Friday, January 31, 2014

January 28, 2014, A Few Furry Friends

Greetings from Ebeye.

It is warm and sunny.  A lot of people say Ebeye is hotter than Majuro, which is possible, but I think it's just because there are few trees and thus little shade.  There are few trees because the land is full of houses and buildings. 

We've had a few furry friends in our apartment this week.  At first Sister Mahit said she "saw a rat" in the bathroom and I about had a heart attack.  She calls mice rats.  We think there are at least 3 mice because I've seen a fairly big brown one and a small grey one.  Sister Mahit's also seen a small black one.  We talked to the Beckers about it, and they couldn't find any mouse traps, but we got one of those mice "wedges"-- a box with green poison pellets.  We put it in the bathroom and hopefully the mouse in there is getting hungry.  Last night when we went to bed we heard a mouse under Sister Mahit's bed so we turned the light on in the hallway and lay there in the dark for a long time.  He peeked his nose out behind Sister Mahit's suitcase that was pushed against the wall. He sat there for a long time and we just lay there trying not to laugh.  At one point she grabbed a lint roller to drop on him, and we both just lost it.  So funny.  He kept playing hide and seek with us, so eventually sis Mahit went into the bathroom and grabbed a single pellet for our friend.  She placed it by the suitcase and then I dozed off for a few minutes.  When I woke up the pellet was gone and we heard him munching away.  1 down, 2 to go!

Sister Mahit leaves on Friday and then Sister Tafili comes to Saturday to work with me.  She's from Samoa.  I worked with her in Laura for a couple of weeks.  She just came in Nov, so I guess that means I'm senior companion?  haha whatever that means.  She's pretty young and...loud and outgoing.  But she likes to work, so that's good.  President and Sister Weir and also the APs come on Saturday for the weekend.  Along with two new elders straight from the MTC. 

The Beckers teach a temple prep class twice a week, and we got to translate for them on Wednesday evening.  It went well, but it was a little hard to choose the right words to say.  It's so hard to say certain things in Marshallese.  There are only so many words they use on a regular basis. 

We had a baptism on Saturday evening.  Two of our investigators, Peace and Risco, got baptized.  Peace is 9 and Risco is 15, I think.  Almost all of Risco's family are studying with elders or with us.  Her brother got baptized the week before.  We're having FHE with them tonight. 

The district had a iakwe iakwe for Sister Mahit and Elder Prisbrey (he's going back to Majuro) on Sunday evening.  They sat at the front and people spoke, and then we sang "god be with you til we meet again" and walked up to them and gave them a bunch of stuff.  Sister Mahit got a bunch of necklaces, earrings, flowers for her hair, etc. 

Rona and Kimlee both left yesterday for the MTC.  Rona will be serving in Vanuatu and Kimlee at temple square.  We walked down to the dock yesterday to see them off on the ferry to Kwaj.  The lagoon is so pretty here. 

I miss being able to eat coconuts, breadfruit, and bananas all of the time.  I did have some good sashimi the other night though.  It was a whole fish.  I do a lot better eating whole cooked fish because the meat comes off the bones easily.  When it's raw it really likes to stick to the bones, so you just have to pick up the fish and pull the meat off with your teeth.  But then you look a little bit like a dog eating a raw fish. 

There's a guy in one of the branches named "fred" but Marshallese can't say the letter "f,"  so it sounds more like "bred" or "bread."  I like to call him "pilawe" which is the word for bread (and also flour) in Marshallese.  Pilawe sounds kind of like flour. 

The people here are so nice.  We went to a family home evening last night at a member's house.  All of the members say we can come over whenever and that they will help us with anything we need.  One of the mamas, Sister Loeak (Rona's mom), works in Kwaj and whenever we need our laundry done we give it to her and she takes it to kwaj and does it in a Laundromat there.  We go over to her house later that evening and she has it all folded waiting for us.  She's so nice. 

We can see the Ebeye dock from our big apartment window.  It's so pretty seeing the ferry come throughout the day, and at night. 

There's also a branch on Lae, which is an atoll to the west of Kwajalein atoll.  It's a really small atoll and there are only about 400 people that live there, and supposedly 95 of them are members.  There are two elders working there.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

January 21, 2014, I Have No Brothers in the NBA

Greetings from Ebeye!

It's been a good week.  Ebeye is a crazy place.  I don't even know where to begin.  There are so many houses everywhere.  The houses are built up right next to each other and where there aren't houses they are small dirt paths/ alleyways that go between the houses.  I feel like I'm in a maze a lot of the time, winding around houses.  People have little yards where they do their laundry and clean fish and such, so at most places we go through a door into their "yard" and then knock on a second door.  In the alleyways people have little clotheslines strung up, so you always have to duck and make sure not to step on any cats or rats.  In a way, it feels a little bit like Japan because of how close the houses are together, but of course it's a lot dirtier and not as nice.  and it feels less like an island because you don't always see the ocean or lagoon and there's more than just one road down the middle.  There's a main lagoon side road and ocean side road that stretch the length of the island, and then a number of crossroads (maybe six).  These one are all paved.  There are plenty of dirt and rock paths and roads though.  The dogs are all pretty friendly here, which is nice.  Sister Mahit is pretty scared of them though. 

The north part of the island is called "dump" or "dump town" because that's where the dump is.  Dump is branch 2.  I asked a girl on Saturday:  "Kwoj kiki ia?"  (where do you sleep/live?) and her response: "Dump."  Branch 3 is iolaplap, or the middle part of the island, and then branch 1 is turok, or the south part of the island.  The three branches and one on kwaj all make up the Kwajalein district.  There are two elders per branch on Ebeye (no elders on Kwajalein) and then we sisters have the whole island.  So, our area is the whole island while each set of elders only has 1/3 of the island to work.  Lazy elders.  Haha.  Which also means we get to go to three sacrament meetings on Sunday...yep. 

I'm surprised by how windy Ebeye is.  Majuro could get pretty windy at times, but not like here.  The ocean side of the island is especially windy.  I now wear shorts under my skirts everyday.  And I don't think I'm going to be wearing my chacos much. Probably only crocs.  It's way too dirty and my toes are better protected in crocs (which is sad because I was starting to get a pretty nice chacos tan, Annie). 

When I got to Ebeye on Tuesday we only had water from 6-9 AM and 6-9 PM everyday.  Luckily our toilets run on salt water, so those always work (hallelujah.  that's all I really care about).  We always just make sure to fill up a few gallons for drinking water and cooking and then we have a plastic basin for washing dishes.  But then it rained for the first time in over a month!  I think it rained Friday or Saturday night.  It seemed to rain pretty heavily, but idk how much we really have.  Some days we seem to have water on all day, and some days it's only mornings and evenings.  I'm not sure what the schedule is now.  We still need more rain. 

A kid asked me this week if I have any brothers in the NBA.  Sadly I had to tell him no.  Mike and Travis, you two need to get working.

Payless, the grocery store across the street that I prefer to call "paymore," is a bit sad.  Everything is more expensive than in Majuro.  I think I'm going to need to box of some things, mom and dad.  I'll email you separately.  A quart of ultra pasteurized milk in Majuro was $2 on sale (and milk was always on sale for some reason).  Here it's about $3.50.  A dozen eggs is $4.  I found some white bread that has some flecks in it that might be wheat, which is promising.  I can buy a tuna about the size of my arm for $2.50, but I can only eat so much tuna.  The funny thing about the grocery store is all the weird stuff you can find there.  I got a bag of "Food Should Taste Good" chips (those tasty hexagon ones) for $1.50 but they were cheddar flavored and expired in May 2013 and tasted really stale (mahit likes them though).  I also found cottage cheese that's a year old, but surprisingly not too bad.  I'm actually a little afraid why it's not that bad.  And I got a brownie mix for $2.  I've decided you just have to find the things that are on sale, and then check how many years old they are, and then decide what really can go bad in a year's time. 

I have enjoyed eating all of Sister Whitney's food that she left.  I've been enjoying dried fruit, oatmeal, nuts, some weird protein powder with flax seed and other things that are supposed to make you healthy that you mix into water, flax seeds, chia seeds (what do you do with them?), freeze dried strawberries and sweet potatoes, mash potato powder stuff, and other things like that. 

I've been trying to get to know our investigators and a lot of the members.  It's hard because there are so many people.  And I need to learn the names of those in all 3 branch presidencies and the district presidency. 

Mom, you had asked at one point what the name for the Marshall Islands was before Marshall and his buddy Gilbert came (where 'Kiribati" comes from).  I just found it in a book (we're emailing at the Becker's apartment today).  Supposedly name of the islands was "Lolelaplap" before.  I also read in the book that the total land area of the islands is 70 square miles, which is less than half the land area of Rhode Island. 

Sister Mahit leaves on the 31st for Majuro, and then on the 3rd for Vanuatu.  She's really nice.  Vanuatuans are great.  We had a FHE with the Livai family last night.  They live in Branch 1 (south part....still trying to remember where everything is).  He went to school in California and you can tell they're a little more westernized.  They even have a couch and a couple of sitting chairs.  It was so weird to sit in a real chair for FHE.  A lot of people have TVs because they get free TV from Kwaj.  After FHE we watched the grammys (which is the one where the actors get awards?  I never remember which is which, and I've never watched any of them before) while we ate a dinner of rice, chicken, and doritos. 

There are four kids from Ebeye that are leaving on missions in the next two weeks.  One is going to Vanuatu, so sis. Mahit has been teaching her Bislama (which is like pidgin English....yutufala go wea? which is "where are you all going?") and one is going to temple square, one to somewhere in Utah, and one to California. 

Okay, I hope this isn't too much information about Ebeye.  As Leans said, the current pronunciation is a long E sound and then "bye," but I don't know how they pronounced it before.  Is "ebize" how the Japanese pronounced it?  The beckers have a map of Kwajalein on the wall and by the island of ebeye is says "Ebja (Ebeye)."  "J"s sound like ch or zh and between consonants they throw in another vowel, so I can see the Marshallese pronouncing it like "ebiza."  Interesting.

And yes Kate, my fear of the ocean is getting better.  I will watch out for all of the big fish.

I love and miss you all.  Tootles,

Sister Ellen Butler

Saturday, January 18, 2014

January 14, 2014, First Post From Ebeye

I made it to Ebeye!  I had to repack my suitcases last night once I had access to a scale and found out that the big one weighed 60 lbs.  I then couldn't sleep very well because I kept thinking about traveling.  And then I got really cold because I didn't have a blanket and the Long Island sisters' AC is on really cold.  So, I didn't sleep very much.  We left for the airport around 8:30 AM and our flight left around 11:20 AM.  We got into Kwajalein at noon, so it was only a 40 minute flight.  The weirdest part was being on the airport with a bunch of white people.  I didn't know how to talk to them or what to say.  I just wanted to talk to the Marshallese people.  It was so weird.  Kwajalein was really weird too.  There were so many big white people.  Oh my goodness.  And there were roads and stop signs and intersections.  We got Burger King, thank goodness, and we sat and waited for the ferry.  The ferry ride was amazing.  It was so beautiful.  The wind was crazy and we kept getting sprayed by water from the ocean.  The lagoon was so pretty and the water was a light blue color.  I took a bunch of pictures.  I'm on a computer in the district president's office in the church building right now, so we'll see if I can upload photos.  Actually I don't think I have my card reader with me.  Next week, for sure.  We got off the ferry and Elder and Sister Becker were there waiting on the dock.  We walked about 20 meters to our apartment, which is right next to the Beckers' apartment.  The grocery store is right across the street from our apartment but I have yet to check it out.  I really like our apartment.  It's pretty nice and there's a great view of the lagoon.  The island is definitely very crowded and the houses are right next to each other.  But somehow it feels really comfortable and nice, even if it's not that pretty and there aren't very many trees.  Sister Mahit is really nice.  We've only talked in Marshallese so far to each other (and we've talked a fair bit) so I think this is going to be good for my Marshallese.  But I only have two weeks with her before she leaves. 
Okay, I better go!  We're playing volleyball at the church building right now.  I'll email next Tuesday!  or I guess it's Monday for you guys.  Love you.  I just wanted to let you all know that I'm safe in Ebeye.
Sister Ellen Butler

Sunday, January 12, 2014

January 13, 2014, Water is So Great


It's been a crazy week. We started out the week with no water since it hasn't rained in a long time and our pontoon ran out of water. We went to the water place in town on P day to see if they could bring a truckload of water out to fill up our pontoon (1000 gallons for 75 bucks, which doesn't seem bad to me), but they said that the two water trucks on this island are both broken and they didn't know when they'd get fixed. One of the missionaries told me they heard an axle broke on one of them, so we were pretty worried since the Marshallese really don't know how to fix cars here. Luckily Barnny and Sandy (the people we rent from) have connections and by Tuesday evening when we came back after the day we had a full pontoon of water! We went inside and washed all of the dishes and cleaned up the kitchen first thing. And then we showered.  Water is so great.

Everyone on the island is really struggling right now since there's so little water. We've seen some people washing their clothes with salt water. We've also taken containers home to fill up for people.  

I got a whole bunch of Christmas cards in the mail last week. Thank you everyone! I don't have time to respond to all of them, but I appreciated them. I got an envelope with a few from PV4th ward members, which was really nice.

One day this week when it was low tide we walked out a little ways in the lagoon.  We were helping mama Lang collect shells with some kind of creature inside of them.  I've eaten them before.  I don't know what they're called in english though!  They're like little crabs but they just have one jagged leg/crawler thing. They're not hermit crabs but they kind of look like them. They're bigger than hermit crabs though. Anyway, we also saw a lot of other sea creatures like jelly fish, a puffer fish, and sea cucumbers. There's a Marshallese saying that's "kiki in jibinbin" which means "sleep like a sea cucumber," which is really appropriate because sea cucumbers do absolutely nothing. They're really soft though. I'll attach a photo. The Marshallese don't eat them, but my samoan companions say the sea cucumbers are pretty good raw. One of the kids found the puffer fish and started throwing it around like a ball. Poor fish.

On Thursday we did an exchange with the Long Island sisters. Sister Tago and I went and worked with Sister Crane in Long Island. It was my first exchange out of my area.  It was a good day, but long.  I don't really like exchanges because I'm either working in a new area and don't know anyone or I'm working with someone I haven't worked with before, so I don't know how they teach and do things. But it was actually a really good exchange, probably because the three of us are good friends. And being in Long Island (where all the senior missionaries live) means we got ice cream and chips and a yummy bean dip from some of them on wednesday night. The missionaries in Long Island always get fed a lot.  

We got back from Long Island after the exchange to find that the sisters had gotten in a car accident while we were gone. They were fine and the car isn't terrible. There are so many kids here and they love to run out into the road, so to avoid one the sisters drove the car off the road. They didn't hit a tree...I think it was like a couple of fallen tree trunks. So, the face of the car is a bit messed up on one side at the very front and the headlight is broken. We were then without a car, so we've been sharing a car with the elders. The elders and sisters have done this before when a car has needed work in the past. We all meet up and drive to one part of Ajeltake and teach lessons, and then all drive to another area. Luckily we have investigators in the same area. It's fun when we all work together because we spend more time getting to know each other, and we still get a decent amount of work done. The APs brought us their car on Saturday night so we have something until our car gets fixed, which might be a few weeks.

My new address:

Sister Ellen Butler
Marshall Islands Majuro Mission
P.O. Box 5939
Ebeye, MH  96970
Marshall Islands

I'm going to Ebeye! I got a call from the APs on Saturday night telling me I will be flying out Tuesday morning...tomorrow morning. I already knew I was going, but I didn't think it would be until the end of this month. One of the sisters on Ebeye is dying (aka ending her mission) at the end of January, so I thought I'd go and replace her. But actually the other sister from my intake is coming back to Majuro and I'll be killing the other sister.  Don't you love mission lingo?  I'm not sure who my companion will be at the start of February.  I think once the sister leaves my companion will be a member until they send me a new one.  My companion will be Sister Mahit. She's also from Vanuatu and I'm really excited to work with her, even if it's only for two weeks. This means I have to learn the whole island (and all 3 branches) in two weeks. It should be good though.  

You may send me letters and packages to the above address. I do get to email, and my P day is Tuesday, so I will be emailing again tomorrow. After I eat subway or burger king....not really a huge fan of either of those, but I think it'll be worth it. I've heard it's really weird arriving on Kwajalein after being on Majuro for a while. I don't know how long I'll get to be on Kwajalein until I need to get on the ferry to Ebeye. I think I'm traveling by myself too. Luckily I can play the dumb foreigner and just speak in English. That's my plan anyway.

We had a really good week for missionary work. Sandy and the 6 kids are all getting baptized on the 25th of January. We're really excited for them. It's not very often we teach whole families here, because it's usually the mom that wants to study. I guess that's also the case here, but the kids are all teenagers and aren't just following what their mom is doing. I'm sad I won't be here for their baptism, but I'll make sure to get a photo from the sisters here. I'm really going to miss Ajeltake. The branch members are great here and the work has really progressed. We had some really good lessons with a woman named Neitaak this week. We're also studying with her son, and her husband is a less active member. I'm sad to leave when we have so many people really progressing. And I've loved working with Sister Tago because she's so good at Marshallese and it's helped me a lot.  

I'll email more tomorrow! I'll try to send photos then too. I'll send some in a few minutes too. I miss you all. Thank you for your emails and letters!

Sister Ellen Butler

January 6, 2014, Dang, i Forgot How Good Fudge Is

Happy new year!

This week went by really quickly. On Tuesday we had an activity at the church for new years. The CES couple that teaches institute came and we played lots of group games together. The YSAs are all pretty good at english, so all of the games were in english and it was fun to spend time with all of them. Sister Tago, Sister Moeai and I then went home (after going to a shop to get snack food) and stayed up late. The Marshallese have a tradition of going around to houses and caroling after it hits midnight on New Years eve, so we had a number of people come by our house at all hours of the night. After they sing we're supposed to give them food or candy but we ran out of food early. Sister Moeai went to bed soon after midnight, since it's hard enough for her to stay up until 10 pm as it is, but I stayed up until 3 or so and Tago stayed up late because she has a really hard time sleeping. Sister Tago showed me all of her photos from Ebeye.  She spent the first 6 months of her mission on Ebeye....and she takes a lot of photos.  It seems like a crazy place.  

All of the church buildings on the island got ping pong tables, so a good portion of new years day was spent playing table tennis in the chapel.  All of our investigators were either in town for the big new years block party or were out drinking, so we didn't get a whole lot done. And I still am terrible at table tennis, but that's not surprising.  

Sister Tago got sick this week.  The nice thing about working in a trio is you only need to find one member to come stay with the sick one and the other two can go out to work.  We had a couple of women come stay with her one day, but we also all stayed home another day when she was pretty sick. I got a lot of things done that day like cleaning the fridge, painting my toenails, writing cards and letters, and making fudge.  We had so many sweets in the fridge around christmas time and so I didn't really want to make fudge yet.  Dang, I forgot how good fudge is. One day this week I made keema and baking powder biscuits for lunch.  It sounds weird but it's actually pretty good. I need to get mom's good recipe for the biscuits though. I just read something off the baking powder can. They didn't rise very much, but they were good right when they came out of the oven.

I tried some Marshallese candies called "ametama" this week. They're made from jekamai, which is the boiled down coconut sap/syrup.  Often you'll see glass vodka bottles hanging from coconut trees up near where the fronds connect to the trunk. Either a frond or something else is cut and a bottle is hung from there and collects the coconut sap. It smells like rotten eggs but it tastes pretty good.  They usually have to get all the flies and bugs out of it first because they're attracted to the sweet syrup.  Sometimes they boiled it down to a thicker brown liquid, which tastes kind of like real maple syrup (which I guess isn't too surprising since it's syrup from a tree) and they dilute it to make a drink.  Or they mix it with coconut shreds and roll it into balls for candy. They were pretty good. I had some straight jekamai syrup on fresh bread this week at a member's house. It was good but rich.

Oh, by the way, we drove up to CMI in Arrak today to email so we don't have to pay for email today! woot!  There are no longer elders in Arrak so now there's more room at CMI for us to email. We miss them in our district though. Our district is almost all sisters now though, which is pretty funny.  

We have P day out in Laura today, so we have to drive to town and go shopping and do laundry there (and get gas) and then come back out to Laura.  

The church/mission rents our house in Ajeltake from a family that we study with.  They built the house but they live in a trailer directly behind our house. I guess they like the money they get every month. There are about 6 kids (mostly all teenagers) and they and their mom study with us. Their dad has studied with elders before.  The whole family treats us like family and we're always in a continuous food giving cycle.  We'll give them food, and then they're give us back the plate with food on it the next day.  We got a good-sized chunk of raw tuna from them one day.  They come to church every sunday (except for the dad) and they're all doing well.  We've been trying to do better with teaching them more consistently, because before they always wanted to play games and so we made every lesson a FHE.  The mom and three of the kids didn't come to church yesterday, but when we got home they were all outside lying on a jaki (a sort of plastic mat they sometimes call a tatami...not tatami, but whatever) each reading in their own "bok in mormon."  We ended up sitting there and talking with them for a long time.  Evenings here are so wonderful.  Every evening is the perfect summer evening with a sky full of stars, perfect weather, and the waves crashing on the shore just a few meters away. And there are cool outlines of coconut trees and breadfruit trees were you look up. It really is paradise in a way.  

There was a really cute, soft puppy at church yesterday. I really think they need to start letting dogs come to church in the US. It really makes everything better, especially on fast sundays.

I come home this year!  I've heard there are some elders that are already listening to the song "I'll be home for Christmas." I'm excited for Christmas this year! I've already decided I want lamb saag and creamy peas one night, and falafel, tabouli, fresh pita, and lemon tahini sauce the next day. Sound good?  I'll contribute the koolaid and ramen.  ugh.  so gross. 

Stay warm!  I miss you all.  Tootles.

Sister Ellen Butler