Monday, April 1, 2013

Happy Easter!

Hello from the Philippines! I don't know where to even begin! Thank you for the emails! I had two DearElders waiting for me at the mission home when I got here. One from Kassie and one from Jeff. I'm sure I was supposed to get them earlier at the MTC, but I'm glad they were waiting for me here. It was nice to have some encouragement right when I got here. 

 It was said saying goodbye to my district and Sister McNaught especially, I will really miss having her as my companion! It was so crazy actually getting on the bus and leaving the MTC at 4 in the morning. It was so fun to see Provo again. Even though I didn't sleep at all the night before the big trip I was so excited as we were heading to the airport. It was the longest trip of my life. But luckily I was able to sleep on the plane ride from Hawaii to Guam. We also were the lucky group that got to fly to Cauayan instead of the 10 hour bus ride. The first thing I noticed about the Philippines is obviously the heat.Kelsey, this is nothing like California heat haha. I feel like I am in a Sauna all day here :) my favorite time is the evenings though when it starts to cool down around 6.   

So I am in the Solano Zone in Bayombong District B. My trainer/nanay, Sister Manguil, and I are opening this area (as in we're both new here). So this is a challenge for both of us. She has been in the mission for 6 months. I love her already, she only speaks to me in Tagalog, and she is definitely patient with me. We live with two other sisters as well, Sister Fugaban (from Cauayan), and Sister Len Wai (from Hawaii). It's nice to have Sister Len Wai around to talk to in English when my brain is just tired of Tagalog. I feel like the Elder on the best two years here "should I write that down?" haha. I write so many new words down all the time. Hopefully some of it is sticking. I feel pretty useless with my Tagalog, but I try not to stress over it too much. I really am trying my best. We've been with the other sisters a lot this past week, because it is their area that has been split into two. I will be working in the east part of Bayombong. I seriously am so lucky to be here in this area. some reasons why:
- It is the "coldest" zone in our mission. 
- we have a really nice place to live: we have a toilet that flushes, and even a shower. but... its a huge rush of cold water, so I've been using the bucket method for showering instead. I kinda like it!
- we are close-ish to the Banaue rice terraces!!!!! so we are going there on April 15th!
- the members here are so willing to help with missionary work
-  there is a "Save More" which is similar to the grocery stores back home... just different food.
- i hear there is a mc donalds, but i haven't seen it yet

So about the food. I sucessfully avoided having rice at the MTC, because I knew what was up ahead. There is rice at every meal. There are not breakfast types of food, so for breakfast-rice, oh and for dessert? rice cakes haha. I am pretty willing to try everything here, but it is very different. I do love the mangoes here though.

I haven't seen another white person in this area. So that being said, I am watched and stared at like never before. They like my green eyes and "blonde" hair haha. It gets really embarrassing. I am called Barbie or Princess, or just Maganda here. If any of you americans would like lots of attention and compliments just come here and walk down any street haha. I see people pull out their phones and take pictures of me, or they yell to me and try to speak english to me. On Sunday three grown women were suddenly around me and we were taking a picture, I think people are going to be pretty willing to talk to the missionaries haha. Oh and guess what, even though I am taller than a lot of them, i still get told all the time that I look like i'm 14. story of my life.

Grandma, thanks for showing me all of the pictures of your mission and telling me stories before I came here. I think they helped me a bit with the culture shock. But still I can't believe the things I am seeing- little kids begging outside of the stores, skinny skinny people, and the homes of people here are so very different. I think I've taken SO much for granted in my life-  a bed to sleep on for example. And Grandma, I finally understand what you mean about the singing here being interesting. haha it's great. Also, I wish I would've learned the hymns on piano, that would come in handy here. 

So since it was my first Sunday here my Nanay and I gave talks in Sacrament meeting. People do know a lot of English here, so I was able to do about 50/50. I know I need to speak more Tagalog though. I spend a lot of time here just listening and trying to understand. My trainer will tell me a joke, but when she is finished I'm still behind trying to figure out the first sentence haha. It gets frustrating cause most of the time I really don't know where we are going or what we are doing, or what people are asking me. I am understanding more each day, but little by little. I have to be patient with myself and not expect myself to have this all figured out already. I am loving working with investigators and less actives. This is the real thing now, and it's so exciting. I am motivated to learn more Tagalog so that I really can communicate with them. Luckily people learn by the spirit though, and not by a language. So all I can do right now is try to teach by the spirit. 

I thought I prayed a lot in the MTC, but I'm praying even more now. Whenever I get sad or frustrated I find myself praying because I know that I need to stop thinking about myself. Every time I do, I am given SO much reassurance and comfort. I can feel how much my Heavenly Father loves me and believes in me, and that gives me the faith to keep trying. I wish you could all see the things I am seeing. This place is amazing. Mom, thanks for forwarding me that letter from Tyler, and he is definitely right. I feel very close to my Heavenly Father right now as I am relying on him so much. We had a Family Home Evening with a family here, one of my first nights, and as a closing song we sang Families Can Be Together Forever. A wave of emotion hit me as I remembered you all and thought about you as we sang. I was sad at first, but then I was comforted as I was filled with so much gratitude for the family and life that I have been given. I am so thankful that we have the gospel in our lives. I am praying for you always, and I know that I don't need to worry. I know that this mission isn't for me. I want so badly for the people we are teaching to have what I have and to know what I know. Sometimes I wish I could just give them all that I know, but then I thought about it and realized it wouldn't be worth it to them. The things I know and believe are so valuable to me because of the work I had to do to learn. I also know that the things I am learning now are going to be so valuable and precious to me, I am going to learn things that will help me for the rest of my life. 

Everything is so different and so new, but I am happy and doing well. I need to finish up, but thank you all for the love and encouragement. I have the best family and friends behind me in this. I love and miss you all!

- Sister Stabenow

we went and got dinner one night. I just thought this was a funny picture. My nanay has her arm around me like normal, and then I have a filipino staring at me. haha she is one of the branch missionaries- she's hilarious.
At the Church
We did laundry this morning. Turns out there is way more to it than I thought. It's an art haha. It took at least two hours to do everything.

I Love my Life!

At a rice field



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