Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Mission Week 22/Panama Week 13: Carnaval

Hola Familia,
First to explain why I´m writing on an odd day. The last five days have been days of Carnaval, which are more or less like a four day long Mardi Gras for the Latino world. In this country, they basically gather in large groups and jump up and down with beer while being hosed down. Don´t ask me why they do it, they just do. But here, it´s a pretty big deal, so many people close up their businesses and so we couldn´t use internet on the normal P-day.

During Carnaval, it´s not uncommon for missionaries to get drenched. They respect missionaries but not enough to let them walk dry. But I luckily didn´t get drenched. In Chorrera, Carnaval is extremely mild. Everyone basically leaves to celebrate it elsewhere in the country. So instead of having me locked away in the house, we were actually working every day of Carnaval. Unfortunately, we didn´t accomplish much what with everyone leaving town. Oh well.

Next, your specific questions.
1. Language. I´m actually getting to be fairly competent with the language. Sometimes, when they talk for long periods of time about something I don´t have much to say, I phase out, but when I´m focused, I can understand the majority of what´s being said and respond. Occasionally, I get hung up on an English phrase that I can´t easily translate, but I´m adjusting well.

2. Companion. Pretty nice guy. I get along with him pretty alright, although, I´m not sure I agree with with how he does things, sometimes. I´m going to start making suggestions. But all in all we don´t have any problems.

3. Testimony-bearing. As in bearing it in Church? Or bearing it in lessons? Either way, I´ve been doing that in Spanish since I left the MTC.

4. Spanish Scriptures? Nah, they gave me a set on Day 1 in the MTC. They´re standard issue, even.

5. New Missionaries. They arrived in La Chorrera on Monday. They kept me with Elder Castillo in one half and placed the other two in the other half. Elder Abarca from El Salvador and Elder Morris from the MTC.

6. Well, I certainly have been shifted around a bit, but the lack of an Anglo missionary is actually very common. It´s actually probable that I won´t have a single gringo companion (or Polynesian, because there´s a lot of them here, too) my entire mission. In Panama, it´s protocol to usually stick a gringo with a Latino. Almost always. Occasionally there are discrepencies from this rule, but it´s the norm.

7. Have I eaten Iguana yet? No, but a lot of families are threatening to cook it for me. I told them bring it on.

Now about the letter you wrote last week. . . Well, I guess that´s almost all been answered already. Just as a heads up, Dad, we don´t do much for P-day ever. E-mail, lunch, and occasionally sports, which I almost always abstain from and draw or write instead.

The ward here is very warm for missionaries, but the lack of unity amongst themselves worries me when I have the task of trying to bring people into the ward, or back to the ward. There aren´t many ward activities and the bishop is often swamped with his own work so it might be difficult working with them. But they seem to love missionaries. Especially the Bonilla family. Every time we pass through their house, the children cling onto me and plead, "¡Hagame vuelta, Elder!" Which basically translates to "Spin me, Elder!" My back hurts from them. They never stop asking when I start. But they´re funny.

Well, it´s nice to know that Oregon is finally locked down with a house of ours. How far is it from the family? Not too far, I expect . . . I hope you all are keeping together and not stretching yourselves too far. As for winter, being here in hot humid weather every day makes me feel weird. I´m accustomed to snow falling here and we´re in the middle of the dry season. As for Braden and his busted collarbone, I´m sorry it´s like that, but you did break it yourself, Dad. And Braden, at least you´ll be ready to roll next season with even more enthusiasm, right?

As for your hopes on Panamanian cuisine, I don´t know if I´d set my mark too high on that one. Aside from the fact that most families are fairly humble with the majority of their meals, Panamanian cuisine follows a different set of rules than what I think you all, and I, are used to. Panamanian food is very . . . bland, frankly. It´s not bad, it just lacks the kick I expected from Latin food and am somewhat accustomed to in the States. So . . . bring some Tobasco, Dad. There´ll be ample opportunities to use it.

I hope you all are keeping well and that you all are working hard in whichever endeavors that you´ve charged yourselves with. I keep you all in my prayers and hope you all continue keeping well.

Your Elder in the Field,
Elder Austin Michael Ascura

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