Tuesday, September 30, 2014

September 29, 2014, I'm Getting So White


I don't have much to say this week. Everything is going well. I've had a sore throat and neck and back this week, but I think I'm getting better. I think the sore neck and back is from driving the stupid car.

Driving is so overrated. Ugh. I don't like it very much. It's tiring. I'm getting so white too, since the trees block a lot of the sun in Ajeltake and we're not out walking as much. I want to get tan again. I'm going to see if Notise can get her driver's license this week so she can help with the driving. Maybe I'm also just getting sick of driving down the same road every single day. It is beautiful though.

My front yard in Ajeltake
Our investigator that was supposed to get married this last week still hasn't got married. We'll see when that happens.  She really wants to get baptized so she's just waiting on this.  We have a baptism this Saturday. A girl named Seiko is getting baptized. She's 17 and her older brother and younger sister are both members. They live in a little village called "Lomajurok" and last year when I worked in Ajeltake, there were only 3 young men there that were members. Now almost all of them are members. The second counselor in the branch presidency lives there and we're there every day to study with people. It's cool to see how much the area has changed since last year. A couple of the women there are making me earrings and a bag.  It's really close to the airport so whenever a plane flies over to land it's so incredibly loud because the plane comes down so low.

Sunset in Ajeltake
It rained a lot this week. Our pontoon was overflowing one night when it rained, so we went outside and took showers under the spout. It was so cold but nice. Whenever it rains a lot people will run and shampoo their hair so they can shower in the rain. It saves water and it's fun.

It looks like I'm leaving the RMI on Dec. 17th flying first to Hawaii, then Chicago (is there a Potbelly sandwich place in O'hare airport??), then to Hartford. I arrive on the 18th...although that's after two december 17ths...

We did some splits with some of the young women this week. I always leave Notise with one of the YW in Lomajurok because there are a lot of people for them to see there...and they can walk to the next town/village where there are a lot of people to study with there too. I then take the car, and we drive to Woja (which is near Laura) and work there. I usually tell Notise that we'll be back at a certain hour to pick them up, but we never really set up a place to meet. It's not that hard to find people if there's only one road. It did take us a little while to find them last night though. If they see the car they'll wave the cell phone so we see them and pull over to pick them up.  It's so dark at night because there aren't very many lights.

There are birds in those baskets!
I'm getting excited to come home. Everything is going well. Working with Sister Notise is going well. I think I get along well with the samoan sisters. Okay, that's it for this week.  Love you all. Tootles.

September 22, 2014, We Made Them Pizza--They Gave Us Lobster


I had a good week in Ajeltake.  We moved back into the sisters' old house, the one that Sandy and Banny rent to the church.  Sandy and all their kids got baptized in January (a week after I left for Ebeye) and then Banny (pronounced like "bonny") got baptized in March. Sandy is now the RS pres and Banny is in the branch presidency.  We're happy to be back in the house. It's so nice and big. I think it's about 6 times bigger than the tiny chapel house we were living in before.  We have a real kitchen now.  The only hard thing about living there is that we have to keep the mission rules (they can't come into our house) but we also have to respect manit (or culture) which is that what's theirs is ours, and vice versa.  We're pretty clear with them that they can't come into our house, but to make that okay we make them food, and then they give us food, and then we give them more food, etc. We made them a pizza and then they gave us a lobster, and then we gave them some cake and they gave us fish...

The wedding that was supposed to happen on Saturday got moved to this Wednesday.  We're excited for that.  We're also studying with their two kids, but I don't think they'll be ready to get baptized when the parents get baptized.

We'll see. Shimiko's been teaching us some Marshallese songs this week. I feel like I don't know any other than hymns (and I swear we sing the same 10 hymns over and over again).  The Marshallese hymn book only has about 40 hymns in it.  It can get really boring. We learned a goodbye song and a song about moms.

Seminary is going well but it's annoying because it takes up good proselyting time.  So many people want to study in the early evening and then we can't study when it gets too late because only some people have electricity so it's dark at night. I don't know if anything else is new.

Sister Notise is good. She's pretty quiet. I always want to discuss things and make plans together for the day but I think her favorite phrase is "am bebe" which means "your choice" which gets really annoying. Some days she talks more though.

I filled out my travel departure form today since I go home in about 90 days.  I also had a dream this last week that Pres. Weir sent me to Mili (one of the outer islands) to work with Shimiko for the last few months of my mission. Shimiko's from Mili and she said it's beautiful. There are orange and mango trees there.  Why don't we have those on Majuro?

 Okay, I love you all.  Tootles.

September 15, 2014, Thursday Night is "Rescue"


I'm going to write a short email today because I don't have much to say. We have a wedding planned this Saturday for a couple of our investigators.  That should be good.  We've got to make a couple of cakes, but they'll be simple.  They're getting married in their house so the whole thing should be really short.

Sister Notise and I switch off teaching seminary a few days a week.  I teach Tuesdays and Thursdays. Ajeltake Branch has two seminary classes because there are a lot of youth, and we take the 14 and 15 year-olds.  They're studying from D&C this year, and it's fun to prepare for the lessons.  The CES missionary couple that leads Seminary and Institute on the island only want us teaching in English. About half of the kids get it, and the other half struggle. Sometimes if they don't understand something, I'll explain it in Marshallese but we're not supposed to, which I think is silly. Reading Joseph Smith History with them was a pain because the English in it is not what they're used to.

The Ajeltake elders have a van that can fit 12 people, so the elders and sisters are basically the Ajeltake taxi service for seminary, institute, and church.  Normally missionaries aren't allowed to drive other people, unless it's a member going to a lesson with us, but we got permission to pick up people, because if we weren't there to drive people, no one would come to things at the church.

Every Thursday night we have branch activity called "rescue."  I guess they've started doing it in the islands in the Pacific, but I'm not sure where else.  Basically we meet up at the church and divide into groups and go out and visit the less-actives.  We see if they need anything and we ask why they haven't come to church, and we invite them to come on Sunday.  Usually people don't come because they've been offended by someone at church.  I saw a lot of less active members at church yesterday, which was good.

Normally transfers happen every 6 weeks, but they decided to have a "mini-transfer" in the middle of this transfer to get ready for the next one?  If that even makes sense.  Luckily Notise and I are both staying in Ajeltake and we're also moving into the big, nice house this Wednesday.  Sister Moea'i and Seegmiller are both going off to Ebeye this week and they'll probably come back to Majuro right before we leave in December.  Four sisters go home in about 3 weeks (Sister Crane, Samuel, Tofa, and Anitoni) and we don't get any more sisters until November or December, so they're closing down areas for sisters.

I hope you all are staying warm and happy.


Sister Ellen Butler

September 8, 2014, My Driver's License Looks Fake--It's Got a Coconut Tree On It

Greetings from Ajeltake,

I finally got my Marshall Islands drivers license last week.  We drove into town on Tuesday with the zone leaders (the west side zone leaders are the elders that work in Ajeltake) and when we got to the police station, they told us to come back at 1 PM. So we went and got lunch while we waited. The whole process took way too long and I don't think we got back to Ajeltake until almost 4pm, so just in time to pick up kids for seminary. My drivers license looks pretty fake.  It's got a coconut tree on it.

The most exciting thing that happened this week is that we got a new branch presidency yesterday, because our old branch president moved to Delap (town).  Our new branch president is...Elder Robison, a ripelle (American) that's one of the senior missionaries.  He and Sister Robison were assigned to work in the Ajeltake branch.  We were all surprised and at first I wasn't sure how the Marshallese people would react to having a white guy as their branch president, but now I think it'll actually be good.  Ajeltake is still a branch, and it's the only branch on the island, so we're trying to make it into a ward.  Elder Robison is going to help and teach the leaders.  His two counselors both got baptized this year and they don't really know what they're doing yet.  So I think it's going to be good.  The Robisons are only here until December, so he'll be the branch president for just a short time.  I think the elders and sisters will be able to work more closely with him, since he knows what to do as a branch president.

I emailed president weir today and asked if I can stay in Ajeltake for the rest of my mission. Hopefully he says yes! We ate some good food this week.  mostly rice and fish, but that's always good.  Johnty, Neitaak's husband, is really good at fishing so we've requested to eat turtle and shark in the next few weeks.  And dog, but you don't need to go fishing for that.  I'm planning on making some pumpkin bread and banana bread this week, if I can get a pumpkin and a bunch of bananas.  I like working on the green side of the island.  

We got permission to switch houses with the elders again (it's a long story) but we're not sure what we want to do.  The other house is really big and nice, and has a super nice kitchen.  But the little house has hot water.  Hot showers have been really nice.

Driving down the Ajeltake road is fun.  You have to dodge coconuts, potholes, and dogs.  Some of the dogs are so stupid and love to chase cars. They crouch down and right when you drive past they start running and barking at the tires.  I'm so worried I'm going to hit one.  They're so stupid.  I haven't had too much of a problem with the pigs. They stay to the sides of the streets.  The chickens are pretty speedy and careful to get off the road. I've definitely run over some crabs and a mouse or two.  

We're studying with a woman named Charlene, and the elders are studying with her husband.  They have plans to get married within the next two weeks and then get baptized.  We weren't sure if he'd be ready to get baptized when she would, because we knew he smoked, but the elders told us that Charlene gave him a pamphlet about the Word of Wisdom and he read it and kajju (straightaway) threw away smoking.  Pretty cool.  We're excited to have them get baptized on the same day.  It's pretty normal to have the elders study with the men, and the sisters with the women, but I've also studied with men.  Men that actually want to study are always very respectful and we usually make fun of each other and they always make us yummy food.  

We see the elders a lot in Ajeltake, since there's only one road.  It's nice that we have a shared area. It's normal to drive past them as we're going to different lessons, or to have them drive behind us at night with their brights on just to annoy us.  They made fun of me a lot when I was driving pretty slowly at first, but now we can keep up with them.  I can now also officially pass other cars, although it's not my favorite thing to do.  

Okay, I think that's it. Love you all. Tootles,

Sister Butler

September 1, 2014, Happy to Be Back in Ajeltake


Ajeltake is so beautiful. I'm so happy to be back. It's about 11 miles of coconut, banana, breadfruit, and pandanus trees.

The elders and the sisters switched houses a few weeks ago because there was some problem, so we're living in the tiny chapel house. Meaning a tiny house that's right by the Ajeltake chapel. It's one room, and then a bathroom. We have a bunk bed, fridge, and a tiny kitchen. But it's really not that bad. It's cosy. I do my studies on my bed and Sister Notise sits at a desk right by the bed and that's where we have to sit. We actually have hot water, which is crazy.

We had zone conference last wednesday before our transfer and that was good.  Right after we switched our luggage around from car to car and we drove off to Ajeltake.  Driving is going better. The road in Ajeltake is fun to drive.  you have to maneuver around coconuts and there are lots of potholes and bumps.  You also have to be careful for dogs. There are a few road bumps near the schools.  I think I'm starting to get the hang of it though. The hardest part is remembering where everyone lives.  It just looks like there are trees everywhere and their houses are back in a little ways. I also miss the turnoffs and have to stop and back up, but it's okay because there are very few cars on the road. 

My new companion is Sister Notise. She's from Samoa and she went to school with Sister Tafili. She's good. She works hard but has fun too, which is a nice combination.  She has 10 more months on the mission and her Marshallese is really good.  It's really nice going from a companion where I had to teach 95% of the lessons to teaching very little.  I actually wish she would let me speak more! But it's good.  Maybe I'm just the driver.  We get along well though. The first few days with a new companion are always awkward because you don't know how they do things, but it gets better.  I'm tired of being the boss so I'm trying to make her make a lot of the decisions. It's good.

The beaches are nice in Ajeltake.  We went wading out in the lagoon the other day and the water was so hot.  It was almost burning my feet.  There's a really nice view of the other islands in the atoll from Ajeltake.  It's really paradise here.  Hopefully this is where I'll finish my mission. It's nice to see that the branch has grown.  It's nice I already know most of the people. Hopefully it'll become a ward while I'm here.

There's a YSA in Ajeltake that just got her call to serve in the West Indies, English speaking. Her name is Shimiko and I think I've maybe talked about her before when I worked in Ajeltake. She works with us when she's not busy.  She's great.  Her English is already amazing and she's excited to go.  She doesn't go until December though, so she'll keep working with us and maybe we'll leave around the same time for the US.  

Okay, I think that's it for this week.  I don't think I'll send any pictures this week.  I tried to upload some but it didn't work.  We'll see.

Tootles. Love you all.

 Sister Ellen Butler (or "Bubu" as all the missionaries call me)