January, 2010

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Time to Lead the Zone

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

¡Hola familia!

So transfers have come and gone. I got transferred. I was shocked. So now I’m in Portoviejo, and I’m a zone leader. That was the most shocking part of all. I don’t know why, I don’t know how, but somehow President Gamboa decided that I should be a zone leader. Surprised? I was. I was feeling a little overwhelmed and very under qualified at first because I don’t feel that I’m the best option, but I’m starting to settle in. Sadly, I got transferred Friday morning instead of Monday so I didn’t get to see Elder Mitton but oh well.

So the zone leaders called Thursday night and told me I was getting transferred and that was surprise number one because I was only in Balzar for 6 weeks and was really looking forward to spending the next change in Balzar because the last couple of weeks we started teaching some really cool people and things were starting to go well. Plus we had a cool new apartment to look forward to. I was also sort of hoping that I would be training again this change. I never did get to move into the new apartment. We took care of all the contracts and worked everything out with the office, but we had to wait until Wednesday to receive a contract signed by president Gamboa to terminate the rent in the old house. So the zone leaders called and said “Elder Walke, you are getting transferred to Portoviejo, to the Andres de Vera sector. Do you know what that means?” I didn’t. But as it turns out, that’s the name of the zone leaders sector in Portoviejo. The best part is that I was on the bus a long time to get to my new sector. I had to leave Balzar at 4 in the morning in order to be in Guayaquil around 7:30-8 am. And of course I had to pack. I wasn’t told I was being transferred until almost 11 pm and didn’t finish packing until 3am. I take forever to pack. I was afraid that it would do more harm than good to only sleep for an hour, so I spent the last hour before I had to leave writing letters. And then I ended up sitting around in the terminal. When I got there I ended up talking to the other missionaries for 2 hours until the assistants finally gave me the all clear to leave for Portoviejo—a 4 hour bus ride. Of course, I was unable to sleep at all during the entire trip, so I got to Portoviejo very, very tired. Then I met my new companion, Elder Fonseca, of no relation to our next door neighbors as far as I know—unless they have distant relatives from Bolivia. Although Elder Fonseca says he has family ties to Brazil and Paraguay as well so who knows?

There turns out to be a lot more to being a zone leader than I originally thought. The good news is I no longer have to teach district meeting every week. But unfortunately it doesn’t mean I don’t have to do a lot of teaching, because next Sunday we are supposed to give a two hour presentation to train the bishops and other stake leaders on how to create a ward mission plan, how to apply the new “Perry Plan” in the stake, and a list of other missionary related stuff that Elder Fonseca and I are working on. Then in February we have another similar meeting to train the ward mission leaders and ward missionaries in the stake. Plus we have a monthly coordination with the stake president to make sure everything is running smoothly in Portoviejo. And that’s just the stake level responsibilities.

Saturday we did inspections of the missionary’s apartments that we are supposed to do at the end of every change and that burned a lot of cash because we had to take a lot of taxis to get to all the houses that morning. Then Saturday night we had a baptism and the bishop asked me to give a talk the next day in sacrament meeting because one of the speakers wouldn’t be able to make it. My talk went pretty well I think. It was a pain to do, especially because I didn’t have time to write it Saturday night so I ended up preparing it 5 minutes before sacrament meeting. Luckily I was the second speaker so I only had to talk for 10 minutes. Then after sacrament meeting I went over to the gospel principles class and as it turns out, our ward has no gospel principles teacher. I forgot to mention earlier but we have two wards in this sector, so my companion went to the other ward while I managed things in Andres de Vera. It’s like Jipijapa when we had to do splits every Sunday to cover both branches. So anyway, the bishop told me I was supposed to teach the gospel principles class, gave me the manual, and left. That was an interesting class, but I got through it. It was a hard first Sunday but I think it went a long way towards gaining the bishops confidence, and the members got to know me a lot quicker because of my talk.

But the fun doesn’t stop their, because in a week and a half we have to go to Guayaquil for the zone leader conference with president Gamboa that happens the second week of every change. So I will be traveling for 8 hours round trip that day and once again not get very much sleep. And seeing as how Monday is still the official change day, we had to receive changes. Even though my companion and I didn’t have changes we still had to get the other elders from the zone on the bus to Guayaquil in the middle of the night. So I’m tired. Very tired.

I do have a few elders in my zone that I know. Our two district leaders are Elder Goode and Elder Cruz (Elder Cruz was my companion in Babahoyo my last change there). There are also a couple of gringos that came into the mission a couple of months ago who knew who I was. That’s still weird. And when I was in Guayaquil another gringo came up to me and told me he had read my blog as well. Oh speaking of Guayaquil I saw Elder Muhlestein there. He got transferred to Duran. He seems to be doing really good these days. I think his Spanish is improving a lot. I also saw Elder Frye. I sort of just assumed he would be there because he always seems to show up when I am in Guayaquil. I didn’t see Elder Elwood but I will see him for sure in the zone leader meeting anyway. So I don’t know what else to say; I probably didn’t cover everything I should but I can’t think of anything else to say. Have a good week guys.

Te quiero,
Elder Walke

The News from Guayaquil?

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

¡Hola familia!

So you may be wondering why the subject for this email says “the news from Guayaquil” when I’m clearly in Balzar. No I didn’t get transferred. My darn companion has just been half sick for weeks and Sister Gamboa made us take a two-and-a-half-hour bus to Guayaquil so that he could have a one-hour doctor appointment where nothing seems to have been accomplished. But on a brighter note I did get to hang with Elder Elwood, and Elder Frye’s companion was also sick so I saw him for about 10 minutes too. I found it ironic that Elder Frye’s companion was sick instead of him because it seems that guy is always sick. In fact when I saw him I said, “What are you sick again? You were just getting over being sick the last time I saw you!” and he said, “Nope this time it’s my comp!” I just can’t stop running into those guys. I live in a very small world.

I’m changing apartments this week. That’s going to be fun. It’s a long, long story and I really don’t feel like going into details because it will annoy me just to think about it. President Gamboa told us to change our apartment ASAP, so that’s what I did Saturday. I didn’t work; I went apartment shopping. Which I have never done in my life. And as it turns out, there isn’t much of a housing market in Balzar—like, at all. But we did manage to find an apartment that fits the criteria that Elder Williams gave me. It’s awesome because it’s a brand new apartment, much better than the pit where we currently live. Honestly the biggest difference is that it’s a new apartment with fresh paint; it’s still just a concrete box like every other apartment I have lived in during my mission. So Elder Williams and I have been working like crazy trying to get this change to happen before transfers roll around next Monday and I think we will be able to pull it off. But that means that we will have to haul all of the stuff out of our old apartment and into the new one and that means next week will be yet another week full of interruptions where I don’t get everything done that I want done. Oh I forgot to mention that we did take a day off last week because my comp was sick and needed to stay in the house and throw up for a while. But he’s good now. Probably. So between my comp being sick on Thursday and the apartment garbage on Saturday we lost two work days last week. I also did an interchange with Elder Baum on Wednesday so that was three days during the week that I didn’t work in my sector. My interchange with Elder Baum was fun though. He is a cool guy and he works hard; his mommy should be pleased.

Hey, so you guys mentioned that you have been reading Nathan and Tasha’s weekly emails. Could you convince their parents send me their letters too? I can print them out and read them pday—and Derek’s too…and Clark’s. Yeah, that should cover it. I got that package you sent; it was great. I love the videos, the pen, and the cookies. I did hear about the Haiti quake by the way. I don’t know much about it; I just know it happened. I was thinking about what it would be like to be a missionary over there right now. Crazy stuff. I can just imagine the chaos that we would see if something like that hit Guayaquil. I think it would take a long time to sort out the mess. Are they struggling to get a decent relief effort mounted?

Moving back to Ecuador based things, Elder Mitton is going home this week. I still can’t believe it. I have been thinking about it a lot because he was the first gringo I ever knew in Ecuador and he hadn’t even hit 8 months at the time. And now he is going home. And Elder Elwood is about to hit 20 months. And Elder Muhlestein just broke 6 months. I can’t believe I have a kid with 6 months already.

Ok well its time to end this letter before I get too trunky. I think I will tell you my thoughts about what will happen with transfers just to ensure that it doesn’t happen like I think it will. Elder Lopez now has 4 changes here in Balzar so we probably wont be together next change. I doubt that I will get transferred because the only way I see myself leaving before Elder Lopez is if I become a zone leader, in other words, I ain’t going nowhere. If Elder Lopez does get transferred I think I may train again because there is a big group coming in. No matter who gets transferred though, both of us have to go to Guayaquil so that I can drop off Elder Lopez and pick up my new comp because there is nobody for me to stay with in Balzar while I wait for my new comp. So don’t expect a letter from me to quickly next Monday. Ok family, that’s the news!

Te quiero,
Elder Walke

Crickets and the Epic Mouse Chase

Monday, January 11th, 2010

¡Hola familia!

How the time does fly. Ok not really. This week was a little slow because Elder Lopez was sick with some sort of stomach bug and we spent two days in the house. I would also like to announce that the rainy season has officially begun here in Ecuador. It has been raining off and on the last couple of weeks but now it’s raining most days. That also means that once again the mosaic plagues are in town. Crickets and frogs for everyone! I cultivated a pretty healthy dislike for crickets while living in Ecuador that’s for sure. The darn things are always getting in the house and then they die in some odd corner and make the entire house stink of rotten cricket. We kill a good amount of crickets on a daily basis. One night I got feed up with all the crickets so I tied strings to several of the recently dispatched buggers and hung them on a cable outside our window in a vain attempt to ward off any cricket foolish enough to think of entering. It didn’t work but it does look pretty funny.

The rain also drove a couple of other interesting guests into the house the other day. A while ago I was making breakfast when I noticed something dart across the small space we call the kitchen. I was pretty sure it was a mouse but it was early and I’m still not a morning person so I wasn’t sure. My companion thought I was full of it when I wasn’t able to locate the mouse or any evidence that he existed, but I had faith. I knew the mouse was real. A couple of days later I caught another glimpse of the rodent and tried to pursue, but once again I couldn’t figure out where he ran away to. At this point my companion thought I was losing my mind because he still had not noticed anything. Then the next day he was moving his suit cases around trying to get at a cricket he wanted to kill when he yelled, “¡ah un ratón!” for those of you who don’t speak Spanish that means “ah a mouse!”. And I said, “¡yo le dije que no estoy loco!” or in other words, “I told you I wasn’t crazy!” We then commenced a drawn out battle as we struggled to capture the devil. As it turns out my companion is afraid of mice, which would have been funnier if I didn’t need help. To make a long story short, after much chasing and moving beds, furniture, and every other object in the house that was big enough to hide behind, I finally got the thing trapped in a bucket. Did you know mice are excellent jumpers? I had no idea. This one was an expert in his field because he somehow managed to clear the bucket and escape a few minutes later. Thus began “epic mouse hunt part 2″ which turned out to be even more drawn out than part 1. He really didn’t want to get back into that bucket and had gotten better at avoiding my tricks. Finally he ran to the kitchen and I lost him for a couple of minutes. I soon discovered evidences of a mouse home under the sink and as I lifted a small carton I noticed a pair of eyes looking at me. Unfortunately I didn’t have a fast enough reaction time and the mouse jumped out before I could toss the box into the bucket. But luckily we caught him pretty quickly after that. As we were sitting there contemplating our victory, I couldn’t help but notice that our mouse seemed to have grown since the last time I caught him. I looked in the carton where I had found the current detainee hiding and sure enough, I found another mouse. This time I was a little faster on my feet and tossed the mouse into the bucket before he could make a break for freedom. So now they are sitting in the house in a bucket and we are still trying to figure out what to do with them. Actually now there is only one mouse because the big one killed the little one for some reason. She must have been mad that the little guy led us back to home base. My companion wants to drown the remaining mouse but that’s not really my style. I wanted to make a short movie starring the mouse but I don’t have time for such antics. I think we may just end up letting it go into the wild or something (far from the house of course).

In other news, our shower finally got fixed this week. I know I told my family this on the phone at Christmas time but our shower broke on December 24th for some reason and since then we have been bathing out of plastic bins. The plumber came over several times trying to fix it but he never did figure out what was wrong. Then on his fourth visit the shower just sort of started working. We don’t know why. I try not to question such things and just count my blessings. Well I’m out of time but before I go I just want to mention that I tried cow tongue the other day, and it was good. I didn’t expect it to be, but it was. I have clearly been here too long.

Te quiero,
Elder Walke

Happy New Year

Monday, January 4th, 2010

¡Hola familia!

HAPPY 2010!!!!!! Well, I don’t even know what to say—2009 is gone. It went out with a bang too. I saw 4 fights this week, although one didn’t count because it was just a couple of 12 year olds. But the other 3 fights were pretty epic. In one of them a drunken guy had a knife in both hands and was trying to gut another guy, but his friends managed to wrestle the knives out of his hands without anyone getting hurt. I don’t know how they did it, but they did. And then last night there was another fight just outside our apartment where the participants from both sides felt the need to smash a large number of beer bottles in the process. I’m still not sure why they did that. I guess it made them look scarier or something; I don’t know. But that’s Ecuador for you. I took a bunch of pictures of the “añoviejos” throughout the day and some of them were pretty impressive. Sadly, I forgot to bring my card adapter today so I will have to upload them some other week. Oh well. I didn’t get to see to many of them burn though. That was sad. We had to be in the house early on the 31st (8pm). Then I had to call my district and make sure they all made it back to their apartments alive and report to the zone leaders that all was well so they could in turn tell the office that the Quevedo South Zone was alive and well. I guess President Gamboa was worried about it. Or maybe he just wanted to make sure nobody had decided to go to a party that night. Who knows?

They had a bunch of the best “añoviejos” out in front of the house on the 31st but at about 11:15 pm they hauled them all away to be burned in other places, except one—a big transformer. But they didn’t even burn the darn thing until almost 6 am and I had no desire to stay up all night. I headed to bed at about 1 am. But get this, my companion stayed up until they burned the transformer and got a half hour of sleep. The guy is crazy I’m telling you. He is a good guy but sometimes he does stuff and I just think, “Dude, what was going through your head when you decided to do that?”

I got a letter from Elder Muhlestein this week. Included was a picture of the baptism I missed by 2 days. Yes, Cecilio finally got baptized. For the record, I’m counting that baptism as mine because Elder Muhlestein didn’t get his new companion until the day of the baptism. I’m still sad that I missed that baptism! We were supposed to have a baptism here this week but she (Viviana) wants a little more time to put her wedding together. It’s kind of hard to argue with that so the baptism got pushed back to the 23rd of January. We may have a couple more people get baptized that day but nothing confirmed yet.

I had to call Elder Elwood this morning and we were talking about how we passed the holidays. He seems like he is finally getting used to being in the office. That’s good because, for a while, I think it was really killing him to be in there. I have to tell you, its good to have friends in the office because anytime I need something done, and I talk to the assistants about it, nothing happens. I don’t know what the deal is with those guys. I guess they must just be really swamped or something. Anyway, whenever I need to know something or need help from the office, I pretty much just call Elder Elwood.

So there you have it. The end of 2009 and the start of 2010. And this email is a little short. Oh well. You’ll be fine without a long letter this week. I use the fact that we talked on the phone only a week ago as my excuse for not writing more. Have a good year!

Te quiero,
Elder Walke