Friday, November 16, 2012

Birthday Celebration in Peru! Victor turns 21!

Yo familia. Remember how I said a few weeks back that I missed the rain? Well, it rained this past week. Well, I'm not sure I can even call it rain. It was more like it sprinkled a little bit. Basically  you could walk around in it and go back inside and you'd still be dry. However, all it took was one day of not-even-real-rain to remind me that I do not actually like rain at all. No siree Bob. The weather, unlike almost anything else, has an extremely powerful affect on my mood, and rainy, cloudy days are more depressing and sleepy days than the rest. That's why I didn't used to like rain (well, that, and the getting wet and muddy when you walk outside part), and that's why I still don't like rain. I don't miss rain. I take it back. I don't miss it!

Well, let's see what else happened this week. In case you forgot, it was my birthday. But some other stuff happened before that.

Last week I told you that I was busy working on a big ol' PowerPoint presentation for the zone leaders council (I really don't know if they call them "zone leaders councils" in English, but that's what the literal translation is. To me, it just sounds really Star Warsy). Got that done. Tuesday was the meeting. My presentation went pretty well I think. But I guess I'll find out just how well it went when I start to see how the zone leaders are now using their zone funds. The monthly ZL councils are always pretty awesome. Even though I'm not a ZL, I always really like them and come out of them more excited to be a missionary. President Risso always has the coolest talks and everyone always has great ideas to share in those meetings. I feel like I learn a lot. This time, President Risso was talking about how in this mission, in this culture, the missionaries have to do a lot of things that normal missionaries should never have to do, because nobody else does them. We have to take responsibility for lots of things that we are not responsible for, because those who are responsible for them don't take responsibility. Sometimes that's really frustrating to me. But, it's just how it is, and we gotta deal with it. Eh, still trying to work on that whole patience thing. It was a cool meeting though. It's definitely a privilege to be able to be there every month even though I'm not a zone leader.

Speaking of impatience, even though last week our bishop told Peter that we'd set a baptismal date for him this Sunday, Elder Perea and I couldn't wait that long and went to visit him on Tuesday and set a date for him! I can't say enough good things about Peter. He basically already knows all the articles of faith and remembers so many Book of Mormon stories. He's so ready! He's the best. We have a lot of really great people we're visiting right now. Dennis and Gustavo are still excited to get baptized too. Though we might have to push the date back a bit because Gustavo has been sick and we haven't been able to see much of him. Dennis however is reading everything we give to him, and he remembers it all. We gave him a Restoration pamphlet one day, and we we're going to teach him about the restoration in more detail in our next visit. Well, we showed up to the next visit, asked him if he read, and he basically taught us the entire lesson in a short summary. Haha. Pretty cool guy. And there's this less active family we're visiting who want to get active and come to church and come to activities and have FHEs in their home, and they have a nine year old son named Manuel who is not baptized who wants to get baptized. We got lots to do!

One of the weirdest, yet coolest experiences of my mission happened this past week. We finally got to go visit the Buddhist lady again this week. Her name is Marcela. But, it wasn't a normal visit. She invited us to her home where they were having one of their Buddhist meeting things. Yeah, sounds good to me. So, we show up, and her son answers the door and lets us in. He takes us upstairs, and Marcela and a few other people are up there praying together. Buddhist style. It was like this Japanese chant that they all recited in unison, but it totally had this rhythm to it and it was almost musical. We stood there patiently in the back waiting for them to finish. The prayer went on for like 15 minutes. It sounded almost creepy, but kind of cool at the same time. To me it was just so different than anything else I've seen in Peru that I thought it was fascinating. My companion later told me he thought it was too weird and he felt uncomfortable. I thought it was neat. After the 15 minute Japanese musical prayer ended, Marcela got up and greeted us and so did the rest of them. They're all super nice people. Then we all went downstairs to watch what I basically liken to a Buddhist version of General Conference. It was this like 20 minute talk from the president of the Buddhist organization (I really don't know what I'm talking about) and it was filmed in Tokyo or something in one of the main Buddhist temples. The president was a sweet old man who wore his white shirt and tie and basically just reminded me exactly of the presidents of our church. Except he spoke Japanese. We watched his Japanese talk with Spanish subtitles, which sort of made it pretty hard for me to follow, but it was kind of cool. After it ended the people shared a bunch of their ideas, and we chatted a bit. They closed the meeting with a song and a prayer (not as long as the first prayer). We didn't really teach, because it was their meeting, but we did share a little bit about what we believe and how it complements their Buddhist beliefs. It was pretty cool. They were all really happy that we were there and super friendly to us. I thought it was probably one of the coolest things I've been able to do on the mission. Something so different from the normal routine. Just a big ol' learning experience, seeing who these people are, how they live, and what they believe. I liked it a whole lot. Something I will always remember.

Since our ward was merged with another ward a few weeks back, we now share our area with the elders who were serving in that other ward. Our new combined area is gigantic, and us office elders now get to share it. It's kind of cool to be honest. I like to think we're the most united district in the mission. Haha. We share a room, we share the office, we share a ward, we share an area, and we even almost to a point share investigators. Sometimes because we're in the office, one of us might have to stay late working on something, and so a lot of times we go on splits so that two of us can stay here finishing up the work while the other two go out and teach. It's been kind of a fun experience. I enjoy it. It's fun to get to go out and teach with the other elders sometimes too.

There are some things that I just don't get though. Ever since I started the mission, so often when we talk to somebody about Adam and Eve and their fall, people just go nuts on this one belief that I just do not understand at all. Everyone knows that Adam and Eve lived in the garden of Eden and it was basically a paradise and they lived in God's presence. Then they sinned, and they got booted. That's the super short version. All Christians pretty much agree on that. However, the part I don't understand, is how almost everyone we talk to seems to think that Adam and Eve's fall was not a part of God's plan, and that Satan, by tempting Adam and Eve, basically screwed up everything God had planned out. So many people have flat out told us "God didn't count on Adam and Eve sinning. He wanted them to remain perfect and have perfect children who would live in paradise forever." Basically, everyone is telling us that God, a perfect being, messed up. In his infinite knowledge, He overlooked a major flaw in His plan. He created the world, and everything in it, He sent Adam and Eve there, and the plan was that they would be perfect beings, but then Satan came along, found a hole in God's supposedly fool-proof plan, and ruined everything. Right. Really? God's plan was that easy to mess up? I just don't get how everyone can agree that God is a perfect being, but at the same time believe that His plan was imperfect, and ruined, and that now because of that unexpected mistake God had to try to fix what had gone wrong which is why he sent Jesus Christ to the world to save us. Adam and Eve were a failed experiment, and Jesus Christ is the backup plan to try to make everything right again. That doesn't make sense. That doesn't add up. I don't know if this is a universal Christian belief, or just a Peruvian belief, but seriously almost everyone tells us that Adam and Eve ruined history and in turn made our lives miserable. Come on, if it wasn't Eve who had disobeyed first, it would have been you. It would have been me. None of us are innocent of sin. If not Eve, if not Adam, it would have been you. Don't blame them for making one mistake when you've made and will continue to make millions. We're not perfect, and they weren't either. People are really stubborn about this belief however. They just want to blame everything wrong with their lives on Adam and Eve and God's plan that didn't quite end up working out the way He wanted. If God really didn't want Adam and Eve to eat the fruit, then why did he even create the tree? I can't believe that during the creation God was like "I'm going to make this perfect world, but also put this tree in it that might destroy everything I've done if someone eats its fruit. I sure hope that doesn't happen!" Nah, it doesn't make sense. Adam and Eve started learning, and started progressing after eating the fruit. Before they ate it, they lived in a state of innocence, not knowing right from wrong. They didn't even realize that they were naked. They were like little children. Like babies. After disobeying, they learned that consequences follow disobedience, and they realized that consequences suck and that it really is better to be obedient, and they started learning to choose between good and evil, and started progressing. They started having children. And now, thanks to them, here we are today, learning, progressing. I don't get it. I just know that I'm so thankful to not have to live with so much doubt like that. So many people tell us of the faith they have, but then they tell us about all these doubts they have and all the things that don't make sense to them about what they've been taught. I just feel blessed to have this gospel that clears up those doubts and strengthens my faith. Ever since I started the mission I've always thought that if all of this was a lie, that with all of the studying I've been doing, reading the scriptures, listening to the prophets, praying and testing promises, etc... If all of this was a lie, then the more I study it the more obvious it should become that it's a lie. However, the opposite is happening. The more I study, the more I learn, the more sense everything makes. Things I didn't understand before now make sense. All of the little holes in my testimony have been or are being filled. All of the flaws in God's plan turn out to not be flaws after all. Everything just makes sense. I feel safe knowing that God has a plan for us, and contrary to what people here seem to believe, it is in fact a perfect plan.

Anyway, Saturday. Saturday was my birthday. It was a lot better than my last birthday! Started out getting a call from the assistants (who are with President Risso in Jaén right now. One of the more distant zones in the mission.) wishing me a happy birthday and singing to me. Haha. Then, as we were on our way to breakfast, President Risso and Sister Risso called to wish me a happy birthday too. We got to eat breakfast with the Yatacos. Hermana Yataco made us pancakes. Well, they were more like crepes. They were pretty delish. My birthday treat. Then she gave me a muffin with the most gigantic ridiculous "candle" ever on it that was more of a firework that was basically shooting out a giant flame of fire and sparks. It was silly. After that we went to the office for a little while before heading back over there for lunch. Tacos!!! We got to eat some delicious tacos. So good! I think I told you before that it was also this other girl's birthday, Rosmery, and Hermana Yataco brought us out our birthday cake. They sang to us individually, and then it was cake time. You know what that means. Gotta bite that cake. First, it was Rosmery's turn. She leaned in to bite it, and obviously got cake smashed in her face. Not too bad though. Next, my turn. Elder Samamé grabbed the cake, and I knew I was done for. However, I didn't expect that I wouldn't even get to attempt to bite the cake. I didn't even lean in, and Samamé just shoved the cake in my face. Are you serious?! That's not fair!! So we got some good photos. We all lined up for a group photo with the cake all over my face. As I was standing there, I realized that the cake was now in my hands, and that Elder Samamé was standing right now to me. Almost without thinking, I shoved the cake in his face. Hehehehe. That's how it should be! Good times. Good times. I didn't actually end up getting egged. Thank goodness. I think I had made a big enough deal about how evil egging people is on all the past birthdays. Phew! Overall, a pretty good birthday. I opened up the other package. I am currently enjoying the candy. Carmel Apple Pops are soo good!!!! Thank you thank you!! And I always love the photos. Read Grandma and Grandpa's card too which made me happy. It was a good day. Hermana Yataco has better photos than I do, so maybe tomorrow or something I'll get them from her and send them to you guys.

However, something completely unexpected and awesome also happened that day. Elder Cabrera and I were talking about some of the dumb Mormon movies like the Singles Ward and Sons of Provo 'n stuff. So, with a free moment I had (I almost never seem to have those) I got on the computer to look up something about some Mormon movies. What better site to go to for movie info than IMDB, right? So I went to, and something grabbed my eye just as I was about to hit the search button... It was an article on the front page announcing who the writer is going to be for Star Wars episode 7. WHOA. HOLD ON. JUST ONE FREAKING SECOND. STAR WARS EPISODE SEVEN?!?!?!?!! ARE YOU SERIOUS?!!?!? I don't know when Star Wars 7 got announced, but nobody ever told me about it!!! THIS IS THE BEST NEWS OF MY LIFE!!!!1!!1!1!1!1111 Best accidental birthday present ever!!!! I didn't investigate any further, but I sure wanted to. STAR WARS!!!!! I always thought this would happen eventually, but I didn't think it would happen this soon. Everyone in the world on the internet was always like "no way, it's for sure never happening ever. There will never be another Star Wars movie." Even George Lucas has said that multiple times. But I was always stubborn and could never really accept that idea. Now it’s happening! In yo' face, internet! Anyway I am way ridiculously happy and basically in shock and awe at the news. The fact that I learned about it on my birthday was too perfect.

So, speaking of Star Wars, reading your e-mail about how you're fine and you didn't die in the Guatemala earthquake made me happy. Then when it got to the photos, the first one was captioned "Yes, we were here and took this picture with our own camera.  Do you recognize it?!" It took me like 0.3222867 seconds (well, actually I had to wait like two minutes for it to load...) to realize that HOLY CRAP MOM AND DAD WENT TO A PLANET FROM STAR WARS!!!! Seriously?!! Yes I recognize that place!! The photo is like an exact shot from A New Hope. Yavin 4, duh. You went to Yavin 4. THAT IS SO NOT FAIR!!! I was already jealous that you went to Guatemala without me, but now I'm like infinity times more jealous than before.

The picture from Star Wars.

The picture Mom and Dad took.

Okay, enough Star Wars. (there's no such thing as enough Star Wars!)

It looks like your trip was pretty awesome, even aside from being in real life Star Wars land. I wish I could have been there! There are some ruins in Peru but they're not nearly as cool. Remember that photo I sent a really long time ago about that ancient city we went to that is now basically just piles of dirt? That's how all the ruins are here, because in Peru, you don't use cement. You don't use stones. You build with mud. Mud does not last long. The ruins here are really just gigantic piles of mud. Not that cool. You got to eat beans and rice. Mmm!! Actually, beans and rice is something I hardly ever eat. Rice always, beans not so common. Chicken and rice. You went to the temple, no fair, went to McDonald's, no fair, went to some other cool places, no fair. The Waters of Mormon? Neato. You know one of my favorite scriptures is Mosiah 18:30. It goes like this: "And now it came to pass that all this was done in Mormon, yea, by the waters of Mormon, in the forest that was near the waters of Mormon; yea, the place of Mormon, the waters of Mormon, the forest of Mormon, how beautiful are they to the eyes of them who there came to the knowledge of their Redeemer; yea, and how blessed are they, for they shall sing to his praise forever." That is one of my favorite scriptures purely because I think it is so ridiculously repetitive and it makes me laugh. How many times can you say the word "Mormon" in one verse?! That's a great verse to share with people who don't know anything about the church or the Book of Mormon and think we worship Mormon or something. Nuh-uh! Read this verse to see what we really believe!... oh, wait, yeah, I guess Mormon really is all it talks about after all... I'm excited to hear more about your trip in your next letters.

Driving sounds super dangerous there. However, I doubt it can get much worse than it is here. I am afraid I will die any time I get in a taxi, or even any time I cross the street. There are no rules here as far as traffic goes. Well, I'm sure there are. I'm sure there are all the same rules as back home. They have all the same street signs and street markings. The difference is that nobody follows them. It’s a free for all in the streets! Do whatever you want! Four cars can drive side-by-side on a two-lane street. I've seen two dogs get nailed by cars since I've been in Peru. Both of them got up and ran off afterwards, but I'm sure that hurt pretty darn bad. I've almost been run over multiple times. It's super scary. There are crosswalks, but they don't help at all. Cars do not ever stop to let someone cross the street. Never. And if you're crossing the street, and you're in the middle of the street, and a car comes, it won't stop for you. Most of the times when you cross the street you get stuck in the middle of the street with traffic flying by on both sides of you missing you by inches, and you just have to wait for a break so that you can finally make it all the way across. It's so dangerous!! I'm very thankful that we are not allowed to drive in this mission. I would die, and I would kill many people in the process. Yikes.

Well, I'm gonna go try to enjoy a bit of p-day. We don't really get too many p-days here. I don't really mind that much. The main thing I care about on p-days is writing you guys. So as long as I get to do that, I'm pretty much fine. But I'm gonna try and get a little fun in before I gotta get right back to work. I miss you a ton like always! I had weird homesick dreams this week where I was with you guys. I also had a dream where I finished my mission but for some reason instead of going home, I went to Quebec, Canada, and even though I wasn't at home, I was just so overwhelmingly happy, because Canada (even though in my dream it was super different than in real life) is a lot more comfortable than Peru. Y'know, first world living conditions 'n stuff. It was cozy. Stay super. Bryn, in her super busy stressfulness and jealousy that Mom and Dad went to Guat without us, told me "Eugene is not my favorite place in the world right now." Eugene is my favorite place in the world right now!! I love it!!! Leave it to the mission to make you realize your life is actually pretty close to perfect. I am happy :)

Until next week. Can't wait to hear from you again!! I'll send some photos when I get them. Buh-bye!!


Victor sent a bunch of new pictures that you can see by clicking the slideshow at the top of this blog.  Here are a few of our favorites:

"The Cake."

"Hey there flames."

"I knew what was coming..."

"Are you serious...?" 
(Getting your face smashed into your cake is a Peruvian tradition. And then everyone eats the cake...)

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