with him, but I was too tired.  After dinner all the Elders passed out on his couch, including me.

We slept at a hotel.  I got in my room and hit the bed.  A while later, I got a phone call from the assistants telling me how to brush my teeth with clean water.  I told them I was asleep and wasn't interested on how to brush my teeth.  It was a funny conversation.  The next day (Thursday) we had more orientation.  We ate lunch and dinner at the mission home.  I was paired up with Elder Wilson for the day.  We learned a lot of Ilonggo.  It was pretty easy.  It's not a hard language to learn after Tagalog.  At dinner we had yellow watermelon - it was so delicious.  A giant lizard had gotten in the mission home, so a lot of the elders tried to get it out.  It was fun to watch.  Elder Soderquist finally got it out in a shoebox.

The next day (Friday, Dec 31) we had transfer meeting.  I was sad to say goodbye to a lot of people.  It was an uplifting meeting though.  Elder Light, Elder Ball, and I got sent to Kalibo up north.  They speak Tagalog here.  My companion is Elder Pipit from here in the Philippines.  He speaks English well, so I'm safe.  I like him, he's very patient.  I was stoked to come up here to Kalibo because it's where Elder Lowry is.  Sister Danner will be up here too when she gets here.  So you might pass the word onto her - study that Tagalog insane like.  We took a jeepney to the bus station.  It took three buses until we could get on one to Kalibo.  We finally got on one.  Elder Pipit fell asleep and I looked out the window.  It's so pretty and wet here.  When we finally got off the bus, one of my pieces of luggage was missing.  Bummer.  Yeah. I was kind of bummed, but I was ok about it.  

Our apartment is so bad.  It has rats, spiders and all sorts of crawly things.  It's about the same as camping.  We do have a fridge, though.  Without my bag, I didn't have a lot of stuff, such as bed sheets, so Elder Pipit bailed me out.  What a pal.  It was New Year’s night, and that was complete anarchy.  It sounded like a war outside.  I didn't get much sleep.

The Pacific Ocean, at Tangalan
The next day (Saturday, Jan 1), we went into town to ask about my luggage and replace some stuff, such as socks and soap and toothpaste and razors.  We had a meeting with our Branch President later in the evening.  We live pretty close to the branch. We live in Tangalan, not far from the ocean.  (Dad’s note: Tangalan is munipality the northern side of Panay Island, just west of Kalibo.  The town to look for on most maps is Afga.)  That night I hit the bed and slept until about five, when the Catholic Church started to ring a bell.  I didn't know what was going on.  I thought it was like 2:00 in the morning and someone was paging for help.  I asked Elder Pipit about it.  He didn't know what I was talking about, so I went to bed again.  

Sunday (Jan 2) morning was rough.  I was not very happy.  I thought I was ok about it on the outside, but people kept on asking me why I was so sad.  I bore my testimony in Sacrament Meeting and blessed the Sacrament too.  They speak a crazy language here.  Aklanon seems like half English and half something else.  I can understand the English part.  We taught a couple of lessons later in the day.  (Dad’s note: It seems that the missionaries teach in Tagalog when the investigator speaks it, and teach in Aklanon when Tagalog is not an option.)  The homes were pretty much just shacks.  They seemed like forts that 12 years olds build.  We tried to get them to pray at the end of first lesson, but it didn’t go so well.  The teenagers were kind of rowdy, but the dad listened.  The next lesson went well. I felt the Spirit, but didn't understand a darn thing.  They seemed to enjoy our lesson.

We wandered around looking for other people for a while.  It rained buckets on us.  We visited with some members and they made fun of me for my terrible Tagalog.  Our last lesson was with Jehovah's Witness.  That was nuts.  He wouldn't let us speak.  He told us that America was the nine headed dragon in the revelations, and that I prayed to the devil because didn't call God by his rightful name.  It was a bad lesson.  We pretty much just bore our testimonies and got out of Dodge.

Last night we got fed by an elderly lady.  I was timid at first.  Because of their humble house (shack) I wasn’t eating much.  She finally just put food on my plate and told me in broken English "You shy- you die."  I am pretty skinny.

Today (Monday, Jan 3) - oh yes, today!  Elder Light's companion had taken my luggage on accident, thinking it was Elder Light's.  So that was a relief.  They brought it to zone meeting!  I was so relieved to have it!  Elder Lowry was there.  That was so nice.  He got me through the first couple of days at the MTC and here he is again!  It was so good to catch up with him.  He's had two baptisms so far.  We are out in the boondocks here.  No joke.  It's like hillbilly heaven.  It's so third world.  The weather reminds me of the day Ben Gibson and I went to Dollywood in Eastern Tennessee - so wet, still hot, and very green and hilly. We ate pizza at a restaurant with a lot of other people from the zone, and now I'm here.

Oh guys, I love you so much.  I can't help but wonder what I've gotten myself into, though.  This place is so third world.  I still feel like I'm just visiting it, and when it sets in that a live here for two years I think I'll be in trouble.  Oh man.  I love you guys so much.  Pray for me to learn Tagalog.  I'll need it.

I have just another minute.  The fruit here is really good.  Most people laugh at me because I'm so bad at Tagalog.  The word “basa” pronounced one way means “wet,” and the other way means "read."  So, I said "Will you wet the book of Mormon?"

I love you.

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