Monday, March 30, 2015

Life in Barrio Caliente

"Barrio Caliente" translates to something like "The Party Neighborhood." We learned the other day that that's what they officially call the blocks where are apartment is, and it wasn't just what we liked to snidely call it. It's pretty frustrating at times here. The weekends are the aboslute worst - people drinking and smoking all night. And because they don't have any kind of laws against music volume, they bring out their biggest speakers and turn them up as high as possible. Right beneath our apartment. I have no idea how these people still have eardrums at times...Thankfully, as missionaries, we're so physically exhausted most of the time that we have not trouble sleeping. It just makes studying frustating sometimes. (Don't worry, I'm perfectly safe. The house has an alarm and we live on the third floor.) I've heard it was even worse during Carnival. I'm glad I was safe and secure in Quito.

But yeah, that's the life where I live. Just a little glimpse into it. On to more spiritual things.

Nephi's Psalm

The other day I had one of the most spiritual experiences I had in my mission. We went to visit a less-active family that moved from Spain about a year ago and went inactive - change is tough. They're good people, they've even been to the temple, but the transition has been hard. We found the wife and her daughter and we started to teach them outside their house. The wife started to share with us this, and we could really see how hard their situation was. We had a plan to share a missionary lesson, but it was obvious we needed to share something different. But what?

Our first instinct is to go to the Book of Mormon, but I was having a hard time coming up with something to share. Then my companion pulled out 2 Nephi 4.

A while back my Grandpa had sent our family a great big dictionary of gospel topics for reference. I really love that book - I wish I had it with me here some times. I loved to use it as I studied in the mornings at home. Once I had come across a detailed explanation of the last part of 2 Nephi 4 - what some people call "Nephi's Psalm." I really came to love that passage of the Book of Mormon and had annotated the brief analysis in the margins of my English copy, and when I came here in my Spanish copy as well.

I have always wanted to share it with someone.

So I made signs to my companion and he turned it over to me to lead the lesson a bit. Nephi begins with his feelins of inadequacy, things we fill many a time. We see what we've done and begin to feel regret and remorse:

17 Nevertheless, notwithstanding the great goodness of the Lord, in showing me his great and marvelous works, my heart exclaimeth: O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.

 18 I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me.

 It's pretty sad, huh? But here's the turning point:

 19 And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins; nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted.

And what he does next is extremely important - he begins to list his blessings:

 20 My God hath been my support; he hath led me through mine afflictions in the wilderness; and he hath preserved me upon the waters of the great deep.

 21 He hath filled me with his love, even unto theconsuming of my flesh.

 22 He hath confounded mine enemies, unto the causing of them to quake before me.

 23 Behold, he hath heard my cry by day, and he hath given me knowledge by visions in the night-time.

 24 And by day have I waxed bold in mighty prayer before him; yea, my voice have I sent up on high; and angels came down and ministered unto me.

 25 And upon the wings of his Spirit hath my body beencarried away upon exceedingly high mountains. And mine eyes have beheld great things, yea, even too great for man; therefore I was bidden that I should not write them.

What a great example! That's what we need to do. I try to follow this model when I feel overcome. I list the things I've seen to remind myself that God is still there. Then I love what his conclusion is:

26 O then, if I have seen so great things, if the Lord in his condescension unto the children of men hath visited men in so much mercy, why should my heart weep and my soul linger in the valley of sorrow, and my flesh waste away, and my strength slacken, because of mine afflictions?

 27 And why should I yield to sin, because of my flesh? Yea, why should I give way to temptations, that the evil one have place in my heart to destroy my peace and afflict my soul? Why am I angry because of mine enemy?

 28 Awake, my soul! No longer droop in sin. Rejoice, O my heart, and give place no more for the enemy of my soul.

 29 Do not anger again because of mine enemies. Do not slacken my strength because of mine afflictions.

 30 Rejoice, O my heart, and cry unto the Lord, and say: O Lord, I will praise thee forever; yea, my soul will rejoice in thee, my God, and the rock of my salvation.

When our less-active reached verse 28 she began to cry. So did I. Not just because I love how these scriptures apply to myself, but how I had the chance to help somebody else apply them, too. We all felt the Spirit incredibly strong.

I honestly feel like I was sent there to give that message in that moment. Interesting how I'd had all the preparation to do so and how that was what my companion felt he needed to read. The Lord knows what he's doing!

The Parable of the Owl Express

I know this e-mail's already been pretty long, but I'd love to share something I read recently. It's a parable James E. Talmage wrote:

During my college days, I was one of a class of students appointed to fieldwork as a part of our prescribed courses in geology—the science that deals with the earth in all of its varied aspects and phases, but more particularly with its component rocks, the structural features they present, the changes they have undergone and are undergoing—the science of worlds.

A certain assignment had kept us in the field many days. We had traversed, examined, and charted miles of lowlands and uplands, valleys and hills, mountain heights and canyon defiles. As the time allotted to the investigation drew near its close, we were overtaken by a violent windstorm, followed by a heavy snow—unseasonable and unexpected, but which, nevertheless, increased in intensity so that we were in danger of being snowbound in the hills. The storm reached its height while we were descending a long and steep mountainside several miles from the little railway station at which we had hoped to take [a] train that night for home. With great effort we reached the station late at night while the storm was yet raging. We were suffering from the intense cold incident to biting wind and driving snow; and, to add to our discomfiture, we learned that the expected train had been stopped by snowdrifts a few miles from the little station at which we waited.

… The train for which we so expectantly and hopefully waited was the Owl Express—a fast night train connecting large cities. Its time schedule permitted stops at but few and these the most important stations; but, as we knew, it had to stop at this out-of-the-way post to replenish the water supply of the locomotive.

Long after midnight the train arrived in a terrific whirl of wind and snow. I lingered behind my companions as they hurriedly clambered aboard, for I was attracted by the engineer, who during the brief stop, while his assistant was attending to the water replenishment, bustled about the engine, oiling some parts, adjusting others, and generally overhauling the panting locomotive. I ventured to speak to him, busy though he was. I asked how he felt on such a night—wild, weird, and furious, when the powers of destruction seemed to be let loose, abroad and uncontrolled, when the storm was howling and when danger threatened from every side. I thought of the possibility—the probability even—of snowdrifts or slides on the track, of bridges and high trestles which may have been loosened by the storm, of rock masses dislodged from the mountainside—of these and other possible obstacles. I realized that in the event of accident through obstruction on or disruption of the track, the engineer and the fireman would be the ones most exposed to danger; a violent collision would most likely cost them their lives. All of these thoughts and others I expressed in hasty questioning of the bustling, impatient engineer.

His answer was a lesson not yet forgotten. In effect he said, though in jerky and disjointed sentences: “Look at the engine headlight. Doesn’t that light up the track for a hundred yards [90 m] or more? Well, all I try to do is to cover that hundred yards of lighted track. That I can see, and for that distance I know the roadbed is open and safe. And,” he added, with what, through the swirl and the dim lamplighted darkness of the roaring night, I saw was a humorous smile on his lips and a merry twinkle of his eye, “believe me, I have never been able to drive this old engine of mine—God bless her!—so fast as to outstrip that hundred yards of lighted track. The light of the engine is always ahead of me!”

I love that imagery! My companion and I have been talking about faith a lot and how we can apply it better. We can have faith, but more specifically faith in Christ. We can have faith in Him because He was perfect. He's the only one that never failed or faltered. And that faith can lead us to marvelous things, but most importantly it gives us that guidance Talmage describes. We can have that security that there is something secure, something true in this life. If we build our lives and homes upon his teachings we can keep moving forward, despite everything. If we don't have that faith it can be developed through prayer and scripture study, and more specifically by reading the Book of Mormon. Nephi had that faith!

I know that Christ lives. I know that he died for us and that through him we can become more perfect. I know he cares about us and is always there to lift us out of our despair.

Here's the conclusion of the parable:

As he climbed to his place in the cab, I hastened to board the first passenger coach; and as I sank into the cushioned seat, in blissful enjoyment of the warmth and general comfort, offering strong contrast to the wildness of the night without, I thought deeply of the words of the grimy, oil-stained engineer. They were full of faith—the faith that accomplishes great things, the faith that gives courage and determination, the faith that leads to works. What if the engineer had failed, had yielded to fright and fear, had refused to go on because of the threatening dangers? Who knows what work may have been hindered, what great plans may have been nullified, what God-appointed commissions of mercy and relief may have been thwarted had the engineer weakened and quailed?

For a little distance the storm-swept track was lighted up; for that short space the engineer drove on!

We may not know what lies ahead of us in the future years, nor even in the days or hours immediately beyond. But for a few yards, or possibly only a few feet, the track is clear, our duty is plain, our course is illumined. For that short distance, for the next step, lighted by the inspiration of God, go on!

Love you all! Hope you're excited for Conference, because I am!
         Finally something flat! This is out in the island.

A pretty critter.

That's the ocean out there!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Hace Calor!‏

Good HEAVENS it's hot here. The rain managed to stop but the humidity lingered and it is disgusting during the day.

What's worse we haven't had water in the house for about three days now. I don't remember if I mentioned that - it comes and goes. It was pretty steady last week...but all of a sudden over the weekend it dropped off. When we DO have water we fill up the billion water jugs we have in the house, so we're fine, it's just obnoxious because it makes showering and washing the dishes and whatnot a pain.

At least we're better off than one of the other companionships in the Zone. Our District Leader and his companion abandoned their house because the owner hadn't payed the bills in weeks and they finally cut off both their water and light. They've been trying to get a new house for a while now, but for some reason the secretaries of the mission are taking their time. They tried living like that for about a week, but finally gave up and got permission to move in with the Zone Leaders. Which means they're in VERY dire straits. Because normally it's not a good idea having 4 missionaries in one house. Worse when two of them are going home in about 14 days. The other day I went on divisions with my District Leader (a day when I work with him in his area) - it was a good day. As he's ending his mission, he has of course lots of skills and whatnot developed.

This leads me to one of the worst experiences ever.

We get to the home of the Zone Leaders that night.

Me: "I've got to use the bathroom. Is there toilet paper?"

My Zone Leader begins to laugh.


That day we went to visit this guy named Nelson, a guy I'd heard of once or twice as he was getting ready for baptism. Mostly I'd heard funny stories. Apparently he was quite the character.

So we climbed this big hill up in the outskirts of Esmeraldas - we had to duck under some laundry, wade through some waist-high grass, and reached a shabbily-constructed wooden shack up in the corner. From up there I could see a good section of Emseraldas, including the ocean.

I got to know Nelson! Yeah, the guy was pretty crazy, but a loveable crazy. He showed us around his shack, showed us the trees he was planting, the coconuts he carved for a living. He kept testing me to see if I knew what the different plants were - saying the names slowly, so I could understand them (even though I understood fine the first time). We finally sat down in two chairs slipping in the mud outside his house to teach a quick lesson.

We read Helaman 5, focusing on verse 12. As we taught, I took a step back and thought about what in the world I was doing. I looked out across the ocean, at the jungle behind me. I thought about how I had just walked up a giant hill to talk to a guy I'd never met who lives in a shack and carves coconuts for a living to talk to him about Jesus and read from a strange book written ages ago.

I realized what love I felt for him, and what love he felt for us.

I'm not sure if I can describe really that experience, but...I just realized, yes, I'm doing it. This is what it's all about! This is that missionary experience everyone talks about. There's nothing greater than bringing that knowledge of Christ to the world. Because it's what he needed - maybe a new house, yes, and more than a few pairs of clothes, but the ONLY message, the only knowledge that would truly bring him peace and save him was the message that we shared. I know it's true!

How to Win

I've been realizing a little bit more how the world really works here and what is really taught and what really exists. I've noticed some interesting things.

I've noticed that when we ask people here what they think they need to do to be saved they say things like "Do good works." or "Help my neighbor." and things like that. But what happened to the commandments? Why don't these other churches seem to explain that there ARE commandments in the Bible like "Don't commit adultery?" Why do they skirt that issue and tell people they just need to be nice and believe in Christ?

I've noticed that some people, when we ask them to pray to God to see if the Book of Mormon is true, they might say yes, but they don't do it. Or they won't ask at all. What's so hard about asking? Don't they realize that that's the only way God will tell them what they need to do?

I've noticed in myself that I have a hard time doing the work sometimes. There are days when I just don't want to talk to people, when I don't want to leave the apartment. What's so hard about that? Why can't I do it?

We're all searching for happiness in this life, but how is it found?

"For the natural man is an enemy to God," explains King Benjamin.

It seems to me that the entirety of the Gospel - accepting callings in the church, going on missions, tithing, fast offerings, all the time and effort we are expected to put into our families, the commandments we are expected to keep, is to help us to overcome that natural man. We are expected to serve, and I think that's to teach us that in the end, the only way to find happiness is to forget about ourselves, and to care about others. And more than anything to be humble.

Humility, as True to the Faith explains, "Is an indication that you know where your true strength lies." It lies in God! God is the most powerful being in the universe, and the only way that we can access that power is by being humble, because only then can we realize like Ammon that "I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things." As he says, "there is no natural man that knoweth of these things."

The most powerful being to walk the earth explained, in John 30: "I can of mine own self do nothing...because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me."

Pride, as President Benson explains, makes us slaves to the world. People can't accept anything that wasn't their idea in the first place. People don't want to live the commandments because they restrict them and make them do things they don't want to do. People won't pray because they don't want to have someone greater than them telling them what to do. It's hard to get up and work because I'd much rather care about myself.

But the point is there's only one way to happiness, one way to peace in this life: submitting ourselves to something greater. That's how we overcome the natural man. That's how we are comfortable with who we are. That's how we have power. They always say there are two things you should be careful praying for: Humility and Patience - because you'll get it. ...But, I guess I want that surety. That true understanding of who I am. So we'll see how it goes. :)

Mark 8:35-36 struck me immensely this week:

 35 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.

 36 For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?

There's my thought for this week. Just what I was thinking about the world and myself these days.

I had some awesome pics to show you buuut I forgot the camera in the house. Just imagine the payoff when you finally see them next week.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Elder Scanlan Finally Grows Up‏

I hit my 6 month mark last week Tuesday! To be honest I don't feel different. I'm just glad I'm getting to a point where I'm loving the work even more. That's the most important thing. I'm glad I've got loads of time left. I spent that day in divisions with a Zone Leader, so it flew by without any introspective existentializing. Here in the mission until you hit 6 months you're a "guagua," a "baby," a youth until 12, an adult until 18, and until you die an old person. I'm still in my youth here! And besides, every time you gain more time somebody who has more time on you grumbles like an old person about how little time you "really" have.

The Continuing Travesty

"Estar chiro" is a phrase that indicates the speaker is without money. And so I was very chiro this week. I'm going to see how much I really have to spend to survive - that means I'll be eating nothing but rice, eggs, and if I'm lucky tuna every day for breakfast from now on. Sometimes I have no idea where the money goes. And we don't even have to pay the light or water bills in our apartment.

Speaking of water in the apartment. 

The other day I woke up to a high-pitched sound. Sleeping is one of the things we want to do most and get to do least in the mission, so I went back to sleep - but I kept waking up again. I remember praying that the sound would go away - I thought it was something outside - and the thought came to my mind that I should check it out, it might be something in the apartment. But I wanted to sleep, so I kept trying to, until finally I gave up and followed the sound to its source.

That's when I found that one of the pipes in an uncovered section of the wall had broken and was shooting out a fine water mist in the bathroom. I woke up my companion, and as it wasn't releasing much water, we went back to sleep for the 30 minutes we had left. We got up on time, went around doing our things, but it was obvious quickly that even though not much water was coming out, the bathroom drains wouldn't be able to hold it off forever. So my companion went to move the pipe back into place. Upon which he managed to break it completely out of alignment and the water began to shoot out at a rate that the drains DEFINITELY weren't going to be able to handle.

We managed to run down to a ferreteria (I have no idea what that translates to. There are specific stores here that are like mini-Lowes.) and buy a pipe. Thankfully my companion managed to figure something out and we repaired it - at least long enough so that by the time it broke again, the owner of the house had arrived and called more professional people to figure it out. We were removing water from the apartment for about an hour.

But we didn't forget to take pictures

Miracles of March

That's the theme of this month for the mission, and I've been on a lookout for the miracles we've been waiting for! We all sacrificed something specific last month and also fasted specifically for the success of the mission at the beginning of this month.

There's a family here, the Navias, that have been investigating the church (according to our records in the house) for about 6 years. And finally they're ready to get married! Often that's one of the biggest barriers here - people have to be married before they can be baptized, and with so many people just living together, it's difficult, and the paperwork makes it even worse. It's not easy. But their papers are ready. We just didn't understand what else was holding them back, so we when some of our appointments fell through, it came to my mind to visit them.

We talked and taught, and finally understood that the husband was a bit reluctant because right now he's without work and didn't want to throw a big party or anything because they don't have money - and the wife understood that, but didn't want to get married without doing SOMETHING. We helped them to set a date and if everything goes smoothly, they'll get married at the end of the month and baptized! I have faith they'll get there.

It's just interesting to me the ways the enemy puts little obstacles in our paths to keep us from doing things that really are important. We have to keep an eternal perspective, or we might let little things get in the way of salvation.

The Atonement and the Journey of Mortality

I learned something interesting, from a talk by Elder Bednar:

What he explains is that there's a part of the Atonement that sometimes we forget about, or don't understand - its ability to enable. He uses the example of Nephi - while in the desert, his brothers rebel against him and start to tie him up. The interesting thing is what Nephi prays for in Chapter 17 of 1 Nephi:

“O Lord, according to my faith which is in thee,wilt thou deliver me from the hands of my brethren;yea, even give me strength that I may burst these bandswith which I am bound”

What's interesting is that he doesn't pray so that his circumstances will change. He doesn't pray for the Lord to get him out of there in that moment. He asks for the strength to change his circumstances.

Trials are part of our mortal life and God wants us to learn from them. He won't make the trials stop - partly because he can't, but partly because he doesn't want to, either. Instead he wants us to learn to overcome our trials and do it well, and to rely on Christ's Atonement.

It's really something incredible. I'm still learning how to apply it, but when applied in this way, the Atonement can help us overcome trials in a remarkable way, where we're enriched even more. For instance, contacting is almost never a missionary's favorite thing to do, and so it is with me. So this week I tried praying for the strength to want to contact and to be interested for and love the people. I didn't pray to not have to contact, just to have the strength to meet the challenge. And at the end of every day I found I loved it more, and I had many fulfilling moments!

Likewise, I remember praying when the pipe broke that the water would stop coming out of the pipe. It didn't. When I thought about what I'd learned from this talk, I instead prayed that we'd have the genius to figure out a solution. And not long after I finished the prayer my companion suggested we go buy the pipe that we used to fix it!

I don't know if I can sufficiently explain this, so please check out Bednar's talk. I had to read it a couple times before I got it. But I know that Christ lives and that he died for us, that through the Atonement we can overcome anything! Love you all, and hope you have a good week!

Elder Scanlan

Monday, March 9, 2015

Esmeraldas Chapter 2: Shoes Muddied and Stomachs Destroyed

It's been rather rainy here - practically every day. That's good, because it means it's not so deathly hot all the time. Far more refreshing. But it also means that my shoes get extremely muddy. The streets down where we live are paved, but somehow the mud makes it down here still. And of course, when we have to climb up into the hills where the people actually live...that's much worse. The other day we watched with amusement as a bunch of kids played in the mud, flinging it at each other. At least they don't do that to us. Somehow my clothes still get muddy. The other day we went to get our laundry from the person who cleans it and learned that they'd gone a good 6 hours away and didn't know when they'd be back. It was pretty funny, really, as what we were wearing was the last of what we had. Thankfully we got it back the next day.

Mostly it's awesome having people always giving us something to eat - even if it's just pancito and a little bit of soda or herbal tea. But the other day someone had bought a 2 liter bottle of soda and gave us some. Cool, that's great. I downed it with pleasure. Then I realized they'd bought THE ENTIRE BOTTLE for us. So I ended up having to down about a liter of soda solo. Thankfully I managed to find an excuse to not drink it (a much longer story which will be told some time when I get home) but still ended up having to drink most of it. I about died that day. And when we get back to the apartment my companion: "I'm hungry! What do you want to eat?"

Other than that my stomach's been doing fine. The water here is the most dangerous, so most of my money has been spent on buying bottled water. I probably drink around 2-3 liters every day. Worse if it's a hot day.

In terms of the people, and the sector...things are going well! The great thing about the coast is that there's almost always something to do. We do have an investigator with a baptismal date, but as she didn't come to church this past week and we haven't been able to find her for a while, we're at the very least going to postpone the date...we'll see how it goes. We're mostly focusing on helping our less-actives, of which we have PLENTY. For instance, a family we found the other day that moved her from Spain a good year or so ago (That happens a lot here. Lots of people go to Spain looking for work. And they come back with the most hilarious accents.). Over there the family we sealed and everything and when they came here, well...the ward was different and they had a bit of trouble adjusting to that.

It frustrates me a bit when people know what's true and that they have to act, and do nothing about it. What a waste of their agency! But hey, that's hipocritical at best. It's something I need to master, myself. The things we can do if we just master our own selves! We just need to make the decision to do it.

A thought came to my mind the other day - we only call people less-actives if they don't come to church. It's the best way the church can measure a person's commitment, the only truly concrete statistic that can help the outside observer measure someone's commitment to Christ. But going to church isn't everything. Really, when people go "less-active," the problem begins much, much earlier. It begins with being less-active in our day-to-day commitment of living the Gospel. Less activity in our scripture studies, our prayers, our family home evenings...if we're not doing those things, why bother going to church? It's nice to keep face, but sometimes it's only that - a mask.

And more than anything I've become only more grateful of the example I've had in my own family. Even though it's hard, we tried to do our scripture studies, our prayers. It's like herding cats sometimes, but if it's not done, nothing gets accomplished. Everything starts in the families, with righteous examples.

As I've visited so many people I'm starting to realize as well what a bubble I lived in before. Most people don't have security in their families. The modern family is fractured and distorted to a point where it doesn't know what it is anymore. Anything goes. The enemy truly is attacking in the most vital point, because if the basic unit of society doesn't exist, nothing does. I love a quote by Larry Niven (I believe) - Society is never more than three meals away from collapse. And many families are finding it harder and harder to provide those basic things. And the most basic - love.

I know the God cares about families. It's the divine order he's established, where we can find true peace and happiness. I know there's nothing greater, more important, than having that kind of family. And the Gospel of Christ is really the only way to achieve it. No philosophy, manual, or program can replace what it teaches. The only true path to love, respect, and service. Read the Proclamation again. I know that when we are unified in the truth of the Restored Gospel we can have the families we want! That's why I'm out here, trying to save one little piece of the world from its self-destruction.

Love you all! Have a great week! :)

Elder Scanlan

This week you'll just have to imagine how much fun I'm having in Paradise. I managed to forget my SD card adaptor in the house. Pics next week!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Elder Scanlan Gets Transferred to Paradise‏

Hello From Esmeraldas!

The envy of the mission. The majority of the missionaries who get sent here say it was their favorite sector, and at the very least I haven't heard anyone say that they straight out didn't like it. And I'm quickly figuring out why!

Esmeraldas is situated on the coast of Ecuador. Unfortunately, my sector doesn't include the ocean, but it DOES have an island sitting in the middle of the river (I think it's the only one, but I don't know the name) that feeds into the Pacific. And of course as missionaries we aren't allowed anywhere near the beach, so...sorry! The only pictures you people will get will be from verrry far away.

The people are pretty different. Lots of African descent here. They also generally speak a lot quicker and if there's slang I of COURSE don't pick it up, but it's fun. It's easy enough to get into a house just by contacting - so they tell me. We haven't contacted a ton. Our focus here is mostly less-actives - there are plenty. My ward, Barrio Paraiso (Paradise Ward) is teensy - even smaller than my last one. Actually, it should be a branch, and they're working to get people to come back. We'll work with them as much as we can. For the first time my companion and I are the only companionship in a ward - I'm used to having two.

Anyhow, the coast - it's generally a little bit more dangerous here. We leave a little bit earlier in the morning and come home a little bit earlier at night - at 8:00. That's when we do our language studies. I love that, because it's dastardly difficult to get people to do language's always the first thing to get cut. I'm making good progress on my Book of Mormon in Spanish. They don't send sister missionaries here - they used to, but don't any more. I'm not sure why. I'm sure one got robbed or something.

It's also unbelievably hot. I'm usually swimming in my own sweat an hour after we leave. I'm so glad we have fans in the apartment. The bugs bite here something nasty as well - thankfully I haven't had it too bad so far, but I should really be more careful. My last companion had a mosquito bite that, almost a year afterward, was still there. And bleeding. Yeah, I should be more careful.

But what else makes the coast amazing? The FOOD. Good heavens I will never find this again and need to take advantage of it. Practically every two blocks there'll be a place that sells "encebollados," a fantastic fish soup. It's eaten with fried plantain chips crushed up and tossed in (in the Sierra, Quito, they add popcorn as well) and condiments like ketchup, mustard, mayo, hot sauce...which sounds strange, but it's just great. Plantains are also in about every corner. Although for some reason I've had trouble finding the good old normal bananas. It's a bit frustrating. I'm betting they're super cheap here, too...oh, and there are coconuts. We bought some today - the guy just hacked off the shell and stuck a straw in it. And it was pretty darn delicious. And for just $1.50! Oh and CORVICHES. I tried my first one this week as well. It's plantain flour (I think) made into a little oval and fried, which they then cut open and like a sandwhich stick a fish filling in and whatever condiments you desire. To die for.

As for my sector specifically, we live down in the more commercial area, where there are actually a good number of shops and whatnot. But most of the people live up in the hills. I thought that because I was out of Quito I was done with hills. Lies. My companion tells me that the only place in the mission where there aren't hills is in the jungle. Well, we'll see. Not many go to the jungle. But I'm not going to say I wouldn't miss the hills.

Questions? Comments?

Oh, and companion is from Guatemala. Elder Equité. We get along real well - so well sometimes I forget he speaks Spanish and I start talking to him in English. I guess that's also a good sign my Spanish is in a good place.
Here, way more than Quito, everything truly screams foreign third-world country.

Up almost at the very top of our sector here.

My first encebollado here. A very happy moment.

Did I mention I'm in the coast?

 Me and Ezequeil (sp?), one of my bestest pals from my old sector. Gosh, I'll miss that family. I was there when we got the dad to propose officially to the mom, I was there the day they got married...good times.


Sunday, March 1, 2015

A Bit Of A Change

This is Jeremiah's short post from last week. Apparently he had a 6 hour bus ride to his new area, so he didn't have time to write.

I'm in the coast, in Esmereldas! What does that mean?

That I have no time to write you people! See you next week! :)