October, 2008

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Tyler’s First Letter from Ecuador

Monday, October 27th, 2008

Hola gringos!

I hear that a lot here so I figured I would refer to you guys as such. For the record, yes I am alive. Clearly this has been something that mom wants to know because it was mentioned quite a few times in your last emails. The flight down was loooong and we had a delay in Miami because of some sort of mechanical thing and it took a while to get thru customs but we did finally get out into Ecuador. The view of the city as we flew in was amazing because none of the buildings in Guayaquil are more than three stories and I don’t think they have ever heard of city planning so it was a sea of yellow lights on rolling hills, a pretty stunning effect I have to say.

That first night we stayed in the hotel next to the temple, which was pretty fun; we had a view of the temple on one side and the city on the other. It was a massive contrast; I took a couple of pictures and if I can ever get this computer to cooperate I will send them to you, but every time I try to transfer pictures the computer starts yelling at me in Spanish. Our mission president is shorter than I thought he would be. He’s at least six inches shorter and his wife is even shorter than him so it’s pretty crazy. The AP’s say he is a funny guy but I don’t know for sure; I’ll tell you once I learn Spanish.

We woke up early the next day and went in the temple. It was pretty cool because everything was in Spanish. Also, they don’t believe in air conditioning here. Most people don’t have it but those who do keep it at a pretty high temperature. This is probably because they can’t afford it, but it’s still annoying. We had lunch at the mission house and it was amazing! The food wasn’t too different from what we might have in Texas. We had apple pie for desert; it was the best apple pie I have ever had–words cannot explain how awesome it was. After that we went back to the hotel, got our stuff, and met our trainers. My companion’s name is elder Fuentemávida. Just in case the name didn’t give it away, he doesn’t speak English. It makes things hard sometimes but as far as I can tell he’s a pretty cool guy. He is the zone leader. I thought that zone leaders were called by companionship, but they don’t seem to do that here. What that means for me is that I have to follow him around to a bunch of extra meetings and stuff but it’s not too bad. He’s pretty funny and he always introduces me as Elder Walke from Texas–like chuck Norris (everyone here knows who chuck Norris is) and, if they are members, then he tells them about how I sang at conference. It makes me laugh. He is trying to learn English so he asks me about how to say stuff in English all the time.

Anyway we got into a bus and headed out to my first area. We are in a city called Babahoyo. I can’t tell you what my street address is because I’m not sure if we even have one but I will work on that for you. In the meantime, my house is a few minutes from the church right off of the main street between the main city area and the church. Hope that helps. The streets are crazy here; they don’t even pretend to have traffic laws. The streets don’t have paint on them or anything. Taxis cars and busses go as fast as they feel like going and they pass like crazy. Riding the busses is kind of like a theme park ride everyday, especially when all the seats are full, so we have to stand and hold the bar.

That night we met with a couple of investigators–one of the members, and the bishop. The bishop lives in a pretty small concrete shack. Their whole family: mom, dad and three kids, live in an area barely bigger than my room back home. They have a two story house but the bottom story is a sort of mud pit, so they don’t use it. We helped move in a bunch of dirt and gravel to elevate it and get it ready for a cement floor.

The housing here is amazing. In my area it’s a mixture of concrete shacks and bamboo huts, almost all of which were made by the people living in them. Sometimes the huts are built out over a swamp or river so they are on stilts with a bridge thing connecting them to the road, and walking on these bridges is quite the gamble. The other day we were walking on one that was about 15 feet off the ground and the boards weren’t nailed down so it was loose and many of them were cracked or just plain weak. The whole time I was on it, I was looking down at the swamp below me and thinking about just how much I didn’t want to die in it. Luckily we didn’t die so it’s all good.

Anyway back to the timeline. After visiting everyone we went back to our apartment for the night. It’s in a pretty sad state. We have a way better setup than most of the people here but even the motel six we almost stayed in on the Colorado trip was nicer than what I’m in now. We don’t have AC–just a few fans that we have set up around the apartment. We do have a couple of holes in the wall where window AC units used to be but now we just have the holes, which are perfect for letting in mosquitoes. The shower…. yeah. It’s cold and it’s only a small trickle, and that’s all I’m going to say about that.

So the food here is pretty good. Every day we have lunch at one of the member’s houses or our momita’s house. The only problem is that they are huge. It starts with a massive bowl of some kind of soup. It’s always a different kind and it’s good. Many of them are cream based, I think, but some of the things in them can be questionable so I don’t ask much about it. After that, we have a plate of rice with about enough rice to fill a basket ball—I’m not kidding—it’s that big. Then we also have a side dish or two and a big glass of some of the best fruit drinks I have ever had. It’s all good but it’s huge and about half way through it I’m stuffed. But I have to eat it all so I say a prayer and keep eating. It’s like having a thanksgiving meal everyday. Breakfast and dinner are small, not much more than a snack, and we don’t eat dinner until we get home at 9:30, but I’m not complaining because that lunch stays with you all day.

I tried making some eggs the other day for dinner but I didn’t realize what a chore it is when you want to do anything here so I don’t think I will be doing that anymore–sandwiches and cold cereal for me. The cereal is pretty much the same as what we have back home but my fruit loops did taste a bit different. That may have been the wheat bran I had mixed in though. Yeah because rice and soup doesn’t have any fiber in it we have to mix wheat bran into one of our meals everyday to keep us functioning. It doesn’t really have a taste but it does add an unpleasant texture to my food.

The kids here are awesome. I’m constantly amazed at how similar the kids here are to the ones back home; they love the missionaries and they always want me to teach them words in English or just talk in English and stuff like that. The members and investigators are always asking to see pictures of my family. They almost always talk about how young my parents look and ask about how old my sisters are and stuff like that. Sometimes they ask if Andrea is my daughter and I have to be careful when I respond because sometimes they word it funny and I end up saying that she is.

Allison and Olivia wouldn’t know whether to laugh or cry if they came down here. There are a ton of dogs. Any kind of dog you can imagine is here and anything in between. But a lot of the dogs have one of three problems: either they are injured, starving, or have some degree of mange or other disease. Some of the people are not much better off than the dogs. There are some pretty messed up living conditions down here and healthcare is nonexistent so I have seen some pretty sad stuff. The worst part is knowing that I can’t get them to surgery or a doctor–it’s not good.

One of the member’s kids was baptized last night, and thanks to my companion they had this idea that I can sing or something, so they asked me to sing a solo in English. I seem to have agreed to this at some point during the week (curse this dang language barrier), so I did and I don’t think that I will have anymore requests for solos.

My Spanish is coming along; the first couple of days I couldn’t even answer basic questions because I was so used to the gringo Spanish we spoke in the MTC, but it started to click and now I understand most of what I hear but I still struggle with speaking fluently. When I was in the MTC I figured I would be fluent in a few months once I got to Ecuador and that that would be ok, but now that I’m here I realize what a pain not being able to communicate really is, so I have stepped it up a bit.

I know I said that I would fill in the holes about my MTC experience but I can’t remember what I have and have not said about it, so if everyone could just give you their questions and you email them to me, I will try to answer them in my next email. I love you all and I hope you are doing well. Keep me updated with what’s happening over there and tell everyone I said “Hi”. I really am doing pretty well so don’t worry about me. For the most part im having a blast.

                                                                           Te quiero,
                                                                                        Elder Walke

Tyler’s Last MTC Letter

Monday, October 20th, 2008

Hola familia!

Well I have less than 12 hours to go and I’m getting pretty excited. I’m almost all the way packed; I just have a few things that I’m going to need tonight left out. Elder Swasey, Elder Hatch, and Elder Lillico left today, it was sad I felt like I was losing some of my best friends all over again. We got up at 4:30 today to see them off. that may have been a mistake because I’m really not going to get the chance to sleep tonight but it was worth it, I have been through a lot with them and I’m really going to miss them, especially Elder Swasey, we got to be pretty good friends. Our last devotional Tuesday was given by Richard G Scott, it was really awesome he is probably my favorite. Sheri dew spoke to us last night and that was interesting because she looks and sounds like a politician, which she is, but she was talking about religious stuff and she wasn’t feeding us a load of [empty promises] the whole time so it was a pretty intesting change from most of the political people I have heard. Also, I knew she had our best interest in mind.

I got your package, it was great! Waaaaay too much food though. Pretty much everyone in our district got a box or two of food so we have been scrambling to eat or give away as much as we can. I’m taking the M&Ms and some of the brownies on the plane with me and I should be able to get the rest eaten tonight. So I have a story for you guys. an elder in my zone got three large home grown habanera peppers in the mail a few days ago and he walked around looking for a couple of other people to eat them with him, he said he wanted to know what it would be like to eat a whole one all at once. Not very many people seemed very keen on the idea but Elder Kirratti (I’m sure I spelled his name wrong) from my room said he would and I said “yeah sure why not? It can’t be much worse than a jalapeño” so as it turns out it can be worse…much worse. I popped it in my mouth and started chewing and all of a sudden it was like a bomb had gone off in my mouth, I have never tasted something so spicy in my life it was crazy. All three of us were in a lot of pain so we ran down stairs to the vending machines to get some milk but they weren’t working for some reason, and of course I was slowly learning that this was a spice that wasn’t going to diminish quickly. I stood with my mouth in a drinking fountain for a good half hour, it didn’t help much but hey it was something. I wasn’t alone in this all three of us were at various fountains throughout the building. After the pain lessened enough for me to leave the fountain I found elder Richardson (the third elder who provided the peppers) and I told him that he could keep his future habaneras to himself. wheeler (Kayla’s pen pal) came up and said to me “yeah I guess I should have warned you I just figured you knew that those things are death, I feel kinda bad but that was pretty funny.” so after that the three of us spent most of the rest of the night trying not to throw up. There was a pretty good incentive to not because I really didn’t want that thing to burn me on the way back up so I worked hard and kept it down. Anyway that was my big stupid event for the week. Sorry I didn’t keep you up to date on the TRC teaching and other stuff we have been doing but there really isn’t much to say and I only have a half hour a week to talk about everything. I will try to go back and recount some of the MTC stuff I left out when I get to Ecuador and have an hour to write. Tell Sister Ellis thanks for the letter!

                                                                  Talk to you soon!
                                                                                  Elder Walke

Dad,

Of course I can read your handwriting, it looks like mine only smaller. I’m sure I have it written down somewhere but I can’t find how to use that ftp site. Could you email me the instructions so I can upload all my pictures? I have quite a few and I wanted to make a CD of them like before but we kept taking pictures so I figured I would wait.

Gammy,

I’m sorry I didn’t get back to you sooner but I can only email on Mondays and there really isn’t anything I need anyway. Thanks!

Tyler Prepares to Leave MTC

Tuesday, October 14th, 2008

Hola familia!

So first off we did get our flight plans this week, we leave Tuesday morning (Oct. 21) at 3 am. That’s not even when we get up, that’s when we leave. Yeah it’s crazy. We get into Ecuador just after 8 pm so it’s going to be a long day. It’s American Airlines the whole way but we still have to take 3 different planes, first to Dallas then Miami then down to Ecuador. We were supposed to leave Monday but our flight got changed. As far as that last package goes, I can’t think of anything I need/want besides some hand drawn pictures from Andrea and pictures but I’m sure I will think of something right after I send this email. There isn’t really a whole lot to report on this week, for the most part its just life as usual, it’s been a great experience and at times, a lot of fun (I wouldn’t want to do it twice though) and I have learned a ton of stuff. I did give a talk in sacrament meeting on Sunday, which was an interesting experience. It went pretty well and I think I used the whole time I was supposed to talk for so I’m going to count it as a success. Oh, it’s been snowing off and on here since Friday, it’s all melted right now but it’s so awesome! On Saturday I spent five minutes making a snow ball and I got a picture of myself with it and everything. Then of course, I threw it at one of my roommates, Elder McCrae. Maybe it’s just because I don’t get to see snow very often but whenever it starts snowing I get pretty excited. It’s not just me though; most of the southerners are having a blast right now. I’m not going to send anymore MTC pictures until I get to Ecuador mostly because I keep taking more. Well I guess that’s all for now I hope you are all doing well and stuff.

                                                                      les quiero,
                                                                                     Elder Walke
Grandma

Thanks for the letter! I hope everything is going well for you guys I’m glad to hear from you. Maybe after grandpa finishes fixing the sprinkler he will get bored and decide to write me. Although by that time the car will probably need an oil change or something so I’m not too worried about it ;) tell him I love him anyway!

Sis Stolt (aka Ticia),

I’m glad you liked the shrine to me! I’m also glad that its still there, they kept talking about how after I left it was coming down but I’m glad to know they still worship the ground I walk on, or used to walk on anyway. I saw the picture with the tree leaning on your house, that’s pretty wild. I guess you guys have been saying your prayers! Tell Rob I said “hey”.

                                                                             Elder Walke

Allison,

I call thee to repentance! Write unto your elder brother, my favorite talk in conference was Sis Alred’s talk; she commanded the church to write the missionaries. Do it, do it now. Tell me about school and stuff, I hear you are up late these days, stinks huh?

Olivia,

See above. You need to write to me about mom and dad, that way I can know what to say to keep them in line for you. I can’t unless you write me though.

Andrea

See above. Stay cute ok! Be good and draw me lots of pictures.

Priesthood Session Missionary Choir

Monday, October 6th, 2008

Hello everyone!

So I’m pretty much just going to use this email to talk about the choir stuff, there really isn’t very much to say about the rest of the week anyway, as weeks go it was pretty standard. So you guys seem to be pretty worried about me getting cold, don’t worry about it. yeah its getting cold (the mountains started getting snow capped today) but I’m fine, no there are no jackets in the free box but its not a big deal I only have a couple of weeks left anyway. Ok now on to choir.

The ride up was pretty fun, as we left our mission boundaries everyone cheered a little bit. We left at 1:30 so we were listening to the second session on the way up. It was a kind of grey day and as we pulled up to the center it started to sprinkle a bit so there was a pretty interesting dash from the busses to the doors, it made me laugh because some of the missionaries were freaking out about their cloths or their hair. After we got in and got settled we practiced a little and went thru all the stuff that was going to happen and what they expected of us. After that we went into the main room and were seated under the organ. It was so cool to sit under that thing and remember how many times I have seen it in the past; I never thought that I would ever get the chance to sing with it. It made me think of the time we went on the tour of the center and we walked around the organ and stuff, during the tour I remember thinking how cool it would be to sing in a conference session. about forty five minutes before priesthood started I decided to make one last bathroom break because if you leave after it starts then you are done, they don’t let you go back in. as I was walking down the hall towards the bathrooms I ran into L. Tom Perry. Yeah it was cool. I didn’t realize how big he is, even though he has become a bit hunched in his old age he was still at least a foot and a half taller than me. I shook his hand and stuff and he asked if I was serving in Santa Rosa, California. I said that I wasn’t and he said “to bad Santa Rosa is the best mission” I was about to say he was wrong because Ecuador was the best but I realized that it would sound pretty ironic for me to tell an apostle that he was wrong… yeah it made me laugh to think about it. After that I headed back and a little while later it started. as the cameras started rolling I was watching one of the monitors that they had set up in the choir section and I was watching the choir section thinking about how I was sitting somewhere in there, as I was thinking about this I scratched my nose and at the same time someone on the TV scratched their nose. I jumped and it made me laugh because I didn’t really expect to see it. It’s really weird to know that several million people just watched you scratch your face. When we stood up to sing the first song (called to serve) I didn’t feel nervous, which I thought was odd. So you want to know what I was smiling at? Ok so yeah it was a mixture of “wow I can’t believe I’m here”  “wow why am I here? I cant sing.” During the first song I was to busy trying to not screw up, and during the second song I thought I saw myself out of the corner of my eye and I freaked out. I kept thinking “ok no matter what don’t look at the screen because if you do you are going to look like such a fool” I’m not sure if it was me or not because we have not gotten to see ourselves yet but it was fun. No I was not mouthing the words I really was singing and not only that, I was hitting my notes, even the ones I hadn’t hit at practice ever. What’s up with making fun of me anyway? I will have you know that the prophet said we sing like an angelic choir so next time you tell me I cant sing I’m going to say “that’s not what the prophet said” try arguing with that. Anyway conference was cool, from my seat I could just see the backs of the speakers’ heads, which I was fine with because it was a way awesome night. after it was over Richard G. Scott came up and told us how awesome we were, he was about ten feet away from me so that was pretty cool. After that it was pretty uneventful, we got on the busses and went home. Anyway I’m out of time so I will talk to you later.

                                         Te quiero,
                                                        Elder Walke

P.S.  If you could send my camera manual, power cord for my speakers, and ballot for the pres election I would be happy.

To view the video of Tyler singing in the Priesthood session of General Conference, click on the following link:  http://twalke.ldsmissionblogs.com/video/Tyler%20Sings%20in%20October%20General%20Conference.wmv