July, 2009

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A Baptism That Turns into a Swim

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

¡Hola familia!

Happy Monday. Guess what? I didn’t have my interview today. Ha! Elder Martinez called and told us that to save money we would have our interviews Tuesday at zone conference. It really doesn’t make much sense to me because the bus to manta is really cheap. Some of the Elders in manta spend more money taking a taxi to the interviews than we spend taking a bus from Jipijapa. So that’s the story of how Elder Martinez accidentally saved my p-day. If that didn’t sound very interesting I’m sorry but we didn’t have any earthquakes this week and I have not had any companions get hit by a motorcycle recently.

We did have two baptisms yesterday. A member from branch 1 started coming back to church a couple months ago and she told us that her kids were not members so we took care of it for her. The kids’ names are 12 and 9. The 12 year old is a girl and her name is Aranza and the 9 year old is a boy named Adair. They are crazy. It was probably the weirdest baptism I have ever seen. The boy was baptized first and when he came up out of the water he looks up at Elder Ruiz and says the Spanish equivalent of “hey thanks dude”. Then he went over and sat on the steps next to the font while his sister was baptized. After his sister was baptized he jumps back in the font and started swimming. They finally started getting out of the font when his sister turns around and says “hey since we are here anyway we should take advantage of the water”. So she dives back in, followed closely by her brother. Elder Ruiz ended up having to pick them up, throw them over his shoulders, and physically carry them out of the font. After it was over I just sat there shaking my head and laughing.

We had two days of interchanges this week. Tuesday Elder Ruiz went to Monti Cristi and my “brother” Elder Nayra (the other missionary that Elder Fuentemavida trained) spent the day here with me. Elder Nayra is a pretty funny guy. He loves to spit. I have no idea why, but that’s what he does. At one point he told me we needed to find a store and buy water because he was inexplicably thirsty. He said it like this “hey Elder Walke *spit* I don’t know why but *spit* I am feeling really thirsty *spit* could we go and look for a store? *spit* I need to buy some water *spit*”. No joke, he really spits that much. That’s really all I remember from that day. It was pretty funny because even being really thirsty hardly slowed his spitting down at all.

The next day we had an interchange with the zone leaders. Elder Ruiz and Elder Bejar were working here in Jipijapa and I went to manta with Elder Connelly. That was an interesting day too. I always enjoy going to other peoples sectors and seeing how they do things. It was pretty funny because Elder Connelly has only been in manta for a month so he is still pretty lost most of the time. He apologized a couple of times but I told him it was ok. It’s good to know that there are people in the world with as bad a sense of direction as me. For lunch we ate a chicken pineapple thing that was really good. When the mamita heard that I liked it she gave me a second helping as big as the first one to me. I have got to be more careful about what I say to mamitas here because in Ecuador “I really liked the food” means “kill me with rice”.

That’s pretty much all the news this week. Things are going well enough. Our teaching pool is growing. Slowly, but its growing. Things are going well enough here. The weather continues to be nice; the mosquitoes continue to try to kill me (although I am more careful these days). My cloths and shoes continue to slowly fall apart; the work continues to progress, and I continue to work.
Te quiero,
Elder Walke

Teaching with the Bible, an Earthquake, and Pyro Moments

Monday, July 20th, 2009

¡Hola familia!

Something terrible just happened. Perhaps one of the worst things that can happen on P-day. I was in the middle of writing my email when my computer decided to shut down. I was annoyed. It was a pretty epic email too. Full of insightful comments and witty remarks, but now it’s gone forever. You may choose to hold a memorial day for the “unread email” if you wish. I was so devastated I almost gave up and didn’t write an email, but then I thought of my millions of dedicated readers who would be heart broken if they didn’t get to hear about my Ecuadorian exploits so I took courage and began again. Ok I think that’s out of my system, on to business.

Remember how last week I told you about how I was going to Manta to buy pizza and Captain Crunch and how I was really looking forward to it? Yeah didn’t happen. We did go to Manta but the only pizza place we could find was really expensive:  $8 for a reasonable amount of pizza. And I just can’t afford to spend $8 on pizza when I’m living on $40 a week. So that was sad. Then we went to the store to buy Captain Crunch and they didn’t have any. As it turns out the only store with Captain Crunch is way across town and we didn’t have time so we left manta empty handed.

Our teaching pool is also not exactly filling up either. We did start teaching an interesting person this week. He is a leader in one of the major evangelical churches here. We sort of just ran into him on the street and started talking to him and set an appointment to meet with him later that week. I have got to tell you, that guy knows his Bible. Luckily both Elder Ruiz and I know our Bible as well and so far he has not been able to talk us into a corner or stump us. We don’t “Bible bash” with him or anything like that but every time we try to teach something, we have to show it to him in the Bible or he tells us we are full of it. I don’t know that he will ever get baptized but he definitely keeps us sharp so we are going to keep teaching him. Although we did have a cool moment where we were talking about our different views of the trinity and we showed him how God and Jesus are two different people who both have bodies. At the end of the lesson he just sat there thinking and staring at us. It was kind of funny because he said that the thing that annoys him the most about us is that we have a very literal view of the Bible. I took it as a compliment because in high school a lot of people said Mormons don’t use the Bible.

Friday we had a “service project”; we helped an old lady fix a house she wants to sell. At first we were painting but then we ended up cleaning the back yard. When people clean outdoors it almost always involves fire and such was the case in this project. We had to gather up all the bits of wood, leaves, branches, and other garbage into piles and burn it. Best service project ever. apparently they don’t have boy scouts in Costa Rica because my companion does not know anything about starting fires; so I had to start and maintain all of them. We had almost 15 fires going at our peak. It was awesome.  We had a massive cloud of smoke going and with all those fires going the heat was intense. Probably one of my greatest pyro moments ever.

Saturday night was also slightly eventful. I woke up at about 3 am and my bed was shaking and in my semi consciousness I assumed it was Elder Ruiz trying to annoy me. So I said, “Hey what do you want? I’m trying to sleep.” or something like that (but in Spanish) and from across the room Elder Ruiz responds, “It’s an earthquake genius” and I was like “oh…OK…cool” and then I just laid back and enjoyed the moment. It only lasted for about 20 seconds and it wasn’t very big; just big enough to be cool but not big enough to be dangerous. Then I just sat there and thought about the awesomeness of what had just happened and fell asleep again. So now I can check “survive an earthquake” off of my list of things to do before I die.

All in all it really wasn’t the greatest week ever but it did have its moments. Elder Ruiz and I are still hanging in there. He is really hoping he gets the boot when transfers come around in three weeks. He’s probably right because he is going on 6 months in this area. I learned something interesting about the new missionaries that are coming in the next few transfers. Apparently there are no gringos coming in the next change, and in the two changes after that there are 3 in one group and 4 in the other. They are really cutting the number of white [missionaries] here I can tell you that. My group had 10 gringos in it and in the almost 1 year since then, there has only been a couple more gringos come to this mission. We are a dying breed. I’m wondering if I will even have a white companion, much less train one. I have been trying to figure out why they are not sending Americans here and the only thing that I can come up with is that the president here is so anti-American. I really don’t care as long as they don’t decide to boot us out of the country.

Well, that’s pretty much it for the news in Jipijapa. Oh yeah, interviews and zone conference are next week. President Gamboa has decided to make our P-day a little brighter by holding interviews next Monday. I don’t think I can express how unappreciated that is. Honestly I’m not sure why we have interviews. It’s enough to make one want to murmur I tell you! Well that’s all for now. I hope you all enjoyed your time off. Next time you go to Utah it will probably be with me. That’s really weird. I have 11 months today and being so close to a year has really made me think about all that has happened so far and all that’s going to happen in the next year. I can’t even believe that an entire year has almost passed. Weird.

Te quiero,

Elder Walke

Getting Back to Work

Friday, July 17th, 2009

¡Hola familia!

Still hanging out in Utah huh? I’m still hanging out here in Jipijapa. Well, not so much “hanging out” as walking a whole lot and teaching occasionally. I did get back to work this week, which was a relief for about 3 hours until I realized how nonexistent our teaching pool was. It pretty much fell apart. It was a very slow week in which we put a whole lot of miles on my shoes. I don’t think I can convey the absolute slowness of this week. My companion is feeling pretty discouraged about it all. I’m doing ok. We did have a few interesting experiences this week though. For one, we had a baptism! So this week was not a complete disaster. I think that shows how good we were doing before I got sick because even with almost no contact with anyone in our program for two weeks somebody got baptized. Her name is Cesibel and she is 32. Her sister is a member and we met her when we were doing all that work to find inactive members to bring back to church.

We also taught a pretty unforgettable lesson Saturday afternoon. In our quest to find people to talk to who weren’t afraid that we are from the CIA or something like that, we found ourselves in an area that we were pretty unfamiliar with. It was at the edge of the city—just dirt roads and bamboo houses. A group of guys called us over to them; these were some pretty rough guys—the kind of people that when they start talking to you, you think, “I wonder if they’re going to use a gun or a knife to rob me.” They started asking questions about what it is we teach and stuff like that. We told them we teach about Jesus and how to have more happiness in our families. That pretty much was the end of their interest in our message, but they decided that we were pretty cool guys so they invited us to have a drink with them. When we declined, their interest in us was peaked again. They started asking all sorts of questions about why alcohol is bad. We had to tread lightly because we didn’t want anybody’s feelings hurt, mostly because we didn’t want to get hurt. By the end of an hour I’m not sure if we had any of them convinced; and as we were walking away Elder Ruiz and I were talking about it. We decided that it may not have been the most productive hour ever but at least now we know that if we ever see them again, they won’t try to rob us.

Thanks for trying to get the Gamboas to let me work again. I’m pretty confused about how fruit is supposed to help me fight off dengue as well. I do eat a pretty fair amount of bananas though. Mostly because they are cheap and even when I am flat broke I can always scrape together the necessary two cents to buy a banana. I ate two bananas for breakfast today for just that reason in fact. Today is the day that we pick up money but I ran out of food yesterday and the one store in town wasn’t open yet. My breakfast was supplemented with gold fish crackers and peanut M&Ms (thanks grandma). So don’t worry about me eating enough fruit. I got it covered.

To answer mom’s questions, when I need a hair cut I go to a hair cut place. I can’t think of the word in English but you get the idea. It costs $1.50 in case you are curious. No, I have not seen any other missionaries these days—although I will see Elder Mitton at zone conference in a couple of weeks. Well that’s pretty much it. We are going to Manta to eat pizza today. I have not eaten pizza for a long time so it’s going to be a pretty exciting event. Have fun in Utah and try get over that whole strep throat thing.

Te quiero,
Elder Walke


Monday, July 6th, 2009

¡Hola familia!

How’s Utah? Awesome? Nobody been seriously hurt yet? As long as Kayla is there, disaster is near. Everybody mentioned that we had a really massive clan together on the 4th. Dad said, “It looked like a ward pot luck.” I thought that was funny. I think our family is starting to reach critical mass.

You will all be happy to know that I’m not dead yet. I still have not been cleared to work again. I think it’s because you guys had to go and write a letter to Sister Gamboa. I heard about that letter from her you know. I think it got her all worried about my health again and she told me I still can’t work and that, “for the sake of my mission I need to eat more fruit.” Don’t ask me how fruit is connected to dengue but she made me go out and buy more fruit and yogurt in order to prevent me from dying or something like that.

So this week has been really boring. I did get my second birthday package in time for my birthday. The day before in fact, so good timing on moms part. Everything seemed to be there and to be intact, although I thought you said there was a tape in this one. If there was, it didn’t make it to me. But other than that everything seemed to be there. As for mom’s questions, yeah I kind of did celebrate my birthday. Friday night we went down to the mamitas house and they gave me a small cake and sang happy birthday and stuff. There were a few people from the branch there and I got a couple of gifts. It was all pretty weird. I was given a sheet of Garfield stickers, an Ecuador mug (aka, a mug that says “Ecuador” on it), and a miniature house type thing.  I don’t intend to use the stickers, and I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do with the house, but the cup is useful. So all in all it was a pretty typical birthday for me, seeing as how I have been away from home or camping in the mountains almost every year since I was 12. Oh, and as it turns out, they don’t celebrate the 4th down here (who knew), so I didn’t see any fireworks. Nor do they sell fireworks, which is probably a good thing because I’m pretty sure missionaries are not allowed to play with such things.

So Elder Elwood got sent off to Quevedo. That’s funny because now he’s back in a zone with Elder Frye again. Darn. Now I want a transfer to Quevedo. Well I’m pretty much out of things to say; that happens when you are stuck in your apartment all week. I have pretty much just been sleeping and studying all week. I’m hoping I will be able to work tomorrow. I can’t seem to convince sister Gamboa that I’m not that sick anymore.

I don’t seem to have anything else to say so I’ll tell you about this funny dream I had while I was sick. I dreamed that the mission had sent me home because I was so sick, and I was in the van with mom and Kayla. We were in the parking lot at Kroger and mom said she had to go in and pick up a prescription for me but that she needed me to go and pick Allison and Olivia up from the house or something. So I started to slide over to the driver’s seat and Kayla says, “Wait, you are really sick, you should probably let me drive,” and I started to protest but then I said, “Ah you are right; I’m so sick I would probably crash.” So then Kayla hops in the driver’s seat…and I woke up. I had to wake up; I don’t think my brain could sustain such an unrealistic dream (in which I let Kayla drive). Man, I must have been really sick to have such a wild, terrible dream.

Ok now I really am out of things to say. Oh, to finish answering mom’s questions—yes my companion was stuck with me during my stay in the hospital and I’m sure he was as bored as I was. And yes, I’m being more careful and sleeping with a mosquito net and all that good stuff. Well, that’s all for now. Sorry my letter is so short. Have a fun trip. Don’t get dengue (trust me).

Te quiero,
Elder Walke