August, 2009

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Celebrating The One-Year Mark

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

¡Hola familia!

I’m old. It hit me this week. I kept having moments like, “all my life I wondered what it would be like to be a missionary, and now I’m half way done with it.” And I have been thinking a lot about what I was doing in the MTC a year ago. It’s funny how well I remember the MTC. We did eat pizza on Thursday to celebrate my year mark. We sat around for a long time eating and talking about mission stuff. Then the next day the four of us had a service project where we moved dirt—lots and lots of dirt. You know those giant work trucks that the construction people use to haul large quantities of dirt? Yeah we moved two of those. The rest of the day I was pretty tired as we walked up and down hills in the quite hot Ecuadorian sun. Then the next day I almost couldn’t get out of bed. But I still had to wake up at 6:30 am and walk all day. I was pretty sore, I can tell you.

Advice from Elder Walke

But we did have another baptism this week. Once again it was someone that Elder Frye and Elder Hall knew. Her name is Alexandra Loja and she is 20ish. I think Elder Frye baptized her mom, and her brother Carlos was baptized just after Elder Hall left. Anyway it was a good baptism; her brother baptized her so that was cool. I have really been cleaning up all of those guys’ teaching pools. This Saturday we will be having another baptism. Once again someone that Elder Frye and Elder Hall should remember. Her name is Locricia. It’s funny because I really have not had to teach these people anything; I just sort of help with the final small push that they need to get to the font.

All in all things have been going pretty well thus far down here in the land of rice and mosquitoes. It’s still a whole lot of stress, that’s for sure. Every time I think I’m getting a handle on things President Gamboa throws something new at me. Working with a new missionary has been a difficult experience. I still have hope that I’m going to get a gringo baby this change or the next one, but now I’m kind of scared because I realize just how much work it will be with someone who hardly knows Spanish. I think the best thing that a new missionary could do in the MTC to prepare to teach in Spanish would be to learn how to give a short testimony over each of the principles in the lesson because I think that would help them become the more effective faster.

To answer mom’s questions, the food system here is like what we had in Babahoyo. We have a different house to eat at every week and the houses we eat at changes every two weeks or so. Living with four missionaries is a lot more fun. This week we have had a sort of “war” going on. It all started when Elder Vega set up some containers of water over some of the doors in the house and I got soaked. After that there has been a lot of back and forth going on, and a couple of them were filmed. I will have to send you the videos some time—although you won’t understand them because they are all in Spanish—but I’m sure it will still be entertaining for you guys to see me get soaked no matter what language it’s in.

I still have not gotten that package mom sent, so that was sad, but it will come soon I’m sure. I got the letter from Nathan; it was pretty funny. Every line made me laugh. One of the best was when he said, “I swear the older I get the dumber girls seem to be.  I must be getting more intelligent”. Yep, same old Nathan. Although he must be growing up a bit because he didn’t mention his muscles once in the entire letter. I was expecting something like, “You should see how big my muscles have gotten in the last year,” but it never happened. Maybe he just forgot to mention it. I also got a letter from a random stranger. That was entertaining. Someone named Sarah from Canada wrote me and told me how awesome my letters are. And then she told me about how her husband got dengue in Jamaica on his mission. I didn’t know they had dengue in Jamaica. Anyway it made me laugh because I always wondered if there were any random strangers reading my blog seeing as how it’s public and all. Now I know that there is at least one—awesome.

Te quiero,
Elder Walke

Eating “Little Donkeys”

Monday, August 17th, 2009

¡Hola familia!

So I guess I’m in trouble huh. Looks like I need to clear up a couple of things before I go on. I did mean to include all of the things that were missing from my letter like my companion’s name and letters to the girls but I was in a hurry and I was very very tired so I forgot. My bad. As for info about my new area, I told you all that I knew at the time. I had only been in my sector for about an hour when I sat down to write my letter after all.

My companion’s name is Elder Romero. He is from Bolivia. My new sector is great, my new hair cut that I just got, not so much. I am without hair. It’s sad. Because of this, I won’t be sending any pictures of me in my new sector any time soon. You are going to have to wait until my hair grows out a bit.

Hey guess what? I have access to peanut butter. Not only that, I have options! I can choose between crunchy or creamy! Hurray for variety! No Captain Crunch for some reason. But you can’t win them all. My sector is great. Both Elder Frye and Elder Hall have been in this sector and every time we meet someone they ask if I know one or the other. And then I’m like, “Yeah! I love those guys!” Apparently Elder Frye is training and on Tuesday he visited one of the families in my sector but I never saw him. I was pretty sad because I have not seen him in a few months. But I did see Elder Elwood! There was a district and zone leader conference in Guayaquil and I saw Elder Elwood was in town. The reason for my being at the conference is long and boring so I won’t waste time talking about it.

My new ward is awesome. The leaders are willing to work with us, the members work, and the investigators get baptized every now and then. We had two baptisms Saturday in fact, a dad and his kid. I didn’t have to do much, just get the dad married to his wife. Although I didn’t know how to do that so it was a learning experience. But now I know. And I also learned how to fix fans—sort of. There were a couple of broken fans in our house and Guayaquil is pretty hot and humid so I decided I might as well take them apart and see if I could figure out what was wrong. After all they were already broken so I couldn’t break them worse right? As it turns out they were just dirty so I cleaned all the parts and put it back together again—then they worked fine. All those years of taking apart everything in the house are finally paying off. Although, there is one thing I don’t like about my sector. Everyday we have to walk by a stream to get to our sector and it has got to be the smelliest stream I have ever smelt. It’s a pretty unpleasant experience. Other than that it’s all good. We have a lot of hills here but I don’t mind. The view of Guayaquil at night from the top of the hills is pretty great.

The other Elders in our apartment are fun as well. They are both Latins of course. I may never live in the same house with gringos while I’m here in Ecuador. Anyway their names are Elder Vega and Elder Barrietos. Elder Vega is from Colombia and Elder Barrietos is from Chile. As it turns out, Elder Barrietos really likes to clean so I will remain in a clean house for a little longer. I’m sure mom is pleased.

Working with someone with so little time as a missionary has been a weird experience for me. I’m used to working with missionaries who know what they are doing but I’m pretty much on my own a lot of the time. Elder Romero is pretty good though. He teaches pretty well for a new guy and he knows the sector. That’s useful because I still have no idea where we are going most of the time. As it turns out, I still have a pretty bad sense of direction.

I didn’t get any packages or letters this week. But that has a lot to do with the fact that we didn’t get pouch Wednesday. Apparently the pouch monkey hurt his hand or something so he wasn’t able to get it to us. I think that’s a terrible excuse but there is nothing I can do about it.

By the way, thanks for the 20 bucks mom! The other Elders will thank you as well when they hear about it. With $20 I can buy pizza, cola, and other American food as well. I think I saw M&Ms in the grocery store last week so I might invest in some of those. Oh and by the way, I do remember that missionary mom mentioned in her letter. In fact, he is one of the few missionaries that I do remember. He and his companion were pretty cool; his companion was from Alaska or something like that. Oh I forgot to mention, there is a mall near my sector. This mall has a food court. With American food! It has pretty much everything:  Taco Bell, McDonalds, Burger King, Pizza Hut, and more. Last week I ate Taco Bell. There was something on the menu called a “burrito” that confused me at first because I couldn’t figure out why anyone would want to eat a little donkey. Then I remembered that I ate “burritos” before my mission, I just never understood the name. It made me laugh—although now I want to know why it’s called a “little donkey”.

Have a good week and next time I talk to you, I will have gone over “the hump”.

Te quiero,
Elder Walke

The News From…

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

¡Hola familia!

So I bet you think it’s pretty dumb that I left the name of the city blank on the subject line when the chances of me getting transferred were so slim but hey, I like to keep to tradition. Yep, I got me a new companion. But he didn’t come to Jipijapa, I went to his sector. I got transferred. Pretty weird huh? I’m not all that happy about it either because although Jipijapa was a pain, things were progressing. They should have a lot of baptisms over there if Elder Ruiz ever gets over the shock that I got transferred instead of him and gets to work. It was a weird transfer though because for some reason they decided that they didn’t want to tell anybody where they where going or what the name of their new companion was. They just said, “Be in terminal at Guayaquil at 8 am” and that’s it. Man was that annoying. In order to demonstrate the sheer annoyingness of knowing that you got transferred but not knowing where, I’m going to stall a while longer before telling you where I’m writing from.

Hey, want to hear a cool story? I left my Preach My Gospel manual on the bus when we were headed home from district meeting a couple of weeks ago. The bus that we take goes all the way to Guayaquil so I didn’t think I would ever see it again; neither did anybody else in my zone. But guess what? It came back. It just showed up in the pouch the next week without any note explaining how that miracle was made possible. I was pretty thankful because, with it being so hard for the church to get us supplies these days, it may have been a few months before I could get my hands on another one.

Want to hear an even more miraculous story? This one is really going to blow you away, trust me. Last week the zone leaders did house inspections and guess what? We had the second cleanest house. First place went to the sister missionaries but they don’t even count. Darn girls beat us by 2 points. That my friends is what we in the business call a miracle. I may laugh about it for years to come.

Other than that there isn’t much news to cover from last week. Our iron broke. That was pretty bad. In order to iron my shirts I had to heat up the iron on the grill type thing we have in the house. As it turns out its a lot harder than just plugging in an iron because the stove doesn’t tell you when the iron is just hot enough to do the job (but not so hot it will burn a hole in you shirt). Elder Ruiz managed to burn one of his shirts; I just stayed on the safe side and heated the iron up as little as possible. Luckily it’s not my problem anymore because I got transferred. And you still don’t know where I am. And I’m still not going to tell you. I’m sure most of you couldn’t care less when or if I tell you but I’m sure that it’s at least bugging mom.

I will tell you about the impromptu “English classes” that I started giving in the streets in Jipijapa. A lot of times the kids will shout at us “Hey mister! Speak English!” or some other nonsense. So I started responding by saying “washu wishu”. For some reason the people here think that’s English and often shout it at me in the streets. Anyway, when I say “washu wishu” they get all interested and ask me what that means. So I tell them, “It doesn’t mean anything”. So then if they ask me to say something else in English; I say something to the affect of, “Hey mister. One—Two—Three,” or some other common phrase that they love to shout at us. Then if they persist in their desires to hear me speak English, I start rambling about whatever I feel like talking about in English and after a couple of minutes I finish it with “and now you will all begin to laugh uncontrollably and pretend you understood me.” And guess what? They always do. In case you are wondering, yes, I do crack myself up.

Well I have killed enough time—on to business. Because Manta is so far away from Guayaquil, we had to hop a bus at 4:30 am to get to Guayaquil at 8 am. And because Jipijapa is so far away from Manta, we had to sleep in the zone leaders’ house Sunday night. All of this means that I got about 2 hours of sleep last night and it wasn’t even a very good 2 hours. So I’m pretty tired. And will probably remain so all this week. Then the assistants (APs) were kind enough to refuse to tell me where my next sector was or who my companion was for about an hour and a half. That was a really effective way to annoy me after all the traveling and not sleeping I had just been through. I did see that a few more of my friends got transferred to Quevedo so now I’m pretty sad about not getting a transfer over there. But after a long time waiting, I got my transfer. I am now in the Prosperina zone, in the Gallegos Lara sector. In case you don’t know where that is, I’m now in the city of Guayaquil. And want to know what’s awesome about it? It’s the same sector that Elder Frye was born in! I checked the area book and we have a couple of people in our program with his name on the teaching records. And on top of that, I’m a step daddy! My companion has only been here for 6 weeks. So while I’m not training, I’m pretty darn close. It should be fun anyway. Well I have to go so good luck with your week and do something interesting.

Te quiero,
Elder Walke

Latin Music is Growing on Me

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

¡Hola familia!

Happy p-day! But it’s not just any p-day, its SUPER p-day. Hurray for cleaning! Hate is a strong word, but I really really really don’t like cleaning. Honestly, we did a pretty serious amount of cleaning last week so we don’t have much to do today. It’s funny because when we were cleaning we found a few things that seem to have been left by sister missionaries, but the sister missionaries moved out over 3 years ago. So I guess now that the apartment is clean enough to pass a mom inspection, nobody will clean it for another three years or more.

Zone conference went well enough. It was almost a week ago so I’m having trouble remembering what happened. I didn’t have to lead the music this time, which was a relief. I did give the closing prayer but that’s not a big deal.

We had a pretty bad teaching week this week. We were working with a couple of lists that the branches gave us, of people that they want us to contact and teach. That’s all fine and good but the directions are terrible. Stuff like “on the hill near tal street” and all sorts of other non specific directions. So there was lots of walking and not much teaching. We already got plenty of flack about our not-so-great numbers, and I’m sure president Gamboa won’t be pleased when he sees them either. On the other hand transfers are next week so we may not have to worry about it. I’m not worried about it anyway; we were working.

I got the package from gammy this week. Which means breakfast this morning was snickers and peanut butter. But don’t worry—I had some fruit too—sort of. Do fruit loops count? Hey, want to hear something weird? Latin music is growing on me. I can’t explain it. I think I’m finally starting to lose it. Maybe it’s because I have been separated from real music for so long. Hey I’m out of stuff to say. It’s not that I didn’t have anything to say, but it all seems to have left my mind. Meh. It was really just a slow, unpleasant week. I should probably answer mom’s questions to take up more space. Do Ecuadorians eat tortillas? Yes. But Ecuadorian tortillas are different. They are balls of corn bread with cheese in the middle. I have seen Mexican tortillas in the grocery store though. There is a decent amount of bakery type bread around as well; nothing special that you haven’t heard of but it’s pretty good—and only 10 cents a piece. I have not eaten anything weird lately. I did eat some corn jello, which was odd. Oh wait, I ate octopus. I don’t think I mentioned that before. It wasn’t bad but it’s very chewy, kind of like eating rubber. I’m healthy; no lingering dengue problems so don’t worry about that. Hey everyone sent a different funny story about the goofy stuff Andrea said this week. I think my favorite one is when Kayla told Andrea, “I’m cold” and Andrea told her “So? I am not a blanket!” Ha! That’s hilarious. Equally funny was the story of dad explaining where the wind comes from to Andrea and her not understanding dad’s science talk at all. Ok, now I’m out of stuff to say. Next week is transfers so I’m sure that will be interesting. I give me 75% chance of staying here and 25% chance of getting the boot. Well, I’m going to stop writing now. Ciao.

Te quiero,
Elder Walke