Monday, October 18, 2010

No Complaints.

Dear Family,
This past week has been AWESOME! There were so many great things that happened that I won't have time to touch on but I'll do my best. And hey, I'm finally starting to really love it here; imagine that!
Anyway, first just a funny experience. So my companion and I were sitting in Burger King the other day and he just started screaming and pointing at the TV screen. Remember that day a few years back that they filmed a bunch of people at the Burger King right next to our house and made a commercial out of it? Well they showed it here! All the way in the Philippines!
Wednesday was a really special day for us. We got to hear from a general authority in the church named Elder Jay E. Jensen of the Presidency of the Seventy. It was amazing that he could be here in the Philippines and talk to all the missionaries. It was also way amazing to be able to get to see all the missionaries in the mission in one place. I got to see all my good friends from the MTC and reunite with everyone so that was awesome. It's nice to hear their stories and know that they're going through the same things I'm going through as well.
The rest of the week was really a treat. The people we are teaching are really awesome and I love them a lot. One in particular that I'd like to talk about is Sister Jess Ampher. She's a squatter and lives (have I talked about her before?) a really rough life. She loves hearing from us though and enjoys our company. Her faith is really strong, and she's really inspiring to me. She does her best in being able to read the Book of Mormon but has a hard time because her vision isn't very strong and they can't afford glasses. I wish I could help but the most we can do is just share with them what the gospel has to offer.
Saturday we took one of our younger ones, Maria, to the temple with her mom. Their from Ilocos Norte too and love talking to me in Ilocano. This little girl is really something. First, she's special to me because she was the first lesson that I have ever taught and I will also have the privilege of being able to baptize her this coming Saturday. Her whole family is LDS but none of them go to church. And as a ten year old, she finds a way to pay for public transportation and make it to church every Sunday because she can feel the difference it makes in her life. Every time we show up to teach her she is so excited and always says, "I prayed so hard for you to come today and you did!" She loved the temple and it's beauty and was so happy to be there.
We also have had great opportunities to do service the past couple days. We were able to help a ward clean the chapel the other day and helped Sister Jen prepare food for members of the ward yesterday. It was hard work but man, is it awesome to be able to cook Filipino food! Yesterday was also the Primary (kids up to age 11 I think) program in church. They sang a bunch of songs and gave short speeches that brought the whole congregation to tears. I love the kids, they're strong and will be the change the Philippines need in the future.
This past week, I've been learning the true blessings of obedience. Sometimes the people around me are very heavily, selectively obedient and it's easy to see that in the way they carry themselves. There are so many blessings and safety brought with being obedient though and not convincing myself that I'm the exception to a rule. I've found that my days run so much better when I'm up on time, to bed on time, and doing everything right in between.
Well, I don't have many more crazy stories this week but I'm sure I will next week. I feel like this email has been kind of boring so I'll try to spice things up next week. As for now, I'm loving it here and the Tagalog is coming along really well! I wouldn't call it fluent yet but I can carry a good conversation now which is awesome. Anyway, hope all is well. Until next week!

Being the Example.

Dear family,
Well it's been awhile since I've heard how you're doing so I hope all is well. This week has flown by and has definitely been testing my character.

This past week we worked pretty hard but got a whole lot of no where. Out of the many, many, many appointments that we had, nearly every single one fell through and the people we've been teaching are slowly starting to not want to be taught anymore. Trying to find people has been rough too. We didn't have any good experiences last week and just got every door slammed in our face.

I could be negative - but that's too easy.

I've learned so much this past week about not letting my environment and my situation dictate who I am or how I'm going to act. People change, situations change, and circumstances change. There was a great quote I read from this past May's General Conference though that says that we never have to let our environment control who we are or the attitude that we have. The secret to life and getting through problems: be positive.

I also learned how much being an example really does affect people's opinions and choices. Last week I was fed up with living in a dump, so I decided, that even if I had to single-handedly clean or whole apartment, I was going to do it, and we were going to live in a clean environment. To my surprise, when everyone else woke up and saw me cleaning, they started cleaning too without saying a word, and together we cleaned, rearranged, and made our house a spotless place where we can feel the Spirit and carry on as missionaries in a good environment.

I got to go on splits with the zone leaders again for the last time on Wednesday and I learned a lot from Elder Castro. My Tagalog hasn't been getting much of anywhere because my companion never talks to me in Tagalog. When I was with Elder Castro though, he really pushed me and taught me about just having confidence and the difference that it makes. He taught me that God will help me if I'm confident and not dwelling in self-pity and he was right. I spoke the best Tagalog ever that day all because I just simple believed in myself.

He also brought up something that I thought was really funny about the Filipino table setting. In the Philippines the dad sits at the table with his wife directly to the left or right of him. The "bunso" or youngest kid always sits next to the mother and the "panganay" or eldest sits by themself. Sound familiar how we used to sit in Oklahoma?

Well, I also had my first experience with getting my wallet stolen here, but before you start to panic, read this whole paragraph first and you'll be happy mom.
So when we were walking home on Thursday night I looked at my companion and was like... my wallet isn't in my pocket any more elder. So we back tracked nearly our whole day since our last jeepney ride and concluded it was stolen. Here's the good news though. Since I've gotten here I've been doing pretty amazing (if I do say so myself) budgeting money. We get a total of 4,000 pesos each two weeks (43 pesos = 1 dollar). For that two weeks, I split it into two and use the following to budget my spending:

P1,000 on food
P245 on jeepney rides
P250 on taxi rides
P300 for squeeze emergency room
P200 set aside in an emergency fund

My wallet was stolen on Thursday night - it only had the left over money from that week in it and my mission card (unfortunately about P600). I carry my US ID and credit card in a different wallet locked at home so really, it was the best situation for that to happen and the week was about to start over on Friday anyway. I also follow mom's example, take receipts, and record my spending at the end of the day everyday. See mom, I did learn something about budgeting from you.

Today we had the great opportunity to go to the temple which was amazing. We're one of only two missions that has the temple in their mission and the opportunity to go to it regularly. The temple is gorgeous and it was awesome to be able to see it full of Filipinos.

I also attached some pictures for you to kind of see what life is like here. I recorded videos too but I'll have to trim them because they're too big! Most of them are of my district, our house, and the temple. I also made turon too! My companion and I made ten with three bananas so I stole grandma's trick. Also thanks for adding Sister Jen. She and bishop are like our family here. They are awesome and provide dinner for us and a home when we need one. They also feed us practically all day on Sundays out of their on free will and I'm so thankful for them here. Anyway times just about up. Hope you all are well and I'll talk to you soon!

Elder Corpuz

Monday, October 4, 2010

Snails, Anyone?

Hello po,
Well, I'm finally starting to get adjusted to this place - never thought I'd be saying that. It's a few steps away from home and a giant leap from American culture. I'd never say I'd live here but at the same time, I can't complain that I'm fitting in somewhere for the first time in my life.

Here's some fun PI culture facts that I've found out this past week for you:

-Apparently there's a song called "Pyramid" out right now which I have yet to hear because I'm in the Philippines and we didn't and aren't supposed to listen to the radio in the MTC. Anyway it's sung by a girl named Charise I think. She was extremely big here in the Philippines and before she hit it big in the U.S. She was a winner of the equivalent to American Idol here. She's a pinay!
-They still make the Toyota Previa here an it looks really awesome.
-They have 7/11's here.
-At Burger King here you get free back massages and shoe shines.
-It rains so hard that it goes through the umbrellas here.

I've also noticed some things we do in our family that I thought was exclusive to our family but actually isn't - it's exclusive to the Philippines. Here, parents call each other "mom" and "dad" too like we do at home. They also slap the crud out of each other when something is funny. So, well, we aren't unique there anymore.

Did I mention all the girls here are as loud as mom? And! I also had my first bowl of dinuguan here. Delish.

Anyway, hope something there made you smile.

This past week has been interesting - as if other weeks in my mission haven't been. It's been tough learning to work with my trainer. Although I'm aware that my best interest is at his hand, sometimes it's hard to see that. Sometimes he says things that aren't necessarily nice but I try not to take it that way. I know we're meant to be together for a reason so I just try to find the good in everything. It's really been teaching me patience and tolerance; it's especially taught me how to control my mouth.

We taught... a lot as usual. The work here is pretty intense because there are so many humble people who want to listen to anything that can bring them comfort.

On Thursday I had a really crazy experience. We went to a members house for dinner and as I sat down I noticed a bowl of shells. I looked at it and was like... "What's is this brother?" (yes, in Tagalog) and he looked at me and replied a word a didn't know. So I looked at my companion and he just replied, "Snails!" I felt like throwing up. Luckily there was barbecue there as well so I had a way out. So I just sat and minded my own business, eating my barbecue listening to my companion and Brother DeLeon slurp in their snails. I tried to avoid eye contact as best I could because I was not about to eat a snail... well that didn't last. It's first of all really amazing that members offer us food because most can barely feed their own families so when Brother DeLeon offered me one (because he noticed I didn't touch them) it was really hard to say no. He spent money on it, prepared it all for us. So I smiled a squeemish smile and took one. What you do is make a whole in the shell first with a spoon and then you blow in the end (to get rid of the sand) and then suck it out. So I did... but I didn't suck hard enough and as I pulled the shell out it was dangling from my mouth. I wanted to cry! I manned up and just ate the rest - which to my surprise - wasn't that bad! It tasted like chicken curry! One was enough for me though. I also walked by a cock fight yesterday! That was crazy.

Anyway my time is running out and I want to write to you about all 19 of the people we are teaching but that's just nonsense and we don't have that kind of time but I do want to talk about one sister in particular. Her name is Sister Cecelia and she makes the best "cassava" cake. She's about 60+ years old and all of her children and grandchildren are members of the LDS church except her. She has had trouble for a really long time with smoking and it's really made her life complicated. She is extremely nice though and very humble. Each week she has come to church she sits very attentively and wants to be there so badly. She loves her children and grandchildren so much and have seen how the church has raised them to be great children. Anyway, we've been going to her every other day to try to help her with her smoking. Every time we go and ask she replies, "Three sticks, one after every meal." I was getting worried because it wasn't getting any better. Finally yesterday we went to her and asked her and she was brought to tears when she said, "Wala na" which means "No more." She smoked one the day before and none that day (which was almost over). So we asked her how she finally got over and she said she just tells herself "Huwag na" or "Don't do it." She reads and draws strength from the Book of Mormon everyday she says and says that she feels it changing her life. We were all crying when she told us this story because after all theses years being controlled by her addiction, she was now controlling it.

We also have a little girl named Maria getting baptized this Saturday. She's 11 and she and her brother are the only ones that come to church. She is so motivated and excited though and can't wait. I know she will be strong as the church makes her strong.

It's been a trip here so far and I'm almost halfway through my first transfer. We had a zone activity today which was awesome to be able to get together and play games with all the Filipino elders and sisters. They're so much fun and for once I finally feel like I belong somewhere.

Hope you are all well - if you haven't had it yet, good luck at homecoming!

Elder Corpuz

P.S. - Yesterday was a crazy day at church - they announced a new temple scheduled to be built here in the Philippines!

Write Eric a Letter!

Here is the CORRECT address:

Elder Eric Ray Corpuz
Philippines Quezon City Mission
Ortigas Center, P.O. Box 13873
Emerald Avenue, Pasig City 1600
Metro Manilla, Philippines