February, 2009

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Iguana Spotting

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

Hola familia!

Starting my letters with “hola familia!” every week is getting a little old. I need a new catch phrase. Oh yeah by the way, I officially have 6 months in the mission as of Friday. As you have probably realized from the subject of this email, I am still in Babahoyo. My dreams of getting transferred to Manta have been crushed for now, but there is always next change. We only had two people go this change:  Elder Hurtado and Elder Cespedes. Elder Hurtado was Elder Mitton’s comp and it was a bit of a surprise, but Elder Mitton is going to be training so it makes sense. Oh yeah Elder Hurtado got transferred to Manta. Elder Cespedes got transferred one zone over to a city called Ventanas and Elder Hynes’ new companion is Elder Adamson. Yeah the same Elder Adamson that was my comp in the MTC. What makes it really weird is that Elder Hynes was Elder Mitton’s MTC comp. So anyway now 6 out of 10 missionaries in my zone are gringos and if Elder Mitton is training a gringo, then it will be 7 out of 10. We have a very weird zone because our mission is only about 15% gringo, so I will probably never be in a zone with so many gringos again.

A few days ago I went down for breakfast and I heard a weird noise coming from the window above the kitchen and when I looked up guess what I saw? An iguana! I immediately thought of Andrea and ran for my camera; the pictures are not too great because the window was in the way. So then I opened it to get a better shot and the dang thing ran away. I did get one last shot as it started to run, but it’s kind of blurry.

This week we had a baptism — just one. The other 7 fell through. I have decided I’m not going to tell you how many baptisms I’m having because only about 1 in 8 people with a baptism date actually gets to their baptism. From now on I’m not going to tell you until I have pictures to prove it. The only one of the 8 that got baptized is a little 9 year old kid whose family are all members but for some reason he wasn’t baptized. Not that his baptism wasn’t important but it wasn’t exactly a struggle to get him there.

I did give my talk in church on Sunday. I think it went over well because several people came up to me afterwards and told me that they understood what I said. It’s a step in the right direction I guess. Maybe next time people will come up to me and tell me they like what I said as well. It was about 6 or 7 minutes long so I was pretty proud of it. My topic was missionary work (surprising I know).

I got your package this week and I’m proud to say that I have eaten most of the food already. The tape was awesome as well. You guys are all such talented singers you may want to think about starting a band. You could be just like the Jackson 5, but less crazy.

I also got a letter from Elder Goode’s mom. That was pretty surprising because I don’t even know Elder Goode very well. I know who he is and that he came down to Ecuador the same time as me, but that’s about it. Anyway it was a good letter. It’s amazing how even letters from complete strangers can make my day, but I guess I’m just easy to please. She says she reads my blog and that made me laugh. So in light of that fact I would like to say, “Hey Sister Goode, thanks for the letter.”

Carnival officially starts today which is both a good and a bad thing. The fact that it has officially started means that people will stop throwing nasty sewage water at me by the end of the week, but it also means that the next few days I will be wet pretty much all day because a lot more people will be throwing water.

Mom asked about what interviews are like during zone conference, and first off I would like to clarify that interviews are about a week before zone conference; president Gamboa doesn’t have time to do them during zone conference. Typically interviews are only 5-10 minutes per person and they are pretty basic like, “How’s your companion? How are you? How’s your Spanish?” is pretty much as deep as my interview gets. I say, “good, good, better” every time in a few more words than that of course, but I don’t have to say much, so yeah I would say that I’m able to converse with him pretty well. We do get a cookie after the interview so it’s not a complete waste of time. Although that reminds me that last time they did run out of cookies and I was the last interview so I didn’t get one. I’m still bitter about that.

Mom asked about what the bamboo houses are like on the inside so I guess I need to take some pictures. They are pretty diverse: some are smaller than my room back home and some are almost as big as our house; some are on stilts and some are not; some are well built and some are not. Most have running water and although it’s almost completely unfiltered, it’s still good for some things. Some people actually drink it. Everyone has access to some sort of toilet system, although sometimes the toilet is just a hole in the ground with bricks around it that 5 or 6 different houses share. I used one once; it was fun. I have used the water bottle that grandma gave me, but bottled water is only 25 cents a bottle, and I think I mentioned that there are little shops that people run out of their homes all over the place; so water isn’t a problem. If I’m feeling really rich I buy Gatorade. That runs you about 60 or 70 cents a bottle. And while I’m giving prices, soda is about 50 cents for every 1.5 liters. They also have several good bakeries in Babahoyo that sell bread for 10 to 40 cents a piece depending on what you get.

Anyway I’m running out of time and stuff to say, so good bye for now. And if I don’t see you later: good afternoon, good evening, and good night. Wait I think that’s taken. Ok I will have to work on a catch phrase and get back to you next week.

Te quiero,

Elder Walke

Elder Walke’s Amazing Cat-Like Reflexes

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

Hola familia!

I’m glad to hear that everyone is still alive. Sometimes I wonder, what with Kayla racking up the tickets and running the Saturn into inanimate objects and stuff. Hey tell everyone that got in to BYU congratulations for me! And tell Nathan he’s a fool for going to school for a semester before he sends his papers in. he’s only going to BYU first because he wants to find a girl to write him on his mission - shame on him. Tell him he’s never going to have any success without me anyway so he might as well leave now.

How was your valentines day? Mine was good. Valentines Day is a lot more low key here and the fact that I’m a missionary made the whole day pretty uneventful. I did get nailed by a couple of water balloons but that’s becoming a normal occurrence. Honestly it’s not that big of a deal when it’s a million degrees outside and I just want to jump in a pool anyway.

A few days ago I was walking on a particularly interesting bamboo bridge; it was interesting because it was night and raining, plus under the bridge was a very unpleasant looking swamp. At one point the “bridge” was nothing more than a single bamboo pole suspended over the water and I thought to myself “oh dang, I’m going to slip and fall” and guess what? I slipped. But thanks to my amazing cat-like reflexes, I controlled my fall and gracefully threw my entire body at the front steps of the house in front of me. I did not get wet but my companion almost died laughing.

Zone conference was Thursday. I understood what was going on so it was a lot easier to stay awake. We did play a pretty fun scripture chase game. We were divided into two teams:  the Anti-Nephi-Lehies and the Gaddianton Robbers (I was an Anti-Nephi-Lehi). It was based on scripture mastery from the Book of Mormon. I’m sorry to report that the Anti-Nephi-Lehies got killed. Ok so we only lost by a point but I couldn’t resist the pun.

A few nights ago we were walking home from our last appointment of the night and some guy walks up and starts talking to us. We quickly realized that he was crazy. I base this theory on the fact that he thought he was the son of George Bush (the first one, he was very specific about that). Basically, his story was that he was somehow the son of George and that he needed to get back to the states so he could get in touch with his dad again. Oh, and he needed to get to a hospital in the States so he could get some special “medicine” that he needs to keep his joints from freezing up. Of course he needed my help in all of this because I’m a gringo and we are brothers (despite the fact that he was clearly not white). We decided that it was probably not a good idea to talk to him any longer because he was clearly a drug addict on top of being crazy. So we told him that we had to go and that if he would come to church on Sunday we would see what we could do to help him, but we had to go back to our home now. Then he said, “Oh I’ll come with you.” At this point I’m thinking, “Oh crap I’m going to get robbed.” The last thing we wanted was for a crazy person to know where we lived, and I was pretty sure he would try to rob us as soon as we got to the house. So we told him that we had to go and talk to some people first and we parted ways but it was definitely an interesting experience.

We have a new investigator that is pretty interesting. She is the great grandma of one of our other investigators, and I’m not sure how old she is but I know she is at least 80. She is really funny because she has the hardest time remembering anything. She says she wants to be baptized but I’m not sure how we could ever do that in good conscience because she can’t even grasp simple concepts most of the time. She does tend to give really hilarious answers to our questions though. Once we asked her what Jesus did when he found someone who was sick and she said, “He told them to go to church.” And she thinks that the law of chastity is the law of castration. But a couple of lessons ago when we asked her who Joseph Smith was, she said he was a prophet, and she remembers that alcohol, drugs, and coffee are against the Word of Wisdom. So she is making progress but we will see what happens I guess. We didn’t have any baptisms this week. We were supposed to but one got sick and the other stopped coming to church. But we will have some for sure next week (I think).

Transfers are next week and I’m looking at about a 60% chance of leaving Babahoyo. I’m hoping I get transferred to Manta because it’s supposed to be the most beautiful part of my mission. But my second choice is Guayaquil because that’s where the awesome food is.

We are not working with the Stake President anymore on the stake mission plan. I guess he doesn’t need our help anymore. It sounds like they merged your sector with the Klein Oak sector and, yes; they probably did that because your sector is unproductive. The mosquitoes are not much of a problem for me anymore. Once I figured out how to deal with them, they stopped bothering me. The meals these days are not too bad; not a whole lot changed once we lost mamitas. I can’t remember when the last day was that I didn’t have some amount of chicken, rice, or soup for lunch (usually all three) and even on p-day our only option is KFC. But it’s not that bad. I just dump all my rice in my soup so I have one less foe to fight and it all works out. My companion and I keep score for who finishes first everyday and right now I am sitting at 26-6. I don’t think I have changed much weight wise; although I don’t have a scale so I can’t be sure. But I think I’m about the same as when I left the MTC thanks to all the rice.

Everything is going pretty well here in Ecuador. I’m glad I’m here and I’m glad I chose to serve a mission. People talk about how a mission is such a big sacrifice and that we loose 2 years that could be spent with friends and going to college, but I don’t feel that way. I’m happier here than I ever could have been in college. I can’t even imagine life without a mission. I know that as I serve the Lord here that I have the chance to help people in ways I never could have back home; and even though it is hard sometimes, I know that I’m learning and growing and everything that has happened and everything that will happen is for my good. I know that as I try to do all that I have been called to do, it will all work out for my good and the good of those around me. Well, its time for me to go. My next email may be a little late if I get transferred (like maybe 8 at night late). So if you don’t get one before lunch, don’t be surprised.

Te quiero,

Elder Walke

Comedy Routines and Water Balloons

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

Hola familia!

Another week, another letter. Things are really moving here in Babahoyo, I just wish I knew where it was going. We are having a couple of baptisms this week so that’s pretty exciting. One of them is a kid whose family are all members but for some reason he never got baptized. The other is a bit more interesting. her name is Yomira and she has been going to church for months, and all that stuff, but she is the daughter of JW’s so she has been having a lot of trouble getting her parents to accept it; but we have finally got her parents to let her get baptized. Next week we should have a couple more baptisms but who knows? Ecuador is a weird place; I’m never sure what’s going to happen with the people here.

We were teaching a family last week and at the end of the lesson my companion told a joke, and afterward the family asked me to tell one. I don’t know any jokes in Spanish and so I told them that all my jokes were in English; but they insisted that I tell a joke so I told one in English and the kids died laughing at the end. It was really funny and I was laughing pretty hard just watching them roll around on the floor laughing at a joke they didn’t understand. Of course they asked me to tell another so I started telling all sorts of “jokes”. They were pretty good jokes too. Stuff like: “How many peppers did Peter Piper pick?” Punch line: “I don’t know,” and “How many states are there in America?” Punch line: “Fifty.” I’m not sure why they thought they were so funny. I think it was in the delivery. I really nailed the delivery.

Remember how I mentioned that with February comes kids with water balloons? Well I got my first taste this week. We were walking to an appointment and there were about 5 kids with water balloons flanking the street and soaking everyone that walked by and I said to my companion, “Hey open up you umbrella so we don’t get soaked by these kids” (I didn’t have my umbrella at the time) but my companion said “No, if you just act confident they wont touch you,” and guess what? Umbrellas are more effective than confidence. We ended up running and dodging and I almost got away but the very last water balloon nailed me right in the back. Then later we were riding a bus and I happened to notice some kids with buckets standing next to the road. I knew exactly what they were going to do and my companion was sitting next to an open window. I was going to warn him but I figured I would let his confidence protect him. Sure enough, the kids threw buckets of water at the bus. I ducked; my companion got a face full of swamp water. I looked through the rules very carefully and there is nothing about us not being allowed to participate in carnival, so I’m buying some water balloons today so that I won’t be defenseless next time. I’m going to keep them in my dry bag. I figure if it keeps water out, it will keep any water balloons that burst on accident from soaking my books.

Other than that I don’t have much to report. We are working hard. My room is sort of clean. Spanish comes and goes. I’m knocking out the stupid “maestro” program. Zone conference is Thursday, and the last mosaic plague has not come to town yet. Well that’s all for now.

Te quiero,

Elder Walke

Carnival and Water Balloon Fights

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

Hola familia!

Honestly it’s hard for me to believe that today is Monday again, it just doesn’t seem physically possible. At the rate time is going by I think I will wake up in Texas sometime next week. Mom says that my letters are getting shorter and I’m sorry about that; I do make notes about what I want to talk about but I’m afraid that it’s kind of unavoidable that my letters are getting shorter. Every week there is less new stuff that happens and I don’t really want to repeat myself every week, but I will try to keep them as long as possible for the sake of my adoring fans.

Last week mom asked me if I had been dreaming in Spanish, and I was pretty sure that I had not been having any, but my companion says that a I was talking in my sleep a while back in Spanish so I’m clearly having them. I just don’t remember.

A couple of weeks ago I had an interesting experience and I keep forgetting to tell you about it. While Elder Alferez was in Guayaquil doing his zone leader thing, my temporary companion and I (I can’t remember his name right now) were doing our daily prep when someone knocked on our door. I opened it and to my surprise there were a couple of very old Jehovah’s Witnesses standing on our doorstep. At this point we were both fully dressed, tags and all, so it was pretty clear what we represented, but the JW’s didn’t seem flustered. They started up asking about faith and reading some scriptures to us and we just listened and answered their questions because otherwise they would have started cursing us and stuff and we didn’t want a couple of old ladies yelling as us thru the window when we were trying to study. At first they just talked about basic stuff that everyone and their dog knows, but after a while they started hitting us with the anti-Mormon stuff. One of them asked me what some scripture in Matthew said and I happened to remember so I told them and for some reason that really ticked them off and they quickly asked me what several other scriptures said. I told them I didn’t know and they were pretty smug after that and one of them said “that’s why I always have my bible with me so I don’t have to remember all of them” I had a couple of choice punk teenager comments that I really wanted to make, along with a couple of scriptures to go along with them, but I restrained because I just wanted them to go away. The only rude thing we asked was why we should listen to them when every time we knock on a JW door they just say something rude and slam the door. They told us that they were different. I didn’t believe them. Anyway after a very long time they got bored, gave us some interesting pamphlets on why we were going to hell, and left. It was a good thing my companion wasn’t there because he literally has written pages in his study journal full of scriptures and stuff on why JWs are wrong. He even has a Spanish version of the JW version of the bible that he uses in his “research.” While I may not have been very fond of the old ladies, I don’t think crushing their souls would have done any good and scripture bashing in general is a pretty ineffective tool.

It’s February now which means that carnival has come to Babahoyo, and while the official carnival is only from February 22nd to the 23rd, one aspect of carnival begins with the month. One of the biggest parts of carnival is that it’s basically a month long water balloon fight. Normally this would be pretty cool and I would be excited to participate. I have a few awesome ideas for nailing people in the busses from our apartment, but we are not allowed to participate. That doesn’t exempt us from getting soaked by the rest of the city of course, and I have been told to expect to go home soaked pretty much every day.

Ok on to moms questions. We have rubber boots in the house for when things get really interesting but I don’t have any desire to buy more shoes. My borns have a pretty high top and that’s good enough for me. The new greenie in your ward sounds familiar. Those guys have nothing on us, of course. They may have humidity but they also have cars with AC, houses with AC, and every other building they go into has AC. We don’t have a car and the only building in the area with AC that I know of is our sacrament building (and we like it that way!). My companion doesn’t speak any English at all (unless you count short words and phrases like “ready” and “peace and love”). Those are his favorites but he has a couple others. I have not eaten anything too strange lately so nothing new to report there, but as for the best thing I have eaten, I’m going with mashed potatoes. The people here make the best mashed potatoes I have ever eaten. They don’t even need gravy. I suspect that they are also the worse mashed potatoes that I could possibly eat health wise as well, but I don’t mind. We don’t have to teach any lessons, but I do have to give a talk on the last Sunday of this month (not looking forward to that).

I’m not sure what you mean when you ask “do you usually participate in sacrament meeting on Sundays” but if the question is, “are we there?” then yes we do. We don’t bless the sacrament or anything like that though. Although I did have to lead the hymns once–that wasn’t fun–I hate leading hymns. I have also given a few opening or closing prayers as well. On the average week we have somewhere between 180 and 200 people in sacrament meeting with an average of about 6 investigators in church each week (give or take). We do have several baptisms scheduled for the 21st of this month; the two sisters are not among them. I wont tell you how many we have scheduled because its kind of up in the air right now, but its somewhere in the 4-8 range.

Anyway, that’s all for this week. I hope I wrote enough to keep you satisfied for now and that my letters will make you want to send me more packages and letters. Have a good week and do something letter worthy!

Te quiero,

Elder Walke