Hello!! So yes believe it or not I am finally in the Philippines! I thought this day would never come! My last few days at the MTC were really good ones. I'm so grateful for my experiences there and all the friends I made. Weirdly enough I miss it a little. Probably because I could communicate with everyone there.
     But anyways . . . sorry Kip, Nicole, Ryan and Betsy I didn't get to talk to you!:( I was way bummed because I was looking forward to chatting with yall. But now days there just aren't enough payphones because everyone uses cell phones. And we traveled with like 30 or more missionaries.
     So we got into Manila at about 8 at night Wednesday where the AP's and President Stucki and his wife were there to pick us up. Sister Stucki told me that she lived her whole life in Preston and is very familiar with Cache Valley. She also said her twin sister lives in St. George so maybe the Smith's know her. They are both really nice. We got to the mission home, and I ate my first Filipino meal. And yes, it's true that Filipinos eat rice at every meal! They have a lot of rice and then just something different to go on top of it. Usually some kind of meat and a lot of vegetables and different spices and sauce, and man it's MASARAP!! (delicious!) I also tried their bananas here, and they are better than in the US! I don't love them, but they're pretty good (considering I didn't like bananas in the US). I had a short interview with the President and then went to bed.
     In the morning we did something really neat. They took all the new missionaries (6 from the MTC in Provo and 2 from the MTC in Manila) to the American Military Memorial. It was really pretty. It was where President Hinckley gave his dedicatory address to open up missionary work in the Philippines. So as we are all sitting there in this beautiful memorial, one of the AP's read us President Hinckley's address and also his dedicatory prayer. It was really powerful and got me really excited to be there and take part in the missionary work that President Hinckley talked about! Also there was wall after wall after wall of names of soldiers who died, but they couldn't find their bodies. There was a "Vernon Stromberg." Do you know if that's from our family? Yeah so that's how I started my mission in the Philippines, and that's how we will end it President Stucki said. A neat tradition!:)
     Later we went back to the mission home, and they announced who our trainer would be. For a while there were three sisters there (all Filipino), and then right before they announced the companions, two left... so it wasn't hard for me to guess who my companion would be:), since I was the only sister that was new. Her name is Sister Culango, and she is from Davao. She is such a sweetheart. Lucky for me she does know English as well as Tagalog, Cebuano, and Arabic. But I have already realized why she is my companion, and I am lucky to have her. I've been really stressed about the language here. I feel like I know a lot, but everyone here speaks so fast that I just don't understand a lot. I can get some out of it but not a lot. It's hard because I want to build relationships with the members, and I want to teach the investigators I have, but I don't have the ability to do that yet, and it's just really hard for me. Well at times when I feel most discouraged Sister Culango is a big goof and will just make me laugh. She has a great sense of humor and that has saved me from breaking down... yet. She loves to play jokes on me. One night we were walking, and I was telling her how I was directionally challenged and how I would be so lost right now because the streets are crazy here with no order and lots and lots of houses everywhere. And because I told her that she says, “Oh, around the corner is Prance's house (who is our investigator), and you need to share a scripture with her.” And I don't really believe her, but she goes on to convince me, and so I start to worry about what I can share and am freaking out a little. Then when we turn the corner to where "Prance's house" is, we are to the neighborhood where we live! ha So yeah she likes to kid! Also when we see worms on the ground and big bugs, she talks about how she will cook them for me, and it's really good medicine! She's crazy! But I really already love her and love her sense of humor. It keeps me sane when I'm always worrying about speaking Tagalog.
     In our apartment we also live with Sister Abunga from Cebu and Sister Duncan from California. So at home they all speak Tagalog (Sister Duncan has been here for 9 months.), and that's another reason it's hard because even when I am home they all speak Tagalog. They laugh and have a great time, and I just look at them like "what is going on!" But they are all so nice, and Sister Duncan is very helpful when I have language questions because she's been there before. Sister Abunga is a great cook and cooks us all lunch each day, and it's always delicious Filipino food! She even cooked Chicken Adobo for us one day, and it was SO good! I told her that she needs to teach me so I can cook it for my family when I come home!
     As far as our apartment, Sister Stucki said it's one of the nicest in the mission. So with that being said, we are lucky to have a shower (even though, yes, it is only cold), but actually after I get past the part where I can't breathe, it feels really nice to shower in cold water because it's the only time in the day I'm not hot and sweaty. Today after we go grocery shopping, Sister Culango gets to teach me how they hand wash all of their clothes so I can do my laundry. They said it takes 2-3 hours. Oh and I bought some milk... it doesn't taste the same:) haha but it's okay.
     And yes, Nicole, it is ALWAYS hot! Mostly because of the humidity! It has also rained a few days here so I've already been able to experience that. But it is BEAUTIFUL here! There are just palm trees everywhere, and it's green and tropical and very pretty.
     So now to talk about my investigators... Ryan, you talked about how I would soon be able to experience a baptism... well I actually already had my first one Saturday. His name is Jayar, and I only helped teach him once before his baptism. So yeah he wasn't my investigator, but I got to help a little. He's 12 years old, and it was neat seeing him enter the waters of baptism. We also were supposed to have a baptism of Mark Wanason on Saturday, but he didn't come to church yesterday so we have to postpone it for a week.
     We actually have a lot of investigators. We have Stella who we just taught the restoration. We have Prance who we taught last night, and I gave the first vision to her and extended the baptism invitation to her. She also had four friends come over so that was neat because her friend Lace seemed really interested, and it's neat because if they progress, I'll get to see it from the start. They're my first investigators from the beginning. Then we have Jesse whose wife is a member. We have the Archangel family who we teach the three sons, and they seem interested. Then we have some other family, I can't remember their name right now, and it's there whole family so that would be neat if they all stay interested. Then I'm sure we have more, I just can't remember.
     Yesterday was my first day at church. It was fun meeting all the members even though most of the time I couldn't understand what they were saying. My zone is called San Gabriel (ironic, huh?), and my area is Carmona B. The branch is the Carmona Branch:) And, of course, because it was Fast Sunday, the branch president called me up to be the first to bear my testimony. I was already planning on it so it wasn't too much of a surprise. It was a good experience to let them know I'm excited to meet them, and I told them hopefully I will learn Tagalog quickly. And then it was good to bear my simple testimony with them. They all are very nice. They all just looked up at me with a smile, and you could see that they really cared about me. They are very sweet people.


     Oh and when we are walking to and from lessons, EVERYONE just stares at me. It actually makes me feel really awkward! Here there are lots and lots of people just lining the streets, just sitting on the curb or riding tricycles, and just people everywhere, and it's just weird having everyone stare at me! They will yell, "Hey yo, what's up?" (because they want to try and speak English slang) or "Hey, American!" or, my companion's favorite, "Hey, Brittney Spears!" And I don't know if I told you this, but they also say "Hey, Joe, what's up?" They call all Americans Joe because it has something to do with when Americans were over here from the army and G-I-Joe or whatever. So yeah we definitely get a laugh out of all the names that I am called.
     Oh and the reason the subject is "nose bleed" is because here in the Philippines, Filipinos say that they will get a nose bleed if they hear too much English or if they have to speak English. (My MTC teachers failed to warn us of this expression.) So when we go up to talk to someone if you hear them say nose bleed or put their finger under their nose, you know they are talking about me and assuming that I can't speak Tagalog, and they are afraid to talk to me sometimes. So yeah I've seen and heard that expression A LOT this week.
     So yeah I'm sure I haven't told you everything, but I'm about out of time. All in all I'll just say my life has changed dramatically! Huge culture shock! I am learning to live without a lot of things that you might think are essential. But compared to what other Filipinos live with, I have a lot and feel blessed. I have already been so surprised and humbled with what I've seen here. The Filipinos' houses are very little, and they just don't have a lot. But they are happy, happy people, and I am growing to love them. It will help when I can actually converse with them though! I love this gospel, and even though I have been discouraged quite a bit over the past few days, I know that God will help me and that if I'm patient, it will come. I wouldn't have been called by a prophet of the Lord to the Philippines if it weren't possible for me to learn Tagalog. So I just need to be patient, and I'm working on that.
     I love you all so much and hope you had a good week. Happy Birthday to Ryan, Jasen, and Dad! I hope you all got your card I sent you before I left. I was thinking of each of you on your birthday... except Ry; I don't really know where Nov. 29th went for me. Because of the International dateline I never had that day. Sorry!

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