Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Christmas in Masaya

Multi-Zone Conference lunch on Christmas Eve with Elders Mehmetoff,
Sanchez, me, and Elder Bradbeer. Best food I've eaten in Nicaragua!
I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas!!!!!

It was so amazing to be able to Skype with my family on Christmas Day! I was so happy during the call that I couldn't stop talking and I wasn't really sad at the time, but after we hung up, I started bawling like a baby. I felt like I could only tell them about 1% of what I wanted ... ugh ... hasta el dis de las madres!

Me, Elder Sanchez, Hermana Combs, and Hermana Pena at the
Multi-Zone Conference on Christmas Eve.
Me and Elder Sanchez on Christmas morning, getting ready
to unwrap our presents.
On Christmas Eve, we had a multi-zone conference in Managua. It was nice to see some of my old friends, and President Russell, he fed us really well! That was some of the best food I have had since I have been in Nicaragua. We started off the conference with about 3 hours of teaching from the President -- good stuff! Then, after we ate, they showed us a slideshow of a lot of the missionaries' families, and then they surprised us with some hand-written letters from our families. After that, we went outside and played some games in the heat, and then we came back in and took some pictures and stuff before we headed back to our areas. I included some pictures of the Hermanas in our district -- Hermana Combs and Hermana Pena. They're awesome! I was telling my folks on Christmas that Hermana Combs has been robbed a couple of times since she has been on her mission, and the second time, the drunk guy that was robbing her tried to cut off her finger so he could take her 'CTR' ring. Luckily, his knife wasn't sharp enough to cut through her bone, so she still has her finger that now includes a big scar.

Rocking my new shirt and PJ bottoms from Christmas.
I was really excited for the Nutella and peanut butter!!
For Christmas breakfast, I had some Oreos with the Nutella and PB ha ha.
Me and my companion had to go up to San Miguel on the 27th to
help baptize a lady named Tamara. The two elders up there who were
teaching her were super sick (if you can tell in the picture).
This is the home of our pensionista where she prepares lunch for us
everyday. Her kids had all received socks for Christmas and
that was it, so they were super excited.
So in Nicaragua, Christmas Eve is a much bigger deal than Christmas Day. December 25th isn't even a holiday here, but it's like a pretty normal day for most people. On the 24th, though, the people go CRAZY with fireworks and parades (I have been told that New Year's Eve will be even bigger fireworks). They do get visits from Santa Clause here, but if he brings any presents, they are usually just food and some item of clothing. A lot of people can't really afford any presents here, but most of the presents I saw were new socks. So I had a lot of fun handing out presents that my parents sent -- my family saw some of the pictures from my area and decided to send some presents for me and my companion to give away to some of the children for Christmas.  They wrapped them in two different kinds of wrapping paper so I could tell the 'boy' gifts from the 'gifts.' They sent so many, I still haven't been able to give them all out quite yet, but we've been searching for more and more people that deserve them. I know it helped make a lot of people happy. I can't tell you how amazingly excited the kids were for the new toys, especially for them coming from the States as I would explain it to them. I tried to include as many pictures as I could.

Well, we shouldn't be having any baptisms this week. There is one possibility, but it's not looking super likely, so we'll see. I am doing really good, all healthy, and the Spanish is fine. This next week will be our last full week before the next cambios. I know I will be leaving this area for sure, but I could still be staying in the Masaya Zone. Just have to wait and see.

Thanks to everyone for the letters and cards and emails and Christmas presents! I sure appreciate all the love and I hope everyone has a Happy New Year!

This is little W. Her mother comes and cleans our house, so her family
does a lot for us, and she loooooves playing and talking to us, and she
absolutely loved her presents.

This is J. Jr. and his little brother. They are a super young and humble family
family that we are teaching.

This is the son of the family who invited us over for dinner on Christmas Eve.
He hadn't received any gifts, so I was glad to give him one.

These are some of the family of Hermana Glorinda, whom we baptized back
in November. They are probably the most humble family I have ever had the
opportunity of teaching

We baptized H. and his dad a couple of weeks ago. He is a super cool kid!
He also didn't receive any presents for Christmas, so he was so stoked!!
Super great family and definitely deserving.

This is L and she is crazy! She is H.'s little sister and she loves coloring!
She couldn't wait to get started coloring.
This is more of the family of Hermana Glorinda. They loved the presents
but they needed us to play the card game with them to help explain how
to play because the instructions were only in English, which they can't
read. It was a lot of fun to play it with them.

I had to throw in one more picture of the little puppy for my little sister.

Monday, December 22, 2014

"Miracle Sunday" Baptism and Tres Leches

Me and Elder Sanchez, H., Harold, Harold's daughter,
Elder Sanchez, and Elder Castro
Well, the big news this week was the baptism on Saturday. I was soooo happy for this family. It was super neat as this was the "Miracle Sunday" family from about a month ago that felt prompted to ask to come to church with us, and now they were able to get baptized.

Me and Harold and his family at the baptism.
I was so incredibly happy for them!
Last Monday, right after writing our emails home, we went back to the house of the family where we eat lunch because on P-Days they feed us dinner instead of lunch. Anyway, it was their daughter's birthday, so we celebrated with them and it was fun: a piñata, tres leches, it was all a blast. Elder Anderson (from Logan area) and his companion, Elder Carter, also eat meals with us there, so they were also there for the party. 

On Tuesday right before we were headed out the door to go to work, there was a phone call for Elder Sanchez and me to go to Dirioma to help out there! So we had to go up to Dirioma and stay the night up there, but this time it was just me and Elder Sanchez, which was kind of weird because we are both still training, but they sent us up there to work with a member in a relatively untouched part of Dirioma. We almost had to go up there agin on Saturday and Sunday, but we didn't because of our baptism service (I told them I wouldn't miss for anything my first baptism where I taught the family).

On Thursday, we had out interviews with President Russell. My interview only took about five minutes, and all he told me was to "keep up the Spanish and work hard, Elder." From what other missionaries have told me, that's pretty much a normal interview for the Elders-in-training. Other than that, the week has been pretty normal. Oh, and I have felt 100% better this week, which was really good.
We helped hold the piñata up for the birthday party on Monday night.

Amazing cake!!! I need to learn how too make Tres Leches, and then I can
make it all the time when I go back home.
This upcoming week should be pretty exciting. We have a Multi-Zone Conference on the 24th and it's all day. Because of that, we didn't get P-Day today -- it was a normal work day except we were allowed one hour to write our families, and then back to work. We haven't had any mail delivered to us in a while, so hopefully we'll be getting it all at the Conference on Christmas Eve. They were talking about holding it on the 26th, but I am glad it will be on the 24th because I'll be with more friends on Christmas Eve. Then I am excited to Skype on Christmas Day with my family. Also, I get to delver a bunch of presents (toys) that my family sent to hand out to as many children here that I can. Even though it's supposed to be a normal work day on Christmas, apparently everyone, including President Russell, knows its gonna be a day to just visit members and chill because nobody wants to be taught by the missionaries on Christmas Day. We also had a bunch of members invite us over to dinner on Christmas, so we have some options, ha ha. It's funny, but Christmas here will be like 90 degrees. It's just blazing hot here -- and humid.

We found a Children's Primary Songbook in English, and so
we sang for the birthday party in English, ha ha.
We're moving along here in Nicaragua. Hard to believe that I have already finished 10 weeks here in Nicaragua as of today, and I am almost done with Training!! Crazy!!! No baptisms scheduled for next week, but there are two possibilities for probably the week after, so we will see. Well, Merry Christmas to everyone back home, and thanks for all the letters and cards and pictures!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Leche Magnesio To the Rescue

Some of our members had a little puppy less than a month old
and I couldn't resist a photo ha ha!
Hey everyone! Firstly, I am feeling muuuuch better. I guess I may or may not have gotten a parasite that made me sick, and then it either died or is dormant right now. I called the Mission Nurse and she told me what to do. I had to stop eating all the Nicaraguan food for this week and I had to buy and eat packaged food from the US for every meal -- which was pricey, BUT I am feeling soooo much better. I also had to consume large quantities of Leche Magnesio, and I still have to take it now, ha ha.

OK, so we went to Managua this week on Tuesday for the new missionary reunion and training. It went pretty well, and our Mission President was really impressed with my Spanish. The meeting took up most of the day -- AND they fed us McDonalds!  Unfortunately, I threw it all up a few hours later (I was feeling really good when I ate it, but that night was super rough). So my first experience with the McDonalds wasn't the best.

So we went to this little fast food chicken place called Tip Top Chicken.
It's actually pretty high class here -- they take your order, and it costs
quite a bit Cordobas-wise. I ordered this chicken combo and it came to
150 Cords -- and just like ALL the chicken I have eaten in Nicaragua,
this one came with bones and tendons and everything!
Let's just say I definitely prefer boneless, but what can you do?
By about Thursday, I was finally starting to feel a little better and we were able to get back to work again, and the awesome news is that we have 2 baptisms scheduled for this Saturday!! Remember a few weeks ago the 'Miracle Sunday' where we brought this random guy to church because I felt prompted to ask him to come? Well, he is getting baptized this Saturday with his son!!! So, I can't wait for that! This week, we only had to stay in Dirioma one time and other than that we were able to work our own are, but things have been getting sluggish because people struggle to keep their commitments. We ended up only bringing one person to church yesterday with us, and he is someone that we can only visit on Sundays so he can't really be taught, but all is well!!!

For this next week, nothing really big happening beyond the baptisms. We have some interviews and possibly a multi-zone conference coming up next week, I believe. We're also trying to work out the logistics to Skype home on Christmas. We found one of the member who has a laptop computer, but they also have a son who is out serving a mission, and they don't know when he will be Skyping with the yet. At any rate, she will let us use her computer to talk on Christmas.
I had to get a picture of this tree with ginormous limes the size of my head!
They eat these like melons here, but when they are this big, they aren't
supposed to be as sour as our little limes back home.

My folks sent me pics of my cousin, Sister Kaitlyn Langford, getting home from her mission last week. Looks like everyone is doing awesome! On the Olsen side, my cousin Trevor is the next to come home, but on the Langford side of my family, I'm the next one to come home ha ha! Only a little more than 20 months LOLOLOL. Overall, I am feeling a lot better and better about being out here. I'm making a lot of friends with the other missionaries, but I am super nervous about our next cambia coming up, because I don't where I might go or who my new companion will be!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Hurling and La Policima

Not a ton of stuff happened last week. My interview with the President didn't happen. Not sure why..., so maybe it will be this week. I did get sick again, however. Not sure if it was something I ate or what, but I was hurling my guts out Saturday night and my stomach has been super upset ever since. Some serious upset stomach issues, so it makes it hard to do anything. Makes P-Day not very fun either. It sucks being sick.

Me and Elder Sanchez at the Christmas Devotional Broadcast
with the Hermanas behind us photo bombing our picture.
We went to the church last night for the broadcast of the First Presidency's Christmas Devotional. Even though it was in Spanish I could understand it all and it was really good, except for being sick....ugggh.

The Nativity Scene my parents sent me this week.
I did get a package from my family this past week. Yo-yos for me and my companion, with instructions how to perform some tricks. I've already been practicing with Sanchez! It also had a nativity scene for some Christmas decorations that we set up on our table and 5 CDs full of Christmas music. Oh my gosh, I love all of it. We've been listening to Christmas music non-stop.

OK, so something exciting yesterday and today is the Nicaraguan Catholic Holiday called "La Policima." It basically means everyone goes out and parties and sings in the streets and lights off firecrackers and super loud fireworks -- ALL NIGHT LONG. So hard to sleep last night during the celebrations. I guess it's a little bit like Halloween where the families go to houses to get candy, but when they go, they worship the Virgin Mary and sing and chant things to Mary. It's a crazy holiday here. Also, because of the holiday, a lot of the stores are closing early, so we spent almost 2 hours this afternoon trying to find a cyber-cafe to write emails home (there was a mass of 8 missionaries together running around searching, ha ha). We almost couldn't find an open cyber-cafe and were about to go home and then I wouldn't have been able to write this week, which would have also really sucked. But we found this little cyber-cafe that we had never been to before, and it is really slow in here, so we were able to write, but we are almost out of time now.

Me, Diego (a member here who is awesome and waiting
for his mission call), and Elder Sanchez at the
Christmas Devotional Broadcast.
We were able to work in our own area this whole week, and we have been setting lots of baptismal dates, but they're not for 4 to 5 weeks from now. It makes me a little sad to be with the Zone Leaders because their areas aren't as productive because they have all sorts of other responsibilities to take care of besides just teaching. Oh well, only one more month and I'll be finished with my training and then I can be in a normal area as a normal missionary and we'll have the opportunity to have more baptisms!!!

As for Christmas, I haven't heard too many details on that yet. I have no idea how we're supposed to Skype. We get to have a multi-zone devotional on either the 24th or 26th, but other than that, we are supposed to work on Christmas and treat it like a normal day out in the field. It would be nice if we could do some service or something, but apparently even before our current Mission President was here the missionaries weren't allowed to do much service. All I do know is we get a dinner, probably like our Thanksgiving dinner, on the 25th.

Anyways, that's about all that's been going on here. I did hit my 3-month mark this last week! In the next week, nothing super big should be happening, but hopefully I get over this sickness soon! So, working hard and enjoying it more and more (when I'm not sick.....ha ha)!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Happy Nicaraguan Thanksgiving!

Me and Elder Sanchez (my new trainer)
Me and Elder Sanchez (my "brother") -- awesome pals!
First off this past week, we had cambios. Well, we got his with a BIG surprise -- Elder Mehmetoff got transferred! Nobody expected that since he only had one more cambia to go, but they sent him up to Managua to be a Zone Leader there for his last transfer. So, we got a new "dad" to replace him.... so, introducing my new companion: Elder Sanchez! That's right! We have two Elder Sanchez's in one house! He also leaves to go home next cambio, like Mehmetoff, so that guarantees Elder Castro will be here after the next cambio to train the next Zone Leader as well, which means he'll end up being in this one house for almost 7 months! Elder Sanchez is from Guatemala, and because of the confusion with names, I'll be working with him a lot more than Elder Castro going forward. I am also getting along better with Elder Castro now, but I think it is partly because he knows that he will be here in Masay for at least another 6 weeks now, so he has been a little nicer the past few days.

Our Zone Thanksgiving feast
So after that excitement, we had Thanksgiving this past Thursday. As I mentioned last week, we ate together as a Zone in the chapel, and some of the members helped prepare the meal for us. It was a nice gesture, but it didn't quite hit the mark of a traditional Thanksgiving back home. Also, unfortunately it was served a little cold and not much flavoring (like no chili sauce or nada).  So, not necessarily the best Thanksgiving dinner I've ever had, but heck, it's better than nothing!

Where's the turkey? Not happening in Nicaragua.
This was our meal for Thanksgiving.
One day this past week, I had to go with Elder Castro and Elder Benson (one of the APs) and we were gone for the entire day visiting other areas of the zone for baptismal interviews, and that day was suuuper fun driving around in the AP's super nice truck and visiting with the new people is a lot of fun. Then finally, for the last two days, I've been working a lot with Elder Sanchez (my brother, not my trainer) because the Zone Leaders had to visit other areas for interviews and such to help with the baptism craziness that occurs at the end of each month. Unfortunately, no baptisms in our area, but we were finally able to start working here again and we should have some more baptisms coming up in December.

We found a friendly visitor on the wall of our house in our little
backyard area. Ha ha -- don't worry, we killed it after taking the pics,
but it was HUGE and could have easily crawled right into our house!
Thought I would take a pic with my hand in there for size comparison.
This is probably just an average-sized tarantula here in Masaya.
So my Spanish is doing great, but I have been speaking more English lately because we have more Americans in the Zone after the last cambio. Plus, me and Elder Sanchez (my brother) have been working together and when we're not with members or investigators, we speak in English, but I can switch back and forth pretty darn good for only 3 months in the mission (which is probably not saying much, I guess, ha ha). I also noticed that I have this mental alarm clock EVERY morning. I wake up at 6:20 AM every day..., always 6:20..., I don't know why, but it's like a normal thing now.

I was glad to get a package and some letters today. The letters included some of my cousins' blogs on their missions. I love to read them all. My cousin Kaitlyn (Utica New York Mission) has like no time left on her mission (less than 2 weeks), and my other cousin Trevor (Berlin Germany Mission) makes me jealous of how freakin awesome his mission is and reading about all the stuff he gets to do in his mission sounds soooo cool. My mission is definitely different from his... but I enjoy reading all that stuff. I also appreciate all the updates and stuff. So this next week I have an interview with the Mission President (always on the 8th week of your training). Thank you everyone at home for all the emails, letters, and love. Keep them coming! Have a great week!
I also found an interesting friend while strolling through the tienda.