Monday, March 31, 2014

March 25, 2014 Did I Tell You About the Dog That Follows Us Around All the Time?


It's been a fun week.  It started out last Tuesday with the second part of the Relief Society birthday celebration.  The beat (or "biit"...I'm not sure how it's spelled) was lots of fun.  The evening started out as a "get to know you night" which was great for me because everyone wore nametags.  I got to learn some people's names I hadn't caught before.  Then each of the branches performed their dance and people talked and then finally we got to eat cake.  I think it was a 3.5 hour long RS activity.  Holy cow.  I was trying to translate for Sister Becker most of the time.  I'm so bad at translating.  I can understand what is being said, but then while I switch it into English word order in my head I miss what is being said.  Every Sunday I make the elders translate for the Beckers.  It's so hard!  I'll try to attach some photos from the activity.

We tied for first place for our apartment inspections, so we got a pizza from kwaj last week.  Pizza is so good after not having it for months.

Did I tell you about the dog that follows us around all the time?  At first it was kind of nice because she's a friendly dog, but she's starting to get annoying.  She attracts the other dogs and they come over, bark, and start playing in the streets.  Or sometimes she thinks if we go into a house that she can come in too.  People ask us if it's our dog and we tell them no, but then they wonder why there's a dog in their house.  All of the kids call her "angel" and she supposedly also follows the elders around.

The other night we were home and we thought we heard someone trying to get into our apartment.  We always lock the door right when we come in, so we knew we were okay.  We checked the peep hole but no one was there.  We heard something again so Sis. Tafili called a pair of the elders that were nearby to come check.  They called back a few minutes later:  "Hey, do you know that dog that follows you all the time...?"  Dumb dog.  She was waiting outside our door for us.

Happy birthday to Kate and Annie this week!  I hope you two had a fun time.  Sister Tafili has the same birthday as Kate.  I wanted to plan something fun for her since we just work all day, so I got a bunch of the youth in Branch 3 to meet at a member's house that evening.  Wherever we went throughout the day I invited them to come, and somehow Tafili didn't catch on.  I thought it was pretty obvious.  I told her we were going over to Thelma's house to set up things for a split the next day and she believed me.  We went up to the house and they started singing.  Someone played ukulele and another guy was on a keyboard.  Marshallese birthdays consist of lots of singing-- there are a lot of Marshallese birthday songs-- and then there's a mini iakwe-iakwe where everyone goes around and shakes the person's hands and gives them money or amimono earrings or flowers for their hair.  Then people give speeches and it's over.  I made a cake so we ate that at the end.  I somehow trapped a gecko between the plate and bowl (that had been over the cake) once the cake was finished, and I didn't find it until the next morning when I was doing dishes and found a little lizard fellow in the sink.  I don't mind them because they're everywhere, but it took me by surprise.  The poor fellow was afraid he was going to drown in the sink.

It was also Sister Becker's birthday this week so we got a group of youth to go over and sing birthday songs for her.

Everyone plays volleyball in the Marshall Islands.  People string up nets between houses and they play all day, everyday.  All of the little kids play with marbles.  It's a game called "ping" or something like that, and they draw a square in the dirt and place all of the marbles inside the box and then toss a marble to see how many the can get out of the box.  I don't see how they don't get tired of it.  They'll play it for hours and hours.  It looks pretty boring.  There's also a game similar to Sorry that they draw on a piece of-- yep, you guessed it-- plywood.  they use rocks or pennies as the pieces.  Sometimes I feel like this isn't the 21st century...more like always.

Oh, and you know those small, curved combs that women used to use in the 90s or 80s?  The ones that you can comb your hair with and then leave it in your hair?  All of the women use them.  They also have big, fancy carved combs that they stick in their hair for Sundays.

We had some good lessons this week.  We seem to walk around a lot but a lot of people are gone.  The early afternoon hours are so hard because it's hot and everyone's sleeping.  The streets are dead in the afternoons and then come alive at night.  People stay up all hours of the night because it's nice and cool, and then sleep during the day when it's hot.

The ocean here is full of fish.  That sounds stupid, because of course it's full of fish, but you can just look into the water and see a whole lot of fish.  I've seen some pretty yellow ones and there are also schools of fish all over the place.  It's really neat to watch them.  They sometimes jump out of the water at the same time too.  I want to know how they communicate.  During a baptism a couple of weeks ago we saw a big foot and a half long fish jump out of the water.  I have yet to see another shark though.  

I'm trying to think what else happened this week.  One of our RM friends fought a drunk guy for us.  He got a nice swollen eye.  We're starting to teach the Beckers a little Marshallese because they want to learn and they're going to be here for a while.  We're going to go play Ticket to Ride with them this afternoon for P day!  Dr. Skinner, an LDS doctor on Kwaj, came over yesterday to talk to us missionaries about staying healthy and he also brought Subway over for us, which was really nice. 

Tootles.  Love you,

Sister Ellen Butler

March 18, 2014 It's Not Too Hard to Compete Against Three Sets of Elders

Greetings and happy St. Patrick's day,

It's been a really good week in Ebeye.  It started with a trip to Carlos last P day.  We were going to take two boats so the Beckers could come, but we ended up only having one boat.  They're going to come with us the next time we go.  The boat we used this time was definitely smaller than the last...but it was also longer.  At first we were a little wary of the thing, but once we got going we realized it was a lot smoother than the other boat.  I also think the driver really knows how to drive boats.  He was really good at steering the boat to avoid big waves and sometimes he would just stop it (the motor was still running) so that we would ride a wave instead of force our way through it.
On the tiny boat on the way to Carlos.  We were just leaving Ebeye in this picture
The trip to Carlos was a lot better than the one before.  I think we felt a little more comfortable to explore.  Thelma and Rutha, two recent RMs, were on the island for a week visiting Rutha's grandparents so we met up with them.  They took us to the north end of the island and we took a lot of photos.

At the north end of Carlos with the next island north in the atoll.  The ocean side is on the left and the lagoon on the right.  It was high tide, but when it's low you can walk to the next island. 

 The most beautiful beach on Carlos.  The water was so pretty.

Representing the 692

I was so happy to see trees again!
I thought it was beautiful and the beach was so nice, but they said when it's low tide the beach is so much better and you can walk to the next island north in the atoll.  There was a little bit on jungle on the island where the US hadn't cleared it out for their helicopter landing pad and other electricity generator things, so it was nice to walk through the trees.

 It felt a little bit like being in Laura again, except more remote.  I think I saw about 10 houses on the island.
Thelma and Rutha singing and playing ukulele

 Me and Rutha (the one that just got back from her mission to the philippines).  She and Thelma were visiting Rutha's grandparents on Carlos for the week, so we hung out with them on P day.

On Saturday six of our investigators got baptized.  They're all teenage girls and they're from Ujae atoll.  Three of them are sisters and the others are cousins.  Their parents studied with the sisters right before us and they got baptized in November or December.  The dad is now the high council representative for Lae, which is an atoll near Kwajalein.  They're part of our district.  The best part is that he got to baptize the girls.  We had one of the elders go over and teach him how to baptize them.  It was really great.  All of the girls' friends in Branch 3 came and there were a lot of people that came.  Everyone was so happy to have so many get baptized.  The craziest part for us was finding enough white dresses for them.  I think we spent most of Saturday running around to members to find clothing.  It was a really nice evening.
More photos before the baptism.  That ledge is my favorite place to watch baptisms from.

All six of the girls that got baptized on Saturday.
Three of them are sisters and their parents are also in the photo. 
Outside the church

Girls getting ready for their baptism

We met a Marshallese LDS woman that served a mission in Majuro in 1992-93.  She is less active now and we're studying with one of her daughters.  I talked to a member about her, and they said she can't come to church or her husband's family will kick them out of the house and they don't have anywhere else to live.  The woman is really talkative and she tells us a whole bunch of stories from her mission.  She said in 92 there were 4 sisters serving in Majuro:  2 from Laura to Long Island, and 2 from Delap to Rita.  We have 12 sisters in Majuro right now.

Yesterday or today is the Relief Society birthday, and holy cow, they go all out here.  Yesterday we had a fireside/event at noon and Sis. Tafili and I got there a little late.  we stepped into the chapel and everyone was wearing blue or yellow dresses.  Supposedly these are the colors of relief society?  We asked if it was announced that we were supposed to wear blue or yellow, and they said nope, everyone just knows...?  We were both wearing white shirts and Sister Becker was also, and was really glad that we were also wearing white because she felt out of place.  She later said, "I'll make sure to wear something bright and colorful tomorrow so I don't stand out" and then we laughed at how funny it is that bright colors make us blend in more.  The talks about women and RS were all really good.  The Marshallese women are so strong and I loved being in the chapel with all of them.  Tonight there's an activity/celebration for the RS birthday and each branch is doing a beat.  We practiced with Branch 1 last night so we're going to be dancing with them.  We hope the other branches don't get annoyed that we don't dance with them.  We have a 4 part dance and part number 2 may be to an ABBA song, so we're pretty excited.  The dance moves are like a modernized beat.  At first we're air strumming guitars but then we go and do the regular hand-motions.  I don't know what all of them symbolize, but almost all beats have the same moves just in different orders.  There's a move that means a boat and another where you pull nets in from the ocean.  You also point to the lik (ocean side) and then to the iar (lagoon side).  I'll try to get some good photos tonight.

Relief Society Birthday

Relief Society Birthday

Pretty sunset with the ferry on Ebeye

We had a really great evening on Sunday.  We had gotten a whole bunch of referrals from members, so we had a goal to contact a lot of them. We went and met a woman (Marshallese) that lived in Hawaii all her life.  Her Marshallese is so good for living in Hawaii all her life.  She said it's her first time to Ebeye.  She and her husband are visiting her husband's family (they're all members) and they want to get married and baptized this summer.  It was so fun talking to her because we kept going from English to Marshallese and back to English and she was so nice and talked (unlike a lot of Marshallese that are so silent in our lessons, so it's impossible to know if they understand what we're saying).  At first her husband was going to study with the elders, but it looks like we're going to study with both of them.  We had a nice lesson with her on Sunday.  We then visited a girl's parents.  The girl is 15 or 16 and she spoke in church a couple weeks ago about how she really wants her parents to join the church.  We talked to her about talking to her parents to see if they want to study with us.  She talked to them and her dad said yes but the mom said no.  We went to see the dad and the mom was there...and they both agreed to study.  So we're really excited to study with them and the girl (her name is Marshallese) is really happy too.

We have apartment inspections today and so Tafili and I stayed up late cleaning last night.  We better win.  I don't think it's too hard to compete against 3 sets of elders.  We'll see.  I mopped the whole thing, so I think we've got to win.

A couple of elders are going home on Friday so we get two more from Majuro on Saturday, and they're both white, so I will no longer be the only ripelle missionary on Ebeye.  I kind of liked being the only American.   
It sounds like you're all cold and freezing your fannies.  Stay warm!

Sister Ellen Butler

March 11, 2014 That Dog Had Some Ugly Teeth

It's been kind of a boring week in some respects because it took a while for me to get better from being sick.  We didn't go out to work until Thursday last week.  I was so weak and tired that after one trip across the street to the grocery store I just wanted to lie down for the rest of the day.  I realized I was so weak because I hadn't eaten much, so once I ate I felt a lot better.  I still have a bad chest cold though, but hopefully that'll go away soon....and then I'll just pick up another one from a little kid here.

On Sunday we took naps after our million hours of church.  It was the best decision ever.  I also unintentionally took a nap yesterday on Monday and it was glorious.  I miss naps so much.  Senior missionaries are allowed to take naps whenever they want.  Why can't we?

A girl named Hellen got baptized on Saturday.  That was nice.  We have a group of 6 teenage girls getting baptized this Saturday.  They're all from the atoll of "Ujae" (I think in an earlier email I said they were from "Wotje" which is incorrect.  They sound really similar).  Three of them are sisters and their parents just got baptized in November.  they had studied with the sisters before.  The other three are cousins.  These were some of the girls that were at the big FHE from about a month ago.  We're excited for Saturday.  Sometimes I get a little tired of teaching so many teenagers, but they are a strength to the church here.  Many of them already say that they want to serve missions.  There are 24 students in the mission prep class right now and quite a few are turning in their papers this week.  Three of those students are our investigators, so it's really great.  I just sometimes get a little tired of the teenage girls.

I got the packages with the powdered milk in them, and i've been drinking that stuff like it's real milk.  I used to not like it, but if I get it fairly cold it's pretty good.  It's also great to put into pancakes so I don't have to use my delicious "New Zealand Anchor Ultra-Pasteurized milk."  Whole wheat pancakes have become a staple recently.  Pancakes and muesli.

It's been wicked hot recently.  It's terribly hot and we just wish for rain, and then it rains for about an hour and stops, and then it's hotter than before because the air is so humid.  I'm not sure what's better.  At least our feet stay cool because the streets flood.  I don't want to know what else is on our feet though.

We're teaching a Marshallese/Filipino woman.  She's married to a Chinese man and their kids are learning Marshallese, English, and Chinese.  They're going to be smart kids.   We teach her in English and Marshallese, which is fun.  It's so hard to teach in English.  We struggled, so we kept switching back into Marshallese.  She has a good friend that's a member (and she lives across the street from her) and so her friend helped in a lesson yesterday.  We stayed and talked for a long time before and after the lesson just talking because they love to talk.  The woman has gone to many churches and tells us that she really wants to find which church is true, so we had a really good restoration lesson yesterday.  We're excited to study with her.

My English is starting to get messed up.  The other day I said something to my companion in English but it was so Marshallese:  "I think we should ask with Fred that he should talk with Mercy and ask with him if he is happy to study with the two of us"...or something like that.  Or we'll say, "She's the mother of Mary" instead of "she's mary's mom" or things like that.  I don't want to know what my english is going to be like in 10 months.  Maybe graduate schools won't take me!

A dog tried to bite me yesterday while we were walking, so I started yelling and shaking my water bottle at him. I yelled "enana! enana kidu!" at him which means "bad!  bad dog!"  I think a lot of people thought it was pretty funny, but I don't even care.  That dog had some ugly teeth.

Okay, my email is a little short this week.  i should have more to write next week.  love and miss you all, 

Sister Ellen Butler

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

March 4, 2014, We're Big Cheeses But Not as Big as Other Big Cheeses


I've been a sick puppy all weekend, but I think I'm starting to feel better.  The sister training leaders (aka "sister APs") and the Weirs were in Ebeye for the weekend, which was really fun and nice.  Sister Crane and Sister Tago are some of my favorite sisters in Majuro, so I was really excited to see them. We went on splits on Saturday when they got here, but then I got sick on Sunday so I stayed home with one of them or sister Becker or Sister Weir so they could go out and work.

I realized how much I've missed seeing the other sisters during P days, since Tafili and I are the only sisters on Ebeye.  We really need two more sisters on Ebeye.  It's just hard being the only sisters here sometimes, and our area is the whole island while each set of elders have only 1/3 of the island.  It's a bit exhausting at times.
From left to right: Sisters Tafili, Anitak, Butler, and Ned

On Thursday night we went to a "keemem" or a kid's 1st year birthday party.  Holy cow, the keemems are a much bigger deal here than in Majuro, possibly because people have more money here.  It was in the restuarant of the Ebeye Hotel and they had hired a guy to play keyboard and sing.  The food was really good and the place was packed.  The kid is a son of a lds couple (I think they're both RMs) and the three of them were all wearing matching clothes.  Sister Tafili and I got there a bit late and we were ushered in past everyone sitting in the hallway (because it was so full of people there wasn't room) and we were led to a table where Sis. Seremai (district pres' wife) and sis. Thomas (1st counselor in the district pres) were sitting.  We're big cheeses.  But we're not as big as the big cheeses that got to sit in another smaller, adjacent room (Pres. Seremai, Pres. Thomas, the Beckers, and the family of the young kid).  Of course we got our food first and it's polite to just start eating once you get your food, which is so weird to me.  Sister Thomas gave me a guam dress that I think she had gotten as a party favor.  It was a crazy party.  The keemems in Majuro are definitely not as extravagant.  I didn't get any pictures, but I know sister Becker did, so maybe you can find some on her blog.
Baptism on Saturday
Another view of the baptism

I forgot to tell you!  I saw a shark a few weeks ago.  It was the P day when we headed to Carlos (I thought it was "Charles") and we were standing on the dock and we saw a big 5 foot shark lurking by the dock.  We were surprised how close it came to the dock.  The water is so clear and pretty that you can see a lot of really pretty fish.  We want to find a member to teach us how to fish one of these p days.  Everyone fishes here, so it shouldn't be too hard.  The ocean here is just full of fish.

A sister missionary that served in the Philippines just got back from her mission on Friday.  We went to the dock to pick her up and she actually stayed with us for the evening because in Ebeye they say the missionaries can't sleep at home until they're released (which we all think is crazy, but whatever).  She's really nice.  Her English is better than a lot of the missionaries' english that served in english speaking missions!  We took her to go see her family as soon as she arrived and it was super awkward.  I don't think any of them hugged her nor seemed too excited to see her.  Marshallese people and their lack of affection drives me a little crazy.  Sister Tafili said to me later "if that's how it is when I get home, then I'm going to cry."  Of course Samoans are the exact opposite.  They all hate goodbyes and will cry and cry for hours if they say goodbye to someone they just met two weeks ago. 

Do you guys know what beetlenut is?  It's disgusting.  Look it up.  Supposedly everyone is PNG (Papua New Guinea) chews it and a lot of the men chew it here.  It's stains one's teeth a reddish brown and supposedly makes them high.  And then they spit in the street and it stains the street.  It's so gross.
We had a baptism on Saturday and we have another one this saturday.  A girl named Hellen from Ailinglaplap (an outer island) is getting baptized. 

I'm going to take a nap and drink lots of water and take it easy for the rest of the day.  Two elders are coming from Majuro today, so we might go to the dock when the ferry comes at 3.
Love you all, 

Sister Ellen Butler