Sunday, November 8, 2015

First Area - Catarman

Hi Family!!!
I have never missed anyone so much in my whole life! I miss you all with every fiber of my being!

Honestly, the first few days here were some of the hardest of my life. I wasn't really in culture shock, it just hit me that I was stuck here for the next 16 months and without anything American. I almost cried when I heard there was a KFC in Tacloban. 

The day after I last wrote, we went to McCarther park - look it up, lot of history there - and were assigned companions. My new companion is Sister Mortenson, haha one of the only Americans. I lucked out with that one but I can hardly understand her English because her accent is so thick. She's going home soon - I'm her last companion. 

After that we ate lunch at the mission home, said another horrid goodbye to everyone in our zone - most were with me in the MTC, and drove to our area. Sister Garcia got to come with me because we were going to drop her off at her area, so that was a blessing. Sister Rex, Sister Prudencio, and Elder Fisher, all from my zone in the MTC drove in the van behind us, because they are in the Catarman zone with me! So I'll probably see them 2 or 3 times a month!\

Catarman is the farthest north zone in the mission. Here, they speak a mix of waray S and tagolog. So I pretty much have absolutely no idea what's going on. At all. However, most speak some English, they just don't like using it. Here is what I've learned about the language here: NO ONE speaks with the same language. Everyone uses a mix of Waray S, waray h, tagalog, cebuano, english. So it's pretty much a do-what-you-want-whenever-you-want-and-hope-those-around-you-can-figure-it-out kind of thing. Haha, makes it easier for me though because I can just use english with a mix of whatever else I can use and for the most part, they'll understand. 

Driving up here, I LITERALLY thought I was going to die. Not even kidding. We drove a van up - which is a surprise because I haven't seen one yet. The driver was a flippin maniac. MANIAC. AND, our area is the farthest away from Tacloban, an 8 hour drive. This guy no joke, was going over 100 mph in some areas that I guess could be considered Philippino-versions of residential areas. On top of that, every street is a winding mess, so I sat in the front. I'm absolutely amazed I didn't get sick. God is definitely with me. 

The first day, all the Philippinos gathered around me to watch me eat who knows what, and as I choked it down, I nodded my head and said, "Mmm, good", which was a total lie, but they all cheered. So far my favorite thing has been the ice cream made of leaves. I am not kidding. Made. Of. Leaves.  After that, we said a prayer and I screamed in the middle of it because a moth the size of my fist (not an exageration) slapped me in the face!

Haha, somehow laughing about everything has gotten me through the last couple days. There's a lot to get used to. I don't like how everyone stares at me all the time. I'm more popular than a Ferrari in Willard Utah. Cars of men will go by and they'll cheer, and then there's all the women who just want to stare at me. They put bleaching agents in their soap here to make them whiter. Haha, it's actually funny how I probably look like a disgusting sweaty hobo, and they think I'm absolutely gorgeous. Don't know if I'm gonna get used to that. It's not exactly a good feeling to be examined all the time. 

I also miss carpet. There is not carpet here. None. Ever. Just tile all the time. 

And I really miss Mom's cooking and knowing what I'm putting into my mouth. 

After multiple times of wanting to cry, I finally had an ah-hah moment of remembering why I'm even here and keeping myself motivated. I'm been happy and positive ever since:) I feel like I have this huge mountain ahead of me, probably because everyone around me is going home soon, even my Philippino roommates - they leave in 6 weeks. But I've kept myself from thinking that way by writing letters to myself to read at different points in the mission. Self progression was always really motivating for me. 

My companion and I are getting closer little by little. She's from Lehi and is the nicest thing ever, but we're very different in personality so that'll take some work. But it'll come!

The ward members are absolutely wonderful! They all love me to pieces, and laugh when they know I have no idea what's going on - which I just pretend to think is funny too. On Saturday, we were asked by Mark, one of the Bishopric members to come to his wedding reception. 

Haha it was so fun! American music is everywhere here, which is a true blessing! The other day I heard some Pearl Jam and Ed Sheeran. The first day I'm pretty sure I teared up when Shake it off came on downstairs. T Swift! I won't forget you!

Talking to investigators is starting to become something I'm looking forward to. The first time I beared my testimony I almost lost it with emotion. I love the gospel so much! 

It gets completely dark at about 5:30 here and we have to proselyte til 9. So yesterday, we were walking around in the dark and it was just beautiful! The Philippines is so beautiful. The trees are huge and tall and lush and don't look anything like America. There was every sound imaginable - Dad would've loved it. And then I looked up to the sky in between the trees and the stars were so bright and gorgeous. I wanted nothing more than to lay in a hammock right then and there and stare at the sky. 

When we came back home, someone across the street turned on Beyond the Sea by my one and only love Frank Sinatra. Someone's looking out for me in heaven. 

I like this area much better than Tacloban. Our house is right on the water. 

We live in an apartment complex on the 3rd floor and to my surprise it's not too dirty and there aren't too many bugs (The moth was an exception). Just a lot of lizards.

Tacloban was down. Here it is too, it just doesn't look as dreary and eveythings very colorful. The trees are super small in Tacloban too. I don't know why this bothered me so. I think it's because I already felt so out of place. Everythings bigger in Texas but everythings mini in the Philippines. The first time I saw a tree bigger than me, I almost cried. Haha, there have  been a lot of almost-crying moments.  

Please send me in an email what the equivalency is for kilograms to pounds and kilometers to miles - it will help in the confusion:)

Love you all more than I can explain. It's finally becoming an adventure being here. I'm trying to focus like I should and not think about the end. Especially because EVERYONE says it just absolutely flies by! 

I miss you all and think about you every day! Don't forget it! Love always and always and always. 

See you soon

Love Sister Kenna Russon 

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