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Monday, May 23, 2011

Week 30: It's typhoon season!!!

AJ and his Dad had a fun conversation through emails back and forth that lasted about an hour Sunday night (it was Monday morning in Nueva Viscaya). Here are some of the highlights:

Dad: Hey AJ! How's life in the Philippines?

AJ: Its all right. Found a sweet place in Solono that is making me shoes right now. There is an awesome place in town that has 10 peso ice cream cones that I am addicted to. I got a new SD card for my camera. My comp is still a bit of a jerk, but he is progressing and -- finally – the last couple of days he is showing a little effort to be more obedient and hard-working. All is well i guess. Progression at least. This week some monster storm is supposed to hit the mission. This is what the mission president sent us:
Dear Missionaries:
I have just spoken to the Area Office and would like to pass on important information to you:
* They are expecting a powerful storm to come this week.
* It appears, if it stays its present course, it will hit our mission hard.
* Preparations are under way to set-up communications to make sure we can account for everyone.
(1). Make sure your cell phones are charged.
Typhoon Chedeng is about 100 miles from Manila in this radar shot
 from Monday morning. The mission is making preps for the big storm.
(2) Make sure you have the official mission issued SIMS card on your cell phone. I know some of you have others that you used. THIS WEEK, YOU MUST USE ONLY THE APPROVED ONES so that I CAN reach you at any moment.
(3) Be prepared for quick evacuation if necessary.  If needed, we will mobilize and move missionaries from low laying areas to safer grounds in advance of the storm.
(4) Have in hand sufficient water that is clean, and drinkable.
(4b) Have emergency food
(5) Have some cash on hand.  You will need for transportation, food, etc.
(7) MISSION POSSIBLE, and other meetings may be moved if it becomes necessary.

AJ: So what do you know about this storm?

Dad: Just looking at the weather map -- there is a big typhoon (hurricane) off to the east of the Philippines. It looks like it is headed straight north and you will only get the edge, which means lots of rain rain rain but it seems to be the brunt of the storm will miss the Philippines completely.

AJ: Oh cool. Ya, yesterday I think I experienced my first real Philippine rainstorm. In Tuguegarao it never really rained very hard, but yesterday it poured buckets for hours and hours and hours. I was soaked.

Dad: Just watching the storm on the satellite -- it's a monster -- hope it misses you. I guess you are on high ground though, huh?

AJ: Ya, we are on the side of the mountain, but there are still tons of rivers around us, so who knows what will happen. When it gets close they might send us to Bambang or Solono to stay with other elders. Who knows?

Dad: I guess typhoons are pretty common there, eh?

AJ and his Tatay (trainer/Dad), Elder Weaver
AJ: Ya, I've noticed all the elders that have been in the mission a while have crazy stories about typhoons and stuff. Like Elder Weaver's apartment's roof completely flew away. Another elder couldn't get back to the apartment because the river had completely engulfed the bridge they use to get home. I am just waiting for when i get some crazy stories.

Dad: Your Mom sure is happy to hear you are getting some shoes. Are they expensive?

AJ: Yeah they are making the shoes with airplane tire too! They said they can resole shoes with that too so I am gonna get my other shoes remodeled too! The shoes cost 2200 pesos or about 40-50 dollars, I think. They will be done on June 6, they said. Totally custom too. They measured my foot in all dimensions.

Dad: What else is going on for you?

AJ: We go to Solono for zone meeting (1 and half hours away) on Tuesday and then Thursday we have "Mission Possible," in Santiago (2 and half hours away). It's supposed to be in place of zone conference. Apparently it is some game thingy. I'm not really sure, but they said to wear p-day clothes, so that's cool. And we will have a baptism on Saturday! And 10 peso ice cream cones are the bomb. They use the waffle cone too!

Dad: Wow. It really sounds like things are better this week. That makes me so happy for you. Love that cheap ice cream, although we just went to Dickie's the other day, with BBQ and free ice cream. Yummy.

AJ: Oh man, free ice cream is better than 10 peso ice cream and no BBQ here unless i make it myself. I did get to Save More this week. It was awesome. I got lunch meat and real cheese. My companion thinks that everything that doesn't have rice with it is a merienda (or snack). He kept trying to tell me the lunch meat was raw. I was like, “Dude, I used to eat this like 5 times a week at home. It ain't raw. I also had to show him how to use the can opener (they usually just use a knife). No, not an electric can opener. A hand can opener. I was like, “You're kiddin, right?!”

Dad: We were thinking about sending you a big box of powdered cheese so you can have mac and cheese more often. Does that sound good to you?

AJ: I definitely wouldn't say no to that! I used the mac and cheese mix you gave me and the noodles are easy to find. Then I used fake margarine, fake milk and real cheese to supplement it! My comp didn't like it. He is crazy. He doesn't like anything that doesn't have rice. Talked to Elder Weaver. He is pretty amped to go home. And on Thursday in Santiago supposedly there is a store that sells Dr. Pepper, so I am for sure going to track that down.

Dad: Niiice -- DP! I am trying to cut back, but it tastes so dang good! If you get some, it will be like you went home -- for just a moment :-P

AJ: Ya, I got to go home a lot this week too – real sandwiches, Mcdonald's, ice cream, chili, potatoes and mac & cheese! Oh and tell Mom I disapprove of her sugar-free diet. That is ridiculous! :) Sugar is everything happy in life!

Dad: She said she bombed that diet anyway -- yeah sugar rules the world. Love ya sugar!

AJ: Well I am about to head out. By the way, I think this is the nicest computer I have ever seen in the Philippines. We totally got lucky. It has a big monitor and Windows 7 and fast internet.

Dad: OK, we will watch the storm. OBEY the President to the letter and you will be fine! Love you AJ!!!

AJ: Agalwad kayo!!! Thats Ilakano for take care! Mahal na mahal Kita – That means I really love you!
Now on to his weekly letter:
Busy good week here in the Philippines. Tuesday we went to Solono and finally found a place that can make me some shoes. We also got some Mcdonalds!!! And then we got to go to Save More! I got real cheese and lunch meat!
This week has been pretty good and 7 investigators came to church. One of our investigators, Betty, will be baptized this Saturday and she is really awesome. She has been all over and has such a strong testimony. She said Elder Lim and I are the 23rd and 24th missionaries that have taught her (Wow!).
I guess back in the day she lived with a guy (they weren't married) and it took a long time for her to change her heart and gain a testimony. But she said one day she just finally got it and told they guy they need to get married and baptized or she was gone. He didn't like that too much so she left. It's cool. She totally understands that the gospel is more important than anything.
I guess she just moved here to Aritao the week before I got here and they met her at church. She was totally golden for us (though she said she has gone through and was stubborn with lots of the other missionaries). But she is totally ready now. She already has read the Book of Mormon 3 times (!!!), the whole Bible once and the New Testament twice. Sometimes it felt like she should be teaching us. The first time I taught to her, I thought she was a member. She is pretty amazing.
Now some Q & A:

1. Shoes situation?
In a couple weeks it should be all good. A pair is getting made, and I will drop off my other shoes on Tuesday in Solono to get fitted with airplane tires!

2. (Bryce wants to know) Any nasty foods lately?
We have almost no dinner appointments so we eat at the Canderia or at the house and I can be selective there. My comp keeps trying to make me eat balut though. He did buy some nasty squid the other day and subsequently got diarrhea all the next day. [NOTE: I was going to include a picture of balut, but just looking at the pix made me slightly nauseous. If you really want to know more, go here]

3. Are you cooking in your apt. yet?
Yeah, this week we bought some gas and I was able to cook and stuff. I need to get a little pan so I can make cake and brownies though.

4. What are some positives and negatives of your area (besides what you've already told us)?
Positives: Central is close and small, where there is a grocery store and stuff like that. It's still hot during the day, but it cools off at night. There are absolutely beautiful mountains everywhere. Also, lots of investigators come to church and the work is good.
Negatives: No dinner appointments. We are far away from the big cities. Oh, and my comp is a pain in the butt.
5. Did you get a lot of enjoyment from your box from home? Yeah, it was awesome. I am totally wearing the Jimmer shirt to Mission Possible, and hopefully this week I'll make some cake and brownies and stuff. The magazine was awesome too. Jimmer is super famous!

Mt. Pinatubo is an active volcano about 150 miles away from where AJ is.

7. Grandpa wants to know if you're close to Mount Pinatubo ...
I don't know any of the names of mountains here. There are big lush green mountains all around me as far as the eye can see, though.

8. Getting to play any hoops or anything?
Yeah, we play with ward members on Monday afternoons. They are all short and not very good though.

9. Dallas leads OKC 2-1 in west finals, Miami leads Chicago 2-1. Any reaction?
I would have to say go OKC. One thing's for sure – I dont want the dynasty Miami or the Boozer/former team of Michael Jordan to win. We have been walking around town and everyone is watching the game right now. It was 1-1 and Miami was about to win the game, so I guess it was all tape-delayed.

Things are good here. Should be good week. Hopefully the storm doesn't wipe us out.

Love ya

A.J. Griffin

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