Monday, November 30, 2009

I Have Arrived!

So I was typing this nice long email and then the power went out. But I´m here and having a blasty blast for the most part. I pretty much don´t understand a word anyone says to me except for my companions, so I do a lot of smiling and nodding. My companions are Hermana Laime from Peru and Hermana Lopez from Guatemala. They speak pretty much no English so it´s a learning experience for everyone!! A lot of times they have to translate other people´s spanish into slower, easier spanish so that I can understand. But, it´s been pretty good. Really overwhelming but good. I won´t lie, sometimes it´s really hard for me because I don´t understand what´s going on. A lot of times I have no idea where we´re going and what we´re doing until we get there and do it, especially if it´s not in my planner (sidenote:that thing is amazing, I don´t know what I would do without it.) Sometimes I feel really alone, like I´m the only one that doesn´t know what´s going on. But I know the Lord is with me even if sometimes I don´t see it. And my companions are great. Very patient and very encouraging, even if they do talk really fast.

Anyway, some things about Guayaquil. It is HOT. I literally am sweating all the time!! Our apartment doesn´t have air conditioning, only fans, so I feel sticky all the time. But it´s pretty big, it has 3 rooms and 2 bathrooms. We all sleep in the main room and we moved the desks into another room, and then our stuff is in the 3rd room. We have mosquito nets but we can´t figure out how to hang them up, so I get bitten a lot. I´m pretty sure I´m going to get dengue fever eventually, but it´s okay!! And our shower is always cold, but I´m starting to get used to it. Our apartment building is behind two gates and there´s a cactus in front of it with flowers that only come out at night, which is pretty cool. All the houses in Ecuador have bars on the windows and gates over the doors, and most of them are behind walls as well. But I feel very safe even when we´re walking around at night. They´re trying to save money, so the city turns off the power twice during the day. People drive like maniacs here, the few times we´ve been in cabs I´ve seriously thought we were going to die. A lot of times there are no seatbelts or we can´t put them on, so I pray a lot!! OH. And at the house across the street from me, there are two roosters (gaillos) that start crowing very VERY early in the morning, it´s really obnoxious. But it´s also funny that the house across the street has roosters. Random!! There are cantinas everywhere but also lots of panaderias (bakeries) and lavanderias (laundromats) and random street vendors and bodegas and random things. Most of the time it smells okay but sometimes you can tell that people have been relieving themselves in the streets bc you can smell it. And there are dogs and cats EVERYWHERE!!! My first night in Guayaquil we got chased by a dog. And I thought that was just a missionary stereotype, but it actually happens!!

Some things about our investigators. I am in Huancavilca right now. We have the familia Belareiso, with 5 kids. They´ve been together 20 years without getting married. Hna. Laime said that a lot of times people don´t get married bc they just don´t think it´s necessary. Anyway the second day I was here, we went and taught the Plan of Salvation to them with the Aguilars, who were just baptized not too long ago and had kind of the same situation. Hno. Aguilar said something, I have no idea what, but Hno. Belareiso loved it!! I really wish I could have understood what was going on, but their family came to church with us yesterday!! We also have the familia Pino, who has been investigating the church for 4 years and they want to get married and be baptized but can´t bc Hno. Pino is separated from his wife and she won´t allow a divorce. Kind of annoying. And we have the familia Astudillo. The dad was less active but came back to church and now his 12 year old son Henry is getting baptized!! Muy excelente!! We are working with a lot of less actives and recent converts as well. The Bacaluna family are really funny and they came to church yesterday as well (or at least I think they´re really funny-I can´t understand them but my companions laugh a lot!!) Anyway. Most of the time I can´t understand a word they´re saying but I know that they love me and are happy I´m here, so that feels pretty good. I feel like I should know more about our investigators but right now I´m just trying to remember everyone´s name and whether they´re investigating the church or are less active or recent converts and what their stories are and the names of their kids and all that. It´s tough but fun!!

More about me. I have never walked so much in my life or been so tired in my life!!! I pretty much come home and die at 10:30 every night, and waking up is a struggle. I fall asleep in personal study and companionship study and sometimes I nod off during lessons too!! It´s especially hard to pay attention when I don´t know what´s going on, so yeah. But my companions said that the same thing happened to them when they first started, so it´s okay. (or I think that´s what they said . . . . Hno. Barrios, I think you taught us the wrong language in the MTC!!!) I get honked at a lot in the street bc I´m tall and white, and people in the street love to yell out random English words at me. One time we were walking and we passed this guy who said, "buenos dias, buenos dias" to Hna. Laime and Hna. Lopez, and when he got to me he looked right at me and said, "HI!" It was so funny. And one time we were walking at night and someone yelled out "Good Morning!!" at me. And whenever I tell someone that I´m from Indiana, almost always the next thing they say is, "Ahhh . . . . Indiana Jones!!" I just laugh bc I don´t have the heart to tell them that I´ve only seen one Indiana Jones movie. And even if I wanted to tell them, I wouldn´t know how to say it!! And they give us SO MUCH FOOD!!! Pretty much everytime we visit someone they give us food. TONS of rice at every meal, but I´m pretty sure that I´m losing weight bc I walk so much. Funny story. I haven´t run into a lot of things that I don´t like, but yesterday we were eating with a family and they gave us canteloupe juice. Yeah, I hate canteloupe. I tried to drink it without making a face but it must not have been very successful bc Hna. Laime said, Usted no le gusta? (You don´t like it?) I said, no!! She said, okay!! grabbed my glass and drank the whole thing when their backs were turned. I officially love my companions!!! But for the most part everything has been really good. Hna. Bacaluna gave us something called budin (I really doubt that I spelled that right) that was SO GOOD, kind of like flan but not flan. And the familia Pino gave us flan yesterday, which I didn´t like until now, bc they put a lot of honey on it!! Milk and yogurt come in bags here and jam comes in packets. The ice cream is so much better here, and they have these things called BonIce which are like OtterPops but way better. The yogurt is better here too, I´ve eaten it every morning except today bc yesterday I ate it all. And I don´t know how they do it but the bananas here are incredible!!!! And the chocolate is amazing too. Pretty much everything is awesome. Except the canteloupe juice. Ew. And I´ve discovered that I don´t like papayas either. I had some this morning and I felt sick until we ate lunch. But we had Pizza Hut for lunch so now I´m good!!!

So I´m sure everyone wants to know what happened on Tuesday. Well I won´t lie, Monday night was really sad. I was in a group with only elders, so I was in my room all by myself and I didn´t have any of my clothes. It was pretty tough. I had been really patient all day but when we got to the hotel I just wanted to cry. But I didn´t!! The next day we all got up and ate breakfast and then I just studied until we went to the airport. I didn´t really know what else to do!! We went to the airport at like 2 bc we didn´t want to take any chances!! In the airport we met a lady from Guayaquil who was telling us all about it, and then Elder Sandberg taught her the first lesson and gave her a Book of Mormon. Pretty awesome. Then we got on the airplane and I sat next to a guy from Guayaquil and had an entire conversation with him in Spanish!! Then I taught him the first lesson in Spanish, gave him a Book of Mormon, and showed him pictures of my family and friends. I bet you think I´m making this up but it is absolutely true!! I was really proud of myself. We got to Guayaquil around 1 in the morning and President and Hermana Johns picked us up. The elders stayed at the temple (there´s a place there for people who have to travel a long way) and I stayed at the Johns´ house. While we were driving there, they told me that my first assignment was to sleep in!! I was like . . . . . en serio??? I don´t know if I remember how!! But I slept until Hna. Johns came in and said, I forgot to tell you, they turn the power off so if you want a warm shower you need to take one now!! So I got up and showered and then went back to bed. Then we had orientation with the elders (they got to do a session in the Guayaquil temple and I was really jealous, but they said it was really hard) and the nurses came in and were having a really hard time speaking English, which gave me hope for the future. Then we met our companions and went out for the rest of the day!! Elder McGuire is still in my zone I think, but Elder Sandberg is in Machala which is about an hour away, so I probably won´t see him for awhile if ever. Sad. But I´m excited for zone conference just bc I get to see Elder McGuire. A lot of times when I´ve been depressed about the fact that I can´t really talk to anyone bc my Spanish is terrible, I think, I just want to talk to Elder McGuire!! And I get to in a couple days (or weeks maybe, I didn´t really understand when they told me when zone conference is. But welcome to my life now!!)

So yeah. I´m hanging in there. Most of the time it´s good, just sometimes I think, I am never ever going to be able to do this!! I try not to get discouraged but it can be tough sometimes. I just keep praying and trying my best and I know that eventually I´ll be able to talk and understand. I just saw Hna. Glanzer in the internet cafe where we are and she said she still barely understands anything anyone says to her, so I feel a little better. But I´ve come to love the Scriptures a lot bc they´re the same in every language, just like the gospel. Everyone, read Moroni 7:46, but replace the word charity with the Savior and see how the meaning changes. I know that without the Savior I would be nothing. He´s the one who makes it possible for me to communicate even a little bit, and the one who helps me keep going when I feel like there´s no way I can do it. Even when I don´t see His hand in my life, I know it´s there. And I know He´s blessing my family and friends too!!

So how is everyone?? I haven´t gotten any letters since I got here but I think that´s more due to the fact that I don´t really know how we get mail than to any fault on the part of you guys. But I want to know how everyone is, so write to me!! Look at the pouch instructions on facebook. Oh, and if you´re going to send packages, they can only be 4 pounds and DO NOT SEND THEM SPECIAL DELIVERY!!! Apparently when you do that it´s really expensive for me and sometimes I won´t even get it. So don´t do it!!! Just send them regular mail. For Christmas, can you send me my computer speakers?? The iPod one doesn´t work for some reason. Also, pancake mix and syrup. I haven´t gone shopping yet so I have no idea what I can and can´t get here, but I´ll probably have more things for you next week. Some more knee highs would be good too, I´m starting to get runs in the ones I have. Annnndd . . . . . I had a whole list in my head but of course now I don´t remember any of it. I´m in a pretty urban area and I can get most of the stuff I need here. OH. Can you send me little toys and stuff like that for the kids?? I almost gave away Carl the other day bc I didn´t have anything else. Even if it´s just like McDonald´s happy meal toys that´s fine. The kids here are so funny, and of course they all speak better Spanish than me, which makes me kind of sad. But it´s going to be good!! I know it is!! Presidente Johns told me that after I´ve proselyted for a few months, I´ll be one of the mission nurses for awhile, and then I might go back to proselyting, depending on what goes on. So for right now I´m a regular missionary but that could change in a few months, it just depends on President Johns. But he and Hna. Johns are both great and my companions are great and the other elders and sisters are great too (I just wish I could speak Spanish like they can!!) But Dad, every once in awhile I remember what you said about wanting to go back to the MTC and I can totally relate bc I miss my district a LOT!! Today I had a brownie and thought of Hna. Yoshino. But I know that I´m in a good place and that great things are going to happen while I´m here. Already I´ve had great experiences and I´m loving the people. They are all so friendly and loving, and after coming from a place where you can´t hug or shake hands, it´s so great to finally be able to shake hands with people!! And in Ecuador, the women do the little air kiss thing, which was kind of weird for me at first but now it´s no big deal. Hna. Laime asked me once if they do that in the States and I was like ummm no but it´s okay!!

So yeah. I´m doing good!! Having a huge culture shock but doing good!! Write to me, send me your addresses so I can write you, and be good and read your scriptures and pray all the time and feed the missionaries and be nice to people and be grateful that you can drink out of your faucet bc I can´t!! The church is true!! MUCHO AMOR!!!

Hermana Chamberlain

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