Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Week 73

January 30, 2012

Dear Family and Friends,

Another week has slipped by. The time seems to be going faster and faster and there is no way to slow things down. We are enjoying our assignment here in Palawan. There are some things that we learn or will learn to go without but for the most part life continues on. This assignment is a little different from our other assignments. The branches are spread out and travel time becomes a big factor in what we are able to do. 

We had a fun experience this week at the open market (palenke). Our branch Relief Society President has wanted to help us learn about the area so we ventured out to the market with her. We asked her to show us some of the places that she ‘trusts’ so we could purchase our food. When I was growing up in Logan we had several very small neighborhood stores that had a limited stock of canned goods, candy and some fruits and vegetables. When the large stores moved in the little stores went out of business. Here in Narra there are many of these small family owned stores. Saturday, the vegetable vendors and the fish vendors come into the market to sell their goods. When I walk through this market I have flashbacks to when I was a little kid and mom would send me down to Roger Allen’s store or Tim’s Market for a can of tuna or soap. It is like I am stepping back in time to the late 50’s and early 60’s. 

The Relief Society President made sure that she introduced us to the members that had stores in the market. Most of the members here are rice farmers or fishermen. There are some that work for the church. Our District President is the only meat inspector for the southern half of Palawan. He works every day (including Sunday) but he has a good job. Early in the morning he must inspect all of the animals that will be butchered that day and then again that evening he inspects the meat that was butchered that day and will be sold for the next day. He works about 3 hours each morning and 3 each evening and he makes a good living for his family. 

That morning we went to one of the vegetable markets to look at what was available. The woman was very nice and we told her that we were just looking but that we would come back. At the end of our market tour, we went back to the ‘vegetable lady’ to get some things. She was surprised to see us but happy that we came back. I was able to speak some Tagalog to her and she ‘melted’. We became instant friends and I told her I wanted the best vegetables that she had. We purchased some green beans, potatoes, cauliflower, onions, garlic and some other things. She was impressed that we were trying to speak Tagalog and learn the culture. It was a fun experience and we will go back. We had some delicious steamed vegetables that night for dinner. We also went to a little fruit stand. The owner of this stand was a young mother.  She had a little toddler and she appeared to be pregnant. The only things she had to sell were mangoes and bananas. I couldn’t figure how she could make any money especially since the mangoes were really quite expensive (about $1 a pound).  The Relief Society President said that she tried to buy some things from her since they had become friends. We couldn’t resist buying some mangoes from her. They were delicious but they ripened too fast. We ended up eating them all within a couple of days so they wouldn’t spoil. We hope to be able to become a part of the community while we are here and maybe the market will be a good place for us to start. (We also found bread and milk and ice cream at some places. They really do have some groceries, they are just in different little stores along the way.)

Well, I think that the ants are letting me think that I am winning the battle. We have not had as great an invasion over the past week but this afternoon I went to get some bread out of the container and it was full of ants. We had to throw out the bread – so I brought out the poison and went back into battle mode.  We like to hear the tuko call out every morning about 6:30 – he is more dependable and much quieter than all of the neighborhood roosters! 

Sunday we traveled to Rizal to have Branch Conference. Rizal is a small fishing village on the other side of the island and probably the furthest of the branches in the Narra District. From what I have been told, this is the first branch conference they have had in a long time. Travel is difficult and expensive here on the island. We took our car and Peterson’s took their van and we transported 12 members of the District leadership to the Rizal Branch Conference. The National Highway road is really rough and there were times when I doubted the wisdom in taking a Toyota Corolla over those mountain roads, but we made it. It took us 3 hours to get there. We didn’t get stuck anywhere or drive off the side of the road and we only hit bottom twice during the trip. 
National Highway

National Highway

 The roads had just been grated when we took this 

 Many of the holes and rocks have been filled in and covered, until the next storm in a few hours.

 Driving through the jungle was awesome. There are so many trees, vines, and little villages. There seemed to be a carabao (water buffalo) on every street corner (figuratively speaking since there are no street corners here). 

The conference went well. It was sad however because the Branch President passed away early Saturday morning in his sleep. He was 34 years old. He had a beautiful family – a wife and 2 children – they were the only endowed couple in the branch.  He raised seaweed in the ocean for a living. They had so very little but they are an eternal family. It breaks my heart to see the poverty of these people. They always have a smile for you but you know that behind that smile most of them don’t know how or where their next meal will come.

In Sunday School one of the little babies kept looking at the ‘strange white people’. I got him to smile at me and then to laugh. He was so cute. After the meeting the mother came up to us a showed us that the baby had severe ‘clubbed’ feet and would probably never walk. Sometimes it is so hard. We are going to try to refer him into the Mabuhay House to see if they can help repair his feet so he will have a chance in his life. We have grown to love these wonderful people. They are always so happy to see us and are so kind to us. I wish I could just help them all and take away their sorrows and problems. I have come to rely greatly on the marvelous Plan of Salvation and our Redeemer. He is the only one that can comfort and bless them. While at the Branch Conference, the District President and President Peterson were able to call, sustain and set apart a new Branch Presidency. The work of the Lord rolls forth. The previous Branch President was released by our Father in Heaven and he will continue his work on the other side of the veil.

On a lighter side, we have come to accept those little ‘disruptions’ in meetings that occur rather frequently in the Philippines. These things just happen because there are so many people in such a small amount of living space. They vary from animals, people singing very loud karaoke, ice cream vendors and just members doing what they think they should do whenever they want. Well, Sunday we had a large white goose that was roaming around the church building. 
not the actual goose, this one was out with some turkeys
 The neighbor next to the church had a Myna bird. The goose wandered around the door of the church and began ‘honking’ or calling very loudly. It was really funny. And then it seemed that when the goose would stop the Myna bird would imitate the goose and that would get the goose started again. 

It was really quite funny. Sometimes are harder than others to maintain your concentration in the church meetings. 

This coming week we have the privilege of going back to Manila for a couple of days. We will be able to go to the temple, attend Mission Presidency meeting and the Zone Leader’s Conference with President Stucki. It will be good to go back to the mainland to see the other couples and to bring the remainder of our things over here to Palawan. We are grateful for this opportunity to serve here. We have been able to learn a great deal about our purpose and what we can do to establish the church here in the Philippines. It is a marvelous experience. 

We love you all and we miss you. Our internet connection is still not the best. I had them install a 30 foot antennae so we could get maximum signal, but that is not even strong enough to carry the Skype signal for longer than 1 to 2 minutes. It is frustrating but I really should not have expected anything more out here. We will adjust. 
our 30 foot antenna
We are doing well. We are healthy and happy and we enjoy being missionaries. We hope that everyone will soon get over their ear infections and other flu bugs that you are enjoying this winter. We love you and pray for your well being every day. Please take care and remember to BE good, DO good and BE men and women of Christ. And always remember to say your prayers.

Mom and Dad, Grandma and Grandpa, Janene and Grant

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