It’s been so long for me to talk to you all!! Wow, where to start! Well, I’ll start with a story, I like stories. :) So, while I was on my first flight from Mexico City to San Salvador, I sat by a woman from Costa Rica, and on the other side of her was an hermana (serving in San Salvador). Earlier that day I had an impression to put a copy of the Book of Mormon in my bag for the plane. During the ride the hermana on the other side was talking to this woman and getting to know her. I don’t understand very much right now, so I only understood a little bit. However, while on the flight, I introduced myself and did my best to talk to her in Spanish. Luckily she understood the things I was trying to say. I then told her why I am on my mission, and pulled out my copy of my English scriptures. I bore testimony of the gospel and of this precious book. I then pulled out the copy of the Book of Mormon and told her that she could have it. She smiled warmly and said she would read it, and looked very happy that I had given it to her. Later on the flight we exchanged information, and I felt so good. My first time being a missionary here in the field! Wooohoooo!!!!
Presidente Russell and his wife are GREAT people! Ah, they are SO great!!! I love them. They have so much enthusiasm for the gospel and love for others. I hope to one day speak with such eloquence like Presidente Russell. Even though I don’t know really what he is speaking in Spanish, I can feel his testimony and power. He makes us laugh really hard, and touched by the Spirit. I am so blessed to have them!
In my first night here, we got to go to one of two Burger Kings in Nicaragua! While I was in the CCM I had been craving some hamburgers for several days, man were they delicious!! I’m so lucky! Me and one of the other hermanas got to stay in the special room the apostles stay in when they come to the mission home. Wow! What a treat! I was in heaven!! Plus, I saw my first beday. Hahahaha, didn’t use it though. Kept thinking of Garfield when he calls it his "very own cat tub". There are so many cats, dogs, birds, and horses here! It makes me sad though because all of the animals (except the horses) are SO skinny and underfed. Ah, it makes me sad! However, getting to see them is a treat! :)
Being here feels familiar, and in a way like home. Yes, the culture is VERY different, but yet it is the same. I love it. :) It smells a lot like the Stephenson ranch in Salmon, so I feel reminiscent a lot. Especially when I see the horses, I think of those fun memories of when I was really little. One of the most common ways of transportation here is by pepano, which is a man riding a bicycle, with a seat, cart, and roof attached. Essentially, it’s a one man carriage! My companion and I have been on them a few times when we have to go someplace a bit further, or we have a heavier load to carry. Daniel’s dad is absolutely right, the people here are either really poor, or they do really well. The traveling here is either by the pepanos, bikes, walking, motorcycles, or huge SUVs.
I LOVE my companion! AH! I am SO lucky to have her!! Her name is Hermana Fuentes and she is from Panama. She is so much personality, love, a huge heart, and testimony! She is helping me out with everything so much, I am so grateful! I tell her all the time that she is my blessing! She is so servicable too. She has given me several notes of encouragement, has prepared dinner, made my bed the way I like it, gave me a new skirt, gives me hugs, bought me ice cream....my goodness she spoils me! I love her so much, and her kind heart. I want to be more like her! It’s so cute, whenever she speaks in English her voice gets a lot higher. Her favorite things to say in English are, "Oh freak!" and "Whatever". Hehehe, she doesn’t say "whatever" in a mean way, but to be funny. So, I decided to teach her a phrase in English. Hehehe. I told her that "As if!" (from "Clueless") has the same meaning. That night when she was talking to our district leader on the phone, she kept saying over and over again, "As if! Whatever!" Hehe, it brings me so much joy when she says it. She says it just like Alicia Silverstone, and she’s never seen the movie. Even though she knows a little English and I know a little Spanish, we get along SO well! We sing together a lot, and laugh, and learn. She seriously is the best companion anyone could have. I am so lucky.
Every different kind of food and drink I have tried here is good, except for two things. There is this white cheese that they use a lot, and it is just not good whatsoever. Bluck! But, I have to eat, so I eat it anyways. It’s like a cross of bleu cheese and ricotta. Not a good mix. The other thing is their version of ketchup. Haha it tastes nothing like it, but fortunately, it’s not common to have it here, so it’s all good, esta bien! My favorite thing we’ve had here is pescados with a pico de gallo mixture on top with a pan cooked tortilla. They don’t really gut the fish or anything, so they cook it just the way it is. I saw the boiled eye looking at me, removed it, and dared myself to eat it when I was done eating the fish. I tried it and it really didn’t taste bad at all! I actually kinda liked it. :) However, anything that has to do with fish is good to me, haha! A common dish we eat here is called gallo pinto with platanos. It’s so good! Platanos is a fruit that looks and tastes like a banana, but it’s a bit different. They mostly eat it straight, but the other night they fried it up like chips, and MAN it was good! Mmm!! We also eat a lot of jocote, which is the better and sweeter version of a grape! It looks kinda like a cherry tomato, and it’s so delicious! They grow on a lot of the trees here, so all you have to do is find a really long stick, put it up in the tree and try to knock the fruit down.
There is a member family we see every day (The Ibarra´s) that invites us to have almuerzo (lunch). They recently converted to the church while I was in the CCM. They are SO awesome!! They are so kind, and understanding that I don’t understand even a quarter of what they say. They are the kindest family and I feel so blessed we are so welcome in their home. I can tell they love me, and they support me so much. They encourage and know how to have fun! They are always teasing and laughing.
Now for the interesting part of the letter...the interesting things I’ve seen here. On my first day riding in a taxi with my companion, heading to our apartment, a man in the street called out to me and blew me a kiss. Here, they call men like that "musos", which translates as "snake". While being here, there’s been several men that have done things like that or just give me this look that makes me want to go and hide, haha! I also learned today from my district leader that instead of men whistling to girls, they make this "Tssss" sound like a snake, and apparently it is illegal! Bleck!...Another interesting experience was at the Ibarra’s house. I went over to the chicken coop and decided to hold one of the cute little chicks. All of a sudden I felt this warm feeling. I looked down and I had poop and pee all over my hand, and on my arm, hahaha....People here sell food in any kind of place. When I was riding the bus, people would bang on the windows from the outside and try to sell food and drinks. And at each bus stop, a new vender would get on and walk up and down the bus to see if anyone wanted anything. They carry so much and have such good balance. Some of the women in the streets carry what they have with them on their head too...
Something I really like here is how kind and affectionate the people are. They don’t even know you and they want to serve you, it’s crazy, I love it! Whenever I greet a woman here I give them a side hug and a kiss. With the men, I just shake hands because I am a missionary! My companion has greeted some men who have tried to kiss her, hopefully that doesn’t happen to me! Also, when it comes to greeting people, you say "adios" as you pass people in the street. And when we approach the house we say, "buenas!" I love the customs here. :) My apartment is great, and we have tons of fans so it never gets too hot, but when we’re not in the casa, I sweat and sweat, and sweat. It’s alright though; it’s keeping my skin from getting dry! The heat really doesn’t bother me at all! I really like how warm it is. The people here say how hot it is, and ask me if I’m dying from the heat. They look at me like "What!" when I say that it doesn’t bother me, and they wear less clothes than me, haha. There’s a lot of little bed bugs and I have bites, but they really aren’t bad at all. As long as they aren’t spiders or cockroaches, then I’m great! The shower we have gets some water coming out, but some days, like today we don’t get water. So I got to take a shower today with a bucket and spout in our bathroom. Hehe, it wasn’t bad, just took a while. I love all my new culture experiences here, I feel like I’m at home and in a new place all at the same time.
You know, I have been feeling a little frustrated at times because I can’t understand much, I’m the newest one here, and I can’t always get my meaning out right. However, I know why I am here. Heavenly Father has given me tender mercies EVERY DAY! There have been little moments while we contact or teach where I feel like I am understanding a little bit more, and have a little more to say. My companion lifts me up, and she feels the same way I do about her English. I know the Spirit is teaching through me, and I rely on the Lord and my companion for the help I need. I speak as much Spanish as I can, am learning new words as my companion and I walk through the streets, and slowly my abilities are getting better. It requires a lot of patience, and the people understand. They are SO kind. It’s incredible how understanding they are. I do what I can, and the Lord just keeps blessing me. I am so lucky to have all of YOU, the Lord, my beautiful companion Hermana Fuentes, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost as my support. You ALL help me to fulfill Christ’s work. Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I love all of you very very much!!! Please keep writing, I read ALL of the letters and cherish them! Now that I am here in Nicaragua I can actually print them off now yay!!!!!!! You are all in my thoughts and prayers, always!!
-Not sure if I will be able to have enough time to send pictures today, but I will for sure next week!
Love, Your Hermana Stephenson :D