Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas 2010

It was incredible to talk to you guys. Like I told Dad in his email, I feel like I hopped into a portal that took me straight back into our living room to have a nice chat with you all. The days of endless questions about the life here in Mada seem to be over - thankfully. For it seems that as I have gotten older and more mahay in the ways of Malagasy mission life, so to has my family. Now I just have a hop skip and a jump left to go, and it is so nice that I will be making this last stretch competely comfortable with everything.

This week, a large variety of things occured that I've already written down in my planner to share with you all.

This week I learned some simple conversation phrases in Chinese! The are a lot of Chinese people here that half-way know Malagasy, so I had them educate me as I was waiting for Slater to make up his mind about some fake-Air Jordans he saw. "Ni how!" "Yo sama shin one?!" On that note I also learned how to say hello in Arabic.

Me and Slater took some pictures in the pig-pen of our favorite friends - Herbert and Alex. We heard the bad news from some of our investigators and recent coverts that Herbert - the fatter of the two pigs - would be on people's plates by Christmas dinner, so we felt that we should properly say good-bye. R.I.P. Herbert, a dearly beloved, porky, friend.

We decided to cross some rice paddies to get to one of our times late at night in order to make up some time as we were already late. The rice paddy proved to be a mammoth thing, filled with maze-like, treacherous pathways that tested the bounds of our nerves. Apparently the test became too much for me though, when I was half submersed in the yucky water, falling from the dirt-ways. Twice I fell in in. At one point we had to make a mighty eight foot jump across a pitch-black gorge in the fields, in full-missionary gear. Surprisingly, we both made it through.

We had a really nice chat with a couple of Adventist buddies of ours this week. They were pretty astounded by all we had to say, but also pretty self-confident as they strutted around their scant knowledge of the Book of Mormon and the D&C. They are both well-educated in the Bible, so our discussuions have proved to be quite the enjoyable exercise. They'll come around though.

This week I've had to translate for President Donnelly, the Malagasy sister missionaries, and the usual Lehnharts. At one point on Sunday I let one of my really good friends from Antsirabe translate for Elder Lehnhart during the final meeting of the day. He is about as good in English as I am in Malagasy, so we were able to do a little bit of tag-team translating. Words like, "germinate," "disintegrate," and
"logistical outputs" are little difficult to make known in Malagasy. Regardless, we got creative and I'm pretty sure everyone understood the lesson.

I had to sing a solo as I already told you, as well as a special performance of the remixed "Praise to the Men (to the tune of Praise to the Man)" For one of the activities at zone conference we were split into different groups according to our abilities and talents, and then given creative tasks to accomplish. For my groups chalenge, we had to write a song that encomposed all of the qualities that we'd
like to see in our work. My favorite line was, "Drunk guys and vita soratraaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa, now fight us in vai-ai-ai-ain." We brought down the house.

Even though our call was cut a little bit short, I still feel like it was successful. Seeing as we did get to scream, "I love you! Merry Christmas! Bye! I love you!" about ten seconds before the whole thing went down, I don't really feel as though we were cheated out of our experience or anything. But hey; it was fantastic to talk to you!

That's all for now. The area is going great as we gain momentum for the new year.
There is your general summary of what happened during my Christmas. All I have
left to say is this: Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!

Elder Cryer

Friday, December 24, 2010

Hey Dad, recognize this shirt? A Malagasy man had it on.

They break, we fix them, they break, we fix them...

Warrior Mutt

This week we had some fantastic experiences and a great find! Starting last Tuesday, I found a giant store called 'Jumbo Score' that is kind of like Walmart. They have good food, clothes, computers and TVs, everything that Walmart carries back home expect guns and hunting equipment - really. The only problem with this store of fabulous wonders is the exorbiant prices. I mean, I feel like these prices would be a little on the more expensive side for someone in America. That makes them nigh impossible for any regular person here in Madagascar. Regardless of price, though, I did pick up two packs of delicious hot-dog weiners.

By far the best find we made this week however, was the 29 new investigators. We had to drop a lot of the less-diligent people last week and we upped the hours that we work every day, so we had to do lots of tracting and referral searching. It was long, it was hard, and it was incredibly fun. Tracting in the pouring monsoons of Madagascar is not something that I think most people would aspire to doing. We just sing our hearts out and trudge on through the mud and the wet. Everyone sees us out and about during the storms - with no jackets on - and feels bad for us. So we easily get in those doors and find us some new investigators. Some of the people we've been finding are truly the Lord's elect; and others are a bit on the other side of the playbill, but regardless, I know it will be to both ours and the investigators benefit in the long run.

This week we had another baptism and we therefore had to have another round of bap interviews. That means that I had to go on splits again with the mini-missionary from last week. As we we going around and visiting people, we came across a dog who apparently wasn't in the best of moods. Maybe the rain had gotten him down - idk. Anyways, I looked at him and he gave me a little bit of an irritated snarl, but not so much as to imply a coming attack. I told him in Malagasy to shut up (mangiana ianao!) and he shut his yapper. About three seconds later as we were walking around the corner from where we had originally seen the dog, I hear a loud bark and running. I turned around just in time to see the dog lunging through the air, bent on ripping my throat out. So, I took some inspiration from all the martial arts flicks I had ever seen, and kicked my Dr Martens-equipped foot straight into his face. He flew back, stunned that a vazaha would show such back-bone in the face of
danger, but not quite finished. As he rebounded for the next attack, I let him have it again! Now this time I'm sure he was feelin' it, but it wasn't enough to stop his rage against the white man. One more time he came, and one more time was he stomped. He shook his head, dazed and confused, but still keeping up a steady growl of defiance. Maybe he would have gone at me one more time - but then his owner came running around the corner with a fork to ward him off of me. I feel certain that he's had the sharp end of the fork before, so he promptly turned tail and ran.

Later, as we were walking away from that area, I heard a similar, mighty bark of challenge from off in the distance. Turning to face down my foe once more, I summoned as much of a Clint Eastwood glare as my face could muster. We faced each other. Slowly, he ceded the battle ground and retreated. And that was the tale of the Warrior Mutt.

So here are my comments about the pictures: you guys look fantastic! I feel like you look stronger and leaner then before. Also, I think that you guys have evened out in the who-is-more-tan category. Father, you always did have the skin of an Commanche but it now seems as though Mom has turned herself right into a Mediterranean sunned Greek woman! Look at that tan thing!

The baby Joshua is a very cute and very regular baby. I mean that in utmost respect and praise, but he just looks like the quaint picture of what all babies should look like.

Alright, I guess we'll chat in a few days. I love you guys.
Elder Cryer

Monday, December 13, 2010

No Surprises

Hello everyone: The baptism was a nice little shin-dig! A lot less people showed up to give support then I am used to. In Antsirabe, pretty much the entire ward would show up to welcome the new members into the church. Still though, there are some very diligent members that help us ceaselessly and have definitely got the vision of what it is going to take for us to get a temple here in Madagasar. Will lazy members get it done? Most certainly NOT.

Manivo, Sitraka, and Fabien all got baptized as planned, and they were joined by the newly minted eight year old son of the 1st counselor in the Branch Presidency. Harking back to my dawn-of-time Ivato days, the water was only 18 inches deep - and that is being generous. There also wasn't enough clothes for everyone so I opted to sit out and let Elder Slater do all the baptisms. It is a way incredible experience to personally baptize someone, but I'm happy to see a ward member do it or give another missionary the experience.

This coming weekend we have two more baptisms on the line-up. The peoples names are Hasina and Lova. Both are these people are as of yet unbaptized spouses of another member. These two families happen to live in the exact same neighborhood/fenced off compound of huts. They live right beside each other.

Though I love my area immensely, it seems to be somewhat lacking of adventures at the moment. I think I may actually like my area more than Antsirabe, but it definitely is much less exciting. Fine by me. In my opinion, adventure after adventure distractes and sets you off to go possibly look for more adventures than can probably be gained by following the missionary hand-book, if you know what I mean. I think the reason I love my new area so much is that me and my companion, Elder Slater, have really given ourselves over to working as hard as we possibly can. It feels so nice to walk in the house after a long, successful day, clean up the house a little bit - as we do have an up and running chore list -, plan, write in the journal, and hit the sack. Which, may I just say, is exactly the things that the White Handbook tells us to do. Me and my comp were talking about it during comp study, and we both expounded on the wonders of just following ALL of the rules. It was like before in my mission, it was a burden to be totally obedient. In fact, I'm pretty sure most missionaries still think such things.

Dad, the living room looks incredible! That floor is so nice. In my current house we have a wood floor as well and I have been converted. The only weird thing is that in our house there are little weird, black, eight pointed stars placed at random throughout the house. Seeing as witchcraft and sorecery most certainly exist in this land, these things are a bit disconcerning. But, it wouldn't be me first time to live in a haunted house, and we already gave the house a blessing so we should be ok.

As I said in Dad's email, this area seems to be much less prone for adventures and the like. On the flip side though, it could just be that I've become desensitized to the crazy things that I see every day, so I don't really notice them for what they would be to an American tourist anymore. I feel like the vacation-missionary phase of my mission has come to an end. I am completely and totally at home here in Mada, so there really isn't anything that surprises me anymore.

Well I love you and miss you guys. Merry Christmas and have a Happy New Year!

Elder Cryer

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Sab Nam

This weekend we have three baptisms in our area, and they are some amazing people. Their names are Manivo, Sitraka, and Fabian. They are a mother and two teenage kids. I've only had a few lessons in which to talk with them, but already I love them and know that they were specially prepared for the message that we bring. When I think of the term "the elect" my mind immediately jumps to Hery and Nirina from Ambohimena, and Manivo and her kids here in Sabotsy Namehana. The are absolutely 100 percent ready for baptism and it is so exciting to see the light in there eyes as we discuss religious subjects and as we put the final touches on their preparations for baptism. In fact, after Manivo & Co., we have about 6 to 9 more baptisms before Island Conference on the 23rd. This area is on fire, especially considering that we are in Antanannarivo - not province. So far I love my new area and everything is definitely working out well.

My new companions name is Elder Slater. He is a stud. We work hard, have fun, and keep the rules. That's all I ask for in a companion.

When I think on the differences and similarities of my areas, I realize that Ivato and Sab Nam are very similair. And yet, I like Sab Nam so much more. Why is this? I think my abilities in Malagasy are a strong factor for my new dispostion on areas as a whole. Also, I believe that Antsirabe taught me two things: how to work, and how to love the people. Once those things are in place, I have faith that you can be at home in any area of the mission, no matter how well or not well it used to be going. Whether it's the bandit-infested jungles, or the garbage rivers of inner-city, you can love your area.

Translating for the Lehnharts is at once awesome, and exhausting. Not so much much stressful or difficult as I had originally thought it would be though. I definitely enjoy translating from English to Malagasy more than the reverse, but on the whole it isn't too difficult to translate. We go to the church at eight in the morning and from that time till 12:00 I have to translate everything, including Branch Council and Branch Presidency Meeting. By the end of the last meeting, I am tired.

Funny story: Manivo gives us something to drink every time we come over for a time. The first time we got to drink some sort of sour fruit thing that I loved and Elder Slater hated. On our second visit, we had to choke down three glasses of literal mouth-wash. I'm not even kidding. We think that she thought the drink was just going to be mint flavored or something. Afterwards both Elder Slater and I were doubled over in pain.

So these past few weeks I've been quoting a lot of scriptures in Malagasy to people. This is kinda weird because I remember it in English and then quote it in a different language. I've been trying to do some concerted reading in Malagasy,
but I feel like I just don't have much time! The reading is pretty clear to me, so that isn't a problem. But it is just that we get home really late at night and we only sometimes have time to do all of our studies in the morning.

Answers to questions:

I love the new clothes! The pants are super-durable and fit quite nicely, if a bit snug in the waist. I can definitely tell right now that they will both probably endure well this next year. The shirt is fantastic and superbly white. I had no
idea cloth could shine so! As per usual in my life of mishaps and unfortunate events, I got some sort of miserable dark stain on the front of the shirt within an hour or so of putting it on. Why I expected anything different..I just don't know.

The pants of my new suit are really more like my old skinny jeans before I sold them to Elder Riding. I'm going to go and get them re-tailored. While I'm there, I'm
also going to get the torso taken it - it is just so malalka (spacious or roomy)! On the whole though, the suit looks great. The fabric is very unique and for the most part the suit was well made.

Yes, I found the money from that wonderful lady Aunt Susan. Bless her.

First of all about the new house: it is downright gorgeous. We have more space than we know what to do with, a fancy new shower and water system that really works, some lovely neighboors who persist in trying to communicate with us in French, and the senior couple who watch and watch out for us daily for fear that we are going to burn down the new mansion or otherwise harm it in any way, shape, or form. I love it. I now live in Analamahitsy, which is kinda far away from our working area, Sabosty Namehana. Long drives every day.

I love you guys. Till next time.
-Elder Cryer