Wow I can not even begin to tell you how amazing it is being here in the Philippines! I haven't been able to email in FOREVER! There is so much to tell you but my mind is so scattered right now this probably won't make a whole lot of sense but here goes!
It took almost 30 hours to travel from Salt Lake to Manila. It was so long but I met so many awesome people!! On the last plane ride (from Hong Kong to Manila) I was sitting by a woman and her son who are from Mexico, going to the Philippines to be with family for Christmas. We talked about Christmas and being a missionary. When I told them that I was learning Tagalog they were so excited! They speak Spanish, English and Tagalog, and were so happy to teach me about the language, culture, and food.
The five days at the Manila MTC were good. I got to proselyte a little. The food is absolutely delicious!! Because there wasn't actually room for us in the MTC, we stayed at a hotel and ate breakfast there. Based on the newspaper article all around the dining area, I think the chef has won a lot of cooking competitions and been on cooking shows. Gourmet Filipino food for breakfast, for sure my favorite meal everyday. The driving here is insane! But I love it so much, I think we should bring it to America. Everyone can do whatever they want to do and so far I haven't seen any wrecks. There are no such thing as traffic lanes, the lines are drawn on the street, but it's okay to drive where ever. We were supposed to see the Manila cemetery where President Gordon B. Hinkley dedicated the Philippines for missionary work, but our driver got lost so our van just saw every part of Manila except the cemetery. The Philippines is incredible. They have a lot of huge buildings and sometimes I feel like in New York and then within two minutes instead of being surrounded by actual building we're surrounded by makeshift huts made from sheets of metal, wood, cement, cardboard, tarps, and anything else that could be used. The paradox is surreal. Apparently, when a Filipino doesn't speak super good English they call it Caribou or Buffalo Tagalog (just because that's what they call it), and some of the Filipinos told me I speak Chicken Tagalog because it's cute and not good...I definitely have a lot of improving to do. Because Sister Petersen and I are two American girls with blue eyes, the Filipinos (mostly ones we didn't know) at the MTC always asked us if we'd take pictures with them. Everyone tells me who I look like here, so far I've gotten a doll, Barbie (mom's always tell their babies to look at the Barbie when I'm with them haha), Elsa, Frozen, Joe, Taylor Swift, Nicole Kidman, Jenifer Lawrence, Sarah Labate (a Filipina celeb), people have asked to trade eyes, and for me to give their kids my nose. Probably though, my favorite thing is when people say literally every English phrase they know as we walk by, "Hello. Okay. You're beautiful. I cherish you. See you again. I love you. Good bye. Thank you," typically all in one breath it is so funny.
The five days at the MTC (don't worry mom within those five days I had plenty of time to teach a few of your daily cheers to the sisters in my district - mostly just the "Denise" and the "Mansion in the Sky" cheer ;) they can't wait to meet you) just dragged and dragged, they were cool but I was so ready to actually be doing something real out in the field. It was so sad saying goodbye to everyone, especially Sister Talaroc-Kaniho, it wasn't fun leaving our trio but Sister Talaroc-Kaniho will do GREAT things in Urdaneta. On the way to Olongapo Sister Petersen and I attempted the talk to a Filipina but actually she didn't understand a word we said so luckily there were a lot of Filipina missionaries nearby to help us out. On the bus a man was selling sandwiches for 5 pesos but when Sister Petersen and I went to get one he told us they were 35 pesos and I tried all my bartering skills you taught me mom but he would not budge, so found out Filipinos will not barter with foreigners unless there's another Filipino with them...it's too bad. In Olongapo we met President and Sister Dahle who are absolutely awesome!!
Then I met my companion, she is so cute!! Her name is Sister Bautista, she's 4'9, from Kidabawan, Philippines. She is seriously so great!!! I love being with her and she great at helping me learn Tagalog. One of my favorite ways is when she tells me about her crazy dreams (in Talgalog) and I try and figure out what she's saying. She's so fun I just love it!! Our apartment is also awesome. There's four of us sisters. We all get along super well and everyone is really trying to be their very best. It is such a great environment.
I was assigned in Guagua (Southern part of the Olongapo mission), some people have told me it's one of the least favorable areas in the mission, because apparently it's too hot here. Luckily this is the less hot season so right now the heat is nice. I think my only complaint is the Karaoke EVERY SINGLE NIGHT...when they do karaoke here they turn it up as loud as the can so whoever is doing karaoke sings me to sleep. Other than that minor detail, the people here are absolutely AMAZING! I can't think of anywhere else I'd want to be right now. Everyone loves to help me learn Tagalog and is so nice even when what I'm trying to say makes absolutely no sense. For some reason, pre-Philippines I totally thought it would be SO easy to learn a language and I thought it'd just happen in the first week. Haha super unrealistic, I know, but that's what I really hoped for. It definitely hasn't come in these past two weeks, and sometimes it's hard to remember that the language will come. I've learned I REALLY have to work for it. Can't wait for the day I am basically Filipina!! :)
We eat lots of fish and rice and it is so good! I've gotten really good at picking bones out of fish and eating with my hands (even rice). I love all the food here - so far the weird foods are chicken intestines, liver, fish balls, shrimp, lots of new fruit - except for salted eggs, or whatever they are called, I even made my self take three bites just to make sure it really was gross before I never eat it again. I almost cried after every bite. I think it's eggs that have been soaked in salt water for a long time and then they cook it like a boiled egg. Whatever it is, it is super nasty because the texture is sand-papery texture and flavor it super salty. Other than the gross salty eggs, it has been so much fun embracing this culture.
The kids are so cute!! I especially love their big brown eyes. So far, I've only made two babies cry so...babies still hate me. But the kids are so much fun! They call us Elder all the time and love getting high fives. Sometimes they just follow us around for the longest time, or when our backs are turned, they like to run up and poke us without us seeing them. We always see them riding their bikes around and playing games. During lessons, if we're outside or on someone's porch, all the neighborhood kids come and just stand around watching the lesson. And during a lesson last night, one of the boys (I think he's five), said, "hey sister," then winked at me. It's so funny I love it.
It has been so awesome already seeing the way that the gospel effects people's lives. I love that my full-time responsibility is being able to share something so life changing. I don't know how to help you understand just how much I love it here. It is so awesome!! Christmas here was great! I hope Christmas for everyone else was just as good and that you really took the opportunity to learn more about Christ, because he is the whole reason for the season. Some of my New Year's Resolutions are to learn Tagalog so I can really communicate with everyone here in their own language, but even more importantly to really learn the gospel more and more everyday. It is amazing how much you can learn just from reading the Book of Mormon everyday. I wish you all the best in 2015! Happy New Year!!
Mahal ko kayo,
Sister Marshall :D
1: The Philippines are GORGEOUS!
2: Family Home Evening with some recent convert/investigators...we played a game and every time someone lost, we got to put baby powder on their face...either I never lost or I'm just so white the baby powder didn't make a difference, you decide ;)
3: Usually we walk everywhere but sometimes we ride tricycles, jeepney's, or little boats...so fun!