Tuesday, September 3, 2013

News from "The Middle of the World"

i dont even know where to start. 
so we flew in and went to the presidents house which was WAY nice. it was all like marble and stuff in this really nice apartment complex. they had a fancy dinner set up for all of us coming in, there were 22 new kids. only 3 white people though. in fact, over 80 percent of the mission is latin. and theres only 5 white sisters right now...so im pretty lucky to be here. after the dinner we had a testimony meeting with all the new kids. then on wednesday we had an all day training session that was like a mini mtc. the did it mostly because the latin missionaries were only in the mtc for 2 weeks and they had to go over mission specific rules. and we had to go get registered as volunteer aliens or whatever at the government office and that took about 3 hours. 

then on thursday we got our first assignments! the presidents wife made these pictures things with our qualities we wanted to develop and our favorite colors. they called us all up one at a time and then announced our trainers and zones and areas (they are called sectors here). my trainer is named sister garcia, and shes a very small guatemalen woman on her last transfer. apparently she had been praying to finish her mission as a trainer, for a gringa, in pusuqui, where she started her mission. when they first brought in all of the trainers to the meeting apparently she saw me and immediately said thats going to be my last daughter (shes already trained 7). lo and behold, they call up sister garcia for me. she was so stoked, but it was an awkward first hug to say the least. 
so we are in the ofelia zone/stake in the pusuqui ward BUT its a big area so they just split it into two sectors. my sector is oficially called san antonio but its better known by mitad del mundo and wouldnt you know it, the equator is a five minute walk from our house! many pictures to follow.  (Editors note: "mitad del mundo" translates as "middle of the world", here's a photo from the web as Kendra couldn't send any yet)

Mitad del Mundo monument on the equator

there are 8 sisters/4 companionships in our zone (2 companionships in each district). so after transfer meeting we all got in a taxi and went to the first sisters house. there are two sets there, and the view is AMAZING. we went (all 8 of us) to our first mamita. Instead of dinner here, they feed you lunch and its called a mamita. this specific mamita was ever so kind to feed all 8 of us and it was delicious. later on we had to call another member to take the 4 of us that dont live there to our house about 45 minutes away. the  3rd set of sisters live in one half of the ward and we live on the other half in mitad del mundo. so since technically we are opening a sector we have a new house, which is pretty big. its got a big kitchen, study area, dining area, two bedrooms and two bathrooms. Its a very interesting place. some things are very nice like the tile in the bathrooms/floor and the appliances, but somethings are a little bit more sketchy like the cielings are all plywood and the showers are just heated by electric shower heads. (i.e. not very well) we also got there right as the sun was going down, but surprise there were only 2 lightbulbs. so we had to go out and buy some light bulbs, toilet paper, and food just enough to last us until p-day. we also had to start a new area book (called carpetá de area). after we did those two things it was already time for bed. it gets pretty cold at night here, but our blankets are good enough. getting out of bed is the hard thing. 

then on friday we had district meeting. our district leader is a white guy from utah who doesnt have too much going on upstairs and probably said bueno 50 times in the lesson. there also and elder from the san francisco area but both his parents are latino, so hes not too gringo. We ride the bus...alot....with what seems like all of ecuador on the bus, breastfeeding, selling things, sleeping, etc. all the busses are different on the inside, but they seem to have a pretty regular schedule and route. each ride is about 25 to 35 cents depending on where you  are going. we get 90 dollars every 15 days, so its not too bad. food and housing and gas is really cheap here, but clothes are pretty expensive. i dont really get their economy, but i try to not ask too many questions. some busses are tricked out on the inside with fringe and various depictions of jesus/other saints and any amount of detail of fake wood/flames / whatever design they wanted to do that day. you never really know what your going to get. 
after district meeting we started doing some street contacting. since its a new sector with no area book and we hadnt been to church yet, we didnt know any members, have any references or know our way around. so we just started walking and the first person we contact, SURPRISE! member. we went to go see an investigator whos a 60 year old woman named rosa with about 10 teeth and wayy long black hair. she wants to get baptized but is waiting for her significant other to get a divorce so they can get married and hence get baptized. shes way nice though and her kids are all baptized. the youngest is like 11 and the oldest is 30 or so. 
later that night we went on divisions (splits) with hermana muir (from the mtc) and her trainer hermana quizhpe. hermana garcia (or as i call her, my herMAMA, im so funny) is the sister trainer so usually we go on splits, but since it was only our second day for both muir and i we just went as four. we went to go teach this family, but on the way there we had to get off the bus and take a taxi because it was a little bit of a dangerous area and it was dark. so we were already late for our lesson, and there were NO open taxis. eventually one stops with a woman inside and shes like "hermanas get in". turns out to be a member who let us hop in her taxi and paid for us too. the members here are seriously so amazing but more on that later. 
so we go into this lesson and its a young family with one daugher whos about 5 and the moms sister and her kid whos also like 4 or 5. so its 3 adults, 4 missionaries and 2 kids. their whole house is a kitchen and one other room with two twin beds, a tv, and a makeshift closet. the moms sister and her kid were only visiting, but it would still be tough to live in basically one room as a family. they were way nice though and progressing really well. they are also just waiting to get the paper work to get married so they can get baptized. 

then on saturday we had to go to ofelia for our mamita. its about a 45 minute bus ride. we get off the bus and its this WAY steep hill like steeper than the top of stateside and its way long and my comp says "see that house wayyyy  up there? start walking." it didnt end up being that bad and the view at the top of the hill was also amazing. the couple is a newlywed couple who are pretty well off and still in the newlywed stage. he served his mission in argentina and they just got married last year. every mamita has rice, a mixed vegetable salad of peas, carrots, corn, other mystery vegetables and mayonaise, and a mystery juice drink. but boy is it good. im pretty sure ill get fat here, but we will see. we dont really eat dinner and theres alot of walking. i havent been too sore yet though. 
so we came back to our sector to do some more contacting and met a few cool people. also passed by a house with a sign that said carolina. i didnt even notice it and my companion stops and starts yelling "california california!" it took me a minute but i finally realized what she was talking about. she also has some trouble with my name, but shes getting better. then later that night we had to go back to ofelia to meet with an investigator with a baptismal date for this sunday. they pulled the missionaries out of the ofelia sector of the ofelia stake because the members werent helping with the missionaries or feeding them or anything so this is their punishment. 
anyways so hes a single guy whos about 50 and we could NOT find anyone to go with us. (Editors note: missionaries aren't allowed to teach or even go inside the house with a single person of the opposite sex unless there is another person present, not counting the 2 missionaries who are always together anyway.)
so finally we decided we were going to go get him and take him to an FHE of a family one ward over. we go in and he runs a little sketchy herbalife smoothie shop in the front 30 squarefeet of his appartment. there was a family in there with a mom and so we were like okay well go in and then just leave whenever they are done. well appaarently this is a 10 course smoothie dinner on plastic picnic chairs and plastic little ottomans with the dad, a breast feeding mom (to a kid who was eating the fruit and granola as well) and a 9 yearold. so we start talking and ask if we can share a spiritual thought. they say yes and we start to do our thing. my trainer and i werent totally on the same page and in the middle of it the breastfeeding 3 year old LOSES IT and starts screaming. absolutely no one is listening and it was just a trainwreck. the family leaves and its just us and the old guy and were back at square one. 
we had to go sit out on the side walk but it is what it is. so were talking to him to see where hes at and hes telling us about how he wants to go to the other ward because theres a 20 year old that hes in love with and hes going to another church and has NO idea what the restoration is and its just bad news  bears. apparently the elders who were teaching him before werent doing so well. so we just get out as fast as we can and get home at like 10 oclock. whoops.. we arranged to have a church tour with him the next day to see if we can salvage any sembelance of a progressing investigator. 

so then on sunday we show up at church and theres this mid-60s year old lady who comes up and just hands us a bag. she had knit both of us scarves (thank heavens cause it gets real cold on the bus at night) and apparently regularly gives hand knit gifts to the missionaries. she also was wearing almost everything she had knit herself. since my trainer had already served in this ward over a year ago everyone was way excited to see her. 
like i said before the members here are AWESOME. they would do anything for the missionaries with no questions asked. i think alot of them are converts and so they feel a special connection with the missionaries. i have never recieved so many hugs in my life. they are all super imprssed with my spanish but sometimes its tough to understand anyone over the age of 50 or with any particular accent or speach impediment. also impossible to talk on the phone, but that will get better (i hope). its tough to understand english on these phones though too so we will see. back to church....during relief society (sociedad de sucorro, or called suck-suck by the members) the sisters were literally arguing over who got to feed the missionaries. i cannot explain the passion they have for us and for missionary work. 
after church we were all standing in the hallway and one of the other missionaries passes out boom right in the hallway. so shes out cold and everyone starts freaking out. shes like convulsing and all sorts of craziness. they move her into the relief society room and she starts to wake up. they sit her up and chair and start to give her a blessing and she starts vomiting and it just a bad situation. so the 4 of us sisters (the sick one carried out by some of the elders) hop in the back of a midsized hatchback sedan, with the sick one going in and out of conciousness, convulsing and dry heaving and the bishop takes off. if theres one person i trust to drive in an emergency in ecuador, its the bishop. they do not mess around about driving down here. i mean we were just flying through red lights and the other sisters are crying but i was just like...i mean what can we do about it. so we get to the hospital and shes complaining of chest pains and all sorts of crazy stuff. aparently the last few nights she had been vomiting up blood but well get to that later. so my trainer goes into the e.r. with her and so its me and another new girl from guatemala and the bishop. we had to call the mission nurse and the  mission president and its just all sorts of crazy. finally the bishop is like, your mamita is waiting and theres not much you can do here, so we will take you two greenies to the mamita (we had been fasting for 30 hours by this point) and then take you back. 

i have to write the mission president before  6 so ill finish in a minute in another email 

Part 2
so we went to go eat with the mamita (who was also so gracious and cariñoso) and she packed food for my trainer and the nurse too. we got back to the hopsital and they all ate and left again. 
that night we had our church tour with our investigator. we started out with the classrooms and stuff like that and we get to the painting of christ in the garden of gethsemane and my companion asks, what is the atonemtent? he had no clue. i was like there is no way this guy is gonna get baptized in 7 days. so we explain it and he totally got it right away. we were asking inspired questions and spitting out scriptures right and left. our mojo was on POINT. he also didnt know anything of tithing, word of wisdom or law of chastity but we were able to explain it all clearly and he was down with all of it. totally a golden investigator once we were able to get the spirit involved. the elders didnt arrive until 8 for his baptismal interview so we were just hanging out with some of  the members who were  waiting for something else (i dont really know what). again, they were so nice and i was able to have like a 45 minutes conversation with a couple who used to live in new jersey near ocean city. (they didnt realy speak much english though, it was all in spanish) my spanish is getting so much better. i bet in only 2 transfers ill be able to understand and communicate (correctly) whatever it is that i need to say. 
so the DL finishes up the interview and he was totally good to go. we start to walk out and the elders are like....oh the busses stop running at 8 on sunday. so its nine oclock and were a 30 minute bus ride away from our apartment......great. luckily the first 4 sisters lived only a five minute walk away from the church so we tell the DL, eitheir you can pay 10 dollars for our taxi or approve us to sleep over with the others. so there we were walking to their appartment. oh man what a sleepover.  we made all sorts of food and if you put 6 sisters in one room with mattresss all pushed together you are gonna have a good time. all of the sisters are seriously so cool and we all get along really well. there are two from guatemala, one from ecuador who speaks english, spanish, french and chinese (fluently) and 2.5 gringas. muir and i are the two and then theres one whos parents are latino but grew up in california and doesnt really speak too much spanish. 

then today was p-day and we just went grocery shopping and to mitad del mundo and cleaned. we have to wash everything by hand so the two guatemalans did that while we swept and mopped, etc. it worked out pretty well. we cleaned their place this morning and since our house has the best washing...stone? rock? sink? they brought their clothes over here. everything goes so much better when everyone works together. then we went to  mitad del mundo and now were here! 

its been a great week and i cant imagine what the next year and a half are going to be like. Smell ya later. 
hna harlos

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