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 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 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 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