Oh. My. Word. It has been quite the week. I don't even know where to start. It is Monday morning around 11:00 here. We're at some gaming cafe closer to town writing emails with the zone leaders and our roommates.
I guess I'll just start from the beginning.
Yeah, President Mains didn't tell us where we were going until 11:00 on thursday, and once he told us, we literally jumped into a taxi and headed towards the airport. We flew Malaysia air to Kuching, where we had to get out and go through immigration. As missionaries, we were given special instructions to get through immigration (one of the few things we did in Singapore was to role play with the Mission President, making sure we said all the right things, only used one word answers, and try not to get deported) Needless to say I was nervous the entire time, but it wasn't too scary. Apparently immigration officers in Sarawak aren't as crazy as in the West. We then boarded a plane and headed towards Miri. My companion's name is Elder Matheson. He is from Ogden, Utah. He is quiet. He has been in Miri for 3 months now. He is nice, spiritual, and for the most part very obedient (I say for the most part, because there is a story later)
we took a taxi to where we live. It is in a suburb far from the city. The house looked so nice on the outside! Oh, by the way, Elder Bodhaine is also in Miri with me, and lives in the same house. We opened the doors, and I was horrified. THe entire living room was trashed. THe entire house was trashed. Garbage was everywhere. BUGS were everywhere, eating everything. THe kitchen smelled like throwup, and there were dirty dishes everywhere. The big bedroom floor was literally covered in junk. THe missionaries before us completely trashed the place, and it looked as if hoarders had lived there for 10 years. My desk was covered in someone else's junk, all the drawers full. The whole house smelled. There were bugs in every room. My companion, who has lived here for 3 months, in THIS HOUSE, didn't see a problem. In fact, our zone leaders were some of the people who lived here too, so there is still some serious resentment on our part. Me, Elder Bodhaine, and Elder Putnam, spent hours trying to clean it. It's still not done. We had over 10 garbage bags full of trash. Each day we try and tackle more rooms. I don't know why my companion won't help, he says he just doesn't think it's a problem.
I tried to be very positive.... Usually the trainers tell the new guys to get money out at the airport, since there aren't any places to get Malaysian Ringgits (the currency here), no one told me that. So I had no money. I assumed we would go out and get the supplies I needed to LIVE before we started, but my companion said those activities were only for Pday. I had no sheets, soap, shampoo, money, food, etc. I didn't know where the store was so I couldn't run away.... He said I could find food in the cupboards. THey have a form of top ramen here called "mi sedap", and I found some of those, so that's all I had for food. I was afraid to use any of the utensils, plates, bowls, etc in the kitchen because it all smelled like garbage. I was really sad, and hungry. Elder BOdhaine and Putnam went and got stuff, and elder bodhaine gave me 100 ringgit so if we were by a store, I could get some food. Elder Bodhaine also gave me a waterbottle to drink from. We can only drink water from the filter, but since I didn't have a bottle/cup, it was difficult. Later in the week, we rode past a mini mart and we stopped so I could buy a bag of oatmeal, a small jar of jam, and a bar of soap. I've only eaten ramen and Oatmeal since I've been here. Edler Bodhaine and Putnam are new too, so they didn't know where to get more food. I'm very hungry. THankfully Pday is here, and we're going to the store.
The first night I was here, we had an appointment with members and investigators. My companion asked if I had a bike.... I said no, I just got here today. One of the members had one I could borrow. it was rusty, couldn't change gears, and small enough that my knees were in my chest. I did atleast have a helmet. That bike ride felt like eternity. We rode and rode and rode. we are very far from the city. THe demographics here change so fast. It is mostly Chinese people here. Some of the houses we rode past were huge, with fancy cars in front. In less than ten minutes, we were out of the chinese neighborhoods, and in the jungle parts. The roads were surrounded on both sides with walls of thick green. I remember looking up at the sky, and seeing the moon, and for some reason the moon looked like that annoying smile eric gives me when he knows I'm in discomfort. We were riding and there was a tree, probably three stories high, on fire. I didn't think this place could get any stranger. of course, this was our turn. We went to some huts, or as they call them "kampong houses" We went inside and there was a little family. At this moment, everything changed. It was only one room, and a family of 6 lived there. They were so small, everyone. THey were so happy to see us. EVeryone had big smiles, and the mom (rosia) went out and cut sugar cane from the front of the house for us to chew on. I was so hungry that it tasted amazing. We sang a hymn, and shared a message. It felt really nice. We talked a bit, and then went on our way. The bike ride back was very nice, and there was a breeze.
THe members here are all tribal. THe chinese pretty much run the show in Miri, and they're the ones with houses. Most of the members are Iban, Pedayu, or ... one that starts with an M... Malay is their second language, after their tribal one. They only use Malay when they are speaking to us! The cool thing is that I can kind of understand them... when they talk to us... and I can give small, simple responses. THey look at me and say "SUDAH PANDAI?!" which means somehting like, "You can already speak Malay?!"
The next day I met the senior couples here. THe Martins, and the Hoddards. The Martins are from Australia, and the Hoddards are from Canada. They all have such thick accents, that sometimes I think they're trying their Malay! They told me we had to go get a bike. So they took me to a bike store, and assumed I had money to pay for it. I charged it to the VIsa, I hope there was money on it. I don't know how much will be left either. They told me I should pay 1500 ringgit for a bike. I payed around 1300. No one told us we would have to drop big money on our first day to buy a bike!!! THankfully, they took credit cards. Oh, and if you didn't figure out, we had to pay for it out of pocket. THe bike is nice, so we bought spray paint, duct tape, and dirt from outside to make it Malay proof. If they see a nice bike, they'll steal it, so we had to disguise them. Can you put more money on my card? And let me know how much is on there?
We went to another Investigators house the other day named Pana. My companion told me to be careful at his house... I didn't understand. We went to a kompong neighborhood, and rode through it a ways. When we got there, I was shocked. He had built a wooden house/hut on stilts, over the river. THere was a bridge, probably 15 meters, from the shore to his house. the bridge was made of extremely old 2x4s, fence posts, loose linoleum, etc. It took me like 5 minutes to walk across it because I was so scared. WHen we got inside his house, there were holes in the floor that went straight to the river. Everytime I swatted a bug, I was afraid I would move too much and fall through.... Other than that, he was a very nice man, and had a young wife. THe people are so sweet, and so humble because of their circumstances. They really don't have anything extra to spare.
We had church yesterday, and there is a branch building here. APparently it came from the Chinese tithe payers here... supposedly. It is sad because the Chinese won't talk to the others. THere is a serious 'class' system here. The chinese only associate with other chinese and white people, and then the Malay's with themselves, and the other tribes kind of just fare for themselves. THe chinese and the Malay branches meet separately.
The leaders in our branch are very kind. I already played piano in church yesterday, and Sister Martin had me help her with a class on how to conduct music on friday of last week. It was nice that, for the most part, church was the same. Pretty much nothing is the same here. It has been hard. I wish I could have come in here with everything ready for me, but it wasn't. I had to try and clean/fix the house, learn the language, go to all the lessons, and just adjust myself to a new place. It is kind of scary that we won't be in America for 2 years. THe circumstances haven't been too good so far, but I can tell they are going to change.
The church has only been on Sarawak for about 10 years. They are still working on building a foundation here. The big emphasis is on getting families to the temple. Missionaries in the past have come and baptized a ton of people, but they fall away. We heard legends about an elder ( who actually volunteered at the mtc for us), who baptized hundreds, but now they're almost all inactive. We're trying to focus on building membership, and establishing roots in the gospel, not in missionary personalities.....
I am very excited, because today i found out that ELDER MAYO IS COMING TO MIRI FOR THE DAY!!!! He is in Bintulu, and also needs a bike. He is coming up with his companion and spending the night at our house. I am so happy. I really miss Mayo and Crum, they made it enjoyable!! If only Crum was in our Zone, I would see him more! He is in Butterworth, which is way far north in west malaysia. I included a picture of Me, crum, and mayo from singapore.
I also included a pic of mayo, me, and the MTC presidency after we performed.
I haven't taken many pictures of miri yet. I will for the next email. I've been stressed with a lot of other things, so it just 'hasn't been a priority' tehehehe. that was for eric, if he caught that.
It's really poor where we are, so there aren't many restaurants, and the members can only give us crackers.
I look forward to hearing back from everyone! I guess Eric has been too busy to write??