Holy cow. The Philippines could not be more different from America. Everyday I have been here has been crazy. But first, I have to tell you about our release from the MTC! It was super weird to go out into the real world and to pass by my house for the last time. When we got to the airport, we arrived with 100+ missionaries and so the airport was flooded with us. Everyone stared at us and lots of the kids would point at us and want to give us high fives. My kasama went to go buy a water from a store in the ariport and a man stepped forward and paid for it for her. Everyone was suuuuper nice in the SLC airport! Everything was great until we boarded the plane to go to San Fran. The pilot came over the intercom and said that the SF airport wouldn't let us land for 3 hours so we were going to have to wait. Well it ended up being only one hours that we had to just sit in the SLC airport but my layover in SF was only an hour long. So all of us misionaries were super stressed that we were going to miss our flight to Japan. Our plane landed 30 min before our next plane was supposed to leave and since there were 54 of us on the plane that were supposed to be on the next plane, they sent an agent to run us through the airport, rush us through security and get on the waiting plane. It was absolutely crazy! 54 missionaries running through the SF airport. But we did make it on the plane and everything was fine from there. We ended up flying for about 20 hours and we landed in Manila around 10:30 their time. Then someone came and picked up the Olongapo missionaries, took us to a hotel and said that we had to be ready to be on a bus at 3:30 am. So we got a 2 hour nap. Then we had a four hour bus ride to Olongapo. And we had been flying through the night as far as Utah time, so b\y the time we got to the mission home, we hadn't slept in two days (planes aren't conducive to sleep) and we were super tired. We met President Querido and his wife and they are super nice. I love them already. Also, we met Elder and Sister Gorringe who are related to the Gorringes in our ward at home. Then our trainers came and I was assigned to Sister Mafi who is from Tonga. I really like her a lot and she speaks English quite well (actually everyone here does) so I haven't been completely lost for the last few days. But still, English isn't her native language so she talks in Tagalog most of the time, which is good. By the time we drove to my apartment in Gua Gua (my area) I was exhausted and had been traveling for 29 hours. I felt really bad for Sister Mafi because I was pretty quiet and didn't talk much but I think that she understood. Thank goodness we didn't have to go out and work that day. We got back late so we just went to the store for some food and then went to bed.
The next day we went out and taught some people and I have absolutely no idea what they are saying. none at all. First of all, they talk really fast, they usually aren't talking in gospel language (which is what i learned in the MTC....not normal everyday conversation), and they talk really quiet and it is sooooooooo loud here! I am in a city and it is super loud. So I just kind of smile and try to pick out a word or two. In our first lesson, my kasama told me to ask the man to be baptized. So I did and he said yes. At least I think I asked him to be baptized. But the philipinos are so nice that they don't want to offend you by saying no so we'll see if that really happens. Everyone here stares at me. Everyone. Wherever we go, people stare at me and they'll say "Amerikana!" They love to just yell out any English that they know to me. "Hey girl!", "Hey Joe!" (from WW2 when there were GI Joes here), "I love you.", "What is your name?" and on and on. Also, pretty much everyone tells me I look like Barbie. And my last name is super hard for them to say so sometimes they'll just call me Sister Barbie. The little kids love touching my hair when I have it in two french braids. They also touch my arms because they love my skin color. It's only been 5 days and I'm already getting tired of the attention. My companion said that she is grateful that she is not white. i'm wishing I was Tongan right about now!
The hardest thing for me has been how dirty it is here. I knew it would be but i think it is dirtier than I expected. And of course it's hot (although I was suuuuper lucky to come during rainy season which means that it's a lot cooler right now) so you're just always wet from sweat or rain. Everyone carries umbrellas here, either for protection from the rain or protection from the sun. They all hate that they are brown so they shade themselves. And it is a lot cooler to have some shade. I got rid of makeup on day 1 here except for mascara. You just sweat it off and it makes you feel disgusting. And I'm in a city so I think that it's a lot dirtier here than other places. Lots of pollution from the motorcycles, trucks, cars, etc. I shower twice a day here and we don't have hot water but that's totally fine because you're so hot all the time you want a cold shower. I feel super lucky that I have a real shower and I don't have to do bucket showers. At least not in this area. And since it is rainy season, there are lots of mosquitos. And they love me. My legs look like I have leprosy and everyone asks me what happened. For some reason they don't bother the Filipinos, I don't know why.
The food here is really good. So far I haven't gotten sick from the water or anything and I hope that continues. Of course they eat rice for every meal and so I've had a lot of rice lately. They also love to eat hot dogs. I've had hot dogs for almost every meal too. One member made us an avocado shake which is avocado, milk, sugar and ice and it was super good. I've also had to drink a lot of soda here because the water isn't safe to drink unless it is filtered. And the sodas are cold so they taste really good.
Something that is super fun here is the transportation. They have jeepneys which look like small buses that have two benches inside that you sit on. I'll try and get a picture. And also tricycles which are literally a motorcycle with a side car built onto it. So you just get in either one and they take you where you want to go. You just tell them to stop whenever. I'm surprised that I haven't been killed yet because they are crazy drivers here but somehow it all works and it's pretty safe.
Yesterday we had church and since I was a new missionary in the area of course I had to get up and bear my testimony. Everyone told me I spoke Tagalog so well afterward but they're just nice like that. I didn't really understand what was going on during church, except for in Sunday School becasue the lesson was on charity and we studied that in the MTC. The members are super nice here.
Next time I'll try and get some pictures. It's just wild here. I really can't believe that I am living here for the next 16 months.....