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Monday, January 23, 2012

Week 2 in the Philippines

Thanks for all of your support, I don't have time to respond to everyone individually right now but I am grateful for the e-mails. Things are getting better as time goes by. I'm learning to adjust to the difficult situations. I have so much to say but again feel like I don't have enough time and also I feel like I lack the words to express myself. Perhaps that's just something I've started to feel because of the language barrier here. Anyway, I feel bad for not commenting on your finger from last week. It looks very painful and I hope that it is able to heal alright. We managed to clean up our apartment a little more this week just in time for Cleaning Checks from the Senior Couple. They were really surprised with how clean it was compared to the other times they had been there... I just told them I couldn't live in a messy place. We also got some permethrin from Sister Martino and you can bet that I sprayed it everywhere. I know it's working because I'll wake up and find dead cockroaches and lizards around the house. I'd rather them dead than alive. I talked to President about our messy apartment and he said that President Tae (The Area President) would be coming in a few weeks and was going to tour some missionary homes--including ours. He expects it to be spotless, which is fine with me. It's difficult trying to get the others to help though without sounding bossy, but I'm really trying. We've made big improvements so I can't complain. The Filippino's don't focus on time the same as we do so it's hard to stress the value in scheduling things right and being where we need to be when we need to be. It's not uncommon to be out still past 9:30 or for them to sleep in. We haven't been able to teach a lot this last week because we were in a Tripanionship from an emergency transfer and so we worked in the Zone leader's area most of the time. We had a baptism for two of their investigators on Saturday, but our area really seems to be lacking. 

The Language is still difficult. This week was especially tough since we were in a tripanionship most of the time with one of the Zone leaders we live with as well as one of the Prospective missionaries in the ward, Brother Edmar. The reason why this is tough is because they just start talking to eachother at full speed and seem to forget that I'm still there. It made me feel a little left out and I couldn't keep up. I get headaches trying to understand everything and usually just keep quiet for the most part. My companion and I can't communicate very well and so it's hard for me to explain things to him. There is also somewhat of an obedience problem in our house... which is difficult since I live with the District Leader and Zone Leaders. Oh well.
Yesterday we had dinner at the same member's home that we ate at last week. She served us fried fish that was still intact head, scales, and bones. Luckily there were 4 other missionaries there so I let them eat it and said I had a bad reaction to fish. They also had sardines and other things.... I stuck to rice, some type of meat like Spam, and coke. All the meat we eat is usually cold when we eat it... rice is usually the only warm thing, but I appreciate all of the effort on the members part. They really are trying to help me feel at home. 

Again, thanks for all the support. Give my love to everyone!
Thanks for all the prayers, I love you.

Elder Smith

Monday, January 16, 2012

Finally Here

 This morning we started out with a Service project for a family in the ward here. We hauled sand from the riverbed to the backyard area for them to make cement with. I don't really understand how they do it. I didn't mind helping but my stomach really started hurting while we were working and I expect that it was the Pansnip breakfast a member made us. It's rude to leave food on the plate so I ate it all. I've decided that it's better for me not to see where food is kept or how it's prepared. I just say a prayer and swallow fast. After the service project we were fed by the members we helped. They think it's so funny that I can't speak Tagalog but I just laugh with them. The food was alright for the most part. We was some type of chicken, rice, and Mt. Dew. I'm learning that Poweraid and Soda is a blessing here because it is usually cleaner than the water and safe to drink. I question how clean the utensils are that we use... but I just don't think about it much. There are many flies and bugs here so who knows. Also, I've never seen so many dogs and cats in one place. It must rain cats and dogs here A LOT. My companion explained that they are very low class here. After that we went to the supermarket. I can't express how good it was to go the SM. It was like a mall back home. SO CLEAN. I bought a lot of things for our apartment and such and had to withdraw some personal money as well. So be expecting that charge.

So, there's nothing like your first week in a forgin country to make you homesick. I've been home sick plenty. But i'm trying. I feel like my opinion of this place is so bipolar. It flips and flops often. I'm doing my best to stay positive though. Let me now answer your questions while I can. 

 Travel was good. The airline was great and it was fun being with the other missionaries. We had a few time where we talked to curious travelers but nothing too big. When we got here we were sooo jet lagged. Add to that the travel on land once we got here. They drive so crazy here! I felt like I was in jepordy of my life as soon as we got in the car. However, I've adjusted to it now. New York has nothing on this place in that department. We ride in Jeepney's and Trycycles most of the time. Google what those are and you should find enough info. Jeepneys are like really cheap dirty buses and Trycycles are motorcycles with a side cart for passengers, which are more expensive. If the food, transportation, or unsanitary conditions here don't kill me, than I will be alright. But really, don't worry. Leave the worrying to me. The transportation is actually kinda fun. 

 The airplane was great. The food was good and I enjoyed the flight. 

Soon after arriving to the mission home I realized that I didn't have my scriptures! ...yeah, let that one sink in. It is worse than losing my wallet because it was so personal. I had it so prepared with tabs and markings from the MTC study time, and also I had other things such as several photos as bookmarks. I thought I may have left them in the van that brought us to the mission home but nope. Maybe someone took them at the airport when I was exchanging my money. I don't know for sure. Anyways, the Sister from the Senior couple at the Mission home helped me place an order for a new set, so that's the charge for that.

My Mission President is great, but he runs a tight ship. He expects things to go as he sets them which is good. He is friendly but direct. I really like him though. I think he will be a great President. We have interviews with him tomorrow.

My home is... dirty. But it is a lot better than most other homes here. We actually share it with the Zone Leaders so it's larger than most. It has two levels to it. The only homes that I've been in that are nicer are the Bishopbricks homes. BUT it is a lot more filthy than my apartment in ST. George ever was. We are doing some deep cleaning soon. None of the other elders seem to care and I bet it's been over a year since it was cleaned. There are many spiders and cockroaches.... hopefully we will get some permetherine from Sister Martino tomorrow at interviews. The room I sleep in seems to be okay. I keep most of my things in my suitcases though. 

 Elder Pangan is my companion he is from a city here somewhere. I can't remember it.  He has been out for 6 months and is also the District leader now. He is very patient and willing to work with me. For the most part, things are going well for us. He doesn't understand that some things here can make me sick because I am not immune to the germs but he is patient with me anyways.

 As luck would have it, I found it today. I feel really stupid now... it was in my bookbag the whole time. It somehow slipped into the pocket with all my markers and pens and they all blocked it from view. I didn't know the pocket was that big. But I found it thats all that matters right? 

 I am in Tarlac City. Again, New York has nothing on this place in terms of filth and garbage. Very dirty. 

I dont really understand the language but that was expected. I will keep trying. They people here treat me like a celebrity because I am white. It is a really weird thing. The kids love me and follow us everywhere. I really love them though.

The people here are like non other. New York has nothing on this place, again. Including the People. The people here are so friendly and humble. It's unreal. There are several things I don't like about this place but the people aren't one of them. They are so kind... I can't really explain it. It's so different from home. Even though I can hardly understand them. The ones that know English try to speak English to please me when we go out in public. In return I try to speak tagalog but sound like a fool. They don't laugh though. The members here really try to help me speak well. And in return they want me to help them with English. 

 Church is nice. I enjoyed yesterday other than the fact that I had to speak in sacrament. Also not many members attend church. We are focusing on that. It's not a big building, but it has air conditioning and it's CLEAN. So I love being there. I had to read scriptures twice in Sunday school but it was good. The Bishop is great and also fluent in English. However, he said that for my own good he is not going to speak it much. Also, he jokingly said that he is going to make me pay a peso for every English word I say. AH!! I really am trying to learn the language. i really want to communicate with the people here. 

 A lot is hard. My companion is Philippino so doesn't understand the importance of sanitary living conditions. The sink and everything is terrible. I took a broom and knocked out the webs in our room but the rest of the house needs work. I'm not dead yet though so that's a blessing. The filth is probably number one. Also, the language is tough. The heat isn't much of a problem though. Being out and about and seeing the people is worth it. Another thing that's been hard is the bathroom situation. However, I will adjust. My companion desperately wants be to become a Real Philippino and to embrace the culture here. I am little by little, but I still bought Toilet Paper at SM today.

The food is very different. We had some fruit at the Mission home and it was SO GOOD. The Mangoes, Bananas, and Pineapples here are a thousand times better than in America. I can't explain it. We don't have any food at our place though. We always eat this bread stuff for breakfast and usually find another meal during the day. For the first few days I only had Rice but I am trying more now. The food has upset my stomach more than once but I just say a prayer and eat anyways. My companion thinks I am very strange. The first time I saw corn beef I freaked out because it was red when we ate it and not brown like meat usually is? I guess that is normal. We bought some food for our home now. Hopefully we can save money. My companion doesn't know how to budget his money... He ran out of support for the month because he spotted his old companion who also couldn't budget. I had to give him some to help so that we can keep eating and traveling around. I can't wait for next month when we can get new support. I told him that we will start budgeting and also that we will go buy things for our 72 hour kits. I bought some things today which is why I had to get more money out. This month we only got about 4700 pesos. Next month we will get 7600. After we clean our apartment then I will buy more food for us to store at our place so that we can save money. It's hard for us to mesh our lifestyles. We have had meals at members homes too. I always feel bad when we eat there because they literally live in shacks and hardly have anything. They give us so much to eat. I almost can't stand it. I take food and eat then politely decline more so that they can eat it. Surprisingly, although I have been eating considerably less than I usually do, I don't ever really get "hungry" and I have enough energy to work. I know that it is only though God's grace. 

I have so much more to say but we need to be going back to work soon. I guess these computers have USB ports so I will bring my camera cord next time to send pictures. Don't worry about me, I know I am being protected by your prayers and faith. I'd be lying if I told you that I haven't thought about calling it quits already. It is very difficult here, but I focus on the good and get by. I need to locate some medicine like TUMS and I'll be good to good with the food. The people here want to be like American's so badly it seems. They LOVE anything american. Any merchandise like sports logos etc, and the music for sure. They LOVE David Archulleta. He's a big hit here. The water has been difficult to adjust to as well. We have an old filter in our place and I just say a prayer when I fill up my water. Seems to work out fine. It's just tough when other try to offer me water and things. Hm... what else? We had a baptism on Saturday. Of course I didn't have much to do with it. I did give a small talk though and my companion baptized her. She is a 17 year old that they had been teaching. It was neat to witness. Last night we went to some shacks by the river and gave three blessings to a family that was sick. That was very neat as well. There is a member here, Brother Edmar who is preparing for his mission in February. He loves to help us out and came with us last night. I can tell my companion appreciates his help since he can speak Tagalog and help when we teach.  Right now all I do is bear simple testimony. My Companion and him both understand English enough to understand me most of the time. I miss home a lot but I try not to think much about it. There is a reason that I am here so I am doing my best to lean what it  is. Keep praying for me and know that I always pray for all of you. I love you so much. I am so thankful for all that You and Dad have done to raise us and make our lives easier. It's so hard to see what the people here have to endure. For example, my Companion hasn't seen his father for 18 years. He is in Canada working to earn enough money for them to hopefully join him after my Companion's mission. I can't even imagine that. That's just one example. 

Anyways, it's time to get back to work. Give my love to everyone.

Smile! Mahal kita!

Elder Smith

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Look mom, I made it!

Garetts says, "goodbye" to his suit coat for 2 years

time to try the food....

Gas station in the Philippines, the bottles hold different kinds of gasoline

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


Let me just tell you in a mother words what a crazy day I had with Garetts departure! 
It all starte with receiving a short email at 12:00 (noon) from Garett saying his wallet was gone.  No drivers  license, no credit or debit cards, no cash.  He was leaving the MTC  on shuttle to airport at 1:30.  He said in his email, "I don't want you to worry just wanted you to know so you know what's going on.  If there is anything you can do I could use some help, I've said several prayers, please add your prayers to mine".   Don't worry????  I immediately stressed out.  How can he travel with all the lay overs  and transfers with no money for food or incidentals.  After a sincere  prayer I started making some phone calls.  Thankfully I work at our financial institution...I knew it would take a miracle to get new  cards for him in less than an hour, but with the Lords help and some  connections I was able to get new cards for him in about an hour.  was in touch with the MTC and was given permission to meet my son at  the airport to deliver new cards and some cash.  I was an emotional  wreck to say the least.  Thankfully I live only about an hour away> from the Salt Lake City airport so I picked up his new cards and  started my drive.  When I was about 15 miles from the airport I was on  a two lane road behind a large tow truck when it began swerving out of control in front of me, I had to slam on my breaks and swerve to miss it.  The truck had a blow out and rubber was flying everywhere while he  tried to gain control of his truck.  I somehow got out of his way and  none of the debris hit my car, it flew over my car and then little pieces flew all around me but no damage to my car, but my heart was in my throat and I was  shaking like a leaf.  When I arrived at the airport I was able to calm  down a bit.  I arrived about the same time the missionaries did.  What  a sight to see a big bus pull up and all these young men and women get  off.  I just sat there and smiled at the sight.  Soon I could see my  son...I had mixed emotions, I wanted to see him but didn't want to > make it hard on him or myself.  I said another prayer and then walked  right up to him.  The MTC branch president had thankfully gotten in  touch with him on the bus and he knew to expect me.  I didn't know if  I could hug him or not so I just stood there.  He set his bags down and gave me a big hug.  Oh how sweet it was!  He was so grown up all ready.  I took out my wallet and gave him the  cash I had for him and then the cards.  He just starred at the cards.   He couldn't believe that I was able to get new ones for him.  He said  it was an answer to prayer.  I had to agree.  He gave me another big hug and just squeezed me and thanked me again, then we began walking to the check in.  I didn't want it to look like I  just ambushed my son at the airport so I told him to call when he got  through security and we parted.  I headed up the escalators before I dared look back, when I did the whole group of them were waving at me, I waved back and blew them all a kiss and received tons of kisses back.   I wanted to just take the escalators right back down but knew it would  be better to just continue back to my car. 
I thought it would be really hard to see him and then leave again but it wasnt.  It was a  bitter sweet blessing seeing him, and an opportunity I will treasure.  I got a call from him about an hour later and again when he was in San Francisco waiting to fly to  Hong Kong.  We all got to talk to him and hear all kinds of stories.   It turned out to be an amazing day and a tender mercy from the Lord.   I think I aged 20 years today but in the end it was worth it.  Now I  can't wait to hear that he has arrived safely and all is well.
Shawn still teases me the Garett and I plotted the whole thing so I could see him off.  Not true!  But I was able to see how easy it would be to just happen to show up at the airport when they leave....hmmm I still have 2 more sons to serve......

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Pictures from MTC

Happy Travels

Hey Nanay!

They suggested we send out e-mails today in between our Infield Orientations so that is what I am now doing. We have an entire P-day tomorrow as well so I might be able to get on then. So, yeah. We had our "Infield Orientation" today... we still have one more session to go. It's basically a lot of workshops where they talk about specific things not taught in our classroom instruction. The classroom was focused on learning how to teach. So in these workshops they focused on the Importance of Baptism, how to set goals and then make plans according to those goals, and the importance of our own faith in helping the investigators. The last session will be after this dinner time, but I'm not sure what the topic will be. They showed us a lot of object lessons that really helped get the messages across, so it's been pretty fun! I've seen Sister Gullo a lot recently. She kept telling me to sit by her at the Devotionals but my district or comp never wanted to. Eventually I was able to sit by her this last Tuesday. She told me about her mission and I told her about mine. I asked about her parents and she told me all about how they came to the MTC. She also told me that the MTC President got her father to commit to investigating the Church. I thought that was pretty neat. She was really excited about it. I saw her again today, and her and her companions sat by us during one of the Orientation sessions. She seems very happy and eager to get out there. We share that excitement. I told her it's a good thing I'm not going where she's going because I would die in the cold. My Heavenly Father knows me well. Speaking about that... so last night, wait... let me back up. On Wednesday we got two new Elders in our room. FINALLY! However, they are going to the Madrid, Spain mission. They'll be here 3 weeks and then there 3 weeks if there Visa's come in time. They're pretty friendly and have made our room less quiet. I'm fine with this. One is from Ohio and the other is from central Utah. Ok, so last night, there Zone leaders pulled my companion and I out into the hall to ask for a favor. I guess that an Elder from their zone was without a companion (because he's international and hasn't gotten to the states yet) so they stuck this solo Elder with the two that share a room with us. Because of this, there Branch President wants them to all sleep in the same room... so they asked us if Elder Johnson and I wouldn't mind moving into their room down the hall for these last few days. My first thought was "Why can't they just wait 3 more days. We'll be gone by then..." but then I realized that it wasn't about me. I later found out that this Solo elder was also a recent convert, so that may also be a reason for the Branch President's decision. Also, I suppose this is God's friendly push for me to start packing up. You know how I like to leave my packing to the last minute! So, that is what I am now in the process of doing. I've packed most of my things, and we'll be moving down the hallway later tonight. 

Mahal kita! I'll try to write a little something more tomorrow.
Elder Garett Smith, anak ninyo. =)