The first week went pretty well. Better than expected! We got to manila on the 31st at about 11:30am. We then rode a bus for 7 hours to Urdaneta. The first thing I bought using tagalog was 2 water bottles, haha. they were 25p each. My first impressions of the philippines were that everyone just does what they want on the roads. It's a lot crazier in Manila than everywhere else though. The temperature isn't tooo bad. It's obviously hot but it doesn't bother me.
On like the 2nd or third day, Elder Comer (from my MTC district) and I played basketball with a bunch of kids. it was a lot of fun. That day I also had my interview with president monahan. I like him a lot. It was a good interview, and it was good to get to know him those first couple of days. He's very smart.
On Nov 2, I got assigned to my first area. My native companion is named Elder Discaya. I had no idea what was going on the first day in the area. It was great. We have gotten along well so far. He has a good attitude too and he works hard. We are assigned to Santa Maria B in Rosales Zone. We are opening up a new area. Woohoo! So, we have no teaching base and we don't have an updated area book, and on top of that the area is huge, so there's a ton of walking. Elder Discaya wrote down all the names of the members grouped by Barunguy (neighborhood, basically), so we walk around, find where they all live, try to get more people to come to church, and teach/give pamphlets to all the people we meet in between houses. The reason it's difficult to find where the members live is because there are no actual addresses. Their "address" in the ward directory is only the name of their barungay, so to find the members we just ask "where does soandso live?" and the person will say "doon." which means "there," and they'll point in the general direction. so we just keep doing that until it is the right house, and then if they're home, we teach. Then repeat! We have something like 107 more families to find that way :) we've done 10 so far in 3 days :) haha. But it's good. On saturday afternoon the EQ pres drove us around in his tryke for a few hours to invite less active's to church.
Church was one of the best meetings i've been to. The stake president taught the 3rd hour lesson, he used Elder Holland's GC "do you love me" talk, and it was great. It was focused on enduring to the end. The Sta. Maria ward has had 115-123 members coming to sacrament through 2012. For the last couple of months in '12, we need 130+ people coming in order to requalify as a ward and not a branch for 2013. We really want that to happen.
It sense even more here than in the US the urgency of enduring to the end/harvesting in missionary work/etc. When Elder Bednar came to the MTC he talked a lot about urgency. Here the leaders talk about it a lot too. So... sign of the times.
Last night I finished the Book of Mormon! I started it when I went into the MTC. What a great book! I learned a lot from it.
Today we are at SM, which is a big mall in Carmen, about an hour jeepney ride from our apartment. I'm looking forward to eating american food in a little bit!
That reminds me to tell you about transportation. usually in our area we take trykes if we have to go far (our area is so huge). A tryke is a motorcycle with a side car and everyone has 1+. There are also a billion motorcycles. They're usually 155cc with really skinny tires. I was surprised at how many new cars there are here, also. Still not a ton, but more than expected. Also all the cars are different models than the ones in america.
I've only ridden 3 jeepneys because they just aren't as fast as trykes. There are buses too.
Everyone has pay-as-you-go cell phones, usually the little old nokia kind. Everyone texts in abbreviated Tagalog and it's hard to read haha.
I'll see if I can attach pictures to another email.
Love you bye
ps sorry I was mostly too lazy to capitalize.