27 January 2014

Letter 13: Here Comes The Sun

Dearest Panimalay kag Mga Abyan,
The Sun has come out, and it's been A WONDERFUL WEEK!
(guess who's stuck on the computer with the sticking "L" key again? *sigh* Gotta love internet cafes)
Well, anyway! The sun came out literally! Grab-i! The weather has been so nice! I love it!
It also came out in a more figurative sense as well! Sister Massé and I have been dropping non-progressing investigators and last week we discovered a neighborhood in our area! (We normally stay in. . on the right end of our area, this week we went "Left") We tracked most of it, and found so many people willing to listen to our message! We're very happy with some of them actually, and really think that we'll know within the next two weeks who is progressing and who's not. But we're patient, and in all just very excited.
The other Sisters in our ward had a baptism on Saturday! It's really strange, I think Saturday was the first day I really realized that THAT is what I'm trying to help people reach. 
We had exchanges this week! Sister Massé got to go to Guimaras and work there for a day, and I was with Sister Nelson in my area. I learned so much from her (There's a lot to learn, and this is her last transfer, she's such a great example of what I could be as a missionary)
After exchanges I improved so much. I think it taught me what while I still know NOTHING, I at least can hold my own in teaching, and that I can really speak this language.
(Ortiz Warf. Grab-i! You would NOT believe the sunsets at the Warf, it's unreal It Looks like I'm in front of a  fake backdrop or something. Basically it's absolutely beautiful)
Sunset of Beauty
The Dinagiyan festival started the day we had exchanges. Basically it's a . . . festival? I think every main city or province has one here, and this one is Iloilo's (Guimaras's is a Mango Festival in April. Wouldn't that be great to go to?) but that means that there weren't many people home in our area for a few days. But for exchanges, Sister Nelson and I prayed for a miracle, and we got one! We had people to teach! We even taught an investigator that Sister Massé and I have been trying to teach for 2 weeks, but he's been so busy with work he hasn't been able to listen to us. It was great, I could tell he's just so kapoy (exhausted) from work and life, and after our lesson he had energy again. It's amazing what the Gospel can do for you!
Because of the Dinagiyan festival, there were no jeepneys to the warf for Sister Nelson to get back. As she would say, "Heavenly Father is a Great Dad." because he provided us with a Less Active member who got us a C-cab :) But then it took Sister Massé and I 2 HOURS to get home, instead of the normal 30 minutes. Traffic was crazy. But I got to see the fireworks on the way home because it took so long :)

I gave a talk on Sunday. And yes, it was in English. Basi next time it will be more in Ilonggo. Basi (Maybe) I promised that I at least gave my testimony in Ilonggo. And yes, it was short, because I'm still really bad at talking in front of people by myself (Give me a companion, :) and then I'm fine)
My first spider experience was this week. . . pulled my towel off the bar it hangs on, and behind it was THE SPIDER. It's not MASSIVE, but was the size of the circle my fingers make with the tips of my thumbs and first fingers touching.I made Sister Massé kill it. Grab-i, it was FAST.  I'm sure our Pinay housemates heard us all the way upstairs and were just shaking their heads going "Kanas. . ." There was also a cockroach outside the bathroom on the door-pane. Yeah, it's time for us to sanitize the house and spray it to keep the bugs out again. I can handle little ants and little bugs, but this morning I had little worms crawling on my feet while I did laundry. That one I was not happy with.
The Not-so-Itsy-Bitsy-Spider
So. . Palangga ko kamo! kag Kabalo ako nga matuod ang ebanghelyo! Halong kamo! 
(I love (plural) You!  And I know the Gospel is true! Take Care!)
 Madamo Pagpalangga, 

-Sister Smith

20 January 2014

Letter 12: I'm Halfway done with Training?

Dearest Panimalay kag mga Abyan,

I'm halfway done with training? What? I've been living halfway around the world for 6 weeks?? Where did all that time go? 

I don't care what anyone says. 23C (72F or so) is Cold. I haven't seen the sun in 3 weeks or so. So while you all deal with 0 F weather, I'm glad I'm not where you are! (seriously. I'm so glad I'm going home in the spring/summer. I think I would become an ice-cube if I came home in the winter.) 

Transfers were Thursday. I wasn't transferred (in the middle of training. . .) pero, Sister Lewis was! We were sad to see her go! But knew she was going where the Lord needs her. When Sister Marticio came home we asked "Where's Sister Lewis?". She just chuckled, and said that she's followup training Sister Nitura. Which means she's still in our same zone (There are three districts in our zone). And is literally in the only other sister companionship in our zone! So we'll all be seeing her tomorrow at district meeting :) 

As a mission we're reading the Four Standard Works, and are to be finished by Christmas. I've gotten to the point of, "And then Aaron and his sons... ...." For sacrifices. It's kinda like reading a manual, it's interesting, but monotonous. (but hey. I actually really love it.) An hour is NOT enough time for personal study! Can I study all day instead? 

I've actually been asked a lot "How is the Language going?" Haha, guess I haven't written about that.

Sooo.... Hiligaynon is great! I love the way it sounds and the way it rolls of the tongue! I'm not picking up the accent (most likely) But I am picking up the Sing-Song-i-ness of it. It's really hard to explain, but it's influencing my English. (For example, I enunciate words differently now). It's getting much easier to teach, and it's getting to the point where when I speak it isn't rote memorization, but my own words :)

I still have an easier time speaking that I do listening. Funny how that works. Sometimes I'll just look at a person and then turn to Sister Massé because I have no idea what they've said. 

I also don't understand their very accented English (Though many here have very good English), because I'm expecting Ilonggo, so I don't realize their speaking English to me, so I'm trying to translate, and I get lost. hahaha, I'm sure that's how some of them feel when I speak their language. :)

It's really funny, I can speak perfect English to my housemates, or fellow missionaries, but if I meet a native English Speaker on the street (it happens) it is So HARD to speak English to them. It generally goes along the lines of:

"Kamusta ka, Brother? um... How are. . .you? kamusta ang adlaw mo? kamusta your day? umm... ano ang name mo?" it's gets all mixed up! haha. There's an American that lives in our area that we see a lot, and every time we see him it's "Maayong Gab-i!" "I don't know what that means!" "It means Hello/Goodnight" 

We had Zone Training Meeting instead of District Meeting last week. IT WAS GREAT. I love my zone, they're all so spiritual (haha, way to state the obvious Sister Smith) and strong in their testimonies. I learned so much from them :) We had a great training from our Zone Leaders (Elders Singley and Shingleton. I always mix up their names into one on accident. Like Shingly, or Singleyton.) We learned about having Desire, Being Obedient, and Enduring! And basically becoming the best missionaries we can be, being the missionaries our investigators deserve to hear the gospel from. It was Great :)

I'm so happy to hear about Sister Taylor! If she reads these, CONGRATULATIONS SARAH! You'll love Russia :)

I got all that Christmas Mail :) It officially takes 4/4.5 weeks for mail to get here! (So plan accordingly?) So it only took about 2.5 weeks for mail to get to you? Alright! Good to know! We've now got a system figured out!

Palangga ko kamo! Kabalo ako nga Matuod ang Simbahan! 

- Sister Smith

If anyone is curious, I still am drawing when I have a few minutes of "Me time." (though normally I read the Missionary Library, or catch up on journal-ling. Can you believe I've been good and journaled every night for the past 3 months? Can you believe it will be three months in three days?) 

But Flower pictures are good gifts :) And I owed Sister Lewis her Christmas present.
Sister Lewis and Dahlia

13 January 2014

Letter 11: Hello Guimaras!

Dear Panimalay kag Mga Abyan,

This week I had hoped to send you a letter all about how I had my first baptism here.
But the investigator never came :(
He's been an investigator for about 5 years now, on and off. He's been dropped repeatedly because he had WoW problems, or he just wasn't progressing. But he finally was ready! I still don't understand a lot of what he says, but Sister Massé and I knew that he was excited for his baptism. So when he never showed up, and we went to his house, he told us he wouldn't be baptized. He and his family are supported by another church, and if he silos, they won't support them any longer. And his friends belong to that church, and he can't turn his back on them. Basically it was super sad, and Sister Massé and I are still recovering from the heartache. (What is this? A The missionary version of a good relationship gone bad breakup??)
But on a happier note, I just got off of GUIMARAS! I actually left Panay!
I promise I am in the city.
Anyway, we went as a zone activity, and it was pwede because 1) Central Zone is tiny. 2) We're closest to Guimaras. 3) Because we're cool like that.
Anyway, Guimaras: Sweetest Mangoes in the world! I didn't actually eat one there, but the mangos we buy on the street here are Guimaras Mangoes :)
We went spelunking! We didn't actually end up at the cave we were supposed to, but this one was still fun! I guess I can now check "Go Spelunking" off my bucket list!
We actually got really wet (had to wade through some water. . a lot) and while all the American Elders only had water up to their knees, I (Like all the Filipinos) was wet up to my hips. But anyway, I didn't slip and fall (well, into the water that is), or get my camera wet, so it all turned out well!
On Saturday we had Zone Interviews! It was really fun, and someone (I believe it was Sister Aquino) got the idea of rather than ordering food for everyone, the missionaries would cook! One Missionary from every apartment, the one that doesn't normally cook. So we brought up that everyone in our apartment cooks the same amount. So the missionara with the least experience. AKA: Me.
I learned some things about cooking. Like that I make Picadillio all wrong. Like that it supposed to be more meat that carrots, and that there are supposed to be potatoes (which is ridiculous. because potatoes are expensive) Filipinos are very serious about their food. But basically all you really need are the vegetables you have at home, some meat, and a sauce, and you're good. It's a meal!
And Some Elders decided to dress up with President. Hahaha, I can't even remember what those skirts are called right now.

If President wears one, then it's Pwede
We also received Cargo! We've been out of "The Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ" (but Tagalog) Pamphlets for weeks! We finally have some again! (and a lot of other pamphlets. except for Plan of Salvation. The only one we're starting to be low on.) And we got Libro Ni Mormons! We've been out of those for a while too! Basically it's been like the apostasy . We know there is truth, but we knew not where to find it!
I've gotten into trying things from Tyunggis (Pronounced: Chungie) I tried Tyiko (or is it spelled Chiko?) Which basically is a fruit that tastes like brown sugar. And sweet potato. Sister Massé and I love them. But the two Pinays we worked with that night after we tried them said that Chiko is the one fruit they don't like! Strange right?
There was also Tumbis, which is a weird food from a tree. . . it's like a radish or something in texture, and is spicy and sweet all at the same time. Sister Massé says it tastes like Christmas.
it's still stormy and cold here. (it was freezing at church yesterday.) but it's getting a bit warmer. I'm so glad I brought some Jackets/Sweaters with me. (never thought I'd say that.)

Anyway. . .I feel like this letter is much shorter than normal, but maybe that's because I'm tired from hiking. . . (and as I look back on this letter, I realize I ramble a lot. Wow. I write long letters. . .Sorry to those who are also on missions and only have so much time to read and email.)
Palangga ko kamo! 

06 January 2014

Letter 10 (Pulo): Hello 2014!

I literally just accidentally deleted my email! Whoops! REWRITING NOW.
So it's 2014? When did that happen? It's still Christmas here! (As evidenced by the Christmas trees and Lights, and people will still tell you Merry Christmas)
It's Still Christmas
I'm sure some of you have heard that New Years is a bid deal here or something. Well, you heard right. They may celebrate Christmas starting in September, and "Party-Party" Christmas Eve, but New Years is an even Bigger Deal!  The Plaza isn't normally full of stands that people put up to sell stuff (though Sister Massé and I loved it, because we got to go Ukay-ukay shopping and get some Filipino stuff! Like a Duster, and Swag Pants. (haha, I'm not joking. I now own Swag Pants)) There was an entire block, just lined with firework stands. Luckily that's one place were people actually followed the No Smoking Rule ;)

I didn't see any big pretty fireworks, (as I was trying to be an obedient servant of the Lord, and sleep) but I heard them! I woke up at midnight because it was so loud! The fireworks that people buy here aren't about the lights, it's all about the sound! I swear, you could shoot a gun and no one would even notice (not that I'm encouraging anyone to commit murder or anything)
We literally taught no lessons on New Years Eve! We even had lessons on Christmas Eve. That's how big a deal it is here. Holidays are all about having a party. (with Food. Lots of Food.. . and well. Drinking. Which is why we had to be home by 6:00 gid on new years.)

I didn't do much special for new years or new years eve. We went to district meeting on new years, and only had about three hours to proselyte (Home by 6!), but I made sure that the first thing I ate for the year was a Mango :) hahaha, I'll make sure that it's the last thing I eat this year too! (that is. If I remember)
Sister Massé and I reevaluated our investigators. We actually dropped quite a few of them. Even those with Baptismal dates, because they weren't progressing. (like a young girl, whose Mother gave her permission, but them her mom moved to Malaysia., and her Lola is Catholic Gid, and won't give permission. So there's nothing we can really do for now.) And so even though we dropped four people with baptismal dates, we somehow extended the invitation to four others, who accepted and are (hopefully) more prepared to actually be baptized!
Oh yeah. Gid is an emphasizer. So if I say Catholic Gid, I mean, Very Catholic. So like, if we had to be home by 6:00 Gid, then that means REALLY 6:00, no room for error.
Now that Christmas day and New Years have passed, we finally have members working with us again! They're great, because they testify and teach, but they also actually understand the language! (duh. Natives) We really need them. I'm pretty sure the only reason one of our Investigators (Let's call him Brother Reynald.) accepted a baptismal invitation is because they helped us teach the Plano Sang Kaluwasan.

My allergies kept me from realizing that I was catching a cold until it was too late. The joys of trying to understand a different language when you could probably barely be able to teach in English! But Sister Aquino is an awesome mission president's wife, and told me what to buy at the drug store, and I feel all better now! Though while I was sick I was not very happy (for the first time. it was weird and I didn't like it.) But after some Testimony tears (totally came up with that on the spot) from practicing the first lesson in English (way harder, but more powerful to me), I was able to remember my purpose out here, and even though this is the hardest thing I've ever done, it's been the greatest and most rewarding.

We've had some interesting lessons here. . We have on Investigator (Let's call him. . Brother Pio) Who has very good English, and has studied the bible a lot, but has a few interesting ideas. Like for instance, we taught the Plano Sang Kaluwasan, and he had somehow gotten the idea that the righteous come from Creation, and the wicked come from Evolution. . . INDI! We were just had to say that all people are children of God, ALL  are CREATED in HIS IMAGE. (with emphasis like that.) He's an interesting Character. He's called us Angels several times, and I can't decide if that's because we're both white or not. . 
However, Interesting Brother Pio aside, Brother Sulficio had his baptismal interview! He passed with flying colors!
We also passed the two deaf adults we ran into two weeks ago, and haven't really seen or heard from since. If we teach them (and I hope we do (though I hope to teach everyone we talk to)) Let's hope we'll be blessed to be able to understand each other, because I don't know any Church Signs!

The van we pushed out of the middle of the road.
I have a funny story from yesterday. So a Van had stopped and wouldn't restart in the middle of the road. The poor guy, he was so frantic, so Sister Massé and I went over and helped push it! haha, it wasn't until two Kanas in skirts started pushing the van that someone else thought to come by and help!

Ps. This is a C-Cab (also. Brother Reynan, who is a recent convert and gave us a ride. My first C-cab ride!). It's Bike and a side car (they have things similar to this in the US, deba (right)?) So a Tricycle/Trike is similar. The side car is bigger, a bit more sturdy, and has panels on the sides and front, instead of just a frame. And well, it's attached to a motorcycle, so it goes a lot faster, so it needs to be more sturdy (at least I would hope so)
Palangga Ako Sa Inyo!
Kabalo ako nga ang simbahan nga matuod, kag palangga ang Dios sa atom!

It's going to be a great Year! :)
-Sister Smith 

(I asked Brother Grunvig to translate the Ilonggo. 

"I love you guys!"

"I know that the church is true, and God loves us!")