Monday, September 27, 2010

It's raining, It's pouring.

Minamahal ang pamilya ko,
Well, it is what it is - the Philippines.

This past week it rained, and it rained, and it rained. And want to know the best part? Our ceiling leaks. No, the best part is it gets cooler outside for a short period of time. :)

I've gotten pretty dang good at handwashing clothes although it is a lot more work than just loading them into the dryer, and I'm so thankful you raised me knowing how to take a "shower" with a bucket and pot-thing. It's definitely still a bit of a culture shock.

I'm trying my best to work hard still though. I've kept a foot at the MTC with my friends and memories so I'm trying my best to remember that my loyalty is here now. It's been rough leaving them, but I know they're all doing well and am excited for their future. I'm so thankful that I was able to stay the full two months and wasn't transferred early like they had initially said or else I wouldn't have been able to meet the people I met.

This week I've had to learn a lot on self motivation.

We were really busy this week.

Last Monday went by pretty quick. I got my first haircut here by a bakla (cross-dresser) because I guess they're the only people that cut hair here. He/she cut my whole head with just a pair of scissors - to my surprise it came out really well! Other than the fact that I was extremely uncomfortable the whole time.

Tuesday we had nine appointments.

Wednesday I was able to go on splits with the zone leaders because my trainer had some kind of new training for a new teaching thing. It was awesome - our zone leaders are amazing and I learned so much from them. They definitely were called as zone leaders for a reason. They taught me so much in the day that I spent with them and I'll continue to go on splits with them for the next three weeks.

Thursday we had seven appointments.

Friday we had eight appointments.

Saturday we had a "temple tour" which was amazing. The Manila temple is actually in our mission, so exclusive to our mission, we get to take the people we are teaching there and the sister missionaries teach them about the temple and the things that go on inside the temple. We started by singing a hymn called "Lord, I will Follow Thee" which was absolutely beautiful. We had just the right amount of sisters and elders and poly's to pull of an amazing sound. By the time we were done singing, there wasn't a person in the room who wasn't crying. We had four more appointments that day.

Sunday we had church for six hours, six appointments, and a dinner appointment.

And well, now we're here.

This past week I've had to teach myself a lot about self-motivation.

My trainer is an amazing person, but this week I realized how much my progress was lacking. We would go and teach lessons and I wouldn't say a word because he assumed I didn't want to say anything and didn't have anything to say. I started to get offended because he thought I couldn't do it. He wasn't pushing me and it wasn't helping. To top it off, he speaks absolutely zero Tagalog to me. There was one lesson where I got really, really angry because I had so much to say, but he had his back to me the whole time. I could feel the anger speed my breathing and tense my hands and I realized that this contention would affect our teaching. So I prayed, hard. And then like a smack in the face, my thoughts started to race. I had no right to be mad at my trainer. He was just doing what we had been doing. I had never talked before so why would I expect him to think otherwise now. He's here to train me and of course, push me, but just because I don't feel like he is pushing me doesn't mean I can't push myself. I realized that this was just another trial for me. He's not perfect and neither am I, but I shouldn't need him to push me. I should push myself to speak Tagalog when he speaks to me. I should push myself to open my mouth when he's teaching and put my two cents in. I should push myself to be a better missionary and person everyday. I realized that you can't depend on someone else to be there, babying you the whole way. If I'm going to need someone to push me everytime I want to progress for the rest of my life, I'm not going to get much of anywhere.

So for now, I'm doing my best to be my best. It's still hard and people still mock me but I just use that as motivation. No matter how much I'm made fun of, I'm proud that I have the opportunity to live where I live and was raised the way I was.

Next week, I'll make sure to save time to tell you about the people we're teaching since I didn't this week or last week. I hope all is well with everyone. Be safe and I love you lots!


Monday, September 20, 2010

I get it.

Dear Mom & Dad,

I get it now.

This is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life and probably will ever do. Everyday is hard. Life here is hard.

Everywhere I go I get made fun of. People hear me talk and ask me if it's a joke and if I'm really Filipino. They call me a disgrace; a mockery of their heritage. They make fun of my accent and no one takes me seriously - not even people in church. People think I'm an idiot and for the first time in my life - I'm not among the best at what I'm doing. Every experience is humiliating. Everyone looks at me like I'm not human. Everything is against me.

And here I am thousands of miles away, with no one else but my companion.

But who am I to say this is tough, these people know what is tough.

I've been here for nearly five days and I still can't believe some of the experiences I've had. The United States is truly paradise and I've set foot in a land where being there is nothing but a hopeless dream. I get it now, thank you for raising me and working hard to get us there.

The way people live here is very humbling - let me just start from the beginning.

I left Provo on Tuesday and got here on Thursday around noon which is about 10:00pm Provo time. We arrived in our suits and it was like we got hit by a wave. The humidity here is nearly triple the humidity of Florida or Hawaii. It's hot, really hot. We were picked up and driven to the mission home where we met our president, the assistant to the president missionaries, and our trainers. To my surprise and out of sheer-dumb-luck, my trainer is from Vegas! He went to Western and his name is Elder Jennings. He is awesome and I'm learning so much from him and I love him to death because I know that he cares about me. He's been in the Philippines for six months and is a tall, huge, white guy so I always feel safe. He's got my back always and I know he does. Here they call your trainer your "tatay" or "dad" and they call you their "anak" or "kid." We were fed really quick, left our suits, and went straight to work.

My trainer and his previous companion have been doing work and they have been really busy. I feel so inadequate to be here and replacing his previous companion. Everyone looks at me and tells me it's a waste that he left and I'm here now but I just assure them that I'll do my best to help.

We got to the apartment first and I put my stuff down and we left. These were my words when we got to the apartment though:
You've got to be kidding me.

I purposely won't take pictures of it so that you won't see what we live in, but after seeing how other people live, I realized our apartment is five star. You walk in and have a small living room and "kitchen." There's a room to handwash your clothes in the back (since they don't have washing machines here) and a bathroom with a faucet and a small sink. There are no showers or water heaters but that's okay because it's really hot. Our mirror is a broken piece of a mirror that's about as big as my fist. The toilet doesn't flush and they don't use toilet paper here so you can imagine what you have to do. To flush the toilet you have to fill a bucket with water and put it in the toilet to flush. Our room has two beds and two desks. The place where I put my clothes is a two drawer, plastic dresser and I can't fit nearly anything in it. Nights are hard to sleep because it's so hot and we don't have airconditioning so I just put my fan at the head of my bed and hope for the best. With my luck our first night we had a "brown-out" or blackout and our fans stopped so I got a piece of paper and fanned myself til I fell asleep and continued to do that until the brown-out was over.

My first day here we had four appointments.

My second day here we had five appointments.

Saturday we had four appointments and two baptisms.

Sunday we had six hours of church, three appointments, and a dinner appointment.

Whenever I refer to an appointment, it's a teaching appointment that usually lasts up to twenty minutes because we're so busy. The members here are too poor to provide us with dinner appointments here so we don't get fed at night, but that's okay because we don't have the time. We barely ever have time to eat - it's become a burden here. We usually have dinner around 9:00pm and I'm really lucky because Elder Jennings loves to cook.

We walk everywhere and sometimes take jeepneys. The drivers here are crazy, you weren't kidding. This is how the road is: imagine a busy street like Charleston. Now take out all the stop signs, stop lights, road markings, and make the road curve a bit. Now triple the traffic, and add about 10-15 people crossing every 20 feet. If I had a dime for every near accident I've been in I'd be rich. I'll take a video so you can see.

When it's hard, I just remember what Elder Olson wrote down in my journal in the MTC:
This mission is going to try and test you, strengthen you up and rip you to shreds. Drive you to your knees in tears and grief, and then build you up again to become stronger than you could have dreamed for.

There are so many times I've gotten discouraged and wanted to just stop and cry, but I refuse to give up. I will do my best to press forward.

I'm out of time now but I'll email you of our investigators next week, one hour is not enough to cover all the experiences I've had here.

I love you all,

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Last Week.

Pamilya ko!
AH! Grabe naman! Naniniwala kayo na aalis ako sa pilipinas bukas?! Hindi puwedeng maniwala ako. Talagang pinakamabilis ang horas dito. Kahit na hindi gusto ko itong lugar noong dumating ako sa MTC, mag-miss-na-miss ako ng lugar na ito. Parang BYU - mas maraming mga mabuting taong nagmamahal sa bawat isa sa mga tao. Pero ok lang. Excited naman ako para tatawag sa inyo bukas!

Well I have a lot to write about so we're going to stop with the Tagalog before I get a migraine. This week has been super eventful and spiritually exhausting. I don't even know where to begin!

First, my musical number went GREAT last week! It was such an honor to be selected to perform and the whole MTC presidency attended so it was a pretty big deal. They loved it and I'm so happy I had that opportunity.

We spent all of last Monday packing a week in advance and weighed our bags a billion times. Unfortunately, EVA airlines (our airline to Taiwan) is super strict with weight and our bags and carry-ons/personal are under ridiculous weight restrictions. So I'll be sending a pretty hefty package home. I figured that'd be better than the $500+ penalty. Good thing we figured all that out last week though. I just left everything packed so I'm pretty much ready to go now.

I got to host missionaries again this Wednesday. The two elders I got to bring in were pretty sad to leave their families, but that's expected. They were both great though, and seeing their drive really reminded me of how hard I need to keep on working to keep that drive. It was such a blessing to see my friend Shelly come in that day as well. I met her over Spring semester as one of the RA's. She's truly an amazing person and I'm so excited for her. I get to have meals with her so I get to talk to her every day. I love hearing all the things she has to share. She is working so hard here and is such an inspiration to me. She puts her heart into everything and loves everyone sincerely - the best part is that it really shows. I'm so excited for her - she's actually headed to Dallas, TX so maybe she'll bump into the Hinahons!

So funny Tagalog story real quick. On Wednesday we were practicing teaching and one of the elders was having trouble saying that "God has a body of FLESH and BONE." He tried the first time and said "God has a body of flesh and TREES" and tried again and said "God has a body of flesh and RICE CAKES" and then Brother Doria couldn't take it any more and told him the real word haha. So it will make sense for Jason:

trees - puno
rice cakes - (mga) puto
bone - buto

I was laughing really, really hard haha.

We had a strange experience Thursday when a cold front moved in and the temperature high was in the low 60s. I was so mad. Fortunately, it didn't last for long and is back up to 80s-ish again today. We also had our last teaching appointment on Thursday which went really well, but also reminded me how much work I have to do on my Tagalog still. The next day our teachers showed us what a day in the field would be like by making a mock-day for us. It was a lot of fun and got us all pumped to be out there in the Philippines.

Saturday was a sad day. We had class with Brother Doria for the last time. We've all become such a family and he is such a great teacher. He was more like an older brother to us. We performed our district musical number for him and his wife (who is a BYU soccer player!) and than said our goodbyes. We took some sweet pictures too. It was really hard but guess that's the mission for ya. You make the sacrifice of leaving people you love to find more people to love.

I had a big wake call on Saturday though with Brother Molina pulled me aside. He's one of the other teachers who is exactly like me. Convert to the church from Las Vegas, didn't learn Tagalog growing up, but sent to Quezon City. He basically told me that the next six months are going to be horrible for me. He told me that I'm going to get made fun of everyday because I am Filipino and I can't speak Tagalog. he said people would call him a disgrace to the culture and our heritage. So I started to get really scared, but he taught me a lot of ways to overcome it and assured me it will get easier as long as I study hard.

Well things have been great here. I have one last story to share. My companion and I have really gotten close to another companionship here that we met in the immunizations clinic. We didn't think anything of meeting them at first but then we literally started running into them EVERYWHERE. Naturally, we became the best of friends. Last night I was able to talk to one of them, Elder Olson, for awhile and I now understand why God put him into my life. We were able to help each other through so many things that we understood and he truly helped me so much in preparing to leave. It's funny how many miracles you see in your life everyday when you realize that you have a Father who loves you and takes care of you. Out of anyone I've met at the MTC, I will miss them the most. I'm so glad we met them. Yesterday Elder Olson was looking at our family picture and said that he can tell that he would love you guys already, especially mom. I told him I have the best mom ever and sometimes I wonder if she loves my friends more than me haha. Hopefully you'll get to meet them someday - they're awesome.

Anyway, time is come to an end here. I can't wait to talk to you guys tomorrow! Hope all is well.


Monday, September 6, 2010

Twentieth Birthday.

Tao po!
I know you haven't been to the Philippines in awhile but that's what you say when you knock on somone's door. For Jason, it litterally means "People!" so that they know its not just a joke. My teacher was telling us that most times people will respond "Walang tao" which means "there isn't any people here" so I thought that was funny because... well you put it together haha.

Thanks so much for the card and shirt! That was the best birthday present ever! I'm so glad that the band shirt came out great this year and I'll miss seeing the shows a lot. I did hear from Cara though and I heard you guys are doing great! She said it's been one of the smartest freshman classes she's ever been around (although she says that every year). I'm really excited to hear about your success; although it's been a couple years since I've graduated, I will always support Palo Verde. Once a panther, always a panther.

Speaking of which, isn't that weird to think about? Celebrating my twentieth birthday has sure been an eye opener. I'm growing up so fast even I can't believe it! I am glad to not have the "teenager" stigma anymore though. Anyway my birthday was great. We started off the day doing some service and then my district sang happy birthday to me in English and Tagalog so that was awesome. I didn't get to blow out any candles though so do light up a cake and make a wish for me.

This past week wasn't anything out of the ordinary. On Thursday night at our teaching appointment we did get a little surprise though. We had been preparing the whole week to teach Lesson 2 in Tagalog with our companions and then at the literal very last second, Brother Doria (our teacher) came in the room and switched up our companionships to do a mock "emergency transfer." I wasn't too happy with this to begin with because Elder Frost and I worked really hard in preparing this lesson so it all went down the drain but I guess that's how the mission is anyway. It actually ended up really well. I got to teach with Elder Probst from BYU and he's a really smart kid. The lesson was actually to my surprise, the best one I've had yet. Although it's just a mock lesson you could feel the Spirit so strong that you could almost grab it. It was truly awesome. The Tagalog really surprised me too. I can't believe how much I've learned. It's really hard for me to talk now without saying any Tagalog and just straight English. I even think in Tagalog now. Weird right? It's awesome though and I can't wait to talk to you next week!

Well I guess Friday was a pretty good day. We got out flight plans so I'll be sending you a copy today. We fly to LAX than to Taipe (however you spell that) and then to Manilla. I'll be calling home late at night next Tuesday, probably between nine and ten from LAX so be ready for that! I also have some pretty awesome news. On Thursday the week before, I auditioned for a special musical number. That's probably the thing I've missed the most up here - music. So I grabbed a really talented piano player, a sister from the other zone, and we put together this vocal solo called "I have not seen, but I believe." It's a beautiful song and I really enjoyed singing it. I had no high expectations though because I'm by no means a professional singer so I wasn't expecting to make it through. They audition over 70 people in the course of four hours with a few rooms going and they only pick five to be able to give musical numbers at special big meetings for the next week. I worked really hard on our song though and changed a few things how Cara taught me to and, well, I got a letter in the mail on Friday telling me that I had been picked as one of the five to give a musical number! So today I'll be performing that song and I'm way excited! I'll record it and send you a copy with the memory card. My accompanist was telling me that she really enjoyed accompanying me because I actually did something with the music and I just responded that it's because my band director in high school taught me how to be a real musician through her great example and leadership. I'm really looking forward to that.

One small story that mom will enjoy real quick. So I got my suit dry cleaned this week and to my surprise it came back missing a button, and my companion was like... well what are you going to do? And I just responded, "My mom gave me a mouth and taught me how to use it." So I let them know what's up, kindly of course, and we got it fixed haha.

Anyway hope you all are doing great and I look forward to hearing from you soon!


P.S. - What's esau in Ilocano? Also, I was wondering if you could send me a band shirt in XL, I'll explain later!