Monday, November 30, 2009

Mission Week 11/Panama Week 2: Still Getting Settled

Hola Familia!
I am now officially almost two weeks in, and I'm not sure I know where to start.  So let's start with health, then.  I have been eaten up badly by the bugs, but now, I'm mostly clear.  First few days, they destroyed me.

Food:  Breakfast and lunch is in our house, and dinner is cooked by a member for us each night, which is fairly impressive given that there's only like 7 to 9 families in the Branch here.  Nothing special here for Thanksgiving.  I even had to be reminded by an American here that it was Thanksgiving.  They don't celebrate it, obviously.  The only other holidays I know of that they celebrate that we don't, are their 2 Independence Days.  But I don't think we'll be celebrating those, either.  Mostly drinking holidays; kinda like Sundays.  But the food here is actually really good.  I don't mind having all the rice, beans, and chicken.  Only thing I worry about is beef, just because sometimes, there's bad cuts and that means I have to be ingrateful or I have to choke it down, and I've done both here so far.  But the food here really is quite good.  My body might not agree with me, as my stomach's been feeling a tad strange lately, but I'll be alright, I think.  I've already been drinking the tap water here.  They told me it was safe.  Buying water would get really expensive here. In fact, I'm surprised I haven't collapsed from dehydration, yet.  It's HOT here sometimes.  Oh, and I'm not sure I know how to cook rice in a frying pan, dad, so a little guidance would be nice.

Don't worry about the malaria meds, yet.  They should issue those to me when I head to an area that has it.  Right now, I'm in an area where malaria is virtually nonexistent. 

If you try to send stuff, don't send a package with a lot of food in it.  First try a small package with a little food in it.  I heard that food doesn't get through the mail system here, but my companion says he gets all sorts of candy from his family. He's got a bit of a sweet tooth.  I can get ramen and spam and stuff here, too.  I'm close enough to the city that people are't really impoverished here.  I mean, some of these houses look really run down, but you walk in and BAM....computer, TV, stereo, XBOX...not all of them, mind you, but some of them surprise you.

The Zone, District, and Branch I'm in is called Alcalde Diaz.  It's on the outskirts of Panama City.  It's filled with crazy taxis, hills, houses, and kiosks that sell every day needs.  The area is really big, but the numbers are small.  There's about 14 missionaries that meet together for the district meetings, but I think that we're technically two districts.  Our Branch has about 50 people but I hear there's alot of inactive.  The area is urban enough that we don't need too much equipment.  So I don't get my canoe and machete....yet. 

Spanish?  Is that what they speak here?  Could have fooled me!!!  Two big problems with the Spanish. 
-First: not everyone speaks textbook Spanish; lots of phrases and stuff that I can't catch. 
-Second: Speed.  Panamanians are a bit notorious for their speech speed. So, I'm still pretty clueless. But I catch bits and pieces of the language and understand it here and there.  But there's a long way to go. 

I've already met alot of interesting people to teach, but to be frank, I have no idea how they are going to react to us in the end.  Traditions run deep here and a LOT of people claim CATHOLIC, even if they don't go to church.  I might have to get tough or else I won't be able to get them to do anything.  But first, I need to learn the language. 

I think my favorite investigator is Nico.  He speaks English, but only basic.  He's from Virginia and he's studied really deep into alot of different religions.  He's pretty open and I think he's just shy of golden and he already personally believes in alot of the doctrine.  We'll see how it goes.

Well, I'm not sure what else to write. I'm still healthy, I think, and trying to get a handle on this language.  I'm always tired, but that means that I'm at least working.  You are all in my prayers and I hope you are doing well.

Your 'espeaking' English Missionary,
Elder Austin Michael Ascura

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