October, 2009

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY ANDREA!!!

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

¡Hola familia!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY ANDREA!!! Today she is four. Wow. That’s a big number. It’s a really big number when you consider that she was still two when I left. I have not been able to get that thought out of my head this week. She has had as many birthdays without me around as she had with me around. I also hit my one full year here in Ecuador this week so that was a pretty big marker as well. Back in my Babahoyo days Elder Mitton always used to talk about how that’s when you have “ecua-blood” because after a year all of your blood cells have been completely replaced.

And I had one more big marker pass this week because we had a baptism! My companion’s first baptism, of course, but it was also my 30th baptism. I don’t know if you guys have been counting but that’s where I’m at. I’m not the highest baptizing missionary in the world but I think that’s pretty good. I got dad beat anyway. Ha ha. I’m proud of the baptism too because it was an “eternal investigator” that most people in the ward thought would never commit to baptism. Her name is Bella; she is about 55 years old and when the members here found out she was getting baptized they were kind of in shock—I kind of am too. I was surprised when she finally said she was willing to commit. She came to General Conference and that is when she started to progress. A while after that we finally got her to commit to going to a baptismal interview (which Elder Elwood did right before he left) with a goal of getting baptized in December, but when she came out of the interview she said, “I’m getting baptized Saturday,” and she did. So overall it’s been a rather big week for me.  Work wise it was a little slow because we were stuck trying to manage two sectors this week and didn’t get as much time in my sector as I would have hoped. Part of that was because I had several baptism interviews to do, and of course Saturday was pretty much completely consumed in making the baptism happen. Most of the problems we had were direct results of the fact that Elder Elwood had to go and get himself assigned to the office.

Elder Barrientos still doesn’t have a new companion; he may or may not get a new one tonight, but when I asked the assistants about it yesterday they didn’t sound too promising. Other than that, things are humming along. I’m not anticipating any baptisms this Saturday but the next two are solid. We are teaching this one guy, his name is Wilfrido, and he used to live in the United States. He likes to read—nobody here likes to read—but he does; it’s amazing. He has already read most of the Book of Mormon and we only met him a couple of weeks ago. I have got to tell you, I have been here for a while now but I have never met anyone as cool as this guy. I don’t think I stress enough the lack of desire to read that most Ecuadorians have. He came to church yesterday for the first time and everything went well. He showed up in a suit, which I thought was funny, because he was the only one there in a suit. The rest of us just had a white shirt and tie. My companion is doing well; his Spanish is really coming along. He is teaching two or three principles in each lesson now, and he finished memorizing the scriptures from the first mile in the “maestro” this week as well. He is in better shape than I was when I had his time that’s for sure.

Health-wise we are both doing well—if you don’t count the occasional crazy guy trying to kill us with his car. Mom asked what kind of progress I have made since coming to Ecuador a year ago. As far as Spanish goes, I am still learning for sure but when people talk, I know what they say. And when I talk, people know what I am trying to say. It’s funny though because sometime when I talk to people they don’t even realize that I’m a gringo but other people tell me that my accent is so bad they can’t understand me. That doesn’t happen too often but it does still happen every now and then.

I have been learning that I talk in my sleep a lot. I guess my companion is a light sleeper and he says I talk in my sleep a couple of times every week. The funny part is he says that every time I’m talking it’s in Spanish and I’m teaching a lesson. I think that’s funny. If it was every now and then that would be something, but he says that it’s always in Spanish and I’m always teaching someone. So I guess I’m a missionary 24 hours a day! The weird part about the whole thing is that I never can remember what language my dreams are in; I may remember what was said in my dream but I never can remember if it was Spanish or English.

I don’t think we are going to have any big plans for Halloween this year. Last year Elder Fuentemavida took me out to pizza for dinner the night of Halloween; I think I may do the same this year. I’m still holding off on the thanksgiving plans because I don’t even know if I will be here for Thanksgiving. It’s not looking good though. I’m pretty sure either my companion or me will get the boot next week. They grow up so fast *tear*. But regardless of where I end up, I intend to celebrate Thanksgiving. And the very next day I’m putting up my fake plastic Christmas tree! Oh how I love that tree! I will probably use it in college too.

Well, that’s the news from eca-war (does Andrea still say that?). I will write you guys again next week. From where, I don’t know. Who my companion will be, I don’t know. But I will write.

Te quiero,

Elder Walke

Tyler and the Iguanas

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

¡Hola familia!

Something terrible happened yesterday. Elder Elwood got transferred! That annoyed me pretty bad. Saturday night President Gamboa called us at about 10:40, and any time he calls after 10:30 is always bad news. Two minutes of uh huhs and OKs later, Elder Elwood hangs up the phone and tells us about how he is going to the office to be the new secretary for the mission. So the plans for thanksgiving and Christmas are kind of shot. The worst part is that with Elder Elwood gone we are stuck in a trio again trying to manage two sectors. That should be interesting—again. The interesting part is that we were told that Elder Elwood’s replacement would be coming next week, and yet transfers are two weeks away. I guess it’s because 22 missionaries are going home this transfer and 8 of the 13 zone leaders, one of the assistants, and the secretary, along with a few district leaders are from this group. And apparently 4 of those zone leaders are heading home a week early, so the mission is about to be pretty much without leadership. So I guess President Gamboa is going to be doing a few early transfers so that the zones don’t fall apart without zone leaders or something. Elder Barrientos and I are acting zone leaders until next week but after that I have no idea what is happening. I have a feeling that when all is said and done either myself or Elder Muhlestein will get the boot from this sector so that’s sad. But that’s the mission for you.

We did go to the iguana park last week for p-day and I got a couple good pictures that Andrea should enjoy. As it turns out feeding iguanas is harder than just walking up and shoving a cracker in its mouth. First you have to find a hungry iguana then getting it to follow the cracker to the desired destination is kind of difficult. They won’t actually just walk up and take a cracker out of your mouth because they associate crackers in your fingers with food but any other combo and they get confused and walk off. It was a funny experience.

To answer mom’s questions, our teaching pool is doing well. We have been working on it for a long time but we are getting a fair amount of people to teach now. Now the trick will be to get them to progress. The people I baptized last change are doing well. They are coming to church and everything so that’s a good thing. Our extra responsibilities in this ward are few because it’s a strong ward and they are self sufficient. Its one of the few wards here that I don’t think would fall apart within a few months if they didn’t have us around to help run it. The youth program is also fairly big in this ward. Honestly, it’s a lot like your average ward in the States, but in Spanish.

So that’s the news. I hope you enjoyed it. Have a good week and I will talk to you soon.

Te quiero,

Elder Walke

The Sensitive Trainer

Monday, October 12th, 2009

¡Hola familia!

Hey folks how’s it going? Life’s good here in Ecuador. We are eating lots of rice and doing lots of walking. Funny story about that—the other day my companion told me he is sick of rice. I laughed. Maybe that was the wrong response. I probably should have put my arm around his shoulder and gave him a good pep talk that would motivate him to eat his rice with gusto. But I didn’t. But it’s all good. He is eating everything on his plate and all that stuff. I’m proud of him—my little boy is such a good eater. Of course it helps that most of the people here cook really good food for us; it’s probably my best sector food wise. And my companion is about 6 inches taller and 80 pounds heavier—that helps too.

Speaking of weight, I have been losing some pounds these days. I’m down to about 135 from 142 when I first got here. I think it’s all the hills because I’m still eating the same amount of food. I don’t understand it. I just want to stay in the 140 range but I keep losing weight. I’m thinking I might need to increase my peanut butter intake. I also found some awesome new breakfast foods to help out as well. Captain Crunch has returned to the grocery store! Yep, last week I got me a box of Peanut Butter and Crunch Berry Captain Crunch. And I also found some Quaker instant oatmeal so I’m pretty well off food wise.

Hey this was a big news week for me; I learned all sorts of interesting things from your emails. First off, Kyle is a giant now. That’s cool. When I left he was a lot shorter than me—now he is a lot taller—weird. And Bonnie is married—also weird. And I had no idea that Grandpa Ken was buddies with Elder Holland. That’s cool. I guess now they will probably get some crazy calling like, “establish the church in Palestine.” That would be interesting.

Wednesday we had interviews with president Gamboa. I thought to myself, “Well now that I’m a district leader I will probably have a longer interview.” And I was right; it was a lot longer than normal. I think I may have even broken two minutes. It made me laugh because I was wondering if I should be prepared with information about my district or something, but that turned out to be unnecessary. I also did my first baptismal interview this week. I was very nervous about doing that, but in the end everything went well.

Today we are going to go to the iguana park. I bet Andrea will be excited to hear that. So next week I promise to send a couple of pictures of iguanas eating Ritz crackers out of my mouth and similarly goofy pictures. We told my companion about that and he said he’s not interested. He will come and take pictures of us but he doesn’t want to risk kissing an iguana.

We have been having a lot of fun in the house because Elder Barrientos only speaks Spanish and my companion only speaks English but Elder Elwood and I speak both, so sometimes we see really funny moments arise because of the language barrier. Elder Elwood has been talking about doing something special for thanksgiving. He wants to make a pumpkin pie from scratch like dad did in his mission along with some other crazy stuff. It should be interesting to see what we end up doing.

Mom asked if we had taken “the bomb” pill yet, and the answer is no, I have not. The zone leaders got theirs at the zone leader conference which is how Elder Mitton and Elder Elwood got theirs but the rest of us mortals have to wait until zone conference. But no worries, I get mine next week. Elder Elwood said it made him feel a little sick to the stomach for a day or two but that’s it. Ok well I have to go feed some iguanas, talk to you next week!

Te quiero,
Elder Walke

Conference Weekend

Monday, October 5th, 2009

¡Hola familia!

Well this is going to be a pretty short letter because I am fighting with this computer trying to get all my pictures on my flash drive and send a couple home as well. I’m also going to make a CD of all my pictures to send home. I’m not sure if I ever mentioned this but in Babahoyo Elder Alferez managed to get a virus on one of my SD cards. Don’t ask me how but that’s what he did. Anyway I have always had to battle with that stupid thing and I’m basically going to burn a CD with all the pictures that are on it and send the CD home. Once you guys have the CD and have saved all the pictures, I’m just going to reformat that piece of junk and be done with it.

So conference was good. We didn’t have many investigators come though. Saturday before the first session we went by one of the people in our teaching pool (his name is Guido) to see if he was coming and he said he was sick and his wheelchair was broken anyway. It was true, his wheelchair was very broken. So Sunday morning we passed by again and he said he was feeling better but his chair was still broken so he still couldn’t go. I said, “If I get you a chair will you go?” And he said yes. So I was thinking, “Oh great, now what do I do?” So we went to the stake center and I started running around talking to the stake leaders looking for a chair. As it turns out, the church had one in storage; so I got permission from the stake president and after the first session we got a taxi and took the chair Guido. Then in our remaining time we were running around (literally running) in the Ecuadorian afternoon sun in suits trying to find the rest of the people we are teaching, to bring them to conference. None of whom came of course. But we did manage to get Guido to the last session of conference and the very first talk was Elder Holland talking about how the Book of Mormon is true. That was a good moment.

I uploaded a couple of pictures of me at “malecon,” which is a sort of tourist thing here in Guayaquil. I also put a picture of me holding a chunk of sugar cane with a mango in my mouth up as well. It’s sort of goofy but I like it. This letter is really short but I have to go. I’m still having trouble with my darn SD card too. Darn it all. Oh well. Please don’t kill me for not writing much. This is mom’s fault for asking for pictures. I love you guys. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.

Te quiero,
Elder Walke