Thursday, January 8, 2015

Tanner's Christmas Call Home

For Christmas Tanner didn’t do much of anything. He had dinner with a family from the ward on Christmas Eve at 7PM. The family gave Tanner and his companion each a tie, which Tanner thought was very sweet. In Colombia, however, most of the Christmas celebrations happen during hours when missionaries need to be indoors. The festivities mostly start at midnight. There are fireworks and general revelry. Tanner could hear everything from his apartment. In the poorer areas people added to the fireworks by shooting pistols up in the air. 

My bed has definitely been well used.

By the 26th, everyone was back to work, and things were back to normal.

In Bucaramanga there are two stakes. Tanner is in the Diamante ward. He says that the chapel is super nice – nicer than our chapel in Newtown. It is very nicely kept, and it has an open design. Everything centers around a courtyard.

 His companion, Elder Baez, is 21 years old and from Argentina. He is very sweet. He goes home at the end of May. All the members like him a lot, and so does Tanner. While we talked to Tanner, he would stick his head over the cubicle walls every once in a while and make funny faces. He seemed fun.
 Although non-English speaking missionaries are often encouraged to learn English from their native English speaking companions, none of Tanner’s companions have been interested in doing this so far. This doesn’t bother Tanner as he then has more opportunities to practice Spanish.
 Tanner says that he can understand almost everything that people say, but he wishes he could be more eloquent in how he speaks. Even though he wants to improve his speaking capabilities, he still feels like he can teach and communicate the things he needs to.
Speaking of Spanish, Tanner definitely spoke to us in Spanish/English. He had a hard time thinking of several normal words. I guess we can tell that he is definitely immersed in speaking Spanish!

Tanner has yet to see a rat; however, there are lots of lizards. There were a ton of vultures in Barbosa.

Tanner is still not worried about eating bugs though he does try to swish them off his food if possible. He just doesn’t want to waste food. 

Tanner eats fruit! This is a shocking revelation. Although he is not the biggest fan of their texture, he doesn’t mind them when they are blended together – something that is a regular occurrence in Colombia.
 Tanner really likes his new area, and he loves being in a real ward. He misses the people in Barbosa, but he really does love the new area. He likes that the ward functions as a ward typically supposed to with people trying to fulfill their callings and everything being covered. Tanner also likes being able to baptize people in a traditional font rather than in a bag like they did in Barbosa.

 There are approximately 500 inactive people on the ward list in Bucaramanga. Approximately 130-140 people come to church each week. There is one deacon and one priest, but there are ten young women. The members really work hard and are very friendly. Tanner already feels like they know and love him. Everyone wants to know if Mel Gibson is his father. In fact, while we talked his companion came over and joked about how Mel Gibson was over at our house in a different room.

 Tanner has lost at least ten pounds since arriving in the mission field. This is mostly because of lost muscle mass.
In Bucaramanga, Tanner has a washing machine in his apartment, which is great. In Barbosa he did not. This meant to wash their clothes they would rent a washing machine on P-day. The machine would be brought to their house on the back of a truck, and they had to stay with it the whole time, so it took almost their whole P-day just to do their laundry. Tanner is excited that he will now have more time to do things on P-day since he can just throw in a load of laundry and leave it. 

Tanner says he lives in one of the relatively nicer areas of Bucaramanga. The poorer areas of the city are found especially in pits/holes that people live in and build their homes in. 

 Bucaramanga is less laid back culturally than Barbosa is. In Barbosa the biggest struggle in terms of missionary work was getting people to come to church.

 The hardest part of the day is after lunch. Tanner and his companion eat lunch with members everyday, which    . They eat rice and beans with either chicken or beef. Tanner says their chickens are much smaller. They eat with their hands. Tanner and his companion don’t eat a formal dinner as lunch is their big meal of the day. They just grab something quick if hungry.
 Tanner gets a monetary allowance for food, transportation, and essentials every 15 days. In Barbosa the allowance was 200,000 pesos, and in Bucaramanga where they have to travel less for meetings it is 180,000 pesos. Tanner says this is plenty as long as you don’t use it poorly.

Tanner loves being a missionary, but he does dream of being able to sit and relax – really relax without thinking of things he needs to do and people he needs to reach out to.

In his mission about half of the elders are Latino and half are gringos, but one hundred percent of the sister missionaries are Latina – for safety reasons. There are currently 22 missionaries in Tanner’s zone.
Tanner says that people walk up to him and scream in his face reasonably regularly, but he doesn’t understand what they say. It doesn’t really faze him. 

Tanner reminded us all of the importance of persevering to the end. After all, getting baptized is only a step in returning to live with Heavenly Father.