Monday, April 15, 2013

"Five minutes ahead of schedule. Right on schedule." Dwight Schrute

 Josh survived his first week in the jungle! Enjoy!

Hey all,

  IT IS SO HOT HERE. Oh my goodness, I cannot explain it, it is like a living heat. I am constantly wet--either with sweat or from the pouring rain. It's like the sun and the rain are battling each other all day long. It'll be so sunny and so hot all morning, pour in the afternoon, then be sunny again at night, and whatever it is, it's strong. After a week, I'm not longer Thomas-white, and my hair has gotten a lot more blonde. I've probably lost weight, too, because I am always, always, always sweating. But, it's cool here. We don't live too far into the rainforest, but I do technically live in the rainforest, which is pretty cool to say. Everyone here has coconut, banana, and papaya trees in their yard, everyone. We went to visit a less active person our first day (a very hot day), and she asked us if we wanted coconut milk. We accepted, and she went right up to a tree, chopped down two coconuts, used a machete to hack off the top, and we drank right out of the coconut. That was pretty cool, but I was a little worried cause Tom Hanks taught me in Castaway that coconut milk is a natural laxitive, but I'm totally fine. Everyone in the streets sells cold juices from just about every fruit, super fresh and super good. There's a guy who sells Bon Ice, it's like gogurt and otter pops, 12 cents each and he knows us pretty well. I think that this last week I spent more money on water than on anything, because I knew that if I got dehydrated from not drinking enough, I would just get grumpy, so I've had like 6 liters of water every day. It's really hot at night, too, and I take a cold shower twice a day, once in the morning and once at night because it is SO HOT. When it's raining, it's still humid, but the heat moves from killer to bearable.

  The town itself reminds me a little bit of Topsail Island. Not as nice, but it just kind of feels the same. The humidity is killer, a little stronger than Topsail Island, but it still makes me feel like we're living on the beach. There's the one grocery store, and not tons to do outside of stuff with family (or in this case other missionaries). Before, there were only two missionaries here, the Zone Leaders, and there were two more in their zone in another town called Coca. Now, we're four in Lago Agrio and two in Coca, and I am the district leader. When I need to go to Coca, it's like 3 hours away, so that'll be fun. We live right by the Zone Leaders, and just divided the city/province in half. We have a brand new house with brand new stuff, which is pretty nice... But it is really, really hot.

  The branch is small. Total members are 49, and a lot are inactive. The branch president is great. He is from the coast, and he's been a member forever, sealed in the temple, etc. His son is a return missionary who served in Argentina, and he's great too. They're pretty much the only strong members in the church here, so we have a lot of work to do to help them out. I play the piano for them, and they love it. Thanks for being right, Mom, learning piano was totally worth it.

  We did a lot, a lot, a lot of contacting here. It was really good though, because a lot of people haven't even heard about the church before. In Quito, the people are very closed, and here they are super open. Almost everyone invites us in to listen, but it's harder to get them to commit to things. They'll listen, they're just not as ready to act. In Quito, it was the opposite, closed people, but the ones who listened were willing to act. So it's taking some adjusting to get used to the new style of doing things, but it's a good learning experience. We had some people show up to church that we found during the week, and it looks like one lady and her kids will progress really well, we'll be visiting them later tonight.

  I had a coolish experience this week. Here it was fast Sunday yesterday, and we were dreading it all week. We were dying while we were able to eat and drink, plus on Sundays we work in suits. I was thinking, "If I don't drink for 24 hours, I'm straight up gonna pass out." So, to start my fast, in my prayer I said that I was willing to fast, but that I also knew that if I sweated like I had been, it would be very hard for me to do so. Literally as soon as we left the apartment, it started raining, and the sun didn't come out until Sunday afternoon after we had ended our fast. I sweated still, but not nearly as much as I would have had it been sunny all day. I thought that was really cool. It's like Nephi says, the Lord won't ask us to do something that we can't do--and if we need a little help to do it, he'll help us out.
Things are a little more expensive here, so we get more money when the apoyo comes. There's a pretty nice grocery store here, and tons of fruits like usual. I really like the fruit here. I haven't been super hungry this week, which is weird for me because I usually eat tons. I'm more thirsty than hungry, so I got some stuff to make fruit shakes to keep me eating well. The branch president has a restaurant, and their food is SO GOOD. We're not sure what we'll do for lunch here since there aren't enough active members to feed us, so we may get more money to buy lunch every day, and I would so happily eat with him. The rice is way better here, I'm not sure why, but it is.

  General Conference was awesome. I loved all the talk, but a few of them just brought down the hammer. I loved when Elder Bednar walked up to the stand and said right off the bat, "My message today focuses on why the law of chastity is so important." He was awesome. Elder Hales and Packer gave great talks, and are really old. Elder Nelson's "catch the wave" talk was really good too. They were all great! I wish I had time to talk about them all. We watched Conference in a different room with all gringos. I didn't realize how many there were in Quito. Sunday morning there were like 35 gringos there, and they made us lunch! Chili with cornbread and homemade cookies! Heavenly. I had the Ghost Pepper sauce again, too, and one Elder from Peru ate it and was dripping with sweat, it was super funny. While we were eating, President Ghent took me aside and talked to me about where I would be going and why, that the branch needs a lot of help and that it's really hot here. He was right. Priesthood session was great, but it's just not the same without pie or some kind of food afterward. Soon.

  My new companion is named Elder Coram, he's my first gringo companion. He's from the San Diego area, and is studying mechanical engineering. He doesn't eat much, but we get along fine.
For now, sending packages and letters isn't too smart. I probably won't get anything until I'm closer to Quito. If you want to send stuff, you can, but I think it would be better just to wait until I move sectors (which may be awhile) and start it up again, but it's your call...

  I think that that's about all I've got to say for this week, although I almost always forget things. I love it that anyone can email me now, cause I love hearing from people. Thanks for all your love and support, and enjoy your air conditioning this week, cause I sure won't!

Con amor,

Elder Thomas

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