Friday, February 28, 2014

February 24, 2014, You Know You Are in Micronesia When....


It's been a rainy week in Ebeye, which is weird because it rarely rains.  The streets have been flooded.  There are gutter drains of some sort, but they're all filled with dirt and garbage, so nothing drains.  Walking through the streets has been gross.  I just make sure to wash off my feet when we get home.

Elder and Sister Gardner came from Majuro last week for a few days.  They're CES missionaries and so they make sure seminary and institute is happening.  They changed a lot of things around to get seminary to actually happen.  Some of the teachers didn't come last semester, so in order for the kids to get credit for last semester they have to read the book of mormon through the end of mosiah and write a short summary on each chapter.  So in order to help them, Sister Tafili and I are reading with them everyday.  We just started yesterday so we'll see how it goes.  We set up our chairs in a circle and went around and each read a verse.  We're reading it in english because the Gardners want them to do seminary in english.  Some of them are pretty good and some of them struggle a lot.  It's so hard to see how much they understand.  But it went pretty well for the first day. 

One of the great things about working with Sister Tafili is that she makes cocoa samoa for us to drink.  That stuff is so good.  She's also been telling me samoan legends this week.  She had never been on a boat until she came on the ferry from Kwaj to ebeye and she doesn't know how to swim.  What sort of Samoan is that?  We joke that she doesn't know anything about Samoa, because I asked her what the Samoan flag means and she doesn't know.

There are two island chains in the RMI (Republic of the Marshall Islands).  The "ratak" chain in the eastern chain.  Majuro is in the ratak.  Ebeye is in the "Ralik," or the western chain.  We sang "come, come ye saints" on Sunday in one of the many sacrament meetings, and the line that says something like "we'll find a place prepared far away in the west" made me think of Ebeye because it's in the west for the Marshallese people.  West is relative anyway.  Maybe the song's really talking about ebeye.  It's the zion of the Marshall Islands.  And the garbage dump.

I'm glad to hear that Eliot likes watching the bobsleds.  I actually got to watch about 10 minutes of 4 man bobsledding yesterday.  I saw something about one sled going down on it's side for half the course.  they weren't too happy.  I watched the speedy Germans and Russians, and I think the Americans we're fairly speedy too. 

You know you're in Micronesia when you keep anti-diarrhea pills in your purse at all times.  It's fun.  I don't even think I've been drinking bad water!  Whatever.  It's fine. 

The Weirs are coming to Ebeye again this weekend.  They try to come once a month.  And the sister training leaders are coming with them for the weekend, meaning Sister Crane and Sister Tago.  I'm glad I get to see Sister Tago again before she goes home to Australia in a couple of weeks.  We're going to do splits with them this weekend.  Sister Tago is really excited to come back to Ebeye because she served here at the beginning of her mission.  Crane has yet to come to ebeye, so she's excited as well.  (mom, they're going to bring my box from Majuro.)

We have a baptism this Saturday.  A girl named Kella is getting baptized.  Everyone thought she was a member, but we can't find any records for her anywhere in the church.  She's doesn't remember getting baptized, so I don't think she did.  We taught her the lessons in just a few weeks.  Although she's been coming to church forever, she needed the lessons.

Things are pretty good overall.  We're busy and tired.  I am going to try to take a real nap today.  Last p day I found a 5 lb bag of whole wheat flour in the store (one of two bags)!  I made some 2 hr rolls and I've got a bag of them in the freezer right now.  I've been eating them with peanut butter.  I've also made whole wheat pancakes this week, which were surprisingly good.  I think lentil soup is on the menu for dinner. 
I'll try to take more photos this week so you all can see what Ebeye is really like. 
Love and miss you all,
Sister Ellen Butler

February 18, 2014, Trip to Carlos Island


It's been a great week in Ebeye.  I've been looking forward to checking my email all week so I can see pictures of baby William.  He looks like a big, healthy baby.  I can't decide if he looks more like Kate or Mike. 

Ellen on the boat to Carlos Island
The week started with a trip to the island of "Charles."  At least that's what everyone calls it (later we found out it was actually called "Carlos Island").  But if you go to google maps and look at Kwajalein atoll it's the island called "Ennylabegan."  It's across the atoll from Ebeye to the west.  We fit about 15 people into a pretty small motor boat and headed across the lagoon.  It took about 30 minutes to get there.  On the way there I sat down and I felt like I was sitting right there in the ocean with the waves coming near.  I got some cool pictures without getting my camera wet.  Sister Tafili got soaked on the way there because she was sitting at the very back where the waves kept hitting her.

A church on Carlos Island

In front of a WWII Japanese shipwreck
The island was pretty bare.  There were coconut trees and...breadfruit trees.  There are about 60 people that live on the island now.  We went with some members, a young family.  He grew up on the island and he said there were about 400 people on the island before.  The US used to use it for something, but I don't think they use it much anymore.  there's a helicopter landing pad and a few abandoned buildings.  And then there are a few houses.  There are also two huge white golf ball looking things.  I don't know what they are.

Two Samoans hamming it up
The shipwreck
We walked around on the island for a while, but it was pretty boring.  We ended up playing volleyball (my favorite tired of it) for 2 hours and we all got fried.  We ate some breadfruit and drank coconuts.  We made the samoan elder climb the coconut trees to cut them down for us.  And then the Fijian elder husked them for us.  It's good having them around.  Some of the elders tried chasing pigs on the island, which was amusing because the pigs were much smarter than them.  The coolest part was an old abandoned ship from WWII.  Someone said it's a Japanese ship.  It's big and ugly and it looks like it's made out of concrete and rebar.  I'm serious.  I'll email some photos.

What are the white balls?
The boat ride back to Ebeye was pretty cool.  The waves were a lot bigger going back and the boat went much faster, so it was a really bumpy ride.  We definitely got some air going over some of those big waves.  I stood up on the way back and held onto the sort of windshield thing on the boat next to the driver.  We all held on for dear life.  We were all so sunburned that the next day we all tried to avoid the sun because it was so painful.  Everyone's a lot darker now.  I don't know why, but that island sure feels closer to the sun.  It was hot.

We had a really good week with getting to know our investigators better.  So many of them have been really quiet around us so we've been trying to get them to open up.  We're teaching a group of 7 girls that all live in the same house.  They're all from Wotje, which is an outer island.  None of the outer islands have high schools, so when they all either come to Ebeye or Majuro to go to high school.  They live in a house with some recent converts.

We got the YW in branch 3 to set up a family home evening last week and we had a house full of 18 girls.  We had a lesson and played games, and then we all went out to get ice cream cones.  The YW are so willing to help.  It's been great.

Dana and Ceroline
Getting ice cream after Family Home Evening
We had a "new member scripture night" in branch 1 one evening this week.  I love Ebeye because there are always so many activities going on.  This fireside was put on by the gospel principles teacher because she wanted the whole class to get together.  Sister Tafili and I taught a short lesson about reading the scriptures and talked about even though it's really difficult to understand (because the translation is pretty bad) they can still read and get help from older people (that know the old language).  We had a number of our investigators come to that as well.  There are always firesides and meetings and things going on that it's sometimes hard to find a room in the church building to use.  The members are so good at fellowshipping.  We're supposed to take members with us to every lesson if possible, and we have so many people that help.  People just come up to us on the street, introduce themselves as a member of one of the branches, and then tell us when they can come out and help us.  Yesterday a bunch of members went out visiting less actives.  The RMs all get together and go out visiting.  We've been helping the YW start up personal progress, which is really confusing to explain in Marshallese.

We went to 6 hours of church on Sunday, which is tiring but nice because we get to sit and rest a bit.  Two people had seizures during sacrament meeting on Sunday.  It was crazy.  One happened during a branch in the morning and someone stuffed a flip flop in the guy's mouth and then a whole bunch of men crowded around the guy and started rubbing out his muscles.  They laid him on the chairs in the chapel and sacrament meeting kept going on.  The guy either was passed out or asleep (I don't know much about seizures) for the rest of sacrament meeting.  No one seemed too concerned though.  All of the guys sitting around him seemed to know what to do.  Another kid had a seizure before sacrament meeting of another ward.  Crazy. 

I got pizza this week from a member that works in Kwaj.  We also got hamburgers from someone.  They were mediocre but oh so good at the same time.  I don't know where they came from (the elders said members gave them to them to give to us) but I don't mind.  It wasn't rice and chicken, so I was happy. 

It's not supposed to rain very often in Ebeye, but it's been raining a little at least every day this week.  We've appreciated the water.  It's been nice always having water.  A dog followed us around one day to all of our lessons.  He was so friendly and didn't want to leave.  Everyone asked us who's dog he was, but we didn't know. 

I'm trying to think of what else happened this week.  We had 15 investigators come to church on Sunday, which was awesome.  I bought a mumu this week.  I finally found one I sort of like.  The pattern isn't awful.  I thought it was more blue in the store, but I think it looks grey now.  and it doesn't have really puffy sleeves, so I'm excited. 
Time seems to be going so quickly.  I've been in Ebeye for over a month now.  The people here are so friendly. 
Thanks for the letters and emails.  I really appreciate them.  Love you all, 

Sister Ellen Butler 

February 10, 2014, Kwajelein Memorial Day

This week went by quickly.  It feels like Sister Tafili and I have been running around this island all week with no break.  We try to set up teaching appointments so that we start at one end of the island and work towards the other end during the day, but of course not everyone's schedules work like that.  Sometimes we go from the southern part to the northern part and back to the south again.  It's also crazy trying to keep track of 3 branches and everyone's names and what time different branches have mutual and such.  A lot of the people we studying with are teenagers, so we try to get them to go to seminary and mutual.  We're a bit tired.
I got one of the boxes of food, mom and dad.  Thank you so much.  The Beckers picked it up for me at the post office, and they were impressed by how heavy it was and how much food you two stuffed in there.  I've been celebrating by eating muesli every morning for breakfast (I don't think anything has ever tasted as good as muesli) and I've also made split pea soup.  I put onions in the soup and right as I did so I realized we don't normally put onions in (right?) but it was still good.  I'm excited to make chili beans and quinoa (how much water to quinoa?).  I still have to eat white rice and spam and tuna while I'm out because if I refuse food they'll get offended, but having good food at home is really going to help.
I found a bag of spinach in the grocery store, so I've been eating raw fistfuls of the stuff.  So tasty.
Sunday was Kwajalein memorial day.  I guess on Feb 9, 1944 (?) the US came and took Kwajalein from the Japanese who had gotten possession of it during WWII.  They celebrated it yesterday because the 9th was a Sunday.  Everyone wore green T-shirts (color of the kwajalein's flag) and all of the shirts said something about God's hands coming and saving them.  I asked a few people about it, but I couldn't get more information than that.  There wasn't any school yesterday, nor today (it's a day to rest from the celebrations yesterday).  They had a parade but we only saw a little of it, and then everyone went down to Peace Park at the south of the island for activities and races.  I think the celebration here on Ebeye was much bigger than anything they did on Kwajalein. 
I've already told a few of you, but all of us missionaries are heading off to a small island in this atoll for P day today.  Supposedly it only takes 30 minutes to get there by boat, so it can't be too far away.  I think it's on the other side of kwajalein island in kwajalein atoll.  I don't know if that makes sense.  I think it's called Charles or Chales or something of the sort.  We have to make sure to take plenty of food and water, since there's probably nothing on the island.  I think a few people live there.  I don't know what we're going to do for the few hours while we're there.  I'm going to take my camera (in a ziploc bag, of course) so I'll try to take lots of pictures.  I'm excited.  We're leaving in an hour. 
A little bit about marshallese culture/customs:  all of the women and girls wear skirts in public.  I feel a bit uncomfortable if I'm out in public in exercise clothes.  I've asked people if that's acceptable, and they say it is, but I feel weird because everyone else wears skirts.  Most wear two skirts and everyone wears shorts under their skirts.  They are very modest.  They are usually pretty careful to not let those shorts show, so when they go to sit down they pull their skirt tight across the back so that most of the fabric is in the front and then all the fabric sits in their lap.  It's kind of hard to explain.  It's weird, but we start to do it too.  When you walk between two people talking, it's polite to duck down and say "sorry" (in marshallese).  It's so funny that we start to do these things too.  It's not so much that we know we're supposed to do them, but rather that it feels natural to do them.  I don't know if that makes sense.
Funny thing that happened this week:  You know when you sit down and cross your legs and then you have a red mark on your knee where your leg was resting?  Well, someone saw the red mark on my knee and asked me what it was.  They seemed pretty concerned.  I think she thought I got burned or something.  I tried explaining it, but I don't think she understood.  Then a few minutes later she said "It's gone!  Where did it go?"  It was so funny and sad that I couldn't explain it.
There's a new elder here from Samoa.  He doesn't know english very well, so Sister Tafili has been trying to help him learn Marshallese.  He's trying to learn english and marshallese.  I don't know what he'd do without her here, because he doesn't understand very much.  I don't know why Sister Tafili is so good at English.  Her pronunciation is a little funny for some words, but overall she's really good. 
Okay, this was a weird email this week.  I have to leave soon to go get ready.  Sorry I don't have any photos this week.  Love you all,
Sister Ellen Butler

February 4, 2014, Raining Like Crazy


Holy cow, my email time is going quickly today.  I hope I have enough time to write this email and read everyone's emails. 

Sister Mahit left on Friday.  Our last week together wasn't really the best because she wanted to visit a lot of people to say goodbye, so I kind of felt like the dog following her around.  We didn't get as much work done last week.  I had about 24 hours from when Sister Mahit left until Sister Tafili came, so I worked with a member.  Her name is Sister Ned and she's my same age.  She served her mission in New Zealand, and she just got back to Ebeye in November.  She was a lot of fun to work with, especially because she knows a lot of the people here and she could show me where less actives live.  On Saturday Sister Tafili came, along with two new elders straight from the MTC, the APs, and the Weirs.  The APs and the Weirs were just here for the weekend, and they left yesterday.  It was nice to see them all. 

We had a baptism on Saturday evening and our investigator named Alice got baptized.  That was really nice.  The sky was really pretty that evening.  I'll send a photo.

We heard that all of us missionaries in Ebeye might be able to go on a day trip on another island in this atoll on someone's boat sometime.  I'm so excited.  I hope it happens.  Supposedly we've gotten permission from president, but we have to double check.  I think it's a member's boat.

Sister Tafili and I have had a little bit of a rough time the last couple of days because our investigators don't really know us.  We had a million appts yesterday, but all of them fell through because no one wanted to study.  But we also got a lot of referrals from members.  The members are great.  Everyone wants to help.  Sister Tafili's only been in the islands for about 2.5 months, so she doesn't know a lot of Marshallese.  I have to take the lead in lessons and basically most talking situations, but it's good.  It's better than being a dog following the other companion around.  So not fun.  I'm a lot happier working with Sister Tafili.

Last night, after our second FHE had fallen through, Sister Tafili and I went to the Livai's house.  We sat outside and talked to Brother and Sister Livai for a long time.  It was so nice to just sit and talk with them.  They are a great family.  The members are so willing to help. 

A big ship came yesterday, meaning we're going to have some better produce in the grocery store this week!  The ship was huge.  I don't know how large the really big ships are, so I don't have much to compare it to, but this thing seemed huge.  It had two big cranes on it that lifted those big truck boxes off of it.  I meant to get a photo of it, but I needed to charge my camera.  I'll try to get a photo when it comes again in a month or two.  We saw a ferry come up to the little dock while the ship was there, and the ferry looked like a mosquito in comparison to this thing. 

Everyone loves peanut M&Ms here.  They call them "m m" and there aren't the regular M&Ms here.  Only "yellow"  (referring to the color of the packaging). 

Leans, I did hear about the guy that's been floating around in the ocean for the last 16 months and ended up in the marshall islands.  I heard he drank turtle blood to stay alive.  He ended up on Ebon atoll, which is the farthest south.  That's so crazy.  There are two elders on Ebon.  I wonder if they met the guy.  The outer islands do not have many people on them. 

It's raining like crazy right now, which is not like Ebeye.  Our water has been on most of this week, so that's been nice.  Except none on Sunday morning, so we were a big smelly at church. 

I'm really enjoying Ebeye.  Next P day we're planning on borrowing bikes from members and riding out to Gue Gee Gue.  It's an island a few islands just north of Ebeye, and somehow they're connected by a road.  We should be able to find some coconuts out there.  The Ebeye high school is out on Gue Gee Gue (pronounced like "goo chi goo."  I don't know when we'll email, but I for sure will at some point.

I don't have much to tell about this week.  It's was good.  We had a couple of firesides Sunday night when the Weirs and APs were here.  They're always traveling, so they were only here for a couple of days. 

I miss you all.  Thanks for the emails and letters. 

Sister Ellen Butler