Monday, October 28, 2013

#1 Letter from Ecuador

I don`t even know where to start. What a week! The CCM seems like months ago. Well.... Hmm...
Leaving the CCM broke my heart, as was expected. All of us Guayaquil goers lined up at 10 at night to go to the bus to the airport. I only really knew Hermana Fox, and everyone else was buddy buddy. So that freaked me out a bit. But we flew, and I was exhausted the entire time. Keep in mind, I woke up at 6 that morning, left at 10 that night, and I hardly remember what a nap is. We flew all night, and when we got to Bogota, we saw a bunch of other sisters with name tags. They all rushed up to us and did the whole cheek touch air kiss thing, which is so unfamiliar to me! They were so sweet!

We got to Guayaquil and holy mackeral humidity. I thought I knew what humidity was, but boy was I wrong. It felt like breathing marshmallow fluff. The air is so thick and wet! I doubt I will ever get used to it.
President and Sister Amaya are so great! I didn`t understand all that they said, but they are very kind and encouraging, We have to wear knee highs! It`s for the bugs, but man.... it is so hot! I have been physically uncomfortable for a week straight. I honestly have not stopped sweating since I got here. But I love it!

I was assigned to an area called Bellavista in the city of Milagro. It`s so weird, in empty lots, instead of weeds or rocks, there will be bright purple flowers growing. There are a million dogs here, as well as millions of piles of ... dog evidence. Seriously, everyone has a dog.

Hello, I haven`t even talked about my compañera! Her name is Hermana Diez, and she`s from Peru! I`m the fifth hermana she`s trained, so she`s basically a pro. She talks to me only in Spanish, unless she needs to explain something to me, which is great, because I`ve learned a lot from her. BUT. They don`t speak Spanish here. I`m not 100% sure what language they`re speaking, but it`s definitely not what I learned in the CCM. They drop their "s"s and and everything is slurred together. My most repeated phrase is "Por favor, repite, màs despacio." Sometimes that helps, but usually I have to look at Hermana Diez and she repeats it in Spanish. I can understand her pretty well, but I don`t know how in the world I will learn Ecuadorian Spanish! Whenever we eat somewhere though, they ask me to say the prayer. I can pray in Spanish, but then after I pray they assume I can understand Spanish and they ask me something and I get the deer-in-the-headlights look.

Food! Every lunch, we eat at a member or part-member home. We walk or take a taxi, and there`s nothing quite like a hot bowl of soup when you`ve been wilting in the sun. Every meal starts with a big bowl of soup. It`s so good though, so different. There`s usually potato, and then chunks of cheese and sometimes noodles. On my third day, I had the soup that Mindy made for the throwdown! It was less peanutty, and it had shrimp in it, and we ate it over rice, but it was the same basic thing! So good!
I have had a lot of people ask me if I`ve ever had rice before, and they`re always surprised to hear that yes, we do eat rice in the United States.

The people are so curious about the US, and when I tell them I`m from Vegas, their faces light up and they say "casinos, no!?" They ask if it`s pretty, if there are lots of blondes, etc. One investigator questioned me about the price of clothes. This same investigator gave us four huge, juicy pineapples for free! We butchered one up that night and wow it was the best pineapple I`ve ever had. I may send pictures of the event if I have time.

We had two baptisms on Saturday (no one I had ever taught, but I`m counting them as mine..). They were both jovenes, one named Glorita, the other Luis. Glorita`s older sister (17 or so years old) and was baptized not too long ago, and their parents just gave permission for Glorita to also be baptized. Now, we`re working on the parents! Their parents came to the baptism and to the confirmation in church the next day, and were very emotional. They seem like really good people, and Glorita and Celita are angels! When I first met them, they combed through my hair with their fingers and telling me how pretty it was. That`s another question I`ve gotten a lot of, if my hair color is natural. They are so amazed when I say yes. My hair is the first thing all the girls bring up when I meet them. Luis is so great! He is 18. His mother gave him permission to be baptized, and she came. She`s very unsettled about the church and I think she`s worried about "losing" her son. We went and visited her and offered to teach her more about what her son had learned. I`m not really sure how she`s feeling about it, and it`s hard because she runs a little store and is always busy. I led the music for the baptism. No one here plays piano! The hymns sound rough. I`m tempted to ask to play just the top hand for sacrament meetings because you hear every possible key (and some impossible keys) when we sing.

It turns out I do stand out here a bit. I have seen exactly ONE person taller than me here, and he`s fifteen. Everyone else is tiny. Because I stand out, I have gotten some unwanted attention. There are certain places that we don`t pass by because I get followed around. It`s not great, but I`ve never felt worried about my safety. Sometimes there will be men gathered in an area and they start shouting at me in English. "Disney princess, Disney princess, come talk to me!" or "White niña what is up?" Some drunk guy followed us for a bit saying "Soy mormòn, soy mormon, talk to me!" Actually, we see this guy a lot. He hangs out around the houses of the members who give us references. Whenever we`re waiting for a taxi, without fail, every face in the car is looking at me until they pass. It`s a bit unnerving. On the bus ride to Milagro, a man was sitting in front of me, and he kept looking back at me. He was very conspicuous, but I didn`t really mind until some people got off the bus and he moved seats and sat with his entire body facing back, and just stared at me. He didn`t even try to hide that he was staring directly at me, so finally I started staring back, just to make him stop. It didn`t work. I was very uncomfortable for the next 20 minutes of this bus ride. I wasn`t really sure what to do. So that was interesting.

The work! The youth here are so great. Last night, we had one kid, Manuel, who came with us to visit his friends that he had given us as references. We talk to their parents as well. Everyone is willing to listen to us, but not many are willing to keep commitments. We spent a lot of the day Saturday going around and committing people to go to church. We made plans as to what time they need to go to bed, wake up, etc. Sunday morning, we called and visited houses, woke people up... and like 3 people came. No investigators though.

Hmm what else? Oh yeah, no hot water. There`s also a naked woman on our shower door... Our apartment is pretty nice though, one of the nicest one`s I`ve been in here. No one here has a dishwasher. I haven`t seen a single one. Even the nicest homes don`t have air conditioning, but I guess everyone`s pretty used to the heat. I walk into their homes completely drenched in sweat every time, but everyone seems to not notice the heat.

Here`s a fun fact. There`s an amazing family in the ward, the Torres family. The son David is a RM, and he basically runs the ward. Seriously, he`s awesome. He served in Rancagua, Chile, and knows Hayden Cooper (and David Archuleta, I`m pretty sure...)! Also, there`s an Hermana here from Arizona that knows Haley Flenner. Being a member makes this a small world!

What else! I`m going to need specific questions, I don`t know what to say. I love it. It`s hard, and boy am I tired. Plus, I`m confused 96% of the time, but it`s all good. The worst thing is when people try to talk to me in English. Their English is harder to understand than their Spanish haha, but it`s very sweet.

Picture time!  Before you look at the pictures, let me explain something. If you had people whistling at you and little girls fawning over you when you looked like a greasy hobo, would you bother doing your hair or makeup?
Sorry to all the dozens of single attractive men that are surely reading my blog, but things are going to get ugly.

*note from mom - The pictures didn't come through.  I will post them next week if she resends them.

1 comment:

  1. Natalie, reading your blog is truly one of the highlights of my week. You are so descriptive that I almost feel like I am there! I love your comments about the singing. That is how it was for me in Spain. We (the missionaries) would just sing VERY LOUD and on key and hope that the members would follow us since there was no piano. It worked sometimes! But singing was always entertaining! Love from the Jacobsmeyers