Greetings from Daet. This is an area of the Philippines famous for pineapples. This area is the closest to Manila so no one speaks Bikol. Of course they know some words because they are Bikolano, but they really don’t use Bikol here. The people laugh at me when I accidently use Bikol. I am more accustomed to greeting people in Bikol because even in my first few weeks in the field that is what I learned to use. So it has been an interesting transition. Also this city is HUGE compared to tiny Goa which was mostly rice fields and had just one street of shops and only 2 restaurants. In Daet every corner has people selling various meats bbq’d right there over their coal bbq (we are not supposed to eat meat from off the street.) There are lots of fruit stands full of delicious fresh fruit. There are also little bakeries everywhere. One of our areas sells pandi coco for one peso a piece. It is a small little bread filled with a sugary-coconut inside. It is one of my favorites and we buy it for an afternoon snack all the time. The road to get here is like driving the ‘S’ curve for 3 hours or the road to Hana. It is very beautiful and very windy. It is hard to believe we are in the BER months. (SeptemBER - DecemBER). It actually can get cold during these months – but there is nothing “berrrr” about the weather now.
My new companion is sister Bersola. She is 23 and from Quezon City. QC is close to the Manila. Her home is near the temple and her home town is huge. She keeps laughing at me because I am having a little bit of culture shock adjusting to the fast pace of a city again. She said this is nothing and I should see the traffic in Manila. She is one of the most humble people I know and is nonstop go – go – go. We work well together. Our personalities are really similar and she likes to work out and we have a goal to wake up one morning and run to the beach. We haven’t done it yet but it’s on the to-do list. The beach isn’t in our area so we have to get permission first. Although we are similar in personality - we are not at all similar in height. She is tiny and reminds me frequently how tall I am. I am worried she is going to get neck pains from looking up at me when we walk. The ward here is very established and the area is much more developed economically - which makes sense because it is a bigger city with more job options and nicer houses. I have to watch what I eat here because they try to feed us at nearly every appointment. Oh dear. But at least it is delicious. When they feed us it is usually rice with veggies or meat. Sometimes it is bread or crackers and pop. We are getting really good and smiling and graciously accepting while our tummies feel like they are going to explode. Good thing we both really like working out and walking more than 70 miles every day.
I was laughing at one of Meg’s past letters when they were saying they couldn’t find licorice. Kristin sent me a package a while back and it had licorice. I gave some out and they had no idea what I was feeding them. Almost everything is different here. There are a few American brands but they are very expensive. Sometimes I forget that I really do live on the other side of the world.
This week I have been thinking about strength. In 2 Timothy 1:7 it says, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love and of a sound mind.”
I really believe that when we trust in the Lord he empowers us. We are able to overcome obstacles that may have seemed impossible. This power helps us to face fears that make us want to curl up and hide. But, somehow we can push through.
We are teaching two little boys right now from a part member family. Their dad was a member and introduced the church to their mom who eventually got baptized. After time their father decided he wanted a different life and left them to fend for themselves while he pursued a different life. This woman could have easily become bitter, blaming the church, struggling to survive on other people’s help, but she did not. She loves fashion, so she started a business selling clothing. She now owns a successful boutique were she helps her wealthy clients pick out their wardrobes. She believes in God and in his strength.
Another less active girl in our ward is 16 years old and has taken on the role of mom and dad and big sister and high school student. Her parents split a few years ago and her father left them without any support. Her mom moved to Thailand to teach English and sends money to help her kids while keeping an active relationship with them through email. This small girl has the desire to serve a mission and sudy at BYU. She is not letting her circumstances bring her down. She has faith and moves forward.
I have really been questioning why I was so blessed and given so much. I am very undeserving and feel that the trials I have faced thus far seem trivial and small compared to what others deal with on the day to day basis. Yesterday our sacrament song was one of my favorites… as now we take the sacrament. There is a line in there that says “with hands now pledged to do thy will.” I hope that every time I take the sacrament for the rest of my life I will pledge to do the Lords will as a small way to recognize the blessings I have been given.
Thanks gram and grandpa for the cutest birthday package!! I am so excited to wear my new outfit to our leadership conference tomorrow! It really is darling. You’re the best Lola Lois and Lolo Reed.
Happy anniversary to my loving parents! Thanks for being so incredible and loving. I thank my heavenly Father every day for you and your love and support. Keep going - 25 more years and beyond!
Mahal na mahal ko kayo!
Love from the pines, Sister Christensen