December, 2008

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Christmas in Babahoyo

Monday, December 29th, 2008

Hola familia!

Merry Christmas! I’m glad to hear that everyone is still alive and that you all had fun. I guess I will start by telling you all about my Christmas experience here in Ecuador. First off, I did get the other package from mom Wednesday, so I had three packages to open on Christmas, which was pretty exciting. For dinner Christmas Eve, I had a delicious meal of Easy Mac and peanut M&Ms (thank you grandma), and then Christmas morning I opened up my packages under the Christmas tree. It was a bit nippy out but luckily I had a nice warm fire to sit next to, anyway, everything was awesome. The CD from gammy is great and she made some very nice contributions to my food storage. The Gist’s plan of salvation chart is really nice too. I wanted one of those before but I couldn’t find one in Spanish so it’s pretty awesome. I have to say, though, the best things in my packages were the calendar and the tape. The pictures you used are awesome! I really needed one to. The tape was great because when I woke up everything was just way too quiet, but when I popped that tape in it was like having everyone here for Christmas. I loved Andrea’s songs; it was funny listening to mom trying to get her to understand what the tape was for.

I’m sorry to say that I have no idea what sound an iguana makes because I have only seen one once, and he ran away from me. I can tell you that they are pretty fast runners though. Every time I have my camera with me I keep an eye out for iguanas and hopefully I can get Andrea a picture soon. They do have pink piggies here and I’m going to try and get a picture of one for Andrea. I loved her rendition of 5 little monkeys jumping on the bed. That is good advice–I will make sure and stop jumping on my bed just for you bugaboo. I also didn’t know that Andrea is bilingual; she has that counting in Spanish thing down. Did you know that they have Dora the Explorer here too? I want to watch an episode to see if she teaches English here. I think it would be strange if she taught basic Spanish to people that already speak Spanish.

It was fun to hear from the Stolts and Singers. How serious was Rob about making another attempt at Mt. Snuffles? He must have a death wish if he wants to do that mountain again. Tell Bro Singer that I have not eaten any guinea pigs…yet. If I ever do get the chance I will be sure to get the recipe, and when I get back we can try it out on Rufio. I’m sad to hear that Josh went off the deep end like that–a nose ring and tattoos?  The tattoos I can believe but he never seemed like a nose ring kind of guy to me. I will have to write him a stern letter and tell him to shape up for you. I like that Nathan made fun of his dad because he says that same kind of stuff all the time, “be excellent to each other” is a classic Nathan phrase–what a goof. And for the record I think Nathan would look like Sid [in the movie Toy Story] with his head buzzed too. So did Nathan get a response from BYU yet? You will have to let me know what schools all those guys end up going to.

The music that the girls played for the tape is pretty good. They are all quite talented on their respective instruments. I noticed a big difference in both Allison’s and Olivia’s skill levels. Oh and Andrea is pretty good on the piano as well. She is truly a toddler of many talents.

Well that covers the tape so back to Christmas. Like I predicted all of the members wanted to feed us and, I’m sad to say, that for the first time ever I didn’t finish lunch. I just couldn’t do it. It was physically impossible for me to eat all of my lunch after having the other members of the ward cram so much other food into me. I have eaten more fruit cake than you can shake a stick at. They love fruit cake here and, as it turns out, I hate fruit cake. Luckily Christmas is over now so I don’t have to eat nearly as much. I’m proud to say that, after lunch on Christmas, I made an apple pie! I took pictures of the whole process and uploaded them to Todd’s site along with a picture of another “man bag” that I got from one of the other missionaries for Christmas, and a picture of the calendar on my wall. It was hard for me to find a place to put it up because I live in a concrete box, but I managed to wedge a thumb tack in between a crack running along the wall above my desk. My pie turned out pretty well. It was a big pain in the rear because I have never tried to cook anything more complicated than scrambled eggs before, but it turned out well in the end. The taste was a little off because the apples here are not as good as the ones in the States, but it was still really good, and I even had the foresight to buy vanilla ice cream, so it was very close to perfect. I wasn’t hungry enough to eat it until later that night but it made an excellent Christmas dinner.

So that was my Christmas experience. Not much else has happened this week. We have a baptism on the 3rd that seems pretty solid. So far I haven’t had the best luck getting people to the font, but I’m fairly confident about this guy. He is smart and he just drinks everything in that we are teaching him. Yes, I did know that Elder Mitton is a swimmer. I guess I forgot to tell you though. The fact that Olivia beats you down the mountain so easily will never stop making me laugh. Maybe you should stop snowplowing all the way down; it might help.

Yeah, New Year’s is supposed to be pretty wild around here. Pretty much everyone is already drunk in preparation so we don’t have much to do these days. We don’t get to stay out late so I don’t think I will see anything too exciting because our house is kind of on the outskirts of town. But Elder Mitton and Elder Elwood live right in the middle of the city, so I will be sure to relate any interesting experiences they have back to you. We have not had too much rain so far. It rains about every other night but we have not had a good “Texas rain”, just the regular kind. Well that’s all for this week, hope you all have a great New Year’s and I will talk to you again soon.

                                                                    Te quiero,
                                                                                      Elder Walke

Santa in the Park

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

Hola familia!

Well it sounds like you are all living the good life in Utah (except Kayla)! So tell me what does cold feel like? I don’t think it has been less than 80 degrees the whole time I have been here. It’s kind of weird because I keep feeling like the weather should change at least a little bit, even Texas gets a little cold during the winter. Then again, I’m in the southern hemisphere so technically this is summer.

I didn’t get any packages this week but I still have one more chance to get them on Wednesday so I’m not worried. I did have a dream last night that I had 4 or 5 boxes of stuff come for me right before Christmas, maybe it will come true?

Oh and I found nutmeg! I now have everything I need to make apple pie, and now if I just had a pie pan to cook it in I would be set. I had something of a miracle happen yesterday that should give me the opportunity to get the pan though. Today we have to go to Guayaquil to pick up Elder Bryan (one of the APs) for a comp exchange today and tomorrow. This is good news because Elder Mitton told me he has seen pie tins at one of the stores there so I know where to go and everything. I will also have the chance to buy peanut butter and replenish my supplies so I’m pretty excited about that. The only down side is that I don’t think I will have the chance to call you today unless it’s at 9 pm or something because our day is pretty booked. I’m not sure how much it would cost per minute but it would cost me about 15 or 20 dollars to call you and talk for the 40ish minutes we are aloud to call for. You are going to have to do the math yourself and tell me which you would prefer.

That story about the Mexican family sounds really familiar mom. The only difference is that the dad probably would have had a much harder time if it had happened here because the medical care isn’t exactly top notch. Most of the ambulances here are converted mini vans.

So this week we committed the last of our only three progressing investigators to baptism (the other two is the couple that needs the divorce to go thru). We are going to hopefully have the chance to baptize him the first week of January. Zone conference was pretty good. I understood way more than last time and it wasn’t as long because of Christmas this week. I finally got a copy of the Liahona general conference edition in English at zone conference. Missionaries are supposed to get the Ensign every month but so far I have not gotten any.

The only other interesting event this week was a missionary activity we had Friday. For the activity, we got one of the members in the ward to dress up like Santa and we took pictures with the kids in the Babahoyo central park. Afterwards we gave the kids a few pieces of candy and got their addresses from their parents so we could deliver the pictures (and a short message about the church), once the pictures were developed. Sounds simple right? Nope. Very not simple. In fact, it was realllllly complicated. As missionaries we are not supposed to spend our own money on these actives and after you factor in the cost of the candy and developing the pictures we needed about a hundred dollars. So someone from the ward called up President Ridd (the last mission president) and asked him to sponsor it. I’m pretty sure that my companion didn’t put the idea in their head but I felt like it was a little crazy for them to do. Anyway he sent the money so then we pretty much had to go thru with it. The candy wasn’t so hard to gather but all day Friday was a scramble as we tried to get everything ready for the activity at 6 pm. For some reason my companion decided that we needed to decorate one of the bike/truck things that one of the members had for Santa to sit on. The problem with this is that we had to ride the stupid thing 5 miles thru the traffic-law free streets of Babahoyo on a bike with no brakes. I can not begin to describe the amount of crazy that this was. If you are wondering what the heck a bike/truck is…it’s a bike where they cut off the front tire and handle bars and replace it with a pallet with two wheels mounted on the front and a bar across the top to replace the handle bars. They are pretty odd looking and as it turns out they are also difficult to control. So we got to the park alive and started setting up but then we went off to get a generator from a family that Elder Cabezas knows. This was another adventure because the generator was on the third story of a building and we estimated that it weighed about 300 pounds. I said “hey this is a bad idea, these stairs are dangerous, maybe we should just look for an outlet at the park or just spend 5 dollars on extension cords or something,” but no they wanted the generator. So we some how managed to get the dang thing all the way down without any serious injuries or problems and then dragged it 4 blocks to the park. I say dragged because all it had for wheels were 4 metal rings at the base that didn’t hardly turn at all. So we hooked up the generator and we had music and a loud speaker and all was going well and then somebody says “hey that generator is kind of loud why don’t you just hook up the speakers to this outlet.” Both myself and Elder Elwood were pretty ticked off after that and it didn’t help that we then had to drag the stupid generator back 4 blocks and up 3 flights of stairs again. We wanted to drain the 8 or so gallons of gas out of the generator first but the people who owned it wouldn’t let us, they said gas doesn’t weigh anything and it would just be a waste of time. I can’t testify to you that gas does in fact weigh something. In fact it weighs quite a bit. Then after the activity we had to ride the bike/truck thing back 5 miles, but this time in the dark so it was even more interesting. But its ok, the kids got a “free” picture with Santa. Free for them anyway. I can’t wait to hear from you guys. I will try to call you tonight around 9 pm but if not then I will call tomorrow around 3 pm.

Talk to you soon!

                                                                       Te quiero,
                                                                                  Elder Walke

How the Grinch Stole Christmas (and some investigators)

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008

Hola familia!

I can’t believe it snowed in Texas! I don’t think I will be seeing much snow here any time soon. Luckily, I do have that lovely fire place that mom sent to keep me warm just in case. I got Olivia’s talk and a package from grandma this week and both were awesome. I loved the stories about Andrea; she is such a goof! Could you send her in your next package? Oh and thanks for the recipes and cooking tips mom. I found cinnamon but I still can’t find nutmeg or a proper pan to cook my pie in, but I still have some time left to find it.

Well everything is slowing way down here in Babahoyo. We also lost a lot of our investigators for various reasons, and last week our numbers were about half of what they should have been. Part of this was because of the stupid Grinch [play] thing taking up so much of our time as we entered the final days of preparation. In the end it turned out pretty good, except the guy that was supposed to play the Grinch bailed the day before because someone said he couldn’t act; so he got all offended and wouldn’t do it. So my companion had to play the Grinch because he was the only one that knew the script well enough to pick it up the day before. I nailed my part of course. I was really in character; it was awesome. I’m going to try to send you some pictures of the set and stuff. The pictures are on my comps camera so we will see how that goes. So back to our investigators–this month we were supposed to have 10 baptisms on the 20th but the last 2 people fell thru yesterday, so we won’t be having any baptisms this month. Five of those baptisms were supposed to be a mom and her kids, but they stopped coming to church and nothing we did to convince them to come worked. Last week we even showed up at their house an hour before and asked them if they were coming, and they said yes but then never showed up, so we had to drop them. Two of our investigators are a really cool husband and wife. They come to church every week and everything, but the husband is having trouble getting a divorce from his last marriage, which ended 10 years ago, to go thru. So until that happens, they can’t get baptized. One of our investigators comes to church every week and is very ready, but she flat out refuses [to get baptized]. She just doesn’t want to get baptized and I’m not sure why. The last two [investigators] were a mother and daughter that stopped coming to church the last couple of weeks, so we can’t baptize them either. On top of that, all of our other investigators that were progressing, most all of them are going thru difficult events right now and we can’t teach them. One was involved in a bus accident and had her leg messed up really bad, so she is in a hospital in Guayaquil right now. Another’s abusive husband is back in town so we can never get in to see her anymore because she is either gone in order to avoid him, or she won’t come out to talk to us because he won’t let her or something.

And the crown jewel–one of our families flat out moved. They were having problems with their neighbors across from them and one day two of them came over to their house and attacked their family with machetes. The husband got his machete and fought back, and in the end I think one of the attackers died, and almost everyone had really bad cuts. So the whole family packed up and moved, and either nobody knows where they went, or they don’t want to tell us. We talked to the extended family and they claim they don’t know but I’m pretty sure they are not telling the truth. One of them was in their house at the time and she has a very nasty jagged cut on her arm with a couple hundred stitches; so I’m pretty sure that the story is true.

Elder Fuentemavida says that between Christmas and New Year pretty much everyone is completely wasted, so I don’t anticipate us getting many new investigators to fill in the holes for a few weeks.

The mamitas are changing for our mission. Starting in January we won’t have one. Every day we will eat at a different member’s house instead. So we will now have 6 mamitas (Monday we eat at KFC or something). We are going to have so many [mamitas] because we are no longer going to be paying our food mamitas. They are going to be feeding us as a service. I’m not sure how I feel about this yet. It was done so that we would have more money to pay for our other meals and mission stuff, but I don’t really like it. For one, we are all anticipating that the quality of our food will go way down. But I personally feel like it’s not right for us to get free food from them all the time. I would rather live under a tight budget, like I have been, and pay our mamitas. But this all came straight from the [mission] president, so there isn’t anything I can do about it.

I’m still not sure what we are doing on Christmas day. All I know is that we will probably end up eating at one of the member’s homes and wasting a lot of time talking to them or something. I don’t know for sure.

The city has been getting ready for the floods and it has been interesting to watch. They are reinforcing a lot of the banks and there have been boats in the river clearing out all of the plants and stuff so that the water can flow more easily. Maybe if they do an especially good job it won’t flood at all. Probably not but I can dream.

Well that’s all for now, stay safe and have fun in that Utah snow!

Te quiero,

Elder Walke

Christmas Comes Early

Tuesday, December 9th, 2008

Hola familia!

Happy Monday! Well it seems to be Monday today and in celebration of this blessed holiday I think I’m going to write you an awesome letter. Ok here it goes. We spent the first two days of the week singing Christmas hymns to some of the members of the ward, and by some I mean all. Yeah as it turns out it’s pretty easy to offend people here. Like if they give you a glass of water and you don’t drink it all, they think you feel you are too good for their water or something. Anyway we had to sing to everyone to avoid ticking someone off because if we can’t work well with the ward members, we can’t get anything done.

I got my other package this week and it is way awesome. Thanks mom! The fire place and Christmas tree made me laugh and the stockings are pretty cool. Elder Fuentemavida liked his stuff too. The first thing he said when he saw the stocking was, “hey she spelled my name right.” Oh and when my back was turned he opened his Christmas present and I was sad because I wanted to save them until Christmas. But when I saw that he had an awesome tie in his package, I opened mine. I don’t apologize. It had to be done. Good choice on the ties by the way mom. Oh and the CD is really cool. It’s already my new favorite CD. I took pictures of the tree and stockings so I will send those to you, but other than that I haven’t taken any new pictures. I did take one of some bamboo huts though. It’s not from my sector but 3/4 of my sector looks exactly the same.

So as it turns out I can call home any time this month and they say that the 24th and 25th are bad days to do it because it’s hard to get thru down here. So pick a day and time and then tell me about it in your next email.

I’m excited to hear that there will be eggnog in my next package. I had almost given up hope. So as it turns out I don’t think I will be able to buy stuff in Guayaquil after zone conference because the area authority said that there is no reason for us to eat dinner at the mission president’s house Christmas week, and that we would just be wasting time or something. So we get on a bus here that takes us strait to the temple and after that we get on a bus that takes us strait back; no stops in between. So that’s sad and mildly stupid, if you ask me. But I’m going to look around the next couple of weeks and see if I can find what I need for the pie here in Babahoyo. I think it should still be possible; now whether I have enough skill to actually make the pie, that’s still up in the air.

I have been getting to know the new gringos in our zone (Elwood and Hynes). I have not seen a whole lot of Elder Hynes but I did go on an exchange with Elder Elwood and Cabezas this week. He is a pretty fun guy; he only has 3 months on me so he’s still pretty new. We get along well. He says some funny stuff sometimes so it’s always entertaining to talk to him. We got our first rain this week and Elder Elwood is very stoked for the floods. I’m not sure why exactly. I guess it’s because he is from the west where they don’t know what real rain looks like. I on the other hand have seen rain before and am decidedly less stoked for the several months of flooding just around the corner. It’s supposed to start this month and then we get the worst of it in January and February and it leaves by the end of March. My comp says that the buses don’t run at all during the floods so I’m not sure we will be able to teach more than a couple of lessons a day because we will be walking everywhere.

And now for something completely different:  we got locked out of our house Saturday night. Elder Fuentemavida forgot to take the keys when we left that day. I know what you are thinking, “So what? If you don’t have the keys you can’t lock the door, right?” Wrong. In Ecuador they don’t use door knobs, just a door with a key hole. So when you leave, the door is locked. We have a dead bolt as well but there is no point in using it. Anyway we called the guy who has the spare key and he was supposed to bring it to us, but after 45 minutes he still hadn’t shown up. So Elder Fuentemavida says, “Hey, I bet I left the keys on the table” (if you look in the pictures of my house it’s the one with the blue water jug on it). So we borrowed a flash light from next door and, yeah sure enough, they were sitting on the table 15 feet away. So we got some tape and 3 or 4 broom handles and after several failed attempts, and re-taping the poles twice, we finally managed to get the keys. It was pretty wild; we didn’t end up getting to bed until 11 pm. It just struck me that 11 pm is what time I went to bed every night in high school. Wow, yeah I guess things are a bit different here but that’s pretty funny to me.

Spanish is going well I guess. It’s hard for me to notice any changes in my ability from one week to the next but looking back on my Spanish abilities a month ago I have come a long way. Not much to say about the progress of our investigators because Elder Fuentemavida was in Guayaquil Wednesday, we were caroling for a couple days, and yesterday we had stake conference and the Christmas devotional, so it wasn’t our most productive week teaching wise.

I learned something interesting at stake conference—you can’t save seats here. We put our stuff down and then went to talk to people and when we came back our stuff was on the ground and there were people sitting in our seats. The crazy part was there were still open benches. It kind of blew my mind because nobody would ever do that in the states. At first I thought, “Wow these people really don’t like us.” But then it happened again the same day! I think it’s pretty funny because I’m pretty sure that when someone puts their stuff down, then they obviously intend to sit there. But they don’t seem to feel the same way.

I think I’m getting a pretty wicked farmers tan. The problem is that I don’t think I’m getting much tanner. It’s just the rest of me is getting more white. I think I may walk around in mish cloths when I get back just so I can hide my ridiculously white body from the rest of the world.

Well that’s all I can think of for now. Until next time, stay safe and don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.

                                       Te quiero,
                                                        Elder Walke

Elder Walke from Texas (like Chuck Norris)

Thursday, December 4th, 2008

Hola familia!

My first change is over! Weird huh? A bunch of my zone transferred today. In fact of the 5 companionships in our zone mine is the only one that will stay the same. It’s pretty sad because I’ve become pretty good friends with these guys, so it was hard to say goodbye; but we are getting two gringos in today so we will double our gringo count. I’m pretty excited about that. I’m glad to hear that thanksgiving went well for everyone, mine wasn’t too bad. It was a regular day for the most part and most of the day I was thinking about how I wasn’t eating pie, playing pool with Nathan, or getting in trouble for shooting air soft guns in the house. But at about 5:30 pm, we went to teach a lesson at one of our investigators houses and she said “hey its nice outside lets go out back.” So we went out behind her house and, as it turns out, she has a really awesome view of the river and the wilderness past the edges of the city. So we sat in hammocks eating mangos and watching the sunset for a few minutes before the lesson and I thought to myself “meh, pie is overrated.” My thanksgiving was only about 15 minutes long, but it wasn’t my worst Thanksgiving on record.

That’s funny that Nathan shaved his head. He would. It’s a very Nathanish thing to do. Tell him “Hi” for me. I don’t think he will send me a letter any time soon so you will have to tell him for me.

I got my first package this week! It was the one with the food and nativity in it. It was pretty full so I don’t think anything was missing and it was all in good condition. I thought that the imitation peanut butter that they sell here was starting to grow on me but, as it turns out, I was just getting used to [garbage]. I ate some of the Jiff that you sent and it was so good. Words cannot describe the joy that that spoonful of peanut butter brought me. I’m kind of ashamed that I forgot how awesome real peanut butter is so quickly.

You asked about my health and I have to admit I am surprisingly healthy right now. I almost get sick at least once a week; it’s always a different sickness too. Sometimes my stomach hurts or I get a small fever and I think “OK this is it. This is the one that is going to take me down,” but then I wake up the next day and I’m fine. It’s pretty weird but, yeah, I haven’t had a sick day yet. Eating so much rice has done some interesting things to my insides but nothing that really bothers me. It’s just sort of amusing.

We had another Elder in my zone get robbed this week. On Saturday Elder Martinez got robbed as he was heading to a baptism they had that day. It was bad because we get money in our accounts every two weeks on Saturdays, and this Saturday happened to be one such Saturday. Anyway the guy took his whole wallet with his card and 80 dollars. But here is the weird part, this Sunday one of the members gave Elder Mitton’s companion Elder Martinez’s wallet with all of the money and the card still inside. I haven’t heard the full story yet but it was pretty wild.

So you want to know about the teaching we have been doing. Fair enough, that is what I’m here to do after all. We teach on average 20 lessons a week and about a third of those are with a member present. Keeping them active after they are baptized is definitely one of our biggest challenges, so I guess that hasn’t changed much. We work almost completely off of member references because they are way more likely to continue to let us visit. We don’t usually get a second visit with people we meet on the street or when we knock doors. I have only knocked doors maybe 3 times in my sector since I have been here. We pretty much only do it when all of our other appointments fall thru and we can’t think of anything better to do. I teach small parts of the lesson. I’m teaching more now than I was before but I’m still not to comfortable teaching; it has more to do with Spanish than with knowing the lessons though because I know the lessons pretty well at this point. So that’s pretty much it as far as numbers go for investigators. We also teach lessons to inactive members as well and that adds about 10 more lessons a week that we end up teaching. So yeah there you go. That’s my numbers for you. We have about 4 more baptisms set for December 20 just so you know, and we are hoping to commit a few more people to baptisms in December, but those are the ones we have for sure.

Dad you mentioned that you thought we had a big ward because Babahoyo doesn’t look very big. Well Babahoyo has its own stake. I think ours is the biggest ward (as far as active members go) but we do have three other wards that I can think of in Babahoyo. I don’t know if I mentioned it before but we are pretty much the ward youth leaders here and we (my companion and I) have been helping the youth put on “The Grinch” December 12. It’s going to be pretty interesting. I think a few of the “actors” may not show up when it comes time to perform it. Oh and as it turns out I’m in it. I found that out the other day. It’s a two part play; the first part is my companion and I pretty much teaching the first discussion to Cindy Lou Who´s family. It’s all very comical to me. My lines don’t go to far past “Hi my name is Elder Walke. I’m from Texas — like Chuck Norris.” They love the Norris here and I have a pretty unfortunate name for someone from Texas.

I ran into a problem when I was working out the details for the apple pie that I’m going to make. You may notice from the picture of my kitchen that, among other things, I don’t have an oven. But its OK I figured it out. The church has an oven so all I have to do is convince my companion to go down there and let it bake. That shouldn’t be too hard to do so it’s all good now.

I really like the soda they have here in Ecuador (they call it cola) they have a lot of fruit based sodas that we don’t have, like apple and pineapple, and they also have this yellow soda. I’m not sure what flavor it is supposed to be because it just has the brand name and that’s it, but it’s quite tasty. I also really like the apple soda; it’s my favorite soda here. I even have a specific brand of apple soda that I prefer. They have this soda brand here called “Tome Mas” (drink more) and after I finish a bottle I like to take a pen and put an accent over the “e” in tome. In Spanish this changes the meaning from “drink more” to “I drank more.” I think this is a pretty funny joke and one day I showed it to my companion; but I guess he doesn’t share my sense of humor because he didn’t seem too impressed.

That’s all for now. I hope you are all doing well and that you have an awesome week.
                                                                      Te quiero,
                                                                                      Elder walke