Monday, October 24, 2011

October 23, 2011

Hello family!
This week has been crazy too! Its been a really fun week though. This past Wednesday we did our first CSP (Community Service Project). It was crazy. We went out to a Barangay named 'Tabas'. I had no idea that this Barangay even existed. Elder Smith and I had to take a 20P (Peso) tricee (tricycle taxi) ride up a mountain and to a river, then we had to take a 5P ferry ride to the other side of the river. After that we had to take another 20P ride. Lastly we had an almost 2km walk through the forest. It took forever to get there. In case you didn't know 20P is a lot for a tricee ride! They normally are 8P a ride. 

It took forever for us to get out to this lady. She makes charcoal for a living. Making charcoal is hard work and doesnt pay a lot. Elder Smith and I had to carry all of her wood from where she cut it down to the fire pit. At the fire pit, we cut all of the wood into smaller pieces with itaks. An itak is a Filipino machete. It took us several hours to do. It was hard work. The forest we carried wood through is super thick. And of course it was hot and humid outisde. We look so gross in our pictures. I'm glad we could help her though. I wasn't too excited about having a CSP this week because it was going to take away from teaching time. But I felt bad for even having any negative thoughts. She was so greatful. She doesn't have much of anything and it was good being able to help. 

Afterwards she cut down fresh Buko, which is coconut, and we sliced it open, and drank the water inside. I knew this from my workout magazines, but coconut water is way higher in electrolytes than any other drink available. It was sooo good right out of the coconut. After we drank all of the water, we cut it open and ate all of the coconut. On our way back home, we had to wait forever for our tricee driver to finish his lunch break, to take us back to the ferry. We sat on his tricee while he ate. He parked his tricee right outside of the local school..... 

The kids got out of school for lunch right after we sat down. IT WAS INSANE. Elder Smith and I had no idea what this sound was. I honestly felt like Taylor Swift. Everyone was shouting 'Joe' and 'Beautiful' and 'Guwapo.' It was so loud. Within 30 seconds we had about 63 kids (girls) surrounding our tricee with cameras. It was hilarious at first. They kept screaming and taking pictures. After a while they started talking to us and asking us questions. It was fun talking with them. I just talked to the boys about basketball, etc. Elder Smith tried magic tricks but That was such a fun day. 

Saturday we had a baptism. There was supposed to be 2 people baptized but one of the girls parents wouldn't let her get baptized. So I got to baptize someone. It was really cool because I've never done it before but mom, please don't cry when I send some pictures, because I know you will. I had a lot of fun at the baptism. It was really nice out. The ocean temperature was really nice too.

Yesterday was our stake conference. It started an hour late. Filipino time is worse than Mormon standard time. While we waited I got to talk to the new missionaries in my zone, and to President and Sister Bliesner. They are awesome! We have zone conference on Friday so I get to see them again. During stake conference I did some extra language study. Most of the talks were in Tagalog, though they try and use as much English as they can. The stake president really got into it at the end. He spoke/chastized/and shouted a bit in his 30 minute talk. I really like him, he loves the missionaries. That's most of it for this week. Its been a fun week.
Love Michael

Friday, October 21, 2011

Pictures from the Philippines

Pictures from my apartment, me, and the remnants of the typhoon...

October 17, 2011


I loved seeing those emails from Ethan and Emma. I think that Ethan is growing up way too fast, and where did Emma learn to send emails in all those different colors? Tell Ethan I miss him a lot too! I hope he and Emma are doing good. If you got a chance to meet the Stotts that would be so cool. They are both awesome. Laura Schadt's letters might be here in the Philippines but I have to wait until I have a zone conference or training or something like that to get mail. It's too inefficient to have somebody go out and deliver the mail out to missionaries everyday. 

I love Elder Carroll so much. He sent out an email to all of our old MTC district. I loved reading it, it was hilarious. I'll forward it to you. Morgan better write him back and include some pictures from her post half marathon training. Holy crap I miss Taylor Swift so much. Send me Taylor Swift pictures or something. I miss her and everything about music. Surprisingly that is one of the things I miss most is good music, and being able to go for a drive and listen to all the music I want. That's one of the first things on my to do list when I get home.

This week has been really good. Right now we are typing our emails in Daet. We had to come here to withdraw our support for the next two weeks. We have to be in here again on Sunday because it is stake conference. I don't mind the drive though, it's nice. Elder Smith gets so sick in the vans. Everyone here is a horrible driver. If you don't kill someone, you are a good driver. He gets so sick. He doesn't get car sick in the buses though. They go slower and don't pass as many people as vans do. It just takes forever to get somewhere on a bus. 

You also asked if we watched conference. Yes, we watched all sessions. We watched them at the Stake Center but there were 4 brownouts on Saturday so it kept getting interrupted. They were all really good talks though. And the people we gave money to to get to conference was from our own personal money. We are not allowed to give out anything, so we just used our personal money... It was worth it though. 

Today has been good. We did laundry and I got a haircut too. The guy at the place cut it way short though. Its a 2 or 3 on top and a 1 on the sides, I like it though. This week we worked our butts off. We taught 21 lessons which is pretty good considering we were only able to do 8 last week. Last week was so busy with conference and stuff, I'm glad this week was more beneficial for our investigators. On Saturday, we have a baptism! It's for a 14 year old girl and a 19 year old girl. I won't put names in because this will be online but they are so excited to be baptized. I get to baptize them in the ocean. I think this is the Philippine Sea... Also this week I was able to go on exchanges with Elder Chauncey. He is going home today. He was a former AP here and was our district leader as of yesterday. He is an awesome missionary, he taught me a lot. That was a lot of fun. 

Also, we have these cats that keep sneaking into our apartment while we are gone, and while we sleep. Sometimes we get home before they leave.... Lets just say my umbrella serves an extra purpose besides keeping me dry. Those cats are hating their lives right now. We stopped showing mercy the 3rd or 4th time we found them in our house. We are getting screens installed on our windows so that we can keep our windows open at night, and not let bugs or cats in. By the way Ive only seen 3 cockroaches and 0 spiders here. I <3 Paracale. I don't know what I'll want for Christmas. Money would be nice so that I can buy things. I'm starting today to become really tipid. Tipid is Tagalog for frugal. I spend too much money on things I don't really need. Money would be good so that I can continue to buy somethings. If you want to send anything a Taylor Swift shirt is much appreciated. :) Send me her address BTW, I'm sending her a letter, no joke. Thank you for everything, ever! I appreciate it all, especially now. Love you!

Love Michael

October 10, 2011


I'm doing good. This week has been tougher. We had a double district meeting last Thursday in a town called Labo. Its between here and Daet. We went so President could interview our districts. That was fun because I finally got the Carabao belt I ordered through my zone leader. Its a black rough cut, Elder Smith got a black polished cut belt. I really like it, you can probably google them to see what it is. 

Carabao belt made from the horn of a Carabao (Water Buffalo)
We just got back from Daet last night. We have been staying there since Friday afternoon. We stayed there so we could stay with our zone leaders. We watched conference at the stake center. People only came for the Sunday morning session, which isn't great. We gave our investigators money to come to Daet and watch it, they came on Sunday. It was a really good conference. I took 23 pages of notes in my little notebook I bought. Other than that, our week has been pretty boring. We only taught 8 lessons. I'm not sure why but this week was really slow. I wanted to teach more but we didn't. This week has to be better or I'm going to go insane. In my planner I pushed us to having 23 lessons taught. I hope we get it done. 

We did give Sister Casipong some money though. Her husband has had some fishing troubles and switched over to doing some mining. I think it has to do with the time of year...anyways we left her some money for food and stuff, she wouldn't take it but we made her, she started crying and was really grateful.

Love Michael

Monday, October 3, 2011

October 2, 2011

Hey mom and family. 

Thanks for your extra prayers! The typhoons (a second one hit shortly after the first passed through) weren't too bad here. They did hit signal 3. That means all missionaries have to stay inside. It hit Manila area the most. The whole Bicol region is doing good, just lots of extra rain. Some people's houses flooded a little bit but they are used to it. Its so sad. Paracale didn't flood. We got a lot of rain but its ok here. I love the typhoons here because it really cools this place down A LOT. Its so nice when I can walk outside and not sweat. Actually its nice when I can sit on my bed and not sweat lol.

Photo courtesy of Sister Rachel Hancock (presently serving in Naga)
I heard President Packer gave a really good talk. What about Elder Holland? I've listened to all 42 of his talks on my iPod. That's awesome that everyone was able to get together for priesthood. Was it weird without The Burns and me? Who are the Elders in the ward? I love Elder Baldree, is he still there? Can you find Christian Gibson on facebook and ask him to send me an email? I feel like he was my first companion because of all the splits we went on. 

The language is coming slowly but I'm getting better at it. Every time I hear some people talk I can kind of follow what they are saying. Other people talk so fast that I have NO idea what they are saying, so I just laugh in my head and pretend like I know whats going on. 

By the way Ive lost more weight, I like it. Ive been eating healthier because there isn't a whole lot of crap food here. I'm still warming up to the foods here. I have eaten intestines, Balut, lots of liver, and other random things. My favorite dish here might be Pancit. There's a place in Paracale called Cowboy Hauz and they have really good Pancit. I always try and guess what meats are in the dish but I can never tell. They use lots of liver here and other things. They don't waste any of the animal. It tastes good though. Liver is good if its cooked really well done. Mostly everything is fried though. I think I'm at about 12+ pounds gone. I bought a mat made out of woven reed and grass to workout out on. Ive been doing abs and push ups every other day. I hate doing abs and always have but I want to beat Aunt Emily in 2 years. Also on days I don't do abs or push ups I do calf raises on the stairs leading to our apartment. There are about 2 flights so its a good little workout. I haven't been reimbursed yet for my luggage but I bet I will be next time I see President and Sister Bliesner. I withdrew about 2200P for some personal things. I bought a Carabao (Water Buffalo) belt and it should be done by General Conference this coming week. Ill pick it up when I'm back here in Daet for conference. A member here makes them. I'll send you a picture when I get it. Its a belt made of water buffalo horn, they're so sick. Every missionary has one and every teacher at the MTC had one too. I got a black rough cut belt. It was 800P. Also I'm getting pants made today for 300P. Its nice to have an extra pair of those. Before I leave Paracale I'm going to buy a custom ring too. A lot of people in Paracale work in the mines by town. Silver and Gold are way cheap here. 

I included Joel in my 24 hour fast. (yes a whole 24 hours) I don't think he realizes how big of a life change it is. It's harder than I thought. Make sure he is spending time with Bro. Beck or Bro. Arnett or Bishop. Those guys know what they're doing. I know Joel is working with Dave. I hope he keeps it up. Brother Beck is awesome. He just sent me an awesome email.

We are about to have 7 people committed to baptism. I hope they workout. We found this guy named Jeffrey the other day. He kicks butt. He is a neighbor of one of our investigators. He wasn't part of our planned lesson but by the time we were done teaching he was an active part of the lesson. We've been looking for more men to be baptized because lately its just been women. More priesthood and then hopefully soon Paracale will be a ward and not a branch. 

There is a lady here that is in our ward who is less active. She is soooo poor. Her house is tiny, made up of plywood, etc. Her husband is a fisherman without his own boat, and he can't read. They have 4 little kids. They are poor. We went over to their house the other day and we shared a message Elder Smith felt to share Jacob 2:8. After that she told us that when her youngest baby was born, he had breathing problems. He was there for 4 days. While he was there she couldn't afford to eat. So all she had was water and her scriptures and prayer for 4 days and she is grateful for it. She says she's blessed. I didn't understand what she was saying but Elder Smith told me after what she said. She is really awesome. 

Love Michael

Sept 26, 2011

Hey Family! 

It sounds like we are all doing fine at home though. Tell all the families who are expecting to name their babies "Michael." Its a good name. 

We've  been pretty busy. This was one of our slower weeks though. I'm sick with a cold that isn't going away, I hope it does soon!! I lost 9 pounds in less than 2 weeks, and keep losing. I'm weak. I can feel the lack of strength. Today we went to the big town about an hour away called Daet. The mayor and some of the police wanted to play the Joes in basketball. It was supposed to be a big game, it was announced on the radio, and the stake made jerseys for us and everything. This morning a level 2 Baguio (Typhoon) hit and its been pouring non stop, the power has been going in and out. Because of that the game didn't happen but we still played anyways because we were already in Daet when we found out. I did really good! All the practice from the MTC is paying off because back at home I stunk at basketball. I think when my tennis shoes finally die, I will buy some basketball shoes here. Hopefully that game happens though!!! I was looking forward to being a temporary celebrity in a giant basketball game. Hopefully soon... :)

We are about to have 7 people committed to baptism! Its hard though. I cant hardly speak. This is real Tagalog, not MTC Tagalog. Its hard to be myself around people because they don't understand me. I wish I was going on an English speaking mission. I would feel more productive... Whats your advice? 

Elder Smith's first name is Craig. He is from Clinton Wisconsin. He is a dairy farmer that is allergic to I think that's so funny. He has a girlfriend of 2 years that just got baptized. We are the missionaries of the Paracale branch. There are about 25 people including the 2 missionaries who actively attend each week. That includes kids, and babies, etc. I was told when Pacquio(spelling) fights, church is dead, the town is dead. Everyone watches the fight. 

We eat rice with everything. I love Pancit. Pancit is one of my favorite dishes here. Its a noodle dish. Because there are now cows there isn't beef in it... Also Filipino people use every bit of the animal when they cook, we always try and guess what it is. I know they use a lot of liver which is gross if its not thoroughly cooked. Before I got on the computer, I ate intestine... Its filled with poop, and tastes like it. It wasn't that bad actually but its not my favorite. For dinner that past couple nights Ive had Cup of Noodles seafood flavor. It has so much MSG but its cheap and quick. I miss American food sooo much! We also eat a lot of hamburgers here. Again we don't know what the meat is but its good. They use a lot of banana ketchup, which is good. If you're lucky they use mayo too. Also cabbage is on there instead of lettuce. They are seriously so cheap. 10p for one. That's about 25 cents. At the branch activity the other day a member brought "Maha" as a dessert. It is super popular I guess but so gross. I hated it but kept eating it to be nice. It is made of rice, cow fat, corn, and something else. Served at room temperature. You say they serve root beer floats in hell, I say they serve Maha. 

Also Ive tried Halo Halo. That's alright also. Its a little weird having beans and vegetable flavored ice cream on top of shaved ice, sprinkled with cheese. We also drink a lot of Tang. Its sooo good. My favorite is pineapple flavored. Strawberry is good too. They have every possible flavor. 

Thank you for helping me get prepared for my mission. This is so hard though. I know I will love it once I learn the language. I wish it would come faster. Thank you also for putting all of those talks on my iPod, I listen to them all the time.  Another random thought, look up James E Faust's talk Voice of the Spirit. I found it as a Mormon Message. It's so good. I love his talks. I think I've also listened to every Holland talk I have. I'm about to start Bednar.

This week I read a lot of the Book of Mormon and I plan on finishing it soon. I read 1st Nephi in one day, 2nd Nephi the next day, and through the small books and some of Mosiah the 3rd day. Its like my new coloring book. I've been highlighting so much and I'm remembering what I read. 

Every time we go to Daet I always want to go to a place here that has real milkshakes!! I use personal money because they are a little pricey. About 120 pesos which is about 3 bucks. That's a lot for a Filipino. I had 1 today. We have to go to Daet 2 more times in the next 2 weeks. If you wouldn't mind putting money in my account that would be awesome. Its definitely cheaper than shipping milk. I was told there is a real dairy with real cows and real milk in Naga!! Too bad that's 4+ hours away. Once I learn Tagalog I want to be transferred there. They speak Bicol there. I'm so excited for General Conference!! I think ours is a week later than yours. We are staying in Daet for a couple days with the Zone Leaders for that. That means milkshakes and air conditioning at the Stake Center!

Love you,