May, 2009

...now browsing by month

 

The News from Jipijapa

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

¡Hola familia!

I have learned that the work here is going to be harder than I thought. In the last year and a half they only baptized 10 people and 8 of those were kids. This number is even worse than it sounds because these kids were not like the baptisms I had in Babahoyo, where I kept coming across active families that had unbaptized kids for some reason. Of the kids that were baptized only one of them had parents active in the church. The rest were just a bunch of kids between 8 and 15 years that the missionaries found in the city and baptized them. These are the baptisms that I hate because the missionaries know exactly how hard it is for a little kid to stay active without family who are members. I don’t think that its impossible to have success here because I was going through the records and they had about 60 baptisms in 2005 and about 60 more in 2006, but then in 2007 they only had about 20 or 30 and then last year an impressive 12. I’m not sure what happened in the last couple years here but whatever it is, it almost destroyed the church here. Branch 1 used to have about 100 people in church on Sundays but now they are running at about 35. Branch 2 has a higher attendance, about 80 or 90, but they lost about 30 or 40 people in the last couple years as well. As far as I can tell, this area suffered from a string of bad missionaries and some major lapses in the local leadership. When I showed up Monday we had a grand total of 2 people in our teaching pool, but a couple days later we dropped one of them. I’m not entirely sure what the missionaries were doing the last couple of months but I don’t think they were teaching.

Things are looking up though. You know that one investigator we had in our teaching pool? She is going to get baptized Saturday, which will make her the first real baptism in branch 2 in almost 2 years. She is about 30 years old and lives in a house with her sister, who is a member, and her dad, who isn’t a member. My second visit to their house I asked the dad why he hadn’t been baptized yet and he said “to be honest I have just been waiting for you guys to tell me a day.” I think my companion almost fell out of his chair. I’m not sure if he though I was too direct or if he felt dumb for not asking sooner; maybe a little of both. So anyway, the dad will be getting baptized in the coming weeks (he can’t get baptized with his daughter because he is going out of town).

Before, the missionaries were not going to the church services of branch 1. Apparently the last missionary that was here said that branch 1 isn’t our problem but we have started to change that. On Sundays Elder Ruiz goes to one branch and I go to the other then the next week we flip branches so that we can help both branches out every week. Honestly, there is a whole list of things that we have started doing that the missionaries were not doing but you get the idea.

On to happier subjects: like answering your questions. The people from Jipijapa are not called hippies or Jipijapians. They are called Jipijapenes, which to be fair is the Spanish equivalent of Jipijapians. The weather here is pretty much perfect. At night it’s 70 to 75 and during the day it’s 80 to 85. The city is beautiful and much cleaner than Babahoyo. There are a lot of cool places to visit like the dormant volcano just outside of town, and they say there is a black sand beach about an hour away that I would like to visit. Also, we can eat sea food here. And that’s a good thing because they pretty much only eat sea food here. There is this one dish called cerviche that I’m pretty fond of. The main ingredient is uncooked fish. To be fair it is sort of cooked, they soak it in lemon juice and that sort of acid cooks the fish so when you eat it, it doesn’t even taste like fish. They make it out of octopus as well. Later today we are going to make some octopus cerviche with a member of the ward who sells the stuff. I’m pretty excited for that and I will definitely take some pictures. The bread they sell here is better than the stuff they sell in Babahoyo as well. Plus, it’s still cheap, running from between 10 to 25 cents depending on what you buy. Over all the food here is really good. Although they do still eat rice. Basically I have gone from eating rice and chicken to eating rice and fish.

My momita knows Elder Elwood. She was looking at my pictures and she said, “Hey I know that guy.” Elder Elwood was in Monti Cristi, which is sort of close to here, but I’m still not sure how she knows him. How are Elder Elwood, Elder Frye, and Elder Mitton? I miss those guys. We are sort of cut off from the rest of the mission out here so I really don’t know what’s going on. I didn’t hear anything about Valencia so you will have to fill me in. I did hear that some gringo missionary in the Quito mission got your pig flu thing. People here are really freaking out about that whole pork fever thing. I still don’t think it’s that big of a deal.

Anyway, Elder Ruiz is alright; he has been out for 14 months and he is a pretty good teacher. He’s good at talking to people on the streets, which is useful considering our situation. The Spanish spoken here really isn’t too different from what they speak in Babahoyo. I think they speak a little better here but I really have not been paying attention to that kind of thing.

I can’t believe I forgot to tell you about how my scriptures thing went. I did finish memorizing in time but we didn’t actually have a zone leader the last week I was in Babahoyo, so I never got the chance to take the test. It was sort of anti-climactic. Anyway I am going to get my maestro passed off this Wednesday, but it’s not that big of a deal. I already missed the deadline.

My sector isn’t very dangerous. In fact, it’s so safe Elder Ruiz says you can walk around at night with your camera out without a problem. I don’t think I will be doing that but it is pretty different. This city is a lot quieter than Babahoyo and the entire place is really laid back. It’s kind of weird. Nobody ever seems to be in a hurry and after about 8 at night there is almost nobody left in the streets. The buses don’t even run past 7. I haven’t seen much wildlife around here but they say there are iguanas around here somewhere so I will keep an eye out so I can get a picture for Andrea.

Tell the girls good job on their swim meet stuff. Oh and tell Allison that yeah, the last couple weeks of school are pointless but if you got rid of them there is still a “last two weeks of school,” so its impossible to escape from the pointlessness. But that’s school for ya.

Te quiero,

Elder Walke

Elder Walke Goes Hippy on Us - Transferred to Jipijapa

Monday, May 18th, 2009

¡Hola familia!

Sounds like all is going well back home. Everyone sounds healthy, happy, and ready for the end of school. That’s cool. Well I’m running a little late as you can tell.  I don’t think I have ever sent an email this late in the day. So I guess I will get straight to business. I’m still in…Ecuador. Ok, maybe not straight to business.

The big question seems to be whether or not I trained. That’s a good question—and it has an answer…no.

Which leads to another question:  Am I still in Babahoyo? Once again a good question, once again…no.

And now, the biggest question of them all. Where the heck am I? Drum roll please. Seriously, I need some drum roll. I can wait…ok are you drum rolling. I mean are you really drum rolling? Put some feeling in it. Ok here it is…….I have been transferred to the province of Mantabi city of Jipijapa! Ok now I will give you a moment to get yourselves over to Google Earth so you can check out my new digs.

Are you back? Ok good. I really am sad to be leaving Babahoyo. I had a lot of friends there and a lot of baptisms. We actually just had three more Saturday—a mom and her two kids (Zoila, Alejandra, Hector). My new companion is Elder Ruiz from Costa Rica. One of these days I’m going to have a gringo comp but that day isn’t today.

I have to tell you, I fell in love with this area as soon as I heard the name. Just so you know, the name isn’t pronounced “jippy jopa” as I’m sure many of you are saying it. The correct pronunciation is “hippy hopa.”  Best name ever. As soon as I heard it, I thought to myself, “now that sounds like a cool place to be.”  Honestly I have only been here for about 30 min but geographically it’s beautiful. It’s pretty much the opposite of Babahoyo in fact. Jipijopa is full of hills and small mountain type things and is very dry. It still has plenty of cane houses but it has parts that are a lot richer than Babahoyo. The ride up was fun. Its four hours from here to Guayaquil and I got the chance to see more of Ecuador. It was really beautiful and now I have a sore neck from having my head sideways for 4 hours. The road is semi cared for so it was a little bumpy and the road had a lot of curves in it, which made everything seem that much cooler. I took some pictures from the bus.  It was sort of difficult because it was moving and I couldn’t keep the camera still so they aren’t very clear but you get the idea. The pictures of the city are of my new sector.

Jipijapa has two branches—one has about 30 or 40 active members, and the other has about 80, and we are in charge of both of them. In fact the nearest set of other missionaries is 40 min away. On Wednesdays in order to get to district meetings we have to take a bus for an hour and a half to Manta and then an hour and a half back to our sector.  Also, I have only one mamita. There just are not enough members here to support a rotation like we had in Babahoyo.

I think the work here is a little difficult because Elder Ruiz tells me that there are over 1000 members total here between the two branches—enough for an entire stake. But all of them are inactive. That speaks of serious problems if you ask me. I’m really sad to be leaving Elder Frye and Elder Elwood; we were pretty good friends.

Elder Elwood is training! I’m so excited for him. He’s going to be such a good dad. Elder Frye got transferred to Quevedo so now the entire group is in another part of the world. I hear Elder Mitton even became zone leader over in Puerto Viejo. That’s cool. I’m going to get to see him at zone conference. Elder Frye and I were also lamenting the fact that we won’t be in the same zone when we get our kids and thus will be unable to torment each other’s child.

Yeah, well basically I don’t have much more to talk about than that. I’m sure as soon as I send this email I will think of something I forgot to tell you but there just isn’t much to say. I’m looking forward to learning a new sector and doing a lot of walking. Oh yeah, apparently this sector is even bigger than my last one. But they don’t have many busses here, so that should be interesting. Oh and I’m only 30 min from the beach, which just so happens to be in my sector. So you can expect some awesome pictures in the next few weeks. The house seems decent. It’s on the third floor and has a pretty nice view of the city.  The last picture is the view from the balcony. There is also a picture of a giant piece of corn. It was so weird I had to take a picture. I also saw a giant hat. The people here seem to love big statues of household products here.

Well anyway, I need to be on my way. I have rambled on about my really cool new sector long enough. I’m sure I will have plenty to talk about next Monday. Apparently we are having some sort of church activity on Friday. Don’t die and keep on writing me letters!

Te quiero,

Elder Walke

Teargas and KFC

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

Hola familia!

Hey I didn’t get the chance to say goodbye to you guys because the dang phone cut off but oh well. Guess I will just have to plan my time a little better when I call at Christmas. You realize that when I call again I will have double the time in Ecuador that I currently have? That’s weird. Anyway, mom asked me to recount one of the stories I told on the phone so I will start with that.

Monday after I finished my email home we got on the bus and headed into the city to grab some lunch (KFC of course). As we began our trip I couldn’t help but notice that there was an unusually large number of people running in the opposite direction that our bus was going. A few seconds later we found ourselves in the middle of a riot. What was awesome about it was that it was a legitimate riot with cops decked out in body armor, helmets, and shields.  They were even armed with tear gas cannons! We learned later that they were rioting because of the recent mayoral elections, and apparently some people were displeased with the outcome. I heard from several sources that the guy that lost had actually paid a bunch of people to riot but I’m not sure how true that is. It could be true because he is really rich. Anyway, back to the story. So the people were throwing good sized rocks at the cops and the cops were launching tear gas at the people and I was sitting on the bus watching all of this thinking, “this is AWESOME!” I wanted to stick my head out the window to get a better view but I was afraid I might get nailed by a stray rock or something, so I decided against it. The entire trip was pretty much the best theme park ride I had ever been on because the bus driver was going all over the place trying to find a way out and tearing around corners and stuff and at one point we even went through one of the clouds of tear gas and a bunch of people said “close the windows, close the windows!” But by that point it was too late so then everyone started shouting “open the windows, open the windows!” and I was thinking “wow tear gas really hurts—AWESOME!”  I also learned an interesting fact about tear gas. You know how on TV whenever you see video of a riot, there is always a lot of bonfires burning in the streets? I now know why they do that. It’s because the smoke from a fire displaces teargas, so the people can breathe better and keep throwing their rocks at the cops. Eventually we did make it out and it was calm in the KFC area, so we had lunch and then went to one of the other missionary houses in the city where we did nothing for the rest of the day.  Tuesday the entire zone was there and we pretty much just hung out and talked all day because President Gamboa said we are not allowed to work during riots for some reason.  Well that’s the story of “the alcalde wars of 09″ as I like to call them (alcalde is Spanish for mayor). Hope you enjoyed it. There really isn’t much else to say because I just talked to you guys last night.

Oh yeah I did have a companion exchange Friday and I got to hang out in Elder Frye and Elder Elwood’s house. It was fun and Elder Frye and Elder Elwood’s awesomeness was reaffirmed. The next morning I made some pancakes with the mix gammy sent me, and there was much rejoicing. I would also like to mention that the deadline for the “maestro” is this week and on Wednesday I’m going to try to pass it off. I’m not sure if I have a very good shot at getting it because to pass you have to recite a lot of the scriptures again and I’m not sure if I am ready for that yet. Not to mention I am still working on the proclamation. Plus there are a couple tests I have to take. I hate tests. So go ahead and pray extra hard for me these next couple of days as I prepare for my big final push. If I do manage to get my “maestro” I think I will not only be the youngest missionary to have it, I will also be the only white guy as well. That’s still unconfirmed though; there could be another gringo in one of the other zones that will get it as well.  Oh yeah I also thought of something else you could send me for my birthday—root beer extract. I had a sip of root beer made with it and it was really good. Ok that covers everything.

Oh one more thing—next week is transfers so who knows, my next email could be from somewhere else, but I wouldn’t bet on it. I’m trying to set a new mission record by staying in the same sector for 14 months. I’m going to go eat lunch now and do some serious studying to get ready for my big test. It kind of cracks me up that I have a test when I didn’t expect to have to study for two years. As it turns out you actually have to study just as much or more on a mission. Definitely a lot more than I expected. Good bye, I love you guys, and I will call you in 7 months!

Te quiero,

Elder Walke

Elder Walke — The AP Trainer

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

¡Hola familia!

It’s Monday. Um… I think I have writers block. I can’t think of anything else to say after “its Monday”. Its not that nothing happened this week; I’m just having a little trouble getting started. To fix this I’m going to take a “top down approach” and tell about the big stuff first and move down the line, instead of my usual day by day approach.

First off, Elder Martinez is in Guayaquil again. Don’t worry he didn’t get hit by another motorcycle. President Gamboa asked him to be the new assistant to fill the void left by Elder Fuentemavida. It was a big surprise for everyone and creates several interesting points where I’m concerned. First off it means that I have a really powerful ancestral line as Elder Frye would say, because my grandpa was a zone leader, my dad was an assistant, and now my uncle is an assistant as well. It also improves my chances of hanging around for yet another change in Babahoyo. Before it was very likely that myself and Elder Cruz would leave at the end of the change but with Elder Martinez gone I have a better shot at sticking around than Elder Cruz. The fact that Elder Martinez is gone also means that we can be reasonable in our cleaning efforts and no longer have to clean all day. I’m not going to lie, that’s my favorite part in all of this.

As for the [Mother’s Day] phone call goes, 2 pm works with our plans.  I’m going to send you my house phone number in a separate email.

We had a baptism Saturday; his name is Hugo Rodriguez and he is Pablo’s dad (the guy we baptized back in January). He has a pretty cool story as well. A few months ago Pablo brought his sister to church so we decided to go over and work with his family. In the subsequent appointments we learned a lot of very interesting things. When we taught Pablo it wasn’t a particularly interesting experience. We taught the principles and at the end of every lesson he would always agree to live whatever commitment we extended. When we started teaching Hugo, we learned that Pablo had actually gone through some pretty drastic changes. Physically he is still the same but apparently Pablo used to drink a lot and really didn’t have his life in order; after we taught him he just stopped being that person. The missionaries had taught their family a few years ago but Hugo wouldn’t have anything to do with it. But after Pablo got baptized Hugo accepted everything we taught and has been working hard to get the other members of his family to listen as well. Both Hugo and Pablo are awesome and I’m sure that the rest of their family will get baptized eventually because of their example.

I saw the stuff Elder Mitton mailed home.  Those Ecua bags really are not very expensive.  They are about $2 a piece.  I was trying to find some of that stuff to send home as well for yours and dad’s birthdays, but I have not had time to look so it will be coming a little late. As for my stuff, yeah that’s the art book I was talking about. As for other items on my wish list:  another pair of insoles (I’m putting holes in my current ones once again) and a new music CD. I can’t really think of anything else that I want/need. My shirts, socks, and shoes are doing fine but my pants are getting kind of worn. Don’t worry about sending any; I can buy some here once the need is great enough.

Um… writers block is setting in again. I think I need to start writing stuff down. I stopped doing that a few weeks ago but I think I need to start writing details. Meh, I will be talking to you Sunday so it’s not that big of a deal I guess. Good bye for now and talk to you soon!

Te quiero,

Elder Walke