Monday, November 24, 2014

Welcome to Florida!...oh wait...

Hey all!

This week has definitely had its ups and downs as I adjust to the "Puerto Life." Some things are so different here it almost feels like a complete other mission. The language would have to be the biggest divider. It honestly sound like some strange African tongue with random English words thrown in. I definitely want to make a conscious effort to learn this new language.

View from outside our apartment.

So, we had a baptism on Saturday! We baptized this kid named K___, who met the missionaries while they were teaching his aunt, C___. We've taught him everything, and he's come to church with us several times, so we committed him to baptism this past week. Everything went great. I've sent a picture of it.

Baptism on Saturday of young man K____ with me and my companion Elder Lawrence.
Speaking of which, I've also included a picture of the well water we drink here.
Just kidding. It's actually a chocolate-oatmeal drink.


Drink up!

But seriously, some of the wells people use here to get water are truly nasty. Like, poop-brown/worms-in-it nasty. Luckily our well has much cleaner water.

Right now we're teaching this teenager named D__. He's been taking the lessons pretty well and he keeps coming back to learn more, but I have a strong suspicion he hasn't told his parents that we're teaching him especially since they're Moravian.

Me and T____.

The Moravian church considers it a sin to talk to people from any religion other than the Moravians, and it denounces the LDS church as a devil-worshipping cult.
It's also the largest church here in Puerto Cabezas and the surrounding communities, so it's often difficult to find new people to talk to. But, we're not too discouraged.

Turns out, Elder Spence went home last week, for reasons unknown. That really bums me out. But, Elder Maughan made it to Puerto four days ago safe and sound, so that's great! Unfortunately, he's already had his camera stolen in the very short time he's been here. By a kid. So that's kinda sad too.

I gotta go. I love you all. I love you Mom, Dad, Alex and Bree.


P.S. Happy Birthday Bree! You're a Beehive now! Yeah! I honestly have no idea what that's like, so ask your sister on how to handle life at this age. I was a very different kid at 12 years old.
Hope your birthday was amazing! I promise I'll be back in time for your 14th.

The mission area.

Tracting in the wilderness.
1)   Did you get the instructions for priming the water filter? It should work if you do those steps right.

*Yes, I got the instructions. I'll try them out. So far, I've been working with the mesh bottle filter and the Steripen, which work out fine so far. We do buy purified water in addition to having tap water in the mornings.

2) Anything unusual happening there for you? As in WAY different than your experiences in Managua?

*Everything here is way different than Managua. For starters, everything is more laid-back, and a lot of people here sadly don't have motivation to do anything. But it gets pretty dangerous here at nights, especally since alcohol here sells cheaper than purified water. So, the schedule here has us getting up at 5:30 and going to bed at 8:30 (a whole hour earlier than back west).

3) What is the weather like there compared to Managua? Still super rainy? Cooler? Hotter?

*It's SUPER humid here, and it rains most nights. Honestly it feels about the same heat-wise as Managua, but the high humidity means we're sweating almost all the time.

4) Can you see the ocean? If so, what is it like? Florida? Hawaii? California? What is the sand texture?

*The sand is like Waikiki Beach in Hawaii, but a mile or so inland looks EXACTLY like Florida. It's so similar it's creepy. It's got those pine trees, gravel ground, and spiky plants and everything. It's got a mixture of coastal jungle, tropical plains, and Florida-ish climate. I sent a picture or two of it. Seriously just looking at it gives me flashbacks of Niceville.

The ocean!

P-day selfies.

5) Has your P-day changed much? If so, how?

*P-Day hasn't changed much at all, though we have to be more careful about groups of drunk people because they're everywhere.

6)Your Christmas packages (2 of them) were sent by us on Nov 8. Let us know when/if you get them. Remember to SHARE with your companion!

*I did get a package recently, but I don't think it was the Christmas package. It had candy, jerky, and some copies of the Liahona. Was that one of them? Thanks a TON, by the way.

7) I found a dictionary online for Miskito/Spanish/English. It is 152 pages long as a PDF. I will attach it to the long email, but I don’t know how useful it will be for you. Take a look at it if you can, and if you like it, I will have it printed and mail it to you. Let me know!

*Please send me a part of the PDF if you can so I can look over it. They do sell english-miskito dictionaries here as well, so I will look into it.

Gathered for a birthday celebration!

T___ and his adorable family!

We were all there for cake!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Yamni Balram a Puerto Cabezas!‏

Nakisma, family!

Well, I'm here in Puerto! Let me tell ya, it's WAY different from Managua or Tipitapa.

Everybody here lives in wood houses on stilts, and they all get their water from wells. Over half of the populatiopn speaks Miskito (a mix of Spanish, English, French Creole, and other native languages), which means I get to learn a whole new language. Yay! (Not really. But I'm totally down to do it.)

I'm also super glad I brought my Steripen. Unfortunately, the filter system I brought doesn't seem to work anymore, but they do sell purified water, so I'll be ok. I also brought my mosquito net, which I started using right away in our house. Good thing I remembered it.

Anyway, my new compañero is Elder Lawrence from Colorado Springs, Colorado. He's from the Ridgeview Ward in East Stake. He's been on his mission almost twice as long as I have, (7 months), most of it spent in Puerto.

The people here have a different culture than the Nicas back west. Here if people don't want to talk to you, they simply don't respond and pretend that you're not there. It gets super frustrating, and can happen right in the middle of a conversation with them. So, some of our contacts go south real fast.
We can look--but not touch.

A little LBJ here.

Bringing people to church is also an ordeal. We use a bus to bring everybody, and once they're there, we have to keep reminding them to STAY IN THE BUILDING until at least after Sacrament meeting.
Like Elder Lawrence says, it's like trying to herd cats. Difficult at best.

A lot of the people here don't speak Spanish either (just Miskito), so I gotta learn it if I'm gonna have better success while I'm here.

Thw two biggest churches here are the Catholics and the Morovans, and the Morovans say a lot of nasty stuff about the Mormons just to scare people away from our church. It's super frustrating and definitely un-Christlike, which is ironic.

People here cook a lot with coconut water since the well water can get really nasty. It gives the food here a little twist of flavor. I'm not sure whether I like it or I hate it. Elder Lawrence is getting sick of beans and rice for the past 4 months. I'll see if I can do something creative with the food.

I don't have a lot of time. I'll try to email you guys tomorrow to say more, but there's only 5 Cibers in all of Puerto Cabezas, half of them were closed, and this one's about to close. I'm really sorry I didn't have more time to email.

I love you all. I love you Mom, Dad, Alex, and Bree.


1) Who is your new companion and where is he from? Give us details.
*My new comp is Elder Jagger Lawrence from Colorado Springs, Colorado. He is from Ridgeview Ward, East Stake and went to Doherty High School. He's been in the field for 7 months so far. He was also in the exact same area as I was (Waspan Sur) before he came to Puerto. Crazy.

2) Did Elder Maughn travel with you to Puerto? What bags and items were you able to bring with you?
*Elder Maughan is still in Estelí, wating for his cedula. I feel bad for the guy.I brought one of my big bags with 45 lbs of stuff ($20 extra), including my mosquito net.

3) What kind of music is popular there?
*Reggae is pretty popular here. So are churchy/gospel songs (a lot of "Praise to God!" stuff).

4) What do people do for work there? What is the job industry like? Is it mostly small businesses (shops, taxis, restaurants) or are there bigger industries (construction, government jobs)? How do most people live?
*It's really just small businesses here that people workin for money. The biggest industry here appears to be the fishing industry, for which they have employees (a ton of the men here) leave for months at a time to fish and work on fishing boats. The next biggest jobs here are military and police. Most people live in deep poverty here, even more so than Managua.

5) What are most of the houses like? Tell us about yours! Is it average or better or worse than most houses?
*95% of the houses here are on stilts due to some hurricane/flood that happened decades ago, and most of them are made of wood. They're all crazily made, or hastily slapped together. Our house is actually pretty well off, but I did kill this humongous spider in the bathroom last night.

6) Will you have to learn a new language?
*Yes. In order to communicate with 50% of the people here, I'll have to learn Miskito.

Houses on stilts

Monday, November 10, 2014

At Long Last

Hey all!

Well, the time has come. Saturday night I was called by the secretaries to tell me that my cèdula had arrived and was ready to be picked up. Needless to say, I am more than a little excited. Though not so much about packing.

Lots of goodbyes today. Many of the older missionaries will have left for home by the time I return from Puerto Cabezas, be it 4 months or 13 months (those are the two extremes for serving that I've heard). I'm a little sad, but my mind is kinda going in a ton of different directions right now, so it's kind of a mix.

Puerto Cabezas

Got two packages delivered to us on Sunday! One was from Aunt Kim and Uncle Shane (please tell them thanks a bunch), and the other was from you guys! Tons of candy, some supplies, and a few Halloween decorations. A little sad that it came a week late for Halloween, but Spence and I stuffed ourselves on candy and oreos. I really really love you guys.

So, on Thursday and Friday we had the opportunity to build a roof and a door for this old lady that lives out by Lake Nicaragua. We used a plastic tarp, some twine, nails, strips of fabric, and ballpoint pens. The thing was, this lady is SUPER Catholic. She didn't want to hear ANY of our message. But we offered to help with anything that she might need. So we ended up building a door (wood, metal, nails, and hinges) and a roof. She wanted to hear our message after that.

It reminded me of Aaron vs. Ammon (sons of King Mosiah) in the Book of Mormon. Aaron just went out and started preaching to the people, but nobody listened to him. Ammon, on the other hand, offered to serve King Lamoni for awhile. Impressed by Ammon's example and willingness to help, Lamoni and his household listened to Ammon's spiritual message about the doctrine of Christ. Eventually almost his entire kingdom was baptized.

So, service works. More of a "teach by example" moment, I guess.

I love you all. I head for Puerto tomorrow; I'll see if I can shoot you guys an email once I'm there.

I love you Mom, Dad, Alex, and Bree.

1) Tell us about your new companion, Elder Spence? Where is he from? How long has he been out? How’s his Spanish?
*Elder Spence is from Riverton, Utah. He came six weeks (one transfer) after my group did. He's been doing pretty well here in Tipitapa. He's been on his mission for 3 months. His Spanish is improving daily. He actually has quite an amazing conversion story. He fell away from the church when he was 14-15, and unfortunately became caught up in the world. Early August 2013, he awoke in the middle of a park after a particularly rowdy party, and decided something needed to be done to change his life. So he came back, cleaned things up, and is here now with me serving his mission. I know he can do great things here.

2) Has the situation calmed down since the “proposal incident”?
*The missionary who proposed has been moved to Leòn for the last 3 weeks of his mission, so things have calmed down. But the zone here is beginning to come down off of its high streak. I foresee difficult times ahead here.

3) How big is the ward in Tipitapa? Are you finding your way around okay?
*I'm finding my way around here great. The branch is super tiny, but it continues to grow.

4) Have you gotten any new packages? I know my parents sent one. We are waiting to hear if you got our Halloween package.
*I got TWO packages! I'll explain in the big email.

5)  Describe one uplifting event that happened this week. Where you could see the hand of God in your life.
*We had the opportunity to build a roof and a door for this lady's ramshackle house by Lake Nicaragua. The spiritual aspect of it I will explain in the big email.

6) Describe one culturally unique thing there. How was the Dia de los Santos?
*Nicaragua doesn't really have a culture. They didn't do anything for Dìa de los Santos, but the Catòlicos have weekly parades in front of their chapel. Not many other cultural things happen here.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

I felt like a failure all this week

I'm really sorry that my last email was super short. I wasn't trying to hurt your feelings or anything. I've just had a really, really sucky week and I didn't feel like I had anything worth mentioning from that week in my email, especially since it would sound like basically just venting.

Elder Maughan and I did nothing but search references and contact families and less-actives, all of which we gave to the Elders actually assigned to Waspan Sur and Waspan Norte. They never actually used the references we gave them, so I basically felt useless in that aspect. On top of that, we found a bunch of less-actives who we committed to church, but then we both had divisions on Sunday and couldn't pass by their houses to remind them to get ready. So, we gave the references to the Elders already working here, but they never passed by. I was in Tipitapa (east of Managua) all Sunday, so I couldn't have passed by even if I wanted to. Of course, none of them came to church.
Me and Elder Spence in Tipitapa

I felt like a failure all this week.

Today, I was given 30 minutes notice to pack my bags and head back to Tipitapa for a longer stay. I'm taking over the training of a new Elder here named Elder Spence. His comp, Elder Christian, was in my CCM group. Last week, he had the flu real bad and fainted off the top bunk, smacking his head and getting a concussion. He fainted five more times that day. He crashed his car two years ago and wasn't expected to live, but by the grace of God he survived. He still has minor brain damage though. So, they sent him home for medical reasons today, and I've been assigned to take over his area and train his comp. This is for an indeterminate period of time, and neither the AP's nor President will tell me for how long, who will be the new District Leader, or if I'm even still going to Puerto Cabezas. To be honest, it feels like more of a false hope at this point.
New Area

I'm exhausted and nobody will give me definite answers for anything. Elder Spence doesn't even know his area, so we're trying to explore and find out where everything is here. Thanks to some other Elders' recent shenanigans here (an Elder here proposed to one of his recent converts-- but he's still serving his mission), a bunch of people here including recent converts hate the Elders and the church right now for its 'bad example.'

I'm just trying to get a grasp on things. Neither Elder Maughan nor Elder Spence speak good Spanish, so I've been doing 90% of the teaching for the past week and a half. It's gotten me nowhere and the hard work that Maughan and I actually accomplished was basically thrown in the garbage by the other Elders. I feel terrible and super discouraged and I was looking forward to your email because it gives me a big boost for the rest of the week but now I feel terrible again because my email wasn't that long and I let you guys down too.


Monday, November 3, 2014

Waiting On The World To Change

Hey all!

So, I haven't actually traveled to Puerto yet! It honestly kinda sucks to be here waiting. We haven't been called to the Department Office yet to get our cédulas, so we have to keep working here in Waspan until they arrive.

Here's actually a different phase of the mission work- I'm working and teaching and proselytizing with the knowledge that I am only planting seeds in people's hearts-- not harvesting them.

We give all of our contacts and references to the Elders who are actually assigned here (Alfaro, Harris, Zorrilla, and Ferrin).

So the new shipment of missionaries came in last Tuesday! They looked exhausted, and totally lost. I am sure that my gorup looked exactly the same way when we came here.

So, not much else to say. Just sitting (working, actually) and waiting.

I love you all. I love you Mom, Dad, Alex, and Bree.

The District

Me and Elder Castillo

The Elders on P-day


1) Do they have marshmallows in Nica? Can you build a fire and toast them? (I’m thinking s’mores.)

* They do have marshmallows! But they're actually crazy expensive (which is weird), so we never buy 'em. Also we can't have fires 'cause the houses we use are just being rented, not owned.

2) How’s the laundry lady working out for you? Any worn out spots on your clothes? Do you need us to send any replacement clothes?

* The laundry lady is great! She's actually a member of the church, and very strong in the faith. I don't need any replacement clothes yet.

3) Will you get packages in your new location? Or will you still have to wait until you get back to the mission home? If so, how often will that be?

* I don't know. I'll let you guys know next week.

4) We are also getting ready to send you a digital voice recorder so that you can talk into it during the week and just upload the files to dropbox. (They will be MP3 files.) It can save you a TON of time and you can do it INSTEAD of using all your time typing up an email. I’ll just transcribe your message and post it. How does that sound to you? I’m thinking that the 30 minute limit will NOT change.

* Sounds like a plan. I'll need to get used to it, though, and I'm not sure how you guys'll transfer the information to the blog.

5) Any tummy issues? Are you healthy? I pray for good health for you EVERY SINGLE DAY! That reminds me—DON’T PICK UP ANY MORE ANIMALS!!!!! Um… yeah!!!! They are vectors for scary diseases or other toxins—bites, stings. Please please please please. This is your mother BEGGING you to not pick up animals—at the very least, the creepy ones!  I know you are a zookeeper, but it gives me a heart attack—especially the SNAKE!!!

* I'm doing pretty good so far! Ok, I won't pick up any more animals.

6) Do you want me to pick out a Christmas ornament this year for you? Or do you want to find one in Nica?

* Please pick out an ornament for me back in Colorado. Some Star Wars spaceship, or a Star Trek one if you can't find Star Wars. I'll see about here, but they don't celebrate Christmas here like they do back home.