Okay Here we go...
Hey!! I got to Naga safe and sound! Barely. (just kidding mom) The first night, we got to Manilla after our flight, we met some man and he took Sister Cluff and I to a hotel, and gave us some pesos. He told us to catch a shuttle at 4:00 am back to the Airport for our Naga flight. After feeling cooped up the the Hotel for some time, we decided to go outside and try to find some dinner. We went to this tiny place near the hotel, and I tried a mango shake. I never knew how a real mango should actually taste! The following morning we took our tiny plane to Naga. You could feel every jerk the pilot took to steer the thing.
We met our Mission President at the Naga Airport, and he took us to the mission home. We got assigned new companions. It was so sad to say good bye to my previous companion. I often think about her and hope shes been okay these past couple days. My new companion is Sister Amie Alvarado. She is Philippa, and shes a sweetheart. She knows some English, which is good. All my house mates are Native. My president said he usually always puts Americans with Americans, although there isn't that many American Sisters anymore. Sister Cluff got assigned with the only other American sister in our mission. At the dinner table my first night, I almost started laughing, because I never imagined sitting around a picnic table, in a cement house, in the middle of the jungle, eating things I cant pronounce, and not understanding what the people around me are saying.
I'm working in an area called DAET. Its in the Camarines Norte Zone. It took a four hour bus ride from Naga. On the bus trip, we talked to other people about the gospel. It was at that point where I realized I cant sufficiently talk for myself yet. With my companion I gave brief testimony bits. I bought some kind of fruit on the bus, and I swear my companion keeps changing the name of it every time I ask her what it is. When we got to Daet, we took a tricycle to our home. That is the main transportation here. It is a motorcycle, with a side seat. Its a lot of fun to ride in, especially because they is no traffic rules here. We swerve around other trycicles, bikes, motorcyles, people and in the cities jeepnees.
After we got home, I dropped off my luggage, and we went straight to work. We first went to visit Sherly Urcia. When we got there, she had some bad news for us. She said that if she got baptized, her daughter would get kicked out of her catholic school. Its a big decision for her because i'm assuming all the nice schools are the catholic ones. I couldn't understand a lot of what was being said, although my companion translated for me. In broken Tagalog, I bore my testimony to her, to help her understand that this is one of the most important decisions of her life, and that she needs the gospel. I started crying, because even though I only knew her for 30 minutes, I cared so much about her, and to get baptized with the proper authority. After we left her house, my companion and I cried for her. It was there, when I was crying under a rusted street light, in some foreign country, raining down upon me, asking God to help that person, I realized how much this gospel really means to me. I wanted her to have the fullness of the gospel, so she could know how to return to God. Throughout time other religions have become corrupted, and the road map (Christs Gospel) back to God, has become unclear. Its times like those, I am grateful for being on a mission.. for the LDS church, because I am giving people the middle piece of their torn road map.
The other night, I learned the true meaning of hard work. When we got back to our home, sleep almost came to me with every footstep preparing for bed. I took a shower in the dark, with a little lantern. I'm not sure how they got this pipe into the home, or where the water is coming from, but its always cold. I would think it'd feel good, although its not very welcoming. For a shower, I fill up a bucket from the pipe, and then use a scoop to dump water on me. Oh and yes, its true, they do not use toilet paper. I shower in the same place I go to the bathroom. I was feeling pretty sorry for myself, then I thought- Its not about myself. Its about God and other people. I'm choosing to be here because I love my brothers and sisters and i'm willing to give up my will/wants ect. for them to have this gospel. My life isn't really mine anyway, God gave it to me, therefore I need to give some back.
The language has been a huge barrier for me. The people speak Bicol as well, so I never know when they are speaking Tagalog or Bicol. I can't understand a lot, and I really want to help them. I feel so ineffective. The song "I need thee every hour" rings so true to me. its more like "I need thee every second" Some times I have felt alone, because sometimes theres language barriers with my companion and house mates. I feel relived to pray at night because I feel like God is the only one who understands me, and knows how I feel. Although there is one language I can communicate with people in. The Spirit. Thats how I can have a heart to heart with people.
The other day we visited the Olayra Family. They are recent converts, and my heart goes out to them. Their house is falling apart. Their floor is made of strips of wood, and its molding away. The poverty here is still surreal to me. I cant really believe people can survive this way. We taught them about service, which was really hard for me, because I felt like they were the ones that needed to be served.
There is always a lot of people around. In the area I am in, people have their business in their home. The stores are connected to the front part of the house. Doors and windows are always open so you can see every one in the tiny home. You don't knock here, you yell "Tao po" which means PEOPLE!! Children are so independent here. Even little toddlers walk around and do their own thing. I think I am going to kidnap some and take them back to America with me. Juuuust kidding. I wouldn't want to take them from their mothers, where ever they are.
They have HUGE families here. Like 6 kids minimum. Im wondering if its because they don't use birth control. and Im not trying to kidd- Its a serious concern of mine!!
So they pretty much use one tool for every thing here. and that special tool is your hand. Its a good thing I have 2, because its hard to decide which hand I want to use for what. Today I gutted 10 fish with both hands, ate with my left, cleaned the dishes with both, laundry with both, pulled out gunk from our sink with my right, and wiped with my right. The way of life is so interesting here. I love it. The humidity though, that is another story. Right when I came out of the Airport when I first got here, I felt like I stuck my head down by a car exhaust pipe. I am always sticky, and Im always finding bugs stuck to me. There are these tiny tiny ant looking bugs that are everywhere. I sleep with them, they roam around on my body, and when they crawl on my plate I eat them. There is no point in avoiding them.
Anyway, I love it here. Mom and Dad I want to bring you here someday. Its incredible. I'm learning to cook so many wonderful dishes, and I have tried many fruits and vegetables I never knew existed. The people here are amazing. They always stare are me, and the children always yell "whats your name!" thats the only English thing they can say, and sometimes they mix it up and yell "how many your name!"
I'm grateful for the wonderful learning lesson my mission has already taught me, and I'm thrilled to have more. Right now my learning is patience. I am so grateful for God, to help me grow and learn how to endure hardships. The language is like christmas, sometimes I just cant wait, although if i'm a good child, Santa will reward me. Hopefully God doesn't get offended that I just compared him to Santa. haha.
Well much love, take care.
Sister Rachelle Hancock