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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

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