I don't even know where to start! Nothing I say will do justice to everything, but I guess I'll start at the beginning I guess...
So, I made it safely to the Philippines after planes, trains and automobiles and guess what? It's HOT!!!!! That was definitely the first thing I noticed when I got off the plane. The next was that it is so beautiful here-- the people, the language and the country. And third, I'm pretty sure I'm the only white person left in the world! But that's okay because it just makes people want to listen to us. I am constantly stared at and everyone comments. I waved at a little boy who was staring and it totally freaked him out haha and he ran back to his mom. People always say, "Hello Mom." as I pass or at least that's what I thought they were saying. But then my companion informed me that they are actually trying to say, "Hello Ma'am." Yesterday two younger boys ran up to us and just grabbed onto my arm and started walking with us. They kept poking my arm and were fascinated that it would turn white, then pink and go back to it's normal color. It was pretty funny. I just embrace the fact that I'll be a white giant for the next 18 months. I pretty much look hideous everyday because it is so hot but the people are constantly telling me I'm so beautiful because I'm white and tall. It's awesome, maybe I'll just stay here forever haha.
So we went to the mission home first and met President and Sister Sperry. They are amazing! I am so excited to serve under them. We had our first delicious meal in the Philippines, with rice of course! (EVERY meal includes rice) Then we met our companions and headed to our areas. It was so weird/hard saying goodbye to our little trio from the MTC, they will be fabulous missionaries. My trainer is Sister Yagemia. SHE IS INCREDIBLE! I feel SO SO blessed. She has been on the mission for 8 months and is from Micronesia (not sure if that's how you spell it) on the little island of Yap, so she speaks Yapese and luckily pretty good English too :) She is honestly the most self-less person I have ever met. She is constantly serving others and putting their needs before her own. She is the most humble and hardworking missionary. She is such a blessing. We get to share the apartment with Sister Noriega who is training Sister Criste. They are both from the Philippines and so awesome! Seriously I am so blessed. We are already all the best of friends and they are so easy to love. Our apartment is apparently pretty coveted between the sisters. It is called the Rainbow House. I love it! We have a HUGE window in our room and I get a beautiful view to wake up to every morning.
We are serving in the Deparo area, which used to be one area but they have now split it between our two companionships, so I guess we are sort of opening the area? On our first day we just walked the area with Bishop Ojega and now we have been going out with members to get to know the area and the less-active members. All of the less-active individuals Sister Yagemai had been working with are in the other Sister's area now so we are starting from scratch which is hard but it is awesome getting to know the people and I know we will have people to teach fast. Last night we went to meet less-actives with a member who has been working with the missionaries since the 80's, Sister Fe. She is so awesome! I can't believe some of the homes we teach in. It absolutely amazes me how humble their living conditions are but how happy they are! It is unreal. We were teaching one less-active family in a small one-room house with almost no posessions. They just had a mat rolled up in the corner that they unroll to sleep on at night. We had the lesson just sitting on the dirty floor of their home but it was so incredible. I understood very little of what was said but the spirit of that home and those people was easy to understand. I had a hard time not crying when we opened our lesson by singing "Count Your Many Blessings". We then shared a spiritual message and some scriptures on blessings from the Lord. The mother we were teaching is an elderly woman and she just amazed me. She kept testifying that she knew this is true and that the Lord has and will bless them. It was definitely a special experience. Then later that night we taught another woman and her 2 daughters and she just kept telling us she was so blessed because the missionaries had visited her that night and she knew that our message was true. That was so touching for me because I had gotten pretty discouraged during the day, and even though I couldn't really speak her language I had the opportunity to bless her through the Spirit. I had shared Moroni 7:33 with her Mom :) that has become my motto here. This is by far the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. I have never been so humbled but that verse keeps me going! This work really is amazing and I'm so lucky to be a part of it.
I really can't speak Tagalog haha I am constantly just smiling and nodding without any idea of what is going on but its great. It is easy to get discouraged but I just keep telling myself to be patient. It will come! It helps to see other Americans speaking it fluently :) They have this joke here that if they speak in English they will get nosebleeds because the language is difficult for them to speak. Well during our first meeting with Bishop he was talking to me and all the sudden he just yelled out, "Ah your nose, its bleeding". Everyone just went into panic mode giving me tissues and hankies. It was pretty funny. Well he will not let it go now haha everytime he introduces me to a member he tells them that my nosebleeds because Tagalog is difficult for me. He also tells them that my name is Sister Porter and I look so tired because I've been transPORTing everywhere haha the Filipinos have a very funny and simple sense of humor, its great! So when I spoke to the ward on Sunday I told them they would have to help me learn Tagalog so that I can stop getting nosebleeds and looked right at Bishop, they thought that was pretty funny.
My birthday was PERFECT!!! I woke up to the sisters singing happy birthday to me with candles stuck in a little twinkie-like thing. Then Sister Yagemai gave me a present that she had sneakily bought. It was the cutest jelly shoes (now we have matching ones) and perfume and a note. Seriously I was so humbled and touched. They were all so sweet. Then when we went downstairs they had a big sign on the wall and even more candles and cake treats and they jumped out singing again. These sisters are SO wonderful. Then we got to go on temple tours, which just means we get to take investigators and less-actives to the temple to talk about what we do there and just to see it and take pictures. I got to see Sister Loo!!! It was such a boost. I missed her so much and we just spoke in English with each other as fast as we could. It was so nice haha. So a bunch of us missionaries and those we were taking with us to the temple crammmed into a jeepney. There was 25 of us! It was awesome. We brought the tiniest little 81-year-old sister named Jazmin. She is amazing and so sweet. She wants to learn English and I want to learn Tagalog so we were helping each other. She was laughing pretty hard at the way I pronounced some words, in fact the whole jeepney full of Filipinos were laughing at me haha. Then that night Sister Noriega made me Spagetti, which is so delicious here. It's super sweet and sobrang masarap (very delicous). It was such a wonderful day. I felt so blessed. I also opened the presents you sent before I left the MTC. Thank you SO SO MUCH!!! I loved it, especially the card. You are the best and I feel so lucky to have all your support. The sisters in my apartment have loved eating the candy and oreos you sent too :)
There is SO SO SO much more I want to tell you but I am out of time. I am alive and well and loving it. Keep sending prayers my way :) I can use them all. This work is so hard, so humbling and so worth it. I feel so lucky to be serving the Lord in this beautiful country. I miss you all more than ever. You are always in my prayers.
P.S. They said to tell you that EVERYTHING (letters and packages) that you send should be sent to this address:
Quezon City North Mission
P.O. Box 1243
Quezon City Central Post Office
Nia Road, Diliman
1100 Quezon City
P.P.S. If you are reading this Alexis Bird, everyone says hello :) They all love you so much here. I gave President an extra handshake and Sister Sperry an extra hug. I also gave Sister Walker a big hug for you at temple tours. Thanks you for all you have done for me. Thank you for the last letter with advice and encouragement. It was exactly what I needed :) You are awesome!
On the way!
My first rain in the Philippines! It is unreal. These are the sisters with a member ahead of us. My umbrella was flipping all over the place. I ended up using it more to just keep my bag dry. I use my umbrella everyday though to keep the sun off.
My birthday sign :)
The gift from |Sister Yagemai.
Crammed in the Jeepney on the way to temple tours.
Elders in the back.
Sister Jazmin and I :)
Love and miss Sister Loo so much!
THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Birthday Dinner :)
Sister Yagemai and I on my first Sunday.
The bishop's son, JM
The church. There is a big, nice basketball court at all of them. I always think of you Cardon and Dad. They all love and play basketball everywhere here.
Sister Fe and Sister Yagemai
The view out my window every morning :) how lucky am I ??
All us Sisters! Sister Noriega, Me, Sister Criste (she is in my batch) and Sister Yagemai.
Most of my zone playing Filipino games this morning for P-day