Sunday, January 14, 2018

Week 73 - Cha...Cha...Cha...Changes

Dear family and friends,

So this computer apparently doesn’t have the ability to connect to my camera. Oh Ecuador, haha.
Well, I survived crazy week and the 4 trips to the airport! I didn’t sleep at all on Monday night. We also had a zone meeting on Friday and I got to meet some great new people. Elder Morton got transferred to the coast to be a trainer – the mission needs great trainers right now. I think we were all pretty sad about his departure and the office will be different without his constant, calm and happy presence. I am grateful for everything he taught me and will miss him. But the news wasn’t all bad because his replacement is Elder George! Remember how he basically saved me, a genuine friend and lifeline at a time in my life when I needed it most, back at the coast when I first arrived in Ecuador? Well I couldn’t be happier that he’s now in the office with us and I am really going to enjoy the next 3 months here in Quito.

As part of the changes, I transferred to a new sector called “La Luz” which is a solid 10-minute walk from my previous sector “Inaquito”. I essentially cover the east side of the one main street that runs north-south through Quito – La Luz is on the east and Inaquito on the west. Despite being close, I am in a new house; a new ward and I have a new companion, Elder Aquino, from Paraguay. He’s a little bit younger in the mission than me and anxiously awaiting his one year mark in a couple of weeks. He has great people skills, is open and warm, and we get along excellently. I now live in the “hotel house” which is where I stayed my first night in Ecuador. I like my new sector there’s more humble people, lots of refugees from Venezuela, and I’ve really grown to love Venezuelanos…so receptive and friendly. There’s also a lot more food in the streets. J My favorite is Choripan with jugo de caña. So, so good! We are also working with a family from Colombia that is really cool.

I had a really nice p-day. We spent the morning relaxing a bit in an effort to recover from crazy week. After that we went with the other office elders to an Argentine grill… super, super good food. This afternoon we plan to go play tennis in this park call Parque Carolina with some rackets borrowed from the Murphys. Parque Carolina is this really big, beautiful park. If you have the interest to google map it. Be sure to also check out the Quicentro shopping center – it’s a nice place in the city and was in my old sector.

I love you all a lot. You’re my favorite people and I can’t wait to read your letters.

- Elder Ericksen

Monday, January 8, 2018

Week 72 - Happy New Year!

Dear friends and family,
This week was a great one. We try to take one day a week off from office work week and Tuesday was that day for us this week. It was an epic day of work. We taught 3 new people that we had appointments planned for and it’s always great being in my sector. I learn to love all my sectors and this one, Inaquito, is right up there with my favorites. That evening made the upside down pineapple cake my mom had sent me the recipe for. We had been anticipating making it all week long and it was great. I’m happy and really tranquilo. I have been enjoying life here and adventuring lots while we have been helping so many people. There is a baptism tonight! Congrats Emilee!
Today (Saturday) was eventful! We got permission to go to the south of the city and see Old Town Quito. We toured the basilica and I took lots of photos. After that, we got bandeja paisa for lunch at a Colombian grill for Elder Morton's birthday. I feel tranquilo and educated. Tonight we will find out who will be Elder Castagno’s trainee as the new visa secretary! That will be a riot. I have a feeling that I will be moved to the other sector in La Luz to be the companion of Elder Aquino. The interesting news there is that is the house where I stayed the first night in the mission, and is also where I have stayed for the many events here in Quito.
Next week is week one (a.k.a. death week) and will be ridiculous in every meaning of the word. I will be making a farewell video for those missionaries going home Monday night and finish the welcome video for the new missionaries arriving on Tuesday. I’ll also be stressing about securing breakfasts and lunches for about 30 over two days, and I’ll be in trainings all week long. And we’ll pretty much overnight Monday at the airport with missionaries leaving at pretty much every hour – 12:05am, 4:00am, 6:10am, and 9:30am. The airlines advise that we are in the airport for check in 3-hours before international flights, so we’ll get there around 9:00pm and I’ll be helping check people in people and pay for bags all night long. For the record, it’s never like this!
The sister missionaries from my group (who arrived in Ecuador with me) go home next change. It will be strange dropping them off.
Do you have questions for me?
I love you all a lot,
Elder Ericksen

Other tidbits:
  • The paper machete doll in one of the photos is part of the New Year’s tradition in Ecuador where (as we understand) the people make or purchase these dolls to represent the year just completed and then burn them in large piles in the street at the New Year. My fingers are crossed that little guy survived and will find a spot on the shelf in Adam’s room come August. 

Monday, January 1, 2018

Week 71 - Middle of the World

Dear family and friends,
I would attempt to begin this letter with a joke or some inspirational thought but that would be a pitiful attempt to cover up the fact that I haven’t been giving my weekly letters the attention they deserve for some time now. So let me instead begin by saying that I love the mission. It is such a miracle how God can mold a half-toughened, half-listening, and half-homesick heart into a marvelous tool of confidence, service, and humility through what I considered to be “daunting difficulties” like many of the things I’ve been able to conquer here in Ecuador.
One of the biggest changes that has taken place inside of me is that I now live and feel every moment here instead of just passing through them like before. There are so many things worth paying attention to, so many deserving of our interest in our immediate surroundings. Often, with my responsibilities, it is necessary to go to the bank, which is a 10-minute, swiftly-paced walk through some heavily trafficked, downtown Quito streets. In such an atmosphere, swifter is better for many. But I find that so wasteful! Today I turned toward Elder Castagno and said “wow, this is incredible,” referring to the light, drizzle descending from the dark, invading clouds to capture the delicious, warm aroma of Chilean empanadas coming from the Alameda bakery as we passed. Just outside were the most Ecuadorian of older gentlemen, sitting to drink coffee and discussing whatever was important to them for that moment. I wanted to be with them but it wasn’t appropriate at that time. I had my own set of priorities in that moment. But that’s the whole idea: to be extremely present, to notice, to feel, to live. Maybe this is why Buddhists meditate. Maybe this is why prayer is so peaceful. Maybe this is why power naps are so attractive. It all has to do with increasing mental focus and attaining a “reset” to draw us closer to the moment.
I had an emotional moment this week when I received a photo from the baptism of a special family we found and taught in Cayambe. Undoubtedly, it was a happy emotional, moment but at the same time I had such an impulse to go. I wanted to be with them. I wanted to be engulfed in a moment with those beautiful people. I wanted to share and delight in everything that is important for them and equally important for me.
I said in my last letter that I might talk a little about New Year’s goals and I guess that’s what I’m trying do right now. I’ve become a much happier person when I commit to living fully in the moment. So that’s one of my goals: I want to be someone that can live completely in the moment. I’ll be looking to have lots of adventures and learn new things with anyone and everyone that wants to come along.
With all my love,
Elder Ericksen
Other tidbit:
  • Hey great news... I’m an egg master! I stood the egg up on the nail at the Middle of the World monument. It was so awesome there, wow, I can’t even begin to describe. You’ll just have to look at the photos. Notice too the awesome cocoa exhibit and all the awesome culture things. FYI for when we are back here as a family, we can easily spend a half day at the monument because there is so much to see and do.
  • In other news, happy new years!!!!! We have to be in the house at 3PM tomorrow and Elder Castagno and I are going to cook some hummus and hang out. Mom could you send a hummus recipe?

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Week 70 - Merry Christmas

Hello everyone. I'm writing from the office here after a pretty normal day. We are just walking in after eating some 2$ hamburgers from some Venezuelan immigrants. 

So I loved the call home yesterday! Despite having lots of technical stress (thanks to Ecuador internet), it was nice hearing your voices and being reminded that I still have a super cool family that loves me. Topics were good, I liked the questions and hearing from you, and all of it was good. Also it is really fun that we will be talking in May which, without a doubt, will be here before we know it. Life moves fast, I hope you're all really enjoying it!

I also loved Christmas. Elder Castagno and I set up the tree early with lights and snow flakes. We have had Christmas music on since Thanksgiving. We had been eating desserts and stuff every night. We borrowed a crockpot from another mission house and made a cake in it and stuff. Two nights ago we made a pumpkin pie. We even got little gifts for each other. I guess it just felt really meaningful how we celebrated a little here and a little there through the whole month until the actual day came and it was so fufilling. Not to mention I have been studying so much about Christ. It was a really special Christmas.

Also last week I dressed up like Santa for a contacting activity. It was weird but cool. I didn't like how a bunch of kids kept calling me Papa Noel and then they would just look at me like I was going to tell them something magical. Truth is I didnt know what to say hahaha. I guess I didn't think that through. 

I have been impressed with how miracles come through diligence and perfect obedience. I've mentioned that we are in one of the hardest sectors, but we haven't been bored at all! We have filled every hour with something really productive and are seeing huge progress in every facet of the work. The last baptism here was more than a year ago, but we have someone ready who should be baptized in the next two weeks.

In the office I continue being really busy. I am working on a big project organizing the housing guarantees and also there are lots of little things that are keeping me super busy. A couple of missionaries have lost their cards and stuff, I dont know,  I am always busy. 

In the nights I have been thinking a lot about New Years resolutions and stuff. I have lots. Maybe I'll share next week? I don't like when missionaries say "oh when I finish, I'm going to go running every day" or "when I get home I'm going to be so loving towards everyone." I don't like it because I don't think those things ever really happen like that. I think we have to start things now in the mission if we want them to carry over. Habits don't start from nothing like that. In the mission there is a term "the sexy-six" referring to the last 6 months before going home when all the Elders try to eat healthy and get in shape (it rarely happens like its talked about.) Anyway, maybe I won't be so involved in the fitness goals like that, but I am definitely going to use the last 6 months of my mission to set some awesome goals and make some epic habits that I'll be able to carry over for the rest of my life.

I love you, family. Again I loved the call and Im so happy that you all are related to me <3

- Elder Ericksen

Other tidbits:

  • The Christmas phone call home was a real blessing for our family despite considerable technical difficulties and it becoming an audio-only call. Adam struggled with English which his siblings throughly enjoyed and talked about a lot today. Come August he may not be able to speak English at all.
  • They had arranged for a member to come in the Santa suit but he had a last minute schedule change and Adam had already promised he would wear it if it fit...which it did.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Week 69 - A Week to Christmas

Hello family and friends. It’s great to be writing you now, after a good day. Things have been crazy busy at the office. We are doing lots of reports and budget analysis for year end.
Our tree is up. Elder Castagno and I have been sitting around it and chatting about life and it’s been extra fun. I feel the Christmas spirit a lot this year, and I am really thankful for everything and very happy to just help others. Last year I definitely felt the spirit but it was a little more humbling and solemn.

Our Christmas plans are not yet solidified but we are working on them. We will have p-day on Christmas day Monday next week. I’m pretty happy about that because we will get to be with more missionaries and hopefully do something really fun! I’ve realized that back home I had such awesome friends…like beyond normal quality, I think. We were all so loyal to each other and we all had one anothers’ backs. Here sometimes, for whatever reason, there are flaky moments and lots of changing plans which I don’t like. I miss guys like Mitch, Hussein and Kanoa. There are many others but they’re top of my mind. A solid plan that we do have down in the agenda is that we are invited to lunch with our Chilean neighbors that cook excellent food and I’m so happy about that. We will be going over there on Sunday the 24th after Church.

I’m looking forward to the skype call home next week. Think of some good questions to ask me. As much as I love telling stories about what I am learning and experiencing, I’d love to hear from you. 

I love you all so much!

Elder Ericksen

PS – How was Star Wars?

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Week 68 - Light the World

This was a festive week. We had the mission Christmas party, which was so special. We spent all day talking about Christ and lots of emotional, spiritual things during the morning. After that we had a break and started in on the gift exchange and games! I got that weird looking blue doll thing. I don’t know what it is or what it does and, to be honest, I think it ended up going home with someone else at the end of the day.
We played an awesome game on charades (sp?) and that was fun. I drew lots of interesting things like Spiderman and Otavalo during my turns but it was all funny and tons of fun. Elder Morton and I had a really good guessing connection going on.
Other photos have to do with the “Ilumina el mundo” campaign we are focusing on right now. We baked and frosted a bunch of cookies and then went to a bus station to pass them out and spread Christmas love. We had some really interesting conversations with all different kinds of people. While we were there, a bus rolled up at the red stoplight and we asked to board and share our cookies and a message with everyone. The bus driver said yes after taking a cookie for himself - it was all around awesome.
The new faces in my photos are Elder Aquino – a super cool guy from Paraguy – and Elder Welch from Tulcan who is back with me here now in the office! It is awesome. The girls and other two dudes are the rest of our district. The burgers were from the Chilean neighbor who lives above us. They were so good, oh my!
Today’s p-day activity was epic. We went to the Teleferico and hiked and explored all around the mountain. It’s an amazingly beautiful place and was a wonderful experience. For reference, Cayambe is taller which should give a pretty good reference about how tall it really is the day we went up there. We now want to go climb to the top of that mountain (Pichincha). After hiking we went to SUSHI!!! It was so good! I was really in denial about how much I had been longing for those flavors. I’ll be going to Japan within a few years if anyone wants to tag along. 
I love every day I’m having out here and I can’t express enough about how everything I’m doing has helped and purified me. I also love you all of course and hope that you’re all well. 
Much love,

Elder Ericksen