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 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'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

October 13, 2013, How to Maintain a Water Tank

Greetings family and friends,

We had a crazy week in Laura.  We went to two funerals, had some adventures with our water tank, and took a lot of ice cream breaks.

Some crazy marshallese kids.
One day they had four of them on the bike.
The one at the back in Elijah and he's 12.
We've been teaching him and his older brother.
Their mom is a member.

We have a water tank (I think they call them pontoons?) that catches rain water from the roof.  I thought that was our only water source, so I didn't really worry about it very much. Well, one the of the senior missionaries asked me if we've been filling up our tank once a week, and I thought he was joking at first.  Most of our water is rainwater, but we're also supposed to top it off with other water every week.  Sister Ieie failed to tell me that, and we never filled it up while she was here. There's basically a pipe that sticks out of the ground and the water is only turned on from town for a few hours on Monday.  We have a key for the spigot and a hose (I was wondering what the house in our house was for) to fill up the tank.  Well, last Monday we hooked up the hose and turned on the water to fill up the tank and we heard the pump turn on, meaning we were taking water from our tank and then putting it back in again (basically wasting electricity). A neighbor came over and told us we needed to unplug our water pump, so we unlocked a box on the outside of the house where the electricity is to unplug the pump.  We weren't sure what we were doing, and we didn't feel comfortable unlocking it because these are the neighbors that used to use our electricity, so now we have a lock on the box.  We turned off the electricity, but the water from Laura wasn't turned on and she said we needed to call the Laura water people to get it turned on.  Anyway, we ended up giving the key for the water her because we had to go into town.  Later that night when we got back we walked over to our neighbor's house, to find that the woman we gave the key to doesn't live there.  So then we had to go find her in Laura so we could turn our water pump back on so we could have water again in our house.  She said the water had eventually turned on and that she filled up our tank for us.  The Marshallese people are so friendly.  We also met a less active man in the process, so that was good.  He said he just got back from Hawaii a few months ago and that he got baptized while he was at BYU-H. We forgot to check how much water is in the tank today, but it rained a lot this weekend so I think we'll be fine.

The ceiling in the bathroom and laundry room is dripping when it rains...another thing we need to get fixed.  We got our AC fixed this week!  It's been dripping about 2 buckets of water everyday, so it's nice to not have to dump out the bucket everyday.

We have zone meeting once a month.  We normally have it in Ajeltake, but we had it in Long Island this week.  My zone consists of the Laura/Arrak/Ajeltake district and the Long Island district. We had a potluck lunch afterward, which was really fun. We either have district or zone meeting every Wednesday, and we always end up hanging out for a while and so we get out to work late those days. It's a nice break though. And we always stop for ice cream on Wednesdays.

We went to two funerals this week.  Well, more like parts of two funerals.  Funerals here last about a week and a half.  The first part involves making the concrete box.  They spread white rocks all around where they're going to make the box and then a couple of guys mix up concrete and make a concrete box with cinderblocks and cement.  It usually takes them 3 days or so to make it.  They then paint it white.  Then for about a week or so different churches schedule time to come and have their own services.  The family's house is open and the casket is just inside in the main room, and people go inside, have their service, and then sit outside on the grass eating gross soup and koolaid.  Once all of the churches have come through, they have the kallib.  I was confused because "jikin kallib" means garden, and "jikin" means place, so I thought that "kallib" meant growth or plants or something like that.  I learned that kallib means "to bury", and so cemeteries and gardens are both jikin kallib because you bury seeds, people, etc.  After the kallib there's a "kajemlokin" which means to close, and it's a big party where everyone sits around and eats food provided by the family.  The family also gives out bags of laundry soap.  I'm not sure why, but they do that at every funeral.  I don't know how they have the money to make all the food and to give out that much laundry soap

Nanny and her two children at the funeral
On Tuesday we went to a kajemlokin for a woman in Laura and on Saturday we went to a kallib for a woman in Arrak.  The kajemlokin was weird because we didn't really know anyone and people were looking at us like we didn't belong there.  Nanny (member) and Baren (soon to be investigator) invited us, and it was Baren's mom that passed away.  When we got there, we asked people where Nanny was and they asked us "Who is Nanny?"  Clearly they were there just to get food, since Nanny's family were the ones that were hosting the whole thing.  Eventually we found Nanny and she was really nice and made us get in line to get food.  We then took pictures of Nanny and her sons by the grave and we're going to print them out in town today for her.  When we were about to leave everyone got really quiet and then a man started yelling and walked up to the party.  A woman ran up to him and started sobbing and hanging on him, and everyone just stood there watching.  We thought maybe someone had died.  And then a car about 10 ft from us backed up and hit a little kid (the kid was fine, don't worry) and then dad of the little kid picked up the kid and started hitting the car and yelling all the driver.  It was a really intense 2 minutes.  At this point sister Samuel leaned over and whispered in my ear, "Um, let's just sneak out now."  It was pretty funny and crazy.

The kallib in Arrak was for Bubu Kaminaga, a really strong member that had joined the church in 1982.  All six of the Laura and Arrak missionaries were invited (the ones that attend the Laura ward) and we got there before most of the ward members so we sat around outside for a while.  We then went into the house with the members, and we were the last ones to get inside, so all the missionaries were sitting by the open casket (which was pretty uncomfortable).  All the ward members were crying.  Once ward was the last church to come by, so after we were done the bishopric and elders picked up the coffin and walked outside to the grave site.  We stood there for a long time holding all of the elders' bags.  At this point it was dark and family members of the woman were lying, sobbing on the coffin.  The little kids were crazy!  Some of them crawled inside the concrete box!  Finally they closed up the coffin, knocked off the handles and other decorations from the outside of the coffin (maybe they reuse them?  Or maybe it didn't fit in the concrete box??) and they shoved it in.  Concrete was mixed up, and someone grabbed some cinderblocks and they sealed up the box. We were there for about 3 and a half hours total.  We only had about an hour and a half left before we needed to be home, so we all decided to drive to Ajeltake to get ice cream and play cards. When we were there the zone leaders drove past (we were way out of our area) but they're really chill so they stopped and hung out with us for a while, which was fun.  I'll try to send some photos from the funeral.

Other news: I made a big pot of lentil soup this week!  It was nice to eat something other than rice.  Sister Crane is one of the new Sister Training Leaders ("Sister APs" as we call them) and so we'll be able to go on exchanges together sometime!  We're excited for that.  Sister Crane is good friends with one of my friends from Philly, so we're pretty close.  The roosters on this island are so blasted loud.  They always wake me up in the morning.

The electricity situation is always a little sketchy here.  All the time I'll see a meter box (or whatever it's called) and power cords going into a house, but then there's an extension cord going off to another house.  In some places the extension cords go from one house to another one across the street, so the cord is just always there in the street.  A lot of times there are interior electrical boxes on the outsides of houses. There are single light bulbs hanging from wires stretched from a tree to a house. Basically if they're able to get the electricity to work and produce light, it works for them. Some of it is just a little scary.  Every month one of the senior missionaries calls and gives us a number to punch into our electricity box in our house.  It adds on a few hundred kilowatt hours and so we can track how much electricity we're using throughout the month.  One of our neighbors wanted to use our electricity one day, so they gave us a power card with 10 dollars worth of electricity on it.  When we punched it in I think it gave us about 25-30 kilo watt hours.  I'm not sure how much that is.

Hopefully all of my stories made sense.  I feel like I had a hard time explaining them.  That's a pretty crazy story about your foot, Kate.  I hope it gets better soon. And thanks for sending me packages! Hopefully next week I'll get them.  I'm doing well, other than a nasty cold that I got a few weeks ago. I thought it went away but now it's in my chest so I'm going to talk to Sister Bulkley about it today. Sister Samuel was sick this week, so we didn't get quite as much work done as we wanted to. It was a good week though.  We got a less active member and her three kids to come to church with us on Sunday.

I've been in Laura for 2 months now!  Holy cow. I'll most likely be transferred somewhere in November when the new batch of missionaries come. Sister Samuel will probably be training again in Laura.

 A view of the iar from near Arrak

I love and miss you all.  Thanks for your emails and letters,
Sister Ellen Butler

October 7, 2013, It's Officially Breadfruit Season!


This week went by really quickly.  It is officially breadfruit season and everyday we see people climbing trees to pick breadfruit.  They have these long wooden poles with a sharp end that they use to break the breadfruit stems.  The breadfruit fall 30 feet or more, but they're fine.  They then throw them on some hot coals (aka hot coconut husk/shells) and make kwanjen me.  We get about one breadfruit a day from people.  A few weeks ago it was bub season (pandanas fruit) and wherever we went we got free bub.  Have any of you googled what pandanas looks like?  You should do it.  It's pretty cool stuff.  The trees look crazy and the fruit is even weirder. 

On Saturday night we went to Ajeltake for a baptism.  A 16 yr old girl that sister Samuel helped teach was baptized.  The ward members in Ajeltake are friendlier that the Laura ones.  Maybe that's why so many of the members in Laura are less active.  I learned yesterday that the old branch president (before the branch became the Laura ward) now goes to church at Assembly.  We have enough members to split the ward, but not enough of them are active.  The Area presidency people have a goal for us to have two stakes in Majuro in a couple of years, so we're trying to reactivate members.  We're trying to figure out why so many of them don't come to church.  The baptism was really nice, but it wasn't quite as cool as the baptisms in Laura because they have a font at their building.  Baptisms in the lagoon are much cooler.  

We've been spending a lot of time visiting a woman named Tomiko and her family.  Tomiko is a strong member and she joined the church last year.  Her mother (or step mom...I'm not sure how they're related) is less active so we've been working with her.  We've also been teaching two of Tomiko's teenage sons, Elijah and John. Tomiko's father, Aneja, is one of the Laura elders' investigators but he's been jambo-ing up to our area so we've seen him a lot recently.  He's really ancient and his english is really good.  He told us he went to Pohnpei and outer islands in the Marshalls with Tomiko, and he taught english there.  We're doing FHE at their house tonight, which should be fun.  

Christmas is coming up so we're going to start learning beat.  All of the members in Majuro and the missionaries meet up in Long Island at the stake center and everyone performs dances.  The missionaries learn a dance (or maybe more) for it.  

We have combined P day today, meaning we get to see the missionaries from the East zone.  We usually just see everyone in the west zone on P days.  A new batch of missionaries is coming in November.  More people will be transferred then, so we'll see if I stay in Laura or if I go somewhere new.  One of the missionaries in Ebeye will most likely be coming back this next transfer because she leaves in January and I don't think they ever have people spend their last transfer on an outer island.  So, someone's heading to Ebeye in November. 

Can someone send me a calender?  That would be really helpful.  And if you haven't sent a box yet, which is fine, can you send some prunes?  That would be a good way to get some fruit in me.

Oh!  We won the cleanest house award for the month of September, so when found a bowl of fruit on our kitchen counter when we got home one evening.  We got apples, bananas, oranges, and grapes.  The grapes were amazing.  Holy cow.  They tasted so good.  The month of September had 5 mondays (5 P days) so we're so excited to get money from the ATM today and buy a whole lot of food.  Sister Samuel and I decided we're not even going to worry about how much we spend today.  We just want food to eat.

One evening as we rode our bikes home we saw 17 dogs.  They're everywhere in Laura.  Some days they're really mean and some days they just ignore us.  Sister Samuel is pretty afraid of them and so we get off our bikes sometimes to walk past them, since they love chasing bikes.  The Marshallese think it's so funny and a lot of the little kids run around imitating the dogs to scare us.

Do you remember when I told about dogs and puppies, cats and kittens, chickens and chicks all over the island? Well, I forgot one animal:  Pigs and piglets!  They wander around wherever they want to, although there aren't quite as many pigs as there are chickens here.  They're pretty cute though.

There's a ripelle that teaches at Laura High School that we see sometimes.  We want to go visit her sometime. She told us where she lives so we might go take food and make dinner with her one evening.  There's also another ripelle that I think teaches PE or does track/cross country with the kids because I see her running with them a lot. 

I made some lekoor this week.  I don't know how to spell it.  You basically mash up yu, which is the baby coconut the sprouts inside of an old, brown coconut (it's soft and spongy) and then you add water, sugar, and milk and freeze it in cups to make popsicles.  I froze mine in cottage cheese cartons.  I also added vanilla.   It's like a coconut popsicle.  We still have a lot of yu so I'll probably make more this week.

All of the cool missionaries make covers for their planners.  They take off the black spiral plastic, make a new cover and poke holes in it for the spiral, and then roll it back on.  I discovered I could use postcards that ya'll sent me, so my current planner has the postcard that eliot sent me with the steam shovels on it.  I only had to trim it off one side and I can still read it.  

We get to watch general conference in a couple of weeks at the mission home.  I think all of the missionaries get together and we take off a couple of days and watch it together there.  Are there any cool temple announcements this time?  

I think that's all for this week.  Things are going well.  Sundays are always exhausting because church is painfully long and everyone that says they'll come to church don't end up coming.  But it's good.  We're teaching a 14 yr old girl named Mercyla that has a baptismal date for a few weeks from now.  She's been taught by missionaries before (like every single person here) but she says she's really ready this time...and she's been coming to church and she has friends at church.  It's so much easier for the teenagers to come to church because the teenagers are friends with each other. The old people don't come because the older members don't talk to them.

I love and miss you.  I'm at my 3 month mark, and in a couple of months I'll only have a year left because my "release date" is December 30th, 2014 (does it sound like I'm in prison) but they'll send me home before Christmas, so I'll most likely be back mid-December next year.  

I hope you're all doing well and that general conference was good.  Tootles, 

Sister Ellen Butler