Monday, October 6, 2014

Costa Rica is pretty dang exciting.

Sun from the plane. My God I will go where you want me to go.

I couldn't think of a better subject line for this...
So I got in on Monday, woke up super early, and did a crazy schedule to catch planes to get here. Got picked up by the mission president and we visited the temple (it was like 9:00 so that was about it), then we went to a home near by where we stayed the night. The next morning, we did interviews with the mission president and we got sent with other companionships to form trios or groups of four for that day. I went with two elders; one was a native speaker that didn't really know English and the other was a gringo with 1 month left. 

We went and visited a family that was in a poor part of town because their area was still in San Jose, in the main city, so we visited the poor area of town, which ended up being like a dirt/half gravel road that just branched off the main roads (which honestly are nothing to talk about either). When we got to their house, I had to like duck to get in and they let us sit, and honestly, I was a little afraid at first because I had already seen some smaller cockroaches and stuff at the elders' small apartment but it was fine. There was a little older lady who was super nice and her son and he brought out his whole family and we passed the picture version of the Book of Mormon around. We all took turns reading and it was really cool. Then we talked about General Conference coming up and how we were going to be able to watch the prophets and listen to them. After that they decided to give us some food, so they made like corn tortillas and then like, this weird cheese that is almost flavorless and then something called natilla. Natilla is basically like a semi-sweet sour cream, at least I think. I don't remember what sour cream tastes like, but I don't like natilla really either. So I tried to eat all of it and basically did and then they offered me and Elder Black more corn tortillas so we ate those too, then we had a fresco. Honestly, the fresco was insane; essentially, it's like a fruit juice they make out of specific fruits. There are so many fruits here that I have never heard of or anything. But yeah, so that lesson went really well. The dad wanted to arm wrestle me but he had bad wrists so what he had me do was we like put our wrists together and that's where we arm wrestled. He beat my left arm, no surprise (C), but he got like stuck trying to beat my right one and neither of us could actually beat the other with the right arm. It made me think of arm wrestling you, C haha. 

Anyhow, the next day we took buses back to the mission home (lots of buses here), and we had a breakfast of rice and beans and like eggs. It's pretty common here apparently but I have only had it twice so far. Then they started assigning new people to their trainers. I got Elder Solis and Elder Parker. Elder Solis is from California and he leaves the mission in 3 weeks now, so he's going to be dying and then Elder Parker has been here 10 months but he was in Guanacaste which is more like the country. Right now, our area is Heredia which is like city, no country really; kind of like city and some residential. We have a Walmart too, just went there today. So yeah, from what I have heard there are like 3 more dangerous areas and all 3 also end up being more hot and more humid. The three are Guanacaste, Limon, and some other one that I can't remember. 

Names here are hard. When we're contacting people at the parks in the city, I can hardly catch names because they have double names basically. Like Carlos Eduardo for example, but they say it fast and more quietly so... but yeah, so what has happened is we have had like 10 lessons or 12 so far, I guess, this week, can't exactly remember. Then we do a lot of contacting where you like talk to people in the street. 

Just to focus on people that we started teaching when Elder Parker and I got here, we were walking in a neighborhood one day when Elder Parker saw a kid outside the gate (all the houses have gates, but they end up being just for like, room for a car and then a gate) and so he went up and started talking to the kid and then he knocked on the gate. Typically, you bang something metal on it like a coin and say, "Upe, buenas." It's short for like, "Hello. Excuse me," and so she came over. Her name is T and he told her what our purpose as missionaries was and she let Elder Parker and I in. Elder Solis was with a 19 year old member named M, he's the ward mission leader, so Elder Parker and I went in and taught her and like 3 of her kids (some were like staying upstairs) about faith, repentance, and baptism. After we finished, I asked them if they would get baptized when they found out it was true. They said yes, and then Elder Parker placed a date for October 26, so that was really cool; however, we haven't been able to revisit yet because of conference and also her husband wasn't there. Apparently, he is Christian already, of some sort, so it's not like set yet. We'll have to see where that goes. 

But yeah, we had a baptism on Sunday; her name was D. I only was there for 1 lesson on Friday, I think, where we talked about baptism and the gift of the Holy  Ghost but it was still really cool. I forgot my camera again so.. no photos unfortunately; next week 100% guarantee. Also Sister Wilkinson like talked to me reminding me to get a photo in front of something green or something like that? You'll have to wait a long time if you want that because I'm in the city and there really isn't anything green haha. I think Guanacaste and Limon are the places that are more like what people think of with Costa Rica. Apparently, lots of tourists go to Guanacaste and uhm, that LDS singer from that singing show that went on his mission and is back now, he went there and made a video with the youth. Elder Parker was there and got his mission planner signed haha because he had nothing else. 

But yeah, this is nothing like what I expected. Lots of people here in the city. Cars here have like the right away and they don't stop. There's practically no laws for driving; people only stop because they don't want to get hit, so you wait for a break in cars, or run, or you like play like that frog game where you go after each car and wait for a bit and then keep going. Frogger? But yeah both of my companions are pretty cool. Time has been moving pretty slow and for a while I was like, "Wow, I'm going to die here." It's moved on, I think, but mornings are tough haha. Most apartments have like a video player, like the little portable ones, and so my companions plug in their music and play it. It's mostly like EFY songs but Elder Parker gave a member 1 mil (2 bucks) to download more music from one of the LDS singers, so some of it is actually really good. I think I'm going to buy a USB drive and copy their music for when Elder Solis leaves. So yeah, in 3 weeks Elder Parker will technically be my "dad." There's like a genealogy tree here in the field haha. Trainers are called dads, so they keep saying like "Oh, he's your uncle or cousin" or stuff like that. 

The Spanish was hard to understand at first. I was only getting like 75-80% of it; I think because the teachers in the MTC slow down their speech I needed to get like accustomed, but it's coming back now. Talking is still harder than listening but I'm not to worried at the moment. For the most part, I can say what I need to say. Whew, good thing Google saves drafts! We're at an internet cafĂ© and my computer like closed the internet for some reason; all is well though. Que mas, uhm, I have seen cockroaches and geckos; they live in the apartments. They aren't in mine right now though but the geckos like kill the bugs and stuff so people leave them. Uhm, I saw some maggots cleaning the apartment today, not a ton but like 6-8. So I killed them. Uhhh, we have a recent convert named D, and he gives us rides. He drove us around like all day today after basketball; he drives really fast and it scares me. Both sides of the road are basically open here, and the police are a joke. I see them go everywhere and do nothing; however, there is like an FBI unit I have seen and they do not mess around. They have giant trucks and one time we were going for lunch in a member's car in between conference sessions and the truck flew up right behind us and blared it's sirens but we had no where to go because a lot of the roads are like basically 1 lane. So that was cool, uhh, I think I get an hour and half of internet time here but I've already used 34 mins. 

General Conference, we watched it in English. We just showed our investigators to the Spanish room and we walked off to a side room for English and listened. It was good; my favorite talks were Elder Bednar's when he talks about how the reason we share the gospel is because we have seen how it has blessed our lives and we want to share that with others. I loved the quote Elder Holland used, as well as his entire talk in general (all the talks were amazing, to be honest. Going to have to reread them again when we get them), but yeah, the quote: "What we do is but a drop in the ocean, yet if we did not do it there would be one less drop in the ocean" #missionarywork. I liked all the jokes about language, "Buenos dias" and the German joke by President Uchtdorf. Overall, it was just really good! 

Dogs here mostly smell bad. Cats are rarely seen, but they're smaller. Haven't seen very many birds but they don't look very cool (probably because I'm in the city). We went to a pizza place on like, Thursday or Friday for lunch, and we bought a half meter pizza, 6 bread sticks, and a 2lt Pepsi for 7500 mil, so like, $15. It was pretty decent, freshly made. Then today we went to a burger place and it was amazing. The one I had had 2 patties, ham, bacon, cheese, and lettuce and then they have their pineapple in a bottle so we put that sauce on too; it was fantastic. Then, you get a fresco so I had something called Cas, it's a fruit that I don't think you can get in the United States, but it was really good. It was a pricy lunch though; it was like $10 each. We were buying for D since he's been driving us everywhere. He droves us on Wednesday night to the ATM to get our money and then we peeled out haha. We do it at night and with a member so we don't risk getting robbed. So the money here is called Colones, it's like 500 to 1 dollar, but some things are pricey here. Soda is cheap, especially Coke. My umbrella was only like $10 and it's pretty nice. I might need more pants and shoes, which kind of sucks haha. I have been talking with my companions and Elder Parker blew through his shoes in Guanacaste because of the roads there, Elder Solis has too. Apparently the rain like eats the shoes from the inside out; your feet get wet and then the inside of your shoe like falls apart. However, I also heard of a guy in one of the areas here in Costa Rica, I don't remember where, but he repairs shoe soles for like $20 using airplane tire, so should I have the opportunity to do that I probably will. 

Yeah, I don't know; it's nothing like I expected here, so far at least in my area. Also there's a member that makes really cool leather scriptures cases, but they're more expensive. Elder Black said his were $70 for his design, and Elder Solis's were $30 he said and his are cool. He has the temple here on one of them and the other is like Captain Moronic [this should say Moroni, but Elder Lohberg's computer changed it to Moronic - we left it :)] with his flag and an army around him. They're sweet, so when I'm in that area I might buy those. Elder Solis said the member that makes the scripture cases, you like send him an email with the design you want, and then he sends em to you, for the fee of course.  

Oh gosh, I was getting out of a member's car and I slammed my knee into something metal. It felt like I had a bubble on my knee and there was like a little bump; it hurt and felt realllllyy weird. It seems to have gotten better though for the most part, still hurts a little to kneel on tile.

Elder Solis, the one who is about to die, said he made his camera make the picture size smaller so he can send more in an email. He said he'll show me how to do that for next time when I have my camera, but I'm not sure if that makes the quality worse or not?
About the picture, hmmm, it might have to be in my apartment. We don't take our cameras outside very often; too much risk of being robbed here in the city. Is that okay? Or hopefully in a few months I will get transferred to like Guanacaste, hopefully not Limon because that is more dangerous, but yeah then I could get a traditional Costa Rica one!

I kind of want to buy a backpack; everyone here uses them but I haven't found a store that sells them yet. Elder Solis says he knows one but they're more expensive here and you can't send me one or anything because most stuff doesn't make it through customs to the I'm not sure what to do.

Aaron: The bishop's son is really cool. We played ball with him and I went contacting with him the other day, it was fun. Honestly Mom, I wake up in the morning and for a while it's like, "What am I doing here? This is insane," and then my companions play their music and it gets better. It also helps that the ringtone for our cellphone, which also is our alarm clock, is the Pokemon theme song; it kind of makes the morning a lot better haha. Then I just get to work and kind of forget. When I eat good food or have a fresco, I forget about how weird this is, but every now and then I think about it and it feels like I'm going to be here forever.

MOM: I can still remember getting to my first area and thinking, "What am I doing here?" and freaking out a bit each day about what was going on - and I wasn't in a foreign country so I can sort of relate. As you get more used to the routine and the country - it will get better. I must say that I personally am doing better than I thought I would be doing with you being gone on your mission. I am so proud of you and time really seems to be going by fast to me - next Monday you will have completed 2 months already of your mission! CRAZY! Seems like we just dropped you off! I went to C's open house last night - she reports Wednesday - but was thinking - when she gets home - you will only have 4 months left - and we will have your travel docs by that time. It will go fast. I have made milestone markers for it - knowing we will talk to you in December etc - just looking for things to look forward to - but I know it will go fast once you get into the work more - Sounds like you've had a great week though teaching discussions etc. The geckos sound cool - keep them around for the bugs - bugs be nasty! If you need more shoes - you can get another pair - I probably should have gotten you 3 pairs instead of just 2. Have you used the bug spray I sent you at all? How bad are the mosquitoes?

Good idea to repair your shoes as you see them start to get holes in them - but try to keep your feet dry so if you need to get new shoes because of that do that because I don't want to see you get an infection in your feet because they are wet.

Aaron: Yeah! I'm hoping I'm okay on shoes and everything. Planning on busting out my glue the second I see tears or rips and then with my pants I'm going to get sewing stuff and just make everything I have last if I can haha. Hopefully it works out. My companions both had like 8 pairs of pants. Elder Solis had to buy more and they've both sewn some. Elder Parker went through two sets of shoes in Guanacaste so he found a place where he could buy black boots so he did that. Anyways I need to go mom, I love you guys so much and pray for your safety. Enjoy it there! Bye!

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