Monday, May 13, 2013

2013-05-13 Elder Howlett's first week in his mission

(Elder Howlett got to Skype us yesterday for Mother's Day.)
Hey Everyone,
It was great talking to you yesterday!  Hopefully I can find a way to do skype for Christmas too.

First week in Bolivia was exciting.  We had 2 baptisms on Saturday, but I’d only met the 2 people once before and I’d never taught them.  We generally teach about 4ish sit-down, real lessons each day.  We plan an appointment for every hour in the morning but most fall through so we just visit investigators until we find someone who’s available.  Nothing ever happens on time here and setting up an appointment means nothing to almost everyone.  I don’t really like that.  Anytime we have a real lesson, the people always bring us something to drink.  All of the drinks have been good so far and some of the juices are great.  They sometimes bring out a little snack too.  I’ve had cookies, arroz con leche (rice with sweet milk and spices), and bread.  Yesterday for lunch we had some potatoes and I ate them whole before I realized all 3 Latinos peeled theirs before eating them.  I hope that doesn’t make me sick.

It’s cold in the morning, so getting up is awful.  It feels like getting up when you’re camping.

You asked if my companion is rich on skype.  I can’t imagine he is.  He seemed very worried about our 15 boliviano (2 dollar) taxi fare. Everything here is super cheap.  Sorry my letter isn’t very long, the internet at this cafe is super slow and it took me a long time to get it pulled up.  I think my mom is going to type up a letter I sent about this week and some of what I said via skype?
Elder Howlett

Wednesday (2013-05-08):  Tuesday was my first regular day.  We got up at 6:30 and had until 8 to get ready for the day.  The shower has the electric heater head and here it is just higher than I am tall.  At the Hotel, the shower head was 3 inches shorter than me.  It has one knob and you choose temperature based on how much water is coming out.  The less water, the warmer it gets.  At 8 is personal study.  At 9, companion study.  At 10, training with my companion (only 1st 12 weeks).  At 11, language study.  After that we head out.  I definitely am going to miss air conditioning and heat.  It gets surprisingly cold here in the morning but houses are too hot in the afternoon.  We, like everyone else, walk in the street and not on the sidewalk.  I’m not really sure why.  There are dogs all over but for the most part they are friendly.  There was a nice kitten that hung out in the internet café while I wrote you.  I get 600 bolivianos/month (I believe about $85).  I believe we get additional money to pay rent and the pensionistas.  Our new area is close to where we are staying, just up on the mountain.  We visited one person there on Tuesday and today (Wed) we officially open the area. 

Thursday (2013-05-09):  Wednesday, after studying, we went into town to a grocery store.  We walked through a road blockade to get there.  I guess the people are upset about something because they blocked off every road into downtown Cochabamba.  The people here are very friendly.  We say “hi” to everyone as we pass them on the street and they’ll always say something back.  Yesterday a couple of guys (17 or 18ish) walked by as I said “hi” and one, messing with me , looked behind him to see who I was talking to.  Then he walked over and shook my hand before continuing.  Half a block up the road though, they stopped and asked if I am American.  I said “yes” and they asked where I was studying.  My companion explained that we are missionaries.  When he explained that, they walked back and one told us he believed in God but wasn’t sure about church.  We taught about the restoration and challenged him to pray about it.  He told us where he lives so we can go teach him again.  I can’t picture that happening in the US, especially with people who are so young. 

Some cultural things:  When you meet other men here, you shake hands, then a little hug thing (right hands on shoulders, left hand on their side), and then shake hands again.  I’m getting better at it.  Here, toilet paper goes in a bin beside the toilet.  Definitely not my favorite thing about Bolivia.  Everywhere we visit, people bring us drinks.  My companion said that they will be offended if you don’t finish it.  Luckily, every drink I’ve had so far has been alright.  The amount of food the pensionistas serve us is ridiculously big.  Yesterday, one of our pensionistas told me a story thats moral was, “I can tell which missionaries are rich snobby Americans because they only want a little of my food.”  I’ve put down a lot of weird food trying not to offend anyone.  The best foods so far have been sil pancho (rice, beef, fried egg, pico) and fried mashed potato balls filled with cheese.

Friday (2013-05-10):  Yesterday, my companion was doing a baptismal interview (we should have 1 or 2 baptisms tomorrow) at an investigator’s house.  While he did that, I sat with her brother-in-law and niece and talked for 45 minutes.  That is a long time to carry on a conversation with someone in a language you don’t really know.  I think it went pretty well though and I was surprised by how much I understood of what he said.  I also practiced English with the niece because she has an English class at school.  Plus also, we played with their 2 week old puppy.  Definitely my favorite dog here.  It is crazy how many dogs there are. 
During our phone call/skype, I asked Elder Howlett to send photos of the inside of their bathroom and of himself near the tiny bathroom door.  Here are the photos, and I'll post some things I remember from our conversation in the next post. 


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