Maray na hapon po! That may be the wrong spelling but that is good afternoon in Bicol! And it happens to be one of about 3 phrases I actually know in Bicol – the other two are good morning and good night. I think I am going to stick to just learning Tagalog for now and see how that goes before I work on Bicol. But I hit my one month mark in the field this coming Thursday! Crazy!! I am writing this email to you from a small internet café with blue walls, lots of spiders, 15 computers and lots of loud tagalog being spoken. The café is located in the town ‘center.’ Each town has a center area and this is named accordingly because it literally is the center. This is where all of the tricey’s wait for customers and where most of the little shops are located and there is also this giant concrete stage type thing where at night (if they can get reception) they project Filipino TV and everyone gathers to watch. It is the same concept as a drive in movie except no cars. No one really has computers here so everyone goes to do their homework or get on facebook or in my case get on ldsmail at the internet cafes. Usually I have an audience of a few children that stare at me for a good 5 minutes before returning to their internet-ing. To answer your questions: I am emailing most of my friends instead of hand written letters because it is so much faster than snail mail, it is also more efficient in terms time spent writing on P-day. I write a mixture of personalized with snippets from what I write to you. Copy and paste is a wonderful tool. It is fun to hear from everyone though and in a way kind of nice to know all letter writing will be done on one day…. It helps with focusing the rest of the week instead of wondering about mail. As far as sister cabanag unfortunately her family is not very good at writing to her… she does write previous companions so that is good. I feel so bad about her fam not writing though. I wish they would; I pray every night that they will. Our P-days consist of companionship and personal study in the morning. After that I usually work out and read through talks and clean up a little bit. Laundry takes about an hour or more depending on how much I have. My hands get torn to shreds every Monday from washing in a basin, hopefully they will toughen up and calluses will form at some point. Haha, apparently I am too American.
Well we have entered into what the locals call the “BER months” meaning SeptemBER, OctoBER, NovemBER and DecemBER…. This also means we have entered the rainy season. And the rain did not waste any time. There has been at least one, if not more, torrential down pour every single day. I have never seen rain like this before. We have been out working on most days when the rain hits and we have to huddle against a building with our umbrellas in an attempt to stay dry. Most of the time it is a failed attempt and our skirts get soaked. I guess there is a low pressure typhoon forming somewhere meaning it is not a typhoon yet but there might be one this up coming week. I also experienced my first earthquake this last week. There I was standing at the sink in our house washing the dishes after dinner when sister cabanag very frantically said “sister! Don’t move.” I turned around expecting to see a cockroach and noticed the scissors hanging on our cabinet swaying back and forth. Our front door was open and began picking up speed and swayed as well. It was the strangest feeling. It wasn’t too bad luckily, nothing broke and there was no damage in the city which is a blessing. Here we go, the adventures of the Pines! Hah.
Rona was baptized on Saturday!! It was so amazing! We had a combined baptism with some of the saints from a near by area. The font is in our chapel and takes about 3 hours to fill because of the slow flow of water from the nozel. The elders had gone over to fill the font earlier in the day and when we arrived about 45 minutes prior to when the baptism was supposed to start the font was filled with dark brown water! It was so dirty you could not even see the bottom of the font. We frantically called the elders and I guess because of all the rain, dirt had gone into the tank that fills the font. There was nothing we could do. We apologized to Rona and she was a good sport about it – we made jokes about her body not being cleaned through baptism but her spirit would. I am still adjusting to the Filipino time clock… meaning we start everything an hour late. Haha. I don’t think I am going to kick my bad habit of being late to everything on my mission; in fact it might even get worse. So the missionaries in our district always do a musical number at baptisms. I suggested we sing Joseph Smith’s First Vision to the tune of Come Thou Fount, they in turn volunteered me for a solo. I fought it and bargained down to half and half but mom and dad, those voice lessons you paid for when I was in 9th grade finally came in handy as I stood in front of the congregation and sang a solo. Horrifying. Once again, no comfort zones on the mission.
We did a service project on Friday; we helped a woman clear a large area of land that had been overtaken by weeds and bushes. I learned how to weed using a machete. It was quite the experience I must say. Also, I am also currently working on perfecting the Asian squat…. However, I think you must be tiny and Asian to successfully perform this squat. But I did my best to practice as I hacked the weeds with my giant knife. This woman has 10 children and after we finished all the kids ran and chopped down coconuts from a nearby tree for us. They used the machetes to make a hole in the coconuts so we could drink the milk and then split them open and eat the meat. Yum. It was tasty. As I recall it is quite difficult to cut open coconuts but these small kids were able to do it with one slice of the machete. The fruit here is delicious. My favorite are the mangos and the pineapple. (Apples, grapes and oranges are expensive because they are shipped in, so we don’t buy those.) I have also had quite a few random crazy looking fruit one being: Guyabano. It is giant and looks like dinosaur skin on the outside and then is super gooey inside, it tastes pretty good.
As I may have mentioned before I stick out a little here in this far away land. All of the kids always exclaim, ‘Cana!’ Which is short for Americana. Also they all recite “whash your name?” aka What is your Name. They don’t really want an answer that is just the only thing they know how to say well in English. I have been thinking about this phrase while I have been here though. I don’t use my same name as I did when I was home, my first name is obsolete. My name has changed, I am now sister Christensen. That is my name. But more importantly is why that is my name. Every morning I fasten my black name tag onto my shirt. Without this tag I am incomplete, I have no name. The name of Jesus Christ is nearly as big as my own name on my badge. It is because of the importance of this name that I now carry a different name. I have become fascinated with this aspect of the doctrine of Christ, the name of Jesus Christ. In the church we take upon us the name of Jesus Christ in every prayer, ordinance and covenant we make.
Elder Maxwell says: “How proud we ought to be, in a quiet way, that we are members of the church of the most selfless being who ever lived. How proud we ought to be to belong to a church that makes specific demands of us and gives us specific things to do and marks the strait and narrow way, lest we fall off one side of the precipice or the other. I am so grateful that God loves us enough to teach us specifically. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is specific because God cares specifically for us…”
In the times that are exceptionally challenging for me and on the days when the Tagalog is especially slow to come I think of how specific this experience is and how proud I am to wear that second name on my black badge everyday. It is a crazy adventure every day. Most of the time I have no idea what is going on but I just smile and try to love people with my eyes. I am grateful to be here and hopeful everyday that I am fulfilling my purpose as a missionary even though I cant say very much.
It is good to hear from you all and of course I love the pictures! What a darling family I have. I take my picture book everywhere and everyone pours over it in amazement at all the white faces. Hope all is well with the millcreek road gang!
I am trying to send a video us riding in a Tricy but i dont know if it will work. The pictures are of Rona's baptism and me and sister Cabanag after church yesterday.
All my love,