Monday, December 31, 2012

Week 10 in Ambohimanarina

In which we learn about the Christmas package.  Not sure what was missing, though…

Subject:  "Are you telling me you made a time machine... out of a Delorian??"

Well, I'm never really sure how to start these. Hello. That should work.

Suffice it to say, these week has both been awesome and difficult. First off, Christmas. We had a little party with the other missionaries in our zone on Christmas Eve, with a white elephant thing. I ended up with this awesome painting of some baobab trees. P1020381Booyah. Then we had to come home. Thanks to it being so close to Christmas, it took about a billion years to get from Analakely back to our area. It was a really long trip. Just a ton of traffic. But we were in a taxi, so it was pretty comfortable. Relatively. So we all kind of slept. Good times.

On Christmas we were just supposed to do some service, which we did. Elder Landon and I brought a bunch of rice and bananas to Pascal and his family (who I got a picture with), Francis and Josiene (and a toy for their daughter), and Leonce and his family (parenthesis). We shared a little spiritual thought with each family, and watched "Finding Faith in Christ" with two of them. There was a little disappointment at one of the times, just because a certain somebody had been drinking, when they had told us that they had quit. And he was kind of a jerk to his wife for her not being ready. Apparently she had been planning to make some food for us, but we came by earlier than we had told her, so she didn't have time. But he was drunk, and it wasn't very fun.

P1020383Other than that, we opened presents! I got an orange for my stocking and an umbrella hat from Elder Randall, which was pretty dang awesome, and... let's see. I got this crazy little puzzle ball thing, which is kind of weird, because it came with instructions on how to solve it. Kind of defeats the purpose of a puzzle, don't you think? But I didn't look at the instructions, and still solved it. I still got the magic. Anyway, I also got a Huggy Pet, which is apparently a make-shift Pillow Pet. And it's super cool. His name is Timmy. And I got a rather delightful Ducks football, and a Frisbee thing. Sweet. Ultimate Frisbee Football, here we come.

P1020382Mom and Dad, I also am working on sending a picture of the box when I opened it, just because there was some free space that didn't seem very... Arrington-package like. Probably stolen from en route. Oh well. But there was also Cracklin' Oat Bran, which has pretty much made this the best package ever. Delicious cerealness.

And that was pretty much Christmas. And we watched 17 Miracles, which was great. But now, back to missionary work.

The work here has been going pretty good, but with a few difficulties. Our biggest problem is just getting people to follow through on their commitments, particularly attending church. There's one lady that we found pretty close to when I came to Madagascar, named Arlette, and she keeps promising that she'll come to church. And then Sunday rolls around... and she has "other stuff to do". On Saturday we kind of P1020386broke it down for her. She keeps saying that she's been getting a bunch of blessings from God already for just reading the Book of Mormon (like one verse per day) and praying. To Jesus. We keep telling her that's wrong, but she doesn't change it. Anyway, Saturday we told her that if she does not come to church, God will take away the blessings He's given them. He say that it's enough to follow a couple of His commandments and ignore the rest. YOU HAVE TO FOLLOW ALL OF THEM. We finally committed with her (again) to come to church. We talked about how her schedule would be on Sunday, what things she could do before or after church so that she could attend. And at church yesterday, guess who didn't attend? Her. So that made us pretty sad.

We have another lady named Lily, who hasn't been coming to church because of her work. She came a couple weeks ago, but the week after that her boss got mad at her, and she hasn't been able to attend since then. We keep telling her that if work is going to be in the way of church, then she has to find a way to get Sundays off, or leave the job. Her situation is a little more understandable than Arlette's, because if she doesn't work, her family is going to have a really hard time getting along. She needs a job. But that job is getting in the way of church attendance, and that means that she (and the rest of her family) are having their baptism date pushed back. It was supposed to be on January 12th, but because she didn't attend, we have to push back the date. If she won't be able to attend church before her baptism, she won't be able to after it. Which is not okay. So we talked to her and asked if she believes that God will help her if she shows her faith in Him and puts following His commandments above everything else, and she said yes. But she is still afraid to leave her job. So really the answer is no. It's just frustrating. If you're not going to attend, don't promise that you will. And if you don't really believe that God will help you, don't say that you do.

P1020389So we have people that don't follow through on commitments because they're afraid of what might happen, and people that are just lazy. We'll walk in and ask "Did you read the pamphlet we gave you?" And they always say "no, I didn't have time!" Boy, you were just sitting there watching TV! You couldn't have put your eternal salvation above a little soap opera? That's in French?

That's another random thing. Most of the TV shows and things around here are in French. Not very helpful considering how few people know French around here. But they also get things like Tom and Jerry, which don't need words. Because Tom and Jerry is awesome.

P1020390I'm not really sure what else to talk about here. It sounds like everyone is having a pretty good time back at home. It's just crazy hearing about people just GOING to watch a movie, or eating out. Just doing stuff that I used to think was normal, but now it's like... people can do that? Weird. Enjoy that. Speaking of which... actually no. I was going to ask how Les Mis was, but don't tell me. I'll find out when I get home. Stacey, be sure to add that to the list that I know you've been diligently keeping.

Also, it sounds like people are flying a lot. Arizona, Oregon, Utah, Idaho... enjoy that. Planes are cool.

It sounds like everyone has been staying pretty busy with all their what-not. Keep that up. Dad, the server's been working pretty well today, and you should find that there are a few pictures waiting for you there. Use them wisely.

All in all, the work here has been tough, but we keep at it. All of you people, especially if anyone reading this has recently been talking to the missionaries - KEEP YOUR COMMITMENTS. You'll get blessings for following God and showing Him that He is the most important thing in your lives. Because, let's face it. He created us, and gives us everything we have. We'll always owe Him for each blessing He gives us, and when we pay him back by following His commandments. And then He continues to bless us, and we owe Him again. The least we can do is keep His commandments.

Keep working hard everyone, know that I'm praying for you all, and I love hearing about your lives, no matter how simple or boring you might think it is. Trust me, it's awesome to hear about everything.

Thanks everyone,

- Elder Arrington

Monday, December 24, 2012

Week 9 in Ambohimanarina

Great letter this week.  AND we get to talk to Michael on Christmas Day, which, of course, is tomorrow….  We’re counting down the hours.  The downside is that there are no pictures this week.  And I have no idea what movie his subject line comes from.

Subject:  "Well I brought my dinosaur, who eats force field dogs!"

Great movie.

So I was sitting in a lesson this last week, just talking to people. In Malagasy. Because, I do that now. Anyway, I start hearing this kind of... flapping next to me. What in the world could that be? I turn, and it turns out to be a moth about the size of a bald eagle, just flapping its merry way along. After I finished screaming and swatting at it we continued the lesson without a problem. Fun story. Another random thing, I officially learned the word for zombie. I was talking to one of our members that helps us out all the time (Leonce, if you remember him and his awesomeness) and we started talking about the resurrection. They don't really have a word for resurrection in Malagasy, so they call it "mitsangana amin'ny maty". Literally, "to stand from the dead". And a while ago I had learned the word "mininginingina" meaning "to crouch". Switch that in, and you have "mininginingina amin'ny maty". To crouch from the dead. It makes sense that that would be a zombie right? You don't quite stand all the way from the grave, but you're kind of alive. It turns out they actually have a different word, but I think mine makes way more sense. Random word of the day.

As far as actual missionary work, things are going great. We have a baptismal service set for January 12th, with six people on the path to be baptized. First is Boto. I've talked about him before. He's super cool, always reads and asks questions, and he's just awesome. Unfortunately, he went to Mahajunga for three weeks and won't be back until about a week before the baptism. So we called the missionaries out there and got Boto connected with them, so he can still learn while he's gone. He's already heard all the lessons, but we just want to keep an eye on him to make sure nothing happens. So we've placed our Mahajunga missionary spies in position, so we'll see how it plays out.

Next is Hery. He's been learning really well, reading when he can, and is pretty diligent. But he has two problems: he works a ton, and he smokes. The work mostly just makes him super tired so he never has much time to read. But he usually still makes it through a chapter or so in a week. As for his smoking, he only smoked up to three cigarettes per day before (way better than some of the other people around here that smoke 30 or 40 each day), and last week we made a goal for him to only smoke two each day. He followed through on that, so now his goal is one each day. Hopefully he'll have the strength to make it through this, and he'll be able to completely stop smoking at least two weeks before the baptism. If not, we'll probably have to push back his baptism date.

The last four kind of all count together. Noel, Lily, and their two kids. Noel and Lily have had a problem getting vita soratra (officially married) for a long time, but progress is finally being made. They're planning to go to the commune and officially sign off all their papers and be married sometime this week. So they'll be ready for their baptism. They and their kids have been learning forever, are way diligent, and just a great family. Lily had a problem attending church because of her work, but she got to come last week. Then yesterday we were totally ready for her to be there, but she wasn't. We found out later that some things had gone missing at her work, and her boss blamed Lily. So she couldn't leave. Hopefully she'll make it next week.

Other than that, the work is going pretty good. We still have a bunch of other investigators that are doing awesome, but they just won't come to church! It's kind of annoying. All you have to do is come to church and then you'll feel the Spirit and know that it's true! That's it! But they usually find some reason to not come. Sad.

Thank you all for you emails. It's good to know there's someone out there that knows I'm not actually French. Mom and Dad, it sounds like things have been going pretty well back in the home I was born in, built by mine own hand. Make sure you're still there when I return. And get Steven to write sometime. I don't hear anything about that kid anymore.

Emily, I haven't heard much about the family of frogs, but from what little I know it sounds like things are going pretty well. Keep up the good work and get ready for this alleged baby.

Lindsay, work sounds tough. Enjoy what little breaks you get. But know that if nothing else, there's a missionary here in Madagascar praying that you'll get the bookings that you need. And as soon as I find him, I'll thank him for you.

Stacey, thanks for the updates. As short as they (and you) may be, it's always good just to hear that everyone is still alive. I have to admit I was kind of hoping you would have the baby on the 21st, because seriously, how cool would that have been?

Julie, keep up the good work. James sounds like he's becoming quite the puddle-jumping handful, but you seem to handle him well. Gold star.

David, it was awesome to finally have another message from you. And while it sounds like school is going pretty well, you clearly need to find a girl that's less spiritual. Or already back from her mission. I'll leave that up to you, but know that I've spent many a night laughing about the current situation. All in good humor of course.

And that pretty much wraps it up. I apparently forgot to take any pictures this last week, so you'll all have to binge off of the fruits of last time. We'll just say I got really caught up in the work.

Keep sending messages everyone, and know that I read ALL of them, although I may not be able to respond to everything.

Thank you all,

- Elder Arrington

Monday, December 17, 2012

Week 8 in Ambohimanarina

Great stories and great pictures!  In fact, the pictures are so good, mom exclaimed “these are the pictures every mom needs to see!”  Nice job, Michael!

It appears that he got through a power failure without losing all that he wrote.  It also appear that he was in a hurry while writing this—perhaps the life of a missionary?  In fact, he gives us a quick overview of his daily life as a missionary!  We love to hear what he has to say!

Oh, and what time shall we call on Christmas Day?

Subject:  "Save yourself!" "I ain't quitin' you!"

Well. Certainly an eventful week. First off, right after I sent off
the email last week, we went to Analakely. After hanging around there
for a while, it started raining. A lot. So we decided to wait under a
canopy that some people had put up (there's tons of these little
places that sell random stuff, and they all have some kind of canopy
or cover for the rain). After it had rained for a while, we figured we
should head home so we could get back to work on time. So we put on
our jackets, and set ourselves afloat. At first we tried to stay on
the crosswalks and above the water, since the streets had flooded
P1020360quite thoroughly, but after a minute or two, it just didn't matter. We
were already soaked through and through. So we started just running
straight down the streets, through the flood. And while we did that,
all these Malagasies who were sitting in their little covers started
cheering for us. For real. It made us feel pretty awesome. And then we
saw a car stuck in the water, so Elder Randall and I went over and
started pushing. And of course, the fine Malagasy people started
cheering again. Except they cheered really weird. "Oui oui vazaha! Oui
oui!" Yeah... I do not think that means what you think it means. But
he gave it a shot. Good man.

P1020333Other than that, it's been a pretty unevntful week. I finally got my
hair cut, since it was pretty long. And apparently my head has been
getting sun burned since the hair is really short now. So that's kind
of... odd. I thought that only happened to bald people.

A certain somebody keeps asking me about life as a missionary and
things like that, so I'll run through what happened yesterday. A day
in the life of a missionary, if you will.

First, we wake up at 6:30 (yes, in the MORNING) and get ready for the
day. Showering, eating breakfast, that kind of stuff. Then normally we
would do personal studies from 8 to 9, companionship study from 9 to
10, and language study from 10 to 11, with some 12 Week Program things
crammed in there. But since yesterday was Sunday, we just went to
church. Then came home and ate lunch, and headed out to work for the

P1020340Our first appointment was with Paullette, a kind of old nonmember
family member of this way awesome family. See if you can keep that
sentence straight. But she wasn't there, so we taught the next person
on our list, Hery, who is also part of that family, and not a member.
Yet. But he's really diligent and works hard. Good man. And we taught
another part of the family that had become inactive. They're all
awesome people, but sometimes they just get lazy.

Then we walked about a gagilion miles to our next appointment with
Adolf and Louise. They had also gone in active a while ago, but
they're coming back to church and doing way better. I got a picture
with them too. They're the family with lots of kids. A slight problem
with them though, some things went missing at Adolf's work, and his
boss thinks he did it. So that's no good.

P1020363Then we also taught Georgette, recent convert, super awesome. Sorry,
I'm really running out of time, so After we went to Georgette, we
stopped by Noel's house. I may not have told you before, but his wife
hasn't been able to attend church, because her boss "has to have food
ready for her when SHE comes back from church". So that's kind of
mean. But Lily actually got to come yesterday! We have a baptism date
for her in about three weeks, and we really need her to keep coming to
church every week for that to happen. Hopefully she'll be able to make
some kind of permanent deal with her boss. We'll see.

Dad, you asked about the Enya music. The short answer: no. I finaly
remembered to bring my iPod today, with the cable. Then I found out
I'd have to download iTunes. No big deal right? Wrong. It took about
45 minutes to load and get ready to be used. Meanwhile, I finally got
onto the server and started the playlist downloading. And it said it
would take about 3 hours. So I stopped that, and started ONE song
loading. Even that took about 20 minutes. Then I opened up iTunes, and
it wouldn't recognize the iPod or do anything. So I put in my account
P1020339information, and it finally showed up with everything. I try adding
the one little song, and iTunes pops up with a little box that says
"are you sure you want to delete everything on this iPod?" NO! I just
want to add a song! So that's been causing some grief.

And the power just went out here. For no apparent reason. Fortunately
I'm on a laptop with a full charge, so this is still going. But
there's no internet, so I won't be able to send this. Yet. We'll see
if it turns back on sometime today. I really don't know what to do if
it doesn't, so... we'll see.

Basically, thanks everyone for writing. Keep up the good work!

- Elder Arrington

PS: We just now came back to the cyber after a really quick trip to
Analakely. Elder Rakotomalala dropped his camera last week, and then
it was stolen. That's rough. So we pooled together some personal funds
and bought him a new one. Also, I was kind of scared that I'd get a
bunch of hate-mail about "why haven't you emailed yet!?" And when we
got here I remembered that even though it's 3:45 here, you are all
probably still asleep. Victory is still mine.

PSS: I actually uploaded some pictures to the server. I'll describe
them as well as I can remember. In no helpful order whatsoever,
there's a picture of me on top of our church building. He's going to
Mahajunga for the next three weeks or so, so we thought it would be
good to take a picture. There's also a couple pictures with families.
The one with lots of kids is Adolf and Louise's family. The one with
me in the middle with the lady on my left holding a rather fat baby is
Fr. Toky and Sr. Lina's family. They were less active, but we're
working on bringing them back. The white people is Elder and Sister
Grey. They've been the health missionaries for a while and now they're
going home, to be succeeded by the Shupes! And there's a picture of me
in front of some water. It was the only thing I could really think of
that would make a really stretched out and short picture.

PSSS: Dad, Elder Landon says the best way to do a call in his
experience is to just have the family in America call. I don't know.
If that's okay with you, I would be fine with that. He also says his
family is planning to call at about 7 pm our time, which would be
something like 8 am for you? So when would be the best time for you to
call, before or after?

Monday, December 10, 2012

Week 7 in Ambohimanarina

Since Michael’s humor always seems just a half bubble off plumb, Julie adds the following explanation:  FYI, when Michael says "I'm pregnant. With Josh Groban's baby!", he is referring to a quote from Parks and Recreation where the girl says that line, and the other guy immediately spews out his drink straight out like a fountain out of his mouth, in shock and surprise. Thus, what Michael probably did after discovering there was no filter for the water he was in the process of drinking.

Hopefully that’s helpful.

Subject:  "Why is the car stopped?" "It's frightened."

It's another P-day, and we still have to run around. It's kind of hard for us in this area, because the office and all the exciting stuff is in or near Analakely, which takes about an hour to get out to, then come back, plus a bunch of walking between the two. So we're still pretty busy.

On the note of missionary work, everything is going pretty well. I've definitely made some... unforgettable memories. Unfortunately, I'm not at liberty to discuss them at this time, so all o' y'all will just have to wait. Mom, it will be interesting to hear from you when you read through this journal.

P1020301One of the things I'll release to the public, is that I finally fixed some of my own things. On one of my ties, the little tag thing at the back had broken off, making it impossible to use a Tie Saver with it (a little thing that attaches the tie to the shirt). As I'm sure David understands, after you've used a Tie Saver, you never go back. So I had to fix the tie. I broke out the sewing kit and the Mission Impossible theme song and got to work. After I finished, I'm pretty sure force of a thousand semi trucks hanging from my tie couldn't separate it from my shirt. Mission accomplished. And it still looks awesome, so that's another bonus.

I've still been struggling with the language (something tells me I'll finally get comfortable with it right before I head home), and it's caused some interesting slip ups. One of them was pretty stupid, even for me. Since the person was talking in English. We met this lady that owns the house that one of our investigators works at (named Boto, and he's crazy awesome), and started talking. It P1020303turns out she had studied at a bunch of universities in the US for some kind of program, and had learned some way good English. After asking my companion where he's from (Utah, of course) she turned to me and asks me "and where are you from?" In English. And I, in a typical red-neck, cow tippin' Oregonian way, say the only thing that comes to mind. AMERICAN! Wait... that's not right. I'm... from... Oregon...... So that was pretty interesting. And while I refuse to tell you my Malagasy mistakes (since I can't remember any right now), I seem to remember other people's just fine. Gotta work on that.

Just another kind of awkward thing that comes to mind is that I got on a bus and this Malagasy guy climbed on right behind me, sat down next to me, turned and said "Hello my dear" in English. This could be a very interesting bus ride. It turns out he was actually pretty good at English. Just that first moment was weird. I told him I was a missionary. And he was like "oh, you're the people that don't use the Bible!" No... we use the Bible. "I don't believe that!" Okay... so I pulled out my Bible (which looks awesome since I got it bound) and explain that we do use the Bible. "No you don't!" Okay, let's just think about this for a minute.

First off, I think we would know if we use the Bible or not. Second, why would I bother to carry around a book (which is really heavy and possibly breaking my backpack) IF I DON'T USE IT. He was just fun to talk to though.

P1020310Which reminds me, we've been getting tons of people asking why we haven't headed home yet. It seems we're supposed to go spend our time with our families since the world is ending this month. There's a bunch of churches that believe that around here, and Elder Landon are really looking forward to laughing at them after they realize they're wrong. Not really. But still kind of.

If anybody has been wondering about the water here, we're not supposed to drink it. Kind of. The sink water isn't clean enough. But in the churches and mission homes there are filters so we can still drink from it. I went to fill up my water bottle at the church the other day (there was an activity there) and after getting some, I started drinking it. Right as a Malagasy walks up and tells me that the filters is broken. Also, I'm pregnant. With Josh Groban's baby! (we'll see who gets that reference) And it explains why the water tasted like 400 year old egg. It was fun.

P1020312Anyway, I should probably go now. There's work do be done. I've also attached a couple pictures on, since Madagascar is decidedly against me getting onto the server. We got a bunch of cereal for super cheap, and we're pretty excited about that. They have these carts here that you can go for a ride in, so I got a picture pulling that. And there's a picture of my leg. Covered in ever so itchy flea bites. Good stuff.

Anyway, everyone keep up the good work, keep emailing, and stay awesome.

-Elder Arrington

Monday, December 3, 2012

Week 6 in Ambohimanarina

More great information about how the work is going including splits with the branch president.  And apparently how complicated the streets are in Ambohimanarina.  Ambohimanarina--say that three times fast.

Subject:  "Yes Mr. President?" "Um, nothing, goodnight."

First off, I just want to bring up the Christmas call home. To put it simply, I have no idea what to do. I would be fine with just a normal phone call or something, or a skype or google call. The problem with that here is basically just the internet. You know those times when you type in the place you want to go and it SAYS it's working on it and the little bar is filling up, but then it doesn't finish for like 10 whole minutes? Yeah... that's pretty much what it's like all the time. Today it took my about 35 minutes to log into my email. Which kind of sucks. But the moral of this story is, I'm really not sure how these computers could handle a Skype call, even if it's just voice. So some work will have to be done about that.

And now, to the interesting part of this letter: missionary things. The work has been going pretty good. We talked with some of the investigators that keep not attending church (another big problem here) and told them that if they don't come next week, we'll have to stop teaching them. If they won't progress, we have to go find people that will. Sad but true. Hopefully they'll actually follow through on their part.

On another fun note, Elder Landon and I went on splits yesterday. He went with a member named Tojo, and I got to go with our branch president. Who is Malagasy. Oh goodie. It turns out he actually spoke a bit of English (about as much as I speak Malagasy), so we were able to communicate okay. I took him to an investigator named Boto, where we explained the Law of Chastity. After the lesson, he started asking great questions, about what exactly is polygamy, what happens if there's a married couple but then one of them dies, and things like that. It was awesome to hear questions that actually applied to the lesson and could help in some way. Instead of things like "okay, so that's a picture of the First Vision. But who took the picture?" Oh dear. But yeah, Boto is awesome.

Then we stopped by Patrick's house (recently baptized kid, in the picture with Georgette and Leonce from a couple weeks ago) and went back over the last three principles of the Gospel: baptism by water, baptism by the Spirit, and enduring to the end. He's a great kid, and remembered the lessons pretty well, so no problems there.

The big problem of the day was the next appointment, when we were supposed to stop by another recent convert's house, but I forgot where it was. So we just kind of wandered around for a while. Stupid brain. Thank you for nothing, you useless reptile.

On a note of my righteousness, the other elders at my house keep telling me that I shouldn't read Jesus the Christ during personal study time, because we're supposed to focus on the scriptures and things. And I thought if that's true, I should probably follow that. But if you follow my to page VIII in Preach My Gospel, you'll see on the bottom half of the page a list of approved personal study time material. And what's FIRST on that list? Oh, Jesus the Christ? Yeah, I'm going to follow Preach My Gospel, but thanks for the thought. Another thing that I've noticed is just how crazy awesome the scriptures are. There's some good stuff in there. Study the scriptures.

To wrap this up, I don't know what's happened, but ever since I showed up here I've been having the coolest dreams ever. A couple nights ago I dreamed that Leonardo Di Caprio (or however you spell that) was teaching me and a bunch of people how to use the dream thing in Inception. So in my dream, we'd go into another dream (two levels) and just do a bunch of crazy stuff. It's just awesome.

Anyway, the mission is great, everyone keep working hard and writing.

Thank you all!

- Elder Arrington

Monday, November 26, 2012

Week 5 in Ambohimanarina

I love to hear about how the work is going—and it sounds like it is going quite well!  I believe Michael is having some great experiences with investigators.  And with spiders.  And chameleons. 

Subject:  "To think, one inch lower, and that arrow would have..."

Hello again!

Clearly, it's been another week. Lindsay mentioned this, and I thought it was kind of crazy: I've been in Madagascar for a month. Add that to my MTC stay, and I'm already THREE months into the mission! It just doesn't seem like that. It's weird, because I feel like I've been here forever, but it still flies by super fast.

Part of that is that we stay way busy. We teach a lot. Add that to four hours of study in the morning (personal, companionship, language, and Twelve Week Program stuff), and there's never a dull moment. Some of the people we teach are progressing awesomely, while a few others need a little more help.

P1020265This last week we had probably our third lesson with this guy named Hery (Harry). His wife is a member, along with pretty much all of her family, which they live with. Think of an apartment complex about the size of a college apartment, add in some stairs that will probably break as soon as the big white guy steps on them and like 20 people, and you've pretty much got it. It's just an awesome place. Anyway, we had given Hery a Book of Mormon in the last lesson, along with the assignment to read Moroni 10. We show up this last time, start with a prayer, and ask if he has any questions. He pulls out the Book of Mormon, opens up to Moroni, and starts running down the chapter. We peek over and see that he's underlined a bunch of verses that he had questions about, and asks us to clarify them. In a country where a lot of people either don't know how to read or their eyes are really bad and don't have glasses, this was kind of a new thing for us. So we go through, answer a bunch of questions about why children don't need to be baptized, what gifts of the Spirit are, just some great stuff. This guy is on the right path.

And in regards to people that are awesome at learning, I think I told you all about Georgiette. She just got baptized a couple weeks ago and is still super diligent. Unfortunately, her family hadn't shown up to support her, which got Elder Landon and I pretty mad. A couple days ago, Elder Landon asked them about why they hadn't been there (all in good humor of course). They answered that they hadn't known. GEORGIETTE HADN'T TOLD THEM SHE WAS GETTING BAPTIZED. There's a new angle. It turns out she had been afraid that they wouldn't support her, so she didn't tell them. P1020258Then one day later, someone in her family was flipping through her Book of Mormon, and found pictures of her baptism. Gahh! That's what they said. Gahh. So we all had a good chuckle about that.

In the same lesson that we learned about that, we had been talking about bananas and how awesome they are. They said Americans eat them weird, and I held my hand up to show how we do it in 'merica, and say, "Izahay mihinina akoho ohatra-izao". Meaning "this is the way we eat chickens". They said I looked like some barbarian. And laughed some more. Good times.

On the note of the language, I've learned that Malagasy might be more correct than English in some ways. For instance, in my ever persistent studies, I learned that the word for spider is "hala". Which is also the word for hatred. See the connection? Also, we were walking around and saw a bunch of spiders chillin' in they webs, so I took a picture. Pretty much every little dot you see is a spider. And the big ones were bigger than my hand.

P1020276You'll also find pictures of some stairs, which you can't really see in the picture, but they were just about the worst stairs that have ever existed. Some of the steps you had to jump up to or down from, and they are always uneven. Always an adventure. Another shot is of some lady sleeping on a window sill. We're not really sure why she was there, but it was kind of awesome, so there you go. And there's a picture of a chameleon. Elder Randall had found him outside our house and decided to put it on our window. So there you can see it clinging for life to the window bars.

Fun side note about chameleons: they are awesome climbers. They move really slow, but they're really strong. And their feet are weird.

Speaking of feet, Lindsay asked about what people do here for work. A lot of people just carry bricks around on these rickety old carts. I'm not really sure where they go or what the end goal is there, but that's what they do. I mention feet because a lot of them don't wear shoes, so their feet get really messed up. We saw one guy a couple days ago whose feet were apparently really dry, and he had a crack in his heel about half an inch wide. Which was rather odd.

P1020274A lot of other people run little stands where you can buy soda and candy or notebooks and stuff. And fruit. And bread. Basically each of these little shops sells just about everything you could want. It's really cool. And of course the farmers do their thing. I'm not really sure what their thing is right now, but they seem to stay busy.

I've mentioned in earlier emails that it's super annoying how people always assume we missionaries are French. But now I've found the bright side. Since the only French they know is "Bonjour" and sometimes "au revoir", they assume that anything this "French white guy" says is French. So no matter whether I'm speaking English, the three or four French words I know, or complete gibberish, they think I'm speaking perfect French. So if any Malagasy asks, I'm officially fluent in two languages. And learning Malagasy. So that's cool.

On kind of a final note, those of you that email me and are not family, THANK YOU! It's great to get emails from a bunch of people. Just know that I can only email family members, so I'll try to send off some paper mail. Although they say the mail could take anywhere between two weeks and two months to arrive, so... yeah. But be ready for it.

P1020266Everyone, just keep the good word coming. It's great to hear how everyone is doing. Keep working hard, and know that God loves you all.

- Elder Arrington

PS. The rest of the pictures, along with one of some water jugs lined up to get water. I don't think I've seen running water in any house but the missionary ones, so there's a communal pump for people to fill these water jug things. Enjoy!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Week 4 in Ambohimanarina

More bug bites and a word about gossiping.  Can you wiggle your ears?

Subject:  "I'm free, I'm free, I'm free! Dang it.”

Another week gone by, another 1.21 gigawatts worth of bug bites. I was actually pretty content for a while, since most of the bites are almost gone now. Then I woke up to a whole new wave of fleas. They've more than restocked my old bites, plus a few extras. How generous.

P1020232On an entirely unrelated note, I can officially wiggle my ears now. It's only a little bit, but hopefully I'll soon get good enough that I can wiggle them really well. First the right one, then the left, and then I'll stick out my tongue and turn these people into apples.

Another fun difficulty that we've been having here recently (and will only get worse for now) is the rain here. Of course, thanks to my proud Oregonian heritage, I'm pretty used to the rain. The problem is that a lot of the houses here have tin rooves. Roofs? The roof is made of tin. We'll go with that. So when it starts to rain really hard, it rains really LOUD. Just yesterday we were sitting in a lesson with this family, and it started raining. On that blasted roof. So we're sitting there trying to teach, but of course they can't hear us, so we start screaming "I KNOW THAT JOSEPH SMITH WAS A TRUE PROPHET!!" and other truths. It was an interesting time.

We also had our ward missionary with us, as we do pretty much all the time. Leonce. You may remember him as the kid who baptized his brother. He's been a huge help to us, helping out at LEAST 90 percent of the time. Interesting and rather frustrating story about him. So Leonce has ben preparing for a mission for a while, learning the lessons, teaching with us, and things like that. Yesterday was stake conference, and they did that thing where they announce people that are receiving the Melchizedek and those people stand up and are recognized by everyone. P1020237

Side note on that. It turns out that the people that stood up didn't know that they had passed the interviews or anything until that very moment, in stake conference. Aren't they supposed to be told right after the interview?

Anyway, Leonce had been interviewed, but his name wasn't called out. It turns out that somebody has been spreading rumors that he's been smoking weed and drinking. And our president believes the rumors more than he believes Leonce. So this kid can't go on a mission, or even receive the Melchizedek priesthood, because somebody thought it would be a good idea to spread that idea. And it's just retarded! This kid has just baptized his own brother, he's the most diligent kid I know, and he spends his time either at school or with us missionaries! I can't imagine that he would even have time to smoke or drink, not to mention that he never would. Seriously, teaching with the missionaries at least 6 days a week, and somebody ruined his chance to serve a mission of his own.

Let the lesson here be that gossip is bad. DON'T GOSSIP. I know it sounds like a little thing, but it killed this kid's chance of going on a mission any time soon, and it's caused dozens of other people to fall away from the church here in Madagascar. People say things, pursecution starts up, and the member leaves the church. Gossip is BAD.

But enough of that. Suffice it to say, we're mad about that. Leonce was just sad, but Elder Landon and I... it's just not a good situation. Especially since we actually know who started the rumor. Darn them.

P1020245Anyway, somebody, in their email to me, mentioned a conference with Elder Holland a week ago. And I'm like, oh that's nice... yeah, the prophet talked in our stake conference. So in your face. I don't know if that was a thing for everybody, but we got to hear an address from him. Of course the whole thing was in Malagasy but he usually gives some pretty good advice. By the way, our stake conference was in a big gymnasium or something. I think I sent a picture of it, just to show how ghetto Madagascar is. They be rockin the gym.

Food has also been a fairly common question. Honestly, it's actually not that bad, as far as the taste goes. There's a picture of me eating some rice and laoka (pronounced "loke". That's what Malagasies call pretty much anything that you put on rice). The food in that one was actually made by my companion, Chef Elder Landon. It was actually dang good. The thing you really have to loaka out for (oh snap) is how clean the food is. Just make sure you clean your stuff.

P1020246At home, we've actually been eating especially well. We get about 365,000 ariary per month (about 175 dollars), which here means that we live pretty happy. Sometimes we get to go to Shoprite (think of Hanks, but more run down) and buy actual food. Just yesterday we had hot dogs. Although the buns were kind of moldy. Elder Randall (who makes most of the food around here) was like "but why are they molding??" Well good sir, they did expire three days ago. That could be part of the problem.

Another question was asked about soccer. It's probably the most played sport here (except perhaps for bochi ball), but I wouldn't say it's super popular. Most kids go to school and then work with their parents for the rest of their day. I guess they find ways to make that fun.

And somebody said that I looked really small compared to my MTC pictures. It's true, I was actually just about the shortest in my group. And it does seem that most of the missionaries here are pretty tall. Although let it be known that I (and pretty much every other white guy here) am quite a bit taller than the general population of Madagascar. I'm talking like most people here are at least a full head shorter than me. Which kind of sucks since they only build their houses as high as they need to. I've been crouching a lot to avoid hitting the ceiling.

And that's all I have to say about that.

So there's been a lot of ups and downs. But it's mostly been good. Today we're planning to just sit around our house and play dominoes or something. After food shopping.

So keep writing everyone, I promise I read everything that you send, although I may not answer everything. Just sending off an email a week is about the best thing you can do for a missionary.

Thanks again everybody,

-Elder Arrington

Monday, November 12, 2012

Week 3 in Ambohimanarina

Sewing.  Sew like the wind!  That would be a reference to the movie Three Amigos which is a family favorite here.  That being said, I’m still not sure what the reference means here.  Ah, missionary speak.

Still, we have some great pictures, some descriptions of the quality of life, and news of a baptism!  That’s a good week.

Subject:  "It is no concern of mine whether or not your family has... what was it again?"

"Um... food?"

P1020159First off, I've had a couple people ask if there are houses that are all tiny and broken down, but still have a satellite or something poking out. In short, no. I don't think I've seen any satellites (except on super rich houses) since I came here. It usually comes down to a choice between TV or food for about a month. They prioritize.

But yes, so it's been another week. I decided to make a few notes about my week, so hopefully I'll have a little more info this time.

For one, I mentioned those super rich houses. Here in Madagascar, a "super rich" house is usually one that has paint on it. You know they're loaded then. There's a couple other things about them that are kind of giveaways too. Like having glass windows, or barbed wire on their fence. EVERYBODY has metal bars over their windows (a country of poor people is a breeding ground for thieves). But yeah, most peopleP1020172 just have a curtain on their window. No glass. Which is actually pretty nice, since you don't have to worry about opening it to get a breeze. And then there's broken glass on pretty much every wall you'll find here, also to discourage thieves. They either cement in broken chunks of their bottles, or if their super rich, they set up razor wire. We don't climb a lot of walls in this mission.

But we do climb a lot of stairs. The streets here are rather... shall we say, poorly planned. Meaning not planned at all. We have to go up and down a lot of stairs too, which is pretty fun. Sometimes the spaces between the houses get so narrow that we have to take our backpacks off and try to squeeze through sideways. It's been pretty fun.

P1020183Dad, you also sent me a picture of Ambohimanarina from space. Sorry, but I really have no idea what it looks like from up there. I can tell you that the bricks down here can crumble in your hands, and that the people can't afford brakes for their hand drawn carts so they tie a broken piece of a tire to it and stand on that to slow it down, but I don't know what Madagascar looks like from above. Yet.

Speaking of which, I saw a family moving the other day. They had one little cart (remember the pioneer trek?) with one mattress and maybe a chair, and a bit of food. They just up and left. It was pretty interesting. Not to mention that they looked like a much poorer version of the cast from the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Like a lot of people around here.P1020184

So we had a zone meeting last week, and I saw another Malagasy elder. I'm living with one, so I figured they would talk a lot. But the guy I live with didn't even bother. So I got curious, and went over to talk to this new guy. It turns out he's not from Madagascar, but from America. Oregon. Beaverton West Stake. So that was a bit surprising. He was pretty awesome too. So that's good.

*subject change* There is in fact a new program out there to help new missionaries get used to the mission field for the first 12 weeks. It's cleverly called 'the 12 Week Program'. Basically it just forces the greenie to start doing stuff more. Like teaching lessons.

P1020188The last two or three lessons of yesterday, we went in, talked with the people for a second, and my trainer turns to me and says, "oh by the way, you're teaching this one". Um... what? You couldn't have told me this like two weeks ago?? Oh well. I actually did pretty well, all things considered.

Another common thing around here is for the power to go out. Back in the days of America when the power went out I'd have no idea what to do. Did someone just turn off the lights? Why can't I see the classical novel that I read so oft? (usually Pride and Prejudice, or the Art of War. I never could tell the difference between those. Oh snap.) But here in Madagascar, it's like oh, the power's out again. Whoopedy-doo. Candle time. It was pretty funny actually a couple days ago. The power was out and we had to do our nightly planning session, and flashlights made everything seem really creepy. P1020196So we pulled out some candles and planned like none other. Elder Landon agrees that it was by far the most romantic planning session we've had yet.

On an entirely unrelated note, some of you may recall that all white people in Madagascar are thought to be stuck up French people. There's the oxymoron of the day (oh snap again). But yeah, so we were waiting for a bus, and this guy starts talking to us. In French. We (meaning Elder Landon, not me) responded in Malagasy. The guy was like, "whoa! You're learning Malagasy? I guess you're not just stuck up French fries". Oh, we're not stuck up? If only we had known this earlier. Sewing.

Sew very old woman! Sew like the wind!

Just in case it was unclear at first.

P1020227Also, I officially have fleas. That's a nice feeling. Not. For those of you who haven't had fleas, imagine a mosquito that's stuck in your clothes all day and all night. I've been trying to count the bites I've gotten so far, and I think I'm somewhere around 20 or 30. On each leg. And each arm. Add to that that flea bites take forever to go away, and it's been a very itchy first two and a half weeks.

Much more happily, we had a baptism service two days ago! I think I included a couple very unorganized pictures of that in the server for this week. There's one of the font, just to show hP1020231ow ghetto the thing is, and how green the water is. There's one of the ground, because the font was leaking and nobody could figure out how to fix it. And there's one of Elder Landon and I with the baptizees. The girl is named Georgiette. She's been learning for a really long time, but she's super diligent, always follows through on commitments and attends church. She's awesome. Finally she agreed that she needs to stop putting off the day of her repentance (she had been waiting for permission from her dad, who had been out of town forever). Anyway, she decided to be baptized, and none of her family even showed up. P1020230Her dad was back in town, her mom stayed at home, and her sister (who had also learned a little bit) just didn't come. Not sure what the story is there. But Georgiette is awesome. The little guy is named Patrick, and the slightly older Malagasy is Leonce. Leonce is the member that we take with us probably 95 percent of the time for our lessons (he's probably been with us like 14 of the 16 or 17 days I've been here). Patrick is his little brother, about 15 years old, and Leonce gets to baptize him. That was pretty awesome.

By the way, Elder Landon performed the baptism for Georgiette. Good man.

Anyway, I really need to go now. Keep working hard everyone, and email back soon! (don't procrastinate the day of your emailing)

Thank you all,

-Elder Arrington

Monday, November 5, 2012

Week 2 in Ambohimanarina

Another great letter from Michael this week.  I will say this.  For years while Michael was in elementary school, junior high, and high school, I could barely get him to write a single paragraph for a report.  It would take HOURS.  Now he writes the funnest letters!  And they’re long with lots of information.  Who would have thought?

Apparently he’s still learning the language.  And we got some pictures!  Most are still from the MTC.  There’s one of all the elders (and instructors) from his MTC district, and a great picture of him and his companion with a sister missionary who is actually from Madagascar.  We do have a picture or two from Madagascar, just not with him in it….

Subject:  "I also believe Joseph Smith was a pamphlet"

Well it's been another week. Obviously. And Madagascar has been awesome.

This keyboard is still annoying as the flies that keep buzzing in my ear for no feasible reason, since it says it's in English, but it lies. Curse you keyboard.

P1020131Anyway, life has been pretty good. As you may have guessed from this week's movie quote, the language has caused some interesting misunderstandings. That's a really long word. For one, I was talking to an investigator and explaining that after baptism, we have to endure to the end. Always, always, always. Except it came out as "time, time, time". They were like... what? That's just another reason we have senior companions.

Other than that, just a few random notes. In regards to the bro-nod-baby, we taught that family again and he's still just a chill little nut. They do fist bumps here (they call it a "dona" (dew-nah)) and he kept doing them through the whole lesson. Sadness about that family is that they have been learning forever, know the lessons really well, but aren't able to get vita soratra (married) yet, so they can't get baptized. So yeah.

P1020130Lindsay had a bunch of questions, so I'll try to address as many of those as I can. For one, the landscape here is rather reminiscent of Kung Fu Panda, when he climbs up to the Jade Palace. To see who the Dragon Warrior will be. Because he loves kung fuuuuuuu...uu... If you know what I'm talking about. So there's a lot of stairs. And hills and such.

If you want to know what it's like with the people here, imagine the scene from Inception where Ariadne is in Cobb's dream, and his subconscious figures out that she doesn't belong. Just that part where everybody is staring at her. Right before she gets stabbed. That's pretty much what it's like here. People stare a lot. It's rather unsettling.

As far as their knowledge of America, it's pretty low. Since usually the only white people they see are French tourists, or old French guys coming here to look for young wives (creepy, but that's just they way it is), they assume that we missionaries are French. You will never hear "Bonjour!" anywhere in the world as much as here in Mada. All the kids here think it's super funny to yell "bonjour vazaha!" at us all the time, since we must be French. It basically just means "hello white guy!". And then we'll say hello back to them in Malagasy and they're like "whoa... he knows Malagasy!". You're dang right I know Malagasy, you little flea. But they're fun. This is the only place in the world where you can just grab some random kid off the street and start throwing him into the air and not get arrested for life. Not to mention that the kids, and the parents, love it. They're like, oh, the white guys aren't just here to take the women. And prune the hedges of many small villages.

P1020139I think I'm getting some kind of stupidity now. I was trying to eat cereal the other day, but it was this nasty and flavorless... thing. So I was like, this needs sugar. Grab the sugar, put it in, and take a bite. Turns out it was actually salt. Not the best cereal I've had. And after that I was like, I need a drink to wash this down. So I get out my handy dandy apple juice, unscrew the cap, and start pouring it. Into the cereal. It was an interesting morning.

We also taught a lesson recently, with someone who is about to be baptized, with this super funny guy. We were sitting there talking, and he comes in asking about the cyclone or hurricane or whatever it was that hit New York, and he was just flabbergasted that we couldn't look up the news about it. We laughed for a while, and then asked who would like to pray. As soon as the words came out of our mouths, this guy ran and literally DOVE out of the room, to safety. It was funny.

So... yeah. It's been pretty eventful. Oh yeah! So our toilet has been super loud forever, running constantly, and Elder Randall (one of the other Elders in my district) decided that he could fix it. To make a long story short, we spent the night with a bucket under the pipe that leads to our toilet, catching the water that dripped off from a leak that "came out of nowhere". I can't believe you totaled a mammoth. Hey, that mountain came out of nowhere! And so on. Anyway, there's a guy at our house right now, fixing it.

P1020195And that story reminded me to tell you all about my district. There's myself, Elder Landon (my comp), Elder Randall (the not-plumber), and Elder Rakotamalala (the Malagasy). Yeah, I'm living with a Malagasy Elder. Which has been pretty... interesting. It definitely gives me a chance to practice the language at home.

So this whole time I've been writing, I've been trying to upload some pictures to the server. It's not working out too well, so I'll attach a couple to this email.  Right now it's loading one of me running up the wall at the MTC (I'm actually lying down on an ironing board), and hopefully it will soon get to the one of me, Elder Hamm (if you remember him), and Sister Tsyfanay, who was a Malagasy sister that's serving at a visitors center in Salt Lake. Not the actual lake, but the city. Just to be clear. And I just a picture of some rice patties and farming stuff. We have really cool views here. And there's one of my desk. Sorry Mom, I plan on cleaning it... sometime.

So basically, it's been great here. I P1020203need to go now, so work hard everyone, and keep emailing! And for those of you who may not know, friends are allowed to email missionaries, I just can't email them back. I've been working on some paper mail to send. Also, could somebody get me an mission address for James Packard? He's serving in Georgia Atlanta right now I think, and I kind of want to send him some stuff. Mom and Dad, I'm putting you in charge of that.

Anyway, thanks again, this mission is the best (sorry, but it's true), and I'll talk to y'all next week.

-Elder Arrington

PS: I think some pictures are on the server now. Enjoy.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Week 1 in Ambohimanarina

Ok, are all city names in Madagascar that long?

With no idea how long it would be before we actually heard from Michael, we kind of figured the email would come Monday, but with Michael being 10 hours ahead of us (11 when the clocks change in a couple weeks) Monday might even be Sunday to us.

Though we expected to hear from him Monday, mom and I happened to be up chatting about some gospel topic when I heard my phone beep indicating an email just arrived.  Yep, that was it!  1:30AM.  We got to read it right then.  Next week we’ll wait until morning.

Yea, but this is a really fun letter….

Subject:  "Can I have your watch when you are dead?"

"What did he say?"

Yes, as many of you have guessed, they did in fact teach me the wrong language at the MTC. Which is stupid, because my companion speaks the same language that I learned, and they understand him just fine. But these people don't even know their own language. Come on people.

I also should probably mention that this email will be kind of short, since I have to work with a French keyboard, and those people CLEARLY had no idea what's going on.
But enough of that. Yes, Elder Landon is my companion. And my trainer. And right now he's talking like a redneck. It's been good. He's a great teacher, and we've been having a great time. We already have a bunch of investigators (or "friends of the church" as they call them here), and just yesterday I challenged someone to baptism! And he accepted! So that was pretty awesome.

They say that we should talk to the kids here, because they'll be about as good at the language as we greenies are. That's just a lie. Them kids is way better: Also, they call us white people "vazaha". And they think we're all French, so they like to yell out "bonjour!" to which I respond "Manahoana gasy kely!" Which means "hello little Malagasy!" in Malagasy. And they're like, you know Malagasy?? Heck yes I do. That's another lie, but they love it. Also, I was teaching a lesson with this family, and there was this little kid there, maybe 18 months old. I just looked at him for a minute, and he gave me the "bro-nod". You know that nod you give when you see your man walkin' down the street? The chin goes up, and it's basically like saying "what up homeslice"? This kid did that to me. And I was like, you're awesome. And he knew it. The bro-nod.

I can also officially say that I have shared a seat on a bus with a chicken. There's another life-goal fulfilled. And do you remember all those stories about how nice and safe the bus drivers are here? No? That's because there aren't any. Anybody on the road is considered a target, and although a sidewalk sometimes exists, people never use it. So I've basically just had to come to peace with the fact that I WILL die on a bus. There's just no way around it. And yes, we take at least four or five busses each day. Elder Landon and I actually live outside of our area, so we have about a 15 minute bus ride each day.

And so far we haven't actually had to do any contacting, since we already have about 18 investigators. But that will probably change soon. The people here like the missionaries and don't mind listening to us, but a lot of them just refuse to keep commitments like reading in the Book of Mormon or going to church. So that kind of sucks. And a lot of the ones that are super righteous, keep commitments, go to church, and are just awesome, have marriage problems. It's super hard for a Malagasy to get married, since they have to pay for it, and generally that means not eating for a while. And since they already have families or are living with someone, they can't be baptized until they get "vita soratra" (wedding certificate). So yeah. You can guess how good that's been for the work here in Mada.

I also rolled my ankle a couple days ago-thank you very much, cobblestone roads. I guess I'll learn to live with that.

On the saddest note of the day, I left my MTC journal on the plane to London. I talked to the airline later, and they said it had been thrown away already. There goes two months of MTCness. That's kind of okay though, because it was all pretty much the same thing every day anyway. I already sent all the interesting stuff in emails anyway. But suffice it to say, a lesson has been learned.

More about journals, you can get things bound here for super cheap, so I can actually have somebody make one for me that's awesome, and super cheap. We're talking 8 or 9 bucks here. Sweet. They'll also bind scriptures too, so pretty much every missionary comes home with awesome scriptures. Be ready.

And I just remembered, I saw the Malagasy version of baby Darci a couple days ago. She looked just the same, except this baby Jesus came in black. It was crazy. I'll see if I can get a picture later.

Which reminds me, sorry about no pictures still. There will be some next week.

Anyway, I'm getting kind of used to this keyboard, so hopefully I'll be able to send more next week. It's great to hear from you all, and I'll probably start printing these out so that I have more time to write, but still plenty of time to read your letters. Dad, yours is the only one I haven't gotten to yet, so I'll print that out and respond next time.

It sounds like Steven and Kyle have had some... interesting sports experiences, so keep working hard.

No, I haven't seen "the Madagascar animals", because most of them don't exist here. At least most of the ones from the movie. Pretty much just lemurs and fousa (the fousa are attacking!). I did see a chameleon though. Some kid was holding it. Weird. But fun. He said it's a toy. But yeah, lions, hippos, giraffes, and zebras all live on the main land of Africa. Not Madagascar. The biggest animals here are the fousa, followed closely by the people. It's been interesting to be 6 foot whatever and have to work through doorways and stairwells that are made to squish people that average maybe 5 feet tall. I'm considering wearing a helmet now, just for safety.

But yeah. So that's Madagascar in a French keyboard'd nutshell. It's been good. But I need to go now, so... peace out.

And keep writing!

-Elder Arrington

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Michael Arrives in Antananarivo

Michael left the MTC on Monday 10/22 and arrived in Antananarivo Madagascar on Wed the 24th.  The previous post shows his itinerary.  I tracked the flights pretty much the whole way.  Although he had a couple delays, he had enough layovers that he didn’t have any trouble getting there.  But we really had no way of knowing if he actually got ON the flights.

The trip took forever.  Salt Lake to Chicago, to London, to Johannesburg, to Antananarivo.  All with long layovers in London and Chicago.  That’s a lot of travel time with no sleep.

We received the following letter from his Mission President after he arrived.  Whew!  Now we know he arrived ok!  It also gives us information about his first assignment and his companion.

Arrington letter to parents_Page_1

Arrington letter to parents_Page_2

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Week 8 in the MTC

Michael will spend 9 weeks in the MTC, but this letter will be his last from there.  He leaves on Monday morning as you will see from the pictures below.  And yes, he did send pictures!  Not that they’re pictures of anything particularly interesting, but I’ll include some just because he described them.

This letter is particularly interesting because he describes his “investigators” who I believe are volunteers there just to help train the missionaries.  But he describes them as real as can be.  They have some successes, they have others that, well, not so good….

Next time we hear from Michael he will be in Madagascar.  Well, not really.  We get a phone call from him sometime while he is traveling there.  Maybe SLC, maybe Chicago.  We’ll have to wait and see….

Subject:  "Yes, you know, opposites attract? In this case, there was a library, that also sold beer."

P1020129Well I'll just describe the pictures quickly. And I have no idea what order they are in. And I just forgot which ones I put on.

One of them is Elder Hamm, my companion, sitting like a king on a chair. On a vent.
Another is a white board drawing that I made of Gaston, from Beauty and the Beast. Notice his large muscles and authentic jacket buttons.P1020093

I think there's also a picture of a chalk board. I drew Elder Horne's dad (the one on the left), Elder Hamm (more like the Joker), and what was supposed to be Catwoman riding the Bat-bike. Gladiator Chad was drawn by Elder Evans, and captures P1020092the essence of our main teacher. And then the far right is Elder Hamm trying to draw Elder Horne's dad. But I think it looks far too much like George Washington. I mean look at his hair!
There's also a picture of a painting of a bird. Which is awesome.

And Elder Evans has gotten extremely jealous of my mad "parting-the-hair-like-a-bosP1020127s" skills, so he drew a picture of Moses. Parting my hair. And P1020097the children of Israel walking through.

And there should be my flight plans in there somewhere. That's for you dad. It saves me some time having to write it.

I basically have to go now, so I'll get on again later.

Enjoy life everyone!

-Elder Arrington

P1020126Here’s the real letter.

Subject:  "What in our history together makes you think I'm capable of something like that?"

Well, I realize many of you have gotten very whiny, or as you may call it, "wanting pictures of people". Fine. But I don't think the computer I'm on will let me download them from the camera, and my time is running out.

So... I wrote a bunch of things that I wanted to talk about, but I'm not sure I'll get through them all. And there's no real order, so bear with me. Bear. Brother Bear.

First off, for those of you that were wondering, the bat that was doing laps in the gym DID in fact make a second appearance. But it was sleeping. On the ceiling. Which was awesome. But what you may find even slightly more interesting than that, is basically everything else that has happened.

For one, Elder Hamm told me that Elder Bednar would be coming to speak to us last Tuesday (two days after conference), and of course I didn't believe him. For one, we spend ever waking (and sleeping) moment together, and I hear pretty much everything that he does. So I was all, psh! To make a long story short, Elder Bednar came. Booyah.

He (Elder Bednar) also mentioned Elder Holland's talk. Which reminds me that one of our teachers showed us a meme (Julie, you're in charge of explaining what those are to those who don't know - i.e. the p-a-r-e-n-t-s) of Elder Holland. He was just sitting there smiling and the caption read "I don't always give the best conference talks... Oh wait, yes I do". It was pretty fun.

Dad, you've mentioned the "R" word in your most recent email home. Which is interesting. And in spite of the possible "new crops" that you mentioned from the idea of the "M" word (for those of you who are unaware, I am not referring to meat. Mmm... good. Meat), I still expect that to not have happened yet. Or basically ever. That is my expectation.

Yes, this is officially my last P-Day in the MTC. Thank goodness. I'll be leaving for the airport on Monday morning, and I'll be able to call home at least once. From an airport. I haven't decided which one yet, but it will probably be from SLC.

And it seems that Steven has been doing pretty well in his football awesomeness. And make sure he knows more songs to play on the piano than Praise to the Man!

And now, back to me. First off, lets talk about me investigators. Keep in mind that none of them are real (YET)

First we have Lalaina. He and his wife used to fight a lot, but we've been working that out pretty well. He also smoked, drank (drinked?), and chewed a ton of tobacco, but he started working himself off of those before we even knew about them. He's been doing pretty well, but he can't quite seem to quit smoking. So in our last lesson with him, we wrote out a plan for him. He told us that he smokes about 6 cigarettes per day, so now we've started to limit it to 5, then 4, 3, and so on. I'm going to guess that you all know how the rest of those numbers go.

Second up is Tojo. He's been progressing really well, with no real problems that he lets us know about. He basically just accepts everything without any issues. Which is kind of nice, but I also have to wonder if he's hiding something. That little Tojo.

And now Miandry. The Bane (BOOYAH) of my existence. I don't know why, but whenever I start a lesson with him, my brain falls out. Everything I've ever known goes away. Which is depressing. On a more depressing note, we received a letter from Miandry yesterday, just before we were supposed to teach him, that he had moved to take care of his grandma. He wasn't sure when or if he'd be back, but he said it was nice that we had been willing to teach him and we should have a good day and such. The little jerk. Not really. But seriously, apparently that actually happens in the field. Since pretty much the only thing the people own is what they wear (and sometimes their house) they'll just look around one day and say, "do you think we should move?" "Yeah, why not?" And within a day, they're gone, never to be seen again. Crazy.

So then we (Elder Hamm and I) went "tracting" and met a new investigator. His name is either Roja or Rajo. I'm not really sure. He makes tables and desks for the FJKM (Jehovah's Witness people), and only let us in when we explained that we would preach the from the Bible (don't even try mentioning the BOM). Anyway, we got inside, talked for a minute about Christ and his reign, the apostasy, and mentioned that we have living prophets on the Earth today. That peaked his interest. And then we left. Always leave them wanting more.

Anyway, I'm running pretty low on time, and I can't really think of a language lesson right now anyway. So... be excellent to each other!

Time for me to go, be ready for a phone call sometime between Monday and Wednesday of next week, and just keep working hard!

Until Madagascar,

- Elder Arrington