I miss you all so much. I am homesick for sure, but I like to call it “familysick" because really I just miss you all! But I am doing alright! The Philippines is crazy!
The flight here was insanely long. It was not the most fun I've had, but the flight attendants took good care of us on the plane. Most of the time I slept, or listened to the music on the TV thing. Just classical music. Although, I did find an Ed Sheeran song and I about died because I was so happy. So I listened to that too. :) Our flight from San Fran to Hong Kong kept getting delayed, so by the time we got to Hong Kong we had to run to our next flight! It was stressful, but everyone made it just fine.
Hong Kong airport is huge! It looks like a mall inside of a stadium. Very big. On our flight from Hong Kong to Manila, I sat in between two random Filipinos, a man and a woman. They were both so nice! The woman got my email, because she said I was cute, and she wanted to talk to me haha. I taught them a little bit about the church, but mostly they taught me about the Philippines. When we landed in Manila, it was the middle of the night - about 1:00 am there. But, there were still a bunch of people out and about in the airport. The Manila mish. pres. met us outside the gate. He is so nice! His name is President Trask. We got all our bags packed into the vans and they gave us some food - apples and bread. The apple was soooooo good and Filipino bread is really really yummy and is usually doughy....my fav!
When we stepped outside the humidity hit like a wave. It was hot! It felt like breathing water. The air was brown and obviously very polluted, and it sort of smelled like fireworks; very smoky and dirty. We got on a big bus and pulled into the Manila MTC. It is tiny! Only 4 buildings, 2 of which were under construction. There were less than 200 missionaries there, including us. When we got there, we went straight to orientation - even though it was so late! They gave us keys, and a few rules and we were off to bed. The rooms were similar to the Provo MTC with bunk beds, but this time we got our own bathroom. It was just a normal bathroom like they have in the US. I was so tired, I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. We were allowed to sleep in an extra hour, but my roomies and I - Sis. Stokes, Wittwer, and Kibaimoa - didn't do the time change on our clocks right so we woke up an hour earlier than we needed to! Haha, no extra sleep for us. Then we went to breakfast where we had our first Filipino meal, complete with rice, of course. It was good! We had rice, bread, and a sort of breakfasty stew type thing with sausage and veggies. Yum!
Most of the Manila MTC was the same as Provo: studies, classes, devotionals, etc. But we did do a few new and exciting things:
1. We got to go proselyting out in Manila! On Saturday afternoon, all the Provo batch drove out to the Manila mission and split with the missionaries in the Manila mission. It was such a great experience. My companion was Sister Tonga, from Tonga....just kidding! She was from New Zealand. She is soooo nice and so spunky, and a great missionary. She really pushed me to talk to people and share what I have to say, even if I didn't know how to say it perfectly in Tagalog. We rode tricycles, that we call "tricies" to areas to teach. I was the SINGLE white person in sight for the whole day. In the Philippines, it is not rude to stare.... so they stared and stared and STARED at me. When I met people after saying "hello," the first thing they would say was, "what color are your eyes?" or "why are you so white?” It was very strange to be looked at so much, and how different
everyone thought I looked. Sis Tonga introduced me to everybody, and would say in Tagalog, "This is Sis Allen, and she just got here. She is very good at Tagalog, ask her any question!" and they would. It was like a "Talk to the White Girl” game for everybody. Haha, it was pretty entertaining. When I would understand them and speak in Tagalog, they would get so excited! It was very fun. We were able to tract and teach a lot of people in Manila. Let me tell you about Manila: It is like a regular city that got squished together on every side, so everybody is basically living on top of each other. (It reminds me of Mexico, but with Asian things and people.) The houses are all stuck together, and the roads are tiny with crazy drivers (can you say car sick?!). There are stray dogs everywhere and people selling strange foods in the streets. It doesn't smell very good, but most of the smells I had never smelled before. It is all so foreign to me! The city has rich and poor living a stone's throw away from each other. The poverty is heartbreaking. There are people living on the side of the road under cardboard, and across the street: a 20-story luxury apartment complex. Everything about the Philippines is wild. Teaching in Manila was a very touching experience. Sis Tonga shared these wise words with me: "If you miss the joy, you miss it all." That really stuck with me. If we miss the joy - in our missions, in life, in anything! - we miss it all. It is all about the JOY. Even though these people live such a different life from what I have seen, they are always, without a doubt, happy. They are smiling and warm, and are always kind and welcoming. The Filipino people have happiness like none other, despite everything around them. They embrace the joy, and I want to do the same.
2. We got to go to the Manila temple! It is a very tiny temple, but very beautiful. Inside the temple, men don't wear ties or tuck their shirts in. They all looked like they were wearing white pajama sets, and it was very funny. We walked around the grounds afterwards, and appreciated the tranquility of the white temple amid the busy city. It was a great experience. By the way, the endowment session was in English.
The Manila MTC was a great experience and I loved my time there. Most of the missionaries there are from the PH, Australia, New Zealand, and the islands near it, like Samoa. So I was again, one of the few white girls there. Missionaries would always ask to take a picture with me, even if I didn't know them at all. We left the Manila MTC on Wednesday morning, and I said my goodbyes to some of my district from Provo, including Sis Wittwer. It was hard to see them go! We headed to the airport, and took off to Cauayan! The flight was only about 35 minutes, which was nice. As we descended, the view was stunning. Cauayan is surrounded by mountains and has many rivers and fields. It was beautiful. And then, we finally arrived, after days of travel, and seven weeks in MTCs....I was in Cauayan! The airport is just a single cement strip in a field, with a gas-station sized building next to it. It is so cute and tiny! President and Sister Rahlf met us at the gate, which is just the little building, and welcomed us with open arms. They are so kind and loving, and they made me feel right at home. We headed to the mission home, and had a bit of orientation about vitamins, budgeting, and had an interview with President Rahlf. Then, finally, we met our new companions! My companion's name is Sister Maroket, from Manila, Philippines. (she speaks English very well!) She is so kind and so sweet. Everything she does is loving. She has been out for 6 months. Here in the Cauayan mission, we call our trainers "tatay" or "nanay" which means "father" and "mother." I love my Nanay Sis Maroket! We were assigned in the Cauayan 1-A area, which is right next to the mission home. It is not yet big enough for wards, so we work in a branch. Our area is in the city, but this city in much smaller and more open than Manila. Our area is called San Fermin. Sis Maroket and I live in a little town-house with the Sister Training Leaders, Sis Culis and Sis Canlapan. They are so nice and are hilarious. They are both Filipino too. Our apartment is the nicest apartment in the area, for which I am grateful. It is very cute! Most of the people that live in our area are students that are going to college, or agricultural workers. It is very hot and humid here, and it has been rainy for the past couple days. But, the rain is good, because it makes it a little less hot. Cauayan is one of the hottest places in the PH! I am constantly sweaty and sticky, but I am adjusting. We shower twice a day, once at night, and once in the morning, to stay fresh and clean. And yes, we have....bucket showers! They are not as bad as they sound. You have a "dipper" that you scoop the water with, and you just dump in on yourself when you want to rinse. The water is always cold, but since it is so hot out, I like it that way. Our toilet too is different than usual: it doesn't have a flush, and can't handle toilet paper. We use the dipper and fill the toilet after we go to the bathroom, and the toilet just drains, and you put your toilet paper in the trash. When I got to our apartment, there was no toilet paper! So it is true: Filipinos don't really use toilet paper. But don't worry, I bought some!
Sis Maroket and I have taught a lot of people. Here, there are many less actives, so we visit and teach them as well. Most people we talk to have never heard of Mormons, and are usually willing to hear us. It is easy to find people to talk to here. We talk to people on the street, in front of street vendors, to tricie drivers, and we tract people's houses. It is tiring, and we walk a lot, but I really like tracting. Most of the roads are rubble and dirt, with a few haphazardly paved roads. It is very muddy right now because of the rain!
We also had the wonderful opportunity to watch General Conference this Saturday and Sunday. It was just a re-run broadcast, in English, at the ward. It was so wonderful to hear the prophet and apostle’s words. Two of our investigators came to watch Conference with us on Sunday too! It was great. They are sisters named Anna and Rachel. Hahaha what a coincidence. They are so sweet. Anna has a 1 year old boy that she brought with her too. He is very shy and sweet.
The food here is very strange. LOTS of rice. I haven't really tried anything interesting yet. We went to the store, and have been eating at home, so I have been surviving on PB&Js. The peanut butter here is to DIE for. So good. I tried fried fat the other day....it kind of tasted like nothing. I will report more about the food later when I eat some more crazy stuff!
I am LOVING the Philippines, despite the difficult adjustments. I am so happy to be here in Cauayan to spread the wonderful word of the gospel. I can't wait to have more adventures here.
Talk to you next Monday!
LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE TO YOU ALL!
xo Sister Anna Ray Allen