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Monday, April 25, 2011

Week 26: Drinking Soda from a Bag

Hello family,
Happy Easter!
Dallas and AJ, Easter 2003
Things are great and another week has flown by at blazing speed here in the Philippines. Lots of tracting this week and lots of new investigators, but they almost all lose interest immediately.
We are having some great success with the Bulbuana family. The mother has been a member since she was a dalaga (or teenage girl), but inactive for a long time. Last cycle she saw me and Elder Weaver walk by and said she notices we were always busy going places. We taught her immediately that day about The Restoration and she said she knew it was true. We then had a really hard time getting appointments with them until a couple of weeks ago with Elder Daqs. We met the Dad. He is pretty cool and we watched The Restoration with him and his kids (the mom wasn't there at the time). He then said we could come back every night and teach them. But then it was weird -- when the mother is there, the dad won't come join the family and listen to us. But if the mother is gone, he is more than happy to listen. So anyway we have been teaching them for about 3 and half weeks every day.
They came to church the very first week to General Conference, except the dad.  Then we continued teaching them, but only the mom and the kids. And then second week they went to church with the Catholics ugh!  It has been kind of difficult. We got them to pray right. Then the next appointment they had written a prayer to Jesus to use ... Ugh again. I guess in all the schools the Catholics come and teach rosary and all those terrible prayers to them, so eveybody's idea on the Trinity, prayer and how Jesus and Our Father in Heaven is, well, it's really messed up.
But we finally got them praying right and praying about Joesph Smith and they have all gotten answers to their prayers now. They are really awesome and they always read the assignments. Then this week the mother and the 2 daughters (teenagers) and the 9-year old son came to church. And they had  great time! I was proud of the fellowshipping and welcome they gave them and people not saying false doctrince from the pulpit. It was awesome.
They have a baptism date of May 14th and are excited. We will keep trying with the dad and older brother. They are cool and good in lessons but he really doesn't like to listen if mom is there. Weird eh?
They really are our only success right now. We taught a ton of lessons and got 16 new investigators but they just don't progress.

So Tuesday President Carlos came and interviewed us. He is really cool. He said I most likely will get transferred on May 5th ... So heads up, I guess.  I really like President. He is a huge BYU fan and was telling me that when he hears about Jimmer or BYU doing good, he is happy. He also said the Jazz are terrible, haha.

Only other thing to say about this week is I learned a lot from Elder Daqs, especially about finding. It's hard as I still am kind of shy sometimes, but I feel I was a lot more bold and it was cool to see the results. Really, the worst thing that can happen is they can say no. And if they do, that's too bad for them.

Well things are great, here.  I miss you a ton, but I am really happy right now on the miss.

Love ya -- hope ya have great week!

Mahal Ko Kayo!

A.J. Griffin

Some Q & A
#1:  Did the Easter Bunny come and visit?Wala pa. Or none yet. Maybe he is slow at swimming?

#2:  Do they have jelly beans and malted milk and marshmallow eggs and stuff like that there?I havent seen any at all.....
#3: Have you had any allergies in the Phillipines?  Do you get stuffy nose or itchy eyes or anything?
Maybe like once, I think. Just sometimes a little sneezing and sniffly nose but not bad.

#4: Do you have any great dinner appointments that are good food and fun or is the food still stuff that you aren't used to yet?I like all the dinner appointments except one. The guy also gives us squid and dinugan and gross stuff. But all the other ones are pretty cool and good. Especially one guy who is pretty well off. During my time with Elder Weaver, he always gave us American-esque food. But now he makes it about half Philippino and half American, haha

#5: Does your companion do anything that annoys you other than making rice all the time?No, I really have nothing negative to say about him. He is awesome. Really hard-working and obedient, so I love life and this cycle is flying by. I can't believe the cycle is almost over. He is kinda trunky. He is watching that talk by Richard G Scott about eternal marriage again, haha. If that's a sign at all ...

#6: Do you guys do splits with ward members or is that frowned upon now-a-days?
Soda from a bag -- only in the Philippines!
Sometimes. Yesterday we split with the two recent RMs in the ward. And that was cool. We are allowed to, but it's not really encouarged, just if things are really busy. We dont really like to split with the other ward members because they just want us to do their home teaching for them.

#7: Your mission mama has a picture of a kid drinking soda with a straw out of a plastic bag. Do you see that a lot there? She said it was cheaper than buying a cup so lots of kids did it.
Oh shoot, I forgot to tell you about this back in the beginning. So almost all drinks are from glass bottles because it is said to be cheaper to clean and re-use the bottle over and over than to make cans or plastic bottles. So, for instance, if you go to a little store (which there are a million as people sell stuff out of a window or door of their house and call it a sari-sari store), you can stay there and they will give you a straw and you drink it out of a bottle then you give the bottle back. Or they pour it in a plastic bag and give you a straw and then you can leave. Cans and plastic bottles of pop are generally only sold downtown at grocery stores. So bascially, whenever we want a drink, we drink out of a plastic bag -- haha. They also sell plastic bags of ice (literally they pour water into a plastic bag, tie it and stick it in the freezer. Popsicles are the same way). Also cans and plastic bottles of pop are like twice the price of buying it in the glass bottle. They also seem to only have coke, generic coke, mtn dew, generic mtn dew and orange soda here.

#8: Guess you aren't aware of gas prices too much but gas is up to almost $4 per gallon here again.  Does that affect you at all?

I have noticed gas is really pricey here. It's about 55 pesos a liter. Or if you bought it by the gallon, over 5 dollars a gallon. I guess that explains why everyone drives tricycles here. It's been 5 dollars a gallon-plus my whole time here so maybe in the past tryce rides were cheaper.

#9: What do you hear about other areas of your mission.  Are some of the areas really remote and primitive?So there are 7 zones -- Alicia, Ilagan, Santiago, Cauayaun, Tuguegarao, Nueva Viscya and Roxas. A little about each one:
  • Alicia -- supposedly there is nothing cool here, just fields and no good stores or sights or anything but supposedly the work is really good in Alicia right now.
  • Ilagan -- Not too much here except SaveMore, which is the closest thing to Wal-mart the Philippines has (real cheese here).
  • Santiago -- Supposedly one of the cooler places to go. I've heard of Dr. Pepper sightings in the area of Santiago and it's supposed to have some cool stores, too.
    Baunau Rice Terraces
  • Cauayan -- A few really cool areas like San Mariano (former area of Elder Weaver), close to one of the biggest dams in asia (Magat Dam) and home of the alligator farm! You get to hold the baby alligators if you go there.
  • Tuguegarao -- My home for the last 4 months. Close to Calleo Caves, many good stores in town including the only national book store in the mission. Also known as the hottest city in the entire Philippines. Said to have the 2nd most tryces in one town behind Pangasinan, I think.
  • Nueva Viscya -- The coolest place in the mission (in temperature, in sightseeing and in the work). By far the most coveted area in the mission. Home to the Seventh Wonder of the World, The Baunau Rice Terraces.  Supposedly even cold during the winter months and bearable during the hot months. Work is supposed to be pretty good here and also home to Solono, a pretty big city with cool stores.
  • Roxas -- Supposedly almost as hot as Tuguegarao, but no shade! Only rice fields, so maybe more hot than Tug. Not too much here, but there is a guy who makes really cool American quality custom backpacks for 8 to 20 dollars American.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Week 25: Heat and machetes

The Elders at the place they call "The Computer Shop"

It's hot!

So this week was good, but things kind of nosedived on Sunday. To start off the day, we went to one investigator that had a baptism date and she wouldn't come to church and said she doesn't want us to teach any more – ugh!

Then we got to church, and another investigator's family said she stole some of their money and skipped town and wasn't really interested in the lessons at all, but had been lying to us the whole time (her baptism date was just two weeks away).

And then the family that we have been teaching all week that has done really awesome saw everyone with palms (palm Sunday) and decided to go to the Catholic church (the mom is LDS, too). So
none of our investigators went to church :( UGH.....

Church was interesting though. It was ward conference and the Stake presidency tore the ward apart (figuratively speaking) for not doing home teaching and not helping the missionaries enough with referrals. And the stake presidency said someone was texting them complaints about how terrible the bishop is and stuff. Just a lot of back biting and stuff. The President was pretty upset.
AJ doing laundry. Now, everyone go kiss your washing machine.

Well this next week should be a hot, hot week of mostly tracting, as our teaching pool just lost a lot of potential. Its all right. I am excited. I know there are people prepared and we will have help finding them. too.

Some questions:
1. Have you ever been on that great big Buntun Bridge there? Looks pretty cool.Not yet. Apparently its on the way to Solana, which I haven't been to. I don't know if I will get a chance to either.

2. Guess you heard about Jared Turners call (to Leeds, England) from Mom. Any other guys you know about to leave? Jared doesn't go out until August.
When does Jordan Ellsworth leave? I don't know. I can't remember anyone.

3. Do they celebrate Easter much there? Oh yeah, they go to church on Easter and Christmas of course .This also what my mission president emailed us:

Easter in the Philippines is very serious.

Remember, this is Holy Week in the Philippines. That means many of the services (banks, stores, etc) will be closed at least Friday-Sunday. I doubt any ATMs will work between Friday and Sunday...Some will be closed all week. Plan your business needs early in the week. Be mindful of the local religious traditions pertaining to Holy Week – AND be respectful of their practices. In some areas of the Philippines, real live crucifixion actually takes place. If you see anything unusual, please be sensitve to the fact that to these people, these are sacred religious observances. Be mindful also that Catholics do not eat chicken, pork, or beef during Holy Week."

Elder Daqs said in some places they nail someone to a cross but don't kill, I guess?! He said there probably wont be any here, though. That's kind of disturbing ...

4. Do you alter your clothing at all when it gets really hot? Guess you didn't need a moo moo or whatever.Ah, not really, I just try to take less stuff. No one wears a lava lava here. I think that is like the small islands and Guam and stuff like that – Not really to mainland Philippines.

5. You mention it being dangerous after dark. Do they have much violent crime there? Are there gangs?Supposedly there is quite a bit of violence. Here there are just lots of drunk people out at night. Really, that's the only people out after about 8:30 are drunk people.

6. When's the next transfer date?
May 5. I probably will be transferred because Elder Daqs is dying (going home) next cycle. But if not, I'll be in Linao until August at least because one more cycle with him and one more helping someone else get to know the area. Anything can happen though
7. Well, your box should be there soon. Are you excited?
Yeah, hopefully tomorrow. President is coming and interviewing everyone tomorrow, too.
8. We had an unhappy ward like your's in New Jersey on my mission. It's too bad, because you are just trying to help them have a better life, right?
Yeah, it's hard. People don't like to be happy.This ward has the lowest home teaching, referrals, etc. The stake pres. was mad. Its pretty ridiculous. I am gonna have to agree with the stake pres on the matter too. There is a lot of problems in the ward. Weaver and Daqs. both said this is about as bad a ward as they have seen. Our zone leaders (who used to have this area) said it was their hardest area of their whole mission. At least it can only go up from here, right? I just try to ignore them and do my job. It is hard when investigators see the members doing stupid stuff. We really only have one or two guys helping us with fellowshipping, too. There are some really awesome members here, but they can't really seem to get it together. They aren't organized, I guess, is the biggest problem.

Elder Daqs. has just two months left on his mission.

9. Mom said some of her dresses are made in the Philippines. Do you see that kind of stuff? Yeah everything is pretty cheap here. It's not as good of quality though. I'll have to get some cool stuff before I go – Like custom jerseys with shorts are like 15 bucks ... and machetes are like 4 dollars each. I have one (I use for service projects). I can't say I have looked at the dresses yet, but I am sure they are cheap, too.

10. A machete? You have a machete? The other missionaries said to keep one handy in case of rats – haha.

Well kinda short, but that's about all there is to say. It's so hot! The work is hard but, it's coming along. I am happy. I miss you. Mother's day is coming fairly soon. I guess we are allowed to Skype you on Mother's Day – Monday the 10th.(Sunday the 9th for you). So Mom's birthday here, but Mother's Day in Utah. You'll have to look into what it takes to Skype. I'll give ya more details in the coming weeks.

Love ya!
Miss Ya!


Monday, April 11, 2011

Week 24: Cats in the ceiling and Uchtdorf

Hello all,
Wow! The time still won't slow down. Every time we do weekly planning on Fridays I can't believe another week is gone.
Cats in the ceiling?
Everything is fantastic here. Conference was awesome. The work is really good. People are progressing and going to church and gaining testimonies. We are finding new people with great potential and I love my companion. We have dinner appointments every night. And I hit the sack every night exhausted and sleep really great (except a few nights this week when we had cats somehow above our ceiling running around and scratching and being really loud -- only in the Philippines, right?).

This week we finally were able to meet the dad of this part-member family (the mom is the only member and she's been inactive for 15 years). He is really cool. We have been teaching them every night as a whole family (which is pretty hard here) and they are so awesome. They are the Bulbuana family. The dad doesn't smoke, drink, and the whole family doesn't drink coffee, which is unusual and very good. The mom talked about about her testimony and how she needed to come back and the kids are really smart and read the assignments. Then the best part: They came to church!!! Except the dad, but he said he had a problem to deal with, but would come next week. I am really excited for them.
Also the mother of Michael (a recent convert) went to church/conference, too, which has been really hard for her to do in the past. And we also have some good investigators with baptismal dates: Abigail a referral from a member, and Sis. Lanie, the oldest daugter (27) of a recently returned to church (formerly inactive) family.
Buntun Bridge in Tuguegarao

The work is really good, although finding (kind of like tracting) in the afternoons in the blazing blazing heat is tough. But people are progressing and gaining testimonies!

Conference was really awesome. We watched the Saturday sessions and Priesthood Meeting this Saturday, with one hour breaks in betweeen and it awesome. It was all in English, too. I guess the dialect here is so deep that they don't really understand the Tagalog version of conference. And supposedly they can understand the English better. I am not really sure how much most people understood. The educated people could probably get a pretty good idea.  Everybody else, not-so-much. But I am sure they felt the Spirit at least and the Spirit speaks all languages right? Even Itwes.
Pres. Uchtdorf
On Saturday when we went to the first two session and Priesthood, almost no one came. There was probably the 20 missionaries and 30 other people. Then on Sunday morning it was absolutely packed -- filled the entire stake center and every room with a TV in it. That was pretty cool. Then about half left and never came back for the afternoon session. I was kind of disappointed.

Priesthood session of course was the best for me. Pres. Uchtdorf and Pres. Monson and everyone was awesome. With the six hours on Saturday and the four hours on Sunday, honestly it has all meshed into one in my head. I'm not sure which is my favorite. Uchtdorf during priesthood was really cool. Pres. Holland was awesome as always. The themes seemed to be eternal families (BTW, I would hate to be in the shoes of an unmarried RM right now --Wow Pres. Monson and the apostles were all over that), getting ready for trials that are coming, and serving and helping others ... especially the poor.

A note to Mom: This conference I was really thinking about you and the great example and teacher you have been to me. I am so thankful for your sacrifices and effort and love for us kids. And your great example of living the gospel of Jesus Christ. You are so kind and selfless. Oh and thanks for all the Dear Elders from my friends and stuff. Those are really cool to get. I know that takes time, and also wanted to say I appreciate it!

Well thanks again for all your prays and support.

I love you and miss you all very much..
Remember the future is as bright as your faith!

Love Elder A.J. Griffin

Some questions:
Will you be able to get any NBA [playoff news? Jazz are out, but it should be interesting to see how the Miami Heat are (BTW, the Chicago Jazz, er, I mean, Bulls, have the best record in the Eastern Conference).
Wow, I am totally out of the loop. I didnt even know it was playoff time.

You guys usually sack out early? Is the culture there a nightowl culture or does everyone go to bed pretty early?
They all go to bed, or at least in the houses, really early. After about 8 the entire linao is like a ghost town. The only people out are drunk people. Apparently it's maybe kind of dangerous because people are always shocked when we are still out and walk home at 9-ish. They say, "Aren't you afraid to walk home?" But it's all right. We are protected. The only people that are out again are drunk people. And I am twice the height and weight of anyone here. As for us, I usually go home, plan, shower and go straight to bed. I am always tired. My comp usually listens to music and reads the Ensign at night.

One of the former Elders that went there said that the members used to do their laundry for a small fee. You're not allowed to do that anymore?
Nope. I guess like 2 or 3 years ago or less, the Philippine goverment whined because they weren't getting tax out of it so  now were are doing it ourselves.

Do you have email addresses for yuour buddies like Taylor or Derek or thiose guys? Are you supposed to write them and do you?
No, we are only supposed to write family. I would like to write my cousin Taylor and see how he is doing if you could send his address to me.
AJ and his Mum the day of AJ's farewell talk in church.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Week 23: Spongebob and chickens

Haircut time!

Hey everybody!

I miss you and love you. I am having a great time here in the Philippines! My first whole week with Elder Daq. has been awesome. He is really obedient and hard working. I love it! We now have a dinner appt every night of the week  -- which is awesome. Work is kinda tough but we have had some success.

Sister Lanie is progressing really awesome and she has a date. She is like 30ish has 2 small children and is the oldest daughter of a less active family that recently returned to church. She is really bright and the other day we were teaching repentance and she practically taught us. She used the pamphlet a scripture and a church lesson manual -- haha. She is really golden. And she has a baptism date of May 7th. She used to be a treasurer at some Methodist church but she has had some hard trials in her life and I think is prepared for the gospel now.

Interesting experience. We followed up on a former investigator we found in outer darkness. And when we first found her she was really not happy to see us. Elder Daq.  asked her if she knew the church was true, then she immediately said come in.  We talked to her and basically her attitude was that she was comfortable with her church and didn’t want to change and that God didn’t care which church she was in anyways. It was too bad. She said she didn’t want us to come back because she has heard all the messages anyways. Too bad. She then tried to give me her oldest daughter... She asked how old  I was and if I was married and then she was like "well take mine!" That wasn’t awkward  -- haha.  After Elder Daq. says -- "Good job Ammon."
Highlight of the week:  We meet a mom and dad at a less active members home. It was really by complete chance that we met them. Then a couple days later we met their family. They are so awesome. The dad doesn’t drink (I am pretty sure, which is extremely rare) They are both really interested and they keep always trying to give us lots of food. We taught them once and they seem really awesome. They have 3 kids 6, 8, 11. That is really the missionary dream, a whole family. Elder Daq. said "Siguro, yung pinnika receptive nang pamilya nakillala ko sa boung mission ko" or the most receptive family he has ever met his whole mission. We are really excited and praying hard for them.

I love you and I am having a great time.  I love the work and I love the people . Hope all is well.
Elder A.J. Griffin

How are you getting along with your new comp? Is it hard to mesh your different cultures?  Does he do anything that you find strange?  What about you?  Does he find things you do strange?  Are you having good success together?

He is awesome and really hard working. I am sick of rice is all. But that’s ok. He is really cool and we talk Tagalog together. Good things are happening here. We are happy. I probably do some weird things, but I am not sure.

1. Tell us about your conference experience. You hear any or all of it. Conference meant a lot to me on my mission. A touch of normalcy and home, you know?
Ask me next week. We get conference a week late. I am excited: Saturday at 8 a.m. and 10, then at 2 p.m. we watch priesthood on Saturday. And Sunday at 9 and 11 I think.

2. Any advice for Dallas working his new job?
Work hard and save that money!

3. You learning to love rice yet? ;-)

4. How's your wardrobe holding out? Shoes?
Pretty good. It is a good thing I brought lots of clothes. Clothes my size are hard to find.  Shoes are all right.

5. Do you sleep well there? I guess it's not quite that hot there yet, is it.We have lots of really loud chickens outside that go off all night. My first month here was really hard because of them, but now I mostly just sleep though the chicken noises. It’s not that hot yet, at least at night with fans we are fine. It’s coming though. Some days we feel its wrath. Most of this week was really awesome though. Elder Daq. kept telling me how cold it was (about 70 degrees). It was perfect weather till Saturday. We got roasted Sat. and Sunday though. [Note: We are sending him a box of earplugs]

6. Did you hear Pres. Monson in priesthood? He's telling young men to stop waiting to get married (like a lot of your friends. We better pick you out a wife for when you get home ;) Didn’t hear it yet, but I’ll be listening. Elder Daq. says he isn’t excited to go home and start the hunt. I personally am excited. You could pick out some candidates for me. That would be convenient.

7. We had Wendy's Frosties after Priesthood session. Do they have Wendy's there? Or any other US restaurants besides McDonald's?They have Mister Donut and Jolleybees (I’m not a fan) -- supposedly they have those back in the states. They have a place called Max's that is fried chicken supposedly from America. I haven’t been there yet. And they are remodeling Mc D’s so now we have no Mac Donald’s :(

8. How have things changed on a daily basis with the new comp?Not too much. Just more rice..:)

9. Have you seen anyone from back here out there? I had 2-3 Elders come out after me that were from West Jordan High. One of them was a guy who dated the same girl as me (not at the same time). Boy did we have some laughs.Not yet. Just Elder Katoa from St. George. But I never knew him before...

10. I guess Filipinos don't like American baseball? Astros are going to be awful this year ... but I will keep you posted.Ya all they like is NBA basketball as far as I can tell. They really love basketball though.  The kids sometimes play baseball with a stick and a tennis ball though. I don’t think they watch it though.

p.s. -- UConn and Butler are in the NCAA finals, which is Monday night. Go Butler. UConn has the 30 percent grad. rate right? I hate Kentucky and that cheater John Calipari.  Who plays for Butler now? I thought their only good player went pro?

p.p.s. -- DT says Taylor is on date for baptism on the 30th of April and to keep him in your prayers!  Oh cool, I will!

p.p.s.s. -- Jimmer won AP Player of the Year and a bunch of other awards, including first team All-American. There were some mean things written about him after they lost to Florida and he didn't play well, including a harsh column by Rick Reilly. But The Jimmer has weathered it well and just keeps smiling. It will be interesting to see where he goes in the draft in June.
Cool, when do they say he will go?  Top ten?

Some other notes from AJ during our live email conversation:
* I got emails from you only. I havent got any real letters from you. You guys should give something cool to Elder Daq. He said he hasn't gotten any mail since January. I really feel bad for him. Its weird, too. His family is active and the church has a free mail pouch system for families and missionaries. Anywhere in the Philippines is free. They live in Manila too. They should write him... that's too bad. I don't know what you can do. I just feel bad that he doesn't get mail or really email either. I really don't know. He says he doesn't care. but I don't know...
** Just played basketball at a church close to the computer shop. Basketball here is kind of annoying. No one takes the ball back after rebounds and there isn't really any rules. But whatev. I get lots of easy stuffs on these little guys. It's still fun. I miss real basketball. Oh and the handbook says we can't play full-court basketball. Super lame.
*** I wish i could hang out with you and go to baseball games or play dunkball. Sometimes I just think about stuff, and holy cow, I am a long, long, long ways from home. haha
**** [I told him he was out almost six months now] Uhhhh holy cow. I dont even know what I'll do when it's done. It's gonna be so weird, driving a car and using a washing machine. And drinking real milk. And watching football. haha... I will miss the work and sharing the gospel, though. And speaking Tagalog. I hope I can find people to talk Tagalog to. They have Spongebob and Dora the Explorer in Tagalog. I was thinking I should buy some before I leave. ha