Well I made it safely to the Philippines! So much to tell but I guess I’ll start before I left. So it seems forever ago, but last Monday we left at 6 am. It was a LONG day of traveling but it was also pretty fun being with so many missionaries. On my longest flight to Japan, I sat next this this 19 year old guy who was going back home to Taiwan and I pretty much taught him the first and second discussion, shared lots of scriptures and ended up giving him a restoration pamphlet and Book of Mormon. He kept asking questions so he seemed interested, but afterwards some sisters said it seemed like he thought I was cute so I’m not sure what his real desires were. But… I think it was a blessing for me because it kind of gave me confidence in my teaching even if it was in English. I also gave away some other pass along cards and pamphlets and spoke to a few Filipino people. Not sure if they were interested but it was neat! When we got to Manilla I was sooo extremely tired but I think the heat and humidity woke me up. OH MY GOODNESS IT IS SOOOO HOT!!!!! Haha. I mean I knew it would be, I tried to prepare myself but it is just so hot. So it took forever to get our luggage and get to the hotel but I didn’t get to bed till 2 am Filipino time on Tuesday night. I slept with Sister Webster which was fun (a sister I knew before from BYU). The hotel was wayyy nice though and it actually had aircon.
First day in the Philippines was SO exciting. We got up at 6 am and then flew to Naga. President Bliessner and his wife were there with other missionaries to pick us up. It was just so hot but for some reason when I got here, I was just so happy and couldn’t stop smiling. Meeting President was great and I already love him! He is a really incredible man and I wish I could have him longer. I just really knew that this is where I’m supposed to be. Anyways, 31 new missionaries including missionaries from the MTC in Manilla came! The biggest batch they have had or probably will ever have. So we went to the mission home, took pictures, had interviews, had a testimony meeting, talked about health precautions, a sister missionary from Utah talked to us about the culture and having native companions, ate and then we went to the church to meet our trainers! Oh about food real fast, my first dinner in the Philippines: rice and chicken. First breakfast: rice and chicken. First lunch: rice and chicken. Haha no joking about the rice. Anyways so kasama!!! Her name is Sister Simbol and she is AWESOME! Seriously no joke. Heavenly Father really knew that she would be the best for me and I just really needed someone like her. She’s a native but she has very good English. She is 23 and already has her degree but she is tiny! Hopefully I’ll have time to send pictures. Anyways she has been out for 10 months and she has trained 2 other missionaries but I’m her first American. So we had a little meeting with all the trainers and new missionaries and then we went out to our areas! Oh so when we got to the mission home they gave us either an orange sticker or no sticker which meant you were green. So orange meant you were leaving that night for your area and green meant you were leaving the next day, so farther away. I am almost 99% sure that green means Legaskpi mission and orange is Naga. Sooo… my first area is the Naga 2nd ward so I’m officially in the Naga Mission! Sister Lang is Legaskpi but that’s okay. So anyways, Wednesday night after the meeting Sister Simbol helped me load my luggage onto a tricycle and go to our apartment. It was about 8 so we didn’t have time to go out and proselyte. But we did start planning and she just got right into preparing to do work the next day. I could already tell she was a hard worker and she has an amazing testimony. I was totally exhausted so I slept well and then was the start of my first day in the field.
So it really was okay, but during the day I really thought I was just going to die haha. I had no idea how I was going to do this every single day for a year and a half, but I learned very soon that this is not about me and that just by simply asking for help, you WILL receive it. We started off by running which was okay because it was 6:30 am. Once we started studying though I kind of just lost it. The heat is hard to describe if you haven’t experienced it before. I knew it would be hot outside but I didn’t really think about how my apartment would be hot. All the time! We have fans but I have just never experienced sweating from just sitting there. And in humidity, you always feel dirty and sticky. I have started just folding my hands together when I pray instead of my arms because they just feel so gross haha. So anyways I think my first day I was experiencing some culture and heat shock. Well I pulled myself together so we could go out and work but I was still soooo tired from jet lag it was pretty hard to focus. We taught lots of lessons the first day which was good but I hardly could understand anything and my teaching was kind of a mess because I didn’t even know what was going on in the lesson. But… I was seriously so blessed to have Sister Simbol and she is so encouraging that I didn’t feel too bad. She is very encouraging but she was also pushing me to teach. She is extremely patient with helping me with the language and thank goodness she knows what to do cuz I still, for the most part, have no idea what is going on as far as paying for things and transportation goes. Which for transportation we walk mostly everywhere and we take the jeepney or a tricycle if it is a little farther. Everything is in pesos which is confusing but I’m kind of now starting to get a feel for it.
So my second, third, fourth and now fifth day have been much better. I have really adjusted to the heat (meaning I am now okay with always feeling gross and sweating 24/7). Teaching lessons has already gotten much better and of course…. I LOVE the Filipinos! I don’t have any super incredible stories yet about teaching investigators but it has been going well. Saturday was a blast cuz we had the National Day of Service. We went to the beach and planted these trees that help protect against typhoons and storms. The mud came up past my knees but it was so fun. We were able to wash off in the ocean which was fun! But the water didn’t even cover my feet cuz it was so low. Anyways there were sooooo many members there and I think we planted something crazy like 50,000 seeds. Riding on the way back to Naga city, I rode in a jeepney with some of the youth from Naga 2nd and it really just made me start loving my ward! They do think I’m rich since I have a car and they couldn’t believe that it was me on the water bottle that Haley gave me cuz I actually looked pretty in those pictures haha. Btw, after about 15 minutes in the Philippines I decided to give up what I look like haha. Don’t expect pretty pictures of me for a year and a half! Anyways the service thing was really neat. Then church on Sunday of course was great! And the church has aircon so that makes me feel like 20 times better. But anyways I bore my testimony which I think went okay. I did use some English because…. they use English too! All of church is in what I call “Bicaglish” Bicol, Tagalog and English. The Bicol just really throws me off but somehow they all understand each other. The tower of Babel really was in the Philippines. Anyways there are also elders in our ward and one is a native and the other is an Elder also from Colorado but he only has like 10 months left so his Tagalog is pretty good. We had ward coordination meeting which was okay but the ward mission leader is pretty picky and likes everything his way so hopefully he’ll be understanding that I cannot be a perfect missionary right now because I only understand like 20% of what is said. But he’s funny and I’m sure things will be good. So we taught more last night and then now today is already P-day! Luckily paying someone to do laundry is very cheap (23 pesos per kilo) so my kasama is good with doing that, but we do have to wash our garments. They are just soaking so haven’t totally experienced washing by hand yet but I’ll let you know next week.
So things that I have already experienced: sunburn, cockroaches in the shower, mice, ants everywhere, rain and eating a whole fried fish. Well and actually as far as the culture goes, you might as well just know what is the same as America because so much is different. First of all, my apartment is nice as you will see in the pictures. Okay well not really to an American standard but from what I have seen and from how so many people live here in the Philippines, our apartment is pretty nice. A good amount of the lessons we have taught have been in little huts where the walls are built out of cinder blocks and trash and the roof is tin or palm tree leaves. Most people have electricity but that is about it. So yes, I have already seen lots of very humble circumstances but the rumors are true: the people are still so happy! Maybe not everyone but they look for the best, they are grateful for what they do have and they are always kind. So I know that’s a lot about the culture but I’ll try to talk more specifics about people and stories next week. I’m gonna try to hurry and send some pictures now but I LOVE you guys and I pray for you everyday. Remember how much you are blessed with and look for the tiny miracles in life everyday. They really do happen in the mission field, even if it is just rain when I feel like I’m going to die from the heat.
Oh P.S. real fast: Being in Naga city definitely has benefits because there are more places to buy things (rumors are not true like not being able to find normal soap, toothpaste and deodorant like I heard in the MTC), there are places that will do you laundry which I might not have in other areas, and there are most places with aircon! You can probably tell that aircon is my new favorite thing.
Some things I was going to tell you about in my pictures, I took pictures of my apartment but just so you kind of know what it looks like for now, the walls are blue, it is pretty small, there is an upstairs, we have a bunkbed, the toilet is kind of a toilet but you just poor water down it to flush so there is no flush, luckily we have a shower head but it is all in the same room as the toilet and isn’t really what you would expect. There is mold everywhere but you get used to it. You have to use plyers to turn on the kitchen sink. We have a gas stove that you have to use matches… yeahh haha kind of like that. But like I said I’m getting used to it and I have seen much much worse. Oh we have roommates! Almost all of the sister apartments now have 4 sisters and they are great too. One is from California and she has only been here 6 weeks so it is so nice to have her to talk to. She went to BYU and she answers any questions I have about adjusting or the culture.