Monday, August 27, 2012

"Hermana Risso brought homemade cookies into the office for us. Yes, this is a huge deal, because cookies do not exist in Peru. They don't exist so much that there isn't even a word to differentiate cookies from crackers."

Whoa. Time is going fast... Didn't I just write you guys?

Well, I'm super busy today. a.k.a I have no p-day and I'm just trying to squeeze this e-mail in while I do a ton of work. End of month payments. I was just doing those! How has a month gone by already?? Well, it means being in the office a whole lot. Last week was mostly spent in here. Not a lot of teaching going on these days. Kind of sad. Saturday, for example, was 8AM-7PM working on end of month payments. Probably the most boring day of my entire life so far. Unluckily, end of month and transfers are basically at the same time this time 'round, so it's double work. After transfers things should calm down a bit. But... I am so busy!!! This past week I've had to do a lot of work sorting out all of President and Sister Risso's spending so that they can still use their JPMorgan bank cards; I've had to deal with Zone Leaders losing their JPMorgan cards with their zone funds on them; I've had to deal with new missionary's cards that don't work; I've had to deal with every website that I need to use not working (this caused a bunch of problems this week...); and zone leaders getting their zone funds late because of the websites not working. Among other things.

Anyway, word on the streets is that today is a special day back home. Happy happy birthday Jacqueline!!! How old are you now?? Like, seven? Wow! You're getting old little sis. Hope you have a fun one. That's the main reason I'm even writing this e-mail right now even though what I really need to be doing is money stuff.

Let's see what I have to say about this past week real quick...

Well, for one, last Monday night, Hermana Risso brought homemade cookies into the office for us. Yes, this is a huge deal, because cookies do not exist in Peru. They don't exist so much that there isn't even a word to differentiate cookies from crackers. They were very delicious. First cookies since Provo! In Provo I was waaayyy overloaded with cookies. Like a million people sent me a million cookies. Haha. It sure seems like most of the highlights of my mission right now are eating food that I used to eat in the United States. Por ejemplo, this past week I totally found a store that sells Cherry Coke!!! CHERRY COKE CAN YOU EVEN BELIEVE IT OH MY GOSH. Here in Peru they don't have any variations of any soda at all. Vanilla or Cherry Coke or Pepsi don't exist. Any flavor of Fanta or Crush other than Orange doesn't exist. There is only one kind of every soda here. Normal Coca Cola. Normal Pepsi. Normal 7-Up. Normal everything. They don't even have Diet of anything. And worst of all, they don't have Mountan Dew (although I have heard they sell it in Cajamarca...). Finding Cherry coke was a miracle. And I enjoyed it very much, paying a hefty $1.35 for a can. Mmm mmm. Other food highlights of the week include eating Pizza Hut twice and McDonald's once... and ice cream from KFC once. United States food is way better than Peru food.

Anyway since I started writing this e-mail two zone leaders came into the office telling me they got robbed, so I had to deal with blocking their stolen cell phone and giving them a buncha money that got stolen from their zone fund. Along with their money and cellphone, other robbed items include missionary agendas, shoes, backpacks, keys. This is not the safest place to live.

This week was multi-zone conferences here in Chiclayo. Those are always awesome, because President Risso gives the coolest talks ever. Except I didn't get to enjoy it as much as usual, because us office guys have to help out and so I was busy getting supplies, passing things out, walking around with the microphone to every missionary who wanted to say something, etc... Still fun. I went to two. But the second time we only went to help set up and to bring (and eat) the pizza.

The food I make these days is really bad! Well, right now it is, because I have no food and we haven't gone out to buy groceries for a while. Let’s just say that my breakfast and dinner yesterday was a bag of Lays. Normally (when I have food) I eat hot dogs or PB+J or something. Not too awful. I have had to get creative sometimes and made really gross inventions like chicken patty sandwiches that are soggy because I microwaved them when they were covered in ice (because I was too lazy to do anything else). Oh yeah, and I usually have a good stock of Oreos too. But I'm surviving. Luckily we have a really good penchant for lunches. Hermana Yataco cooks yummy. Yummy for Peruvian food at least. What still scares me is eating with members. Who knows what kinds of diseases I'll get eating their food... But really what I mostly worry about is the taste, not the damage it will do to my health. So yeah, I guess if you want you could send me that recipe book. It sounds like a good idea, in theory. I just don't know if I can get myself un-lazy enough to actually use it. Cooking is not my favorite thing. Keep in mind that we don't have an oven or nuthin'. Speaking of books you could send me, Mike's Book of Mormon comics please k thx.

Well, believe it or not, I still sometimes have cool missionary teaching experiences out here. For one, we got a new investigator to commit to baptism this week! For September 1st if all goes well. Her name is Jessica, and she lives in the same house as the bishop of our ward. Apparently she's someone that Elder Navas and Elder Karl contacted like six months ago but she never wanted to talk to them. My first week here, we found her at home, and she let us in and let us share a quick lesson. At first she wasn't interested but by the end of the visit something had sparked her interest and she was excited about getting a Book or Mormon and said she would come to church with us, which she did. We've had a bunch of good visits with her since then. She actually puts some thought into the answers she gives us to our questions instead of the standard "I don't know" answer we get 99% of the time from all the lazies. She's pretty cool. The weird thing is that she lives with the bishop's family, but before we started teaching her, she hadn't heard anything about the church before. Uh?? But yeah, hopefully everything will work out for this Saturday. Peter (that kid I told you about before) will also hopefully get baptized on Saturday. If that happens, this will be my best baptizing transfer yet! And this area has had a pretty long baptism drought (when I got here there was only one baptismal record in the area book. Now there are two :] ), so it's pretty exciting to see this happening!

Maria is still awesome. She's going to early morning seminary on her own and everything. We went on splits earlier this week and I went to go visit her with Elder Chero. It was a great lesson as always. She understands everything so well, and if she doesn't, she'll ask, and then she'll understand. We talked about enduring to the end and she's pretty committed to the gospel. She doesn't cease to inspire me and help make my personal faith and testimony grow each time we visit her.

Porter's letters still make me laugh. Our missions are so similar, even though they're so different! I feel like we're having almost all the same experiences. Right down to the gay handshake. Did I ever tell you about that? Yeah, it's pretty awful. Exact same as how Porter described it. I can see why he mentioned it as one of his spiritual lows of the mission. Fun times.

It sounds like you guys had a pretty awesome time down in California! I miss it. I can't believe you actually went on Star Tours seven times!! That's more times than you let me go on it last year!! Haha. I hate you. Hope you have a fun rest of your summer back at home. Hope Jacqueline has a great birthday!!! Hey Jack, wanna know something cool that I discovered like three or four days ago?? Check out what I wrote in my journal last night:


My level of tired right now is unreasonable. So tired the entire day. I'm honestly too tired to write. Lots of work to do tomorrow. I hope I survive! Also it’s Jacqueline's birthday tomorrow. I may only have to miss one of her birthdays, because if I want to get back in time for fall semester at BYU-I, I'm gonna have to come home a few weeks early... which means that one year from now, I might be at home!! That is the weirdest thing in the world!! How have I already made it this far?!? Stoked.

Yes Jack, I might be back for your next birthday. Happy (next) birthday!! I MIGHT BE HOME IN LESS THAN A YEAR HOW IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE WHAT THE HECK.

We'll see :D

I miss you a ton a lot! Now, please excuse me while I go get a ton of work done while listening to The Prince of Egypt soundtrack. These are some good tunes.

See ya!

-Elder Hemsley

"Cherry Coke!"

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

"Mom, don't count on me wanting to be an accountant after this. No thank you. I'm set on becoming a trucker."

Another week down in Peru. Time is going so stupidly fast!! I'm not quite half way done, but I honestly feel like going home is right around the corner. Summer vacation always goes way too fast. Know what summer vacation went fastest for me? This one. You guys are almost back in school! You just told me summer break started! (although I did hear the news a bit late. I still knew when school normally ended.) How nutzo. Bryn's gonna be a senior. When I get home Bryn's only gonna be one year behind me in school. That, my friends, is weird. Oh gosh, I just remembered, when I get back, I have to go to school. Nooooo!!!!!!!!!! Although, I sure did love BYU-I a whole lot. I'm still not a big fan of the actual studying part. What am I even studying for? All I want to do is drive trucks!... (but seriously, what am I going to study???)

Anyway, this has been one busy week. It involved a lot of waiting in lines at the bank, waiting in lines at stores buying supplies for the mission, waiting for the pages I have to use on the internet to load so I can do my job (slow internet...), and waiting for Stake Conference to start (and even worse, waiting for it to end!!). But I'll skip all the boring stories I could tell you, and get right to the good stuff.

Good stuff number 1: Maria got baptized!! On Thursday Elder Choc came to interview her, and on Friday the baptism happened. So good! However, it's a baptism in Peru, so, this story would not be complete, nor honest, if I didn't go on to explain the problems and stresses that occurred that night. A stress-free baptism in Peru? Ha, that's hilarious. Never gonna happen. So, we show up at Maria's house to pick her up for her own baptism. She answers the door, and she's sick with a fever! She says she's not sure if she's gonna be able to go. Gahh! Seriously? But she really did want to get baptized so she said she would finish up her dinner and get ready and see how she feels. We left to go get some other things done in the meantime, including heading to the church because Elder Choc and Elder Castillo were gonna drop off baptismal clothing for us to use. So we go to the church, and Choc and Castillo are there with the clothes, and they're gonna stick around for the baptism! Okay, sweet. So Elder Navas and Elder Castillo head back out to go pick up Maria (I can't remember why we did it like that) and I stuck around with Elder Choc while we waited. Well, we ended up waiting a whole lot longer than I would have expected, and it was getting to the point where I was assuming that Maria felt too sick to come and that the baptism wasn't gonna happen. But, finally, the three of them showed up. Thank goodness! Maria still wasn't feeling super great but she wanted to get baptized. So, the baptism starts (late, but I've stopped expecting things to start on time here...), and things go pretty smooth. I gave a short message, and Elder Navas baptized Maria. She was super afraid of the water, but her faith overcame her fear, and she got in and got dunked. She was so scared though! Haha. This weekend was Stake Conference, and so Maria couldn't get confirmed in sacrament meeting, so we were just gonna confirm her right after her baptism. However, there was one little problem, and it was that the bishop was going to do it, but the bishop never even showed up!! That meant we had to find someone else to do it. Luckily, there were four missionaries there and a couple of other Melchizedek Priesthood holders. Elder Navas asked our Mission Leader to do it, but he babied out and was like "no, you! No, you!!" Well, Elder Navas just baptized her and thought someone else should do it, so he asked me to. Huh?? I've never done that before!! But obviously I couldn't say no. I just never expected to have to do this on the mission, because almost always it’s the bishop or branch president who does it. So, I did a light-speed review of how to give someone the Gift of the Holy Ghost and confirm them, and then I did it. Yes, for the first time in my life I got to confirm someone a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and said unto them, "receive the Holy Ghost." Totally unexpected, but a very special experience. So, apart from the unavoidable stresses of having a baptism in Peru, things worked out as they always do, and it was a good experience for everyone. That was the highlight of the week. Maria was so prepared to take this step in her life. As we were teaching her commandments and stuff, and we'd ask her to keep these commandments, she was always like "I already keep all of these commandments!" Haha. She was telling us about how even though she wasn't a member of the church yet, how she had a For the Strength of Youth booklet, and how she was trying to follow all the standards in that booklet. The one sad thing is that she has absolutely no support whatsoever from her family. Her mom and her brother are both members of the church (though inactive) and not a single member of her family came to support her at her baptism. She's only sixteen, but she knows what's most important. After she got baptized she shared a really great testimony, and we can just tell that her faith is so strong.

We also have this kid we're visiting named Peter. He's eight years old and he's been coming to church with his grandma who's a member. Peter is awesome, because Peter has stronger faith then almost anyone else I've ever met in my life. Peter knows that God listens to and answers our prayers, and Peter trusts in his Heavenly Father so much. He told us during our first visit that he would pray about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, knowing that God would answer his prayer to let him know if these things were true. The next Sunday at church, he told us he prayed about it, and he felt feelings of happiness, and peacefulness, and he knew his prayer was answered. During another visit he was telling us about experiences he's had where he's received answers to his prayers. We were talking about the Plan of Salvation and about how this life can be hard and sad but God has promised us so many blessings if we do our best. Peter told us about one time when he said he felt sad at school. He told us that he had lost his notebook with all of his assignments in it, and he was worried because his teacher was going to make him get a new notebook and redo everything. He looked and looked but he couldn't find it, and so he decided to say a prayer and ask his Heavenly Father for help. He said that God listened to him and right after that he found his notebook. Cool huh? This kid is eight years old!! He's the greatest. Well, then we found out that his mom is actually a member of the church, though inactive. Peter wants to be baptized though, and his mom thinks it’s a good idea too. She came to church with Peter this last Sunday. He's going to get baptized soon!

We were in the office a whole ton this week, so we didn't get to do a lot outside of office work, but we did manage to find time to go out and be missionaries for a little bit. One new thing we tried that was kinda fun this week, was that one day Elder Navas and I went to the Parque Infantil (this big park in the middle of our area) and left two Books of Mormon sitting out in different spots, with scriptures marked inside, our testimonies written in them, and directions to the church and our meeting times. So, we have no idea what happened to those two books, and likely we will never know. Possibly they ended up in the trash. But maybe they can be of help to someone! Kind of a fun thing to do. Gotta mix things up sometimes because tracting can be pretty stale pretty quick. However, while tracting this week, we knocked on the door of these inactive members, without knowing it, and we talked to this lady who was a member of the church but hasn't been going in a long time, and I heard what is probably the best excuse of all time for why someone stopped going to church. You ready for this? She said that she stopped going to church, because she has a daughter who is kind of fat, and one day at church this one old lady said that she thought her fat daughter was pregnant, and that was offensive, so she hasn't gone to church since. Hahahahahahahahahahaha. Classic.

Among the more annoying experiences of the week was on Saturday, when Elder Navas and I had to go out and buy fans for some of the missionaries who either don't have fans in their rooms, or their fans broke. We went to this place called Real Plaza, which is a huge shopping mall, and a place that normally missionaries aren't allowed to go, because all it is is stores and obviously we're not going to be able to share the gospel too well over there. But, sometimes for us in the office, we have to go buy things for the mission that they don't sell anywhere else, so we got to go. We went to go buy fans in this one store, and let me just say that the way you have to buy things here in Peru is ridiculous. You have to talk to like five different people in five different parts of the store to buy something. First you have to talk to someone to tell them what you want to buy, then they give you a receipt that you have to take to this other person who's in a totally different area of the store, and then you have to go to another part of the store to go pick up what you want to buy, but you have to wait a long time for the person there to go to another part of the store to get all the things you're buying and bring them down. Seriously? I can't just pick what I want and then go find the nearest cashier and pay for it and leave? No. Well, anyways, we got stuck on that last step for a super long time. The last guy you talk to who has to go get what you want to buy and bring it to you while you wait there. He didn't understand the receipt, and he kept bringing us the wrong stuff, and then even when he had everything we needed, he still wasn't sure, and had to do a ton of stuff on his computer, and we waited, and waited, and waited, for seriously like two hours, until we told him we were going to go out and buy something else and come back in a few minutes. So, we went to go do what we really came to do: to eat lunch at McDonald's. There is only one McDonald's in the entire Peru Chiclayo mission, and it’s in Real Plaza. So we left, bought some McD's, and then went back to pick up our stuff, which was finally ready. The only dumb thing is that McDonald's is more expensive here. And it’s not just because the price looks a lot higher in soles than in dollars, although that also bothers me. It hurt to hand over a 20 sole bill to buy me a meal. I felt like I was spending 20 dollars at McDonald's. Not that I haven't done that before, but still. I was going to buy more food, but the price in soles was looking too ridiculous I couldn't handle it. But it really is more expensive though. The "dollar menu" here is like the equivalent of $1.50, so that's no good. It still tasted good though. You're gonna have to get used to me making a huge deal of every time I get to eat McDonald's while I'm out here. Later that night those of us in the office came back here to watch the rebroadcast of President Monson's 85th birthday celebration that was in the conference center on Friday. We hooked up a computer to the TV and watched it on there. Dragged in a big ol' couch into the office from the waiting room and watched it as we ate burgers and drank Coke. Fun times. P.S., before you think we're the worst missionaries ever, President Risso told us (all of the missionaries in the mission) that we should watch it. K thanks.

Sunday was Stake Conference, and it was not that great, because it started a half hour late, and the talks lasted like forty minutes each, and by the time the conference was supposed to be over, there were still two hymns left, two testimonies, and one more talk. I was dying in my seat waiting for it to end. Oh gosh. I can't handle church meetings that go over the hour or two hours they're supposed to last.

Next weekend is a big stake temple trip that they've been planning and announcing for the past forever. Last night we were talking to the bishop, and he told us that they just called the temple, and they found out that the temple is booked full next weekend, and it looks like they're probably not going to be able to go. This was not announced in Stake Conference. All the members in the stake have plans to go, and nobody has any idea that it's probably not happening. Seriously, they've been announcing this trip forever, and nobody ever thought to actually book a reservation at the temple??? Hahahahahaha. Oh gosh. It's a struggle here.

Today for P-day our zone (Chiclayo Central) went to go play soccer against my old zone, Lambayeque. Our zone got jerseys made with our names on them and everything and basically we were super cool. I got pretty burnt. Sadly for some reason we didn't take a photo of our zone with our jerseys. I don't know why. But I still have mine and it's pretty neat. Aside from the shorts that are way too short. Hahaha.

Oh yeah! And one last highlight of the week! One night I bought two baguettes because they were cheap and I like me some french bread. That night when we got back to the room, I wasn't sure what to eat for dinner, but then I got this brilliant idea! I had also bought some peanut butter and jelly the other week, which I hadn't used yet. I cut my baguette hot dog style, covered one half with peanut butter, and one half with jelly, making the biggest and most epic PB+J you've ever seen. Everyone thought I wasn't going to be able to eat it, but I totally finished the whole thing. Ha! So tasty. After that everyone decided PB+J sounded good, so everyone else started making their PB+J sandwiches. Elder Chero had never had one before (peanut butter is not a common thing here), so he made one and totally ate a PB+J sandwich for the first time in his entire life!! One of those things you never expect to witness. A twenty year old eating his first peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Haha. The mission is full of firsts.

Sounds like you guys had a pretty awesome time in California. Saw a ton of movies and did some beaching. Still waiting to hear if you went to D-land. You know how badly I miss the beach right now?! A lot. But not the Oregon coast. I miss warm beaches. Did you see Spider-man??? PLEASE TELL ME HOW IT WAS. But if you tell me spoilers I might kill you. Speaking of things I want to know about, I haven't heard a single thing yet about the new Zelda game which isn't even new anymore. Please someone please tell me if it’s any good!! I only waited like five years for that game to come out! But anywayz, you guys can keep telling me about all the fun stuff you do. I don't mind. It doesn't hurt my feelings too bad that you're having fun without me. I like to know what you're up to. Even if I almost died when mom listed all the fun stuff you guys were doing down in Cali. It’s okay, I recovered shortly after. I like hearing about your trips. And Jacqueline's letters are super funny. And wait just a darn second!! Gretchen is engaged??!?! Last thing I remember was you telling me that you were in Utah with the Balkmans at a dinner with Gretchen's boyfriend's family, and then in this past letter you said something about Gretchen and her fiance. ajsdlfkjañskldjfaskldf!! Well, congrats Gretchen!! How is this even possible? Gretchen's my little cousin! Why is everyone growing up so fast without me? I'm not ready to be an adult yet. Not even. I feel like on the mission I've grown up a ton, but like... in a different way. Spiritually, maybe. But not like, for realz... But heck no, when I get back home I'm going back to eight hours of Digimon a day and drawing in Star Wars coloring books. Not growing up yet. Real life can wait a bit.

Alright, I gotta go. I have some work to do. Mom, don't count on me wanting to be an accountant after this. No thank you. I'm set on becoming a trucker.  Seriously, have you seen their hats?!?!?!

Until next week!


Elder Hemsley

Over the past two weeks Victor sent a ton of new pictures. I have finally uploaded them and you can see them by clicking on the slideshow at the top of this blog. Here are some of our favorites:

"Maria's baptism!"

"Taking a bite out of my goodbye cake. This is a gross tradition that usually ends up with your face getting smashed into the cake by somebody else. Luckily, I was spared."

"My work space."

"View from my new room."

"Epic PB+J."

"Epic PB+J part 2."

"Service one day. You have no idea how many weird looks we got working outside on a house in our white shirts and ties. Hahaha."

"DIE, DIE, DIE!!!"
"Other service. Burning active wasps nests!"

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

"Still kind of blows my mind that I'm being trusted to do stuff like this... Planning the year's budget for the mission? I don't know the first thing about planning a budget. Especially not on such a huge scale! "

¡Hola familia!

Still not dead.

Well, this was a good week if I do say so myself. Lots of good things happened. For one, yesterday during church, I finally finished reading El Libro de Mormón en español!! I started reading it in like October or something stupid. But I finished! Woo! The Book's almost as true in Spanish as it is in English. Hehehe.

This week I got to go to my first ever Zone Leader's meeting. These happen every month. I'm not a Zone Leader, but all the office guys get to go every time. We have a short time to talk to the Zone Leaders about whatever, giving them suggestions to help make our assignments easier. Basically, telling them what they're doing wrong. Haha. But that was kinda cool. Elder Despain and Elder Choc are ZL's so I got to see them, and I know a ton of the other ZL's too, so it's fun to see all of them. Then we all went out to eat lunch at this place called Norky's, which is basically this fast food chicken place. It's pretty good I guess.

Life as the financial secretary is muy diferente than before. Most of what I have to do involves working with the Zone Leaders every week, going over their weekly spendings and answering their questions 'n stuff. Every week I have to give a report to President Risso of what we've spent as a mission. I get to enjoy solving problems when somebody doesn't get the money they were supposed to get, or when all kinds of other problems occur. Some days I don't have a ton to do, other days are ridiculous! For example, on Tuesday, Elder Navas and I were pretty much done with what we had to do for the day, and we were getting reading to go out and do some prime teaching, until we received an e-mail from the area asking the financial secretary to plan the mission's budget for 2013, and that it had to be done and sent in by Thursday. Well, on Wednesday morning President Risso was going to Cajamarca, and so basically we just had one night to do the whole thing. Elder Navas and I stayed in the office until like 8:00pm working on it. Then, early the next morning, President Risso came to review it real quick before leaving. He said that we did a great job and that it all looked good. Thank goodness!! So, that was kind of stressful. Still kind of blows my mind that I'm being trusted to do stuff like this... Planning the year's budget for the mission? I don't know the first thing about planning a budget. Especially not on such a huge scale! But, like I said before, everything always works out somehow.

Anywayz, its not uncommon for a missionary to be in the office for like six months or so. President Risso made a comment that I would likely be here until December. But really, who knows. Every transfer is a surprise. Elder Navas is probably gonna go next transfer because this is his fourth transfer here. Interesante.

Friday was a good day. On Friday, we stopped by to see Maria, who I told you about last week. We were all waiting for her to finally get permission to be baptized from her dad. The thing is, he's super stubborn and doesn't even want to talk to us. Maria told us that most likely she wouldn't be able to get permission. Her mom told us the same thing. She was like "well, I guess I would give her permission, but there's no way my husband is going to be okay with it..." Gahh!! Last Sunday was fast Sunday, so Elder Navas and I fasted and prayed for Maria that she would be able to get permission to be baptized. This was before I even met her. Both Maria and her mom were so sure that she would never be able to get permission from her dad. On Friday we talked to Maria, and asked if she was able to talk to her dad about getting baptized and she was like "yeah, he said if I want to that I can get baptized." Whaaat??! That was easy. Just another of an unrealistically high number of my prayers that have been answered on the mission. So Maria is set to be baptized this coming Friday! Yes!! We talked to her mom on Sunday and she told us "honestly, the only reason why my husband gave her permission was because he didn't want to have to talk to you guys about it." Hahaha. The Lord works in mysterious ways. But that's legit permission! So we're all stoked on that.

Saturday was kind of... bad. Not that it was a bad day work wise. What made it bad was food. But before I go into detail on that, on Saturday Elder Navas and I were walking out of the office, and these three girls from the Peace Corps are walking down the sidewalk and one of them says to us "Elders!! I have a question for you... wait, you speak English, right?" Haha. Well turns out one of them is a member and she's gonna be living here for the next two years and was asking us if there's a church near where she's gonna live. I gotta say, it was super hard to have a conversation in English. Elder Navas was basically speaking more English than I was. Haha. But that was interesting. After that, the day got ruined. On Saturdays and Sundays we get to eat lunch with members. We also did this sometimes in Pacasmayo, and I never enjoyed it, because Peruvian food is not delicious, and most people don't know how to cook well, making it even worse. Anyway we have all of our lunches with members planned out ahead of time. We were going to eat lunch with this one sister in the ward, and then we got a call from our bishop telling us that this other family has been waiting for us with lunch all ready for like two hours and that we need to get over there and eat. Wait, what?? We're supposed to be eating with this other sister. Elder Navas asked the bishop if he was sure, and he told us yes, and so we assumed we wrote down the wrong thing or whatever, so we went to go eat with the other family. We got there, and they were already eating, because we got there so late. So we ate with them, pretty normal. The only bad thing was that they gave us this juice which was just the grossest thing in the world. It tasted like a mayonnaise sandwich. It tasted like white sandwich bread with mayonnaise. And the aftertaste lasted about six hours. Not exaggerating. Elder Navas and I were suffering the rest of the day. So after eating we went back to the office, when we immediately get another phone call, telling us that the sister who we thought we were supposed to eat with has been waiting for us to get there for a long time now with food all ready. Nooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!! We're already stuffed. We sat and tried hard to think of some excuse not to go, but in the end we ended up going. We showed up, and somehow she knew that we already ate lunch. I had a little bit of room left, so we said we'd eat a little, and she assured us that she was just going to give us a little bit, since she knew we already ate. Okay, now, left me explain another cultural difference of Peru that causes me physical damage: Here, it is literally impossible to ask anybody to give you just "a little bit" of food. You can ask all you want, and they'll tell you that they understand and they'll serve a small portion, but not matter what, 100% of the time, they give you the most gigantic meal you've ever seen in your entire life. This lady, knowing that we had already eaten, did the same thing. She came out with a huge bowl of soup. Ugh. But, nooo. It would be too easy if it stopped there. She came back out with a gigantic plate of white rice. Humongous. Nooo!!! And then, she came out a third time with another plate with a huge piece of fish. Gaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhh I want to die!!!! Why?? WHY?!! Well, needless to say, I could not finish my three huge plates of food that made up my second lunch of the day. Not my fault! It was a day ruiner. We felt so sick after that. Blech. However, fast forward to dinner time and the day gets good again. On Saturday those of us in the office got to go to the mission home to eat dinner with President and Sister Risso! Sister Risso made us dinner, and it was way yum. Basically it was just a typical Uruguayan sandwich with some french fries, but it was much higher quality than most anything else you will ever eat here. So good! And it included bacon, and lettuce, and we ate ice cream with strawberries for dessert. Three of the four prohibited foods for missionaries to eat in Peru. What we can't eat here is lettuce, strawberries, any type of pig, and this Peruvian dish which is really good (not that I would know... (okay fine, I totally know.)) called ceviche. We can't eat them because the way they're prepared or cleaned here is not trustworthy and too many people get sick, so we just can't eat them to avoid problems. But dinner was delish. The mission home is cool too. Got to talk a lot with President Risso, which is always fun. I learned that he used to be the drummer in a rock band. Can this guy get any cooler?!? I say unto you, nay.

Back to the issue of cold drinks: Yesterday we also went to go eat with the same family we first ate with on Saturday. First problem, they almost gave us the same juice that almost killed me the day before. Until the husband tried it and realized that something was wrong with the juice. Apparently it was pineapple juice, but it had started fermenting. ARE YOU KIDDING ME I DRANK THAT THE OTHER DAY AND I KNEW SOMETHING WAS WRONG WITH IT. But, I didn't have to drink it again, thank goodness. They gave Elder Navas and I this other drink that was in the fridge, but, for their kids, they didn't want them to get sick, so they took their glasses, and microwaved them. Seriously?! I do not approve of this tomfoolery!! Today I went to buy me a nice cold Inca Kola, and to my surprise and delight, the shop I bought it at actually keeps their refrigerator cold! So I was treated to a deliciously cold drink. Rare. On Coca-Cola bottles they have this square on them that's white, but if the drink is at the ideal cold temperature for drinking, it turns blue. Well, today I realized that I have never seen that square blue here, but in the shop I bought my Inca Kola, the square was blue. Definitely going to have to start buying my sodas there. It's a glasses (for your eyeballs) store that also happens to sell refrigerated soda. Weird. Haha.

Other weird experiences of this week include walking down the street and this guy walks by, sees us, gets all angry and says "what are you gringos doing here in Peru?!" Elder Navas says that same guy has done the same thing lots of times before. Another weird thing is that in Peru people (usually little kids) see me, a white American, and I don't know if they're too lazy to look and see who I'm walking with, but I'm clearly the only "gringo" in the companionship, but they always refer to us (myself and my latin American companions) as "the gringos." There's only one gringo! Oh, and remember that picture I sent a while back of that "beautiful teen pregnancy" Barbie doll rip-off? Yesterday we went to go visit some members, and their little girl, who must be like three years old, totally had that doll!! Two of them! Are you kidding me? I can't believe those things are for real. They're fun too, the doll has a gigantic removable stomach that comes off and a baby comes out. Hahaha. How do ideas like that get approved to go on-sale? This is what happens when Billy Mays dies and the world is suddenly left without such a great quality-control pitchman and horrible products like this are now being approved and running wild, ruining the minds of little boys and girls throughout the world. I miss Billy Mays :'(

Well, sounds like you guys are all back in California right now. Not fair! Jacque, I'm sorry that Disneyland will be so boring without me there. If you go, just make sure to ride Star Tours a million times and it will be a little bit better. But would you seriously go again this year when we went last year?? Jeez, just wait for me. Haha. I'm a little bit jealous of you guys right now, not gonna lie. I wish I could be there with you guys and Grandma and Grandpa and whatever cousins/uncles/aunts are down there right now. Too many fun memories at Grandma's house! Sam keeps making sure to let me know just how much great stuff I'm missing out on in all of his letters. Haha. Gosh dangit Sam. I hope you're all having fun, and I hope Rocket is having fun too! I miss that guy a whole lot. Even more now, knowing that I will probably never see him again. Sigh :( Make sure to keep him happy! :)

I gotta go do some serious financial secretary work right now. This has been a fun one-way conversation with you guys. I miss you a whole lot. Don't forget to buy me an In-N-Out shirt! I have one from every year for like the past six years! Don't break the combo!

Talk to you later. I hope all your wildest dreams (that aren't nightmares) come true!


Éldér Hémsléý

Sunday, August 12, 2012

"Peruvians all have an extreme fear of the cold. Specifically, of cold beverages. "

Hi again!

I just wanted to let you know that I haven't died yet. And that's a miracle, because I haven't felt healthy since I was in the United States. I don't think my body is ever going to adapt to Peru. I'm not always sick, but I never feel totally healthy either. It's gross.

However, life is treating me well out here in Chiclayo. Still adjusting to this new area. Chiclayo is so much different than either of my previous areas. It's a little bit closer to being like home, but still extremely different. More modern, but still less modern than home. I like it though. I've been a lot happier here actually. Elder Navas, my new comp, is really the greatest. He's so funny and he's a great missionary. He also knows English really well, and we can have conversations in English 'n stuff. Pretty neato. And he's a Star Wars fan. Win. The other guys in the office are all really great, and it's way fun to live with other missionaries. Rooms with six missionaries basically don't exist. 95% of the time, it's just you and your comp. The other five percent of the time two companionships get to share a room, and the other 0% of the time is when six elders live together. I like it a lot though :) Plus its obviously super rad to get to be around President Risso and his wife more often, because they're the best!

There is lots of work to do as the financial secretary of a mission. I've been getting the hang of this little by little. Still feel pretty uncomfortable, and worried that I'm gonna mess something up big time, but so far everything has seemed to work out. It's tough to have to answer missionary's questions when they don't understand something, because I barely understand either! But all is well. Last week all the missionaries here in the office had a meeting with President and Sister Risso. More than anything it was to welcome Elder Samamé and me into the office. President Risso made sure to make it clear that he doesn't pick the best missionaries to be in the office. Haha, dang it! I thought I was the best!! Actually my whole mission has been sooo humbling. From day one. Gotta speak Spanish from day one?! Are you kidding?! I don't know this language! Then getting sent to Lima, and not understanding a single thing the native speakers say, and then getting thrown into the mission field barely knowing anything and still barely speaking the language. Having to direct your area when your trainer gets transferred before he's even finished training you, having to train a new missionary when you're still a new missionary, and then getting put in charge of all the money for the entire Chiclayo Peru mission. Bwah!! I'm not ready for or capable to do any of this!! If there's one thing I do not feel, it is pride. Everything is so humbling. But everything works out in the end. The whole experience has been amazing. President Risso said he picks elders who he feels he can trust and who he thinks can work well in an office environment. He told me that as the person who's in charge of the money for the entire mission, there really isn't any room for any big mistakes. Yikes! But that he trusts me and he knows I'll be able to do it. Let's hope so! Being in the office is way different than...not being in the office. With Elder Navas as my comp, since he's in charge of ordering stuff for and delivering stuff to all the areas in the mission, sometimes I have to go out with him to go buy things, and sometimes we even have to deliver them ourselves to other areas! The other day we went to deliver 15 plastic chairs for the casa capilla in an area called Picsi, which is like 20 minutes outside of Chiclayo. We get to do a lot of different things here.

I had my first weekly report meeting with President the other day. Was a little lost but it went well. Haha. Gotta report to him every week on what the mission has been spending money on 'n stuff. My next report is on Monday. Normally they're on Mondays. Oh yeah, and also, being in the office, we don't really get that many p-days. We sort of have like half a p-day on Mondays, and that's only if we don't still have things we need to do in the office. So sometimes, we don't even get p-days! But it's okay, because being here is pretty dang cool. And if I ever don't write to you some Monday, like I didn't this week, then I'll probably be able to make up for it during the week sometime.

Anyway, there is something that I've been meaning to try to explain to you basically ever since my first week in the field that I've never gotten around to explaining. Peru is an extremely superstitious country, and they have the weirdest beliefs about such silly things. Some of these beliefs have negative effects on my personal well-being. Allow me to explain...Peruvians all have an extreme fear of the cold. Specifically, of cold beverages. For some reason, every Peruvian is convinced that drinking anything that has been refrigerated is dangerous. If you aren't sick, if you drink something cold, you will get sick. And if you are sick, well, a cold drink will for sure kill you. And heaven forbid if you actually put ice cubes in your drink!! You might as well be putting rat poison in it instead, because it will have the same effect! This bothers me a lot, because it makes buying cold drinks difficult. It's like 50 million degrees here! Why would I want to drink lukewarm soda?? Why?! Everything tastes worse when it's not cold!! (Although apparently I can handle drinking 48 cans of warm Mountain Dew with James at EFY... actually 46 because we miraculously refrigerated two cans...). To buy something cold here, you have to specifically ask for it cold, and then you have to be lucky if it's actually cold. Some stores keep drinks in the fridge, but the fridge must be set to like 60 degrees or something, because the drinks are not cold. When I'm dying of heat, I want an ice cold drink! And then sometimes you ask for a cold soda and they don't have any that's cold, but like a never-ending supply of warm soda. The worst part is the belief that if you're sick, you can not even think about drinking something cold, OR YOU WILL DIE!! This caused me a lot of problems in my first area, because I got sick fairly often. I was sick, and it was like 500 degrees out. All I wanted was something ice cold to help me feel a little bit better. But no, my penchant gave me not only drinks that weren't cold, but drink that were hot. ARE YOU TRYING TO MAKE ME MISERABLE?!?!?!?? I'm already sweating like a pig, and she gives me a hot drink. The. Worst. Thing. Ever. I seriously had to go out and buy my own cold water and cold drinks in secret, because she would not let me touch anything that was cold. I was with Elder Choc at the time, and he said that in Guatemala those beliefs don't exist. Elder Navas says they don't exist in Costa Rica either. My only companion who also avoided cold drinks when he felt sick was Elder Lobato, who is from here. And its not only drinks! Whenever I felt sick in Olmos, everyone always told me, "oh, it must be the climate change, now that we're entering winter and it's getting so cold..." Are you kidding me? Cold?? Winter here is hotter than any summer I've ever experienced!! And parents are basically wrapping up their kids in heavy duty snow gear to make sure they don't die of cold. I'm suffering in my short sleeve shirt! It's just ridiculous. Elder Navas told me about how one time he was doing a service project when his clothes got a little wet and the lady he was doing service for freaked out because he was for sure going to get super sick because his clothes were wet. Uh?? The thing I don't understand, is that if everyone is so afraid of the cold, especially cold water, then why is it that the majority of the people here bathe or shower with cold water?! It doesn't make any sense! Drinking a small glass of cold water is like having a death wish, but covering my entire body in uncomfortably cold water is somehow okay. Do not get it. I've tried to explain various times to people, that my entire life I've lived with a doctor in my house, and I've never once been told that drinking something cold will make me sick, or make me sicker. When I'm sick, I eat ice cream! In the United States they even give sick patients ice cream in the hospitals! Even when I'm in Rexburg and it's like 10 below zero, I still have to drink refrigerated drinks, because warm drinks are gross. And I also wore less winter clothing there than they wear here in like 70 degrees. Just had to finally explain to you about this thing that has been bothering me my entire mission. Weird, huh?

Speaking of being sick, I have been sick this past week. Kinda like a cold mixed with stomach problems. Not the funnest thing in the world. But today I feel mostly better. As better as I can feel in Peru at least! Never 100%. But it's all good now. Cured myself with cold water, cold soda, and cold juices. Seems to have worked.

Chiclayo has proved to be interesting so far. We've had our fair share of weird experiences already. The other day, we got out of our last lesson of the night and started walking back to our room. We were walking down the street when this guy walked by and said to us "Hermanos! Buenas noches! You know, you need to be careful around here. You're not from here and people don't know you, so they might try and rob you." Oh, okay, thanks guy, see ya! You could tell he was drunk, or crazy, or most likely a combination. So we continued to our room, talking about whatever weird thing. About five minutes later, we hear a whistle from behind us. We look back, and that same guy had apparently been following us that entire time and was trying to catch up to us in his drunkenness. Well, we start walking faster, and he starts awkwardly stumbling making some sort of drunken attempt to run to keep up. Then we start walking as fast as we can, so stupidly fast, and he just keeps following us! With this awkward half-run half-stumble, and he keeps occasionally whistling. This went on for a surprisingly long time, until we finally turned a corner, and then just booked it across a street. We lost him, even though we should have still been in plain sight. But, that was a fairly creepy experience.

On Sunday we decided to go visit a member to see how they were doing. On the way to their house, this guy stops us on the sidewalk, and says "Hey! You're members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, right? Wow, you guys are so great, I really admire what you guys are doing, preaching the word of God. I love God too. What you're doing is really great and really important." And he just went on a little longer than comfortable, flattering us and saying how great it was what we're doing. He had a few bags on him. He was a salesman. Elder Navas and I look at each other like you have got to be kidding me...So he went on to tell us about his product that he was trying to sell. Some powder that is apparently really good for our bodies. He was saying stuff like "in the Bible it talks about how our bodies are temples of the Holy Ghost, and so we need to take care of our bodies. This product is really good for our bodies." He never even really told us what it was. Well, when Elder Navas and I finally broke the news to him that no thanks we don't want it, plus it's Sunday and we don't buy things on Sunday, and plus, we don't have any money anyway, the guy just did a 180. Went from being creepily overly complimentary to all of the sudden telling us that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is false, and evil, that the Book of Mormon leads people to hell, that its stupid to believe in the angel José Smith, that we shouldn't believe in the Book of Mormon because it talks about Mormons and Joseph Smith and not about Jesus, that we must be millionaires if we're giving out Books of Mormon for free, and if we're so rich then we should be able to spare five soles to buy his product, and that somehow we're trying to one-up him buy giving things out for free when he has to sell his product to make a living, etc... All kinds of false ideas. This went on for a while. He was not happy that we didn't want to buy his product. I can't believe how immature some people can be, even full grown men. That was like the stupidest thing ever. It was funny though...

I didn't only have bad experiences though. Haha. I'm sharing the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, the most important thing I could possibly be doing right now. Of course there are gonna be great experiences as well. Earlier this week I was reading something on the Church website about Elder Holland in Africa, and he said something I really loved:

One key to the Church’s success in Africa, Elder Holland said, is that “we don’t get involved in conspicuous, socio-political issues. We preach the gospel. We are concerned about justice, and we are concerned about social opportunity and equity. But we think the answer to that is the gospel, so we just preach the gospel. And it has been true elsewhere and it is true in Africa, that people get that insight, blessing, and light in their lives, and suddenly things start to change and their lives are blessed.”

That's what I get to share with these people. The gospel blesses lives so much, and I love seeing these people begin to experience those blessings for themselves. That's the whole reason I came here. This week we went to go visit a girl named Maria. She's 16, and the missionaries have been visiting her for a while I guess but it was my first time meeting her. At first I didn't really know what to expect or what to think. A lot of the time when we teach high school aged kids they might say whatever they think we want them to say, but they aren't really sincere. They don't really care that much. They just don't know how to tell us that they're not interested in a nice way, so they pretend they're interested. Haha. Anyway I kinda went into this lesson expecting sort of the same thing. We started teaching her, and we taught about baptism. The lesson went super well. She really had a true desire to learn what we were sharing, and we invited her to be baptized, and she told us that she really wanted to, the only problem is getting permission from her parents, because her dad is apparently super against the Church, or any church other than the Catholic church. But she really has the desire to be baptized. She's been attending church without her parents for a while now, and she's going to seminary, and going to the ward activities and everything. The Spirit was so strong during the lesson. It just reminded me, that even though its kinda fun to be in the office, the best part of the mission is when you're teaching a lesson, and you can feel the Spirit, and you know that the investigator can feel the Spirit too and they act on those feelings and follow those promptings they receive. That's the best part about being a missionary. Anyway, at the end of the lesson, Elder Navas asked her to give the closing prayer. She didn't want to at first, and then when she finally accepted she was like "uh, how does it go again?", and I'm just sitting there thinking oh great, she doesn't even know how to pray. She's one of those investigators who never prays... But then she remembered, and started praying, and gave literally the best prayer I've ever heard an investigator give. She thanked God for the visit she was able to have with the missionaries and the lesson we shared, and asked that the missionaries would be able to visit her more often. She asked for help to stay away from the temptations of the world, and to be able to continue learning more and growing in her faith. She prayed that she would be able to get baptized soon. And a bunch of other great stuff. I couldn't believe what I was hearing honestly. The prayer was just so good. Later, Elder Navas told me how the first time she ever came to Church, she wasn't really that excited about it, but when Church was over they were going to take her back to her home, and she told them that she wanted to stay a little bit longer, because she loved it so much, and she learned so much, and that she now knows that the Book of Mormon is true and that the Church is true, and she didn't want to leave! There are so many people out here who have been so prepared to let the gospel enter and bless their lives. We just have to find them.

Also, here there are some members who are from Olmos, and the other night one of them told me that she was in Olmos, and she talked to Silvia, and that she's active in the Church, and that she's paying her tithing and everything, and that she seems really happy. So awesome! She also told me that Edwin is obviously active in the Church, and that he was baptized by Wilson, his friend. So cool!! I miss Olmos. I do like it here a lot though. I've been really happy here in Chiclayo. I've been sick, but I've been happy every day. I've been overwhelmed with all the things I now have to do as the financial secretary, but I've been really happy. I don't know. I feel like I shouldn't be happy, but I am anyway. I feel really blessed.

Other fun thing: The other night I remembered that Elder Hatch is from Provo, and so I asked him if by chance he knows Porter Long, and he totally does!! Haha. Small world. Not not mention the fact that Elder Hatch is in Grandma and Grandpa's ward. Too weird. I swear in this Church no matter where you are its so easy to run into either someone that you know, or someone that knows someone you know. Kinda like how basically every single time I go to Utah I seem to run into someone I know from Eugene like 100% of the time. I feel like this isn't the first time on my mission I've talked to someone who knows someone else I know, but I can't remember who else. Not counting the MTC where I ran into like infinity people I knew. Anyway, that's kinda funny. Obviously in Peru I'm gonna run into people who know my friends. Duh.

Okay I gotta get going. But I watched this video the other day and I thought it was pretty cool: It's from the talk that Elder Holland gave in October that I liked so much. Pretty awesome.

And if you feel like a nice long read, check out this sweet article I found by Orson Scott Card, a.k.a. the guy who wrote Ender's Game and a bajillions of other books (speaking of that, I heard Ender's Game is going to be made into a movie? Is that true??). It's all about the Book of Mormon, and it's really long, but its super interesting, coming from the perspective as an author of fiction. I liked it a whole lot. I didn't even remember he was a member of the Church. I remember reading Ender's Game when I was little and being surprised because it was the first book I ever read that cussed and had some more adult themes in it. Haha. Probably reading it now I wouldn't even notice. Way cool article though. Here it is:

Sorry for the delay on the e-mail! Monday was super loco and we had no time to write to our families! Hopefully next Monday will be a little less crazy. Hope you like the photos! Miss you all!

-Elder Hemsley

(Victor sent a ton of new pictures that I will add to the blog later)