June, 2009

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Dengue Fever

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

¡Hola familia!

How’s life? Hot apparently. Look on the bright side, it could be worse…could be raining…and none of you are sick with Dengue or anything like that. Speaking of which, I have Dengue. Wow. Do you like that smooth transition I just used to subtly break the news about my life threatening, incurable infirmity? Yeah, I thought it was pretty slick too. So want to hear how it went down? Gather ´round and I shall tell you my tale of woe and high fevers.

It all started last Monday when I developed a fever and started feeling a little under the weather. I didn’t want to say anything to you guys at the time because I didn’t know what I had and I didn’t want you guys to worry. Tuesday I woke up feeling very not good so I called sister Gamboa and she told me to take a sick day. That’s pretty much all there is to say about Tuesday because I was asleep the rest of the day after that, sporting a healthy 102.5 fever. Wednesday I woke up feeling just as pleasant with the same exact fever and all, so I called sister Gamboa again and she sent me to a doctor in Manta. The doctor took my pulse, looked in my throat for about 2 seconds, and told me I had a throat infection. Idiot. My throat wasn’t even bothering me. At that point I figured it was the pig flu or Dengue but I just took the drugs he gave me and left. They were kind enough to give me a shot that knocked my fever down for about 12 hours so that was nice. Apart from the whole “shot” part (man I hate shots). Thursday I still felt sick but after doing nothing in three days I was going stir crazy so we went to work anyway. It was an odd day for me because my legs felt like they were made of Jell-O, you know, like when you work out for a long time and you muscles are exhausted. Plus, I was sort of dizzy and nauseous. I really didn’t eat much this week and I think I lost like 10 or 15 pounds. On the bright side, we did get another baptismal date that day. Friday I was sick, again. So we spent the day in the house, again. And I slept all day, again. And thus ended Friday. Saturday we called sister Gamboa because I clearly did not have a throat thing going on. She sent me back to Manta. This time I saw a different doctor and he said “I think you have Dengue.” I concurred. Fast forward one hour and I’m in a hospital bed with an IV in my arm and a confirmed case of Dengue. Hate needles and I always thought to myself, “If I’m ever in a hospital and someone tries to stick an IV in my arm, I’m saying no”. And guess what? That’s exactly what I did. It took them 10 minutes to convince me that an IV was worth my time. In the end I finally had to submit. As it turns out, it was exactly as unpleasant as I imagined. And just to rub it in, they took a blood sample. I think they took my blood 7 times in the last couple days. Jerks. One of the things they were worried about was my platelet count. The doctor said that normal is 150,000 but mine was only about 115,000. I don’t know much about medical stuff so I have no idea if that’s a big deal or not but that’s what they told me. The most interesting thing is that the doctor told me this was not my first run in with Dengue. Apparently there are markers left in the blood once you have had Dengue and he says I have those markers. I’m guessing that when I thought I had the flu around New Years, back in Babahoyo, that was Dengue.

So I’m definitely going to want to avoid getting Dengue again. It’s funny because there are not very many mosquitoes here, hardly anybody gets Dengue around here but I’m just that lucky. I got released from the hospital today at about 3 pm and we hopped a bus back home to Jipijapa. So that’s my story. Pretty wild huh?

As far as transfers go, I did not get transferred. Neither did Elder Ruiz. I hear that Elder hall from by MTC district got transferred in though. And Elder Luther is training. There were 22 newbies by the way. I got one of mom’s packages as well but I think it was robbed. On the box it says that it had food and ties in it but in the package there were a couple ensigns, a couple of hymn books, the art book I asked for, and a hilarious graduation card from Nathan. The pictures on that card were all classic Nathan, as soon as I saw it I busted up.

I think you should know that I heard about Michael Jackson the very afternoon that he died. That was pretty big news here. I was blown away that news of his death would get all the way down to me here in Ecuador within hours of it happening but there you go. I should probably write more but I really don’t have much to say. This probably wasn’t my most uplifting letter ever. For the record, I’m fine now. I’m still a little sick and confined to the house for the next couple days, but other than that I’m doing much better. I think I may recover, in fact, I think I’ll go for a walk. Or maybe I’ll just take a nap. So anyway have a good day, don’t worry about me. I’m fine. Have a good 4th of July and I will talk to you next week. Next time I talk to you, I’ll be 20. Weird.

Te quiero,

Elder Walke

Picture This: Tyler Leads the Music at Zone Conference

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

¡Hola familia!

Well you guys really let the ball drop this week. Every one of you only wrote about a paragraph—lame. Dad wrote the longest letter for crying out loud. That’s never happened before. Clearly my influence is waning. Or maybe my letters are just getting boring. Or maybe nobody loves me anymore—*tear*. Well this week came and went pretty quickly. Not much happened though so maybe I will just close my letter now and see how you like it. Think about it for a minute; if I stopped my letter now people would freak out. What would my thousands of dedicated readers say? Ok well at least mom would freak out anyway. And “if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy” so you should probably write longer letters, for moms sake.

Ok now that I’m done making empty threats, on to business. We had interviews Thursday and zone conference Friday so I got to see Elder Mitton two days in a row. So that was cool. I asked him what life as a zone leader was like and he said it was very stressful. He told me about all the extra stuff that took him out of his sector all the time and told me about how annoying it is to have to go to Guayaquil all the time. It was pretty funny, but he does seem to be handling everything well.

My interview was under two minutes as usual. My comp had his interview right before me and he was in there 15 minutes, so I figured I was in for a longer interview this time, but that was not the case. President Gamboa pretty much asks me the same stuff every time, and I give the same answers every time: “How’s your sector?” “How’s your companion?” “How’s your health?” “Is there anything I can do for you?” To which I answer: “Pretty good, good, good, no.” And then he tells me how I’m a great missionary and he and everyone in the office loves me and that I should keep up the good work. And that’s about it.

Zone conference was more interesting. I had to lead the music. I hate leading music. What was worse is that one of the sister missionaries was playing the piano and apparently she is used to having people who know what they are doing [when they] lead the music because she kept trying to follow me…big mistake. Elder Mitton seemed to think it was funny though. But I got my chance to laugh at him because he had to lead the zone conference. They always have a zone leader start the conferences and this time it was Elder Mitton. He looked a little uncomfortable, not as uncomfortable as I was leading the music, but his assignment lasted longer than mine so we’re even. Oh yeah, when I went to Manta for interviews the assistants told me they were going to give me the chance to finish my maestro the next day. That was confusing because I was under the impression that I had finished and I told them so. But apparently the rules were changed a month or two ago so that you have to teach one of the assistants a lesson and you have to be tested on how well you have memorized the 200+ scriptures. I had done this with the zone leaders but apparently it didn’t count. Then later that day Sister Gamboa came up to me to congratulate me for finishing my maestro, and I told her I actually had not finished yet because I still had to be tested by the assistants. So the next day at zone conference I asked the assistants when I was going to take my test and they said that I didn’t have to take it. I asked them why and they told me that Sister Gamboa had told them I don’t have to take it. I have only talked to Sister Gamboa for a grand total of 10 minutes since I got to Ecuador but clearly that’s all it takes for people to fall in love with me. Honestly I thought it was pretty funny. I’m pretty sure I could have passed the test without too much difficulty but it was nice to not have to do it. But Sister Gamboa’s gift did have a price. During her talk she started chewing out the missionaries for not working on their maestros and then she basically said, “Elder Walke has his maestro and his Spanish is very good; clearly he is a very dedicated missionary,” and then she gives everyone a look like, “you guys should be more dedicated like he is.” Then of course the entire room turned around to look at me, and I got really red in the face and felt very awkward for a few minutes. I’m also pretty sure that Elder Mitton was laughing at me. The whole time I was thinking, “Sister Gamboa, you’ve got the wrong guy.” Other than that there’s nothing to report as far as zone conference goes.

I did have to give a talk in branch 2 Sunday. They told me about it only a few days before church but that’s not a big surprise. The topic they gave me was: “Becoming provident providers, temporally and spiritually,” by Robert D. Hales, from last conference. The entire talk was basically about avoiding debt, which of course I know almost nothing about. So I based my entire talk on the title, or more specifically, part of the title. I based my entire talk on the “spiritual provider” part and used the chapter on Christ-like attributes in Preach My Gospel as the real base for my talk. I spent hours on it and it was full of scripture references and insightful comments, but seeing as how Sunday was father’s day, nobody showed up to church. Don’t ask me why but whenever there is any kind of a holiday the people here use it as an excuse to not go to church. I did know that nobody would show up to church but I still felt the need to write a decent talk to balance out my bad Spanish.

So that was my week. And to answer your questions about the pictures I sent, the area looks dry because that’s what most of my mission looks like. Jipijapa is on the border of the jungle but it’s still got plenty of dry parts to it. Although technically dad is right about it being winter here; I am south of the equator so I guess I am in the middle of the Ecuadorian winter. It is slightly cooler but I’m not sure if that’s just because Jipijapa is cooler than Babahoyo or if it’s because it’s winter. By the way those trees in the picture are really cool because they are covered in giant thorns, I’m not sure what they are called but they are some sort of cactus type tree by the looks of them. Kayla said something funny in her letter. She told me to not clean my room and then to tell mom about it. I thought that was particularly funny because today I cleaned my room really well. Today is super p-day because it’s the last p-day of the change, and as you know, its “super” because you have to clean the house super good. So today I cleaned more than usual. Sorry Kayla. Well anyway that’s all for now, maybe I will get transferred this week. Probably not…but maybe. My companion could get transferred. Who knows, maybe I will finally get the chance to train? Stay safe and talk to you guys next week!

Te quiero,
Elder Walke

Life Goes On in JipiJapa

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

¡Hola familia!

So mom finally broke down and got herself an iPhone. Now even Allison has a better phone than I ever had. That’s pretty impressive. Amazingly the world seems to be marching forward without me. Has the hover car come out yet? How many people live on the moon colony? I’m glad to hear that our cousins survived the dreaded bacon cough. Did I mention that your pork sneeze made it all the way here to Jipijapa? Well it did. It’s funny but some of the people don’t want to shake my hand when I tell them I’m American. They ask me why I am such a jerk for bringing the pig fever to Ecuador. Then I have to explain that I came to Ecuador almost a year ago, long before the world started freaking out about pig related health conditions. After that they are more willing to talk to me, but they do still complain about how the us government is really rude for unleashing this terrible evil on the world.

Ok I’m going to take a moment to answer mom’s questions. Yes district and zone conferences are held in a bigger town. Manta is a really big town and it’s full of all sorts of American food products. But district and zone conferences are also non-Monday events. Which means that we don’t go and buy stuff in town because it’s not P-day and we need permission from the zone leaders to do so. Plus we always have too much to do to spend a few extra hours shopping. We could go to Manta on P-day if we wanted but it’s a 3 hour round trip and we just have not had the desire to waste that much of our P-day in travel time.

Speaking of really long bus rides, we have about 9 hours in bus travel to look forward to this week because we have district meeting, interviews, and zone conference, and each one of the three is on a different day; so we will not be having a very productive week.

Ok on to question two. Elder Ruiz has been out for 15 months. His family was baptized when he was 5, and he has been in Jipijapa 4 months now. You do realize that you have a picture of him right? He was at that baptism we had a few weeks ago. And I did send pictures of said baptism. However, I do happen to have a picture of him to send. I don’t have much to upload today. I didn’t take a lot of pictures this week and we are not doing anything to interesting today. In fact, I think I may even take a nap. As for the microwave situation, don’t worry about it. My companion got it to work the other day. I still have not bothered to ask him if it’s usable or not because I never need it, seeing as how I pretty much only eat cold cereal and bread in the house.

Health wise I’m fine. Honestly I haven’t had more than a headache in 3 or 4 months. But don’t worry as soon as I catch a life threatening illness or get a nasty parasite, you will be the first to know. I wouldn’t want you to worry that I’m unusually healthy or something. As far as the last group of missionaries goes, word on the street is that there was only one gringo. Makes sense because school was still going when that group would have entered the MTC, but with this upcoming change the white folk should start pouring in, now that school and BYU are out for the summer.

Hey you know what’s weird? Pretty soon I’m going to turn 20. I’m going to stop being a teenager and start being old. That’s something I was trying to avoid. In other news, the open house we had Friday was only mildly successful, but such is life; luckily the members feel otherwise and nobody tried to kill anyone. So in that respect it was very successful. That’s pretty much it as far as news goes. I hope everyone is safe and doing well; enjoy your vacations. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.

Te quiero,
Elder Walke

Life’s a Beach in Jipihapa

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

¡Hola familia!

So I’m sure you are wondering why my letter is so late today. That’s a good question— and it has an answer—I was at the beach; and I saw an interesting beach creature. Guess what it was? Did you guess whales? Well you are wrong. Sorry. The whales don’t come for another month. I did see some fiddler crabs though. I knew that mom was going to be mad at me for not sending an email in the morning. The first thing I read when I got on was, “I hope you send your email early because I have to go to girls’ camp.” It made me laugh because I am sending my email really late today. Oh well.

So the beach was good. Nothing amazing to report there but it was a good trip all in all. The waterfall last week wasn’t impressive in and of itself but the wildlife was pretty cool. I saw three interesting things. First I saw a tarantula crossing the road on the way up, that was pretty exciting. Then I saw a flock of parakeets in a tree. I have never been a fan of them myself but I was blown away when I realized that they could fly, and that they do not have a symbiotic relationship with small cages as I previously believed. Then on the path to the waterfall I made my last great discovery:  there was a swarm of army ants passing through right down the middle of the path. It was really cool because I have only seen army ants on the discovery channel, and I have always thought they were awesome because they destroy everything. Getting past them was interesting but it wasn’t too hard. I did get bit by one of them though. As it turns out its not very painful. It’s sort of like a fire ant [bite] but an army ant sting goes away faster. Other than that I saw a lot of different types of butterflies, an interesting frog, and a freshwater crab. So that’s my report on my adventures.

Now I’m going to answer mom’s questions so I don’t forget again. The shopping here is pretty bad. Its way worse than Babahoyo. The best store in town has basically the same selection as your average gas station grocery store in the States. Jipijapa is about the same size as Babahoyo as far as I can tell; it’s probably a little smaller but Babahoyo has several other sets of missionaries working there so Jipijapa feels bigger to me. The branches each have their own building. One of the buildings is really small. It’s the smallest chapel I have ever seen in my life in fact. I didn’t know we even made chapels so small. I keep meaning to take a picture of it but I haven’t had the chance. When my comp and I go to church on Sundays we go with members, we have to, and it’s the rule. Yes we do have a microwave, all the missionaries do, but ours broke last week. I’m not sure why it broke but it did. One day the power went out and when it came back, the microwave wouldn’t turn on. We do not have a stove, as far as I know nobody has one. The assistants’ house has one but it doesn’t work. Our apartment is pretty cool. I don’t need a fan at night to sleep like I did in Babahoyo so that’s an improvement. Plus the view is good. I still have not gotten around to taking pictures of my apartment so you will have to wait a little longer on that one.

That’s funny that Reuben is going into the MTC August 20th. That’s the exact same day I went into the MTC. So I will be exactly one year ahead of him. Now for dad’s question. Yeah, we do have a lot of splits with the members. Every Thursday night we go on splits with the president of branch 2 and a member, and every Friday or Saturday night we go on splits with the president of branch 1. Ok I think I have finally made it through the questions. T

This Friday we are having an open house and we have invited all of Jipijapa. Seriously. It started out small—I mentioned how we had had an open house in Babahoyo and that it was pretty successful, and so Elder Ruiz wanted to have one here. So the last few weeks we have been putting it together and it just keeps getting bigger and bigger. Both branches are participating and a couple of the members work for local TV stations so it was announced on TV and radio a few times over the last week. It’s all been pretty well planned but I’m afraid that if it falls apart or nobody shows up that it will do bad things to the members. Stuff like people blaming others for the failure or people getting discouraged about helping us with missionary stuff.

Ok well my time is short. I’m trying to upload pictures but I’m thinking it might not happen this week. If it doesn’t happen I’m sorry and it will be the first thing I do next week but I am pretty pressed for time.

Te quiero,
Elder Walke

Finding New Investigators, Eating Cerviche

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009

¡Hola familia!

How’s life in the land of Texas? How’s Chuck Norris doing? People always ask me that. Things are humming along here in the land of Jipijapa (that name is never going to stop being funny). Honestly some days it feels like things are not progressing at all and others I’m amazed at how fast things are getting better. We did have our baptism this week, so that’s good. It looks like we will be having 3 or 4 baptisms this June but it’s unlikely that we will have any of those happen this Saturday. Over all the week was sort of weird. It was very frustrating but still fairly successful. We only had one investigator in church Sunday, but we did have seven or eight of the inactive members we have been teaching show up. We still don’t have a very big teaching pool (about 10 people total) but we did find some pretty cool people.

Friday night one of our appointments fell through so we started knocking doors in an unfamiliar area. Basically Elder Ruiz said, “Hey let’s go check out that place,” and as we were walking I said, “hey that’s a cool house lets go there,” and in the first door we met a lady in her 60s who has a grandson serving a mission too. One of her sons was at the house at the time and we started talking to them both. As it turns out neither one is baptized but they are awesome. They invited us to lunch this Wednesday and everything. I thought it was funny that it was the first door we knocked. I still shake my head and laugh when I think about it.

We have been meeting lots of interesting people in general. There is even a gringo on the membership list here. Technically he is only half gringo (his mom is Ecuadorian and his dad is gringo) but he grew up in the states. He has a pretty weird story. His dad is an inactive member so that’s how he got onto our membership records.  Basically his story is this:  his dad met his mom when his dad was like 50 and his mom was 25. His dad still doesn’t speak Spanish and his mom didn’t speak any English at the time but apparently they managed to get married anyway. Fast forward 30 years and you have the dad who still lives in the USA, and the mom who now lives here; they are not divorced but the family is pretty messed up. The mom told us that she just married the guy for money or protection or something like that, and now she doesn’t like him. And this she says with her 19 year old son sitting right there. All in all the two of them seem to be very sad if you ask me. They have two kids: one who is about 25 and another who is 19. The one that is 19 is here and he’s pretty nice. Basically, they don’t have any responsibility or accountability or anything like that because, if they don’t want to live in one country for some reason, they just hop a plane and head to the other. It’s really just a very weird situation and I felt weird the whole time I was there, but I think we are going to keep visiting them. Honestly, I have taught a lot of weird people. In Babahoyo we were teaching a guy who was ex-mafia and had been an alcoholic and had abused his wife. Basically, he had done every bad thing a person can do. We taught him a few lessons and he agreed to give up alcohol and had been coming to church and stuff, but my last Sunday in Babahoyo he wasn’t in church. As it turns out his old mafia buddies had found out where he lived and he had gone into hiding to avoid getting killed. I still don’t know what happened to him.

Sounds like the cerviche you guys ate is basically the same as what I eat. They make it out of shrimp here as well. We didn’t end up making octopus cerviche last Monday because they never got the octopus, but we did make some fish cerviche. It was kind of scary because when I ate it I kept thinking about how I helped make this stuff and how I was probably going to die soon. As it turned out, I didn’t die. But it was still pretty scary.

We are going to check out a water fall in a place called Agua Dulce today, so I will be sending pictures of that next week. It’s supposed to be in the middle of the jungle so that should be interesting.

I heard something this week that might interest you. Apparently, there are some whales that migrate down to Ecuador in June or July about this time of year and when they do you can pay someone to take you out in a boat to hang out with the whales and take pictures. So I’m probably going to be doing that soon. Feel free to be jealous, cry, and complain about life not being fair. The beach, where we will be going to have said adventures, is near a town called Lopez in case you are wondering. Well, its time to head to the water fall. I don’t have time to write everyone personal letters but I love you guys and I will write you next week!

Te quiero,

Elder Walke