Colombia Bogota North Mission

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Giron Week 8

Today is my two month-iversary! So basically I'm almost home. Wow that was fast. Really though the last week has gone by really fast. I'm starting to finally connect with some of the people, and it's a lot more fun when you have friends. The people here are surprisingly similar to people in the U.S. way more than I expected. Some customs and the language are different but it's funny because a lot of people remind me of people from home. There's a Colombian Nic Pepe and a girl that reminds me of Lindsey Sughroue (except that she's not in love with me) and everyone is way more normal than I thought they'd be. Lessons in the last week have almost all been really good. It's awesome to see people progressing and developing testimonies. We didn't have a lot of lessons though because we had to do kiosks four times. Kiosks are signs that have a question like “why am I here on Earth” or “how can I make my family happier and stronger” and others and we stand by the sign for two hours and try to talk to people and try to get their info to teach them. We don't have permission to do it in our city so we get hard core rejected by a million people to get references that we'll never visit. It helps other Elders and the people but it's hard. I've been really happy though (when i'm not super tired) and I've been having good time and enjoying the little things. I still don't understand a lot and that's hard but I'm used to it. I spoke full speed english with one of my zone leaders when he was here one day and it was super weird. I was like “wow I know how to talk?” It was also weird that it was weird so just a lot of weirdness. I'm supposed to have 30 minutes -1 hour of language study a day but so far I've had 0 hours for reasons that are boring to explain so hopefully when I start doing that next week I'll be fluent. I'm a lot uglier than I used to be. After hiking up and down mountains and getting sweaty and red faced, I'll look in a reflective window sometimes and 100% of the time I'm ugly. That's taking some getting used to but it's fine. The food is still a little below decent. Half of the meal is always rice. The juice is usually kind of gross and salad here is just sliced onions and tomatoes with vinegar. In my head while the food is being blessed I also pray that it won't be gross and that I can eat it all. I think I ate intestines in soup yesterday. That or my companion lied. Google the fruit “granadilla” it's my new favorite. No crazy stories yet. So far a couple stray dogs have gotten a little over dramatic with us but no attempted bites or gun shots or kidnappings. I'm disappointed but i'm patient.

Elder Downing

Laundry day
new favorite fruit: granadilla
The cool fish shower curtain

napping with the beloved fan

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Giron Week 7

It’s finally Pee day! Wow I’ve been holding it for so long. On my last P-day I only had time to read and respond to a few letters it was really lame but this time I think I can get through them. Giron is doing well. I’m learning a lot of Spanish every day but I have to learn every common word to understand decently (there are a lot). It’s cool though. People are usually really nice. Sometimes people are mean and talk really quiet and fast so I can’t understand and get confused and then make fun of me rudely but it’s only a couple times a week. At first I was like “I wish they had to go to the U.S. and try to speak English so they can see how it feels” but then I remembered the U.S. is really nice and these people live in Giron so I changed my mind. The U.S. has carpet. There are some super poor neighborhoods here where the homes are one tiny room (basically a shack) with a piece of tin foil for a roof. It’s super cool, I like the poor areas but we don’t go to them much because my companion is a scaredy cat and says they’re dangerous or something.

 I’m starting to adjust to the lifestyle now. Preachin the good word 24/7. I was told being a missionary is awesome (it is) but no one told me how sad it is. A lot of people tell you about all of their problems and cry. I wish I could force everyone to accept the gospel because they would be so much happier but I guess they like being sad better. The mission lifestyle is cool though. I never have to ask what I’m going to do tomorrow because every day is the same. Every day my calendar has one thing: change lives. The apartment is pretty cool too. I’ve decided that not having an A/C or hot water or a bed is better. I call it the low maintenance lifestyle. I never have to adjust the A/C or fix the water heater or make my bed. It’s awesome.

Derek's apartment- outside and inside view

I had an exchange with my zone leader and went to the nice part of Bucaramanga and had lunch in a house the size of houses in the U.S.  and we talked to a guy in his BMW and there was a mall and movie theater and I didn't see any homeless people. I felt like I was in America. I’m glad to be back in Giron though because here there is a lot of trash and dog poop in the streets and you can go without showering and no one will know because it already smells bad. But really there are nicer areas too and the people are awesome in all parts.

Tons of people wear crocs and the teenage guys rep these mullets that are actually kind of cool and people point with their lips! It’s so funny, my zone leader pointed it out to me and did it all day and other people did it too. Something annoying is women breast feed any time any place. In lessons or during church activities. We’ve had some weird lesson locations too. In a barber shop while a lady was cutting hair, in a little store in houses. It’s sweet because I’m pretty sure I have the gift of tongues during lessons. I understand almost everything in the lessons but I get destroyed the rest of the time. We’re teaching a lot of less actives. I like teaching less actives because you can go more in depth on things and be like “look how awesome this is, you need this!” but teaching for the first time is awesome too you can be like “look how awesome this is, you need this!”

Chapel in Giron
We’re teaching a good amount of young people which is really cool because they’re easier to connect with and that makes a big difference when you can’t speak Spanish. No they’re not all girls most of them are guys. Most ;) ha just kidding I’m a missionary. I thought of something you guys can send me, a laminated paper with thy lyrics to “I will survive” to put in my shower. I have to get hyped for the cold shower and that song has been working so far but I don’t know the lyrics to all parts. I read the manual and we can sing anything uplifting and that song is good enough. I’m also requesting the lyrics to that song that goes “the lion sleeps tonight” for when I’m getting ready for bed. Me and my companion are doing well, I guess you could say we’re like best friends because we’re together 24/7.

Elder Torres selfie
I’m still learning a ton about the area, and who’s who, and Spanish and how to teach, so basically I still know nothing but I’m adjusted now and I’m used to getting destroyed. And the heat. I sweat less now so that’s pretty awesome. Hopefully I can send this and get through my mail today. Last week I only had 45 minutes to write and I missed a lot. I hope everyone is fat and happy in the U.S. White people won the world cup so you guys can celebrate about that if you want. Don’t know what else there is to say, I’m still skinny. It’s good though because I can put on bug spray faster at night because I have less surface area. The church is true.


“Elder Dowin”

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Week 6 Bucaramanga!

I'm civilized so I'll do this chronologically, if you want to read about the cartel violence and how I lost my ear, you'll have to keep reading. Bueno .When I left the CCM I left a lot of awesome friends and teachers (I was even tight with the CCM President and his wife) but it's all good because I like the new people too. My mission president is super cool and funny “that's a good looking group besides Elder Downing.” After an interview and multi hour welcome presentation, I got my assignment. Bucaramanga!! *....firework....firework* specifically in a town called Giron. You can visit me on google earth if you would like. I'll ask my companion for our address when he wakes up. It's 10 hours north of Bogota. (I'm only guessing because everything in the mission is North of Bogota) by bus and so I drove all night. My companion is Elder Torres from Costa Rica and he doesn't speak English. He's super cool though and he's really enthusiastic sometimes and a really nice guy. Honestly I got pretty lucky. I like working with him. He has the nicest eye leashes I've ever seen. It low key looks like he's wearing mascara a lot of the time... but he's not. My apartment is pretty cool. My favorite thing in it is my fan. It's a solid fan, like it's really good. Our curtain for our front window is really cool too. Its a shower curtain with a picture (drawing) of a bunch of fish. One problem though is I can't find the A/C or the hot water knob in my shower. Like I'm pretty sure I've looked everywhere. We are the only companionship in the apartment which I like because I have an entire small bathroom to myself and a small fan. Milk comes in bags here it's weird. It's a lot jankier here than Bogota, especially my area. But thanks to the nice area of Bucaramanga we have good drinking water here! Bucaramanga and Bogota are the only cities. But yeah it's way poorer here with houses with a roof on only part of the house, or like the house is actually a cave and the bed is actually a sleeping bear. Forgive my lack of seriousness, it's hard to joke around with people when you don't know what they said, and so my sarcasm has been bagging up (I would have said bottling up but here they use bags). Speaking of Spanish I'm getting destroyed. So you know when you're talking to someone and you didn't hear what they said so you say “what?” and they repeat it but you still didn't understand so you say “I'm sorry I still didn't hear you, one more time?” and the the third time you still don't know what the said so you just go on pretending like you heard what they said and it's this terribly uneasy and awkward feeling and you watch for body language ques but you still can't understand and your soul slowly melts? That is how I feel all the time. I know all white people get destroyed at first and it'll probably build character (even though mine's already pretty decent) but it's pretty hard in the moment. In one lesson I didn't understand a single word the investigator said so I just guessed based on what my companion said and went by the spirit. I think what I said was relevant because she nodded. Honestly, teaching by the spirit is a real thing. I'll have no clue what's going on and then feel prompted to say something. I hear after the first few months people usually do decently. Months are short right? I can speak well enough if I know what I should be saying but I rarely do. It's also hard trying to meet and remember all these people and how to do missionary stuff and where things are but i'm sure it'll all smooth out. I'm just trying to be happy until I get the hang of it. I'm pretty good at it too. I hope everyone had a good fourth of July, the Fourth here was game day (we lost).

Elder Downing

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

CCM Week 5

4 more days and I'm in the field! I'm way excited even though I'm still terrible at spanish. The last 10 days I've had a companion from Colombia. Elder Zuluaga. We're pretty different but we're doing pretty well. Also Iv'e been in a district of all latinos. The first few days were super hard but I've adjusted and started comprehending a lot more. The first days were like getting punched in the brain though. The guys in my district and the other latinos too are all really fun. It's so easy to make them crack up. I told them I'm from Cuzco Peru and my girlfriend is an alpaca a week ago, and they still ask me about her and crack up. There's a ton of other funny stuff but theres too much to write about in only a few minutes. I ate spinal cord. That was cool. We had pork one day with a piece of the spine and spinal cord in it and another kid from colombia said his parents like it so i tried it. It's fatty. Also theres a fruit that I like that you have to crack like an egg then slurp slimy seeds out of a sack. It's really weird and I think it's called granadilla. We went proselyting (don't know how to spell it in english) again yesterday and it was so cool! The whole time even though I was way happy, like crazy happy even though we got rejected a ton. The times where we connected with people made it so awesome. I wish I could go back out there right now! Once again I don't have time to tell all the details but it made me so excited to go out into the field. I just wish my spanish was good enough to connect with the people more but I'm patient. I've realized that things are as good or as bad as you make them. I had a really hard first few days in the latino district and just decided to make it better and it was even though nothing changed. So I'm trying to have a good mind set and asking for the Lord's help in everything and it's all turning out good. My testimony has grown a ton haha. It's like the hulk now. Sometimes I'll just be reading my scrips and want to highlight the whole page because they're so bomb. I'm way excited to share the gospel with the people here next week. I'm sure I'll have problems and challenges but and get destroyed by spanish even more but I can't wait. Partially because I've had all the classes here for two or three times but also for good reasons like eternal salvation. Sometimes I wish I could just take a break and relax with freinds and family but I know this is where I need to be and so I'm working hard (most of the time). Working hard is really hard though. Anyways all is good in colombia (game tomorrow so everyone's stoked) and I hope it's good in America too.