Monday, July 27, 2015

Super Cuisine, Splits, and Service!

This is "soap de reyes," or beef stew. It is made with whole
chunks of vegetables, pumpkin husk, and a very, very,
boney piece of meat... it is actually pretty good.
So, uh, happy Pioneer Day last Friday, on the 24th of July... we didn't do anything... we half forgot, half 'I'm the only one from Utah in the house so nobody else really cared'.... Sounds like everyone back home had a great day running races and watching parades. The pictures of the Sycamores Stake float looked awesome! That's pretty cool that it won an award!

Our investigator, M., is a professional chef who used to work
in fancy hotels in Costa Rica, so his family has connections
with lobster fishermen. He doesn't have his professional kitchen
or fancy tools at home, so it might not look that great, but it
tasted so incredibly good! It was my first time trying lobster,
and it was awesome.
We did have a pretty good week here in good ol' Bluefields. We worked hard and brought a lot of people to church yesterday. The best part is that one of our investigators, M., is super positive. He came to the branch activity last Wednesday, and then he cooked us lobster for dinner last Friday. Then he came to church with us yesterday. We asked him if he would like to be baptized this coming Saturday, August 1st, and he said, "Of course!" So he has already had his baptismal interview and passed. He is even talking with the Branch President about doing a cooking activity (he is a professional chef) with the youth after his baptism, ha ha.

So I have learned how to cut my own pineapple and carve
a bowl out of the husk. It looks pretty cool, and it
makes for a pretty nice breakfast!
Some of our other investigators are asking us to give them more time before we have their baptism, so we had to move some dates a little farther out, but we're still working with them. We also had another group of investigators let us know that they are moving from Bluefields and won't be able to get baptized. We had another really positive investigator who is originally from New Guinea who came to church once and loves to read the Book of Mormon, but he is also moving next week and he is going to Rama, where there isn't a branch of the church yet. We are also still waiting for 3 of our investigators to return to Bluefields and then they plan to get baptized. Still, we should be having a baptism this coming week finally -- my first one in Bluefields!

This past week, I went on a split with the Young Men's President from the branch. He is a returned missionary who just got home in March. He is really cool, as are most of the members that I have met so far. It is amazing how many of them are young, returned missionaries who just got home within the last few years. We always get a ton of references from all of the members, and our Branch President is pretty incredible.

Getting ready to cut down a palm tree for some service.
We really don't schedule time each week to do service here, but this past week we received a call from an hermana who asked us to come help her machete down a palm tree and well out a bunch of water. Cool fact: all of the water here is welled out of the ground. The water we drink, bathe in, and use for everything comes from deep, underground wells. In our house, we have a pump and a container above the house, so when the container runs out, we just flip on the pump and it fills back up. However, almost no one here has their own pump, so they have to use buckets to draw it out every day for drinking and bathing and such.

More service drawing some water up from a well
for a little hermana in our area.
Well, I'm finally starting to feel a little better about things here in Bluefields even though we haven't been able to have as many baptisms here. I've been all uptight since I arrived here because I have been worrying so much about our lack of baptisms, but I decided that I just need to work hard and let the Lord do His part. So, I'm trying not to be so stressed out. And we will finally be having a baptism this week! Otherwise, I'm feeling healthy and I really am happy to be out here. Well, that's about it for this week. I have a bunch of emails to respond to this week (hurray!!), so thanks everyone!

Here we are at night planning out our next day.
I thought I would take a picture to show you how much fun it is!

Who says you can't be comfortable while you call in the daily numbers every night at 10:00?
Ah, the life of a district leader!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Pangas, Busses, and Cars...Oh, My!

Me and my bud, Elder Hernandez, on the bus.

So this past week, we made the trek to our Multi-Zone Conference. We left Bluefields on Wednesday about 2:00 in the afternoon, traveling by Panga to Rama. Once in Rama, we got some pizza and loaded up on snacks while we waited for the bus to Juigalpa. Finally, we arrived in Juigalpa about 10:30 that night and we slept for a few hours at the Zone Leaders' apartment, but not for very long. We had to wake up at 3:00 in the morning to catch the 4:00 AM bus to Managua in order to get there for the conference, which started at 8:00 AM on Thursday.

Early morning in Rama on our way to the conference. This is one
 of our Zone Leaders, and my friend, Elder Hartley (from Idaho).
Well, the conference was really good. The Mission President talked quite a bit about obeying the mission rules because there have been some problems recently with some of the missionaries. No names were mentioned, but I guess a few Elders have been sent home recently for breaking the rules. One of the rules he emphasized was always staying with your companion to help keep each other from getting into trouble. After our training, we got to watch the movie, "Meet the Mormons." It wasn't what I expected, but it was still pretty good. Nobody has seen it yet in Bluefields.

Up and down the river there are these "river huts" that are
only accessible by boat from the river.
However, I did get sick during the conference. I think I might have got a little motion sickness because while we were there, I started getting nauseated and had some serious stomach issues. I couldn't eat lunch, and I even started running a fever. I was sick enough that my mission president had me and my companion stay another night in Managua (he needed to stay and get his cedula ID card with another missionary from Juigalpa and they were going to return the next day anyway). So that night after the conference, I stayed in the house where the APs (Assistants to the President) and the office Elders stay. They took me over there and I crashed -- slept like a baby. The next day, we got up to go, but I still felt sick, so the mission president had one of the APs take to the doctor's office. They tested me for parasites, and luckily all of the tests came back negative! I was still not feeling great, but all of the missionaries stopped at McDonald's, so I tried to eat really slowly and I was able to keep it down. It was pretty cool riding around Managua with the APs in their nice car, and they drove us down to Juigalpa. I was still feeling nauseated, so we stayed one more night in Juigalpa. I actually stayed with another missionary who is injured while the rest of the missionaries went and did some work in the area. Then on Saturday morning, we boarded the Pangas and returned to Bluefields.
Bluefields is full of these little streets called "callejons."
They are very small, skinny streets that cross through the
patches of jungle in the middle of the city.
I think they are pretty cool.

We finally arrived back in our area in Bluefields about 1:00 on Saturday afternoon, and after 3-and-a-half days out of our area, we had to try and pass by all of our investigators and commit them to come to church the next day! I was still not 100%, and we were dead-tired from the trip, but we still woke up early on Sunday and worked hard to get a lot of our people to come to church.

Sometimes the access from the callejons to the casas is a little precarious.
One of our investigators, M., even went to a Priesthood activity on Saturday while we were gone, and he ended up staying the whole 6 hours! They were learning all about the Priesthood and ordinances, so he came away from the activity pretty excited for his own baptism and the day when he could get the Priesthood. The next day, on Sunday, he came to church again with us, and then today, for P-Day, he came and played soccer with us and some of the members. So he is super cool and loves the church and is really excited for his baptism, which is scheduled for August 8th (although he could technically be baptized on August 1st if he wants to). He is our only scheduled baptism at the moment, but we do have a few more investigators making progress. Our other investigator, E., is still not back from his medical testing in the city, but hopefully he'll be returning this next week and then maybe we will have 2 baptisms. After church on Sunday, we also went out finding people to teach and found several who seem really positive.

My parents were asking if there were any American places to eat in Bluefields, but they really don't have much besides "Tip Top," which is a chicken fast-food place that is all over in Nicaragua, and then a few little restaurants that are kind of just unique to Bluefields. Nothing like an American fast-food restaurant, but they actually do have more American brand products in the stores here. Like, I found a place here that sells Dr. Pepper. We aren't really given money to go buy groceries, let alone American products, but when I take out money from my parents back home or I have a little extra, then I can go buy some food for our apartment. I don't know why, but ever since I arrived in Bluefields I have been super hungry (and I think a little taller as well... but who knows). There is a restaurant here in Bluefields that Elder Passey said they ate at one time. It is called Aberdeens, and it is supposed to be the nicest restaurant in Bluefields (and also the most expensive). Apparently they have cheesecake there, so that's where we're planning to have dinner on my birthday next month!

Well, I am out of time for this week. Happy Pioneer Day back home everyone!
Selfie from the panga: Elders Hernandez, Page, Me, and Passey.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Making Some Progress in Bluefields

Hey everyone!!! So this last week was a good week here in Bluefields. Not the most eventful, but things are going well and we're just working really hard. The other missionaries in our district baptized a super cool family this past week. When we go out contacting, it is super hard to find many positive people, but we are finally finding some investigators and they are progressing.

Everywhere you go in Bluefields, there are awesome views of the water.
Last Sunday, we got a reference from our Branch President who had met this guy that had just been released from prison that very day (he was only in prison for 2 days). His name is M. and he is originally from Costa Rica, but is now living here in Nicaragua with some family members and he wants to change his life around. Honestly, he is extremely positive and very charismatic. He went to the branch activity last Wednesday night and he stayed for all 3 hours in church yesterday. He listened to the lesson about temples in Priesthood and says that is his goal now -- a funnier and longer story happened in Priesthood which I don't have time to share, but let's just say he's not afraid to ask a LOT of questions -- LOL.

Looking out toward the Caribbean.
We are also teaching a big family of cousins with about 7 people in all (there are 2 aunts and their 5 kids). All of them have been coming with us to church, and it is super cool that they all want to get baptized together. Sometimes it gets a little difficult to teach them because they can get a little rowdy..., but they are extremely humble. Their house is made out of these flimsy wooden beams sticking out over the water! But they are making some progress.

We will have a baptism soon with another investigator who had to travel to Estelli, Nicaragua, for some medical tests for some health issues. He wasn't sure when he would be able to return, but once he does, he plans to get baptized!!! So the area is moving along a little better now.

Some cool street art #1
This coming week on Thursday, we have a multi-zone conference, so we will be leaving on Wednesday and heading back inland on the pangas. I'm excited and dreading the conference at the same time -- I am excited to go and see all the other missionaries at the conference (sadly, none of my buddies from Sandino Zone will be there), but I am dreading the trip there and back. The worst part is how expensive it is for us because we have to pay for the trips! As a result, we won't be back in our own area in Bluefields until about mid-day on Friday, but it should be fun! I have heard we get to watch the movie, Meet the Mormons, too.

That's cool to hear that Aaron Fraley and Keenan Robertson returned home from their missions. Hard to believe they are already finished -- their two years flew by. I am excited for when I get home next summer and then we can talk about our missions. I didn't realize Keenan was in the bottom part of Chile where it is cold.

So, this past week, I had some weird dreams where I was eating some of the delicious breakfast food my mom used to buy for me, like toaster strudels and mini Jimmy Dean sausage croissants. I got a little sad and miss those for sure. I have to laugh every time I eat a meal with chicken because they are chock full of bones, and I think of my little sister and how much she would hate that, ha ha. There's no such thing as boneless meat here in Nicaragua. :) I also have to shake my head at the pictures of my little brother because it looks like I'm going to come home without any muscles and he is going to dominate me in basketball, at least for a little while. Well, I gotta run. Thanks everyone for your emails and letters!

Cool street art #2

Monday, July 6, 2015

Independence Day? Looking Forward to Lobster Season.

Loving life here in Bluefields, Nicaragua!
So believe it or not, but I completely forgot about Independence Day until we got home that night about 9:00 and Elder Page told me I forgot it was the 4th of July. All of a sudden, I had a wave of sadness hit me, ha ha.... The 4th of July is one of my favorite holidays (number three to be exact), but we have been working so hard we forgot all about it until it was almost over. We probably wouldn't have done anything anyway, not that we are really allowed to. As far as an Independence Day for Nicaragua, I am not sure if they even have one, but if they do, I don't believe I have experienced it yet.
This is a map of Bluefields mapped out into zones. The left half is my area.
It is about twice as big as my last area in Sandino, which was a big area also.

Well, I would say this week I have been getting to know my new area a whole lot better. It is soooo  big that it is difficult to memorize it all and remember the different streets. However, we were able to bring 15 investigators to church this week! Probably won't have a baptism for a little while longer, though.

Some of the houses and people here in Bluefields.
So Bluefields is definitely not like a resort, ha ha. The people here are still really poor, but actually not as bad as other areas that I have served in. There are some areas that are extremely poor, and yet other parts of the city with huge houses (but strangely, they seem to have about the same lifestyle as the poor people). The houses here in Bluefields are bigger (in general) and a lot of the people here have washing machines and big stereo systems in their houses. I see some tourists and college students here almost every day, but there really is not much here for tourists to see. There aren't any sandy beaches at all. Plus, the water in the bay is so dirty there is no way you would want to even touch it.

Our bathroom is nicer than most I have seen here, ha ha, but
I almost don't fit underneath the shower!
There are tons of African-Nicaraguans, and most of them speak English Creole, which is pretty close to English so a lot of them can communicate with us in English if they want to. I am also starting to learn another language called Mesquito, but mostly just a few words and phrases so far. It is definitely a different world over here in Bluefields and after nearly two weeks, I would say the work here is a little harder because the people so far seem a little less accepting. We have been sweeping the areas like crazy trying to find some new people to teach, and the majority of them so far have rejected us hard. I feel like so far it has been a little harder than my last area in Ciudad Sandino.

This is where all the magic happens! Our desks and study area.
But, the branch of the church here in Bluefields is super cool! I am getting to know the leaders better, and they have a reputation for giving a ton of references to the missionaries. The branch is HUGE! There are about 1300 members that live here (I was told), and the attendance at church on Sunday is around 150 people each week (which is bigger than a lot of Nicaraguan wards I have seen). In fact, there were six missionaries here several months ago, but some problems came up last Fall and some missionaries were sent home. Since that time, there have only been two companionships (four missionaries), so there is a lot of work to do here!

I won't say it is cold here, but it definitely gets cooler here at night.
Here we are taking shelter from a passing rain shower.
During the daytime, I have never sweat so much in my life! #humidity.
Every single view here is breathtaking --
the camera really doesn't do it any justice.
As I have been walking around the city, it seems like everything here smells kind of fishy, or some type of old, watery smell that reeks, ha ha! Everything here in Bluefields is more expensive, but they actually have a lot more stuff to purchase than in Sandino or Masaya. I haven't really ate anything too weird yet, but I am hoping to try some sea turtle (which is supposed to be a delicacy) and hopefully some iguana. Plus, lobster season starts this month, so yes, I will be eating a TON of seafood, and especially the lobster (which I don't remember ever trying before). Also, they have this bread here that they make with coconut milk that is some of the best bread I have ever had (it has no coconut taste whatsoever and it is thick and soft). They cook all the rice here in coconut milk, but it is not much different. The lunch cita here is not quite as good as compared to my last area in Sandino because the food is a little more plain. Some days we don't get much more than just a big plate of rice! There are lots of weird, exotic fruits here, and I love mamones, and this other type of fruit that I think is called 'soursop' in English.

A pic of some mamones.
Sounds like everyone had a great 4th of July back home. One down, and only one more to go for me. I did hit my 10-month mark last week, btw. Oh, my little brother learning to drive scares me, and he looks SUPER skinny... which is weird...but he better take care of the car! Praying for everyone back home who is sick and having surgeries.

P.S. -- I almost forgot!! A couple of my converts in Sandino called me and they are leaving for the temple in Honduras tomorrow! SO AWESOME!!!