Monday, February 28, 2011

M:76/P:65: New Companion: Elder Estrada

Hola Familia,
Well, Dad, I'm sorry that you're trip was so much trouble.  I think when it comes down to it, some people get all the luck and the rest of us fight for the scraps.  I'm glad to at least hear that the ordeal is over.  I do think it's funny how things turn out when we try to cut corners on expenses with things as risky as travel.
Well, last week started off horribly.  I had intended to use the day of transfers as an opportunity to scope out all the stores in this zone and make some purchases.  Then the zone leader (edited) begged me to go on a split with another missionary.  I didn't want to but you know how I am, don't you?  Especially when people give me the sob story and beg.  We just basically sat on a bench the entire day.  It was mind-numbing.
Thankfully, I've been fortunate enough to have been paired up with Elder Estrada.  He's a Guatemalan elder that's now in his second change here in Panama, basically a newbie.  He's got a good heart and is enthusiastic to work.  Paired with the improving relationship between ward leaders and us, I think this change has a lot of potential.  I'll get pictures of him soon so you can see.
In terms of the work, this week was a tad slow, but that's natural with the start of transfers.  I'm curious to see how our new companionship functions this week.  We're going to try to win over the members with kelaguen.  It's going to cost me a lot in both money and effort but I think it could have some great rewards for the mission work.  I'm not sure when I'll  begin cooking dishes as some of the sisters in the ward have expressed interest in learning how to make the dish.
As for Dad's retirement plans, I've been wondering as well about what you're going to do.  I know you both want to do your thing and are very resolute on it.  I don't know what to tell you, Mom.  Dad's ambitious but I don't know if it's fair to make you move again.  As for schooling, I've already accepted the possibility of returning to Idaho.  I think this time things will go a little better.  I don't really know much about the alternatives, but I think Idaho would be alright.  I'd be coming home the 25th of August?  I thought it was the 17th?  In terms of a release date, my technical two-years-complete date is the 17th of September.  And President Ward is only willing to cut one month out on the condition of returning to school.  Given that now it looks like I'll be attending a little later, I don't know if he'll give me all that time off.  I'll ask on it.
I will mention, though, that I think much of my mission will be hard to show you.  I think people would mug us blind in the majority of my areas.  And I'm not even in dangerous areas.
In other news, I broke the sink!  It looks like I'll have to learn to do a little plumbing if I want to be able to shower tomorrow.  I almost flooded the kitchen when I busted the tube trying to fix one of the sink handles.
Well, Mom and Dad and Family, I think that's all I can remember to mention until now.  I hope you all recooperate well and are taking good care of yourselves.  I love you all.
Your Élder in Panamá,
Élder Austin Michael Ascura

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Pictures From Recent Interview

Once a quarter, the Mission President interviews every single missionary in the mission.  Normally, the President and his wife will travel to each zone and will have interviews, conduct training, and lunch with the missionaries of that zone.  These pictures were from Feb 2011.

Check out that stylish haircut....and that a pinky ring he is sporting?  Hmmm...

Interesting bunch.  Can you imagine these being the Lord's representatives??? Well, they are.  You can only see the top of Austin's military haircut on the right side of the table towards the back.

M:75/P:64: New Companion Coming?

Hola Familia,
Well, the end of the transfer is here!  My companion has a 98% chance of leaving, so I´ll likely stay here to teach the area to my new companion.  Transfers are in two days.  Today technically isn´t preparation day, but knowing the group I´m with, I think it will be a very slim chance of there being work today.  The three months I´ve spent with my companion have been interesting and I wish him the best of luck wherever the Lord decides to place him.  I´m highly curious to see who my new companion will be.
I´m glad to hear that you enjoyed your trip to Hawaii with Dad, Mom.  I´m not sick of the Peeps, yet, and neither are all the other Gringoes that miss American confections.  It´s funny you mention the language.  Recently, all the missionaries in the zone have decided that I speak with a semi-Spanish accent.  They all talk to me with their Spaniard impersonations, which in Spanish, means that there´s a lot of lisping type things.  A lot of "sh" and "th" instead of "s".  It´ll be fun to speak Spanish when I get home.  I think I´d like to teach Elise Spanish for fun, too, as well as anyone else who wants to learn the language.
As for the trip to Guam, I´m glad you all made it in time (we made it to Guam but missed the funeral).  Flying with the military is always a hassle and a gamble.  It reminds me of when we passed through Hawaii last time and we got stuck in Hawaii for four or five days getting up at four in the morning every day.  I know the drill.  So much for Braden not going, huh?  But I´m glad to hear that you didn´t have to make the trip alone.  It´s not exactly a great trip to do solo.  You´ve still got us, like you said, and we all love you.  And even though I´m all the way down here, I´ll do what I can to share the burden.
As for things out here, week six was naturally a little slower.  Everyone celebrating the end of the transfer, half the missionaries already packing up to leave the zone, reluctance to devote more effort to an area that won´t be yours . . . you know how it goes.  As for me, it´s been a bit of a rough week but I´m through and I believe I´ve got what was worrying me under my fingers.  I´d love to talk it out but I´m not sure that I could do it justice through written correspondence.  We´ll have plenty of time to debrief when I get home.  We are on the downward count now and, man, does it feel wierd to be that old missionary.  I just hope I don´t fall apart when I´m in my last two months.
I´m glad to hear that you all enjoyed the photos so much.  It´s a real pain to send them sometimes.  I´ll try to get some more down the line so you all can get more of a feel for Panama.  Because I´m almost sure that there´s a lot that I´ve known that you all won´t be able to enjoy like me.  I´m pretty sure that in the majority of my areas, they would rob us blind.
Well, I seem to be out of things to say for the moment.  I can´t remember if there was anything else in particular that I wanted to bring up.  I´m waiting with great anticipation to see if I get to go to Provo with Elder Morris or if I have to go back to rot in Idaho.  Either way, I´m sure it will be a fun deal.  Take care everyone, I love you all.
Your Elder in Panamá,
Élder Austin Michael Ascura

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Recent Baptism pictures, and members of the San Isidro Zone. Sister Missionaries.

With Elder Bryson Alley in Puerto Pilon

With Elder Luquez in Mananitas

The Colon "Bad Boys"
Austin at the Los Andes Zone Conference

M:74/P:63 Good Week

Hola Familia,

I´m sorry to hear that Grandpa Ascura´s finally gone, but you´re right, Dad. He´s in a much better place now.

Given as you all haven´t written me too much for this week, I can´t promise that this will be a long letter. We´ll see what I can do.

The week has been a peculiar one. I´ve had to do some deep soul searching on some things that have been troubling me lately. Thankfully, interviews are tomorrow. I think I´ve been able to resolve the bulk of my concerns myself and with a friend out here. I´ve resolved to tough it out so I´ll get to see if I can stick this one through without stressing myself out too much.

In terms of news of Panama, it would seem like there´s a lot of buzz going around lately. Indians rioting, criminal activity everywhere, huge political unrest . . . I don´t know anything about it but felt I could at least mention it.

In terms of the work, we were finally able to find one of our old baptismal dates that fell through. He´s been undergoing a lot of medical treatment lately and it looks like he´s been going through some new therapies. He´s also mentioned that its very possible that he leaves for the other end of the country to live closer to his family. We´ll have to see how he still feels about baptism and perhaps hand the baptismal date over to the Elders in Boquete. I'm sure they'd appreciate the gesture. We're still struggling to find new people to teach in this area, but I've talked a little with Pres. Ward and we might be able to help another area in supporting a small branch in a primarily Kuna neighborhood. We'll see what happens and I'll try to keep you all informed.

We went to the temple this week. It was very nice to return there. Afterwards, we visited the "Old Helmet", the colonial part of Panama. It reminded me a lot of Rome. If you guys come to visit, it would be one of the safer places for you all to visit. It felt wierd to be walking around with all the tourists everywhere.

I had a question about schooling. Elder Morris, a buddy out here, has already selected his classes. Is that something I should be worried about, yet?

Well, I don't know if I can think of much else to say for the week. I hope you all are taking care of yourselves. I pray for you all often.

Your Elder in Panamá,
Élder Austin Michael Ascura

Saturday, February 12, 2011

M73/P:62: Time Going Fast

Hola Familia,

My, I never thought time would actually begin to pass by quickly.
Well, to begin, happy birthday, Mom!  I was going to send photos, but something is wrong with my memory card.  I´m really hoping that my photos didn´t get wiped.  It´ll sadly have to wait until next week.  Sorry.
As for the week, we had two successful baptisms this last Saturday and the sister who got baptised will be going to the temple on Wednesday.  I was going to send photos.  I´m really happy to see a sister who was so stubborn at first go through the change of heart so famously rumored of in the mission.  I hope to strengthen them well before I head out.  The baptism went smoothly with relatively few bumps.  My companion and I even bought a giant cake!  Now, have you ever tried to bring a cake (2 feet x 3 feet) home in a bus?  Let me tell you, that was a funny experience.  Just so you guys know before you get here, taxis are really tough to deal with here; they´re real cut-throats.
Tomorrow we´ll be going to the temple as a zone and touring a little of the city.  Today is scheduled as a normal day, basically.  Although, if you ask me, I don´t think much work will get done today.
I´m glad to hear that Mom´s enjoying the trip to Hawaii.  I´m sure you both are drowning in the nostalgia of the mission and college and all that.  As for your song, I don´t think you ever told me about that song, Dad.  I think I remember Mom singing the beginning every so often but I never knew there was a story to it, let alone from the mission.  I´d be pretty touched to see that I left a mark for good that lasted for over some twenty to thirty years.  You apparently did good work.  I don´t know how I could leave such an impression on the wards here.  I wouldn´t know where to even begin.
Let´s see what else is there to tell of the week.  Another dog tried to knick me in the ankles . . . I´m going crazy trying to somehow get music to play on my new insert-memory-play-music-box thing . . . That sounds like the bulk of stuff for the week.  I hope you all are having fun and staying out of trouble.  I pray for you all every night.
Your Élder in Panamá,
Élder Austin Michael Ascura