Tuesday, May 14, 2013

2013-05-14 Skype with Elder Howlett for Mother's Day

Elder Howlett’s Mother’s Day Skype
Elder Howlett called from his bishop’s house.  He said that there are 26 elders in his zone and explained that a district is smaller than a zone.  His (new) area is called “Villa Graciela II” and is in the more mountainous part of the old mission.

His companion, Elder Ruiz, is from Iquitos, Peru which is in the jungle.  He jumped right into the conversation.  He’s really friendly and outgoing.  Elder Howlett says he acts kind of like a kid sometimes and can’t resist wet cement.  Elder Ruiz said that we all look the same—except Dad looks like the mission president (who’s also white and bald) and Sam looks like Macauley Culkin in Home Alone.  Most importantly, Elder Ruiz has very discerning tastes.  He told me that I’m beautiful and have a beautiful voice and that he likes my smile.  He also mentioned that I am very white—he should see me in the winter.  “Plus also,” People have monkeys as pets in Iquitos and there are also turtles and anacondas.  When Elder Ruiz listed a tiger among the animals in his city, we asked, amazed, “Can you touch them?” Elder Ruiz responded, “Ai NO!”  It turns out that the tiger is in a zoo.  Elder Ruiz told us that they also eat monkeys, and jokingly said he’d send us one to eat.  We were all grossed out, so he said we could just keep it as a pet.  He also said he’ll send us a parrot that talks, since we’d like one of those, too.

When I asked what the mission home was like, Elder Howlett said that they’ve never been there.  He also mentioned that their apartment is very near the big Christus statue.  He can actually fit under the shower head, but he’s always afraid that he’ll get shocked by it, so he keeps his head tucked down and his neck always hurts after his shower.  He was really surprised that no one has carpet.  When I asked him about electric outlets, he replied, “Outlets are not the same here.   Dad, what do we have in the US?”   John answered, “110,” and Steven responded, “Oh yeah, it’s 220 here.  Anyway I need new speakers, ‘cuz I plugged mine in and they worked for 2 seconds until they fried.” 

I asked if they were still getting bread and hot chocolate delivered in the morning and Elder Howlett said they are still receiving it and that the bread is very good.  When I asked if they pay for it or if the people just do it to be nice, Steven answered, “I’m not sure—I never really know what’s going on here.”  I guess he figures he’ll worry about it if it stops coming.  He says that he thinks they live on the property of some people in the ward (just in a separate building) and he thinks they bring it.

He irons his clothes—he doesn’t like that, but he kind of likes getting the wrinkles out—a little OCD maybe?  Talking about doing laundry, Elder Howlett mentioned that they had “a little metal thing with ribs on it” (a washboard) For all you who’ve never seen one--look up a picture.  You scrub your clothes against and it works the soap in and the dirt out.) He said his companion is going to teach him how to use it.  (I’m not sure what there is to teach.)  He says he’s going to try it once and then pay to have it done if he doesn’t like doing it himself.  How do we think that’s going to end up?

Elder Howlett said that their area pretty small geographically.  They walk everywhere except to meetings etc.  There are trufis, which are very crowded, but cheap, buses or vans that hardly cost anything, but he doesn’t like them either—he says they’re too confusing.  There are little Bodegas all over.  Every 3 houses or so, in the residential area, there will be a garage door open with certain stuff for sale inside and that the people live in the back.  He said that they specialize—one will sell paper and writing implements, another will sell food, etc.

Elder Howlett mentioned in his last letter that they were supposed to be looking for a new apartment.  They’re looking for an apartment with a kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom for 800 bolivianos max.  They’ve only looked at one and it was 1000.  I asked how hard they were supposed to be looking and he replied “I don’t know.  I don’t know what’s going on—ever—like ever at all.  I love it when we get to get together with the other Americans like for random stuff.  Like at the baptism there was another American, and once a week we have meetings with the zone and there are 3 other Americans from the MTC that I know and so I like that, cuz no one knows what’s going on, but we get to talk to each other and understand each other.  Yeah, not a clue—ever—what’s going on…”

He basically thinks that everybody takes everything NOT seriously enough.  It drives him crazy that no one does anything on time and that they don’t keep their commitments.  Their baptismal service started an hour and a half late.  They haven’t been to a single appointment on time—the people aren’t usually there anyway—and if they are, they act surprised to see the missionaries and haven’t done or read what they said they would.  They were 1 ½ hour late to dinner the other day and the pensionista told them that if they were late next time they’d miss out, but they were 40 minutes late the next night and still got dinner.  Elder Howlett said that his pensionista has already told the story, TWICE, about the rich snobby Americans who look at her food and say “I only want a little of your food.”  He said, “All these tiny Bolivians eat SO much food!  It’s too much.  I don’t like it.”  Who EVER thought we’d hear him say such a thing?! He also told us he’d had some chicken throat soup (yummm…)—but that his didn’t have any chicken throat in it.  Apparently, one of her kids doesn’t like chicken throats in his either.  (Thank you, Fabio!)  They ate food from “Chicken Kingdom” (like KFC) at the bishop’s house the other night and he really liked that. 

They don’t give Books of Mormon to people unless they are solid investigators and there are lots of members who don’t go to church, so they teach a lot of them as well as investigators. 

They helped someone move and he had a parrot on his shoulder/back the whole time he was moving boxes and stuff.  Elder Howlett thought that was pretty cool. 

There are little restaurants all over and you can buy a whole meal for 7 bolivianos (1 dollar).  Most nights, Steven has a coke because he thinks it helps him stay healthy.  “Coke cleans you out, so whenever I have something that I think might make me sick, I buy a coke,” he said.  Compared to the meals, a coke is pretty expensive--5 bolivianos (71 cents).

He says that everything stinks and that there are animals all over—flocks of sheep being herded, ‘attack geese’, dogs roaming in packs…

I asked him how they email and he said there are little internet cafes everywhere.  There are always lots of kids playing games because it’s so cheap—only 2 bolivianos/hour (.25).  He said the computers are nice, but the internet is slow.

Elder Howlett’s mom 
P.S.  I would LOVE it if people want to tell us what brought you to Elder Howlett’s blog.  Just put it in a comment.  I would also love to answer any questions you may have (also, just write it in a comment, I keep an eye on them.)

P.P.S.  I'm going to keep a running list of countries from which people have viewed Elder Howlett's blog (in alphabetical order).
Algeria, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Belarus, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Honduras, Hungary, Indonesia, India, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Peru, Philappines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, Thailand, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela, Vietnam

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 cafĂ© 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.