Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Tunnels

The Teddy Grahams

Hello, hello, hello!

Well, I'm afraid my pictures are going to be pretty lame compared to the ones I received! CONGRATULATIONS E PARABENS JOHN AND MYSTIE! Yes, I'm sorry I'm going to be missing it, but I'm super, super excited for both of you! Send me some peanuts and cracker jacks. (Not really--unless the cracker jacks have a cool toy at the bottom.)

How did you propose, John?!

Well, let's see what happened this week...we hit our eight month mark/six months in AFRICA! So we celebrated by decorating brownies and bringing them to the office. We've discovered that the key to staying sane when your investigators do nothing and you can't get the passport for the missionary who was supposed to leave in April--is to celebrate everything. But also, it was pretty cool to think that six months ago we had no idea about anything. Cabo Verde was new and different and super strange. But now, it's seriously like home. And for me, who has yet to be transferred, I'm pretty sure the Terra Branca house might actually be in my name. :) The Elders were teasing me that leaving this area would probably be like leaving home again. It's true. I'm going to miss these people like crazy if I ever leave.

Well, we just got back from our Zone/Office activity. We went to Tarrafal again. Another long, crowded (awesome) Hiace ride and a very difficult game of ultimate frisbee (because of the soft sand and my extreme lack of fitness) and then another hike through the long tunnels to the black sand beach. We attempted a sand castle that turned into a turtle, got really sandy and then ate PB&J's.

Also, Elder Ryan pulled out a bag of mini Teddy Grahams that he received in a package. I think I got a little teary-eyed. That's when you know I've been eating 'Kritz' crackers (vs. genuine Ritz crackers) for too long. Ha-ha. But you have to admit: Teddy Grahams are the world's best travel food. I don't think I ever went on a cross country trip without them. Anyway...(now you see the cause of my lack of fitness).

Tarrafal was beautiful. I'm afraid the longer I'm here, the more certain I am that there isn't a cooler place in the world. The people are just so amazing. As we drove through Assomada we saw a man that we sat next to in the Hiace our last Zone activity and he got so excited and started waving and running after the Hiace to say hi to us. I love it!

Other things I love: there's a little construction site near our house and for some reason there's something that looks like a big cinderblock bath tub/well filled with water, but one fairly hot day we walked past it and there was a little boy, just jumping and swimming in the water. He looked like he was having the time of his life and for some reason I thought it was really funny because to me, it didn't look like a swimming pool, but to a young boy on a hot day: kel li propi.

So Titinho made me laugh the other day (I chose to laugh instead of smack him upside the head). He'd been a little lazy in his reading lately, so we made a goal with him to read a chapter a day. This kid is so smart. If he reads something, he remembers it, but he's horrible at trying to cover up when he hasn't read much. So after a very successful few days (a chapter read every day) we returned again and asked him where he read. Well, it had been four days so he told us he'd read 1 Nefi 19-23. We would have been very happy, but guess what! 1 Nefi only has 22 chapters. Ha-ha. He looked a little sheepish and I had to try really hard not to laugh. I can't be too mad at him. He's doing really well for a 17 year old and only member of his family--plus finals in school. Though we still had to talk to him about studying the LdM.

We've had some other really good and really frustration lessons this week. About 80% of our investigators need to get married before they can be baptized. Anildo and Sofia are bums which has been really hard. They both know it’s true and are doing everything else--their kids are adorable and actually enjoy church--but they don't want to get married! Anildo mostly. Sometimes I really don't get the thought processes concerning marriage here. Beto also needs to get married and he really would get married tomorrow and baptized the next day if he could, he's amazing. But his 'wife'...not so much. She wants to move to America. Blah. I'm so sick of people wanting to move to America (or wanting me to marry them so they can move to America).

But! We do have one investigator who really wants to get married. And I'm pretty sure her 'husband' couldn't say no if he wanted to. It was amazing. Her name's Carla and she knows a lot about the church. Her sister and daughter are less-active members and we're also teaching another of her daughters. She sat down with us and told us that she knows it's all true. She just needs to get married. Two months ago, her mom passed away and she realized that if she died tomorrow, she would have no excuses for God because she knew the truth and just didn't do what she needed to do. The only problem: they have next to no money and her 'husband' is from Guinea-Bissau and they need to get some papers...I don't know. But we're going to find any way to help out we can.

Also, we had an awesome lesson with Beto. It's amazing talking with him. I want him to be able to marry and baptize too badly! We sit in his little yard, on cinderblocks with his woman cooking dinner over an open fire, and he pretty much teaching us. We give the topic and he'll expound on it (in Krioulu). The other day he was telling us that he knows Joseph Smith was so important because we all need a prophet to receive revelation so we can follow God better. He's amazing. Goodness. These are the people that I get to spend my afternoons with--how lucky am I?

Well, I'm about to run out of time, but congrats again to John and Mystie. I love you all and I hope everything is super well! Sorry I didn't really answer any questions that anyone asked. My thoughts are a bit scattered (and I haven't had access to a bathroom all day...). Thank you for everything! I love you!


Sister Brooks

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Stake Clerk

Hello Family,

Well, I can't forget to wish Dad a HAPPY FATHER'S DAY! I hope you have a wonderful day and know that I would totally call you if that was allowed.

Also, HAPPY FATHER'S DAY to Grandpa Hall and Dan and Randers! Love you all too!

And...HAPPY BIRTHDAY BENJAMIN! Wow! I hope you have an amazing birthday on Monday! You'll have to let me know what kind of cake you ate and what presents you got! I love you!

Speaking of birthdays, our district celebrated Elder Ryan's birthday. Elder Ryan is one of the financial secretaries and Elder and Sister Adams planned a little surprise lunch after District Meeting on Wednesday. Sister Laimana and I supplied the cake. Apparently, everyone's favorite cake is the 'Fun-fetti' cake mix which is impossible (thus far) to find in Cape Verde. So we made a silver white cake --from scratch!--and added sprinkles (a very lucky find here in Africa). From what I was told it was a pretty good copy of the original. I thought it was good. But of course, the decoration (see attached photo) was awesome! We made a tie out of airheads and the tag out of a dark chocolate piece and then wrote a nice birthday wish in Krioulu. It was pretty awesome.

I've discovered that one of my favorite things is celebrating others' birthday. Maybe it's because I can help make their day super fun and a little bit special.

Or maybe it's because I get to eat cake.

For whatever reason, it was fun. We also gave him a couple receipts to be reimbursed. We're such nice Sisters.

Our sad news of the week is that Sister Beus is gone--not like gone, just transferred. Presidente doesn't want three sisters in the office (two is bad enough) and since her health is fine and dandy now, she's moved the Ramo 2 in Praia. So we still get to see her, but it's still sad. It was one very fun week. But now I'll probably get to serve with her again someday. Woohoo.

During one of our adventurous days with Sister Beus, we made a giant pot of chili which was very good and we also had corn bread and Sister Laimana made cinnamon rolls. I'm pretty sure we ate more than we would have with two plates from Segundas.

I'm not really sure I should have confessed that. I'm sure no one needs to know about Sister missionaries' eating habits.

But it was really good chili.

Our recent convert Augusto is still amazing. He helped us the other day teaching Beto and he's just very straight forward--he knows it's true and he doesn't see why in the world anyone else is waiting to accept the gospel as well. He was letting Beto's wife know how great church is and that she should come and see how it is and then she'll be ready to marry Beto and get baptized. It was awesome. Then he was giving Sofia and Anildo tips, too, about how they don't need a huge party to get married--they should just sign the papers and get baptized and then they can have a party.

I agree.

He's great though. I remember our first lessons with him and I really didn't know if he was that interested in changing his life, but now it's so clear how much the gospel means to him and he wants to share it with everyone! He also wants to rent a Hiace to take everyone up there in Alto de Gloria to church on Sunday! He's amazing.

We taught Beto's wife the other day and she's definitely not as excited about the gospel as Beto (though I don't know if anyone could be) but she's really sweet. She doesn't speak Portuguese either, but she was telling us that when their little boy went to church with Beto he came back and said, Mom! Church is SABI! I don't know the exact translation of sabi, but it's basically really cool--or really tasty in reference to food. They have some really cute kids. I love the little ones here so much!

Well, I think that's about it. The office is still as crazy as ever. Yesterday, we just brought snacks and worked through lunch because we had five visas to renew. But now we don't have to go in today, so it was worth it. And since part of what we do is help the Caboverdian missionaries applying to serve missions, we now have access to the Missionary Recommendation site--we're listed as stake clerks. :)

I love the mission. I love the gospel and I love my Savior!

Oh. And I love all of you too!

Sister Brooks

Monday, June 13, 2011

Ka Ta Parsi

Oi! Tudu fixe?

We've had an INSANE week in the office. I think I'm developing an ulcer (which is ironic because that's why Sister Beus got transferred to Praia). The financial secretaries got to host a man from Spain, doing an audit for the Church. Just one more thing that I didn't think I'd ever experience on my mission. Anyway, so the office was extra full--plus it was the first week of the transfer and we had new missionaries coming, old missionaries leaving and we're still working on learning what in the world to do without Elder Barker!

We also have several Cabo Verdian missionaries who need passports/visas/flight plans/mission calls/lots of other things. I have a feeling that secretaries in the States have a little less work to do. (Not that I have any idea.) But here, President's in charge of the missionaries serving here and the missionaries called from here, serving anywhere else in the world. Also, all the transfers/zone conferences/divisions require plane tickets between islands!

I think I'm over-using the 'slash' key.

So it's been pretty hectic, which really wouldn't be that bad since Sister Laimana and I have fun through all of it, but it's meant that we've been getting out teaching SUPER late (and there's sort of a transition in having the sisters come in a bit earlier nowadays) so we've had hardly any time to teach! And now that there's only one companionship in the area, we inherited all the other sister's investigators (most of which I already know because Sister Turnbow and I started teaching them) and it's stressing me out. But next week will be less crazy so it's all good.

Let's see--a couple days ago I woke up and Sister Beus told me I said a prayer in my sleep. In Portuguese! Turns out I might be a good missionary after all. The funny part, however, was that Sister Beus was really confused and thought that we were saying a companionship prayer so she said her own personal prayer after I finished. That's right. We pray before we sleep, after we sleep and while we're sleeping.

Without Elder Barker, we've got the Hiace to ourselves. We've actually had to venture out on our errands, with just me at the wheel and Sister Laimana as navigator. I'm driving in Africa. Please tell me you think that's cool. :)

We have one investigator now who's extra awesome. He's had very little schooling, doesn't speak a speck of Portuguese but he can read and he's really smart. I feel like maybe I've told you about him, but I'll continue anyway. His name is Beto and he wants to get baptized so badly. He needs to get married and that's what he's working on now. They live about as far away as you can get in Inferno and they have gravel for a floor. We sit on buckets and cinderblocks and I just grin the whole time as he explains the Book of Mormon to us and applies it to his life. He rides his bike to church every single week! He's awesome. I'm looking forward to this transfer.

We've been having a great P-day. It's Sister Beus' first in Praia so we've been showing her around. We had breakfast at the lighthouse, got a tour of the Abby (we almost got to ring the bell) by a little old woman who saw us walking by and invited us in, and then took plenty of time in Sucupira! I forget what an incredible sight all of Praia is, but it was fun being able to share it. It reminded me that even though I've almost been here for 6 months, I still love it. Gosh. I love it so much.

Oh, and we also took her to eat at Segunda's. I know we're probably a bad influence, but it was delicious and you can't beat a meal at Sucupira. And we saw four Elders there as well.

We've had some fun taxi experiences this week. One driver kicked us out by the beach because he said he needed to go somewhere else so we had to get a different taxi to take us home. At least the first one didn't make us pay. Then another night we had a taxi man tell us that our destination no longer existed. I think it was Taxi Humor. But it was fun because I got to practice my Krioulu in the taxis. He told us that our house 'ka ta parsi' which literally means it won't appear or we won't find it.

Also, that reminded me: Elder Fonseca, our zone leader who's from Mindelo asked me how I learned how to write in Krioulu since we filled out his office request form in Krioulu--journal 'burmedju' instead of vermelho (red). I told him I learned it from the Bible. :)

Well...I'm really thirsty and the air conditioner is dripping on me and we have to go pick up Elder Andrade's passport (on P-Day!) so I'll say tchau.

I love you all!

Sister Emma Jean Dot Brooks

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Titinho's Baptism

Hello Family!

I'm finally getting an email sent. I'm sure you've all been dying without an update from me...oh wait. You're visiting the little ones so you probably don't care at all. :) But I'll make myself feel good and pretend like you've been waiting (on pins and needles) for my email.

Happy Birthday Paul!! Maybe you can make yourself a birthday cake out of fruit. I'd do it for you, but I'd have to bleach the e-coli out first. :)

The subject of my email is what it would have been if I'd been able to email Saturday. Our twelfth day without running water. Ha-ha. But now it's back, which is too bad because then it would have been exactly two weeks. But water has returned to Praia. Yippee. But on Friday, before the water came back we were completely out! So we got a delivery of water from a guy driving around with a nice rusty box of water and he pumped some water into our barrels. That was good.

We haven't been able to wash clothes...

I'm very sick of bucket baths.

It's a bit hard to flush the toilet without water...

I can't concentrate. This is what happens when my routine gets messed up. But here's the news:
Transfers! I'm not being transferred (duh) but Sister Laimana and I did get a new companion! Woohoo. Sister Beus. She served her first transfer in Sal and now she's in good ol' Praia. Things are still a little bit fuzzy, but I guess we'll be training her on the office stuff. Speaking of training:

Our wonderful trainer has left the island. We had to say good-bye to Elder Barker which was actually super sad. I've got some great pictures of the three of us which I'll try to get sent off on Friday. I don't have them today. Um...yeah. We're now on our own in the office and it's a little bit terrifying. I'm not sure how we're going to do it. We might be bothering Elder Barker a lot. But I bet he misses us too. :)

Okay. Let's see: I can't wait to hear about Jackson's baptism! I hope it was as great as Titinho's. Titinho and another young man and young woman were baptized last Saturday. He's so sweet. It was a great experience. I don't think I could smile any wider than I was. He's super shy and looked a little terrified of bearing his testimony afterwards, but he did a great job.

I'm not feeling particularly verbose today. Is that a word? Because if it is, I'm not feeling it.

We had some amazing trainings this week (except the one about receiving revelation through frequenting igreja since we had to give it). We've had these same trainings before but I think my last one was my first transfer and it seemed a lot less overwhelming this time around. I feel like I know enough (however little) about being a missionary that I can apply what I learned to our teaching techniques. We've already seen a big help.

Perhaps my favorite part of the trainings (don't judge me) was that we got to go out to eat afterwards. Thursday we went to a pizza place which was actually quite good and we got to listen to the Elders getting Krioulu tips from President. Then on Friday I finally got to try my first Chwarma! I think I would compare it to a pita wrap sandwich, but with the addition of french fries inside. Quite delicious.

Let's see. What else? I really don't have a whole lot to say...but here are a couple phrases I've learned in Krioulu:

Bo ta kai na txon e labi-labi. = The Krioulu equivalent of Stop, Drop and Roll. I'll know exactly what to do if anyone ever catches fire.

A mi ta ratxa a bu kabesa. (I really shouldn't teach my nephews this one) = I'm going to tear your head off. I guess this one is for self -defense walking around at night.

Well...I'm sorry I don't have too much to say. But I love you all! I can't wait to hear about Jackson's baptism and hopefully see some pictures!

Fika dretu,
Sister Brooks

PS Oh yeah. One of my pictures is from our visit to the Praia graveyard. It was definitely different from the Provo cemetery that I'm used to visiting on Memorial Day. It's about a fifth of the size with...overlapping plots. And in the back: drawers. We saw one open drawer and all its contents.

Luckily it was one of the older ones.

The saddest part was that all the tombstones/crosses read 'Eterna saudade' for family and friends--basically they'll miss each other forever. What a blessing to know the mercy of the Plan of our Heavenly Father for each of us.