Monday, March 28, 2011

Mission Pictures From Zone Conference

In conjunction with Zone Conference, the Mission takes the opportunity to spend the day with the missionaries of each zone doing missionary training seminars.  And of course, the best part of the conference: a good 'ol American meal, in this case, Breakfast, and by the looks of it...mmmm cocoa puffs? 

This is the San Isidro Zone

M:80/P:69: Deja Vu

Hola Familia,
Oh, boy, where to even begin . . .
Well, first off, when I refer to my retainer I´m not talking about the orange one.  I broke that about two years ago.  Maybe two and a half.  I´m talking that little bar they put behind my bottom teeth.  I was eating carrots and it popped off on one side.  So I got my pliers an yanked the other end off.  The mission has a dentist here that is fairly well recommended but, like you all, I´m not sure I trust foreign dentists.  I remember how much pain there was to straighten these chompers.  Too much to just let someone take a sledgehammer to ém.
As for retirement, work the system!  America´s finest, waitin´on their payback!  When I get back, you and I will have to go fishing with Elder Laidler from the MTC.  I promised.  So you can start scoping out all the good fishing opportunities.
As for Bray, shoot, it´s already about time for spring break.  A couple days ago I realised that I only have three transfers left!  And with things looking the way they are, that means just one more area and that´s it.  It´s gonna be wierd to take the badge off.  As for Chelsee´s visit . . . well, I consider Braden to be generally well-disciplined guy.  So it´ll boil down to choice rather than fighting back the urge.  I can´t really comment on the matter much.  Explain your expectations well.
As for the girls, go, Riss, go!  AP Physics, I didn´t even take that class.  She, like me, just needs to learn discipline.  I hope she doesn´t have to learn it in the mission field like me.  As for Des, well, I think she´s just too big of a goof ball to be a book worm.  She´s hung around her two brothers way too much.
Music?  Yes, Dad, I still have a love for music.  I´ve got a song or two in sheet music and have been trying to work at piano on my P-Days out here.  I don´t know if I´ve made really any headway but I still like trying it.  If you bring my sax here there will be two things to deal with.  One, my technique will be horrible from all this lack of practice.  Two . . . someone will probably rob me of my sax.
As for the Panama stay, I´m just saying Dad, you have NOT seen drivers like those here, Dad.  They got decorated school busses with drivers that don´t respect anyone behind the wheel swerving and jerking to get everyone they can packed into the bus.  Seriously, Rome has absolutely NOTHING on these guys.  And half of them are drunk.  It´s very normal to see a guy hop out of the drivers seat with a couple open bottles of beer.  I don´t know if it´s safer to ride the bus or riding along side the bus.  I generally know how to get around on the bus system they got here.  And Dad, hawaiian t-shirts will mark you as a tourist about as fast as anything.  You should just wear what you want and hang a "rob me" sign on your back.  Just a t-shirt and jeans or shorts is what I recommend.
Now for what´s going on out here.  Last week was a near disaster.  Half the appointments fell through and nothing I hoped to accomplish happened.  This week was worse.  I´d say about 3/4 the appointments fell through, none of our investigators are progressing, and I´m feeling pretty tired of the area.  Generally, I would be leaving this next transfer, but my companion looks like he´s going to go home early.  He misses his family too much.  The president has asked me to try and cheer him up and keep him here, but I frankly find that a difficult task, especially given the area I´m in. (Imagine that.  Deja Vu for Austin remembering early on in his mission when he wanted to abandon his mission.  He should make a good mentor for this missionary, given his experience.) This was the worst area he could have come to try and cheer up and get excited about the work.  He´s already very resigned to going home.  And that means that I´ll be stuck here ANOTHER six weeks in this area.  I don´t know if I would prefer to ditch him in this area or stay here myself to teach it to someone else.  It´s a very peculiar place.  I´m not sure I could sufficiently describe it here without outright railing on the people.  And I´m trying hard not to point fingers . . . yet.  I´m hoping that Conference can do something for the both of us.  I haven´t been this fried since Christmas.
I´m sorry the letter seems to be more complaints than anything.  If it´s any consolation, whatever happens, I don´t intend to go home.  If I end up staying here, it will be very difficult to continue working but I´ll keep trying.  I´ve heard that I might get promoted to Zone Leader this change.  I´m not sure if that´s a good thing or not.  Leadership and management and the whatnot are still things that are a little foreign for me.
I hope you all are keeping well and staying out of trouble.  I love you all and pray for you all every night.
Your Elder in Panamá,
Elder Austin Michael Ascura

Monday, March 21, 2011

M:79/P:68: Tongan Missionaries Eat Up Pizza Hut

Hola Familia,

Man, Dad, if you think the Europeans were funny, just remember Yuto.  Seafood in Japan is pretty normal but beef?  Do you remember how many steaks that guy wolfed down at Golden Corral?  Man, I wish I would've been there to see that.  That reminds me, I heard that the Tongan missionaries made a Pizza Hut place close down because they had a buffet option.  I just thought you might like hearing that tidbit.
As for retiring, I'm sorry to hear that it's going to be hard to find a good job.  You could always just invest stuff in the stock market and live off the returns.  I don't know how fast that works for getting rich but I imagine you could do it.  I hope your job search goes well.  I'm sure Liesy will be happy to have you home.  Living four days a week alone is tough, let me tell ya.
As for the visit, are you saying we'd leave Sunday the same week?  As in we're only going to be in Panama three or four days?  I'm down with that.  Luckily, if that's the case, one of my best areas was right there in the same vicinity of the airport, Las Mañanitas in Tocumen.  I promised I'd swing by and school some fool in a video game before I left the country.  It would be a convenient way to go.  In any case, the great majority of my areas are all in very close proximity of the city.  I imagine I might leave the Panama province one more time.  Maybe.  I just hope you guys have an idea of how to get around in this country.  This place is crazy, you should see the drivers.
As for Braden's studio room, that sounds a lot like my house right now.  One room with a bathroom to the side and the kitchen on the other.  I'm glad to hear that the boy's got his head on straight.  As for Dez, how do you have problems in art class?  If she criticizes you again, Dez, just tell her, "It's modern art!"  If Pablo Picasso can make it as an artist, so can you!  As for Riss, I hope things get better in school and she starts focusing on college after high school.  I'm happy to hear that Liesy is keeping as chirpy as ever.  I also laugh that she sings when she's alone.  I still do that a lot.
As for me, I can't talk much as I've burned my time out.  I'll have to tell you guys next time.  I love you all and hope you all are keeping well!
Your Elder in Panama,
Elder Austin Michael Ascura

Monday, March 14, 2011

M:78/P:67: More Baptisms Planned

Hola Familia

Well, I didn´t get your letters for this week if you all sent me one (At the time this letter was written, he had not received our letter.  He came back and wrote again in the afternoon and was able to read our letter, so we don't feel bad...anymore).  Just throwin´ that out there.

The week has been a bit of an odd one.  Monday and Tuesday we were basically closed in at the stake center here for Carnaval´s last two days.  Then on Friday we had to go to the city for a training meeting.  A lot of good things were taught and I hope to make good use of the trip.

What with all that that I just mentioned, we didn´t get to do too much missionary work.  Thankfully, though, I feel like we´ve made a number of long-awaited breakthroughs.  One of our recent converts has three children, all of which are around my age, who haven´t been at all happy with her decision to be baptised.  When I arrived here, it was obvious that the kids wanted absolutely nothing to do with us.  It seems like after all our efforts to soften things up, through English lessons, washing the dishes when they aren´t looking, and just getting to know them, we might actually be able to teach the entire family.  We´ve already taught one son and we´re hoping that this Thursday that we can teach the rest.

In a different house, we had a family that has positively received missionaries for months now; much of the family even wants to get baptised.  The problem is that they´re not married.  It´s usually extremely difficult to sit down with the entire family because of their line of work, truck driving.  This last week we´ve set down the challenge to get married.  This Tuesday we hope to get our answer.

I also would like to get two "eternal investigators" baptised within two to three weeks.  One, David, is going through some radiology treatments and will be in isolation for the next week or so.  Anabel, another sister who has investigated the church for quite some time now, will likely be receiving a visit from the missionaries with her member boyfriend to settle this deal once and for all.

Those matters aside, I don´t feel I can share too much.  I have noticed this week that I´ve felt extremely peculiar while thinking about home.  I´m not sure I can really describe it but I think I´m beginning to notice how much I´ve grown or changed in all this time.  And that is extraordinarily strange because I´ve never been able to notice that before.  Likely because I´ve never gone through a period of such rapid obligated growth.  I´m going to feel like such a freak when I get home.

Speaking of home, I suppose we should plan a tad how we´re going to do this whole visit-to-Panama thing now that I´m going to Idaho.  My leave date will be 16th of August, maybe the 17th.  I´m assuming you both still want to come visit Panama, right?  (We are planning to pick Austin up in Panama after his mission) So, am I coming home first or are you all meeting me here?  Where am I getting released?  How long do you want to stay in Panama?  What areas of Panama would you like to visit?  What´s your plan on lodging?  How´s the Spanish coming along?  All of these are important details I should know if you all are still planing on visiting.  Please bear in mind that when you get here I´ll only have missionary clothes and scriptures.  Nothing else.

Well, family and followers, I can´t think of much else to say.  I hope you all are staying out of trouble and that the tsunami from Japan didn´t muss up the States much (wasn´t that crazy?  ¡8.9!)

Your Elder in Panama,
Elder Austin Michael Ascura
PS: I forgot to mention, the mission chose to give me a 200 dollar you-were-a-missionary scholarship for Idaho.  Huzzah! (From his letter this afternoon)

Monday, March 7, 2011

M:77/P:66: Carnaval

Hola Familia,
Another week up and down.  It´s been quite the week.

First off, Carnaval began last week on Friday.  Practically everyone disappeared from my area to go to the countryside and party it up out there as is custom in Panamá.  The few people that are not in the country are dancing constantly or drenching everyone in sight like last year.  It´s slightly worrying to see children throwing redneck water balloons (little plastic baggies) filled with water at all the taxis and trucks with their windows down.  I suppose they´re just kids but it´s not exactly a polite way to have fun.  They haven´t gotten me wet, yet, as most people leave missionaries alone, but I have had a couple groups of kids come running up to me screaming, "MAGIC TRICK!"  It gives my companion a bit of a scare seeing all the kids running at us with the water baggies in hand.

As for the work, a lot of effort went in to searching.  I don´t know if mentioning specifics is really necessary but we´ve got a good handful of people that I think will get baptised the transfer after I leave.  It will be good to keep my green companion charged up and motivated.

Speaking of him, he seems quite motivated to keep moving.  I´m actually fairly impressed with his teaching ability, as well.  He seems like he was fairly well prepared for all this.  I was going to send you all photos of him and me fixing up the sink but these computers can´t read my memory card.

I forgot to mention how fixing the sink went.  Let me tell you, that was quite the mess.  I fixed one thing to break another and had to go back to the hardware store about two or three times.  But on the positive side, I´m basically a plumber, now.  I can fix basic pipes and stuff.  I just don´t know what I´ll do with all the tools I bought now.  Maybe I´ll just haul ´em around a while.

I feel like I´m forgetting to mention something to you all but I can´t remember what it was.  I´m still trying to talk with President here to find out when my expected release date is now that I won´t be headed out for BYU Provo so we can plan well our tour.

I hope you all are keeping well and staying out of trouble.  Study hard and enjoy the coming spring.

Your Elder in Panamá,
Elder Austin Michael Ascura