December, 2009

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Christmas in Balzar

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

Hola familia!

So how was Christmas? Oh wait, I already know because I talked to you on the phone Friday. Yep, that was awesome. It was cool to hear everyone’s voices again and realize that you all sound the same. Although apparently I have a Spanish accent. I still don’t believe it. I swear when I speak English it sounds normal. But oh well, you guys are welcome to think what you want.

My Christmas went well enough. I know on the phone Christmas morning I said I didn’t have high hopes for teaching lessons that day but we had something of a Christmas miracle because we managed to teach 4 lessons. Actually we had a really good teaching week in general. We managed 35 lessons this week. I’m not sure if we had the highest numbers in the zone but we did get a lot higher than any of the Elders in my district. So that was cool. I was amazed because on Christmas Eve the entire city was up all night dancing and drinking alcohol and other such nonsense. It was a little hard for us to sleep because we live right off the main street and that is where the bulk of the action happens around here. New Year’s Eve promises to be interesting because then the party is about 100 times bigger and there is a lot of “año viejos” burning in the streets. Along with a ton of fireworks and other garbage that wont exactly help us sleep. I’m looking forward to it though because last year I didn’t get to see much of that stuff because the house wasn’t very close to the areas where the parties and burning of paper statues was going down and I was too sick to care anyway. Remember that is when I had my first Dengue experience. Speaking of which, it has now been 6 months since my last round of dengue. That means I’m about due for another! Yes! I love near death experiences! Ok maybe not near death; Dengue just makes you feel like you are near death. Good times, good times.

Hey I think it’s funny that Bishop Driggs told Nathan that missions are like a tithe on our life and that we have to give it our all for it to be a full tithe because I used the exact same line in my last district meeting. And I thought I was being creative.

I can now report that the cookies that mom sent in my package were in fact quite tasty. They were a little smashed and more dense than normal but I still really enjoyed them. Homemade cookies are the one food item that I have really been missing.

I have to say I still don’t get this hamster thing that Andrea got for Christmas. I guess it’s like when everyone was on the “lame robot dog” kick a few years ago. It helps that I still have not seen any of these robotic rats around Ecuador so I’m not really sure what the big deal with this thing is. But hey, if that’s what Andrea likes, that’s fine.

We have now reached my last email of 2009. Next time you hear from me it will be 2010. That’s weird. My “blackout year,” the one year of my mission that I spend 100% of in Ecuador, is now coming to a close. I can tell that I have been gone a long time because today all of the email I got from you guys mentioned how it was hard to say goodbye on the phone and how you miss me. I think your memory must be getting fuzzy. Remember when I left how all the talk was about how peaceful and calm the house would be without me around to cause trouble with all my usual crazy antics? Anyway, this was the last big phone call. The next one is in 4 ½ months, much shorter than this last 7 ½ month wait until the Christmas call. And after the next call I will only have a couple of months left so that call won’t be a big deal anyway.

So grandma and grandpa also might drive up with me and Kayla when we head to BYU? That’s cool. The list of people going on this road trip seems to be growing these days. Originally it was just going to be me and Kayla but now we have a whole car full. Pretty soon we will have a whole caravan heading up to send me and Kayla off to college.

I liked the story about Nathan being accidentally funny in his farewell talk Sunday. If something like that hadn’t happened, it just wouldn’t have been Nathan. Ok have a good week and I will write you guys next decade!

Te quiero,
Elder Walke

The News from Balzar

Thursday, December 24th, 2009

¡Hola familia!

So today is Monday and I will be talking to you on Friday. Uh, I never know what to say on these emails right before and right after talking to you guys. Luckily it’s a problem that I have only had to deal with twice before, and will only have again one more time. Man I’m old. Do you realize that yesterday I hit 16 months? That’s 2/3 of my mission. That scares me. I was thinking about asking for an extension but realized that with BYU starting right when I get back I may need to head out a week or two early, so that plan went down the drain. I pretty much just try to not think about it.

Oh hey guess what, we had zone conference on Friday and Elder Mitton’s zone was not there so I will never see him again in the mission field. But both Elder Elwood and Elder Frye were there so it was ok. Zone conference was a little crazy this round because we went to the temple and our bus was really late getting to Guayaquil for some reason so we got to the temple and everyone was already there and we almost didn’t make it. We walked in and President Gamboa gives me this look like, “I don’t know and I don’t want to know why you are so late,” and I felt terrible of course. Oh well, it happens. Hopefully it will keep me off the list of future assistants to the president. They cut the office staff from 6 missionaries to 4 so now there is even more incentive to avoid getting assigned to the office at all costs. I think Elder Elwood is adjusting more or less but I don’t think he is enjoying the office life. He did tell me a funny story when we were eating lunch though. He said one of the new gringos recognized him from a picture he saw on my blog. He said something like, “Hey you were on the sky gondola of death with Elder Walke,” or something like that. I guess he was asking about me and stuff. Elder Elwood said, “It’s weird that people know who I am,” and I said, “Hey dude, welcome to my world.”

So we were supposed to have a baptism on Christmas day. It was going to be awesome. Really it was. But the darn guy went and got sick. He still wants to get baptized but he is just not going to be able to do so on Friday. Just my luck. Ok so this letter is a little jumpy but back to zone conference. So I got to meet the Elders from my district. I have several guys in there that I have met before—in fact almost all of them:  Elder Hynes, Elder Luthman, Elder Casteñeda, and Elder Baum. There are a couple other missionaries in my district but I don’t know them. Elder Hynes I met back in Babahoyo in my second change so I have known him for a long time. He was Elder Mitton’s MTC companion. In other words, he will be dead this January. Elder Luthman was in my zone in manta but I don’t know him very well. Elder Casteñeda came to Ecuador the same day as me. I say “came” but he was already here; he’s an Oltavaleño. I should say he got to Guayaquil the same day as me. And Elder Baum is from Elder Muhlestein group. It’s a pretty good district. I’m looking forward to this change.

I opened the packages from mom today. Pretty awesome stuff. I’m sure the other guys from my district will enjoy the stuff too. The temple workers gave the missionaries gifts when we had zone conference so between that and the calendar and the random CD I will have 3 gifts to open for Christmas. I already pretty much know the contents of all three but its something. Oh and the Reese’s cake thing looks awesome. I’m making it for Christmas breakfast I think. The stockings for Elder Barrientos and Elder Rodriguez will not be making it to them for Christmas sadly. But hey, it’s not my fault. I already gave one pair of insoles to Elder Lopez and I will try to give the other two pairs away at district meeting on Wednesday. Elder Lopez really needed them; his insoles are literally bits of cardboard and plastic that he cut to fit his shoe so he was happy to receive the replacements. Ok I have said enough for now. I’ll talk to you guys soon!

Te quiero,
Elder Walke

Transfer to Balzar

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

¡Hola familia!

I feel the need to apologize ahead of time because this email will be a little short. I wrote some other rather lengthy letters to other people and now I find myself short on time to write to the rest of you. First off, I got transferred. I now find myself in the city of Balzar. Sorry for not building up to the grand revelation of where my new sector is but I just don’t have time to be lame right now. Sorry guys, I know you enjoy that kind of stuff. The weird part is that I got transferred on Thursday. Boy was that a mess. I don’t think I should talk about it either because I won’t be able to do so without a heavy amount of complaining. Needless to say, there were several aspects of this round of transfers that I didn’t like. Plus, I missed Cecilio and Israel’s baptisms! Man, I don’t even know if they got baptized! But now I’m here, in Elder Goode’s first sector. And I’m with one of Elder Frye’s old companions; Elder Lopez is his name. Yep, once you get to be an old missionary like me your world just gets smaller and smaller.

Balzar reminds me a lot of Jipijapa because, like Jipijapa, it’s a small city in the middle of nowhere. I have to take a bus for an hour and a half in order to get to district meeting every week, and the grocery store is really small. You should know that I really do love small towns in Ecuador; I think I will enjoy this sector.

The reason I didn’t comment on your thanksgiving pictures is because I never got them. Could you send them again? That would be cool. I did get the two pictures of Andrea today; she is way too big now. It really blows my mind. Tell Gammy, Grandma, and Grandpa thanks for the Christmas present. I will put it to good use I promise. Well as promised this week you get a short letter. Oh well, I will be calling you on the phone soon anyway. Talk to you next week!

Te quiero,
Tyler

Super Pday and the Burger Prize

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

¡Hola familia!

It’s P-day. But not just any P-day, its SUPER P-day! Back in the old days, when I was a new missionary, I thought super P-day was something good. But now I know, it just means I have to clean more than usual. Today I was on kitchen duty and I felt inspired to move the microwave over and clean underneath it. Big mistake. I think I may have been the first person to ever feel the inspiration to do so in that house. I don’t want to give the impression that we don’t do a lot of cleaning, but it’s true that there are some areas that nobody ever thinks to clean under. After all, you have to consider that we are just a bunch of 19-21 year old guys. So be proud mom, I cleaned something which has never been cleaned before! And yet, no matter how much I clean, mom still finishes her letters with “clean your house” or some other similar variation. Ironically, while the rest of the house is very clean right now, I still have not gotten around to my room. Well, to be more specific, it’s my closet that I need to get around to. It’s a little disorganized. Ok so I still have some work to do before I become a clean freak like mom. But hey we are supposed to become perfect, line upon line and precept upon precept, here a little and there a little—strong emphasis on the “little” part.

Oh, Ecuador finally got copies of the conference edition Ensign. I still don’t have a copy in English but I do just fine with the Spanish edition these days. Hey did you guys like the First Presidency’s Christmas devotional last night? It was awesome right? Ok so I guess you might not have seen it since nobody mentioned it but I did enjoy it. I had been looking forward to it all month actually. Partly because I miss snow and I wanted to see shots of Temple Square with snow and Christmas lights. I was not disappointed. I also enjoyed the talks; they were good, and it made me feel more like we are in the Christmas season. And I have to be honest; those moments are few and far between because it has been just plain hot this week. I did put up my awesome Christmas tree and fireplace the day after Thanksgiving, like I said I would, and my guitar Christmas music CD helps, but I have been having a hard time getting into the whole “Christmas spirit” thing.

Elder Abriel tells me that I have a couple of packages from you guys that have arrived. I have not seen them yet but he tells me they exist. I should get them Wednesday. So I have a couple of new funny stories for you guys about Elder Muhlestein this week. We were eating lunch one day and we were about done when the mamita asked Elder Muhlestein if he wanted more rice. He turns and looks at me like “translate that please” and I told him, “She wants to know if you liked the rice,” and he looks at the mamita and says, “Uh huh, yep,” and before he could say another word she throws a couple of large spoonfuls of extra rice on his plate. He just stared at it for a second and then he looked up at me and said, “I hate you,” and got to work on round two. I don’t know what inspired me to mistranslate but it was pretty funny. Luckily Elder Muhlestein is a big guy and was able to knock back that rice with relative ease—sort of.

Ok time for story number 2. There is a sort of wild pepper that grows in Ecuador that is called a “rat pepper.” It’s really small and very spicy. I happened to notice a bush loaded with them a few days ago and I told Elder Muhlestein to try one. He bit a little off of the end of one and I guess he decided it wasn’t so bad, so he popped the whole thing in his mouth. Those things are powerful so of course the usual display of watering eyes and red face occurred after he ate it. Sort of like a small scale version of my jabeñero incident back in the MTC. The interesting part was when he decided to wipe his eye. Apparently he still had some pepper juice on his hand because he started saying, “Ah my eye!” So we bought some water and he poured about half the bottle on his eye and the other half in his mouth. Afterwards he claimed that it wasn’t that bad and that he would eat another one, just without wiping his eye the next time.

To close this super P-day edition of the Walke weekly report, I would just like to say that today I will be eating a burger for dinner—and it will be free. I’m not sure how it got started but a few weeks ago Elder Barrientos was making some outrageous claim about how they could out teach us any day; so that somehow led to a contest of who could teach the most lessons in a week, with the prize being a hamburger. So last week we won. In fact, we killed them. We beat them by 7 lessons or some ridiculous number like that. So last Monday they bought us burgers. Then Elder Barrientos claimed that they would for sure win this week and wanted to up the prize to a burger and a shake. I guess he thought the first time was a fluke or something. We agreed and once again we creamed them. So tonight Elder Muhlestein and I will enjoy a delicious burger and shake, compliments of Elder Barrientos and Elder Rodriguez. For the record I have not heard any suggestions that we will have the contest again this week.

That’s the news this week guys; chances are good that I will get changed next Monday, now that I have been with Elder Muhlestein for 2 transfer cycles. But I never do guess right when it comes to changes, so I will talk to you next week. I will probably still be in Ecuador but more than that, I don’t know. Have a great week!

Te quiero,
Elder Walke

Last Thanksgiving Day in Ecuador

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

¡Hola familia!

Sup guys! How was the turkey? What’s it like to have a vacation? I remember those days. Sort of. I personally didn’t have any turkey but it wasn’t a big deal because I have never been a big turkey fan anyway. I did manage the apple pie though. Man was that a mess. The whole story is this. I went to the bread store and asked them to make the fore mentioned pie and they said, “Ok but we will need more time. I don’t think your order will be ready today,” and I said, “No, it has to be today; if its any day after today it doesn’t matter!” But they insisted that it takes a long time to make 200 pies. Um…yeah. I don’t know how that little mix up came about. Luckily they still had not started making the pies so I wasn’t stuck with a 500 dollar bill. That would have been really bad. And then I learned that they were confused as to what exactly I wanted them to make; but after 20 min of explaining, again, what a pie is, I made them understand. Finally, I had my order. That night I went back to pick it up and it was awesome. Really. I was surprised. I didn’t think it would turn out but they made a legit apple pie based off of my explanation. My Spanish must be getting good. The only difference is that the pie they made me was square instead of round but it was close enough. Then I had to go buy some vanilla ice cream, of course, because apple pie without vanilla ice cream is a sin. It’s like using tennis shoes without socks—you just don’t do it. Anyway, then we bought a pizza for the main course (Hawaiian) and Elder Muhlestein said that if we were buying all this food we might as well buy some rolls because that’s an important part of thanksgiving too. I concurred so we returned to the bread shop and bought some rolls. It turned out to be a really good meal. We put on my CD of Christmas music on acoustic guitar and ate food and talked about Thanksgivings past. That was possible because Elder Rodriquez celebrates thanksgiving. As it turns out parts of Mexico celebrate it; who knew? It was however Elder Barrientos’ first thanksgiving. He enjoyed it. We took a bunch of pictures and stuff and ate lots of food. We even had leftovers. We didn’t manage to eat all of the pie. So it was a proper thanksgiving because if you eat a Thanksgiving [meal] and you don’t have leftovers, you didn’t make enough food. The cool part was that the clean up for our meal was 5 min. I bet none of you spent that little in the clean up. All in all I really enjoyed it. You don’t have Thanksgivings like that too many times in your life, that’s for sure. And the best part is, since that was my last thanksgiving as a missionary, I will never work Thanksgiving day ever again. I have to tell you, it’s really annoying to work all day knowing that there are millions of people in the United States, including my family and friends, who are not doing anything besides eating and talking. But seriously, I did have a good Thanksgiving. In total the pie cost 7 dollars, the pizza 9 dollars, the vanilla ice cream 3 dollars, and the rolls 40 cents (10 cents per roll), in case you were wondering. We had to be pretty careful with our money for a couple weeks in order to pay for it all. I went to bed a little hungry once or twice because of it. But it was worth it.

So I saw the picture of Kayla and I have to say, she loses. She looks just the same as when I left! And I thought you guys were going to send a picture of Thanksgiving, what happened with that? Oh well. Oh so news on Cecilio—we found him. And he still wants to get baptized. Hurrah! So he has a baptismal date for the 12th of December. I hope it happens but we are going to have to work hard because his life is a little out of whack still.

But we have been working hard. We had the best numbers in the zone this week. Except for that big fat zero for our baptisms this week. But hopefully that will change Saturday. I guess I forgot to tell you about zone conference. It was good, but it didn’t do anything to help my feelings that the lack of baptisms for me and my district are my fault. I walked away thinking, “Well, there is a lot of things I am doing wrong as a district leader.” But its ok; I’m not depressed about it. I guess I came off a little down in my last letter. That’s what mom says anyway. It’s just, that’s the kind of stuff I worry about these days. I really am happy. Just a little busy is all. Ok well I hope you are doing good. I can’t believe I will talk to you guys in a few weeks. It’s been what, 6 or 7 months since I talked to you guys? That’s a long time. Have a good week folks!

Te quiero,
Elder Walke