Monday, September 27, 2010

M:55/P:44: Good News For My Companion

Hola Familia,

To start off, my companion, through what I would consider a very lucky stroke, will be staying here. A family from his country has volunteered to pay for his injection treatments. Right now, I´m just waiting for the call that says when he goes in. A little about his condition, the tumor before was benign. It seems to me he´ll have to get these injections regularly to keep this tumor under control. But for the moment, I´ll be staying with him here in Puerto Pilon. As for what the members think of him . . . I´m fairly convinced it´s his energy. The members here didn´t care about elders until this elder got here. But we´ll see what happens.

As for the Island festival, I´m thoroughly surprised about how many Guamanians there were. I had always figured Guamanians to be a very small ethnic group. I´m glad to hear that it was a very good show, though. Pity that I couldn´t see it but I suppose there´s next time. I´ll be waiting to see that shirt.

As for the area, we are teaching people but our teaching pool is somewhat small. We recently had two baptisms. I think that two or three more should happen before the transfer ends. This week was a little slow with my companion sweating bullets about what´s been going on lately. But this week I´m going to see if I can distract him from his problems with work. I´m hoping it proves fruitful. As for my investigators in Las Mañanitas, one Brother finally got baptised and the other ten (the Indian family) are all listening to the Elders. It´s looking very good for at least half the family. As for MTC buddies, I got to run into all five other Panama-bound MTC buddies. Elder Warburton has finally stepped down from Finance Elder and is a District Leader in Chitre, I believe. Elder Stewart and Elder Laidler, I don´t know much about them but they seem to be in good spirits for the moment. Elder Gretsch is the new Finance Elder. Elder Morris is still in San Isidro as a District Leader. They still play soccer for P-Days. All the time, basically. And as for the language, they treat me about the same. It´s just now I understand basically all the Spanish.

As for Grandpa, I hope things improve. I´m still praying for him.

I´m glad to see that the girls are alright up in Oregon and are lending Mom a hand. It always seems like Mom overworks herself. I wish she had a better work schedule but someone´s got to take the nightmare shift, I guess.

As for the photos, I was under the impression that the family had already sent the photos. I guess they were mistaken when they told me they already did it. I´ll jump on that and try to get them sent your way.

Well, I´m not sure I have much else I can say. I´m feeling a little sluggish, but I´m ready to fix stuff up. I hope you all are keeping well up in the States. I pray for you all every day.

Your Elder in Panama,
Elder Austin Michael Ascura

Thursday, September 23, 2010

M: 54/P: 43: Companion's Medical Problems

Note: Interesting that Austin would right just after my last entree.

Hola Familia,

First, I´d like to explain the delay. This last P-Day, the zone decided that they wanted to go to the Free Zone that we have here in Colón Centro. The plan was that we would all get there, meet up at an internet place, grab money and get lunch, and then head over to the Free Zone to buy things we obviously don´t need. I was thinking of getting some shirts and pants. Maybe some shoes. But one of our zone leaders apparently didn´t have the money to buy anything so he herded us back to our area and they played soccer. We arrived late over there and they were leaving the internet place as we arrived. So they told us to use internet later. And this week has been a very peculiar one. In the midst of trying to actually get some missionary work done and a very unorganized schedule along with some very depressing news, I haven´t been able to sit down to write until now. Honestly, I´m not even sure if I technically should be here. Probably not, but I´ll just have to make sure I don´t need to do this again.

I´m really sorry to hear about Grandpa. Honestly, it doesn´t surprise me how the workers there reacted; although I am a little surprised to see that Grandpa´s still got a little fight in him. I don´t know if there´s much I can say, really. I´ll keep everyone in my prayers. 

As for your island festival, you shouldn´t be surprised that the Guamanians might not be . . . authentic. I mean, you are in a country of predominantly haole-folk, no? Without studying, we wouldn´t know the difference between a Hawaiian and a Tongan. Which reminds me, you might be able to meet a friend of mine from the mission. I don´t know if he´d be there but a friend recently finished serving here and returned home to San Francisco. I think the festival might be a little far away to involve him, but who knows? His last name is Haupeakui. I never heard his first name. 

As for gangland, like I said, my part is relatively safe. I´m keeping my eyes open, but I usually don´t have to worry about too much according to my companion. As for the members, they take way too much care of us. Mainly because of how much they all like my companion. He´s a very high spirited Elder. Very friendly. Which concerns me because with all Elder Sanchez´s recent problems, I´m afraid that people have forgotten that he has a companion. It´s funny and frustrating at the same time. They give us rides occasionally. They feed us too much. As for weird foods, I´ve only got pork butt, chicken gizzard, and cow liver on my list. And octopus, if that counts as strange food. Has my palette changed any? Thank goodness I started eating salad every day in the MTC to learn to control myself. Now, I´m basically a normal person in terms of my diet. Boney meats, salads, and all. When I go home, I´ll still be so accustomed to eating chicken off the bone that it won´t be a problem. Salads? Salads here aren´t exactly the greatest. Most people use cabbage and carrots and just slosh a bunch of mayonnaise on top and that´s the salad. I laugh about how far I´ve come, too, Dad.

As for what´s going on here, I´ll explain. This week before was a tad slow. This current week is a bit slower. Why? Becuase there´s been a lot that´s been screwing my companion up. To start off, he had a brain tumor a year back. He had to go home and everything to get it treated by injections. The tumor caused him to have massive migraines and seizures. Doctors said he was fine and that it wouldn´t come back. So he returned to the mission. A year later, or more appropriately, about two weeks ago, he had another seizure. I´ve never treated seizures before. That was a really weird experience, let me tell you. We went from clinic to clinic. Until eventually, we just brought him to the biggest hospital that was close by. 

I had to leave him with the President and Area Seventy for a couple days while he went to go get scanned in a special medical clinic in Panama City. The scans showed signs of a cyst developing that could grow into a tumor again. After receiving a blessing and getting scanned again, scans showed nothing. Then three days later, the hospital called us telling us that they had made a mistake and that he still had the cyst. President Ward was furious. 

So, that shook my companion up a lot. Then my companion got his "Dear John". Now, he´s awaiting a call from the president that will tell us if he goes home and won´t return to Panama to seek free medical care in Costa Rica or if he stays here in Panama to receive a costly treatment of injections again. He and I are both fairly sure that he´s probably going to go home. I feel bad for him in that he really wants to finish his two years here in Panama. Moreso when I remember that all the slack´s going to be on me soon.

Honestly, I feel a little lost at the moment. Nothing too serious, but if he goes home, I´m really going to have to straighten up my act. If I don´t, this area´s going to plummet. I suppose I´m just a little nervous with what I consider as a probable outcome. I´m not very good at managing the companionship still and I´m still not entirely sure how to work effectively. So I suppose this will be my opportunity to see what I´m made of, right?

In any case, I hope you all are doing well and are still going to Church every week. I pray for you all every night.

Your Elder in Panama,
Elder Austin Michael Ascura

M:54/P:43: Hump Day: 1 Year Down and 1 More Year To Go

Well, 16 September was Austin's Hump Day, meaning he has passed his halfway point on his mission and is on a roller coaster heading downhill in terms of time.  They say that once you pass your hump day, the time appears as if it is going by faster and faster as you approach the completion of your mission.  Unfortunately, we did not hear from Austin this week.  This has happened once before and it was because the Zone changed its Preparation Day for the week to accommodate another activity or event such as going to the temple.  However, all was not silent this week.  The Mission Presiden't Wife, Sister Ward, posted pictures of some missionaries taken from over the last several weeks so we were able get a glimpse of Austin...washing dishes and clowning around.  But he looks happy and healthy and that is what matters to us the most.  He did say he was in a crime infested area so we are somewhat nervous for his welfare, but also feel assured of his safety just because he is a missionary in the service of the Lord.

Elder Sanchez is Austin's Companion and is the 2nd guy from the right.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Puerto Pilon, Colon

M:53/P:42: Puerto Pilon, Colon

Hola Familia,

Colón! I´m in Colón! I´m gangsta now!

Well, there´s the new transfer. I´m now in Puerto Pilon, Colón. Colón is generally known in the mission as the crime center of the country. The missionaries in Colón Centro hear the gunfights between rival gangs somewhat frequently. Here in Colón is where I think all the drugs and Jamaicans get into the country. A lot of people get deported from the States back to Colón so a lot of them speak English, too. Fortunately, I´ve been sent to a safer part of the city. My companion is Elder Geovanny Alonzo Sanchez Garcia. Elder Sanchez is Costa Rican. He´s a very upbeat elder and is extremely enthusiastic about the work here. Unfortunately, though, he´s in the city for a little bit on problems of health. It´s been an interesting first week here. I would fill you in but he hasn´t even told his own family, yet, so I´ll tell you all when he does. But for the moment, I´m with the zone leaders. And we´ll be buying a rollaway bed because sleeping on marble tile isn´t so fun. But I wouldn´t let them give me their beds so I can´t blame anyone. But I´ll keep you all posted on what happens here. There´s a lot in the air right now and no one is sure how things are going to turn out.

Well, Dad, if you´re going to be travelling so much, I don´t know if there´s much of a point to getting a home telephone line or cable unless it´s extremely cheap. As for the PS3, I won´t lie, I´d love to inherit that when I get back (hah, fat chance, Kid). But honestly, I´m not sure if it´s the best buy for you. An Xbox 360 can give you about anything a PS3 can at a lower price. A PS3 offers higher game graphics but doesn´t offer too much else other than a couple of exclusive game series that you´re not even into. It´s also a Blu-Ray player, so that counts, too. I´m beginning to forget all my videogame knowledge stuff, so I suppose you could just e-mail one of my buddies and ask them what they think or talk with a store clerk in GameStop on what they think between PS3 vs XBox.

Braden tells me that his classes are pretty easy so far. And that´s EXACTLY what I thought my first semester. But he´s only got one 200 course, so, it shouldn´t be too much for him. I, too, am curious to see how he takes to the college life. I wouldn´t bother him too much, though, on his embarassing parent phase thing, though. Someone in the family has to be the "cool guy", right? But with church, it doesn´t surprise me that the ward´s pretty filled with old people. Lot of people like California for retirement. And with a college so close, I would wager that anyone that can go to the singles ward would.

I´m sorry to hear that Grandpa will be so cut off. But I´m afraid that there´s not much to be done about that now, is there? I hope things go well for him and the family. Katrina´s gettin´ ready to tie the knot, huh? That´s a shame. I kind of had fun telling missionaries I had a single Asian cousin about their age. Oh, well, I´ll live. Where did he serve?

As for schooling I´m thinking that BYU will be mandatory for, at least, the first semester.  But San Diego´s on my list of options. I´m waiting to see what happens as I continue looking through plans.

Well, I´m not sure what else I can talk about. I´ll try to find a member that can help with the pictures but it might not be this week since I´ll be with the zone leaders for a little while. I hope things continue well State-side and that you all are working hard and moving forward. I love you all.

Our missionary apartment in Puerto Pilon, Colon
Your Elder in Panamá,
Elder Austin Michael Ascura

Monday, September 6, 2010

M:52/P:41: Transfers Are Here

Hola Familia,

Well, everyone, the end of the change has rolled around.

The shoes came and are comfy. And they are lasting much, much better than the set I bought here.

As for things at home, I hope things go well for Grandpa, too. Say "hi" to Ernie for me. Liesy´s not entering school, yet, no?

Well, this letter might be short. This internet place doesn´t allow for us to use much time. But regardless, I think I can cover the majority of what´s going on. First off, I´m likely heading out this Wednesday for another part of Panama. Unless I´m training, I´m fairly sure I´m done here in Mañanitas. It was a really great area. This last change I didn´t have any baptisms but I´m fairly sure this next change is going to be extremely successful for whoever is in this area for the next change. This last Sunday, we finally had another family come to church as a family. After months of waiting on them, they´re finally coming to church and I think the wife, who´s never come before, is extremely enthusiastic about it.

Well, my time is almost up. I love you all and hope things are going well. Sorry not to have written more.

Your Elder in Panama,
Elder Austin Michael Ascura