OH MY EVERYONE. I MADE IT!!!! I AM IN THE PHILIPPINES!! There is SOSOSO much to tell and this key board doesn't work too good, the space bar is broken..welcome to a 3rd world country!
SO the flight here was probably the longest, hardest day of my life. It was all in all about 20 hours. We got to Japan, and I seriously had HAD it with airplanes, especially the airplane food. It's not that good, people. Whoever told me it was good... was lying. We had a layover in Japan for about 2 hours, then we flew to Manila. We arrived there at about 11 pm at night. We got our bags and said our final goodbyes to our elders (we got to fly with them into the ppines) and that was rough. We then took a bus with 12 of us San Pablo-ites to the hotel we would stay at for the night. Our hotel was pretty cool, but definitely nothing like American hotels. It was a very tiring night to say the least. We woke up at about 3am to then travel to San Pablo. We waited for 3 hours for a bus to take all of the San Pablo missionaries. Manila is extremely busy. I felt like I was in New York.... Actually its probably busier than that. It is HUGE. Also, very dirty and smelly. There's always busses and cars driving around, also trash filling the streets---and of course the BIGGEST skyscrapers I have ever seen!! Then again, I've only seen Utah so... haha... but they were big!! We took a bus finally with all of our luggage to San Pablo. It was fun to be with all my girls from the MTC. It took us about 4 hours to get to San Pablo, and we arrived at the Mission home. The drive there was absolutely gorgeous! I could not believe I got so lucky to be here. So much green; I felt like I was in the Shire for real. There were volcanoes and mountains, and just huge, huge palm trees everywhere.. It definitely felt good to get out of the city of Manila and into my mission. It felt so right to be there! I knew that Heavenly Father wanted me in San Pablo.
We arrived at the mission home with President and Sister Peterson out front, waving at us from the driveway of the mission home. It was POURING so that was convenient to get all of everyone's luggage out of the bus haha... We stayed two nights there, and had little meetings about health and money, and basically just everything about our missions and what we were expected to do. We stayed in a hotel in San Pablo, which was very, very disgusting haha.... and drum roll please... my FIRST BUCKET SHOWER. oh man. WHAT an experience. It actually wasn't as bad as I thought! I still prefer hot showers...and will for the rest of my life after this experience... But, for now, it's all good :) I was just grateful for a way to get clean from a very humid, long day. We woke up and went back to the mission home for breakfast, and then had a little testimony meeting. Then we had transfer meeting where we would meet our new companions! It was soo nerve racking to hear where we would be serving our first area..... by the way, I am proud to say that my First Area is...... SAN JOSE! Whoo! and my new companion and trainer is.... Sister Tafiti from NEW ZEALAND! OH my goodness. Her accent makes me melt every time she speaks. I loves those accents. She is the SWEETEST. So patient, and kind. She is a good nai nai. (mom) and I am her leetle anak.
We had lunch, then drove to our new apartments and said our final goodbyes to all of our MTC girls.. That was so sad... But we will be seeing them in a few weeks :) We took all of our stuff, and instead of taking a Trike or a Jeepney, Pres. Peterson drove Sister Tafiti, Sister Banzali, and Sister Tamaialo and me to our new apartment. It took us about 1 hour to get there. It's south of San Pablo City, but still a city.
San Jose is definitely a smaller more condensed version of Manila. VERY busy, very VERY VERY poor. Oh man, the poverty here is astounding. It definitely is a reminder that I am no longer in America whenever we teach in an investigators house... So humbling! Anyways, pretty much we just walk everywhere. EVERYWHERE. Or take the Jeepney everywhere, which I adore. Seriously, I know I will miss these when I come home because they are so fun. Tricycles, not so much haha. Especially in the rain.
Funny story: At lunch after transfer meeting, I was talking to my new nainai and asking her like a billion questions about our apartment, the area, etc. She kept warning me that it was "ugly", and that it wasn't all that great. Being all happy and positive--being the new missionary I am--I didn't worry too much. The whole time I'm just being all positive like, "Oh, I'm sure it's not that bad! I can't wait to see it!" We got to our street, and I see this BIG, very nice house. It looks like the house on Full House.. It's very San Fran looking... yet, my kasama had warned me that it was "ugly" and such... Well, Culture lesson 101: "Ugly" in New Zealand means "CRAPPY".
We pulled up, and I still had no idea what I was expecting... As soon as I see the huge house, my eyes got super wide and I was like, "Kasama! Our apartment is SOOO NICE! I can't believe it! Thanks President for getting such a nice house for us!!"
"Um, Sister Seastrand, that's not our apartment... THAT is."
I looked to my left and there it was. Our bright blue, tiny two story, run-down apartment.
"Oh... well... it's still nice." hahahah! OH MAN! So funny! Everyone (even President) just started laughing so hard... I felt so bad.
Welcome to the Philippines, Sister Seastrand!
HAHA -- it was seriously the funniest thing.
We walk in, and oh man... this place is TINY. There are four of us sisters living in it, and it's extremely run down. The walls are a bit moldy, and we only have one tiny leeetle CR (bathroom).. downstairs. Other than that, it's great! It's been really hard to get used to, especially the smells. Actually, it just always smells here in San Jose - haha. There's dogs and trash everywhere, and the streets are so tiny. It's so packed I can't even breathe sometimes. It's cute though, cause there are little shops and bakeries that sell goodies for like 3 pesos... So cheap! But, I refuse to get fat... Especially because there's like no dinner appointments. Ever. But really, none. NONE. We make all our own food.
The ward here is also tiny. It's actually just a little branch. The ward is like 40 people. It's so cute. We had to bear our testimonies in Sacrament sa tagalog... ya I was up there for a long time, but I only said like 10 words... It takes me like 5 minutes to even form a tiny little sentence. :)
SO the ward, our apartment, the transportation, the people: they're all great. I'm the only American in our apartment, so that's kinda rough at times. Sister Banzali is native, and Sister Tamaialo is from Austrailia. They are so sweet. Sister Tafiti my nai nai has been in this area for 3 months now! And Sister Banzali has been out almost 1 year. It's crazy how these days just fly by.
The thing I love about this area is that there are SO MANY investigators. We seriously taught like 5 lessons in one day, on my second day of arrival. It was awesome! My favorite lesson so far was with Janina... a little 12 year old girl. Sister Tafiti told me that her and her old kasama had tracted her dad, Tatay Jose, but this little pumpkin just wanted to listen in on their lessons. Eventually, Tatay Jose was no longer interested, but his little girl was. She read like half the Book of Mormon, and told Sister T that she knew it was true. It was incredible when I went to teach her for the first time. It's been kind of overwhelming because neither of us are native and our tagalog is really bad, and all I can really say right now is my testimony... I say the same things every lesson... but it was SO GREAT!!! I just LOVE HER. She has such a willing heart, and she knows it's true. It's wonderful. We can definitely hear the baptismal font water fillin' up for her the more we will teach her!
Here in San Jose, they don't have street signs like America. They just have street names, and you just find them...haha. So we tracted on a street called Tug-Tug. It's SO jungle-y, and there's tons of mosquitoes. It was so great though! The weather is pretty nice because it's rainy season until January. Then the real heat comes... I still feel claustrophobic sometimes when I breath because the air is definitely not the same as home... Also, our apartment is right by a main road, and the Philippines is not known for sleeping in. We hear the Trikes and motorcycles every morning starting at about 5 in the AM. Once again, welcome to the Philippines! haha.
It's been probably the hardest week of my whole life. SO hard. I feel like everywhere I look there's no familiar face, and I am literally the ONLY American here (in my area). Everyone just stares and smiles at me whenever we tract. It's pretty awkward at times but I'm starting to get used to it. I'm definitely missing home, and thinking about home. Missions are not easy. The toilet in our bathroom is not a flushing toilet. Our shower is slow. We don't have a microwave or dishwasher or stove. I'm always hungry, and there was a lizard in our apartment last night. Not to mention the constant flies and ants that never seem to die. I'm pretty much always sweating, and we only have electric fans. People laugh at my tagalog, and especially the wardies. It's hard to keep everything sanitary. I live out of 3 suitcases in a tiny, moldy room. Missions are NOT EASY people. Not at all.
BUT I remember a blessing I was given--A blessing in the MTC by an elder in my district. He said that I would be able to overcome any affliction, adversity, or trial on my mission. That scared me, but I feel like this area is a trial for me and will be for awhile. It's sometimes frustrating living in a very insect filled, trash filled, and tagalog filled country where I have to be on my own. And trust me, I've had my fair share of tears my first week here. HOWEVER. The Lord loves us. He loves ALL of us no matter where we live. Our trials and adversity help us to come closer to Christ because He is our rock. If We build on Him, we can overcome these things that are hard. Right now, life is not easy. But I know that as I keep seeking Christ and relying on Him, that's what matters in the end. If we rely on our Savior, He is the one who will help us overcome these hard times. NO MATTER WHAT. So keep relying on Him. My favorite hymn ever has the most comforting lyrics:
"And since He bids me seek His face, Believe His words and trust His grace, I'll cast on Him my every care And wait for thee, sweet hour of prayer."
I sometimes feel like I can't do it, being a missionary, living in an unclean, smelly apartment, in a country that I don't know. But I know that I can do it as long as I rely on my Savior. I challenge everyone to seek His face, like the hymn says. Because when you do, you'll find more peace and joy than you could ever need. He will bless you as you follow Him with a willing heart and mind.
Missions are hard, and life is hard. But I know that this will be one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I have an amazing opportunity to find my Savior, Jesus Christ in every experience and trial, joy and pain. He knows all, and His atonement is for US. For ME. Personally. I know that. I'm grateful for that. Take one step at a time, and one day at a time as you seek Christ. I'm excited for this week's adventures and the plans that Heavenly Father has for me :)
Until next week,FROM THE PHILIPPINES,
xoxo, Sister Seastrand