Thursday, July 31, 2008

Postcards from Guatemala -- 30 July 2008


the library has a new clock. it reminds me of welcome to use grace phone. it says, in curly gold letters, ¨High Class Quartz Clock¨ and it has a little gold butterfly on the second hand. unfortunately, the butterfly is so heavy that the second hand takes several tries to get up past the 9 on the clock face. every minute, we spend a few seconds going backward and forward in time.

charlie told me the story of how caneluche, one of the project´s friendly dogs, but peculiarly short-haired, got shaved. it´s that kind of dog with fur that comes out like a lion´s mane around its face, and has a black tongue. what´s that breed? in any case, when i got here, i heard all kinds of crazy rumors about how caneluche bites. but i´ve never seen it bite anyone, and i´ve seen plenty of people pet it adoringly. charlie says that in the month before i got here, caneluche had long fur that was getting all snarled and catching on everything, putting caneluche in a permanent foul mood. and making him/her bite people. charlie, to hear him tell it, had the brilliant idea of shaving the poor thing, but all the guatemalan employees kept saying, ¨no, no, that´s patricio´s dog, he loves it, he sees you shaved it, he´ll kill you.¨ and then patricio arrived, took one look at caneluche, and said, ¨SHAVE THE DOG!¨ charlie shows up at work the next day, and caneluche is hairless.

i don´t think i´m going to use the pimsleur at all anymore. i skipped 12 lessons and listened to the first couple minutes of the last tape in my set, and i understood every syllable of the opening conversation. boo-yah.

the power keeps going out, so i´m glad i have my flashlight from the evening volcano trip.

i´m not sure how i´m going to be able to eat, back home, without a tortilla in one hand. we eat tortillas with everything, including pasta and baked potatoes and soup.
joy esboldt left today... she´s been around since june 25, so that´s sad. i´d lent her East of Eden for her last four days, and she plowed through at least half of it. we both like steinbeck a lot, even in large print. she just graduated from carleton, majoring in spanish literature. she gave me a book that she didn´t want to take home with her. it´s by paul theroux, whom i´ve heard of, and it´s called The Old Patagonian Express. it gets all philosophical about the nature of travel, and travel by rail in particular. it makes me kind of WANT to take the train home from boston! and theroux went through guatemala... but he didn´t seem to like it much. my favorite thing is probably theroux´s translations of his spanish conversations. sedaris does a good job with translating conversations, too, you know? like in Me Talk Pretty One Day.

i had two cool discussions in the library today. one girl in second grade looks a LOT like a boy in third grade, so i asked her today if she has any brothers, and she said yes, she has two in our school, one in third (YES!) and one in fifth. so that´s cool. and then i sat on the couch with another girl from segundo while i reread a good bit from east of eden and she read junie b. jones. she´d stop every once in a while to show off to me how fast she reads (MISS! FIVE CHAPTERS!), but eventually we both got tired and had to take a break. at which point she wanted to know about my book. hoo boy. it felt like one of those impossible questions that a language teacher asks you, knowing that you´re going to struggle and maim your answer, but wanting you to have the experience. but i ended up doing a decent job explaining it, i think! it helped that she didn´t want the whole book, just what part i liked so much. and what the title meant.

rosa has been treating me to more mealtime discourses. the latest was about her three dogs. she tells me that they are usually fine with extranjeros. especially if they´re blond, because then it´s obvious they´re not from guatemala. and also, her dogs are fine with people who don´t give off the smell of fear. her dogs are not fine with any extranjero who smells of fear, nor with anyone chapín (that is, guatemalteco). at all. she told me that the potable water delivery people will no longer deliver water to her kitchen, they insist on leaving it at the front door. she had somebody in last week to put in some garden soil in the courtyard, and the unfortunate worker brought his little child. you really have to see rosa tell it, because she bugs her eyes out and acts out how the worker had to sweep up his sobbing kid and run out into the street. and the next-door neighbor won´t come over to the house anymore. rosa knows why. it´s because her dogs can smell the fear on that lady. rosa can go over to her house just fine, because she´s not afraid of that lady´s dog toffee. she just says, ¨hi, toffee!¨ and walks in like normal, and toffee leaves her alone. what do you think of that? it´s because they can smell fear.

yesterday, we celebrated 25 years of patricio being in guatemala. there was a ceremony with the whole school, and we invited Sra. Cofiño, who, if you´ve read The Dream Maker (am i the only one so far?), is the mcdonald´s manager who gave patricio and his herd of starving kids free fast food during the lean years when the project was just an empty house patricio had bought, and he was the only worker. patricio used to mash everything up and add water and packets of ketchup to stretch it. imagining that, this anniversary was incredible. all the kids in their uniforms, and prepa and parvulos did a dance, and there was a projector showing old photos of patricio, and segundo processed in with candles, and there was a commemorative cake and a plaque. a boy named dennis dressed up like a cowboy and sang a song, which was pretty much classic. all the volunteers in the school love dennis. oh, and the clubs de madres made little speeches, and brought patricio gifts. the club de madres that meets on tuesday had a bigger gift than the club de madres that meets on wednesday, but everyone managed to be civil about it.

today is día de piloto, so some of the tuc-tucs and some of the chicken buses have balloons on them. did i tell you about the chicken buses? they´re US school buses. most of them are elaborately painted in rainbow colors, and have extra hardware and colored lights on them, but some of them still say DAWSON COUNTY SCHOOLS on them and stuff. the other day i saw one that only said OOL BUS.

i think the power´s about to go out, so i´ll stop here.

love you all!
¡besos y abrazos!


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Notes from Sam -- 30 July 2008

Left to right is Elder Adams, me, Elder Phillips, Elder Hastings, Elder Whiting, Elder Frogley, Elder McIntosh, and Elder Morin. Elder Whiting and Elder Frogley are the zone leaders.

Me on Hart Street. (Where Thomas Green lived when he was baptized. Ed.) Cool! Turns out Hart Street is just outside what appears to be Manchester's gay village. Maybe twenty yards to the right of where I'm standing is a big sign for "Rainbow Parking."

Dear family,

We've had BEAUtiful weather here. Clear skies, sunshine, very warm and kind of sticky (although nothing like Jacksonville, I'm sure). I wore a long-sleeved shirt on Sunday and regretted it.

Terry's family (including Anthony, the 13-year-old who loves the Book of Mormon) didn't come to church this week. : ( We committed them to come during the week and called them on Sunday morning to confirm that they were going to be there, and then they called back before church and said that they just weren't up to it. So we're sad that they missed out. But Arman came again, stayed for a bit longer, and enjoyed it just as much. We had a talk on tithing (which we haven't taught him yet) and a Sunday School lesson on the Word of Wisdom, and he seemed to receive both pretty happily and with no objections. So that's a good sign!

I went on exchange with Elder Morin, our district leader, this week. He goes home in three months, so he has a lot of experience under his belt, and I was really impressed with how bold and how powerful his tracting and street contacting approaches are. When we try and talk to people they usually say they’re not interested and give us some kind of lame excuse – “I have my own religion,” or, “I don’t believe in any of it,” or something like that. Elder Morin doesn’t let people get away with lame excuses – if they tell him they don’t believe in it, he makes them explain why not, points out the contradictions in what they’ve said, and keeps on boldly telling them the truth and that they need to change and repent until they start paying attention or stop listening completely. I’ve been trying to become a bolder missionary lately, and I’ve learned a lot about what boldness really is. I used to think it was just a skill you can practice and get good at over time, like asking good questions or integrating scriptures into your teaching,. But it really has more to do with your personal testimony and outlook. If you constantly have in mind the importance of each person learning about and accepting the restored gospel, you won’t let them get away from you easily and you won’t be afraid to tell them that they’re wrong and that they need to repent. It’s only when you start looking at life from a worldly perspective that you get confused or hesitant about preaching the gospel. So the only thing I have to do to be bold is to remember the real importance of what I’m doing. It’s difficult to maintain that perspective sometimes, but when I do I feel a lot more power in my work. Preach My Gospel talks about the power and authority that you have as a missionary and promises that it will be manifest to you and to other people in what you do. I’m starting to really see that promise come true.

I got a new (mission) ATM card! So I have money. I think I should be fine for now without my Stanford ATM card - the only reason I'd need cash is for driving lessons, and my driving instructor is on holiday until Wednesday of next week anyway.

One of our investigators, man named Issa who is a political refugee from Syria (I think I mentioned him before) had us over for a barbecue this week. He's a really fascinating person and it was great to get to know him a little better. He was telling us about the differences between the Syrian education system and the English one, and also about his hometown in Syria, which is right by the Krak du Chevalier, a famous castle built by the crusaders (I think one of our big Architecture books has a spread about it). The food was also really delicious: lots and lots of grilled beef and chicken with pitta bread and fresh vegetables, and to go with it a drink made from plain yogurt with garlic and other spices mixed into it. I don't think Elder Adams was a huge fan of the yogurt drink (he drank it anyway, though, he's tough), but I found that it went perfectly with the spicy meat, especially in the warm weather. It reminded me of eating cevapi in Bosnia. Good times . . .

Yesterday I got accosted by a drunk woman on the bus. It was kind of a hilarious experience. I sat down near her and said something (I don’t remember what – probably “hi” or something similar). From my accent, she figured out I was American, and she started ranting and raving very loudly about President Bush and what an evil man he is. She seemed to think I'd been sent to England by the American government. It didn’t really bother me that much – I guess bus contacting has made me kind of immune to awkwardness, and I’ve heard plenty of anti-American tirades before – but it was kind of amusing to observe the responses of all the other passengers. The bus was very full, and it was impossible for any of the passengers to ignore what was going on. I think some of them were more weirded-out than I was, and I heard a lot of uncomfortable giggles. There was an older gentleman sitting near me and the drunk lady, and he kept on trying to have a friendly conversation with me between the drunken outbursts, I think just to lend a sense of normalcy to the situation or something. It didn't really work. : ) Eventually the bus driver, a really gracious African man, stopped the bus, came back to where I was sitting, took me by the arm and led me up to the front of the bus to get me away from the lady, telling me, “She’s not ready to hear your message.” : ) As people walked by me to get off the bus, they’d commiserate with me a little bit or just shake their heads and laugh or something. Strange times.

Transfers is next week. It's pretty certain that either Elder Adams is going or I am, but it's a complete toss-up about which one it will be. Either way I think I'll be happy - this is a great ward with great people, but it's always fun to explore a new place. Anyway, please send letters to the mission office this week.

I played the piano for sacrament meeting this week. I enjoyed it. Reminded me of attending the Obor Branch and playing "I Need Thee Every Hour" every other week. : ) Speaking of Romania, one of the new missionaries who arrived this past transfer (at the end of June) is from Bucharest (although he moved to Provo as a teenager and joined the Church there). His name is Elder Szauter (a German, not a Romanian name). I talked to him at zone conference and it turns out he used to live right off of Stefan Cel Mare, right next to the Dinamo football stadium. So right by where we used to live! Kind of cool.

Photos: One is of me on Hart Street. Cool! Turns out Hart Street is just outside what appears to be Manchester's gay village. Maybe twenty yards to the right of where I'm standing is a big sign for "Rainbow Parking." Yikes. The other is our district, with the addition of the zone leaders. Left to right is me, Elder Adams, Elder Phillips, Elder Hastings, Elder Whiting, Elder Frogley, Elder McIntosh, and Elder Morin. Elder Whiting and Elder Frogley are the zone leaders.

Elder Adams also took a great video of me with my birthday package, but it's 56 megabytes, so I can't send it. : ( Maybe one of these days I can burn a CD full of videos and mail it to you.

Elder Pimentel

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Jon 7/24/2008

Subject: Tsis tshua muaj dabtsi tshiab

Nyob zoo!

Well, there really isn't all that much new this week. Things continue to go dandily.

Rick is getting close to baptism, but we want him to do it because he loves the Lord, and not just for Krissee. He'll get there. He came to church and he started reading the BoM. He had some questions about chapters 1-4, but all of that is settled now.

Nothing really new about Kim or Victor, it's been hard to get a hold of them. They're still spiffy.

We've been getting rain--- a lot of it, and frequently. Rain brings puddles, bugs, and humidity. These last few days have been really nice though. :)

We have some really neat Hmong investigators now. They promised to come to church! We finally found some that believe in Christ, don't go to a Hmong church, want to go to church, and their relatives don't care! A real find! What's more, one of them has a car AND a license. But that's not all---none of them work during church. So the four of them (3 from one household and one from another) are going to come to church. They are way nice.

I just had an interview with president Howell. He is such a great guy! I am really excited to have him as a leader.

Happy pioneer day! I almost forgot about that. What did y'all do today? Anything fun?

Yeeipes! Tomorrow is my 1-year mark! Crazy beans! I'm old. That sort of snuck up behind me and sneezed in my hair.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Postcards from Guatemala -- 23 July 2008

SO PUMPED they found radovan!!

[Ed. note: This is a reference to the arrest of Bosnian war crimes suspect/fugitive Radovan Karadzic]

steinbeck must have been inspired, east of eden is all about free agency. loved it, it went too fast. now i´ll read A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry, left behind in the library by some misguided donor or souvenir-heavy volunteer.

found a worm/centipede thing hanging in a handtowel in the bathroom. and a cockroach fell from who-knows-where onto my pillow while i was saying my prayers. shiver.

devney sent me a postcard from india on june 17, through ND. it got here on july 17.

the YW plus ben´s cards got here today in the middle of my kindergarten lesson, don´t know if angel thinks this stuff is urgent or what, but he interrupted to bring it to me :)

i went to a show of victor hugo valenzuela watercolors... got the gallery to myself and so the whole thing was so intense i had to take a break halfway through. no other visitors = no distraction from staring as hard as i want.

plantain chips are good things.

PARADE on friday for the patron saint of antigua!! santiago. all the volunteers have to go help. all the schools do it, and the bands have been practicing for a month,
i´ve heard it all. SO EXCITED.

telenovelas (abbreviated txt style as TLnovelas) are hilarious. music changes every time the shot changes. this can be kind of disconcerting in a back and forth conversation.

rubber bath mats may be to prevent you from earthing the static electric charge built up on the shower faucet. mine isn´t working, though, because it gets wet, of course. it´s a substantial charge. but not dead yet.

besos, ruth

Notes from Sam -- 23 July 2008

Wythenshawe Hall - an old manor-house type establishment in the park a few blocks from our flat. It was the site of a battle in the English Civil War, a member told us. The Royalists holed up inside it and the Parliamentarians (Cromwell's supporters) besieged them. Although Cromwell's troops eventually won, their commanding officer was shot dead from off his horse by a sharpshooting maid in the upper window. The building apparently still has cannonballs embedded in its walls from the bombardment.
Photos from our exchange with Wythenshawe two weeks ago. L to R: Elder Morin, me, Elder Adams, Elder Phillips.
Helping Hands service activity last Saturday. The people on the far left and right are from Macclesfield ward (who joined us for the activity), so I don't know them hardly at all, but the person in the middle is Clemence, a French sister in our ward. We're standing in front of the flowerbed we're about to plant
Helping Hands - me planting the flowerbed.
Me in the armor of God (part of the zone leaders' training at interviews with the President last week). Everyone else got supplied with fiery darts of the adversary (little balls of wadded-up tin foil) and I had to defend myself. But even with all the armor on, I can't help anyone else unless I have the sword of the Spirit with which to "thrash the nations." [Ed. note: ridiculous zone leader training gimmicks were a staple of my mission too! Sam appears to be a better sport about them than I was.]

Dear family,

Some cool things that happened this week:

1. Arman, one of our born-again Christian investigators from Iran, came to church! His wife Sheri and daughter Nikki are on vacation in France, or I think they would have been there too. He loved it. After the high council talk he turned to me and said "Fantastic!" and when someone after church asked him if he enjoyed it, he said, "How can I not enjoy it when God is speaking to me?" The best part for me though was all the members who came up and said hi to him after sacrament meeting. He had to leave after sacrament meeting but said he will "definitely" be there for the whole thing next week.

2. Anthony, the 13-year old son of our investigator Terry, has been tearing through the Book of Mormon and loving it. We didn't even commit him to read it when we left it with his mum, but in two(?) weeks or so he's made it through 1 Nephi 13. He's been understanding it and telling everyone about it. We're about as excited as he is. He should be coming to the youth activity tonight, and he also really wants to go to church on Sunday. We're hoping and working to make it happen . . .
3. The other day we had some spare time, so we decided to tract. We pulled out our map and prayed to know which street we should go to. A few names jumped out to me, so I told them to Elder Adams and he picked one. We went there and on the second door we got let in by a really great guy who's 87 years old and used to play for Man City. We've taught him a couple of times now, and although he has some trouble remembering what we teach, he's great. Afterwards Elder Adams said the street that he'd picked from my suggestions had jumped out to him a lot too. Miracles!

People we meet are often a bit confused about our names. A lot of people think that our actual given names are "Elder." For the first few weeks we were teaching them, Arman and Sheri seemed to think that Elder Adams' name was "Adam" and that mine was "Elder." They'd talk about "Adam and Elder" coming to see them and when they'd talk to me on the phone they'd always say, "How are you, Elder?" and "Give my hello to Adam." Elder Adams and I thought it was pretty cute. Arman and Sheri have it figured out now, though.

Another thing people ask us about is where we're from in America. Elder Adams always tells them he's from Idaho, and they usually furrow their brows ask where that is in America or (if they know a lot about America) mention potatoes. Then when I tell them I'm from California they get excited ("Wow!"), tell me about when they or their friends went to visit L.A., and ask me about Arnold Schwarzenegger and if I've met any movie stars. This kind of thing happens almost once a day. I find it kind of funny that California is so much cooler than Idaho over here. : ) I try not to give Elder Adams too hard a time about it.

Serving with Elder Adams has helped me see how lucky I am to have lived all over the place before my mission. He's adjusted really well to being here but sometimes we run into things that seem perfectly normal to me but are entirely new to him. The other day we were working in the British Heart Foundation and a couple of the other volunteers were animatedly discussing Manchester City and Manchester United and all the rumors about which players would be transferred (British for "traded") to other teams. Elder Adams was smiling and said that he now understood all the Quidditch fanaticism in the Harry Potter books. I agreed but added that people in the States are like this too about sports. He said, "Really?" I guess since Idaho has no major sports teams, Elder Adams had never really encountered serious sports enthusiasts. And that's even something I consider to be pretty normal and American! He also never really cooked eggs or ate peaches or pears before his mission. But he's picked up a lot in three months and now he can cook much nicer-looking omelettes than I can. : ) And right from the start he's been an amazing missionary. I'm really enjoying serving with him, and it's a bit sad that one of us will almost certainly be transferred in the first week of August. I wasn't sure I would like spending two transfers with the same companion - sometimes it feels like you run out of things to talk about with your companion by the end of the first six weeks - but it's turned out to be really comfortable and enjoyable.

Last Friday Elder Adams and I had an appointment to teach a Portuguese-speaking sister in the ward, and we'd arranged for Brother Rafael, who is in the elders' quorum presidency and speaks Portuguese, to come with us. Brother Rafael is originally from Angola, and his story sounds a bit like Brother Kargbo's - he used to be a bodyguard for the president of Angola and had to flee the country pretty suddenly and come to England, where he and his family were baptized five years ago. When we called Brother Rafael on Friday to confirm for that evening, he said he couldn't make it but that Sister da Rocha's English-speaking son would be there when we went to visit. He wasn't! Sister da Rocha invited us in anyway and we made a bit of chitchat in her very limited English. I felt like we should share something with her, so we said a prayer and she went to get her Book of Mormon, but we still had no idea what to share. Then Brother Rafael drove up outside! His evening had cleared up and he had rushed over to see if he could help us out. We had a really good, spiritual lesson with him translating. Yay!

Love you all!

Elder Pimentel

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Postcards from Guatemala -- 19 July 2008

hola lovelies.

there are things that look an awful like guatemalan passports for sale in the market. i think i could get one pretty cheap, but i kind of like my passport.

there´s also a part of the market that´s all used clothes. it´s HUGE. you can get lost there, like actually lost and not know which direction is the relative civilization of the produce section. it´s like going into the wild, because while every vendor does have a well-kept collection of special clothes on hangers, each also guards a mountain of unfolded, unsorted clothes. clothes from the piles are at a set price, all from about 75 US cents down, depending on the vendor. the brands are: donna karan, american eagle, calvin klein, gap, levi strauss, mossimo, talbot´s, loft, etc. ad infinitum. the most expensive price i heard quoted, which was a vendor´s absurdly inflated starting price, was about 20 US dollars. there are evening gowns, and purple velvet pants, and black, thigh-height go-go boots. i wandered around in it, pretending to shop, for two hours today. my favorite part was watching the matrons sorting madly through the cheap piles, and learning all the different combinations of the words/phrases: cheap, good, clothes, really really really cheap, come see, and pass in, my friend. mostly the vendors kept up running yells, kind of like the ¨who will buy¨ song in Oliver!, except all about clothes and way less tuneful.

i realized one of the things that seems so strange about la bodegona (remember, the big supermarket in town) to me: it´s their package deals. they have so many, and they can be so strange. today, it was VO5 shampoo and tube socks.

we did another monthly letter on thursday, although this time it was a much smaller undertaking because the printers included the signature instead of being fickle and leaving it for us volunteers to fake. so we didn´t have to open, sign, and refold the letters before stuffing them. whew. i actually didn´t have to do any of the carta mensual work this month, because my english classes were a legitimate excuse, but i actually really like doing it, which apparently makes me a bit odd, and so i got victor to talk to profe cesia for me, and my parvulos class got cancelled so i had an hour and a half free to stuff. i was so happy!

i love the parvulos as kids, but i´m really starting to struggle with teaching them. the thing is that they really can´t learn any english yet, they´re too little. some of the really eager ones will repeat words, but most of them won´t. my classes are best when they´re just activities like for nursery-age kids, coloring and reading stories. and i´m running out of ideas of stuff to do with them that has some pretense of teaching them english. and also, it´s too big a group for one person to be attentive to everyone, so i have to pray for random volunteers to be assigned to help me on parvulos and prepa days.

i´m turning into quite the random volunteer receptacle, too. i´ve become a regular stop on the new-at-el-proyecto tour, like kitchen cleaning with doña maria and doña ana, and food collecting with diego. now there´s also teaching english with ruth. and then, if the volunteer is still here (meaning, for more than a couple weeks), he or she gets their own job.

i´m done with my week at christian spanish academy. it was good. i´m glad i did it. if nothing else, it was a great self-esteem booster, because after acing out of grade A (did i tell you this already? a student i talked to in grade A has taken 3 years of high school spanish), my teacher started giving me homework not from my grade B books, but from grade C. happy happy happy. and there was lots of good conversation.

i went with a big group of short-term volunteers to visit the malnutrition center that el proyecto is currently supporting (not the new one that it´s building, and will run as a new arm of itself). it reminded me a lot of hippotherapy. tiny, tiny ankles and wrists, listless babies. a lot of the kids (they went from babies up to, they said, seven years old, though none of them looked it) had really hot skin, too, i don´t know why. we played and held and sang, and helped feed. there were two feeding times in the three or so hours that we were there.


my rolls of film are supposed to have 24 pictures each, but my camera has so far taken 25 with the first roll i put in it, and i get the feeling that if i kept pressing the button, the counter would just keep on counting up. i can´t figure out how to get the film out -- when i opened the back of the camera, part of it was still stretched across the aperture, so at least that picture is ruined, and possibly the whole roll, i don´t know. any ideas?

guatemala´s answer to mcdonald´s is called El Pollo Campero. maybe it´s more like KFC, actually. in any case, it´s got big photo montages of sulky looking guatemalan kids in traditional dress as decorations. muahahaha.

the cathedrals here are way more functional than the ones in europe ever were. every time they´re open, there are people praying in them, or lighting candles. the catholics light fat candles with stickers of the virgin on them, and the maya light tall, thin candles that have something to do with their traditional religion. apparently, the cathedrals are a fine place for their worship, because they´re all part of mother earth. why should it matter who the statues are of? what´s funny to me about the cathedrals -- and i´ve actually been hanging out in them a lot -- is that during the week, a lot of the time they have muzak playing over the sound system. nobody laughs except me... it´s just part of the calmer, non-street atmosphere.

another person asked me if i´m a stanford student... she is. at least i have the excuse of sam, and aisha, and devney, and jasmine, and whoever that relative of ours was, and aunt kathryn, and having almost decided to go there myself. that girl at el proyecto wearing a harvard shirt had no connection to harvard whatsoever. pshh. i´m just wanting to meet harvard people, i guess.

i definitely want to send you guys my list of things to do, to compress my post-senior-year-relaxing-fun-summer into two weeks, but i keep thinking that i´ll come up with more stuff to add to it. so... here´s a start? and this is the stuff that i want to do, not the stuff that i need to do,
  • like buy closed-toed shoes.
  • go to the beach. a lot, if possible.
  • eat dessert with the whole family. like ice cream how we always used to do before NL where the ice cream was no good, or dad´s milkshakes, or root beer floats or something. or if emma likes baking, that works, too. actually, i want to bake stuff with emma. that mint frosting sounded good a while back. so,
  • bake stuff with emma.
  • go running by myself in the morning. some volunteer and i were talking about this, and she said something like, ¨wide streets, smooth streets, no dog poop... i love america.¨ i would also like to point out the relative scarcity of huge guns.
  • have jam sessions
  • maybe go to a béisbol game?
  • maybe go to the zoo and draw animals, preferably with isaac?
  • help make dinner, and help set the table, two privileges denied me here. maybe we could make red beans and rice. i am newly appreciative of beans.
  • drive places, so that i won´t forget how.

here´s an interesting thing: we all know what red lights mean in the netherlands (and, according to sridar, it´s the same in switzerland... is betz from switzerland? you know, that one college friend? well, sridar has something in common with her in occasionally, innocently, using words that no polite english conversation ever contained), but here in guatemala, or at least in antigua, they mean ¨tamales for sale¨. which makes me laugh.

much, much, much love,


Thursday, July 17, 2008

Notes for Jon 7/17/2008

Subject: Cov dej uas kho mob

Wahoo! Krissee's baptism was awesome! Her husband was there, and he seemed pretty happy. He even applauded when she came up out of the water. I've never seen Krissee look happier. There was a little party over at the Sawles' house afterwards (Sister Sawle and Krisse have become good friends) and Krissee kept giggling randomly every so often. She was elated. I wanted to send you pictures, but I forgot my camera cable today. I also have a picture of me lamenting the untimely death of one of my favorite shirts (no, they're not all the same! *sob*). A few days ago it received a pirate's death sentence: The Black Spot! Aaaauughhhh!

After much bleaching, and attempts to salvage it, I ceremoniously carried it over to the refuse bin, said, "This is for you," and send it down to Davy Jones' locker.

Evidently after using my pen to write down someone's address, I placed it back in my pocket, leaving the cap on the back of the pen. It was a needle-point rollerball pen, so it just kept bleeding. *sigh*

Krissee's husband, Rick, made a deal where he works more hours during the week in exchange for Sundays off so he can come to church every week. He also started reading the Book of Mormon. He already knows a lot about our church because Krissee talks to him about it a lot.

We have some new investigators, and some with real potential.

Kim has been searching for a long time because her father is a minister but she always felt like something was lacking when she went to church that she couldn't describe. Her faith in Christ is very strong, but church always felt...incomplete. She loved learning about the restoration of the gospel and agreed with everything we said. She said that she understands now why she felt the way she did, and it all makes sense now. She said she feels like she is finally on the right path to find the truth. It was an incredible lesson, and the spirit was stuffed into all corners of the room. She is going through some deep emotional pain, and I bore strong testimony of the healing power of Christ's atonement, and how he has been through it and knows how she feels and how to help her overcome it. She started to cry and said that she knew that was true, and that it felt so good and peaceful just to talk to us. She lit up when we mentioned the Book of Mormon and excitedly asked where she could get one. I happened to have had one in my backpack, so I promptly relinquished it.

Victor is about 11 years old, and is elect. He hailed us from a block and a half away as he rode toward us on his bike. He excitedly asked if we were church people and if we taught about Jesus. He asked us to take him to church and teach him about Jesus. He also asked if we had any books about Jesus.

He has an incredible knowledge of the teachings of Christ. His heart delights in the things of the Lord, and he ponders continually the words of Christ.

We mentioned that there was a baptism soon and invited his family to attend. He immediately Exclaimed, "I want to be baptized! Can you baptize me?!" His step-dad recommended that he attend our church a few times to get familiar with it first. We agreed that that would be a good idea. Victor nodded quickly and said, "THEN can I get baptized?"

Needless to say we are pleased.

Well, I need to go. Shine the light! Feed the sheep! Fight the fight!

Elder Moua Ying

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Notes from Sam -- 16 July 2008

Dear family,

Short note today - Manchester libraries are on strike (Elder Adams has something go wrong with his plans to email EVERY week, it seems), so we're just now getting 20 minutes towards the end of our preparation day at this little Asian Internet cafe we found in Chinatown right by city centre.

On Friday I went on exchange with Elder Phillips in the Wythenshawe area. Elder Phillips is a great guy, really smiley and happy all the time. We volunteered in a charity shop (British for thrift store) for three hours as part of our weekly community service, and I spent half of it working the till (the first time I've ever worked a till - I screwed up quite badly once but otherwise it was OK) and the other half wandering around and tidying their very good selection of books. It was a bit difficult to be around all those books because it made me miss reading a little bit - I also struggle a little bit around the Manchester University campus because it reminds me a little too much of Stanford, another thing I enjoyed a lot in pre-mission life - but only a little bit. I'll have plenty of time to read when I get back, but my time to be a full-time missionary is now!

Later in the evening, Elder Phillips and I were tracting and an African woman answered one of the doors. Elder Phillips started talking to her and she answered in French! So I told her I spoke a bit of French, and she invited us right in! It was pretty cool. I asked her a few questions (in French) and found out she was a really devout Christian who attends a local church and was interested in what we had to share. So I got to start teaching the Restoration in French! I was quite scared at the beginning and while she was saying the opening prayer I prayed silently for the gift of tongues so that I could teach her. I must have received it because I was able to help her understand the basic principles up to the Restoration and find the words I needed to get it across! It was really cool. Not so much for Elder Phillips, I'm afraid - he just sat there a blankly for most of it. Then right after I'd told her that Joseph Smith was a prophet, she got a telephone call - from her pastor! He asked to speak to us (!) and so she handed the phone over to me and Elder Phillips and had us talk to him. He spoke English (thank goodness) and he started interrogating us about what we believed, how we would tell a true prophet from a false prophet, etc. I was quite worried that he'd tell Nabelle (the woman) to kick us out or something, but apparently we "passed" because he told her we were good spiritual people and that if we wanted to share a scripture from the Bible with her she should let us. Yay! After the phone call, I felt prompted to share John 14:26-27 with her (something Elder Adams found in companionship study a few days before) and after we read it I told her that what was really important was for her to find out by the Holy Spirit whether or not Joseph Smith is a prophet. She was really happy with that, and she agreed to a return appointment (there are French-speaking sisters in the ward that the Wythenshawe elders can bring with them). A pretty amazing experience! I don't think it was an accident that I happened to be on exchange in Wythenshawe that day.

Last night Elder Adams and I had a tea appointment (Elder Adams first proper one) with the Petersons, an American expat family that lives in the ward. Brother Peterson is a Kellogg's executive and he and his family have lived all around the world in the past 10 years: Malaysia, Singapore, Canada, Australia, England. Sounds like a familiar story . . . They invited Luke and Karen's family, and since Luke is one of our investigators we got to come too. Their neighborhood, their house, and their family remind me a LOT of Wassenaar. Kind of cool. It's a little different here, though, because they seem like the only expat family around (I think most of the rest of the people in their neighborhood are British), they're in a British ward, and (I'm pretty sure) their kids are in a British school. Sister Peterson said she found it really difficult to adjust to the ward at first, which surprised me at first - they speak English, for heaven's sake - but I realized that it's quite different to come into a ward as a missionary than as a family. The Petersons are great, anyway, and they fed us a really nice meal and really got to know Luke and Karen. One of the Petersons' daughters also knows one of the guys in my ward at Stanford - I guess he lived in Malaysia at the same time they did.

I've got photos, but not time to send them. Next week . . .

Elder Pimentel

Postcards from Guatemala -- 16 July 2008

mi bonita familia, i have a list of things to tell you. this is serious business.

first of all, christian spanish academy this week! it is GORGEOUS. edificio-wise, i mean. i have encountered exactly one more beautiful bathroom in this country, and it is in la cooperación española. language-wise, it is great, but not spectacular. i think i will be fine with taking only one week (i´d been worried that i would love it too much). my teacher is ana, or anita if you like diminutives, and she is shocked at how much spanish i know, which is gratifying. i nearly aced the placement test, which embarrasingly puts me on a whole different, higher level from another student i talked to, david, who´s taken three years of high school spanish. my teacher and i have a lot of conversations, and i´ve been reading roald dahl´s matilda. which, incidentally, i believe translates better into dutch than spanish, requiring lots of textured, fricative, potentially ugly-sounding, familiar words. you guys know roald dahl´s style... he´s not one for lyrical elegance, which spanish is good for. still... fun reading.

(dad: i don´t work in the kitchen at all anymore. you´ll only see me in the library, and then, remember, i only work from 8:00 am to 12:30 pm my time. i prepare lessons at the white, square tables towards the back of the library between classes.)

[Ed. explanation: It is theoretically possible to see Ruth on one of El Proyecto's webcams -- username: amigo, password: 1111 -- her time zone is the same as Utah's]

second of all: specific students i wanted to write to you about! maria josé is in parvulos, and she likes to give hugs. but once she has you in her grip, she will literally not let go. she´s strong enough that even if you stand up and walk away, she will remain clinging to your neck like a parasite in a pink sweatshirt. she´s also adorable (that is, noticeably lacking in leaking facial orifices), so every single visiting gringo falls into her trap. cristiano is this awesome kid in tercero. basically, he´s awesome because we´re best friends. i don´t have a reason for this. recently, i´ve gained enough status to merit the regular polite greeting from students that i pass (when they´re not at a run), which is a hand on one shoulder and a kiss on the opposite cheek. but cristiano always tries to sneak up behind me and make me guess who it is. josé alfredo is also in parvulos, with maría josé, but he is just plain funny. fellow volunteer irene always says, in a voice high-pitched with cute overload, ¨I just want to put him in my pocket!!!¨

Patricio was trading grossness stories with me and some other volunteers... he won. He knows someone who vomited and then found a tapeworm caught in his braces.

We have birthday celebrations in the morning meeting at el proyecto... the ritual is to have the birthday person stand or sit in some highly visible place, and different people wish him or her well. there´s often a ¨que dios te bendiga¨ in there somewhere, and a recognition of what it is that we appreciate about that person´s work. we applaud after every well-wishing. then we all eat little pastries or something. the other day it was héctor barrundia´s birthday, and he´s deaf, so the well-wishing was done either in guatemalan sign language (which lots of people at el proyecto know), or with héctor having a good view of the lips. applause was just holding up our hands and shaking them. awesome.

fellow volunteer irene just left on monday morning... her last day at work was accompanying me to classes. we had segundo last, which is our unparalleled favorite, and they actually abandoned their work to do the same birthday-type well-wishing ritual for irene when they found out she was leaving. it was so so so cute. profe adelso asked when my last day is, so they might do it for me, too.

i just found, a few weeks ago, el proyecto´s ecumenical chapel. it´s really pretty: the altar is also a fountain, and the place is semi-subterranean, so the entryway is dim, and the ceiling is all vines. there are some stained-glass windows high along the walls, and they let in the only, muted light. it´s really peaceful. i love it.

switching gears... the other day, walking home in the ubiquitous rain, i pressed the button on my umbrella (it was already open) and it collapsed on me! i was so afraid i had broken it, and walked for a few blocks holding it open with my hand, but it was so tiring. i had to stop, and eventually i got it working again. this was a relief, because susie, another volunteer, has had cheap umbrella after cheap umbrella break or get lost on her. the most recent version is fine, except that it leaks on her shoulders.

there are amjads here, did i tell you that? except they´re called tuc-tucs.

there are also lots of things to wake me up in the mornings: birthday firecrackers (which are INCREDIBLY loud) in the street, and a rooster that lives on the neighbor´s roof. and as you guys know, from hawai´i and from sarajevo both, roosters don´t stop with sunrise. hah.

when i was at estudio 35 (a restaurant/bar in town) listening to the buena vista social club guy perform, i was wearing my stanford sweatshirt. this is the same stanford sweatshirt that is in almost every single one of my past facebook profile photographs. not by plan, just because i wear it ALL THE TIME. anyway, so this guy walks up to me and says, ¨do you go to stanford?¨ and it turns out he´s a stanford law student. cool, huh sam?

i also took a free tour this week of another charity, very much like asociación nuestros ahijados. it´s called Common Hope, or Familias in Esperanza. one of the other people on the tour was an american spanish student. a common breed. except that this one was a girl around my age, who is also a Pennsylvanian nun-in-training. not common. she was super interesting to talk to. especially about teaching little kids. we both like it a lot.

i found the city´s public library. it´s hidden right in the middle of the most overpriced tourist services in town. it has a nearly complete collection of Sweet Valley High novels, so guatemalan kids learning english can find out what america is really like.

every day in morning meeting, two different people are each responsible to tell us all a joke. the people change daily, but the general idea is to make el proyecto a place of happiness, and to give us a repertoire of ways to set people at ease, to sweeten difficult situations, stuff like that. the jokes (chistes) are always in spanish. and last week, I UNDERSTOOD ONE! my spanish isn´t that bad, and i´ve understood parts of lots of chistes. just usually the punchline, or some other crucial detail, evades me. i was so excited, you should have seen me.

in relief society on sunday, we had a lesson about joseph smith. i was kind of lost, but i guess it was some story about the smith family relocating, or possibly church members trekking someplace. conditions were awful. and someone in the class raised her hand to point out that it was also winter. the teacher was like, ¨yes, it was winter. sisters, it was RAINING!¨ (because of course, that´s what winter is here. ana, my host sister, who´s a little savvier about such things, looked over at me skeptically and said, ¨it was snowing, right?¨)

here is a little recipe. if you spend three hours one morning continually holding either fresh, whole pineapples (which do not smell as sweet on the outside as they do on the inside) or leaking bags of warm, UHT milk, your hands will take on an odor that is both potent and exceptionally long-lasting. it´s unbelievable how long-lasting. but that is what you get from UHT products, i suppose.

much, much, much love, con besos y abrazos,


Monday, July 14, 2008

Postcards from Guatemala -- 11 July 2008

Volcan Pacaya as seen from the town of Antigua

Lava flow on Volcan Pacaya

SO FRUSTRATED. i haven´t been to a computer in a week, partly because i spent so much money on the pacaya trip and felt guilty spending more on internet, and partly because english classes are running me ragged. so today i finally get into an internet cafe, only to have a browser that will allow me to read everything in my yahoo inbox, but forward, reply to, or compose NOTHING.

ed, you are a hot punk kid in your mohawk. work it. i´m choosing not to try to watch sam´s video, because it will take up so much of my charged-by-the-minute time to load, but i plan on seeing it when i get home.

i have about 12 minutes left, after reading the 40 or so messages i´ve gotten this week, so i´ll give you some quick news, and let´s plan to talk via skype tomorrow, at... oh... 10 AM my time. good? i realize that this is such short notice that you guys might have other plans, and not be home, so i´ll just plan on going to a DIFFERENT internet cafe that time tomorrow, and then if you guys don´t answer my skype call, at least i´ll be able to compose in my yahoo account. and respond to people.

i got really sick yesterday. i have yet to have stomach problems of any kind whatsoever, but somehow yesterday my nose was running like crazy, and just walking home made me incredibly tired. i woke up in the middle of the night and i could feel that my skin was hot, but it was that prickly kind of sensitive feeling that made me feel cold anyway. so... my classes today weren´t so hot. luckily, i think my students forgave me because it WAS a friday, and because we played hangman. what´s not to like? and i think i´m getting better again, because i had energy to carry my seven pounds of laundry to a lavanderia about 5 or 10 minutes away from my house. it´s kind of gross that i haven´t done laundry in almost exactly a month, but it´s also a source of some kind of grungy pride that i´ve stretched my wardrobe this long.
my new room in the alonzo´s house had almost no place to put clothes when i moved into it, so i made my suitcase into a shelf, and stacked things on a couple of plastic chairs. today, rosa brought me a ¨mueblecito¨ to put some of the stuff in instead. yay :)

i went today to talk to the christian spanish academy people about maybe taking a week of 4-hour classes... i´m lucky, because the only opening they have is exactly the kind i want (half days, in the afternoon). i´m a little concerned because it costs exactly twice as much as the cheapest options in town, but i was pretty impressed by what i heard from the woman to whom i talked today. i think they know what they´re doing, so i think i´m going to go ahead and register. and hope to be feeling more sprightly by monday.

Volcano danger warning poster - showing what to do during an eruption, and depicting, front and center, a woman praying

i have a new housemate (the one whose arrival necessitated my room switch). he´s a swiss member of the church, 19, here for almost the entire rest of my stay. he has some pretty weird ideas about being here, like he´s planning on climbing volcan agua tomorrow, without a government permit, or a licensed guide (or any kind of guide, because no guide in town wants to risk the security conditions right now... there´s been a surge in robberies and assaults on climbing teams), or the HIGHLY recommended armed escort. i don´t know if he knows that volcan agua is often a multiple-day climb...

OK, OUT OF TIME!!! LOVE YOU! skype or longer email tomorrow!!!

besos! abrazos!


Thursday, July 10, 2008

From Jon 7/10/08

Subject: Kuv zoo siab kawg!

Nyob zoo!

Congrats to Liz on the Super-Cake! Brilliant. It looks like the competition was daunting. Those were all masterful caketures!

Krisse passed her interview! Elder Nielson and I pulled weeds in her garden with Rick, her husband, while she was being interviewed inside. I wish I had my camera when she came outside when it was over. She was glowing. The gospel has transformed her. It's like there is a balloon inside her that has been slowly inflating with light. She has some kind of social anxiety disorder and used to be terribly shy and avoided any encounter with people. This led to depression and feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness, and general darkness. She has been devouring the Book of Mormon and researching doctrine on all of the church web sites and some non-church sites. She has been happier each time we have met her. She is taking brave steps socially and is not so nervous around the ward members. She recently prayed in front of us and two members who have been fellowshipping her, which is an enormous step for her. She is so excited, and has such a strong testimony, it gets me really fired up about the work. Rick has started investigating because he trusts Krisse, but he has trouble discerning whether the thoughts and feelings he gets come from God or from himself, so he's running off of Krisse's testimony right now. I think I overheard Krisse say she wants Elder Nielson to baptize her, which is great because he is the one who found her.

We had an incredible zone conference. Probably the best I've had. We had to drive over to Rochester the night before and sleep over at the Zone Leaders' house (they live with a member) so we could be there early in the morning. Elder Veit also had to sleep over because his area is so far away, so it was fun to be with him and about 9 other Elders for a night.

The Howells are awesome! They are very different from President and Sister Smith, but it's not like there are pros and cons...they're just different. The Howells are on fire. They are bursting with love and enthusiasm. I actually teared up a little during Sister Howell's talk.

I was asked to speak in zone conference this week, for the first time in my mission. In the cities, we combine 2 or 3 zones for zone conference, so there are far more missionaries to choose from, and the odds of being chosen are smaller. Here it was just our zone, and it's a pretty small one. I was glad to be chosen this time because I was able to speak on Charity and Love. My trainer had great love, and I learned a lot from him. He taught me that love can help with speaking the language, and that helped a lot.

I'm out of time, but I love you all and thank you for your prayers! Miracles are tumbling all over the place here!

-Elder Moua Ying

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Notes from Sam -- 9 July 2008

Dear family,

For most of our time here in Sale we've been focusing on the group of investigators who were taught before our arrival. But now most of these people are either not meeting with us or on holiday, so we've got a chance to focus a lot more on new people. We have about four investigators in our teaching pool whom we taught for the first time within the last week and a half or so. They all have kids and all seem like really good people. One of them is a Syrian man named Issa (the Arabic word for Jesus) whom we tracted into on Monday night. He has studied philosophy and loves the teachings of Jesus Christ, but he feels unable to believe in Christ's divinity. As we were speaking with him in his home I felt like reading from the Book of Mormon, so I opened up my bag to get one out. I couldn't find the paperback copy in English that I usually carry with me, but I realized that I had an Arabic Book of Mormon that we'd hoped to deliver to someone else earlier in the day. We ended up leaving the Arabic copy with him for him to study this week. We don't meet Arabic-speakers that often, and I think that was the first day I carried that Arabic copy with me. Another small and simple miracle.

My birthday was great! We didn't do a lot of teaching, but we did find Issa (see above), which was pretty great. We stopped by Luke and Karen's house (Luke is one of our investigators and Karen, his fiancee, is a member - I think I told you about them) right at the end of our day; when we left it was about 8 minutes to 9 PM, which is when we have to be back in our flat, and we were over a mile away with no convenient buses. So we ran hard all the way home, carrying all our stuff and a big bag of food that Luke and Karen had given us. We made it with about 30 seconds to spare. : ) Elder Adams pointed out that we wouldn't have been able to do it if we hadn't been running every morning.

For my birthday dinner (lunch in our case) we had burgers and chips (i.e. fries). The food was actually supposed to be for a 4th of July meal, but we were too busy teaching to cook it on the 4th, so we had in on my birthday instead. We got a sticky toffee cheesecake from Tesco last week for a birthday cake (it was really tasty!) and Elder Adams lit a match and stuck it in it for a candle. He also made me a birthday card, which was very kind of him. I got two birthday cards in the mail the Saturday before my birthday (from Grandma Bay and Sister Bullock) and many more with my zone conference post on Tuesday, including a really nice note from a member family in Runcorn that used to feed me tea a lot. Somebody also seems to have tried to send me (or maybe Elder Adams) a package - when we got home on Tuesday there was a note in our mailbox saying that ParcelForce has been unable to deliver a package. We're going to try and pick it up today from the depot in Manchester Piccadilly. I'm kind of excited.

The Bullocks [new Mission President, ed.] are great! They were in church on Sunday (Manchester South is the home ward for the mission home), and it looks like Sister Bullock will attend there pretty regularly, especially once their sixteen-year-old daughter comes over in September - they want her to have a stable ward and young women's group. Seeing the Bullocks in church on Sunday reminded a LOT of Mom and Dad trying to get our family settled in situated in the wards we've lived in, especially the overseas ones. It warmed my heart. : ) We also had zone conference with the Bullocks yesterday, so we've seen a lot of them. President Bullock is quite different from President Jacobsen, especially in how he addresses us. Where President Jacobsen would always choose and craft his words very carefully, even in casual conversation, President Bullock talks more freely and quickly and tells a lot more stories. While I'll miss President Jacobsen of course, I think I'm going to really enjoy serving under President Bullock and hearing all about his experiences.

The members and investigators here are spoiling us! We've received huge donations of food this week from various people in the ward and in our teaching pool. When we saw President Jacobsen before he left, he mentioned that we are the lightest companionship in the mission (i.e. lowest average weight). But that may change . . .

Poor Elder Adams has had terrible luck with using computers on preparation day - somehow he always ends up running into technical difficulties or otherwise being unable to read or send email. Today his computer didn't work, although mine was fine. : ( Fortunately the library staff have got him set up on a different one now.

I love you all!

Elder Pimentel

P.S. In my last letter I thanked you all for your letters but failed to mention Emma Lucy's wonderful letter. Thank you, Emma! I loved reading about what's going on in your life, especially about your experience you had at Girls' Camp. As I read about that, I saw a lot of similarities to my mission experience!

[LATER THAT DAY -- the message continues . . . , Ed.]

I got the package! I haven’t opened it yet but I’m excited to. Thanks Mom!

I had a VERY exciting experience today, since I sent that last email. On Sunday in church, President Bullock spoke about how he and Sister Bullock, when they were interviewed to be a mission president and mission president's wife, assumed they would be going to Sweden (President Bullock's old mission), but how they had a strong confirmation that the England Manchester Mission was the right place for them, and particularly that the confirmation was associated with the fact that ALL of President Bullock's ancestors came from within a 45-mile radius of Manchester, England. That reminded me of Thomas Green and my own Manchester roots, so shortly afterwards I pulled out the family history materials Grandma Pimentel sent me and reread the part about Manchester and Thomas Green's life there after he moved into the city as a young man. This is where it gets really amazing. Thomas Green's stepdaughter (and future wife(?)) Ann was christened in Manchester Cathedral - where I was last Wednesday! And at the time he and his family were baptized, he lived on Hart Street. I looked up Hart Street in our map, and there's one in Manchester Piccadilly. Today I went to the Local Studies and Archives section of the library and asked them about Hart Street to see whether the one in Piccadilly is the same one he lived on, and we were able to confirm pretty certainly that it is! Elder Adams walked by it on our way to pick up my package. It was a pretty amazing thing to realize that I was walking by where my great-great-great(-great?)-grandfather was taught by missionaries. It's not an accident that I'm here.

What photos did I send you last week? I had to delete the message from my “sent” folder because my mailbox was getting full. Is there one of me posing next to a bust of Oliver Cromwell? If not I'll send it to you next week. That photo is from inside Manchester Town Hall (which I think I told you about last week). In that same room there's a big plaque on the wall stating that the city of Manchester opposes the creation or possession of nuclear weapons and is a nuclear-free city, and another plaque stating Manchester's commitment to the protection of homosexual rights. Does England have nuclear weapons? I had thought it did (so I was a bit shocked to see a plaque like that) but now I'm wondering. In any case it seems like Manchester is proud of being a very liberal city, perhaps a bit like San Francisco in the States. In a lot of ways I think that's a good thing - when Jacob A. (our recent convert in Blackpool) heard that I was being transferred to Manchester, he told me that it was one of the most welcoming places in England for people of all cultures, including Africans (in contrast to Burnley, where Elder Prows was going that same transfer). Kind of cool.

I'm trying to send a movie Elder Adams accidentally took last transfer. Hopefully you can get it to play. : )

Love, Elder Pimentel

Saturday, July 5, 2008

At the competition. . .

Now, before we all get excited, these are most definitely not my cakes. Perhaps one day I will achieve this awesomeness. No, these are some of the cakes from my competitors at a competition last weekend. Here are some more:

There were four categories this year: contemporary, traditional, retro, and vintage. We entered in the contemporary and retro. Our contemporary bombed. It was just frankly sloppy and uninteresting, and I never liked it much and didn't photograph it. But our retro cake, I liked quite a bit, as did the judges, as it came in 1st in its category (yay)! Here she is: This thing was a lot of work, but a lot of fun, too. Those little plaques on the bottom tier are fondant that I painted on with colored cocoa butter. Everything else is a result of fondant and airbrush, down to the basket of fries you see in the corner. (Techinically edible, but not so much eatable. More of a showpiece.)

My favorite part of the competition was meeting everyone else in the valley who does this. Everyone had a different take on the theme, which was fun to see. Some people were really nice and eager to share secrets, and others were hypercompetitive and snobby. Seriously, I just don't see a reason to get uptight at a competition like this. It's cake, for heaven's sake! Cake! How much more unimportant and frivolous can you get?

Well, I mostly just thought I would share the visual splendor I was recently subject to. I don't really have anything to report as far as my life story goes. Have a nice day!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

From Jon 7/3/2008

Subject: Tseem muaj cov Hmoob!

Nyob zoo!
Things are certainly different here. It is very bizarre to be out of the Hmong bubble. It was very weird to attend church where the chapel is full, the talks are in English, the people can and do sing, and there is an organist who knows more than 3 songs and can play them at a comfortable tempo.

The members are awesome! They love missionaries and take care of them pretty well. They not only have a ward mission plan, but family mission plans too. They are pretty good about fellowshipping investigators, but our best investigator has a phobia of crowds and strangers---I'm not sure what that's called...throngphobia? Anyway they do a good job of welcoming her and showing love without overwhelming her.

A zebra team is one that has one English speaker and one foreign speaker. This area has not been a zebra area for a long time. The last time it was was before my mission. We do what the Mika teams did in this area before---teach anyone we find that can understand us and we can understand them. The difference is now we can communicate with a whole lot more people. Tracting is way different than in the Hmong work. We can now tract every house! We usually tract around the neighborhood when an appointment or stop-by falls through. We couldn't do that in the Hmong work too much because the homes are so spread out, there may be only one or two in that neighborhood. Whenever we're traveling and we see a Hmong house, we stop and knock. So we do seek out Hmong families, but we teach everyone.
I feel bad for Elder Nielson when we have a lesson with a Hmong family. He just sits there. I'm teaching him some Hmong so he can greet people etc. Hopefully soon he will be able to make basic small talk and eventually be able to bear his testimony.

Elder Nielson is from Utah. About 40 miles south of Provo...I can't remember exactly where (man, now I feel bad). He is a good guy, he's into sports and things, he's kind of reserved... um...I don't know. We get a long fine, though we don't have much in common. It's probably a good thing we don't have too many common interests because otherwise we would be tempted to talk about them way too much and that could distract us from the Spirit and the work. Elder Richard Vang and I got along way too well and it was a real struggle.

Did I tell you that Elder Erickson is the Hmong District Leader now instead of Elder R. Vang? I think I did...

I have permission to call the Hmong district during language study to practice Hmong from time to time. I've been able to speak with at least one Hmong person almost every day so far, so I haven't called yet, but maybe I will so I can find out what the new Elders' Hmong names are.

The work is going very well! The first couple days were difficult. This being a smaller town, most everybody has met missionaries or Jehovah's Witnesses before, and won't give us a chance to say anything. Our new mission president's wife spoke to us about how everyone is rejected before they are accepted, especially the savior. During His earthly ministry, he was rejected by most and had only a few thousand followers, many of whom weren't completely sincere. During His later ministry in the Americas he was welcomed with tears of love and joy and the tens of thousands couldn't bear for Him to leave.

Most everyone here is very firm in their church and don't want to discuss religion nor hear about it. After we were rejected in the town for the first two days or so, we pressed on with faith, and hope in the Lord's promises. We have been richly blessed, and have been led to many whom the Lord had prepared. The manner and timing of how we "happened" to encounter each of these people is miraculous.

Krisse is going to be baptized on the 15th. She has been investigating a long time and wanted to be absolutely sure the church was true. She has been carefully reading the Book of Mormon, praying before and after each chapter for understanding. When planning my first lesson with her, I read the teaching record and Mosiah 18 popped into my head. I felt we should read it with her. When we got there and asked her how her reading was going, she said she was in Mosiah and came across a verse that really resonated and stuck with her. *Ding* it was Mosiah 18: 10. It had been occupying her mind and pressing upon her feelings. She had originally said she wouldn't decide to get baptized until after she finished the BoM, but she felt the Lord was telling her differently. Huzzah!

Her husband, Richard, had been dismissing this whole religion thing for a long time, saying it was only for those that had problems and fears, and that his life was fine. We've been praying for him a lot, and recently he realized that if this is so important to his wife, it must be worth looking into because he trusts her judgment. He want to get sealed to her, and he is now working towards baptism. Double huzzah!

Acckkhh! I need to go. Kuv hlub nej os!

-Elder Moua Ying


See Annette's latest here (and turn to page 14).

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Notes from Sam -- 2 July 2008

Manchester Town Hall

Elder Pimentel with Cromwell, posing to "fit in"

Manchester cathedral interior

Dear family,

I forgot to mention in the letter I sent last week that I street contacted a guy in French! I stopped him and he said he only spoke French, so I started talking to him – told him we were from the Church, asked him which church he went to, and left him a Finding Faith in Christ card. It was really tough but I was pretty excited that I managed to do it.

President Jacobsen is gone. He flew out on Monday a few hours after President Bullock flew in. The ward had a going-away party for him on Friday night, and Elder Adams and I stopped by to say goodbye. I mentioned to him that Uncle Frank was my great-uncle, and he said “That explains a lot.” I took that as a pretty high compliment. He told me that Uncle Frank was one of the most demanding leaders he ever served under, and he seemed to respect him a lot. He asked me to say hi to Uncle Frank for him.

We haven’t met President Bullock yet, but next week is zone conference. So by next Wednesday I should have a report.

Today for P-day Elders Adams, Phillips, Morin and I went into Manchester Piccadilly (Manchester town center). It was great! We saw the cathedral and the town hall and enjoyed being in the center of things. I think in coming weeks we’ll come back and check out some of the many free museums in the area.

Elder Adams and I are teaching a lot of new people. We’ve collected a ton of new contacts over the past few weeks and slowly they’re becoming investigators! Yesterday Elder Adams and I had an amazing lesson with one of them, a woman named Terry. She is struggling with alcoholism right now – she used to be an alcoholic but quit completely for six years and has just been struggling again for the past three weeks – but she recognized that we have the power to help her. It was great to teach her and watch her feel the Spirit and recognize that we really are sent from God and that we really can help her change her life. She accepted the Book of Mormon readily and committed to read it and pray daily. I’m really excited to help her make some big changes in her life.

Short time today! I’ve got to run. I love you all!

Elder Pimentel

P.S. I love Ruth and Ed’s letters! And Mom and Dad’s! And Isaac and Eleanor’s! Thank you!

P.P.S. I have some great videos from our happy district meeting but they're too big to send. : (