September, 2009

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Elder Walke’s New “Son”–Elder Muhlestein

Monday, September 28th, 2009

¡Hola familia!

Happy Monday! Oh man, where do I start? So I guess I will start by saying that my kid is white. So that’s cool. I was pretty scared Tuesday night before we picked up the new missionaries. I couldn’t sleep and I kept thinking of all the things I needed to do to get ready and how not ready I felt. Wednesday was sort of a crazy day. In the morning, one of the assistants called and told us not to worry about lunch because they were going to get us something, and then we showed up at the stake center to get our kids, President Gamboa asked us what our lunch plans were; so we had to go out and look for something to eat and then come back. After we got back we went into the chapel and President Gamboa had us sit with the new missionaries while he talked to us for a bit. I think it was to build suspense, or something, about who their trainer was. I didn’t really like it because at the end he just sort of announced the companionships and we just went and took pictures—sort of anti climactic. It’s funny because there were four white trainers and four white missionaries so we sort of figured that the gringos would be training the gringos; but as it turned out, I was the only white guy to get a gringo companion. His name is Elder Muhlestein by the way. And because his name is really long and complicated to type, he will hereby be referred to as “my companion” in this and all future letters.

It has been interesting to work with him the last few days because it has really underscored how much I have learned and how much I still need to learn. Take Spanish for example. He speaks Spanish about like I did, and it has been interesting for me to see just how much I have learned in that respect, but I have also realized there are still a whole lot of little things that I can tweak grammar wise. The other day he was asking me a question about the subjunctive Spanish conjugations and I said, “I have no idea what that is,” and then he showed me in his grammar book and I still had no idea. I thought maybe it was just something they don’t use in Ecuador so I asked Elder Elwood and he said, “No, they use that all the time; it’s actually pretty important.” So I was thinking, great a really important grammar principle and I don’t even know what it is; my Spanish is terrible. Then the next day I was talking to someone, and I realized I said something using that conjugation, and I got excited because I realized I really do use it; I just didn’t ever realize it. It sort of blew my mind that I managed to pick up on an important grammar principle without noticing. The downside about learning Spanish the way I learned it is that when I correct my companion he asks me why its not correct and I just say, “I have no idea but I can tell you that what you have written is not right and what I’m saying is right.” So then I have to direct him to Elder Elwood who can not only speak correctly but can explain to you why he is speaking correctly as well. And now that I have an American companion my Spanish is getting all out of whack because I keep speaking English to the Ecuadorians and Spanish to my companion. There is a whole lot more I could say about my Spanish-English problems but you guys get the idea.

Being district leader turns out to be easier than I thought it would be. It’s still plenty of work but it’s not too bad. Being a trainer turns out to be way harder than I thought it would be. There are times when I wonder why I wanted to train an American so bad. It’s not that my companion isn’t a good guy, but training a new missionary who doesn’t speak Spanish is a lot of work. I have to teach 95% of the lessons and take care of all the other business, and at the same time making sure that I am having my companion helping and learning as well. I’m not going easy on him either. I already had him teach the entire Adam and Eve story and talk about the importance of agency and stuff. It was a couple of minutes long and I will admit it was pretty rough, but the Ecuadorians understood the intent of the message I think. I was going to have him teach the entire first vision last night but the appointment fell thru. He asked me if I had to teach an entire principle like that my first week and I said, “Nope, but you are not me.” I guess I have been working him pretty hard, but he is doing well. But I have been trying to not be too hard on him. The latest we can come home at night is 9:30 pm, which is normally when I come home, but with my new companion we have been going home at 9 pm, which is the earliest we should be going back. Being a missionary makes a person tired so I try to help him get as much sleep as he can, which I think he is very grateful for. The annoying part is that our teaching pool is still not looking too great. It was made worse when Sunday almost nobody we were teaching showed up to church. I was pretty devastated because I was counting on having four baptisms on the 10th of October, but now it’s looking like we will only have one.

This week is also going to be a really heavy work week as we gear up for general conference and try to get everyone in our entire sector to go to the stake center. Plus I have to prepare my class for district meeting, which I have not even begun to write. And I think I have a few baptismal interviews that I have to do this week. I’m a little scared about that one because I have never done one before and don’t know what to expect. On Thursday we are doing splits. I know that it sounds crazy to send my brand new English-only companion off with a member, but it’s only for an hour and he’s going to be with a returned missionary, so he will be ok and it will be good for him anyway.

Today we went to “Malecon” which is basically a nice park-type thing here in Guayaquil. I got a couple of nice pictures while I was there as well. Ok, I’m running out of time; I’m going to have to cut this letter short. I’m sure you want more info but I’m afraid it will have to wait. Have a great week! Learn lots of good stuff at general conference!

Te quiero,
Elder Walke

Tyler Gets to Train

Monday, September 21st, 2009

¡Hola familia!

I’M A DADDY!!!!!! Well, he’s not here yet. I pick him up Wednesday but I will be training this change. I was pretty darn excited when the assistants called last night and told me that I’m going to have posterity; but now I’m a little scared as well. Will he be Latin or gringo? What if he doesn’t like me? What will his first words be? Oh man, I’m going to teach him how to play ball, how to ride a bike, and… Wait, we don’t do any of that stuff here. Ok I’m going to teach him to eat all the rice that the mamita gives him, how to knock doors, how to survive without air conditioning. Yep, that’s what I’ll do. And guess what else? Elder Elwood got transferred to my house! He is our new zone leader! That’s almost as good as training! The only downside in all of this is that President Gamboa also asked me to be a district leader. That part I’m not so excited about. With the whole training a new missionary thing going on, trying to manage a district is one burden I don’t really need. Mostly I just don’t want to teach the class every Wednesday in district meeting. I know it seems kind of dumb that I’m worried about teaching a class once a week when I teach several every day but teaching a bunch of missionaries scares me. Apparently I’m supposed to teach them how to be better, more effective teachers and such. On top of that I will also have interchanges and baptismal interviews, so its looking like I’m going to have a pretty stress-filled 6 weeks coming up. Anyway I have just decided to take it as it comes and accept whatever the Lord sees fit to inflict upon me.

As you may have guessed by now, Elder Romero is gone. But he didn’t go far; his new sector is about 20 min from here. So I will probably see him in zone conferences. He was sad to leave. I don’t blame him; this is a pretty great sector. I guess that’s why President Gamboa always seems to have someone training here. Oh, we also managed to pull off our marriage/baptism. It was great. It was a good baptism to go out on for Elder Romero. Ivan got married at 4:30 pm on Friday, at 6 pm we had his baptismal interview, and the next day at 7 pm he got baptized. Everything went off surprisingly smoothly. I’m worried about the baptism situation for this next change because I would like to have a lot of baptisms with my kid but its looking like we will probably pull about three. Now that’s not bad but I would like to pull another really awesome change like we did with Elder Romero. The problem is that this week I don’t think we will be having any baptisms and the next week is general conference; we can’t baptize the week of general conference because there is no sacrament meeting to do the confirmation. I’m going to see what I can’t do to get us a baptism this week so that my son can baptize his first week in the mission. We shall see.

Oh and by the way, the package you guys sent got here without being opened or messed with at all, as far as I can tell. The Captain Crunch was just fine. It wasn’t compressed at all—I was surprised. Tell the girls thanks for the letters and that it made my day, and thanks for taking the time to write them. Any time I get letters it makes me happy, and when I get a whole stack of them I’m even happier.

As for what I want for Christmas, um… I have no idea. I still have the Christmas tree and stuff you sent last year. I would like to get another one of those photo calendars like you sent last year. I do like that calendar. Every time we have a baptism, I write the name of the person on the day they were baptized, so it’s kind of my way of keeping track of people. I’m sure there are all sorts of stuff I should tell you guys about this week but I’m short on time and my mind is in other places right now as I’m trying to get everything ready for the new addition to the family. Ok have a good week and I will talk to you soon.

Te quiero,

Elder Walke

A Missionary’s Dream

Sunday, September 20th, 2009

Note from Elder Walke’s dad:  I received this note from Tyler a few weeks back (separate from his regular email) and decided to share this interesting experience he had.  This is the kind of experience that reminds us that the heavens are still open and that all of us can receive revelation when such is needed.
__________________________

September 7, 2009

Hey, so I had a cool mission experience this week. We had been trying unsuccessfully for a few weeks to get into contact with someone the missionaries had met before I arrived. We had her telephone number and everything but she never answered and she was never home when we knocked her door. So we had pretty much given up, but a few nights ago I had a dream that the girl (her name is Yulisa) came up to me in the street and said, “Hey I want you guys to come to my house. I need you to teach me the gospel so that I can be baptized.”  So then I told her that we would visit her and then I woke up. That night in daily planning I remembered the dream so I told Elder Romero we needed to make one more attempt at visiting Yulisa. He agreed and the next day we went to her house. When we knocked on her door she answered, and after we started talking she said, “Wow you guys are pretty lucky; I usually don’t come home this early but I was feeling bad so I left work early.” Then, without us asking, she told us about how she had been robbed and had a new telephone number, which she gave us before we could even ask about it. The weirdest part is that she was the exact same girl from my dream—skin color, eye color, how tall she was—it was all the same, right down to the shirt she was wearing.

Elder Tyler Walke
Ecuador Guayaquil North Mission

And Then There Were Three

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

¡Hola familia!

I’m really tired, which is to say, I’m feeling really normal. Honestly, I don’t think I’m any more tired than I was in high school but at least then I could just sleep through English or something. I have found that it’s pretty hard to sleep and walk uphill at the same time but that skill is in development. Elder Vega went home. I don’t know if I ever mentioned this, but this was his last change. So now he is gone and we are stuck in a trio here with his companion trying to manage two sectors. I’m not particularly fond of trios but Elder Barrientos has his own sector to worry about so for the most part he doesn’t bug me about how I’m running mine.

And speaking of my sector, we did manage to have our baptism this week. We ended up having to have it Sunday to make everything work because of various scheduling conflicts. But we had it. So all is good with the world, and if we can just pull off the marriage/baptism that we have planned for this weekend, that will make 5 out of 6 weeks of baptisms with 6 baptisms total. Not bad. That also means this was the second best change of my mission so far. But I won’t be able to send any pictures this week, sorry mom. I do back up my pictures so don’t worry about that. I’m going to work on putting a package together for you guys soon that will include all the pictures I have not sent, plus the videos I told you about. You should expect it in 6 to 8 months. Ha ha. I really have had the intention of sending you guys some stuff for a while now but every Monday I just seem to not have enough time to do it all.

Next week is transfers and if my companion goes, then I for sure won’t have time to do it. Elder Vega says I’m training for sure but anytime a zone leader has told me some thing was going to happen “for sure” it didn’t happen. But who knows? Maybe I will get my wish.

Oh yeah, I got the package from you guys this week. It was funny because we got it Wednesday but Elder Vega had to leave Thursday, so he was trying to get me to open it that night instead of waiting until Monday. I said, “Hey, if this package means so much to you, call president Gamboa and YOU ask him permission to open MY package.” So he did—and he got permission. It was pretty funny. I’m still not sure how he talked the mission president into it. Then he tried to talk me into giving him the gel insoles that were in the package. I was not swayed. Then he tried to get me to give him the awesome hymn book that gammy gave me before I left. The excuse he gave was “so he could remember how cool I am.” I told him that I was not his girlfriend and he would have to find some other way to remember me. But I was sad to see him leave; we had a lot of fun this change—probably too much.

So, mom wants to know if it’s possible to make it for your entire mission on two pairs of shoes. Yes it’s possible. But only if both pairs are really really good and nothing happens to them (a.k.a., a dog bites a chunk out of one, or you get robbed and they steal your shoes too—yep that happens sometimes). So is it possible? Yes. Would I recommend it? Nope.

Ok, my time grows short; if you don’t get an email too quick next week, it probably means that Elder Romero got the boot. There is always the off chance that I will go, but I’m not counting on it. Well, good luck with your endeavors and talk to you next week.

Te quiero,
Elder Walke

Food on My Mind

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009

¡Hola familia!

How was your week? Mine was sort of slow and full of hills and humidity. Which is to say, it was a fairly normal week. No baptism this week. Sad I know. We did have one planned but it fell through. So that kills my dream of baptisms every week for a full transfer. But we do have baptisms for next week and the week after that are fairly solid so 5 out of 6 isn’t so bad. After that things get interesting because we have pretty much baptized the entire program so it looks like I will be knocking a lot of doors in the near future. But such is life.

We had zone conference this week. It was a pretty good one because Elder Pino of The Seventy randomly showed up and talked to us for about 30 min about the importance of the work we are doing. It was pretty awesome. Hey, I’m glad to hear that I will be getting Captain Crunch soon. There was a time when you could buy such cereal here and I still can’t figure out why they took it off the market. It probably has something to do with those new import laws Ecuador put in place. I don’t know. I don’t follow politics anymore; all I know is that I can’t buy Captain Crunch and it makes me sad. Speaking of politics, they had some sort of anti-Chaves rally here in Guayaquil. Don’t ask me why. I thought Ecuador was best friends with that guy, but I guess times are changing. So because of that we were not allowed to leave the house until 1:00 pm as a precaution. Other than that it was pretty much a nonevent for me.

I think it’s funny that Andrea was worried about what I am eating for breakfast. Actually my area isn’t as big here as it was in Babahoyo or Jipijapa so I don’t have to spend a lot of money on buses. I got so used to living on a super tight budget that now that my budget isn’t so tight, I don’t know what to do with my money. I did buy an especially good jam last week though. Its orange jam. I have never heard of such a thing so, of course, I had to try it. As it turns out, it’s very tasty. And it makes one mean PB&J. Which has led the other elders in the house to start making sandwiches using MY peanut butter and MY jam. This morning Elder Vega ran out of bread so he even used MY bread to make his stolen snack. I keep telling them, “If you really want a peanut butter sandwich, buy some peanut butter!”  But they don’t listen. [Editors note:  This is Elder Walke being humorous.  He really doesn’t mind sharing his PB&J with his fellow missionaries]

Speaking of food stories, last night I had an interesting food experience. We went over to visit an inactive family and they offered us dinner. We had to accept because to refuse food here is the quickest way to ensure that the entire family will hate you. So they brought out the usual mountain of rice, chunk of chicken and odd looking unidentified side dish. The only problem was that this food was clearly left over from lunch and had not been stored in a fridge. The best part was that the unidentified side dish had mayonnaise and boiled egg bits in it. Any reasonable person would have simply refused to eat such a dish (but then again any reasonable person would have refused to serve something like that) so we dug in. I do realize that this is dumber than paying 10 dollars in Tony Roma’s but I do want to emphasize that I really didn’t have a choice. So I ate it. All of it. My companion couldn’t finish his. He just couldn’t choke down all of unidentified side dish. When we left he said, “Oh man, I think I’m going to throw up,” and then tried to do so several times but he never did. He did spent a lot of time stuck in the bathroom that night though. I managed to get out of it unscathed, despite having eaten more. I can’t decide if it was because the part I ate happened to have been less contaminated or if I just have a hardcore immune system after having been here so long; but I never did feel more than a slight stomach ache.

I guess I just have food on my mind right now but I feel inclined to tell you that it’s almost mango season here in Ecuador. The trees are full of green mangos and a few are almost ripe. That means pretty soon there will be so many mangos here that the people won’t know what to do with them. At peak mango season the price of mangos drops to zero for all intents and purposes because everywhere we go people are going to say, “Hey Elders are you hungry? Here take ten mangos.” So if you have any recipes that involve mangos, now would be the time to send them.

Mom asked about my ward so I’m going to answer that now because it’s a non food related question. There are about 180 people in church on any given Sunday. We usually don’t have to give the classes or talks, but this week the teacher for the gospel principles class was sick so we had to take over. It wasn’t a big deal though; the subject of the class was “missionary work”.

So that’s the news. I hope you enjoyed it. Talk to you next week!

Te quiero,
Elder Walke

Expensive Chicken, Rebuilding a Fence

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009

¡Hola familia!

So I’m feeling pretty tired. We were playing sports as a zone today and now I feel just plain beat. It doesn’t help that I have been tired all this week and today is my only chance to catch up on that, but instead we played sports for a couple hours and drank lots of Pony Malta. Luckily we have zone conference this week so I will have a small rest-like moment this week. We had our baptism Saturday. That was cool. That makes three straight weeks of baptisms for us. We are going for 6 straight weeks of baptisms but it’s looking pretty shaky from here on out.

Oh funny story, last Monday when we were at the mall trying to decide where to eat, Elder Vega said, “I’m sick of eating McDonalds, let’s eat something different.” So we started looking around and noticed a Tony Roma’s off in the corner. I said, “Hey in the States that place is expensive but maybe we can find something reasonably priced here.” So we figured we would give it a try. Big mistake. I knew we were in trouble when we sat down and someone from the staff walks over and says, “Just so you know, we don’t accept $100 bills.” I looked over at Elder Vega and I said, “We need to leave—now.” But he didn’t want to face the shame of having to walk out the door, so we took our menus and started looking intently for something we could afford on the menu. Nada. Long story short, we ended up eating chicken; really good chicken, but still chicken. Cheapest thing on the menu, and we still spent $10 a piece. And right now dad is laughing at me and saying, “Yep, there is still a whole lot of dumb in that boy.” Oh well, live and learn.

If this letter ends up being sort of short this week, I’m sorry. But I’m trying to get pictures uploaded and it’s a pain. That’s what I get for using computers in a place where they only charge 70 cents an hour for internet access. Honestly, uploading pictures is just an excuse to not have to write as much because I am drawing a serious blank as to what I did this week. I just can’t remember what I did. I’m sure it was something important, and it probably involved going up and down hills a lot. Yep I do remember lots of hills.

Oh yeah, we had another service project this week. We tried to make a fence. I say tried because I’m not sure if it was a success. We did manage to get the polls buried nicely. After that things sort of went down hill. The goal was to reconstruct a fence that was falling down using the existing materials and a few new nails. We did manage to make a fence like thing that wasn’t falling down but boy is it ugly. It probably looked better before when it was falling down. The sun was strong that day so I also managed to burn part of the back of my neck and about 2 square inches on my arms. It wasn’t that bad of a burn but I’m sure mom still isn’t pleased.

Hey I’m having mild success with the pictures. I’m not sure if I will get all of them uploaded but there are a few new ones for you. Not that I have been taking many pictures these days. In the picture with three guys eating pizza (from my 1 year mark celebrations) Elder Vega is the guy in the blue shirt and the other guy holding pizza is my comp. The last guy is Elder Barrientos, of course. Well now I really do have to go. Sorry my letter isn’t so great this week. Good luck in your school-filled lives.

Te quiero,
Elder Walke