Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Week 5

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Buenos Dias mi familia y amigos! Ok, sorry, but this probably will be a pretty short email. We’ve been having lots of computer problems today and so my time is limited, so I'll hop right in.

The highlight of this week was undoubtedly getting to go to el mercado on our P day. As we drove there on our bus, we got a nice tour of the city. I'm definitely not in the United Sates any more. I took a bunch 
of pictures, but alas, these computers don't have a card reader so I'll have to wait until I'm in the field to send them. And yes, I'll be in the field in less than a week, which is absolutely insane. The time went by so fast. Still, I’m eager to leave. The CCM was nice, but the mission field is the reason I’m down here after all. Because I've got 6 days left in the CCM, it's time to start sending DearElder and other letters to my mission home (hopefully my mom can post the address). 

Thanks once again for all the letters! Aunt Chris, sorry, but yet again I wasn't able to get that attachment. I refuse to give up hope though and am hoping once I get in the field the computers will allow it. And Gavin, congratulations on making the team that doesn't have to play on Sunday! That was definitely a blessing from Heavenly Father. Ok, one of the elders in my district just asked me a question about the Heisenberg uncertainty principle as he was typing his email, which just makes me feel that my email is inadequate and not nearly as cool. Ha-ha, sorry about that (yes Seth, I just did that).

Ok, after that lengthy digression I will return to the subject at hand. After our tour of the city we visited one of the major attractions in Guatemala City, an acre sized topical relief map made out of concrete of Guatemala (Mom, maybe you could include a few pictures of it off the internet). I was incredibly impressed. Apparently it was made 150 years ago and is 99% accurate, despite the fact that the surveyors were using very primitive techniques. From looking at the map I was able to see that half of my mission is flat coast and the other half is incredibly high and rugged mountains, including two massive volcanoes, the Volcan de Fuego and the Volcan de Agua. Our MTC president also explained how most scholars believe the Book of Mormon geography fits into the geography of Guatemala and Southern Mexico. Apparently Guatemala City may have been the City of Nephi and my mission includes the Waters of Mormon, the territory of the people of Limhi, and Lamanite lands.

Ah! I've only got another minute or two. After that we went to the market. It was basically a three story parking garage that was crammed full of shops. It never would have passed a fire safety inspection in the US. I loved seeing all the bright colors and interesting patterns. Right before I go back home I'll have to buy a few of the super cool machetes that they have. My favorite part was the first floor, which was devoted to food. There were tons of fresh fruits and vegetables, many of which I didn't recognize.  There were also several people selling marijuana from big bags. We weren't allowed to buy anything there though for reasons we quickly discovered. Apparently, food sanitation is almost unheard of. In the back they had tons of raw meat that was sitting uncovered and un-refrigerated and completely covered with flies. There were huge cow livers (apparently you could just slice some off), raw and fired whole fish, and plenty of plucked chickens. I didn't have much of a desire to eat anything after I saw that. It made me feel very, very grateful for Albertsons. I'm sure I'll see a lot more poverty when I'm in the field.

Anyway, I've loved the CCM and will be sad to leave, but I’m excited to go into the field. I might not have a chance to email next week, so adios!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Week 4

Monday, July 22

Well, I get to email a couple days early today because our P day is on Tuesday this week and we won´t have much time because of our trip to the mercado. Even if it weren´t for that, I´d still feel obliged to include a comment about how I can´t believe it´s this time of the week again. It was even more ridiculous to realize that tomorrow another batch of missionaries will leave the CCM and on Wednesday another batch will arrive. That means that the elders who arrived on the 26th like I did will be the viejos, the missionaries who have spent the longest time in the CCM. I´ve been here for almost 4 weeks but it feels like 10 days at most.

Anyway, realizing how little amount of time we have in the CCM makes me think how important it is to be prepared before you enter the MTC. Homes really need to be MTCs because to be an effective missionary you need to know a lot more than what they can teach in 6 weeks (or possibly even two). I´m definitely grateful for the parents and leaders I´ve had that have helped me be as ready as I can be. I think about how much I still have to learn and it makes me feel sorry for the elders who didn´t come from such a strong background and aren´t nearly as prepared.

This week has been pretty much like all the others. One of the highlights was that we´ve begun practicing street contacting (just with teachers or Hispanos, not actually on the street). I actually thought it was pretty fun, although I doubt that "real" people will be quite as easy to persuade to listen to the gospel. Something tells me that setting up 4 teaching appointments in 5 minutes is a bit high.

I never thought I´d say this, but one of the best things about the CCM is that we aren’t graded on anything. It´s a new experience for me to be in a class all day but not to take tests or have to do homework or write papers. I think I kind of like it. You have to know how to self-motivate, it´s incredibly easy to get distracted, but I suppose that what we´re working for is far more important than any grade, so it shouldn´t be that hard.

However, without tests it is difficult to see how much my Spanish is improving. Obviously my church vocabulary has increased a bunch, and I´m finally understanding some of the 32 ways the word "ya" can be used in Spanish. My accent is also significantly better, although I´m sure when I enter the field and finally have a native companion I´ll realize that I´ve still got quite a ways to go. On Saturday my companion and I taught a 45 minute lesson on the second half of the Plan of Salvation. I doubt I could have done that very easily on my day here. I´ve also learned a few phrases in Qui'che (I´m totally guessing on the spelling of that), one of the major Guatemalan indigenous languages. It´s such a cool sounding and looking language. Hopefully I´ll be able to learn some. Although I´m realizing that learning a language like Qui´che or Mandarin would be ridiculously more difficult than learning a language like Spanish that has so much in common with English. It seems like at least half of the longer words in Spanish are just cognates of the word in English. For example, once you know the pattern, it´s pretty easy to guess that dispensation in Spanish is despensacion, that restoration is restoracion, or that immersion is imercion.

Another interesting tidbit, I learned yesterday that one of the elders in my district took Krav Maga for 5 years. In other words, his companions don´t need to be too worried about going into the more dangerous parts of town and getting mugged. Sadly, he´s going to El Salvador, so I won´t benefit from that at all.

Ok, I guess that´s all for this week. I´m sure I´ll have much more to say next time, after our trip to the city. I should also be able to send some pictures because we´ll be allowed to get our cameras for that day. Thanks for all your letters and support! I´m so glad I´m able to be here and am super excited to enter the field in two weeks!

Elder Cannon

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Week 3

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Ok, I seriously cannot believer that another week has already gone by.  I´m over halfway done with my time in the CCM! Everyone I´ve talked to says the time just continues to go by faster, especially once we´re in the field. I´ll be out there in less than three weeks. I´ve learned a lot, but I´ve still got a long ways to go.

Anyway, the highlight of this week was undoubtedly our trip outside the CCM last P-day. First we went to an LDS chapel in Dons Justo, about a 15 minute drive from the CCM. I think that drive was the best part of the entire day. It finally gave me a chance to see Guatemala City. When I came in it was dark and I was a bit overwhelmed, so I didn’t get to see too much. In the CCM it´s pretty easy to forget that we´re in another country, but from the moment we started driving it was readily apparent that we were truly in a different world. We rode in two buses to the chapel and immediately when we pulled out into the incredibly busy 4 lane road in front of the CCM, we had to make a u-turn. If I had been driving the bus I still would have been stuck at that first turn. Drivers here don´t slow down at all for any reason. There´s no stop lights and the merge like maniacs. I was sure we were going to die at least 32 times on that trip. It was a white knuckled ride, but fun nonetheless.

During the drive I also got to see how beautiful Guatemala if. I don´t think I’ve ever seen such thick, lush, deep green in my entire life. I can´t wait to start hiking through those mountains. Right next to the city there´s a massive volcano. It looks like something straight out of a movie. I´m sure it must be throwing off the earth´s rotation, having all that mass concentrated in that one mountain. Being in “real" Guatemala city also reminded me how much work I still have to do before I´m prepared to live here. I was writing down new Spanish words as fast as I could in my mini notebook.

When we got to the chapel we played soccer and basketball for a couple hours (this was our P-day after all), which was fun, but the highlight of our time there was that I made my first street contact! Two other missionaries and I noticed an elderly woman watching us play through the fence. We went over, introduced ourselves and talked to her for a while. I´m not sure whether she had a different accent, just talked faster than our instructors in the CCM, or could clearly enunciate her words because she had exactly 1.5 teeth, but it wasn´t easy to understand what she was saying. Nevertheless, we managed to have a good conversation and she agreed to come to church next Sunday. Maybe I’ll run into her again while I´m out tracting one day...

After that we went to Wal-Mart. Not a very authentic Guatemalan cultural experience, but it was neat to see the similarities and differences between the stores here and the stores in the U.S. The major differences were that most of the products were produced by companies in Guatemala and that in very specifically catered to Guatemalan tastes. I was most interested in a bottle of aloe vera juice sitting right next to the Sprite and Pepsi.

After Wal-Mart we walked over to one of the nicest malls I’ve ever seen to get lunch in the food court. As I watched them prepare my food, I could help but notice that proper food handling clearly isn´t a priority here. Without using gloves or washing their hands they would touch raw meat and then prepare a salad or assemble a sandwich. It freaked me out a little, but I guess that´s why we bless our food in the first place. I´ve been told that I will see much worse when I go to the mercado next week (then I´ll see how the majority of Guatemala City residents live, this trip we were in the wealthiest areas). It really makes me grateful for the incredibly clean, plentiful, readily available food we have in the United States. Especially vegetables, which we don´t really get here. Oh, and anyone who likes physics will be interested to know that in addition to the calorie count on food labels, they also say how many Kilo Joules of energy are a given portion. It´s kind of cool to think about how many meters I could run given my mass if I was 100% efficient on the energy from one ice cream bar.

That’s all I really have for this week. I've been working hard and am so happy to be out here! The Spirit is incredibly strong. We have a couple devotionals every week and they are consistently the best devotionals I´ve ever attended. I´m sure it will be even better when I´m out in the field sharing the gospel every day. Hope you all are doing well! Thanks for all your letters, I really do love hearing from you guys! I wish I had time to compose a long response to each one, but I guess if I had that much time I wouldn´t be very busy with studying and practicing teaching.                                                            

Hasta la proxima semana,    

Elder Cannon

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Week 2

Monday, July 08, 2013

Ok, maybe it’s just because we get to email home on Monday today, but it seems like this last week has flown past.  This Wednesday a new group of missionaries will enter the CCM and they’ll think we are pros and know what we´re doing. Ha-ha.

So, the highlight of this week was definitely my birthday. There wasn’t much fanfare at the CCM, but I did have the great chance to talk to the Parks family for 10 minutes. Apparently they were able to sweet talk the guards and bring me a cake. It was so much fun to see some familiar faces so far from home. The rest of my district and even the entire CCM was pretty jealous though. I still can´t believe that timing worked out so perfectly. Even the timing of when they showed up was perfect almost to the minute. We had just finished teaching a lesson and didn’t have anything scheduled for 20 minutes when I walked out of the room and saw them.

The fourth of July was also fun. Since we weren´t able to watch fireworks or go to 4th of July ward breakfasts, all of the "norteamericanos" had to compensate by wearing red, white and blue ties, singing patriotic songs throughout the day, and saying "´Murica!" [Editor’s note: slang for America] whenever we say one another. Still, I missed actually being in the USA

I’ve enjoyed the chance our district has had to begin teaching even more often. Our last visit with our investigator Albino was one of the most spiritual moments vie had thus far at the CCM. We helped him work through some of his last concerns. He knows he needs to be baptized but just wants more knowledge before he commits. We´ve also spent time teaching our maestros who are pretending to be investigators and just practiced door approaches for the first time. Hopefully I’ll just get so many referrals that I won’t have to do any tracing in the field. I definitely prefer teaching.

I´m sure my friends at BYU aren´t surprised to hear this, but I am loving always being able to wear dress clothes. I mean, everyday all I have to do is iron a shirt and pick out a suitable tie. It´ll be hard to go back in two years. The mission field is also one of the few places where I can always keep a planner, small book of new Spanish words, a pen, and a mechanical pencil in my breast pocket every day and not have that raise eyebrows. In fact, it´s very fashionable.

The weather has been great here. It truly is the land of eternal spring. Every day, all day, its 70 degrees. It rains at 3:30 every day (when we have deportes and can best enjoy it) and at 8.30. Honestly, I could set my watch off the rain here. I might be a little less enthusiastic about the heavy rain when I’m out tracting in it for hours, but for now it’s always a highlight of my day.

The food this past week has been good, but it has been far less Guatemalan than I would have thought. Still, there have been several days when we´ve had amazing tacos with their delicious corn tortillas. Those are always the best and I would be more than content to eat those every day. Last night I tried Jamaica juice and was pleasantly surprised (I really was surprised since I thought it was grape juice). Apparently it´s made from some sort of flower (this is a time when I really miss Wikipedia) and tastes like a very cinnimony cider. They also occasionally have watermelon juice, but I haven´t tried that because it´s known as the "jugo de muerte" [Editor’s note: death juice] because of what it does to you digestive system.

In all, I love the CCM. The spirit is so strong here. We´re working hard and learning a lot, but still have a long way to go before we´re ready to leave. I wish I could send you guys pictures. The hills are lush and green and the rainclouds are quite impressive, but sadly they confiscate our cameras for the duration of our stay so they don´t get stolen. Tomorrow, on my P day, we´re going to a mall to practice speaking Spanish and so we can get things we need at Wal-Mart. I think we´re allowed to have our cameras then, so hopefully I will be able to take some pictures then.

A special shout out to Aunt Becca, Aunt Caroline, and Brother Minor. Thanks so much for your letters!  I love hearing from you guys! Speaking of which, I realized that in my mailing instructions I should have mentioned that for the next few weeks you should put my mission as "Guatemala MTC" instead of "Guatemala city central" in Dear elder. Otherwise they send it to the actual mission home and I don’t get them.

Oh, and a big thank you to my parents, who edit this email before you guys see it hopefully). I´m trying to type quickly on a Spanish keyboard and frankly, they didn´t do a great job at making it ergonomical. That combined with a lack of spell check makes these emails a bit of a mess when I send them.

Well, I guess that´s it for this week. I´m sure I will think of everything else I wanted to say the moment I walk back to the CCM (the computer lab is in a different building), but there´s not much I can do about that.


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Week 1 Arrival at Guatemala MTC

Week 1 Guatemala MTC 

Hey everyone! Wow, I can’t believe that it’s been a week already. Time in the MTC is weird; the days seem to take forever (usually by 2:00 I think that it should be time for dinner) but the weeks (or at least the first week) fly by. I’ve only got 47.32 minutes left to write this, so I’ll try and hit all the highlights.

My flight to Guatemala. This was less than fun. My nice and easy flight schedule took me from Medford to San Francisco to LA to Guatemala, arriving at 6:00 in the morning after 12 hours of travel. When I got to the airport, I found out, however, that my flight was delayed, forcing me to miss my connections. After an intense period of negotiations led by my Dad, I was able to get a flight from Medford to San Francisco, then to Atlanta, then to Guatemala, arriving more than 24 hours after I left. I’m not complaining though; it helped me realize how silly it was to complain about spending a whole 12 or 24 hours traveling thousands of miles. It really wasn’t too bad. I also had the chance to do some great service missionary work on my flight from Atlanta to Guatemala, but I don’t think I have time to explain it all here. That will have to go in a letter. Flying into Guatemala City was amazing. It was night and as I flew in I could see lightning jumping from cloud to cloud. I can finally check that off my bucket list (seeing a thunder storm from above was just as cool as I thought it could be). I then had the experience of flying through a thunderstorm. It was pretty intense. I have to assume that we were stuck because we weren’t grounded or something to that effect. It’s been a while since I took Physics though... after we descended below the clouds I could see all of Guatemala City. It seemed more spread out and less built up than big cities in America, but it seemed to stretch on forever. One of the coolest things was being able to see the numerous sinkholes that have spread in Guatemala City. I didn’t see any of the perfectly round, deep ones I was imagining, but I saw others that were just as cool. The best way I can describe it is by saying that it looked a lot like the scene in RotK (Ethan Editing: that’s Return of the King from Lord of the Rings) after the ring is destroyed and all the land the orcs are standing on crumbles down. Sorry about that analogy, but it really does fit.

I was immediately forced to speak Spanish as the person who picked me up barely spoke any English. It made me realize that I’m not quite as good at Spanish as I thought. Being able to read the BOM in Spanish does not mean I can speak it. It’s amazing how quickly you learn and improve at the MTC though. I doubt I’ll be fluent by the time I leave, but I should be able to hold my own.

Ok, now about the MTC. It’s much smaller than I thought, only 140 people, about 50 of whom are Hermanas and 32 of whom are Hispanicos, but they only stay for two weeks. One great thing about the Guatemalan MTC is that it is literally one Shell gas station away from the temple. Normally we go every week on our P day, which is Wednesday, but they just closed the temple for cleaning. Luckily we were able to go once before that and it was a great experience. Hopefully it will open up in not too much longer. Another thing I love about the MTC is that all their artwork is about Christ visiting the Americas or other scenes from the Book of Mormon. It’s great to think that this is where it all happened and that we will be fulfilling many of the promises in the BOM as we teaching the descendants of those people.

Now onto the food. So far it seems like they’re not being super aggressive at getting us acclimatized to Guatemalan food. For breakfast we normally have something very Guatemalan. Lots of eggs, beans, and salsa. Lunch is usually something more familiar, like lasagna, and dinner is a mix of the two. I have been able to try some Guatemalan desserts and there are definitely some major winners. One of my favorites was some type of fried or doughnuty pudding. At first we thought it was sitting in a pool of oil, but that just turned out to be fruit juice. I’ve also been able to try a lot of Guatemalan ice cream. Just the type that might be sold in vending machines in America. Things like ice cream bars, drumstick imitations, and small ice cream cups. Last night I had an ice cream bar that was labeled "sabor chicle." it wasn’t a very pleasant experience and left me smelling like almond extract for quite a while, but it’s all part of the experience I suppose. My favorite thing I’ve eaten here was some hot chocolate that they had last night. Honestly, the stuff we drink doesn’t deserve to be called by the same name. I really can’t describe it. Hopefully as I come back I’ll be able to bring some of the chocolate they used. Oh, and Mom and Dad, you will be disappointed to hear that apparently, like BYU, the Guatemalan MTC still hasn’t picked up on the "eat meat sparingly" part of the Word of Wisdom. They serve eggs for breakfast and meat at the other two meals. It really is too much. I definitely miss a Mom-cooked vegan meal every once and a while.

Speaking of food, I’ve learned that pretty much everything in Guatemala is trying to make you very, very sick. We can’t drink the tap water; we can’t even use it to brush our teeth. When we take showers we have to keep our mouths closed and wear sandals so we don’t get worms through our feet. Apparently they use very natural fertilizer on their fruit, if you know what I mean, so if you eat too much of that you’ll get sick too. Because of that, I’ve been trying to stick to fruit that you have to peel. My favorite has been the lychee. Incredibly good, and I can peel it myself, so I know that the knife used to cut it wasn’t just slicing up raw chicken. however, I think the cooks at the MTC run a relatively tight ship. I’ve only found one bug in my food so far which apparently is a pretty common occurrence down here.

My district. There are twelve people in my district, all of them elders, no hermanas for whatever reason. Most of them are going to El Salvador, which is disappointing because they’re all super cool. It reminds me a lot of my hall at BYU. Speaking of which, one of the people in my district is Elder Kione Kapisi, who apparently stayed on the other wing of the second floor in May hall but whom I had never met before this. He knew a lot of 114th warders though, which is cool. My companion is named Elder Applegate. He’s really nice and chill. We’ve been able to teach some good lessons together so far.

Ok, that brings me to my next point. We began teaching an investigator named Alvin Montes as a district (8 companionships obviously, but we each teach him every night). On our second day, suspicious as I am, I was confident that he was really a member of the church on my first lesson with him. Because of that, my teaching suffered. I thought of him more as a chance to practice teaching than an actual person I could help, and I didn’t have the spirit with me because of that. I felt really bad that night when I found out he was a real investigator but luckily I’ve had plenty more chances to teach him. The next lessons went much better. We all felt the spirit and on Saturday I issued my first baptismal challenge. He said he would if God continued to answer his prayers with respect to the church. He actually attended church last Sunday and prayed and felt the spirit. That night he said he even had a dream that angels dressed as missionaries came to him and gave him the BOM, which he read. We teach him for the last time tonight. Hopefully he’ll decide to be baptized! So exciting! Sorry to leave you all with such a cliff hanger.

Ahh! There goes my time.  Adios!