So it was so good to get your emails today!! I got used to hearing from you more than once a week in the MTC. :) Thanks for that.
I have missed you all a lot lately. My companion pointed out that most of the time when she has a desire to go home it's not because she is tired of the work but that she appreciates what she has at home so much and wants to be there to be with her family and serve them. I would definitely have to agree with that! I have already become so much more grateful for all of the things I have at home AND the blessings we enjoy here. :) For example a big goal in our area right now is to find more righteous priesthood holders that can become leaders. We have some great leaders in our branch but there is a shortage of endowed men in the entire area. At church on Sunday I was overwhelmed with gratitude for the wonderful examples I have in my life. Grateful for the Brambleton Ward with all of the wonderful strong fathers who lead and attend the temple and are sealed to their families. I was grateful to all of the moms who work so hard for their children (here and abroad) to feed them, and take care of them and be a righteous example. (Mom and Dad most of all that applies to you. I was overcome with gratitude for the worthy temple recommend holders you are. Hope you know what a difference it has made in our family.)
I am also very grateful for fans. New-found appreciation. The windows in our apt (like mom asked) are always open . We each have (provided by the mission) an electric fan. Turn that on and personal and companionship study and sleeping are quite pleasant. In the mornings when I wake up I am even cool almost. :) I would be fine with a top sheet (which I don't use). The humidity hasnt been nearly as bad as I was expecting and does feel like Virginia often. Although going to bed at night is pretty gross. :) As I change for bed and lay down my legs are covered in sweat, bug repellant, mosquito bites, and dirt. I smell like trek and my whole body is sticky. But the second I lay down the fan hits me and I am comfy and I'm out in about 2 minutes. Showering in the morning feels so good.
More on the branch. We have about 125 people attended each week. We meet in a building that has rooms with fans and air conditioning. (Same design as Ecuador) Many times people will read scriptures in English and they qoute general conference talks in English but the rest is Tagalog. Unless we reading from an english Gospel Principles manual (about half of the ones at church are :) ) In lessons we only speak Tagalog which is rough because sometimes I can't follow where the lesson is going. Eek! That is probably the hardest thing for me here... knowing whether I am doing enough to study the language, knowing how to better study it, and having faith that it will come. I know the Lord will bless me but I often wonder if I am studying worthy of the blessing. Oh well. I will try to keep improving my study. My companion and I need to speak more Tagalog to one another. After a week we are already in a bad habit of speaking English.
We are pretty close to other missionaries. In fact our whole district is using the same internet cafe for emailing right now. :) The 4 sisters and then 4 elders (district leader companionship and zone leader companionship).
To answer a few other questions of yours:
I actually feel quite safe here, even as we walk at night. (Don't worry though I am still on guard... when I'm not falling asleep on my feet. Joke-lang!) Although, we learned one day last week from G. that there is a part of the area (that we frequently visit during the day) that foreigners should not be in after dark... good to know. :) And one other part of our area is somewhere the missionaries don't go after dark. So avoiding those two spots we are all good. The people seems very nice and honest for the most part. For example, The trike rides cost between 8-10 pesos per person and it just depends on the distance you travel. (Im still working on estimating that.) The weird part is, you just tell em where your going and get in. Then at the end we pay whatever it should be. (most of the time for us it is 8 but church is 10 and a couple other areas we go to) Anyway, I did my math wrong (go figure) one time and gave him enough for 10 each (with a little change necessary) when the ride only cost 8. I handed it to him and waited for change. He could have charged me the ten but helped me work out the money and said 8 only. I thanked him. That seems pretty standard around here.
My prayers over food have become...more sincere. Although we all knew that would be the case. I am grateful that I haven't gotten sick yet and I have actually enjoyed almost everything I've eaten. I found some cinnamon raisin bread for a good price here so that has become my dessert at night after we return home. It is heavenly. We don't have dinner apts here. Although we have been randomly invited to eat twice while visiting members for referals. It was nice. They have so many rice dishes here. But they also have some noodle dishes. We have decided (my comp and I) that chinese food here is like mexican food in the states. There are many resturants with chinese food and they vary in their authenticity.
I just bought some plastic shoes today because we have had some rain here already and some of the roads we tract on are dirt roads. I love walking around here though. It is fun. Oh! I met some Lagrosa's the other day. So crazy. I'm sure they are somehow related but who knows how. I couldn't remember Heather's father's name anyway so I didn't ask, but if I go back we will be sure to talk to them. :)
I am so grateful for the tender mercies of the Lord. There have been so many times this week (pretty much daily) that He teaches me or tells me something during personal study or companionship study that I needed to hear. And I have had a couple times when I shared my testimony or a part of a lesson impromtu and have been able to relate the whole thought without too much trouble and the person we are teaching has understood me. Trust me that's a miracle because most of the time I can't spit out 2 awful sentences. I think He gives me just enough to encourage me to keep trying. :)
We (the 4 sisters) had dinner with Elder and Sister B. (the couple missionaries that came over from the MTC with me). It was so fun and sooo nice. It was good to see how they were adjusting. Sister B. is sweet and Elder B. is great too, kept us laughing. She cooked potatoes and chicken, we had salad and fruit. A real american meal. She also tried to make chocolate chip cookies for dessert. They were delicious but different from how they would have turned out in the states. Not as cake like more no bake cookie consistancy. I don't know how to explain it but she said the ingredients here are just all so different. It's so true. But it is fun that we are all adjusting together. They are here for the same time I will be, so if all goes according to plan we may fly home together. :) Kind of fun.
One experience I will share from this week. In Preach My Gospel there are so many wonderful insights about the gospel and the work. One theme is that we should be bold. And it is true... The more I study the gospel the more I want to run up to people and tell them, We have a prophet! Miracles still exist every day! You can be with your family forever! You can be happier than ever before!. Which is kind of what we do, yay!! But you know not quite as excitedly as that. haha. So we were in a lesson where the wife is a member and the husband is not. They have one little beautiful baby. And I'm sitting there trying to catch bits and pieces between G., Sister D. and the family. (because the husband joined us for the lesson) Suddenly, Sister D. is talking about how the wife has a desire deep within her heart to one day be sealed as a family. And then she is talking about how he can bless his family with the priesthood and should be a man like Moroni. It was a good message and it was true but there were points when I was almost a little bit grateful for the language barrier that kept me from the full force of what was taking place. But it seemed to go over pretty well. We will have to see what happens when we visit again. Anyway. Good reminder to be bold because the Lord was not timid about His work and we shouldn't be either. :)
Well that's about all the time I have. I love you all so much.
Love Sister Jaclyn Hamm