Monday, October 1, 2012

Mom/Dad: (I'll send Eric's email separately ^__^)

Things have been a lot better since we've been here.  The house still isn't completely clean, but it is so much better.  We also got some more food at the store, and have been getting by.  We bought a HUGE bag of rice, and a bunch of vegetables, so we've been making fried rice a lot, a lot of plain rice, rice with sauce on it, rice with flavor packets..... just lots of rice.  I really like rice though, so it's not really an issue.  It is cheaper sometimes to eat out here, so we've been going to the little places around town.  There are lots of delicious Indian places here, and everytime we eat at one, I remind myself of how jealous you all (except for Mom) would be if you were eating it!  They have Roti Susu (roti just means bread, but it is more na'an like) with sweetened condensed milk, and delicious curry, and Nasi Briyani (special spiced rice) and a cold drink for 10 RM, which is about $3.30.  There are also a lot of good middle eastern restaurants here, which are very flavorful.  Lots of Chinese places too, but we haven't really tried those.  The members are very poor, and whenever we go to their house, they always feel like they have to feed us.  They almost always give us milo (HOT CHOCOLATE, even though it is boiling outside) with crackers.  The Iban tribe here chops up just about anything they can find and cooks it.  I ate several different types of wood this week. All.... tasted like wood.  I was also fed fried stingray..... it was pretty good, white meat, a little fishy though.  

The big event of the week was a member of the biggest family here passed away.  He was one year older than me.  He had a hard life, however.  Although his family was strong in the church, he sort of fell away.  His brother is the second counselor in the branch presidency, and his sister is the relief society president.  He fell away from the church, and got a Malay girl pregnant.  This caused a lot of issues, because if they were married legally, they he would be forced to become Muslim.  Their child is automatically muslim.  About six months ago he was diagnosed with cancer, and just went downhill from there.  He passed away on Monday morning.  My companion told me that Iban funerals were a little.... "different"
We went to their house, which is a wooden one built on stilts, and in the middle of the room was the casket with the deceased in it.  It was kind of awkward, just seeing him there.  There were people moaning, and laying on top of him.  Yet, at the same time, they were cracking jokes, and laughing.  The mother asked my companion and I to find a scripture for the funeral program, but the stuff she wanted it to say wasn't really church doctrine about families... which was so sad because of the situation.  We didn't really know what to tell her.  We eventually found a different one that worked.  They fed me some part of the palm tree with little fish, a bunch of pig fat, and bean wrappers (? traditional Iban food...).  The actual funeral was at 7:00AM.  They asked me to play the organ, and it was a disaster because there wasn't a pedal board, so I had to try and make all four voices legato with my hands (since there is no sustaining pedal on the organ).  I was very embarrassed, because it wasn't as smooth as it should have been.  Not to mention the branch president fiddled with the volume several times while I was playing.  The senior couple said none of them would care.  We then drove with the Senior couple to the cemetery, which is really far inland.  I was pretty sure we were lost.  We drove on a dirt road for a while, which jungle on both sides, till we came to a field where they have above ground plots made of concrete.  It was raining so hard that day, and everyone was completely soaked.  They put the casket in, and we all throw flowers on top, and drink a cup of Chrysanthemum Tea and Soy Milk (...tradition?)  and then they cement the box closed.  Pretty much the entire church went on hold for the past week because of this funeral.  THere has been a bunch of things for it.  Even last night, there was a sembayang for him (still not sure exactly what that even is).  It made me think about how precious time is here on earth, and that we don't get to pick and choose the amount of time we have.  It makes me realize that every time we do wrong, we gamble with time.  It not only hurts that person, but it hurts the family even more.  It is especially hard to see the little family he left behind, and the legal mess everyone is in.  Family is like chain, and every link is necessary.  When one of the links is weak, or doesn't function properly, the whole chain is effected.  It is really sad.  We just had two more deaths in the branch.  One was hit by a car, and the other died of cancer.  I don't know the details.

Lots of embarrassing moments this week:
1.  We went to an investigators hut that was over the river, and when I was taking off my shoes (you never wear shoes into another person's home here, even if it is dirty), there was a cage packed with squirrels (dirty, brown ones that smelled like dead animal).  Our investigator was standing by them (wearing only underwear), and I thought I'd practice my Malay and make the joke "is that dinner?" pointing to the cage..... He looked at me and said no, his wife had already cooked rice, and they were going to eat those tomorrow...... >.< I felt like an idiot.  

2.  There are lizards every here.  Big monitor lizards that crawl around outside our house, to little geckos that find there way onto and into everything.  We were at a members hut and the little kids kept throwing these geckos at me.  finally they stopped.  As I was getting out to leave, I hit my head on the door because it was so small, and they all yelled something about my "kepala.... sakit..." and I didn't really catch anything else.  i though they were talking about me hitting my head, but as I proceeded out of the door, a rooster literally hit me in the face.  You know when eric says I make that "a bluh abluh abluh" thing when I'm in those situations??  I did it sooooo bad then.  Oh, yeah, they have chickens and animals all over the place.  I was so embarrassed because of the chicken thing, that I hurried and put my shoes on.  As I was walking, the little kids were laughing and pointing at me.  I yelled and asked why they were laughing, and they just responded "Kasut Kamu!!!" which means, "your shoe!"  I took off my shoe to find that they had put a gecko in my toe area.... and that when I hurried and put it on, I smashed the poor thing and its guts were all over my shoes and socks.............. lovely.

3.  We also taught a guy with a strange tattoo on his neck, and my companion asked what it was for (the old people have lots of tattoos that are tribal) and he said he got it when he killed someone..... 0.o

It is sad to see how poor the people here live.  Like I said before, the chinese live their own lives, and the malays do too, and then there are the tribal people.  We taught several lessons that were done by candle light.  They are so sweet though.  It is sad because they have to work soo much, and then they come home and don't have much energy or initiative to do much else.  It is hard to see the members here fall away, because a lot of them just don't have the roots sufficient to keep them through the thick and thin.  We're lucky to be in a place where the church is established.  We're also lucky because we have been educated, and taught to think deeply (well.... some of us).  A lot of times the people here only see the surface of the principle, and don't understand the much deeper implications.  There was a big baptism on Saturday, and my companion had two people there and they asked me to baptize the child.  It was a neat experience.  I feared, the whole time, that they thought it was the end.  A lot of people think baptism is the end all goal, and that once you've done it, your done.  If you look at the baptism as just being dunked in water, it doesn't mean a whole lot.  But if you remember that there is clearly a reason why our omniscient Heavenly Father established this ordinance, you realize that it goes way beyond just being dipped in water.  Trying to teach people of the journey that this life is, that they have a purpose beyond just working and sleeping, is extremely difficult.  I haven't quite figured out how we can share this message.

It is interesting to hear about all the stuff going on in the news back at home.  We don't hear any of it.  I was wondering how the political arena was going.  Keep me updated on the news, and how the new iPhones are ^__^

Oh, the generations here are very interesting too.  The older people, like the grandparents, can't read, and very few of them speak languages other than their tribal one.  The parents can read, but just the words, no meaning behind them.  They can usually speak pretty good Malay.  The kids speak Malay, and have to go to school.  They show more signs of thinking.  It is crazy to see how in these generations the amount of learning could be so different.  But looking around the city, all of the houses and buildings in the center can't be more than twenty years old.  Once you get out of that, it feels like you literally step back in time.  I bet this whole area was like that not too long ago.

I think you guys can send me packages to the senior couples house, and it usually takes a few weeks.  I don't know their address, so I will have to get it.

Oh, every wednesday we have BMW (Big Mac Wednesday) because there is a new McDonald's in the city.  

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