Friday, August 23, 2013

August 18, 2013, My Wildest Dreams Have Come True--Dogs Come to Church!


My wildest dreams have come true.  Dogs are allowed to come to church.  Okay, well maybe they're not allowed but they come and lie down on the floor by people's feet.  It's nice to hear a dog shake his ears every once in a while.

The Laura ward is meeting in a school right now since the Laura church building is being built or renovated...or maybe they're just adding on to it.  I'm not sure.  It was pretty warm in church yesterday.  There were a lot of ceiling fans and they were going at high speed and looked like they were going to fly off the ceiling.  Everyone sings so loudly!  It's great.  The people really belt out the hymns and their harmonies are great.  It's all acapella even though we have a piano.  We had Sunday school under a coconut tree near the lagoon.  Everything is either by the lagoon or near the ocean side.  There aren't addresses for houses, of course, so one explains where a house is based on if it's near the lagoon or the ocean.

So Laura is the farther west you can go on the island.  It's also the widest part of the island so you can't always see the water.  The main road that goes down the island splits into two main roads in Laura, and then I think there are some cross roads that are paved.  There are then a lot of dirt roads/paths that crisscross every which way and I get a little disoriented at times.  I like Laura because it's really pretty, but there aren't as many people so it gets lonely.

Sister ieie and I have a specific area and we can bike from one end to the other in just a few minutes.  Everyone is either a member, inactive member, has studied with the missionaries before, or doesn't want to study.  So I don't really know what we're supposed to do. And it's all about bwebwenato-ing (talking with them).  The people love to laugh and so one really just has to make them feel comfortable and laugh with them.  It's just pretty much impossible for me to do much right now since I can't say anything.  So I sit there and listen for hours every day and say a few things.  I actually understand a fair bit when two people talk to each other, but once someone asks me a question I'm not usually sure what they are saying.

Sister Ieie and I actually have a pretty nice house.  It's pretty big. Kitchen, living room with a couple of couches and our two desks, a bathroom, two bedrooms, and a laundry room.  We share one room and then her stuff is in the other room.  The whole place is dirty but it's really not awful.  It has a tile floor everywhere so it's easy to clean.  The bathroom is pretty awful but we won't talk about that.  There isn't a toilet seat and I'm not sure why.  Since t ask her the first day about that, it would not be pretty funny to ask her now.  Actually I found the toilet seat in a closet.  I think it just broke off.  There's a toilet in the laundry room that I usually use, in case you were wondering.  Haha.

We have a water filtration system attached to the faucet in the kitchen, so we switch the water over to that to fill up water bottles.  The water is fine.  It tastes pretty bland but I haven't gotten sick yet, so that's good.  We've eaten a lot of rice and meat so far and I can't wait to go to the grocery store in Delap (the town) today.  We went inside on the first day on our tour of the island and I really am going to be able to get anything I need.  It's just like a regular grocery store.  Everything is western family brand!  There are fruits and vegetables.  I've heard they're really expensive, but I am going to get some anyway.

The people are very nice.  They always give us rice and fish.  I met so many people my first evening in Laura and I'm just starting to learn some of the their names and how everyone is related to each other.  The second day I couldn't remember any of the names and faces and now I am not sure who I've already met, so I don't know if I should introduce myself or not when I meet someone.  The land is owned (or maybe just used) by the women in the family, so for example there's a bubu's (grandma) house and her daughter's family's house is nearby and then a little farther down is her other's daughter's house.  Their whole extended family is lds and there are little kids running around everywhere.  I can't figure out who's kids are who's. Some of the houses are pretty big-- like maybe 15 ft by 15 ft.  Or 10 by 10.  And those are usually concrete or cinderblock.  And they're all painted bright colors.  Others are plywood shacks about 7 by 10 or so.  A lot of them have tile or linoleum floors and they keep them pretty clean (well, as clean as they can) by sweeping them out constantly and taking off their shoes before they go in.  I like being outdoors though because the houses usually smell pretty awful and there's not as much ventilation inside.  Most of them have windows or holes in the walls though, so that helps.

My companion is really nice and diligent.  I don't understand her much of the time though.  Her English is really good, but her pronunciation is hard to understand.  She says "heat" instead of "eat" which can get really confusing when we're talking about food.  She's from Kiribati.  Her family is from Tarawa, which is south of the marshalls just on the equator.  But she grew up in the Christmas island, which is much farther east.  She is 25 and she's planning on going to BYU Hawaii when she gets back.  She leaves on sept. 22.  I like her a lot but I'm glad to know that I'll get a new companion in 5 weeks because I want to work with a lot of people and see how they do it.  also her Marshallese is so good since she's been here a long time, so she speaks quickly and I don't understand very much.  I think I'd do better with someone that knows more than I do, but is still kind of on my same level so we can learn together.

There's an lds Marshallese guy that served his mission in provo and he got back about 1 year ago. It's nice to have someone to talk to in English.  he's the ward mission leader so we had a meeting outside his house last night with the elders in our district.  We all sit on plastic chairs or a short wooden platform that's in everyone's yard.  The teenagers always bring us food.  either rolls (pilawe...sounds like "flour") and kool aid.  the other day they brought some dinner out for us.  it was big plate of rice with three piles of food on top of it: canned spaghetti, canned tuna, and kimchi.  Fairly disgusting.  Well, I ate the tuna and kimchi and maybe half the rice.  But then I said I was full and someone finished it for me.  Sometimes we don't eat dinner until we get back at 9 pm, but I'm not always that hungry.  I'm going to get some good food today.

There are dogs and puppies, cats and kittens, and chickens and chicks everywhere!  They all just wander around in the jungle and by people's houses.  They're all so cute and they're friendly with each other.  Well, except for the dogs.  The dogs really aren't that mean.  Well, sometimes they get in fights with each other about 1 ft from where I'm sitting, which can be a little scary, but most of the time they're okay.  One chased me on my bike the other day and growled.  But the dogs are really pretty cute.  They don't seem to be as malnourished as the ones in town.

It's not terribly hot here.  They say it's much hotter in town,  but there are some nice ocean breezes out in Laura and a fait bit of shade.  We're also usually not out as much in the middle of the day since we're still studying.  I don't completely understand our schedule, but I guess I've only been here a couple of days.  it's seemed like much, much longer.  We have a little portable DVD player that we listen to CDs on in the morning.  it's really nice to have that.  We have a washing machine that has one place for washing clothes and then you move them over to the spinning area.  We have a long clothesline up inside the house for hanging up clothes. 

The other morning we made banana bread for a family that we're going to try to teach.  I think we're going to be doing a lot of things like that to get people to talk to us.  One woman asked us for cold medicine.  We're going to see if we have some for her.  We're technically not supposed to give any out. 
President and Sister Weir are very nice.  Supposedly they're not as outgoing as the last mission president.  I think people just don't know them yet.  Their house is so nice.  Holy cow.  It's crazy that there can be such a nice house next to all of the tiny shacks.  It's right by the ocean so they have a great view.  We saw them and spent time with them the first day and a half, but now they're in Ebeye with the new elders and sisters there.  I don't know when we'll see them.  Probably in a couple of weeks.  I'm not sure where they stay when they go to Ebeye.  I wish I could just go to their house and take a nap on one of the big comfy couches right now.  That sounds so nice. 
Time has gone so slowly.  There are a lot of ups and downs.  The evenings can be pretty fun since it's such a small village and you see people you know every few minutes.  Well, it's probably more like every half hour because the time goes faster than I think it does.  We saw that one Marshallese guy that served in Provo walking with one of the girls in the ward yesterday afternoon.  I swear she looks like she's 14 or 15, but she's 18 and I guess they've been dating since he got back from him mission.  Her English is really good and her younger sister's English is even better.  It's fun talking to both of them.  Everyone knows everyone here so it's pretty funny getting to know the relationships.  Supposedly in Marshallese culture a brother and sister's kids can get married, but the kids of two brothers cannot get married, nor the kids of two sisters.  It's really different.
The people love to laugh.  Things are good when we're out and about just talking (well, more like listening for me) and laughing.  the people love to sit around and talk.  I have yet to try coconut or breadfruit.  I've eaten bub which is pandanas?  I'm not sure how to spell it.  They're are these huge fruit that you pull off a big piece and twist between your teeth to get the juice out.  They're very stringy and the strings get in your teeth.   
There was a funeral yesterday for a man that used to live in Majol but most recently lived in the US.  He was their old bishop.  It was right after church and it was so long...people were crying and we were all exhausted and hungry.  They fed us rice and chicken with eggplants (!) and donuts afterwards though. 
Okay, I think that's it for this week.  We stayed in the airport hotel in Honolulu.  It was on our travel itinerary but they didn't tell us it hadn't been payed for already.  We didn't go on splits but we ate dinner at the mission home there, which was really nice. 
I love and miss you all so much.  I only get mail on Mondays when we pick it up at the mission office.  you can either email or use dear elder.  I'd kind of prefer dear elder because then I can reread the letters over and over again.  I don't know how often we get those though. But please write, because I get so lonely here.  I don't know if there's anything I need.  I don't think I'm going to go through clothes very quickly.  It's fine. 
P.S. "Butler' is really hard for them to say so they say "Babola" which is like "popular."  So sometimes I'm sister popular and the kids think it's hilarious.  I'll try to get more photos this week.  And hopefully I can upload these ones too.  I really hope it works. 
Love you all!  I miss you
Sister Ellen Butler

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