Highlights and Susie's notes from Skype with Elder Bowen!
I am learning to cook here. I get a bunch of rice in a bowl, then I add chadamasu which is beans. I put beans all over the rice than add chicken or something else. I honestly don't know what I’ve eaten while being here, I don't want to know what is in a lot of things so I just don't ask. No McDonalds here! We usually eat at other members houses once maybe twice a week if we are lucky and they usually bring out a big bowl of rice and loup which is kind of yucky actually. If it is yucky I just add a ton of rice to it. One of my first meals here which was actually kind of good was crushed spinach with some kind of meat in it. Sometimes they give you tomatoes, they are super good with rice. Now if I eat a hamburger back in the states, I will like everything on it like tomatoes. It just gets to the point where you don't care what it is your just hungry and don't care what you eat and then you’ll just get sick later. One time they made us really watery rice which was not really that good.
A common thing here is qualacompo. People love it here but when there’s no cold water to give you they boil the water so you end up drinking steaming hot water with our meal. But if the rice is kind of burnt I just end up putting more of my water in with the rice to help it out. But when your in a very humid place drinking hot water, eating a hot meal, you just are dripping sweat, that is HOT! It is a good time. We usually make brownies for people when we go to a squaray (dinner appointment). But as far as sweets go, we get a Snickers every now and then they are a little less than like a dollar but not often as it is expensive. It weird though because when you think American money cents it seems cheap but when you think here states its like 2 or 3 dollars for a snickers so I'm like ah no way. But the Snickers ice cream is really good here. The juice here is way good though, we take our water bottles and on the street they have straight fresh juice they give you and we fill our bottles up, its really good, especially if you freeze it for a little bit it becomes a slushy which is so good. Strawberry and mango are super good. Pineapples are really common on the trees here, and bananas are everywhere too. There are mini bananas and really long ones, like a foot and half long. Watermelon is here too. There are people on the side of the roads that have scales, you can pay them to weigh you. Yeah, I've gained some weight being here not sure how much or how though. I once gave a Leche to a kid. The people are pretty nice.
Next p-day we are going to go where there is a lot of little shops and buy some jerseys and stuff. We live really far from the shops, so we can get a taxi that drives us a little ways and then we walk the rest of the way. We walk about 10 to 15 miles a day.
When we go to church we take a taxi which takes us really close, than we walk about 5 to 10 min to the church. The walk from church is a 25-30 minute walk. The 3 investigators are progressing which is really good! The piano here is electronic and it has all the recordings in the piano so sometimes we just go up there and hit the buttons and it looks like we are playing the piano when really its just a recording. It’s pretty funny! There is a baptismal font here in the building. When you get transferred to the coast area in Madagascar, then you have to call for a mobile font or do it in the ocean. For the sacrament they use bread which is really good but the bread that they use here its super long and flaky so you get crumbs and disintegrates into dust. We don’t speak often in church although we shake everyone's hand when they come in the building though. Its a normal 3 hours as in the states. There are about 130 members attending in our ward. Our bishop is an older dude but he is kind of lazy. We have been trying to meet with him lately to help the missionary work along. There are young men and young women in our ward but not a lot. People typically come in church dress too, sometimes you’ll see really nice prom dresses too which can be funny since we are use to it on formal occasions.
Elder Bednar came to visit, I didn’t get to shake his hand or take pictures but I saw him nearby. Elder Bednar was answering questions but everyone that was raising their hand just stood up and kept bearing their testimony so he finally requested to just asking for questions. Ha it was pretty funny how the people just couldn’t understand.
We bought new suits and with our suits we went and bought our liner fabric, they have really cool designs. I matched my companions suit lining with the turtles. My suit was like $33.00 which was a great deal. I bought 2 pairs of pants, jacket, and vest. My shoes are doing good and holding up too so far.
The soccer playing is cool here when we play on P-days. The fields are really bad because the dirt is so hard to turn and there are lots of pot holes to watch out for.
We don’t eat bugs like cooked crickets but there are huge spiders as big as my hand. One day there was a big spider on the window so I sprayed it and it fell down. An elder picked it up and started putting it in their mouth. People here will pick spiders up and let them crawl on their faces, it’s crazy. There will be big spider webs, huge and you’ll see big black dots, like the move Jumanji, they are so big its so gross! It's freakin’ gross! I had to stand under one and it gave me the creeps....freakin' gross. We see little baby lizards in our house too, they are super tiny about the tip of your finger. One of them fell on my face and it was horrible!!! It was on the roof and I was trying to catch it with a bucket and it jumped on my face and freaked me out.
I learned what a double dragon is here and all elders experience it. They call it a double dragon when you go to the bathroom and throw up at the same time! It is so gross, yet it’s a really cool feeling, its great, you guys should try it! This happened when I was in this country for 5 weeks or so. Double dragon lasted a few days too. We have one bathroom too. one time I threw up so much it was coming out my nose too, it was so much. Food gives you wicked problems here! Once one elder was in the shower separated by the shower curtain and the other elder on the toilet, both doing the double dragon! ha!
The dogs here are so annoying, they bark all night long. I’m getting used to it now but they just bark all night long. People will speak French here sometimes but I’m not learning it as I am trying to focus on Malagasy. There are mopeds everywhere in the streets...everyone has one. Grandmas here are called bebe. We can’t ride mopeds but we can be in taxi’s. There are lots of poor people here. The word ‘tie’ like for a neck tie is a very bad word here so we can never say it. We don’t really trade stuff with our companions here. Me and my companion cut each others own hair too. As we walk down the road it is not uncommon for people to say, not missionary, but ‘foreigner’ and it gets annoying! They do beg for money as we walk especially the children. They tell us not to give anything or they swarm you like crazy.
I was assaulted the other day but didn’t want to tell you so you would not worry. I only told Westin. We were going to this house and got to this opening between the buildings. This guy charged me with his head by diving into my chest and then I started to turn and he punched me in the head. Elder Shroadter got next to me quick and then people gathered around and protected me. The people protect each other so when one person is punching, everyone goes after that person to get him to stop. The people then hit the drunk guy around and we left. We leave around 8 am and get home in the night around 9 pm. On our way home we have to pass by a bunch of drunk people at night. Alcohol, beer, and cigarettes are very cheep here. 1/2 of penny for a cigarette.
I did not receive any Christmas packages although I know you have sent 3 of them. No worry, I will get them. They say they can take 2-3 months or longer! We went today to mission home to check to see if they had arrived and still not here.
Every Wednesday night we teach English lesson. But that will change to Saturday mornings next week. I like teaching English as it is fun as I get separated with the class and teach the really good English people. They say swear words sometimes and I have to say “No, don’t say that.” “Is it ok to say....I am going to kick your a....” or if someone cuts me off driving can I say, “Go to H... The class is just 2 hours once a week.
The rain is pretty much every day and comes down in buckets. We live in the middle of the valley and from our place we live on the 2nd floor and we can look out the window and the flash of lightening lights up our room. (during the Skype there was a bad storm and we could witness the bad storm...often he would bend down as if lightening was coming through the roof. We could hear the powerful sound of the thunder and completely understood Jaxson reaction which occurred 20 plus times during the Skype) We could not believe he walked in the lightening. When he walks in the rain within seconds, it is in sane, and we are soaked! We were in a gas station and the whole station literally shook during a lightening storm.
My companion is really cool and we get along great! (Elder Shroadter). Tomorrow for Christmas we will be heading to mission office to eat pancakes and play games. Then, we will head back and buy a Christmas goose, kill it and eat it for our Christmas feast. Glad we have a Malagasy elder to prepare this beast. It will be the six of us elders having our Christmas feast. Say something in Malagasy...and he did! He stopped and said there are people here that understand me and wondering why he was talking like that to the people in the computer! He taught us a few words in Malagasy and hand signs. You have to be careful when you beckon someone to come. Like waving someone to come on...this way means something very bad there. The correct way to beckon is to wave with fingers going down, NEVER up. On transfers president Foote calls by phone. I am still in training so I shouldn’t be transferred yet. People call the language...Gassy. Makes us laugh!
My shoes are holding up alright in the rain. We walked along the poop river where people throw anything in. It stinks here! The toilets are a brick on each side with a pole that you hold onto then bend down and touch your bum to your ankles. I have never had to use one yet. People just pee along the side of the road. There is trash all along the road. It smells rank. When we ride taxis we are crammed with people and they smell. We use water bottles that have filters. I drink a lot of soda that I really like and I drink water too. On our sink there is a side faucet that we fill with water since it is a filter. Our laundry machine is sucky and doesn’t really work. The dryer is worse and take about 5 hours to dry. It comes out of the washer dripping wet then goes into the dryer.
I am on the top bunk and sleep with a mosquito net since we open up all the windows to bring in cool air at night. I woke up one night and there were 3 mosquitoes in my net. I killed all three and they were dripping with my blood!
I love this place and the people here. When I learn the language I am sure I will love that too. Santa Claus is called PapabeNoela here, which means Grandpa Noel.
***Elder Bowen concluded bearing his testimony in Malagasy which touched our hearts knowing he has truly worked hard to learn this language. Such a comfort to recognize and witness that he is solid in his choice to serve a mission and 100% dedicated and focused. As he said his goodbyes, he asked each of his brothers to say, I love you to him!
This Skype was this Best Christmas gift ever in allowing us to feel the blessings in our family of having a missionary serving Heavenly Father. One Christmas down, one to go!