Thursday, April 16, 2015

Fixed my shoes, but the belt is still loose

Week 95
April 13, 2015

My family,

Well, it's official.  Four weeks and I'm home.  Less than one month!
I thought the day wouldn't come.  I love my mission, no doubt, but I miss y'all even more.  I just feel like being home will fix a lot of things for me.  I know that sounds bad, but I am so happy to be home.

I am homesick!  But I am working hard my last few weeks.  We just had a baptism, and we have a few more coming up in a few weeks.  That makes like 20 baptisms since I've been in this area.

I can't wait to work out when I get home.  I feel like that'll relieve a lot of stress.

Well, this past week we didn't do a whole heck of a lot.  We kept getting bounced.  What was worse was we were delayed a few days because of rain.  For example, on Thursday we didn't go out until around 2p because of the rain.  It rained all morning.  It rained...HARD!

Pier, congrats on the AFROTC!  That's wonderful!  Seriously.  But I know you're planning on doing Army anyways.  Fine choice, either way.

Bogue, great job advancing in the hurdles.  I am proud of both of you!

Still hiking the hills over here, but they are getting to be manageable.  BUT WOW they certainly don't get any shorter, and the sun doesn't get any colder.

By the way, in Provo I'm living right down the street from Elder Barney.  And Elder Lyons (did I ever tell you about him?) is letting us stay with him and his wife the night of June 20 and the 21 (if we need two nights) as we move in.  I can change the dates if I need to.

Are hashtags still a popular thing?







So I get in at 6, interview at 7, hopefully with subway in between or right after, because then we drive for an hour and a half to get home, right?  By the way, I think I'm off of the insurance for the cars, so I can't drive until I get put back on (or until I get my own insurance.  I have no idea what y'all are planning for me).

On Thursday I have my interview with President Hicken.  Hopefully he doesn't find out about my gorging of Nutella...  Although it's not specifically stated, I'm not exactly sure that's in line with the word of wisdom... :)

I have 28 days to get home.  Minus one day for the day I'll be in Nairobi.  Minus two for the interview.  Minus three for p-days.  Minus one for transfers.  21 days.

I love y'all so much. :)  I'm finishing Jesus the Christ this week.


March 16, 2015

My family,

We received unexpected transfer news last night.  Are you ready?




I'm staying here!  And so is my companion.  That makes this my fifth transfer in this area and the fourth with Elder Mukonda.  Not a bad way to finish my mission.  It's a great area with a lot of work to do, and although it is physically incredibly tough to serve here, the rainy season is coming so it should get colder.  Also, I have worms. I have them bad.  I ate a foot long sub yesterday for lunch and a huge plate of ugali and meat for dinner, and both of those barely made an impact on me.  I always feel so hungry!  So that, along with the hiking, should keep me thin and exhausted my last eight weeks.  :)

In other news, I think I'm going to by a MacBook Pro.  It's freaking expensive, but it will last me for a LONG time.  If I wasn't doing the Air Force, I think it'd be a terrible idea.  But they do give me money each semester for books, so if I can keep my book costs down then I can have them pay for my expensive computer.  Sounds like a good idea, right?  So I'll order that computer (or possibly just go and buy it) when I get home.

Basically in three months from now Pier and I will be cruising along I-40 headed out west.  We might have to drive straight through because of my CCCC exams.  We need to be in Utah the night of June 20.  If it's later, we might as well just cancel our classes that term.

My companion memorized “The Race.”  He finished it our first transfer together, but he didn't recite it until February.  When any missionary recites the poem, President Hicken will take them out to dinner.  He also let me come along because I had already memorized it.  We went to Spurs, which is a NICE restaurant in Nairobi, based out of South Africa.  It's essentially the same as one of those nicer franchises at home, like Applebees or something.  They sell steaks for $15.  For here, that is unheard of.  At home, it seems normal.  It was such a nice meal and it tasted like home and they played country music and Black Eyed Peas for background music.  Yes, I am excited to go home. :)

We had to go to Nairobi for MLC.  When we got there, we went to Nakumatt to get food for the next few days since it isn't provided by the mission when we travel.  Usually I just grab some bread, Pepsi, salt and vinegar chips, and yogurt, but then I heard a lovely voice saying “Hey, excuse me!”  Oh the Nutella girl was so nice and nervous. She went through this whole practiced speech about how Nutella was healthy and good for me and it has a lot of fiber and it prevents cancer.  She was nervous.  She couldn't maintain eye contact for half a second.  But she was cute!  So I spent $6 on a medium-sized Nutella and a loaf of bread.  I'm a softie.

Before we went to Nairobi (Thurs) we were on exchanges with the elders in Mitini (Tues-Wed).  Let me just mention a small event that happened that illustrates life in the bush.

I was on exchanges with Elder Musasia.  He's from Limuru, Kenya.  He was called to serve in Cape Town, SA, but he has visa problems, so he is waiting it out in the hills.  Our first appointment on Wednesday was with Brother John, an active member who was baptized recently (within the past three years).  We took a member with us, Brother Makau, the father to one of the elders in this mission.  When we got to Bro. John's house near the bottom of his hill in Kyang'a (Cha-nga)
he seemed pretty flustered.  The first thing he told us is that the night before (Tuesday night) some thieves broke into his home and stole ten chickens.  He had around twenty chickens, so ten was a huge hit to him and his family.

There are, generally speaking, two types of chickens raised in Kenya. One type is called Kenyieji (Ken-yeh-gee), and that is the type commonly found in the US and in factories, where they grow to maturity in three weeks and you feed them the equivalent of body-builder sterioids and they are fat and soft and you eat them fast and if you sell them you make money quickly.  The other, more common type, is the village chicken.  These chickens live for years (three or more) and eat ugali and grass and ants.  They grow slowly and their meat is tough, but they taste a lot more sweet than Kenyieji chickens.  KFC chickens are Kenyieji.  Often times, Kenyieji chickens are super dry (ever eaten a dry chicken wing at KFC?  Yeah, I thought so).  Village chickens are always sweet, and though they require more chewing, and they have way less meat (because they have to scavenge for food), they are my preference.  But they require patience and work.  You have to raise one chicken for three to five years before it is ready to be eaten, so chickens are a rare delicacy.  You can see why losing ten chickens is a brutal loss to Bro. John.

Here's how they did it.  Houses here are made of homemade bricks.  I think you've seen pictures of me making some.  If not, I have pictures of me making some.  You just take some good mud, mold it with a cast, let it dry, and then burn it.  It's essentially the same process as making bricks in the US, but a lot more crude and a lot more involved. After burning, you build your house.  Most people, however, do not have enough money to buy cement to seal their bricks together (which is why they're making their own bricks in the first place), so they just use more mud.  But this mud isn't burned, so it's rather weak. The bricks are strong, so the house stands strong, but with a little bit of concentrated force you could certainly knock some bricks out because the “mortar” holding them together is just dirt.  So the thieves opened up the top of Bro. John's house, right below his corrugated iron roof, by removing some bricks.  They removed just enough that one of them could slide in.  Then they broke a window open from the inside and threw ten chickens out to their buddies.  They got out via the window, and then they left.  All in all, it probably took less than twenty minutes.  This was in the dead of night, so of course Bro. John didn't hear a word.  For some reason, neither did his dog, whose only job is to watch out for thieves.

John was upset, and we could barely teach him anything.  It would probably be the equivalent of one of you waking up to the van being stolen right out of the garage.  Your whole day would just be filled
with thoughts about the theft.  Instead of calling the police, however, locals tend to take things into their own hands.  Calling the police brings a myriad of problems, and usually creates more issues
than it solves.  Police want bribes, and more often than not, they will steal from you anyways.  Police are my worst enemy.  I'd rather run into Al Shabab than have to mess with these guys for too long.
I'm pretty good at handling them, though.  I understand how they think and how to get out of most things.  But if they really caught me for doing something wrong, I'd be in big trouble...

Instead of calling the police, like you would, Kambas (the tribe here) burn people.  I'm not kidding.  Even Bro. John, an active member of the church, was saying “I have no idea who this person is, but if I did, I'd contribute [money] to buy petrol.”  Meaning, when anyone catches a thief in Kamba-land, the thief gets covered in gasoline and then burned alive.  I'm not joking one bit.  That's how they deal with them here.  No amount of “Sermon on the Mount” lessons has yet proved effective to get this out of their minds, and threats of burning have yet to quell the thieves.  It's a pretty barbaric way of handling justice, but it certainly gets handled.

General Conference is in what, two weeks?  Threeish?  Whenever it is, we won't watch it until three or four weeks after the fact.  I'll watch two General Conferences in this area, which is always a feat for any missionary.  Spending five transfers in one area is unlikely, and in the hills people know that you are a warrior if you've done that. Spending four transfers with one companion has only happened one other time, to my knowledge.  But I'm totally cool and even looking forward
to it.  :)

By the way, I fly home through Amsterdam, not London.  So I spent 3,100/= on 20£, but now I won't even use them.  So I'm trading them back for 3,000/= and then I'll trade those for a certain unknown
number of Euros the next time I go to Machakos at the beginning of April.

I am sending three pictures today!  What a feat!  Y'all will be overwhelmed with pictures when I get home.  At least, I hope you will. I'm not so good at keeping my journal up-to-date, so hopefully the
pictures will make up for lost entries.

General Conference is so great.  Can you imagine what it would be like without modern-day prophets?  We'd be so lost.  We'd basically be like all of the other denominations that you see.  It's just...  Sad.  They try hard to find what is truth and freedom and light, and they all have at least some of it, but they just can't seem to get the whole thing, which is why they keep hiring new pastors and claiming new doctrines, but they never get to where they want to be.  But us, we have what we need, truly.  It's awesome.  My favorite talk last conference was the talk I labeled as “the practical religion talk” by Elder Hales (I think).  He spoke on the four things that will lead you to heaven.  Personal and family daily prayer, personal and family daily scripture study, weekly family home evening, and frequent temple attendance.  How easy is that?  So often we measure ourselves against the standard of perfection.  There are a few problems with doing this.The first is that if we measure ourselves against that standard, then we are always doing terrible.  The second problem with doing that is
that Heavenly Father doesn't even measure us with that standard.  So if you are doing that, STOP IT.  We, along with Heavenly Father, should measure ourselves against the standard of worthiness.  To be worthy means that you have repented of or are currently repenting of all your sins, or, in other words, you're trying to do better.  That is easy.  I'm always trying, and always falling short, but I'm trying. And that's what matters.  As soon as you give up, you've lost.  People give up because they can't reach perfection.  Well, we don't have to! Jesus Christ will bring us to perfection later, but right now all he asks us to do is try, even just a little bit, to follow His commandments.  He has even given us tools to help it become easier to try to follow Him: prayer, scriptures, families, and temples.  It's
easy to be worthy, to follow Jesus Christ, when you can finally decide “Fine.  I'll give up my own agency and I'll do what thou asks.” Which, technically, all of us have already promised when we were baptized.  It's so stupid to get upset with ourselves when we mess up because we aren't trying to be perfect here.  If you're trying to be perfect, you're wrong.  We are trying to be worthy, and being worthy takes about five seconds.  REPENT.  And you're there.  Become really, really good at repenting quickly and thoroughly.  And follow the advice from your primary teacher: try to walk as Jesus walked.  Be nice and forgiving and loving, to others and to yourself.  Parts of this life are to be endured, but why should the remainder of this life not be enjoyed?  The gospel is awesome, especially because Jesus Christ took it upon Himself to pay for our imperfections.  So is there
a problem with being imperfect?  Nope, just as long as you're repenting.  Which is easy.  The gospel is easy.  The gospel is fun.

Does the scripture make sense to you like it does to me?  “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me... for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  Why do we make it so hard?  If you are in the church and you are not happy, you're doing it wrong.  Live a little!  It's okay to make mistakes.  We are NOT PERFECT, so stop pretending and trying to be perfect.  Be yourself, because it was the imperfect you that Jesus bought the ticket for to get into heaven.

Not all addictions are bad...  Like Nutella.


February 23, 2015

My family,

I thought I'd use my time today to tell you about all of the people
that we live with.

First off, we live in a compound.  We have our own house (but it is probably as big as our living room plus my old bedroom at home.  It's kind of small for y'alls standards, but it is fine for us.  Our landlord and the owner of our home is the district president, Onesmus
Kaunange (Cow-nun-gay...  haha).  His father, Mzee Kaunange, owns the
hill we are on (or at least half of it).  Mzee Kaunange and bibi yake (his wife - "bibi" is a super respectful term for the woman of the house) live here along with one of their sons, Mafuti (mah-foo-tea), and their other son, Onesmus.  It's pretty common for families to be like that, where the mzee owns land and all of his male children just live on that land and build their own houses for their family.

Mzee Kaunange na bibi yake - The mzee is old.  OLD.  And his wife is pretty old, too.  But because they live so close to the church (5 minute walk downhill) they are super active.  They speak ZERO English,
but we can at least greet them in Swahili.  Like most old people, they pretty much only know Kikamba, but they work harder than the youth of America.  Mkamba (the tribe here) work harder than anyone else I've

Onesmus' family - Onesmus is pretty young.  He might be 30 or 35.  He served his mission in Joburg, SA.  Before his mission he dated a
Catholic girl (we call them Wakatholiki) named Angel.  During his mission, or soon after he returned, he baptized her.  They got
married, and now they have two children: Ndeti Hiram (named after Hiram Smith, just like Bogue) and Gloria.  The branches in this zone (5) recently combined into a district, and he was called as the district president (he used to be the Kyambeke branch president).
Their family is super active and strong.  Gloria loves peanut butter and asks me every evening for some because she knows I'm a softie.
She is 6 years old.  She speaks almost no English, but she speaks really nice Swahili.  Hiram was just baptized on Sunday.  He is 8
years old.  He has that boyish pride where he wants to be big and
strong and able to do everything older people can do, but he just can't.  It's hilarious.  This family lives right next to us.  In fact, their house is attached to ours.

Mafuti's family - Mzee Mafuti works with a bus.  He is the driver.  He drives between Kyambeke and Nairobi.  He leaves at 8a and when he is
able to return then he returns at 8p, but sometimes he can't find a bus back (his bus doesn't leave from Kyambeke, so he has to take a bus to get to work) then he sleeps in another town.  He and his wife are so couple-y.  It's nice!  The culture here is that the mzee owns the
wife so she does all the work while he relaxes, but for some reason, even though Mafuti and his wife both speak terrible English, they act
very Western.  They go on walks sometimes in the evening when he gets home.  They're so great!  Their daughter, Samantha, is 6.  She is
Gloria's best friend, but Samantha can't speak any Swahili, except maybe just little greetings and verbs.  Mafuti, the son of Mzee Mafuti, is 11 or 12 or 14...  I'm not really sure which age.  Anyways, he goes to class 6 or 7...  That's the same as our "grades."  He goes
to school at 6a and then comes home at 5p.  But then he has a form of tuturing at 6p.  Don't ever complain about school at home!  7-3 is super easy...  They also have a daughter, Joann.  She was named that
because she was born on the day that Onesmus went to Johannesburg for
his mission, so they named her "Johann" like Johann-esburg.  She might have Autism or something, because she has a really hard time being
social.  She's 12 or so.  But, then again, it's hard to have an
unbiased observation when you're white and everyone treats you

In Mzee Mafuti's home there are two other girls that are related, but distantly.  One is Lucy.  The other is Tina (but we always just call her by her Kamba name - Kaluki).  Lucy just got back from her mission
5 months ago in Sierra Leone.  Her first Sunday back was my first Sunday in this area.  Kaluki isn't a member, but she will be baptized on March 22.  She comes to church every Sunday and participates in the
choir.  She is super knowledgeable about the bible, but she accepts a lot because she lives with a bunch of active members.

Everyone in our compound is super active, except, perhaps, Mzee
Mafuti.  He comes to church when he can, but his bus runs every day. Jobs are so difficult to come by here that if he gave it up he would
basically lose any chance of getting money for his family.  So he keeps working.  Whenever he has a Sunday off he always goes to church.
He also testifies when he finds us in lessons.

I've been reading a chapter of the Book of Mormon in Swahili every day, and it's pretty easy for me now.  The only issue with Swahili is
speaking it, and I'll tell you why.  I don't know if your languages
are like this, but let me go on a rant.  I needed to tell someone, and
y'all are just the people to tell.

English sentence: "The book which I read for him was very long, longer than any other book."

Swahili sentences and words....

I read a book: Nilisoma kitabu.  Ni = I.  Li = past tense.  Soma = to
read.  Kitabu = Book.
The book: Kitabu hiki.
The book which I read: Hiki kitabu nilichosoma.
The book which I read for him: Hiki kitabu nilichomsomea.  (You see how the word just keeps getting longer and longer?  In English it is easy to just add another word to a sentence, but in Swahili you just
add "phrases" inside of your words, so when speaking on the spot it becomes super difficult to conjugate it.) The book which I read for him was very long, longer than any other book: Hiki kitabu nilichomsomea kilikuwa kirefu zaidi, kuliko kitabu
chochote kiingine.  (Lit. This book which I read for him it was long super duper, to conquer [more than] book any other).  I HATE conjugating words in this language.

But let me tell you what is great about this language.  There are close to zero exceptions.  And when there are exceptions, they are easy and they are few.  And they aren't common.  And although conjugating is tough, once you get it then you get the entire language
and you can basically say anything you want.  Then if you learn a new verb you automatically know how to say it in any tense for any
situation.  So the grammar is the only tough part, and when reading it isn't hard at all.  It's actually quite easy.  But when speaking it takes a lot of thinking.

That's it for now.  I'll probably write more later, but I'm off to
make lunch and work out! Maybe...