My brother turns 20 today, but I won’t be able to wish him a happy birthday. That’s because he is in the West Indies on a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He has been on said mission since early June, and he’ll stay another eighteen months or so.
In honor of his birthday, I want to share some excerpts of his emails home to us each Monday. He’s having some otherwordly, funny, scary, and amazing experiences, and he writes vividly about all of them. I hope he wouldn’t mind my sharing some of them with you so that you can get a sense of what I look forward to every Monday. Note: Most of his emails are spent talking about people he’s teaching and spiritual experiences he and they are having. I have not included those stories in this post because I feel they are kind of personal to him and he wouldn’t want me putting them online. Also, they tend to span several emails and be pretty long, so there just wasn’t space. On to the good stuff:
Weather first: it’s humid and hot. Rainy season starts mid June–so I came just in time–and goes till December. Basically that means that it will rain off and on for probably 10% of the day, depending. Usually it doesn’t bother us too bad. After the rain ends, it gets insanely humid, and for some reason the breeze stops then, and that’s probably the hottest time. Other than that, it’s never unbearably hot. There is always a breeze that feels good on all the sweat that you get all over. When I take off my [clothes] at night I feel like I’m going to rip them each time; they just stick to my back like super glue. There is not a day that you don’t come back as wet as if you ran through the sprinklers or something.
Traffic is the craziest thing you will ever see here. It’s every man for himself. Let’s say you are on the right side of the street and need to cross to get to the left side. It’s always a steady stream of traffic here, so you force yourself into the smallest crack possible andÂ stop traffic on the right side of the road till someone on the left side lets you in. Nobody gets mad at that, just how it is.
Also, everyone honks all the time. It’s how you say hi, thanks, I have room, etc. Which brings up how we get around. Three ways: walking, maxis (mini van taxis) and taxis. It’s fun to ride in the maxis; they are the craziest of crazy drivers. They also have more authority on the road than the police do. The police don’t really do anything here. Everyone speeds, including Pres.Â [Name Removed]Â and the APs; it’s just what you do here in Trinidad. It’s not safe if you don’t because they will pass you even if the traffic coming the other way has to slam on their brakes not to collide.
MissionaryÂ Work in Trinidad
If we feel that the family is cool, and that they seem interested in what we are saying, we challenge baptism the first lesson. Don’t have a date but ask, “As you find these things to be true as you pray about it, will you be baptized?” Nobody takes offense, and it works
to weed out the ones that are just listening to be nice or are just listening to have a good discussion about God.
The latter are the Hindus. There are lots of Hindus here, and they are the most open people about religion. They will always let you in and believe everything you say and have no problems with any of it, but they don’t care. Hindu’s believe that “all rivers lead to the ocean,” so as long as our message gets you closer to God, it’s good, and what they are doing is good, so why change? That’s when we ask to come back, bring a Book of Mormon, and commit to baptism. Then they get the idea of what we are after.
Crime in Trinidad
It is dangerous down here. All the time we will be teaching a family, and they will say, “Which way are you going after this?” We will [tell them], and then they will say, “No no no, you have to go back out this way and get back to the road. It’s not safe down that way.” So we of course do what they say.
I have heard countless people tell us that we need to get home, it’s too late, it’s dangerous. . . . I have never felt threatened, but there is just a feel of the place here. So many of the older generation are so sad about the crime problem down here. [80% of ] anyone 6-20 are just plain punks.
I had pizza twice this week. But the pizza they have here is basically plain old nasty. I don’t think there is pizza sauce on it, it’s got bread and cheese (which they somehow
make gross), and they pile on the mushrooms, onions, and pineapple. But it doesn’t end there: well, heck, why don’t we just squirt some ketchup and mustard on it too? Ugh, it’s all I can [do] to get it down. They know we like pizza, so they like to make it for us.
When we go contacting, it’s interesting to hear all the excuses people give to you why they can’t stop and talk for a while. We normally don’t take their excuses and just hold onto their hand as we handshake ‘em till they stop, and we got ‘em for a few seconds. Anyways, I finally got an excuse that I didn’t really know how to argue with. We were walking in a more ghettoish area, and we went to contact this nice-looking middle-aged man. We stopped him and this is what he said: “I can’t talk right now, I’m carrying marijuana, and I need to get off the streets before the police catch me!” We let him go.
Well, I guess I’m going to Guyana on Wednesday. BIG suprise for me. Everyone stays on Trinidad for about 7-12 months, and here I am leaving at 4 1/2 months. I am soo excited, though. Everyone wishes they were in Guyana, especially the Berbise Zone, and especially Canje (Kahn-gee). I am really lucky to be able to go there so soon. Since I have left Trinidad so fast, I am probably going to spend a good while there, yesss. I am going to be in baptising territory now.
Let me tell you a little bit about what I have heard of East Canje. I hear that it is far different from Trinidad–far poorer. I hear where I am is kinda out there a ways in the countryside. I also hear it’s REALLY poor. Emailing may be tough, because 1/2 of my area is without electricity, or so I hear.
The people are really humble and will let you in and teach, no problem. We aren’t allowed to eat any food from the locals there, because missionaries have gotten sick. I have heard that everyone who goes to Guyana has to do three things before they leave:
1) Fall into a trench–Here the trenches don’t include sewage. They do
there. I guess they are huge and open, and you have to cross them to get
into the houses.
2) Get scabies, aÂ bug that crawls under you skin, lays eggs and causes
intense itching and infection.
3) Poo your pants–All of a sudden it just comes.
You said you can tell I love the people. Well, let me tell you what. If you don’t love the people in this area, you have a serious problem. I seriously believe they are the nicest people on earth. Everyone is just open and friendly with everyone, especially the missionaries. It’s going to be very sad to leave this area. I’ve met missionaries who have just come from this zone, and they just wish they were back in it.
So, I had the Christmas CD you sent me, and I no longer have a CD player, so I took it over to one of our investigators’ homes who has a HUGE stereo. Like, the speakers are bigger than I am, like 2X as big. So I thought it would be cool to bring it over and have him play it for us. Well, he did, but he didn’t only play it for us, he played “Hallelujah Chorus” for the whole neighborhood! Hahaha, it was so funny. I think he thought it was funny too. We are having a lot of fun out here, and are working hard at the same time. I’m really enjoying it.
Oh, last night we saw the biggest centipede ever! It was probably about a foot long, and was thick too. We were with President Phagwah, the District President at the time, and he freaked out and had to stomp on it three times before it died. He said if they bite you, you get a fever for days. Kinda scary, it was only a couple feet away from where I was standing.
TwoÂ weeks ago is when I got sick and was in bed for three days. I then felt a little better (enough to go out and baptize) but still felt pretty crummy, and it got bad again last Tuesday. I just had a bad fever, paining stomach and back, diarrhea, and loss of energy, and I felt kind of disoriented all the time. Well, the senior couple took me to the doctor to see what the problem was, and the blood tests showed that I have typhoid fever and salmonella. I since have had bad days, and not as bad days. I’m getting a lot of rest, and am taking medicine for it. I’m going to be just fine, so there is no need to worry. Still feeling a little down, but it should be leaving me soon. Anyways, just so you know what’s going on. Keep me in your prayers.
I feel pretty much back to normal. On Wednesday a urine test showed that I also have e-coli on top of salmonella and typhoidÂ fever. So far as we know, those are the three things that are making me feel not so good. But, like I said, today I feel great. But I’m not getting my hopes up too high because a week ago Friday I felt great too, and it came back, so I’ll just let you know how it goes. This week I was able to work pretty hard, only had to come in a few hours early to hit the bed a couple of times.
(He just wrote on Monday that he’s all the way better. Hooray!)
And Now I’m Bragging
Transfers actually falls on my birthday, and I really hope and pray that I get to stay here at least one more (he doesn’t; he has been transfered to Grenada, see below). We have two baptisms three days after transfers, so I don’t want to miss out on those. Actually . . .Â if I get those two baptisms and anotherÂ two (which should be easy), I would be the most baptising missionary in this area since the records start two years ago. The most is ten, and that missionary was here forÂ five transfers. I’ve been here forÂ two and haveÂ seven (one the first [transfer],Â six the second), with two more lined up for the Saturday after transfers. Sounds like I’m bragging I think . . . sorry. But we also found a family withÂ nine kids who used to go to church in New Amsterdam but stopped going only because it cost too much to travel there with them all. She and one daughter came yesterday, and the family will come next week, so there are some more for next transfer. So as you can see, really hope I stay.
President called Friday night, and, well . . .Â I’m going to Grenada! Gahhhh!!! I’m just going all over the place! Grenada is a two man island, so it’s just me and my companion, Elder Tanuvasa, who is Tongan, and this is his second transfer. Each island is its own district, so that means I’m a district leader, but it doesn’t really mean anything. I am just so excited.
Good luck in Grenada, Flyboy! And Happy Birthday!