Monday, August 25, 2014

Week 6 - Made it to Madagascar

Well, as the subject says, I actually did make it to Madagascar, but that only happened after a very, very long plane ride. We left Monday morning and then didn't arrive until Wednesday afternoon. I slept a little, and was bored out of my mind a little, talked to the people around me a little, and lost all feeling in my lower body a little. It was great!

London Heathrow!


Then we arrived in Madagascar, and the airport was this great little podunk place. We had to sign papers in Malagasy and they asked us questions in Malagasy and we just smiled and nodded. Then President and Sister Adams met us with the AP's, Elder Fox and Elder Christiansen. I made sure to tell Elder Fox that I knew all about his mission because I stalked his blog.

(Mom's note: we received these photos from the mission office, along with a short note to let us know he arrived safely.)

Then we took a sketchy drive through Tana to the mission home.

The view of Tana from the mission home.

Selfie at said mission home.

We had a great lasagna meal there. Then we went to the AP's and office elders' apartments and slept there.

Me on the office elder's balcony. I had one with my face lit up, but I looked stoned so I deleted it. Enjoy!

Then back to the mission home where we had breakfast-- a great oatmeal type thing-- and then we had some orientation and after that we opened our assignments. That was intense. We were in the chapel with our whole group and all of the trainers and AP's and we were called up one by one by the mission president and given an envelope with our assignment in it, then we opened it there in front of everyone. Then everyone clapped, the trainers would come up and tell a little about the area, then you went and sat by them, and the next missionary was up. It was like a whole new mission call opening.

Mission tags! Super cute!

I have been assigned to Ambohimena, in Antsirabe, a city about 3 hours South of Antananarivo! My trainer is Elder Cartmill, he's from North Dakota and he's been in country for about a year. He got up to tell me about the area, and he said that it's in Antsirabe, but that's mostly all he knows because we are whitewashing it... What?!

After everyone received their assignments, we had Sister Adam's famous sloppy joes and then headed out. The taxi-brousse (inter-city bus, as opposed to a taxibe which is intra-city) was trying to rip us off, and the AP's were coming because we had a zone conference, so we just drove with them, which was much nicer than a taxi-brousse.

Antsirabe from the Andranamanelatra Elders' car. That's Elder Covey driving like a boss.

We had dinner at Chez Billy, which is like a Malagasy American resturaunt, and I had a hamburger. It's in my area, so I can go to it pretty often if I want.

Then the next day we had a zone conference with Elder Hamilton of the Africa Southeast Area Presidency. I told him to keep an eye out for James when he goes to Capetown next month.

(Mom's note: this is a photo we received in a note Elder Hamilton sent to us, saying Nathan was a "fine young man.")

Then the next day was Saturday and we tried to find people. We don't have an area book, long story, so we had to try to do our best on our own. We found some investigators with the sister missionaries' help, and then after eating my first Malagasy meal at Besofina's, a Malagasy resturaunt, we headed off on our own to try to get the hang of our area, which is huge.

We explored an area called Senasabotsy, and we got lost and asked someone for directions and she is the ward mission leader's mom! She was right in front of his house and we met him. Then after he took us around to a few members and less actives, we wandered off again and after an hour-ish we heard a little boy call misionera, which is Malagasy for missionaries. We went and talked to him and right by him was one of the ward missionaries! Then he took us to the young men's president, who is a super dilligent guy who teaches with the missionaries a lot! Then we met 2 more of the ward missionaries at his house. It was crazy how everything worked out. We headed out that day with the goal to find the young men's president, the ward mission leader, and some members to help us teach, and we found all three in a part of our area that is huge and there are lots of people and very few members. Miracles are real, ok?

Then we had church the next day. Attendance was really low because one of the ward members' sons died and lots of people were at his burial, but we still met a bunch of members. There are lots of young single sisters in our branch, and they kind of swarmed us a bunch, but don't worry, it's nothing I'm not used to!

The kids here are crazy cute and they love to play with us and give us fistbumps. They also yell "vazaha!" whenever they see white people, which is funny, but so far, I think I've heard more people say, "lava be!" when I walk past than "vazaha" Which is impressive because you hear vazaha all the time! Lava be means very tall and I get it a ton. First of I'm white, so they notice me, and then I'm 6'6" and my companion is only 5'8" which is already taller than most Malagasies, so I am just massive. And I hit my head on stuff. But it's ok because the kids love me, and I can be as intimidating as I feel like being.

Antsirabe from a hill.

Elder Cartmill is pretty mahay (fluent) and he has been in Antsirabe for a while, just in a different area, so he knows the language around here pretty well.

We live in the same house with his old companion who is working the area that Elder Cartmill just came from. His name is Elder Rahilaivao, he's a native and he's super funny. His English is good for a Malagasy, but he still has a ways to go, which is tough for his trainee. He's training Elder Covey from my group, which is way exciting because that means we see each other all of the time. Elder Covey is going to come out of training super good at Malagsy because Elder Rahilaivoa's English isn't super great. He's being a good sport about it, but he likes asking Elder Cartmill Malagasy questions when we're home at night.

So far I'm loving it here! I'm even getting used to the smell of sewage and burning garbage that's everywhere. Sorry for the super long email, but there was lots to write this week.

Tiako ianareo!
Elder Rasmussen

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Week 5 - Last of the MTC

Well, this is my last email from the MTC. I leave on Monday, then, after going through Dallas, London, and Johannesburg, I arrive in Antananarivo on Wednesday. Its a lot of traveling and I'm not super excited for it, but its worth it to get to Madagascar.
My teachers! From left to right it's Brother  Bingham, Brother Aldous, and Brother Sell (He's from AF!)

We hosted again this week, and it was great! All of our zone left on Monday or Tuesday, so we got a fresh new batch this week. I got to host Elder Getter, who went to American Fork! He was in my stats class and my seminary class. And he's going to Indonesia, so he's in my zone! Oh, and his residence is on the same floor as mine. We are all super happy that our zone is on our floor. The first two weeks it was just us, and it was super nice! Then a lot of obnoxious Elders came and it wasn't as super nice anymore. I'm sure they're all great people, they were just super loud and they all took really long showers. But now it's all good, so no worries!

My District! From left to right it's Elder Schroedter from Houston, Elder Pinson from South Carolina, Elder Coleman from Kanaab (back), Elder Tavo from Vanawato (front), Elder Delbar from California (back), Elder Johnson from Las Vegas (back), Elder Hammer from Orem (front), Me (back), Elder Koplin from Idaho Falls (middle), Elder Reich from Kaysville (front), Elder Ahlstrom from Tuscan (back), Elder Covey from Draper (front), and Elder Morse from Florida.

We had our first (and only) skype TRC on Monday and we got to teach a member who was in Madagascar! We were terrible, but it was a really neat experience.

Mom, I played basketball for my last time for two years, and I'm still not injured, so don't worry.

Elder Bezzant!! (a friend from our home ward)

This week's word is vita. Vee-tah. It means end. Usually when something ends there is something even more exciting coming! Veloma!

Tiako ianareo,
Elder Rasmussen

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Week 4 - Obedience

This week feels like nothing has really happened, we've just been settling in to the schedule, which is a little bit funny, because we leave two weeks from Monday. Which is crazy. Yesterday was another new missionary Wednesday and we finally hosted some new missionaries. It was so much fun! Only one of the families got all teary, so it went pretty well. For the most part everyone has been excited to arrive.
Let's see, the rundown of this week... I got my basketball shoes, so I could play basketball a little bit, that was lots of fun. Elder Reich got his basketball shoes at the same time, but his are nicer, so I felt a little bit bad about myself until I kicked his butt. I mean, "I beat him", missionary language, right?

TRC went really well, it was a lot of fun to talk to and teach return missionaries from Madagascar. Speaking of Madagascar, we talked with our teachers and asked them what some of the worst fungus/infections they got were. It probably wasn't a great idea because now we know all about the worst stuff there. Even the normal stuff is pretty bad. They said to expect foot infections just about all the time, and other skin infections are really common, and parasites aren't at all uncommon either. In Madagascar the sewage runs in open trenches, so whenever it rains they flood and you walk through sewage a lot because it rains a lot.

Fast Sunday was great. The mission conference was very good, and then the Sunday night devotional was fantastic. Whenever Monday comes around I love getting back into language class. Then Tuesdays are always great. In the morning we have service and then gym after that and then nothing until lunch at 11:35, so it's a very relaxing morning. Then after dinner we have our Tuesday night devotional. This week Bruce C Hafen came and talked about temples. Mahafanaritra Izy (He's awesome).

Then yesterday we hosted, and today is P-day, I'm all caught up, but the most exciting thing happens later today: we get our travel itinerary! It could come tomorrow, but we're hoping it's today. I'll save up a little bit of email time and tell you about it later today if I get a chance.

The word of the week is fankatohavana, pronounced fahn-kah-twa-vahn-(a) and it means obedience.. One thing I've been studying this week is how we develop faith, testimonies, and knowledge. We have been teaching the commandments to most of my investigators and the only way that we can learn if a commandment is true is by living it and praying about it for a while. Then you'll be able to receive knowledge and see the blessings that come from obedience. If you want to know if the Book of Mormon is true you have to read it and pray about it. If you want to know if the word of wisdom is true (tenin'ny fahendrena) then you have to keep it and pray about it. If you want to know the gospel of Jesus Christ is true you have to live it and you have to keep all of the commandments, pray, read the scriptures, and obey leaders, and then you will receive the witness.

Tiako ianareo.
Elder Rasmussen