Banal na baka!
Sorry for the weird title. I've just been saying it a lot. Translated, it means holy cow. But obviously that's not a saying in Tagalog. But I still say it and it makes the people laugh a lot, so why not give them a taste of America? But seriously, I've noticed since I've been here that there are so many colloquialisms in English! It makes translation sometimes a struggle. Lately, I've been noticing that my thought patterns are becoming much more simple so I can translate them into Tagalog pretty easily.
I've also noticed that the people here aren't any different from the people in America. The only difference is their wealth, the language, and the environment. There are still deacon’s collars here. There are ward activities here. There are knowledgeable saints here and uneducated saints here. Time and time again I notice similarities between people I meet and people I know back home.
Oh yeah--one other difference. The rain. It's always muddy here, and my umbrella saves me. Thankfully, I bought some rubber shoes for the equivalent of 4 dollars or so. What a deal! I'm wearing them right now. I'm always walking through dirt. I have to wash my shoes every day after I use them.
I'm not progressing as much as I want to in listening to the language. I'm learning plenty of words and can often speak clearly for the Filipinos to understand me, but it's so hard to understand them. They talk so fast! I have my hypothesis why. Here's my premise: regardless of the language, people stream a certain amount of thoughts into their language at a certain rate. Because Tagalog requires more syllables than English does, they need to speak faster to keep up with their train of thought. I constantly ask people to help me with the language and to speak slowly. People are naturally helpful I've found out.
There are plenty of remarkable things that happen here. For one, my companion and I tracted this one house that belonged to the "Simbahan Ni Cristo" church. Do you remember last week when I talked about Eglecian ni Cristo church? Well, it started in the Filippines, even though it has a Spanish name. Well, the “Simbahan ni Cristo” is the exact same name, only in Tagalog! It's only five years old. It doesn't make any sense whatsoever.
I gave a talk in church on Sunday. Lemme say... if you think writing a talk in English is hard, try writing one in another language you've been learning for only a month in a half. That's all. Oh, and Mike Sibellia came to church on Sunday, along with many of our other investigators! They all seem to be right on track. We actually hit two birds with one stone by teaching Mike; most of the rest of his family are inactive, and they came to church too!
The people in our branch are great. We have a few RMs, and a lot of less-actives. About a third of all of our lessons are to less-actives. One of them lives literally 50 feet from the church, whereas some of the ward members have to travel 30 minutes by jeepney to get to church in the morning, which is quite a lot of money for them.
My companion is an inspiration to me. He paid for his mission by himself. Additionally, he lived on his own when he was 15, and supported himself from that time on because his parents said they couldn't support him. He ALWAYS works hard. He has a good attitude. He constantly goes door to door with a smile on his face is and is bold enough to ask if people (who seem disinterested in us) if they want to hear the message. He's invited at least 30 people to church this past Sunday. He always tells them that I'm speaking, and they laugh a little bit. Sometimes they don't listen to him, but they often do because they realize that he is a caring person and stuff.
A lot of people do not care about modesty, at least as American’s view modesty! Multiple times the women we’ve been teaching just out of the blue start breast feeding! Ahhhh! Culture-shock! On top of that, basically all of the kids under 4 years old don't wear pants, and go to the bathroom whenever they want, and wherever they want.
I went on my very first exchange last Thursday with District Leader Elder Vang, who is "Mong," which is a race somewhere in Asia. He looks like Psy. He was really cool and taught good lessons, but it made me miss my tatay (dad) Elder Balonsong, because he is just so inspiring and fluent when talking and connecting with people.
I hope to achieve that. It'll take a lot of time, though! Elder Hart, who is the other trainer in our house, says that he still doesn't feel fluent, and he's been out for 9 months. He can understand what people are saying most of the time, but when it comes to conversing he doesn't have the confidence that Elder Balonsong has to talk and joke with whoever he wants to approach.
So, I'd like to say that I really do have the best trainer and companion in the mission. People said it at the mission home, and I believe it.
I also am very lucky to be in Palawan right now because, in case you keep up with Filipino news, Manila is currently flooded right now, and missionaries there are supposed to either serve or stay inside the apartment. I got an email just now from President Stucki saying that one missionary companionship got severely shocked while trying to serve. So again, I'm lucky to be where I am right now.
My companion and I are having a lot of success right now. About 8 people or so have accepted baptismal dates! It's always wonderful to hear their "opo" (yes) after some thought, because I know they're that much closer to returning to God!
Zone conference is tomorrow. Words cannot express my excitement to see my fellow batch-mates once again, even if there are only two of them. Also, I can't wait for good, American food! Here in Aborlan, there's walang (zero) fast food places. I think there's only one other mission that doesn't have any. It will be a great day.
Yeah. I'm in the middle of nowhere. It's a good life! It's all very green and humid, but not as much as Virginia. Palm trees, natural wildlife, and a people who love the life they're living is the scene of Aborlan.
I love talking about my family and friends back home to the people here, even though I usually have to speak in broken Tagalog. It makes things always just a little more bearable thinking about the wonderful life I've had before coming on the mission. But it doesn't compare being on my mission! I'm certain I'm starting the best two years here.
Mahal ko po kayo, kaibigan ko sa America! (I love you, friends in America!)
P.S. here is my address for my LETTERS
Elder Matthew John Thurber
Philippines Manila Mission
PO Box 1997
Makati Central PO, Makati City
1200 Metro Manila
.... and my address for my PACKAGES
Elder Matthew John Thurber
Philippines Manila Mission
19 H.V. Dela Costa Street
1222 Metro Manila
Please, oh please, oh please send me stuff!