Tuesday, December 31, 2013

December 30, 2013, Skyping Home, Beat, and Getting a Sunburn on Christmas


I had a pretty fun week with Christmas and skyping home. It was nice to see everyone. Eliot is talking lots and Linus is big. Nankai looks about the same. He didn't seem very interested in talking, but that's okay. I got to see the snow in Utah, which was pretty exciting.

I got a box Annie and Kate sent. Sister Samuel says thank you for the stocking and sweater. The sweater looks really good on her. Sister Moea'i also says thanks for the stocking.

Sister Tofa (from NZ), me, and Sister Anitoni (Tonga)
outside of the stake center before beat on Christmas morning
On Christmas eve all of the missionaries met at the mission home for lunch. We also did an earring exchange for the sisters and the elders did a tie exchange. I got some big black and white Marshallese flower earrings that I'm wearing in some of the photos from Christmas.

We watched miracle on 34th street, which was actually kind of funny in parts. Or maybe I just haven't watched movies in a long time so any seem funny. The Uliga sisters (sister Tofa and Anitoni) slept over on Christmas eve because we had to sew all of the sisters' lavalavas for the missionary beat. There were only ten lavalavas to sew, but it took a long time. Luckily sister Tofa brought over some Tim Tams and other Australian snacks. It's a good thing we've got Australians and New Zealanders that get packages from home.

Ulinga Ward Beat
We spent all of Christmas at the stake center in Long Island. We started out by watching the Christmas devotional, which they had already translated into Marshallese so I didn't understand a thing.

Beat then started about 11. Each ward got an hour to perform and everyone wore matching dresses. It was actually kind of nice because then you could pick out who goes to which ward. But man, the dresses were all ugly as sin. The missionaries went second and the dance was a lot of fun. We sisters first did our dance (some samoan dance) and then we sat down and the elders did theirs. The elders' dance was funny and everyone really loved it. I guess there's a youtube video of it, but Idk how clear it is. The women running around were spraying perfume on us. Some of it got in my mouth and it was nasty, so I think there's one part where I'm coughing and dying.

Most of the sisters after the Missionary Beat
Ajeltake Branch walking in for our Beat
We took a lunch break and every ward had a tent set up with buckets full of rice, hotdogs, chicken, etc. Annie was wondering how the marshallese feel about non-red koolaid. I actually had orange koolaid a few times in Laura (maybe it's just a laura thing?) and I think I once had green at a funeral (I remember not being able to figure out what flavor it was...probably for the best). But red is the most common.

Ajeltake Beat
Beat lasted the rest of the day. Ajeltake was scheduled to go last at 7 pm. We started at 8:15, which actually isn't bad. I swear jenrok ward took 2 hours. We were pretty tired at that point. Ajeltake's beat was the best, by far. The songs we sang were great. A jimma (grandpa) in our ward wrote them and we've still been singing them all week. Jao, a recent convert, wrote the song for the dance and also came up with the dance. Our dance was lots of fun and everyone was energetic and yelling. Sister Moea'i and I danced in the guys' line, which was way better than the girls' line and it was so much fun. Everyone laughed at the elders in our line because they made up lots of dance moves. Beat was definitely an experience. It was exhausting but fun.

The missionary photo board at the Mission Home
Thanks for all of the photos you send, Annie. I love seeing Linus and Eliot. I especially like the ones in Chicago.

A really cool oven a member built
I'm not sure what's happening for new years yet. I've heard the branch is having a "block party" (they're all about block parties here for new years...I doubt they even know what a "block" is) at the church building, but it's not yet clear. Supposedly our budget is gone because of beat, but we're thinking about just playing some volleyball and basketball, and getting someone to bring music. I've heard everyone is hungover on the 1st and that it's impossible to get any work done, so we might have another P day mid-week.

Did you realize that the Marshall islands is one of the first countries to experience 2014? The international date line is just east of us here.
Coral and Chacos

Walking out on coral at low tide
Sunset at low tide
I miss you. Thanks for the emails and letters. Pretty soon I can say I'll be home this year! I hope you're all enjoying the snow. I got a sunburn on Christmas.

Sister Ellen Butler

December 23, 2013, I am Now the Owner of a Hot Pink Mumu

Greetings from the Marshall Islands,

It's been a fun week preparing for Christmas.  It sure doesn't feel like Christmas here since it's warm and I'm on a tropical island surrounded by coconut trees and ocean, but with all the Christmas activities it seems a little more real than before.

Everyone is getting ready for Beat.  For the mormon folks, everyone meets at the Long Island building (the stake center) on Christmas.  I'm pretty sure it's an all day event.  Each ward performs with a dance and songs and such.  Everyone in the ward participates..the kids and adults.  And best of all, we wear matching outfits.  Yep.  Sister Kiki and I just got our dresses yesterday.  The stake president's wife (they live in Ajeltake) bought them for us for Christmas.  Um.  I am now the owner of a hot pink and yellow mumu (how do you spell that?).  yeah, it's pretty ugly.  it's got puffy sleeves and ugly buttons sewn on it.  So bad.  But it's an experience.  We've been having beat practice every night in Ajeltake the last two weeks, and earlier than that, but I wasn't here yet.  The two church vans would go pick up people every evening and drop them off at the church.  They'd set up the keyboard and microphones and one person plays and another sings.  Then a couple of guys have whistles and help teach the dance and lead us into the chapel.  we all line up outside the chapel (the chapel has folding chairs, so we can practice in there when the chairs are all put away) and they lead us and we form rows inside.  We sing a couple of songs in Marshallese, and then we dance around and form rows for the dance. We then dance in rows and that's about it.  We haven't practiced the walk out yet...not sure how to do that. Jao and Carlos, two recent converts, are teaching beat. Jao actually wrote the song and the lyrics. It's a song about fishing and there's a part in the dance where we're pulling nets in from the ocean.

All of the missionaries are also performing a dance. Last year the dance was from Kiribati, but this year the Samoan elders and sisters planned it. The sisters are all wearing matching lavalavas and flowers in our hair.  we perform a dance and then the elders do some crazy Samoan dance with a lot of yelling and jumping around. It's going to be pretty cool. We've got about 40 elders and 10 sisters on Majuro, so there's a lot of us. We're practicing again today. Some of the sisters bought fabric so we've got to hem our lavalavas today too. The fabric is blue, green, and white...a lot better than hot pink.

I've been wearing my chacos everyday now.  I love them.

Random info:  Gas is 5.60 a gallon, and diesel is 5.00.  So crazy.

I am now a pro at backing out cars. I think I've found my calling in life. Such a fun rule.

School was canceled on Friday because we were supposed to get big tidal waves. I don't think it happened. I think they were supposed to be bigger in the northern marshall islands.  We're okay here though. They said something about 20 ft waves. How the heck do you measure a wave?  Where does the bottom of it start?  And are we talking about low tide or high tide? Idk.

I went to my first keemem on Saturday night. A keemem is a big party for a kid's first birthday.  First birthdays are a big deal here. They basically make a whole lot of food (rice, bbq chicken, pork, cooked pumpkin in coconut "frosting," potato salad-- eggs, potatos, mayo, pwido, and koolaid) and everyone is invited. They set up a couple of tents and chairs, and decorate with balloons and coconut fronds. Someone plays the keyboard and someone sings. They started really late (got to love island time. Everything starts 3 hours late here) so we just got our food and left. We felt bad about just coming to get free food (well, that's kind of why we were there anyway) but it was time to go home. A member invited us, so we didn't feel quite as bad. He's an Alap, which is one step down from an Irooj (translates to lord. Basically a big cheese) so we didn't feel too out of place. Of course he treats us like we're big cheeses, and he got us chairs and sent other people to get our take out boxes of food. The people here really respect missionaries.

All of the missionaries did Christmas caroling at K&K last week. K&K is one of the grocery stores here. We stood in front of the store and sang for an hour. We have it again tonight. It's pretty funny because after 15 minutes most of the elders are sick of singing and they don't know all of the songs because they don't sing these hymns on all the islands.

The sister that got hurt is coming back from Fiji this week. I guess she's good enough to come back. I think I'm going back to Laura again for a few weeks before the next transfer, but then I should definitely be in a new place. Supposedly a whole lot of people are moving around this next transfer. I don't really want to go back to Laura, but it'll be okay.

Tomorrow for Christmas Eve we're all meeting at the mission home for lunch and a gift exchange. The elders are supposed to bring a tie, and we're supposed to bring earrings. Yep.

Everything is good here. I'm doing well. It's nice having a car. It's nice having a church building. Oh, on Saturday morning the whole branch met together and we cleaned the church building and grounds around it. I worked on the windows in the chapel. They're those cool windows with the parallel glass panes that all open up and move 90 degrees. With the fans going and the widows open, we get some nice ocean breezes from off the lagoon (which is about 30 ft away).  

Meri Kirimaj nan aolep!

Sister Ellen Butler

December 16, 2013, Ajeltake is Just Great!


It's been an awesome week in Ajeltake. It went by so quickly. I can already say that I love Ajeltake more than I loved Laura. Maybe that's bad, but Ajeltake is just great. The branch members are all really nice and outgoing. I already feel like I know a lot of people's names in the branch. Our house is awesome. I love our huge kitchen and gas stove, and we have some super comfy couches that we crash on every night when we get home. It's also really nice having a car. We taught a lot of lessons this last week. Sister Moea'i was really happy to work.  Everyone calls Sister Moea'i "Sister Kiki" because her name in Samoan means "eat and sleep" and kiki means "sleep" in Marshallese.

More Island Flowers
Pretty Island Flowers
Ellen by the lagoon in Ajeltake
I forgot to tell you about a store we went to last week. There's an awesome Chinese grocery store in town that some missionaries found, and now it's the place everyone goes on p days. It's called Best Foods and they have real fruit smoothies and bubble tea. The smoothies are $4.50 but they're huge and worth it. I've only tried passion fruit and mango so far, and they're both so good. I also got some gyoza wrappers and green onions and cabbage there, and Kiki and I made gyoza this last week. I also got a bottle of calpico! Or whatever that stuff is called.  There's a lot of japanese and Chinese food that I want to get, but it's all really expensive.

Our House--Yep, It's a Palace
One sad thing about our house is that we don't have a washer, so we have to take our clothes to the long island to do them. It's not bad though. We didn't have electricity on Thursday (I swear it's always Thursdays when it's turned off) so that was a fun no shower day. It was so hot in our house in the morning so we drove down to peace park (a park that has a pretty ugly WWII monument) to do our language study. I'll see if I can upload some photos. These computers at NTA aren't quite as nice as the ones at CMI.

The Ajeltake elders had a baptism on Saturday. A young couple named Jao and Carlos got baptized. It was really nice. I had gotten to know them pretty well this week, so I was glad to be there for the baptism.
Carlos, Elder Sherman, Sister Kiki, Jao, Elder Gappmayer, and Ellen

Thanks for the camera, mom and dad. It's nice to be able to take pictures again. I got some nice sunset ones this week. The sunsets here in Ajeltake are awesome. It's so pretty. In some ways Ajeltake is prettier than Laura because when we drive we can see both the lagoon and the ocean. Laura is wider so you can't see both. I do miss all of the bumpy, dirt back roads in Laura though. There are a few papaya trees here, but they all seem really small.  I don't think any of them are producing fruit. There are bananas, but not as many as in Laura. We got a huge bag of pandanas fruit this week though.

We made lunch for some elders yesterday. A number of them are leaving this week so some were in Ajeltake saying goodbye to people yesterday. I made kuku paka (without a blender, but it worked. And we made fresh coconut milk too. So good.), green lentils (without cilantro), rice, and of course hot dogs. No meal is complete without hotdogs. Oh, and I also made some oven fries because I was worried we wouldn't have enough food.  Big islander elders can eat a lot.
Sister Kiki and two elders returning to Kiribati
We've been trying to find more investigators this week, since the ajeltake sisters didn't have many before.  We've found some. Most are teenagers, but that's good. One thing our mission president has wanted us to do is find all of the 9 yr olds and up that come to church but haven't been baptized yet. We try to teach them and have their parents there in the lessons. Usually the parents are less active and the kids keep coming with other active family members (since extended families all live together here), and so teaching the kids helps reactivate the parents. We've been teaching a kid and we found out his mom is a less active member, so we asked if she also wanted to study with us. It's a really good way to find. Another mom of a teenager we're teaching isn't a member but has studied with missionaries before (like every other person on this island) and so we're starting with her again too. We also try to visit members a lot and get referrals from them. Referrals are hard to get though.

I didn't write much in my planner to talk about this week. I really enjoy working with Sister Kiki. She's really relaxed about things, which is so nice. We understand each other really well. It's nice to have a companion that really knows English.

I love you all. Thanks for the emails and letters. Let me know if you have specific questions about the island. I feel like I say the same stuff in my emails these days, and I've gotten used to a lot of things here, so I don't talk about a lot of things that would probably be interesting to all of you. I have yet to eat turtle or dog, but I hope it happens soon.  I've heard bbq turtle is awesome. Thanks for the work gloves, mom and dad. They've already come into good use.

Sister Ellen Butler

December 9, 2013, Transferred to Ajeltake


Well friends, I'm no longer in Laura.  I got a call from the APs on Saturday morning and Sunday after church I got a ride over to Ajeltake. I really miss Laura and Sister Samuel, but Ajeltake is pretty awesome and everyone that has served there really loves it. I'm so glad I'm still on the beautiful west side of the island.

Ajeltake is the long, skinny part of the atoll and it's beautiful just like Laura. I don't think there are as many banana or papaya trees, but there's plenty of coconuts. I thought I was maybe going to get transferred to town, so I'm really happy to be in Ajeltake. It's a big area (well, for the Marshall Islands....it's small for everywhere else in the world) so we have a car. The car is definitely nice, and it's nice to be out of the Laura van. I do miss my bike though.

My companion is sister Moea'i. She's from Hawaii but she's full Samoan. We were in the MTC together, so we know about the same amount of Marshallese. She's been in Ajeltake her whole time on the mission, so at some point once I know the area she'll probably get transferred. I'll need a companion that can drive though!

It was sad leaving Laura, but I'm glad to be in a new area. There's just a branch in Ajeltake, and the sisters didn't have very many investigators before, so we're going to try to really get to know the members and find people through them. I had met some of the members when I came to Ajeltake for baptisms before, so I already know a few and they are all really excited I'm working here now. They all ask about Sister Samuel, because she came from Ajeltake to work in Laura. I'm still in the same district as before, so that's nice. And holy cow, our house is so fancy. We each have our own bathroom, the house is huge, and we have a huge kitchen. I'll have to take pictures of it sometime.

I'm emailing in town at NTA (the phone and internet provider) so I now have to pay for email. It's about ten dollars for 2 hours or so.

I'm trying to think about what happened this week. Oh, we had a fun experience with our water in Laura. On Saturday night we heard the water pump working but we realized there wasn't any water turned on in the house.  We thought about what it could be, but then we just ignored it/forgot about it. It's not really that loud, so you don't always notice it. Sister Samuel woke me up Sunday morning and told me we were out of water. We figured out our water heater is broken and all rusted, so the pump pulled out all of our water in the night. So we called the Barlows (senior couple that take care of problems with the houses) and then we asked our neighbors if we could have some water. We took about 4 buckets of water from their pontoon for our showers (bucket showers are the best) and we had some soapy water in a basin left over from rinsing laundry that we used for flushing the toilets (or "flashing" the toilets, as my companions called it). We had the Barlows bring over drinking water, since they come to church in Laura with us. Hopefully they have water now! Luckily it's monday so they can fill up the pontoon with water from the pipes (since the water is on once a week).

We've been helping teach seminary at Laura high school the last couple of weeks because their teacher was selected to take a class at USP for the next month or so. The have seminary during lunch time in an elementary school classroom. The high school and elementary school are right next to each other and there's a 2nd grade teacher that teaches it, so they all come over to her classroom. It was a little crazy at first because it was during the elementary school lunch time and there were kids everywhere eating their rice and chicken and running around, so seminary only lasted about half an hour, but it was still good.  We taught in english because most of the high school students know english pretty well. It was hard to know how much they understood, but it got better as we went along. They're studying the book of mormon this year, and it was fun to try to explain some of the stories. I think Samuel and Tafili will take over for a couple of weeks.

I hit my five month mark this week, which is crazy. Time is going so much faster now that I can actually communicate with people and that I like my companions. Sister Moea'i is really relaxed but also wants to work hard, especially since her last companion was injured and they weren't able to work as much as she wanted to. 

I was telling Annie about this, but I haven't told the rest of you. It's actually not that hot here right now. We're in the rainy season in Nov-Jan (or something like that. maybe it's Oct-Dec) and it's definitely cooled down a little.  There are still really hot days, but it seems a little cooler overall. Sadly this is the time that I'm in a car (I would rather have the car when it's super hot) but I'm not complaining. I guess it's because we're still in the northern hemisphere and so the sun isn't quite as direct? I'm not sure how much it matters so close to the equator. I'm not sure why it's the rainy season either.

I'm trying to think about what else happened this week. It was a pretty solid week in Laura. We got a big nice papaya from Tomiko, which was delicious. I love papaya. We also got another big bunch of bananas. On Saturday night we got fed by the Jolets, which was nice. Lots of meat and rice. I did get some awesome pork last night in a really good tomato sauce. The pork was so tender and delicious.

Another funny story from a lesson with a 12 year old boy: We were reviewing for this kid's baptismal interview and we asked him what we're not supposed to do on Sunday. He said "jab wia (don't buy stuff), jab kukure (don't play), and jab raru (don't clean up/rake)" It was super funny because we always say "jab jerbal (don't work)" instead of "jab raru," so we don't really know where he came up with that one. It was super funny too because that's what all the women say when you asked them what they did today. Breadfruit trees drop a million leaves and overripe breadfruit, so the marshallese people are constantly raking and cleaning up their land. You can rake and pick up leaves, and then in the afternoon it looks just like it did before. I don't know if this story will be funny to you, but it was pretty funny to us. I love hearing what the kids come up with.

I think that's pretty much it. I'm not going to get Christmas boxes home until Jan or Feb, sorry about that. I haven't had time to get gifts yet, and then once I send them we'll see how long they take to arrive. No worries about boxes being late. I really don't mind. Thank you for sending me presents!  Let me know if there's anything any of you want.

Sister Moea'i's old companion left a lot of vegemite in the cupboards, so I know what I'm eating this week. haha. I tried some on a cracker a few weeks ago and it actually wasn't bad. Why do they say it's really healthy? I've got to find some uses for it, unless the sister can come back and wants her vegemite.

I miss you all. Thanks for your letters and emails. They really mean a lot to me.


Sister Ellen Butler

December 2, 2013, Church yesterday was awesome! (read why...)


I have a pretty crazy week in Laura.  I had strep throat for the first few days, so we didn't get very much work done, and then Sister Samuel got the flu right when I was getting better.

Since we're working in a trio, it's actually not that bad when one of us gets sick because we just need to find a female member to come be with the sick one so the other too can work.  But of course it's difficult because only some people have phones and very few people have cars or bikes.  On Monday evening we got Carolynn to come over and sit with me.  We told her we'd pay her back for a taxi to come to our house (50 cents), but she ended up getting a ride from a policeman since her dad used to be a policeman in Laura (meaning he sat in a chair in front of the police station or sometimes rode around in a police car).

Tuesday afternoon Mercyla came over after school and I found out a lot more about her family. Tomiko came over Wednesday and normally she's pretty quiet, but she just talked and talked the whole time. I think the members were all happy to come over because they got to enjoy the AC and use the stove (they were all pretty excited to cook using the stove). On Saturday night we asked if Tomiko could come over to sit with Sister Samuel, and she said yes, but then she didn't show up. We got Carolynn to come over, and then a few minutes later Tomiko and another member, Mami, came and they all ended up having a party while we were gone. When Sister Tafili and I came back they had cooked dinner for us and had gone through old clothes that sister missionaries had left in the house. It was nice that members were willing to help us.

On Thursday we all went to Long Island to the mission home to eat Thanksgiving dinner. I guess it was actually lunch. It was nice to see everyone, but every time I go to the mission home I just feel so claustrophobic. I think there are just too many people in the house and it gets so loud. It probably doesn't help that the last couple of times I've been there I've been really congested, so with the noise I can't hear anything anyone is saying. I also think I'm just tired of being with people 24/7.  It's kind of nice being in a trio because I can let the two of them make fun (they're islanders so they're always laughing about something) and talk when we're in the house, and then I don't have to talk. It's nice.  

We had John and Helasha's baptism planned for Saturday night, but then Friday morning we got a call saying the baptism needed to be that evening since there was a program going on in the middle school (where we meet for church) Saturday night. So, much of Friday was spent preparing for the baptism and letting people know about the change. Finding baptismal clothes was an adventure, and so was finding Tomiko and the boys to let them know about the change. Luckily Marshallese people aren't really that busy, so switching the days wasn't a problem. The baptism was really nice. Not very many people showed up, but that's how baptisms go. One of their friends, Helmer, spoke at the baptism, and so did Tomiko.  

On Saturday morning the Relief Society had a picnic at Laura beach for Sister Barlow's birthday. The Barlows are a missionary couple that are assigned to serve in the Laura ward, so they've been coming to this ward since they've been here. They're some of my favorite senior couples. It started a couple of hours late, as usual, so sister Barlow and I walked along the beach and found shells. We then started by singing a bunch of Marshallese birthday songs, and then we did a sort of iakwe iakwe, where everyone sings and walks up to the person of honor and gives them gifts. She was given Marshallese flowers, shoes, earrings, and shells. We then ate a lot of Marshallese food (rice, hotdogs, chicken, bub, bananas, banana and coconut balls, sashimi, coconuts, spaghetti noodles with ketchup (so gross), etc).  

Church yesterday was awesome! The water pump for the bathroom was broken, so we only had sacrament meeting. It was just the right length. I didn't feel completely exhausted afterwards. It was great. Last night we went and visited an old man that doesn't come to church because he can't walk, and we had a good time with him. We shared a short lesson and then sang hymns together. We're happy to start singing Christmas hymns now. It's so weird that it's December and really warm. We're actually in the rainy season right now (Oct to Dec) so that explains why it's been raining so blasted much recently. It also hasn't been quite as hot, which is nice.

I'm trying to think of what else happened this week. I made a quinoa and chick pea salad. I added canned tomatoes (wish i had fresh ones) and steamed carrots and broccoli, and a lot of salt, pepper, Italian spices, olive oil, and a little vinegar. I wish I had lemon juice. It was okay. I think the broccoli was a weird addition. It wasn't bad though. I made more lentil soup. I eat a lot of grilled cheese sandwiches too. I made one for Sister Tafili, which was a bad idea since now she likes them and I've got to share the cheese now haha.

The sister that got injured is going to Fiji a week from today to get her knee looked at. If she's okay, she'll come back...but most of us think she'll go home. So, this may be my last week in Laura. We'll see.  If I have to move, I'd be okay with going to Ajeltake because it's pretty similar to Laura, but I don't really want to leave Laura.  

I miss you all.  Tootles, 

Sister Ellen Butler

Saturday, November 30, 2013

November 25, 2013, I Thought I Was Safe Because I Buy Wheat Bread


Sorry I wasn't able to write a real letter last week.  We didn't have time to go on Tuesday and we all decided to just wait until this next week.  

I told you a little bit about our new companion, Sister Tafili.  She's really nice and she's learning Marshallese quickly.  She eats a lot.  She goes through about one package of hotdogs in a day.  And lots of white bread.  I thought I was safe because I buy wheat bread, but once the white was gone she went for that too.  She doesn't really know how to cook, so Sister Samuel and I have been cooking most days.  She does wash dishes though, so that's a help.  She does make an awesome Samoan drink though.  It's called "cocoa samoa" and it's basically real hot chocolate.  She has a huge block of real cocoa (and it's hard as a rock) and she gets a knife and shaves off chunks of it and boils it with a little sugar.  It's so good.  The first time I thought it was too sweet and so I asked her to put less sugar in the second time (and she could add more to hers if she wanted) and it was delicious.  It was a little richer the second time too, so it was like drinking pure dark chocolate.  

I met a boy named Cedar this week.  He knew that it was the name of a tree.  Poor kid.

I made lentils in a green sauce this week.  There's no cilantro or mint to speak of on this island, so I added a little dried basil to make it look a little green.  It was pretty good, but I didn't have hot dried peppers so I just used cayenne.  

Mercyla's baptism finally happened last Saturday.  We got to the church building and it started pouring and pouring.  The wind was so strong and everything just got dark.  The bishop asked Mercyla if she wanted to wait until next week, but she said it was fine.  It was getting dark quickly, so we just had an opening hymn and prayer and then those that wanted to walked down to the lagoon.  I think only the elders, sisters, mercyla, and a couple of members walked down.  Most stayed in the building.  The rain mostly stopped but the wind was crazy strong. The waves were pretty big and it was so loud that we couldn't hear the prayer.  It was pretty cool.  The elders that are witnesses usually just roll up their pants and walk into the water about up to their knees, but they got pretty wet from the waves.  It was pretty crazy having a baptism in the middle of a storm.  

Roscoe died Saturday night.  Bubu Jolet told me in church on Sunday.  He must have eaten something that was bad, because he threw up a whole lot and then kicked the bucket.  We went over to their place last night to have a kajemilok barbeque for Roscoe. Jemilok means to end or close, and kajemilok means to cause something to end or close.  We had a yummy mixture of rice and pumpkin and then really good bbq chicken.  They just marinate it in shoyu (marshallese spelling: joiu) and garlic, but it's really good.  Bubu Jolet's prayer to start the bbq was so sad.  She started talking about their "menninmour" that they loved so much.  Mennimour literally translates to "thing of life" or "thing that lives."  We sang hymns and stuffed ourselves with food.  Poor puppy roscoe.

I heard about the Philippines.  I heard they think 10,000 have died?  Is there an updated number now?  I've seen some little pamphlets/books passed around from some Australia Aid society about preparing for typhoons.  I guess they can happen in micronesia, but they haven't for a long time.  That's what people in Laura have told me.

We got pulled over by the police the other night while we were on our bikes because we didn't all have flashlights.  I had forgotten mine.  It was pretty funny because the police men didn't say anything at first.  We learned from the other missionaries that if you just talk in english they'll go away.  I think they were bored and didn't have anything to do.  The funny thing is that this island is so blasted tiny so information travels so quickly. Tomiko (a member we know pretty well) told us the next day that she heard the police had stopped us.  

Two weeks ago three elders left to go home, and one of them was serving in Arrak near Laura.  We were invited to a kajemilok party for him, and we ate some awesome food.  There was some really good sashimi.  I don't know what type of fish, but it was dang good.  My favorite dish was a papaya salad.  It only had the green part of the papaya, and it was cut into long threads.  It was mixed with lime juice and maybe a tiny bit of vinegar and then something spicy.  It was amazing.  They also had a big platter of red papaya chunks too, bbq ribs that were amazing, a chinese noodle dish, taro, banana balls rolled in coconut, etc.  And there was a big cooler full of ice cold green coconuts. It was good food.  

I love you.  Thanks for your letters.  

Sister Ellen Butler

Sunday, November 24, 2013

November 17, 2013, Cooking for Three is Better than Cooking for Two

Today's a holiday (president's day?) so CMI was closed.  Well actually we got someone to unlock the office for us, but the internet was turned off for the day. So, I'm emailing from a computer in the mission office right now.  Since there aren't many computers we each only get a little bit of time to email, but I believe our district is going to CMI tomorrow morning to email for reals.  This is just an email to say that I'm alive and well, and yes, I am still in Laura.  The sister that got hurt is walking (slowly) so it seems like she might be okay.  It looks like I'll be staying in Laura for at least this transfer.  I'm definitely leaving after Christmas though, since I'll have been there for 4.5 months at that point.
Things are going well.  Our new companion is pretty cool.  She's half Samoan, half Chinese.  Both of her parents are half Samoan, half Chinese.  She's not afraid to try and speak the language, so that's good.  And cooking for three is better than cooking for two, so we'll have more money for food. 
P day was pretty nice today with our new district leader.  We were actually able to go to other stores in town!  I got a dress at a secondhand store for $5 and we drove to Rita, which I had actually never been to before.  The new district is pretty sweet.
I'll write more tomorrow.  Love you,
Sister Butler

November 11, 2013 Life is Better with Spices

Greetings from Lomar, Laura, Majuro, RMI, 

I'm not going to have much time to write today because we had combined P day in Laura and we decided to email after playing sports...and we're supposed to be out working at 6 pm.  I'll try to write a little about this week though.

We had a really good week.  Mercyla finally had her baptismal interview (after she missed her last few ones because she's been in Rita for the weekends) and so she'll get baptized this Saturday.  We're really excited for that. She's 14 and her aunt is a member.  

This week we got really smart and made a cardboard seat for the back of my bicycle.  My bike has one of those metal frames on the back and so we got a cardboard box and some rope to make it a little more comfortable. Sister Samuel and I ride to a member's house and then the member uses Sis. Samuel's bike, while she sits on the back of my bike as we go to a lesson.  We've been trying to work on getting more members to come to lessons. They help with the language and the lesson.  We've done a lot better with that now that we have the seat. It's pretty funny riding around all over Laura with Sis. Samuel on the bike. Everyone laughs at us when we ride past. Sammy gets a break and I get to pedal around another 120 lbs, so it's fun.

Kia and Kid Kattil.
(His real name is Sylvester.  I don't know why he doesn't go by it.  It's a pretty cool name)
We had a FHE with them last Monday.  This is their entire house. 
I love it though, because there's a place for everything.
There are nails in the walls for spatulas and the kids' backpacks and everything else.

I was telling Sara Jane about the "red tag" expired food area in the grocery store, and then I realized that the whole store is basically an expired food section but with higher prices.  Most of the stuff is really fine, but I always hate buying cheese that's just about to go moldy.  

On Thursday we did an exchange and Sister Huni (from Tonga) came to Laura for the day and Sister Samuel worked in Long Island with Sister Crane. It was a good day for the most part, but I also just felt like it was a test to see how good my Marshallese and teaching skills are...so of course I was more nervous and didn't speak as much. Different missionaries teach things in different ways too, and lots of the time I wasn't sure where she was going with the lesson, so I think she thinks I don't know how to teach. Kind of a frustrating day.

Something happened with the electricity on the island this week...something broke, so the last 3 or 4 days we've only have power half the day.  They let town have power half the day, and then we'd get it for half the day. Everyone else knew what time it was going off and back on again because they announced it over the radio, but we didn't know.  Luckily our neighbors told us the second day.  One early morning our neighbor came over and said "Elon ke jerum?" which means "Is there electricity?" but Sis. Samuel thought she said "Elon ke jeram?" which means "Do you have a good friend?" so she said, "Aaet, e kiki kiio" meaning "Yes, she's sleeping right now."  It was pretty funny.  Once we knew when it would be off we hurried and filled up containers with water for the day and showered and turned the AC as low as possible to cool the house off.  We have a lot of food we need to throw out, which is sad.  We also stocked up on candles this week.  One of our really good flashlights died so we need to get another one for riding bikes.  I want to see if the office will get us one of those little propane stoves since Laura seems to lose electricity fairly often.  We'll see.  

We had stake conference in Long Island on Sunday.  The talks were all really good and I understood a lot of them.  I can't usually understand church, so this was exciting.  A lot of women spoke, and I think that's maybe why I was able to understand them better. I have such a hard time understanding Marshallese men speaking. I was also surprised how relatively quiet it was. Usually the kids go crazy in church.  I think it helps to have a chapel.
Ellen with some girls after stake conference. Mercyla is to her left.

We have zone conference tomorrow, meaning everyone on island gets together in long island and the weirs talk to us and probably the APs too.  That should be good.  It's kind of weird we have one right before the new kids come.  We should get our new sister on Friday, but now I'm not so sure if I'll be in Laura.  One of the sisters got hurt during rugby today during combined P day and they're worried it's something with her knee or acl...so if she has to fly to Hawaii or Fiji I'll probably go to Ajeltake and work with Sis. Moeai. We'll see what happens.  

Can I get the oatmeal raisin cookie and green lentils recipe?  Thanks.

One thing I haven't mentioned about Marshallese before.  There's no verb conjugation, but you conjugate some nouns. One example is if you're talking about food, you have to specify who's food it is.  "Kijuu" means "it's my food" and "Ej jab kijum" means "it's not your food," which is often what moms will say to little kids after they've given us a meal and the little kids try to eat it.  It's hard to eat a huge plate of food when the little kids just want some, but if you try to give it the parents say "no, they're already eaten" but they're still clearly hungry.  I have no idea how to spell these words in marshallese, but it really doesn't matter since there's no actual correct spelling!  

Time has been going really quickly, which means my companion and I get along well.  We try to have a lot of fun and work hard too.  I force her to drink lots of water because she always gets headaches.  She doesn't really like the food I make, and I'm getting sick of chicken and rice everyday, so I guess it goes both ways.  I made a really good dish last night.  I fried oil, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, thinly sliced onions, carrots, and cabbage, and some ground cardamom and garam masala together.  It was pretty tasty.  We ate it with baked french fries with italian spices, since that's the only other edible food we had in the house.  Life is better with spices.  

The condo looks really nice, mom and dad.  I like the big open space.  It sounds like you all have been working hard.

I love and miss you all.  Stay warm!

Sister Ellen Butler

November 4, 2013, Waini, Namu Namu, and Unicorn Fish Sashimi


Thanks for all of the emails this week! I asked Sister Crane to email Annie this morning (well, morning for me) to let her know I wouldn't be online at the usual time. We were supposed to have combined P day in Laura (meaning the west and east zones would meet there for basketball, football, volleyball, etc) but it was raining so they canceled it. We decided to get our shopping out of the way before doing email, and then we heard combined P day was canceled once we were already on our way to town. But it was kind of nice to go into town earlier in the day because we ran into people at the grocery store and hung out for a while.

Transfer calls! I am staying in Laura with Sister Samuel AND we're getting one of the new sisters! I think it's going to be a lot of fun to be in a trio.  She's from Samoa, but that's all I know about her.  They arrive on the 14th, so we still have a week and half.  Sister Seegmiller is training the other new sister (a ripelle from Australia) in Delap. So that means we're going to be getting another bike soon. I think it's going to be good.  It'll be nice to have more people to clean and cook and help out, because sometimes we get really tired. Transfer calls were also pretty fantastic because I found out that a certain elder that I don't get along with is getting shipped off to an outer island soon.  Best news ever.  

I'm also excited for other changes in our district...I think the van ride to town is going to be a lot better (a change of music is going to help a lot there) and getting some elders that know how to communicate is also going to help.  

We got some waini (brown coconuts) from members this week.  I learned how to scrape out coconuts, which is actually really easy.  I'll send a picture of me using the "raanke" which is the scraper.  We made a german chocolate cake, but then ants ate the coconut pecan stuff before we put it on the cake, which was sad.

Scraping out waini using the raanke.

Yes, I got your package, mom and dad. Thank you so much! The spices are wonderful. I've also really been enjoying the dried cherries and prunes. I really like the skirt too.  I've worn it a few times now.  It smelled like spices the first time I wore it...and now...yeah, I think I need to wash it. Thank you! The calendar is also very helpful.  

We had a district Halloween potluck dinner in Arrak at the elder's place on Thursday evening for Halloween. I made a big pot of chili beans with my new chili powder!  It was really tasty. We also took the chocolate cake and a bowl of fruit. It was nice to hang out with everyone from the district. Sister Crane was on an exchange that day in Ajeltake, so she was also there, which was great to see her.

  District photo in the Ajeltake Sisters' house.  Their house is so nice.

I learned to make namu namu this week, which are basically crepes/pancakes that have very little egg and lots of water in them. They're good with nutella, but I don't really like them since crepes are so good because of all the eggs in them. But finally I know how to make a Marshallese food other than rice and chicken and fish.  

We ate some unicorn fish sashimi this week.  Or was that last week?  It had a really pretty blue and silver skin that was kind of like shark skin (you know, you pet a shark one way and it's smooth, and the other way feels like sandpaper).  

It's rained every single day this week.  Holy cow.  And it just comes down in buckets and buckets.  I learned from an elder today that when it rains like that in the outer islands, the elders don't go out because it's bad manners to go visit people when it's raining.  

Our jilubukwi of bananas is already gone. Actually we have a few left that we put in the freezer because we couldn't eat them fast enough.  So tasty.  

The most disgusting thing I saw this week was a cat eating a dead rat inside of a house. Another cat came up on the first cat, and the cat snarled and got pretty angry. There was rat blood all over the cat's face.

Saturday morning Sister Samuel and I went to an investigator's house to help do service. We weeded a big portion of her garden (or jikin kallib) with machetes. It's pretty fun weeding with machetes. She gave us a pumpkin for helping her (same woman that gave us the pumpkin before). This one is pretty small, but I'm excited to eat pumpkin again.  I learned that pumpkin is "paanke" in marshallese and it sounds kind of like "pancake," and they don't have a different word for pancakes in marshallese, so sometimes I don't know if they're talking about the vegetable or hotcakes.  But both are good, so I always say I like them.

I've been missing the world series, but I did get to play in a baseball game on Tuesday.  We went to the Jolet's house to visit for a few, and all of the kids and Carolynn (she's 35...daughter of Bubu Jolet) were in their "backyard" playing baseball.  So, we played baseball for a while and it was so picturesque.  Home base was about 10 feet from the lagoon and the breeze was coming off the lagoon and it was so nice and cool.  We played baseball in the sand and the bat was a tree branch, and there was a chunk of plywood for the smaller kids to use as a bat (more surface area always helps them out).  

Working has been going well.  Investigators still won't come to church.  We're really only able to get the teenagers to come.  We've been teaching Elijah (12 yrs) and John (14 yrs) and they both came to church yesterday.  Their mom, Tomiko, is a member and she's a big help in the lessons.  She told us a couple of days ago that the three of them are moving to Arkansas in February to go live with her mom.  The boys are going to miss majuro so much, since it's paradise for little, crazy kids, but school in the US will be so much better.  Elijah isn't going to school right now, and we heard him say to someone that he doesn't have a uniform...so we're going to talk to Tomiko this week and see what's up.  He has a really hard time paying attention, so maybe there are more problems.  But John's really quiet and calm and Tomiko told us he got honors on his last report card.  We had a baptismal interview fall through for one of our other teenage investigators, but aindean (that's life).

The grocery stores have not had Milo for about 3 weeks now.  What is going on?  So sad. I got some Nesquik today though, so that should be good. I also got some wasabi peas. I got real food too, don't worry.

Sis. Samuel and I got matching guams (the house dresses) from a member yesterday. They're both tiger and cheetah print, and I kind of love it.    

I think that's all for this week.  Things just get better and better.  Some days are rough, but I'm really glad I'm going to be with Sister Samuel for a while longer.  

Combined P day has been rescheduled for next week, so I again won't be on email at the usual time.  Actually, maybe I will because we'll have a new district leader and he might let us go email early...we'll see.  

Love and miss you all, 

Sister Ellen Butler

Thursday, October 31, 2013

October 27, 2013, The Week Goes Much Faster When I'm Not Sick


It's been a pretty good week.  The week goes much faster and better when I'm not sick.  

On Tuesday and Wednesday we went to the mission home to watch conference. They have a bunch of couches in the home and they also set up a lot of chairs since there are about 45 missionaries that came. They had a computer set up to a projector, so the picture was nice and big. We used some really crappy speakers at first, and since I was still really congested at this point I couldn't hear very much. A few elders went off to get their speakers...you can count on missionaries to have good speakers since they all listen to music all of the time.  I enjoyed Elder Holland's and President Uchtdorf's talks the most, but that's not really surprising. It was nice to have a break, but there were so many people in the house and I couldn't hear very well, so it was a bit uncomfortable at times.

 Ice cream sundaes at conference

Sister Seegmiller swears that garlic cures all sicknesses, so I tried making some garlic sandwiches this week. I just put butter and a chopped up clove of garlic on a piece of bread. They're actually pretty good, except that you then smell really strongly of garlic. My congestion is mostly gone now and my chest hurts just a little when I cough, so maybe the garlic helped.

I got some really cheap picture frames at a store in town last week so I could display some of my pictures in the house. I now have pictures of Linus and Eliot, the family, and friends in frames so I don't just have them in a stack on my desk.  

I made another big pot of lentil soup this week. We usually make a good lunch everyday and then I heat up a bowl of lentil soup and eat it with a grilled cheese for dinner. I'm excited to get some spices so the soup isn't so bland. 

I got a halloween/autumn themed package from LATE last week! I especially appreciate the jar of nutella, the fall stickers, and the ensign from last conference. We have yet to make the green jello or the jiffy mix, but I will think of Michigan when I make the jiffy mix muffins.  

On Saturday the Johnny family gave us a huge bunch of bananas! The type of bananas is called "jilubukwi" which means "three hundred." I thought maybe because there are supposed to be three hundred bananas on one bunch, but my dictionary says they're called that because of how plentiful they are on the island. Only the top bunch was yellow when we got it, and now that it's been hanging in my closet for a couple of days, most all of the bananas are yellow. They tied it to the rack on the back of my bicycle and on our way home whenever anyone would see us on the street they'd say "wow...pinana!"
Ellen and the bananas

We went home to drop of the bananas and to use the bathroom before we went out again. When we got on our bikes to leave the house the power went out in Laura and it was completely dark. I have a flashlight I hold while riding the bike, so we got that out and then we went to a shop to get some candles. We then visited a part member family and they were sitting eating in the dark, so we gave them a candle and sat and talked with them for a while. They gave us a fish for dinner.  We went home and lit a candle and planned for the next day. We were sad we didn't have any rice to eat with our fish, but then the power came back on and we were able to make rice!  Sister Samuel then skinned and cleaned the fish (she gets really mad that the marshallese people don't clean their fish). They usually just cook the fish whole and the eat the good stuff and leave the gut, but it's kind of gross. So she cleaned it up and fried it a little more. I looked it up in my dictionary, and it was a surgeonfish. It doesn't have any scales and it's a pretty ugly fish. But it was really tasty.


We're going to get some more candles since the power goes off so often. The power went off again last night when we were going to bed, and it was still off when we left the house today. We had water for some reason though. I guess because it's Monday and the water is turned on from the town on Mondays, but I didn't think that was attached to our house. Usually we don't have water when there's no electricity since the pump from the pontoon runs on electricity. I was grateful for a shower this morning.  

Roscoe was such a naughty puppy in church yesterday. I guess one of the Jolet kids brought him to church, and he started barking at another dog during Sunday school. I held him on my lap for most of Relief Society (they really need to let us take dogs to church in the US.  It makes church twelve times better) since Roscoe really loves me.  He's scared of most people and growls and snaps at them (does this sound like a Roscoe that you know?), but he always is happy to see me and licks me all over.  Well, I thought it would be good to hold him and keep him calm since he likes me. It worked really well for about 2/3 of Relief Society, but then little kids would come up to pet him or tease him, and he got scared and started growling and barking.  I tried telling them to go away and just let him be, but the kids are kind of crazy here and do exactly the opposite of what you tell them.  I eventually just put him on the floor since I think people thought he was making noise because of me. He then went up to the front and the Relief Society teacher almost stepped on him and let out a big yelp. Both of them yelped. It was a little crazy. I have a feeling he's not going to be allowed to come to church again.

Ellen and Sister Samuel in a new church building

We got some papaya from Tomiko last night. Fresh papaya is so good. I don't know what they do to that nasty dried stuff in the US, but this stuff is so good. I'm excited for more of them to ripen in Laura so we can buy some or get some from people.  

Things are going well. I hope I stay in Laura for at least another transfer. I feel like people are actually starting to progress and open up to us more now. Sister Samuel and I get along really well, and I like that she's relaxed about things. We know about the same amount of Marshallese, but we know different things, so we help each other. 

I'll probably get your package today, mom and dad.  I'm excited for chili powder and other spices! 

I love you all.  Tootles.

Sister Ellen Butler

October 21, 2013, At Home Sick this Week

Greetings from Laura!

There's sadly not very much to report this week because I was home sick most of the week.  I got a nasty cold in my chest and I also have a fever off and on for three days.  I forced myself to go out and work Tuesday, which was a bad idea because then I felt worse.  We didn't go out Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday so the week felt really long.  I got a chance to write some letters, sleep, and do laundry, so that was nice.

I still have a bit of a cough and crap in my lungs, but I'm doing so much better than before. I hope that will fully go away in a couple of days.  

One day this week Sister Samuel made boiled bananas to go along with some meat and vegetables she made for lunch.  Oh man, they were so gross.  I guess they eat these a lot in Vanuatu.  The bananas get really hard, flavorless, and starchy.  They kind of tasted like a mix between potatoes and taro.  I actually ended up eating them with ketchup (I know, it sounds disgusting) and I liked them better that way, but now when I think of them I just want to throw up.  It really was the waste of some good bananas!  

You can see a grave behind them

The wards here all had conference this weekend.  They get DVDs sent from Salt lake that have it translated into Marshallese.  I don't know how the actual translation is, but the pronunciation is awful!  They've got to all be returned missionaries that are now working for the church.  I don't know why they don't get some Marshallese people that live in Salt Lake to come work for them...I'm sure they'd do a much better job.  At least the pronunciation would be better.  I think about 3 members came on Saturday to the Laura ward, but a lot more came on Sunday.  The building was so hot though.  I'm surprised as many people stayed as long as they did.  It didn't feel terribly hot, since I'm now more used to the heat, but I was dripping the whole entire time.  My shirt was completely soaked with sweat and sweat dripping down my legs kept tickling me.  We took a break between sessions to sit out by the lagoon and eat, yep, you guessed it, marshallese donuts and orange koolaid.  Not very many stayed for the second session, which I don't blame them.  I don't know why we had to be there, since I didn't even try to listen (I wouldn't have gotten anything from it, even if I did understand).  But we had some investigators come, so that was good.  

We have conference tomorrow and Wednesday at the Weirs' house in Long Island!  I'm excited to watch it, spend time with everyone, eat good food, and enjoy AC all day. It will be a really nice break.  

We've gotten a few more senior couples in the last month.  One couple is doing something with helping people find jobs and another couple are CES missionaries.  One couple just came this last week and they'll be the senior couple for Ebeye.  They all seem very nice.  I think there are 6 elders and 2 sisters on Ebeye right now.

I think Annie asked how many sister missionaries there are in the Marshall Islands, so I thought I'd respond here so everyone can read.  Right now there are 2 in Laura, 2 in Ajeltake, 2 in Long Island, 3 in Delap, and 2 in Ebeye.  There used to be sisters in Rita, but we've had a few go home recently, so they closed Rita.  They should reopen it when a new batch of missionaries comes in the first week of November.  I think we're only getting 2 more sisters then, so there still will be a trio.  The Ebeye sisters will both probably stay, and the Long Island sisters will stay, so I'll most likely go to Delap or Rita if I get transferred out of Laura.  I like how pretty Laura is and I like all the good food out here, but I think I'm ready for a change and a new ward.  If Sister Samuel trains, then I'll be transferring.

I made a tasty dinner one night.  It was just pork chops fried in onions and garlic, and then I added a can of black beans, half a can of diced tomatoes, and a few handfuls of chopped up cabbage (similar to bok choy, but more wrinkly and yellow...it's probably just yellow because it's old.  Sad.).  It was really pretty good.  I've been using the steak rub the siblings sent me on everything!  I usually add too much though, so everything is a bit peppery (which I never have a problem with).

I really don't think there's anything else to tell from this week, which I feel bad about.  I wish I had better stories! 

Oh, one day we were at a less active's house and she asked us to wait while she walked to a mon wia (a little shop) to get something.  We ended up walking around her farm.  It was huge!  I had only seen part of it before, but her piece of land just kept going and went all the way to the ocean. We walked down a dirt road to the ocean, and there wasn't really a beach there, so the land just kind of ended.  The waves were really strong and it looked deep.  It was pretty cool.  There were papayas, a few different types of bananas, cucumber, tomatoes, eggplant, and some other plants.  I'll try to upload some photos from Sister Samuel's card.  My camera died a couple of weeks ago.

Ellen and cucumber plants

Hopefully I'll have some better stories this next week.  I miss you all and hope you're all doing well.  Love you, 

Sister Ellen Butler