Monday, October 27, 2014

Falling Lights, Halloween, and a Baptism

Hermana Paula's baptism, with
her daughter, Maria, who was baptized the week before.
HEY everyone!!! OK, so this week, actually went by fast...and I have some really good news! YES -- We had a BAPTISM!!!! The church leaders would rather have ward members perform the baptisms so the link with the ward is stronger, but it doesn't always work out with the members, so the missionaries almost always end up doing them. This week, we actually got 6 investigators to come to Sacrament Meeting, and we did 2 more confirmations again during the meeting. As far as church services, we are lucky to have 45 to 50 members come to Sacrament Meeting each week LOL, kind of different from home.
I had to take a picture of Paula's humble home that she shares with her
daughter, Maria, son-in-law, Jose, and her grandson, Diego.

So funny story, during the middle of Sacrament Meeting, one of the light covers, just like the ones we have in the gyms of our churches back home, fell out and landed on someone! She was alright, but it shattered after it hit her head and landed on the floor.....the church is kind of run down here LOL, but again she was alright, just really weird.
Another view inside their home, which is typical of most homes
here in Nicaragua. A lot different from West Jordan for sure.
You can see their TV in the corner, wooden plank door,
and the fridge there doesn't work.

So it turns out that our apartment is pretty great compared to others. It is the biggest apartment in this zone, so it will actually be really sad when I have a smaller, dinkier "house." Sometimes we will wake up, and we won't have running water, like this morning! When that happens, we have to go into our water storage in these sketchy water sink things as our backup water, and take showers with a bowl and a bucket of water...I've had to take 3 of those already....and we can only hope that the water turns back on by the time we return to the apartment later that night! Only once we had to go all day and night without water.

This is the street Hermana Paula and Hermana Maria live on.
Seems like a lot of the roads are covered in litter and smell
questionable. A good example of what I walk on all day every day!
My parents asked about what we do for meals and where we eat. Well, they dont have any fast food here in Masaya. There are some McDonalds and one KFC and a few Papa Johns but only up in Managua. However, they have little local restaurants and this BOMB bakery really close to us that we've eaten at a few times. I am ALWAYS hungry...and sometimes my companions don't go eat dinner -- in fact most nights we don't stop for dinner -- so I have to eat "dinner" when we return to the apartment at the end of the day (about 9:30 PM or so) and seems like I'm the only one starving. I actually think I am gaining a little weight since I left on the mission, but we don't have scales to weigh ourselves, so who knows for sure. Everyday for lunch, we go to a member's house, Hermana Martha. She makes us lunch and also does our laundry every week. BUT the problem is that when she does our laundry....let's just say she has to do it the old-fashioned way, and last time I got my clothes back smelling worse than right after I had used them.....I'm gonna have to adjust to that, kinda gross, especially with how I soak everything in sweat because of how dang hot it is all the time. 
Some random people roaming the streets on Halloween here in Nicaragua.
This lady was actually a lot closer to me than I wanted her to be.

This kid is a member, like 15-years-old, and
he goes on splits with the missionaries every other week!
Selfie with Elder Castro on Halloween.
As far as the Spanish goes, I'm having a really hard time with understanding people....I can speak a LOT of Spanish, and the people here can understand me really well, but I'm having the hardest time understanding them and even my companions. It's really frustrating. 

We've been working really hard this week. I think I'm adjusting more to getting to bed around 10:30 or 11:00 and I literally fall asleep in minutes because I'm so exhausted. On the other hand, the waking up is also getting easier. The problem is we don't get breakfast unless we buy it on P-day for the week...which I neeeed food all the time. This work makes me so exhausted and siempre hungry. I guess that's the missionary life.

This past week in Nicaragua, they celebrated Halloween last Thursday! I dont know why they celebrate it earlier, but its really weird here. people just march around in the streets, no trick or treating, just walk around in costumes and people will sit outside and watch. I got some pics though, one with a member and then with some random people in the street that went all out with their costumes.

Other than that, nothing super crazy happened this week. Seems like every day I'm seeing something weird and new, but nothing to write about. Oh, one more story: OK...So Elder Meme. and Elder Castro had to go to Managua for a Zone Leader meeting last Tuesday, so me and Elder Sanchez, both being here for only a little over a week, had to do a full day of work by ourselves, relying just on each other. We got lost trying to find EVERY appointment...BUT we met our daily goals AND! the best part.....we got a baptimal date! Our companions were so surprised when they returned, and we were rewarded with Oreos LOL. That was probably my favroite day this week. In the next few weeks, we will be having a lot of baptisms, and all of the upcoming ones I had a part in teaching and two I even said the invitation! Fun times. Anyways, I'm out of time. I'm already feeling better about all of this, but it's still going by pretty slow and it's gonna be a looong time, but I'm enjoying myself a little bit more right now. My parents were telling me how my uncles all said the same things when they left the MTC on their missions, just like I did last week. Well, that's the same thing a lot of the missionaries here are telling me, that your traning is usually very difficult and the hardest part of your mission to get through. I have had some really hard days, but I'm adjusting. I am still missing home like crazy, but im actually feeling better about this right now than I was a week ago. 
Lots of horses here -- cheaper transportation I guess.
We haven't taken a horse taxi yet, but they have a lot of those, too.
Seems like a lot of the pets here are abused and/or underfed,
so the pobre ceballos are always depressed looking....
A cool store we pass every day. I took this on our way
to the internet cafe today.

Hanging out after Sacrament Meeting -- Elder Sanchez, Elder Mehmatof, and me (Elder Castro is taking the picture).

Monday, October 20, 2014

Bienvenido a Masaya, Nicaragua!

Our bus ride from the CCM to the Mexico City Airport, 2:30 AM.
Hola from Nicaragua!!

Entonces, I still have a few stories about leaving the CCM. So a week ago Saturday, I thought I was feeling better from my cold/virus, but then later that night, I noticed my arm was COVERED in hives. I had been feeling incredibly itchy all day and didn't know why. Well, about 8:00 that evening, I realized I had hives covering nearly my entire body. I went over to the Infirmary and the doctor told me it was because of the virus I still had and the hives were the result of my body fighting the virus and my itching all day made it one-hundred times worse. So he gave me some Benadryl and this other stuff that was super sketchy, but since that night, the hives and virus haven't come back, so hopefully it is all gone now.

Van ride from the Managua Airport to the Mission Home.
This is one of the Assistants to the President who picked us up.
Then, a week ago Sunday, our last night in the CCM, we didn't go to sleep. We were all busy packing, and since our whole casa was leaving at 2:30 AM, it was also one last party. The flight from Mexico to San Salvador to Nicaragua was all right. I did try to call my parents, but the phone said the call wouldn't go through (my dad later told me that I still got charged a whopping $49! What a rip off!). Nothing too eventful otherwise.

First day in Managua, Nicaragua.
Nicaragua-- Can I just say it is so incredibly hot here!!! The second we walked out of the airport doors, I have never been so hot in my life! We arrived at the Mission Home, met President Russell and his wife. Kind of funny, but the Managua South Mission Home is right next door to the Managua North Mission Home. We had Papa Johns pizza the first night in Nicaragua, and it is not the same as the pizza back home at all! The first night, we stayed in a HUGE, but really old house with the office Elders. One of them, Elder Nesbit, he went to Copper Hills High School! We recognized each other right away. He's pretty cool and he got here in January. Later that first night, we stayed in the house with the office Elders, and holy cow, we all felt a big earthquake! I was on the top of a bunk bed, and it started shaking like crazy. At first, I thought it was Elder Bradbeer in the bunk below me playing a joke or something, but obviously it wasn't LOL. All the office Elders came rushing out of their rooms into the central family room where all the bunk beds were set up for the newbies, and we all just kind of freaked out for a minute or so. It was crazy! First night here!
Me and my new companion, Elder Castro. He is from El Salvador.

Our new apartment in Masaya, Nicaragua.
The next day we had training and interviews with the President and APs. Then on Wednesday, it was cambios and exchanges. A bunch of the Elders were about to become Trainers, and ALL areas got new Zone Leaders and District Leaders. So I found out the first area I was assigned to is: MASAYA!! So far, it's a pretty awesome city about 45 minutes south of Managua. AND get this -- I have three companions! That's right. So, Elder Sanchez is another newbie missionary, but for some reason, he was the only one of us who went to the Provo MTC -- we aren't sure why, but he arrived in Nicaragua on Thursday, the day after cambios, and he joined us in Masaya. Elder Sanchez is from California and even though one of his parents is from Mexico, he didn't speak Spanish before his mission. The other two companions are the Zone Leaders for our zone, Elder Castro and Elder Mehmatof. Elder Castro is my main companion, and when we go on splits and stuff, I always go with him. Elder Castro has been on his mission for 18 months and he is from El Salvador. He comes from a pretty humble life just like the people here in Nicaragua. Elder Mehmatof is from Brazil, but his grandpa emigrated there from Turkey, so he is Arabian. Elder Mehmatof has been on his mission for 21 months, and neither he nor Elder Castro speak any English. Now don't get me wrong, having Elder Castro and Elder Mehmatof REALLY helped my with the SPanish, but it was kind of nice when Elder Sanchez arrived from the Provo MTC because I could still speak a little English.
Our entire zone minus 4 hermanas. We all went to the
Masaya Volcano National Park for our P-Day today.

So apparently, our house in Masaya is supposedly the nicest one in the mission next to the office Elders' house. I sure hope that is not true, because it is really dark and danky. It does have an upstairs where we sleep. As for Masaya, I have never seen anything like this. I need to take some pictures of these houses we contact for next week. About 80% of the houses are tin roof garbage bag homes. You can tell how much money a family has by whether they have a tile floor or just dirt, but every single casa, guaranteed 100%, has a TV. Funny, but most of the homes only have one lightbulb and they cook over a fire every night, but they all have a television. TV is LIFE here for the Nicaraguans, and they always have them turned on with the audio blasted loud -- rather funny. Some of them can't buy enough food, but they have their TV! The slums here are literally slums! I can't believe the living conditions of the people here and I can see how this is one of the poorest places on Earth.

I was really frustrated with the Spanish at first, but already I feel like it has improved a ton! The first couple of days I couldn't understand ANYTHING, but I was actually able to say a lot. But if someone said something to me, even my native companions, I couldn't understand! I was constantly praying for help... CONSTANTLY, and guess what? By like Friday, I was already improving like CRAZY and I am actually, already, not even a week in Nicaragua for that, and I can understand most things now, and I can speak quite a bit. My companion told me that he has trained 4 different greenies (new missionaries) and apparently my Spanish has been the best of any of them.

Standing in front of the Masaya Volcano.
Believe it or not, I actually really like the food here. All of it, even the sketchy cow intestine soup. I haven't got sick yet. However, I did eat all my candy from the CCM already. I also already took a shower with a bucket of cold water and a bowl -- not fun! For P-Day today, we visits the Masaya Volcano National Park (see the pics). I also get a lot of drunk guys shouting at me because I am a gringo, and also it's HILARIOUS when we give lessons and all the children stare at me because I am so tall. I tower over everyone here! All the members and investigators' first question is they ask me how I am so tall.

The work here is great, very tiring, and the thing about Nicaragua is that they don't know much about the outside world. Even some members of the church don't even know about temples, so we have to give members lessons about the church, too. Also, I found out our mission has the most baptisms of any mission in the world, but the problem here is getting people to come to church before and after their baptism. Every single contact says they will go to church. We contact them on Friday and make sure they're still good to go on Saturday, but then Sunday morning when we show up, surprisingly they aren't home, or they went into Managua that day or something comes up, so we don't take many people to church with us. I do already have a baptism scheduled for next Saturday, and yesterday I was able to stand in the confirmation circle for 2 AWESOME now-members (they have been my favorite to teach).

I'll be honest, though, I'm still struggling some times. It's just really tiring... one day my body is super ready to go and I get up right on time at 6:30 AM, and then other days I get up and feel like death because I'm so tired... so much to do. I miss home like crazy, and time seems to be going SUPER slow right now. I can't wait until I have a few months under my belt so I can be one of the cool missionaries that have all the experience, Spanish, and go home soon. Two years sure seems like a really long time, really hard for me to imagine how long this is really going to be. I'm trying to fight through it, but that's kind of hard right now. This might be a loooong 2 years for me, BUT I almost have 2 months under my belt now -- ha ha -- that is a little better than thinking I have only been out in the field for 7 days. Well, thanks for all the emails and letters from everyone (my cousin Ally sent me a letter already even).

Close up pic of me in front of the Masaya Volcano.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Bienvenido a Nicaragua! I Made It!

Just a quick note to let everyone know I made it safely to Nicaragua today!
One last pic of our district before we left the CCM.

We made it! Posing with Hermana and President Russell

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Adios to the CCM

Thank you Mom and Dad! My breakfasts have been awesome the last few mornings!
So this week's blog post is a little earlier. We got a partial Preparation Day on Saturday to pack and prepare to leave the CCM. We also had time to email and send a few more pictures home. We found out that, unfortunately, we won't get a Preparation day during our first week in Nicaragua, so we had to make Saturday's P-Day count.

First, I wanted to thank my parents for the package this week that contained cinnamon rolls and chocolate candy!!! The cinnamon rolls were delicious, super gooey and made breakfast the last few mornings much more enjoyable. Thank you so much!

I heard also that the TV show, Survivor, is currently filming this upcoming season in Nicaragua (San Juan del Sur, Rivas, Nicaragua) -- LOL.  So maybe you'll see me preaching to the Survivor contestants! AND Im basically doing the same thing as the show's contestants except I have to survive 2 years and not just 50 days, so take that!

One thing I forgot to mention last week was that I hit my 1 month mark. I'm already 1/24 done! 
Our fresh new authentic Mexican ties courtesy of Hermano Perez

A group pic with Hermano Perez. He got home 3 months ago from his
mission to Panama City, and he plans to attend BYU-Provo in
three years, so I could see him there!
One other cool thing that happened this week is one of our teachers, Hermano Perez, bought us a bunch of neckties. We gave him 120 pesos each and he bought them in bulk so they were a good price and we got 5 more ties each -- authentic Mexican ties! AND that same night, we had a HUGE tie trade market in our Casa, and I made 4 different trades for some SWEET ties. I am wearing them in a few pictures, like the sweet black paisley:)
District pic with Hermano Sanchez (funniest teacher ever!)

So the time is flying right now, its insane....we have a little over 24 hours right now. Ill make sure to get pictures while im in El Savador for the 45 minutes I'm there. Also, I'll have been in 3 different countries instead of just two! So pumped!:) 
District pic with Hermano Villalobos and Hermana Velasquez,
our two main teachers that taught us every day.

I also found out more info about Nicaragua....guess how much money we recieve each month to live off of.......$6!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We LIVE comfortably off of $6 a month...Elder Bronson and Elder Jensen have enough American cash with them to pay for all of our missions, we did the math, how awesome is that!?  But anyways, I am so ready for Nicaragua! A new district came in this week (one of the Elders went to Taylorsville High School and knows my friend, Cody) and one of the new Hermanas said she had an older brother who went to our mission 2 years ago, and she told us some scary stories, like a parasite crawling up his throat and out his mouth. AND they like to drink hot soups when it's already blazing hot, and they did this so that it would literally put them to sleep, and other crazy stuff. I'M SO EXCITED! It's gonna be such an adventure:)
Elder Ruiz, Hermana Velasquez, and me.

One thing I forget to pack or even buy was a mosquito net (apparently I REALLY need that) and I will have to buy a new pair of shoes for sure. I toasted one pair already, the super glue didnt hold at all, so basically I have one pair of shoes to wear right now. Also, I know for sure one thing I will NOT need by any means is the coat I brought with me. It really is a waste of space too....Apparently, when it rains in Nicaragua, it POURS, and there is not much point to using an umbrella. One thing in common with EVERY person that knows about Nicaragua, or has been there, is that it is BLAZING hot, all day, every day, and the rain is like a warm shower LOL. Well, that's all I have time for now. I'll write again after I'm in Nicaragua:) Love you all and thanks everyone for your letters, emails, prayers, and support!

Hermano Villalobos is the most slick guy, and he is also
going to try to get into BYU-Provo the next couple of years.
(PS: I am 100% healthy now, got over my sickness finally, Im doing really well now!)

All sporting our new haircuts for Nicaragua!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Conference, Cleaning, and a Cold

Posing with the Nicaraguan flag
Well, we watched General Conference this past weekend in English. The satellite feed was in English and we had the same English voice-over guy for all of the speakers who spoke in their native language, even the Spanish ones. There wasn't any way to have us listen to just those few in Spanish. The CCM leaders told us they wanted us to get the most meaning out of conference and be able to take notes without having to worry about vocabulary and translating things and stuff, so they gave it to us in English! I think this Conference I've gotten the most out of it than ever, for sure. I actually took notes on every talk, and I really enjoyed watching, and they did allow us to take our suit coats off after we sat down, so that was nice. But including a video Sunday night, which was 2 hours, we were in the one auditorium for 16 hours over 2 days......rough stuff. However, I never fell asleep this time while watching conference -- we all stocked up on snacks from the tienda on Friday to help keep us awake. 
A zone activity between sessions of Conference on Sunday
Our district sharing a package of Oreos -- yum!

It looks like my little brother and sister finally got my letters, thats super cool. They took over 1 month to get to them. I was sad to hear that the little keychain I sent in my sister's letter had fallen out and she didn't get it. I feel bad, but my brother's letter still had the little missionary tag in it:) It was only 5 pesos, so thats like 50 cents....everything is so inexpensive here. Guess how much we get on our debit cards each month in Nicaragua??? Our Mission President's wife in Nicaragua, Hermana Russell, she emails us and checks on us and stuff. Well, she said we get 6 American Dollars per month to live on...AWESOME!!! I can't beleive you can live off so little there....Cordovas are not worth very much I guess. I will definitely have to buy another pair of shoes in Nicaragua, the super glue didn't stay very well.

Me and Elder Bronson doing a little studying.
OK, so a LOT happened this week. I'll start with the worst part: I am VERY sick right now as I am typing this. It actually started Saturday during the Priesthood session. I felt a little achy, but I took some ibuprofen and I was fine the rest of the night. I woke up Sunday morning.....I felt like Death!!!! My back and neck were incredibly sore, my head hurt and I was dizzy....I stayed in bed until 10:30 AM but I was able to make it to the morning session of Conference still (it started at 11:00 AM our time). Elder Ruiz didn't mind getting the extra sleep. I took some more Ibuprofen and I felt fine until the afternoon session of conference, the ibuprofen started not working very well, and it became suuuper miserable. But I was gonna tough it out, and I did. On Sunday nigts we watch a movie in the auditorium and we watched the Brigham Young building the SLC Temple that we watched for family night once. I was dying.... After we went to our Casa at 9.30 PM, I found the cold medicine I had packed, and took that and went to bed. Well, let's say these last 4-5 nights have been somewhat the worst sleep that I've had. I woke up yesterday morning, feeling the worst I have ´probably ever felt.....I didnt know how bad my back and neck could hurt from a cold, so I had to stay in bed again, but after a little while I tried going to class and I was soooo miserable, so my teacher told me to go to the Infirmary and the doctor said it's a virus and I wasn't running a fever anymore (I had checked my fever the night I found the cold medicine and it was 102.5) but I was on the medicine when I went to the doctor and that has fever reducer in it. But last night, I had to go to my casa early because of how bad I was feeling. Hermana DeBuck gave me some Melatonin, or whatever that chemical is that we naturally have to sleep, and last night was probably the worst night of sleep yet.....The dang sleeping pill couldnt even work!!!!! When everyone else got to the casa, I asked them to give me a priesthood blessing. I woke up this morning feeling TERRIBLE again....nothing is working....I had to have Elder Bronson bring me breakfast, and I only got up to come write home this morning. I am on drugs right now though, so im actually not suffering LOL, but I  definitely need to take it easy. If anything, this has sure made me miss my mom!
Writing in my journal

So I participated in my first tie swap with another district
of missionaries who were headed to Chile. Many deals
were made in our district, and I must say, I think
I got the better end of my tie swap.
My new tie matched almost perfectly with Hermana Capp's skirt.

A cupboard full of Hermanas.

Me in the sweater while our district writes in the log book.
Me in the district hand-me-down sweater.
So this is our last Preparation Day in the CCM as this will be our last week here. I have to get my suit dry cleaned today and get my haircut. We also did a deeper clean of our room today. I have TONS of info about Nicaragua now too! I got my flight itinerary yesterday and guess where I'm flying to first? San Salvador!!! We are leaving the CCM next Monday, October 13th, at 2:30 AM! Our flight leaves the Mexico City Airport at 6:40 AM and its about 2 hours to San Salvador, El Salvador, with a 45 minute layover, and then on to Managua, only a 55 minute flight! We will land in Managua about 9:45 AM, and have a whole day of work ahead of us! Our first two days we will spend at the mission home for interviews and training, and then Wednesday we will all meet our new companions. They already told us that we will be assigned a native-Spanish-speaker as our first companion to help us with the Spanish LOL. So that's everything thats coming up for me! I feel so old being the oldest generation here at the CCM.

So there is a 'secret' book and sweater that gets handed down from district to district in Zone 5 at the CCM. We are the 68th district to receive it, and we hand it down to another district in the zone before we leave. Because I am the District Leader, I had to wear the sweater for a whole day! It's suuuper small as you can see by my picture. We also left an entry in the book, which is hilarious. All of the entries are written in scriptural language and are dang funny to read.

Well, that's about all I have time for today with all of our cleaning and preparations. Thanks again to everyone back home for their emails and letters. Next week's emails should be from Nicaragua!!!
This is Elder Hepworth. He is in the district from our zone that left to Chile yesterday, but he went to Cyprus High School and he served on the Seminary Council last year with my cousin, Jenna! He says Jenna was his favorite. He was super cool, probably the best at spanish in our zone, and his nickname was the 'Joke' because he had a lot of them lol.
Elder Bronson and myself after our final P-Day haircuts today -- stylin'!