Monday, September 25, 2017

Week 57 - Cruising Along

Dearest friends and family,

Hello friends and family. Welcome to the Elder Ericksen weekly update. What can I say? I am crazy busy, which I think has been an overall theme for the last two months. I’ve become rather fond of expressing a good week-to-week summary. It helps me reset my mind. So here I am! I’m going to shoot out a few bullet points for this week:
  • In the mission the Latin elders have the opportunity to learn English from the North Americans and part of that is done with little quizzes given over the phone by the office secretaries from Quito. Elder Cuevas has been really excited about learning English and I have been helping him pass off lots of these quizzes. The one observation I have had is that these calls are one of the most stressful events that can happen for the Latin missionaries because it is really hard to understand English over the phone.
  • I am eating way more food than any human ever should be allowed to. We have a very large pool of Investigators to visit that are progressing nicely and basically all of them invite us to eat something after we’re done teaching. It’s a very nice gesture every one, but I have been feeling a little sick from all the food lately. A couple of nights ago I got up at 2 AM to puke simply because I was too full. I am always full.
  • We have tons of people to visit here and we are stretched pretty thin, especially at night. We have at least 10 different families who want visits every week and who are only available after 7pm. Tonight we did a division where I went out to teach with one man from the church (Luis Guerrero) and my companion went out with a different man from the church (Jackson Mendoza) just so we could cover more of our appointments. It was fun and effective.
  • I am super excited about the General Conference of the church happening next weekend. It will be so edifying and emotionally satisfying to see something familiar from the US. The messages also always really lift me up and inspire me.
I love and miss you all despite really enjoying being here in Ecuador. I am a very satisfied missionary.

With love,

Elder Ericksen

Monday, September 18, 2017

Week 56 - You Gotta Have A Good Morning On Your Wedding Day

Dearest friends and family,

It’s sad that I had to go to Ecuador to figure this out, but we kids from California really are the best. I really should have known way before, as if it wasn’t obvious, but now I’m certain of it. We received a new missionary in the district this week from California’s Central Valley, Elder Vega, and he is quickly becoming a great friend. I knew we were going to get along well from the moment we met last Monday when I saw his Volcom t-shirt and Nike Janoski shoes, particularly my uniform back home. There was just an air about him. Upon seeing us greet one another, some sister missionaries from other parts of the US made fun of us saying: “Look, it’s so obvious Elders Ericksen and Vega are from Cali.” I quickly made the joke that was begging to be made that it was obvious they weren’t from California because no one from California would ever say “Cali” like that. I’m funny. J

Now that I’m thinking about it, I really enjoyed P-day this last Monday. I got to spend time with other missionaries, we played an epic game of dodgeball, and we ate something pretty good food. The rhythm of the week continued at this same, smooth pace and I’m really glad for that. On Tuesday we had the privilege and blessing of seeing 2 of our favorite investigators get married at the Registro Civil office. It stuck out to me how it’s very intense in the moment when the judge says: “Are you here by your own free will and do you want to get married to this person?” (Rough paraphrasing). What I took away from that moment is that you’ve really got to have a good morning on the day of your wedding, eat a good breakfast, and be in a good mood because, wow, everything could get ruined quickly if one of the pair shows up and says “you know what, I actually don’t want to get married. This fool didn’t even wash his cereal bowl this morning.” Luckily nothing like that occurred on Tuesday and Luis and Soledad's ceremony was great.

On Wednesday, Elder Vega came to my area in Cayambe for an interchange. We ate a quick lunch with some members that live a little outside of town, shared a brief message with them, and then went out to work. We accomplished a lot, feeding off one other’s work ethic and his fresh-from-the-MTC newbie attitude. We found a woman in our path who shared a cool story with us about her journey from New York to Ecuador. I doubted at first the validity of her story because she didn’t remember much English. But all doubts were resolved when she offered us a drink…with ice! It was interesting how we all looked at each other in a moment of mutual understanding over something as small as a couple of cubes of ice.

Truth is, culture is amazing. I’m going to keep my opinions to myself but I’ve definitely observed lots of things that I like here more than where I come from and lots of things here that I like a lot less. More than anything, the impression that arrives to me time after time is that it’s nobody’s fault the world is so big and so different in its many corners – it’s just how we are and that’s okay. Let’s just accept our differences and be happy!

The week finished strong with another interchange with Elder Welch in his area in Otavalo. We talked all day long and produced an epic day in nearly every aspect of missionary work. I opened saying California kids are the best but Elder Welch gets included in my self-righteous complement because he’s simply amazing. Had we met before the mission, we would have been the closest of friends. After we finish this mission thing, I’m going to have lots of people to visit all around the world. And that’s awesome.

Lastly, we had the privilege of participating in the baptisms of some people the last couple of weeks, including Luis and Soledad on Saturday. And like that the work moves along. I’m without complaints, I’m staying positive, loving and learning more every day. I’ll be seeing you before we know it. Have an amazing week.

Elder Ericksen

Monday, September 11, 2017

Week 55 - Guinea Pig...Yum!

Dearest friends and family,
“Pues, es mi tierra y es costumbre que la novia da 25 cuyes a los padrinos, pero yo no voy a dar 25…yo voy a matar a todos para la fiesta, jajaja.” This is a quote from Hermana Soledad, one of the people we have been teaching and she told us last night that she has more than 40 cuys prepared for the lunch on Saturday in celebration of her wedding. I’m starting this letter on Thursday morning, with a good 3 days of anticipation remaining, so we don’t know yet if I’ll be eating one of those 160 cuy legs for sure but I’m hopeful! Stay tuned to find out.
Wow, so Friday was the craziest, most hectic day of my mission to date. Where do I even start? Finishing breakfast one minute before 8am, we get a call saying from Hermana Soledad that 1) the marriage witnesses fell through and 2) an unexpected error happened at the Civil Registry office and she and Luis had forfeited their appointment at 4pm later that day. Soledad asked us to find 2 witnesses and said she’d ask for permission to get off work at 2pm so she and Luis could try and squeeze into an earlier time slot. We of course said “okay” and went to work. We were able to get everything lined up on our side but frustratingly the soon to be husband and wife couldn’t arrive. And their wedding has been postponed until Tuesday.
More than anything, I’m happiest when everyone around me is happy so I did my best in the circumstances to keep our spirits up. It was an interesting afternoon. Soledad told me that they wouldn’t cancel the Saturday lunch because they had already purchased the food and they’d make it a pre-celebration lunch. She also asked that we continue inviting Church members and to have everything ready for Saturday at 1:30.
It looked like this week wasn’t going to let up on me in terms of stress and problem solving! Saturday was another great but hectic day. We went up to Cangahua to enjoy the lunch and everything turned out great. Lots of members were able to join them and express their support for the almost newlywed couple which brought me lots of relief. Also, a definite highlight of the day, I can finally provide a first-hand witness and confirmation that our furry little friends, the cuyes, are basically Ecuadorian bacon. I mean they don’t have a ton of meat on them and what gets eaten is skin, nice and crispy. Don’t call me crazy but I actually really enjoyed them. The plate was intimidating with steak, chicken, potatoes, choclo and cuy but I was very content. The family also brought down a lamb to make a stew. Yes it was a lot of food, but everyone was very happy. My comp and I hit the road earlier than the rest of the members who stayed up on the hill for a while longer in order to come home and get back to work and also to put final touches on the baptismal service plans for that evening. Alexandra, who had been getting ready for baptism on the 16th of September, asked us to bring it up a week and of course we weren’t going to say no to that.
All in all, it was an incredible week. We are juggling lots of things but so far every single one has come out miraculously well and we haven’t dropped any major balls. I’m content and enjoying the pace and managing well. I miss and love you guys. Oh yeah, guinea pig is pretty delicious. I approve. 
Have a great week,
Elder Ericksen


Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Week 54 - Higher Motives

Dearest friends and family,
Well, Week 6 has come upon us again here in La Mision Ecuador Quito Norte and, as expected, the troops are animated and making guesses about who, to where, and how it will all take place when the call comes on Saturday night. For me it’s been an abnormal Week 6 because I’m relaxed and tranquil considering it’s near certain I will remain here in Cayambe to at least finish the training of Elder Cuevas. And I like that certainty – it means that we can stay focused and just keep on working instead of worrying about changes that may come. That doesn’t mean I’m not completely unaffected because our district will change a bit and I’m not looking forward to saying goodbye to some really good friends. I’m so blessed that I’ve been able to find awesome people who understand me and who have helped me feel infinitely more comfortable outside of my country. It’s interesting but the cultures of Central American countries more closely approximate the culture of North America, at least from what I’ve seen. I’ll never forget Elder Morales from Guatemala or Elder Hernandez from El Salvador, both of whom became great friends and strengths to me.
I’m not saying this sarcastically but rather with enormous gratitude (and I want the kids to especially listen well) but the mission really helped me realize that everything my parents ever told me is extremely important. At times it’s both sad and funny. I don’t want to give out too many details at the risk of bringing shame or embarrassment to someone - perhaps if I someday turn these letters into a book after the mission I can fill you in on all the stories using pseudonyms or something. Basically what I am trying to say is that while we are missionaries, and serving God and others is our mission, we are also people and we have to live – we all go back to an apartment, like everyone else, at the end of the day. I’m being awfully vague aren’t I? Uh, ok. Everybody…it’s important to be clean and to think about what you do, and to wash your dishes, and buy toilet paper before it runs out, and to not complain, and to be grateful for what you have in the moment, and blah, blah, lots more things…haha. Parents – thank you for loving me and for teach me all that you have and for not giving up on me when I was so stubborn.
On Tuesday morning we were out “contacting” or “tracting” as it is called in the US. To be honest I don’t like either word, I much prefer to say “finding” new people to help or teach. So we were out in an area called “Santa Marianita” which is code for “dusty little part of the countryside” about 20 minutes outside of Cayambe. We saw a kind looking gentleman who saw us while walking by and quickly put his head down and began walking away from us a little faster than he had been. I asked my great companion, who sometimes gets nervous in potentially awkward situations, if he noticed and he replied with a quiet “si”. I’ve learned to love out of the ordinary situations like this so we quickly started walking after the man and caught up to him right as he arrived at his lot. We walked up on a scene of his family sitting outside watching with 2 buff truck-driver dudes unloading a big supply of metal tubes/poles from their truck into his front yard. Some of the poles were rusty and all were oddly heavy but Elder Cuevas and I jumped in to help without asking. We learned that Senor Jose Quispe solders these poles together and then attaches tarps go over them as part of his greenhouse construction business. And we were pleased to be able to help them this particular morning but not nearly as pleased as Hermano Quispe was to learn that we were not the bill collectors from his bank, coming to collect late fees and loan payments, as he suspected we were and prompted him to heads-down flee from us. Just like I knew it would, this potentially awkward situation turned to laughter, smiles, a shared coca-cola, and brief message together with all of them. It was a great experience.
This little story has been in my mind this week because it speaks to me about what I mentioned earlier about why we do things and why we obey the rules. Maybe many children (like me), adults, and other people get caught up in moments in their life, like Hermano Quispe, where we react out of a lesser quality motivation like fear or obligation. But later in life, as we learn and grow (like when Hermano Quispe found out we weren’t there to shake him down for pocket change, but rather to help and enlighten his family), we realize it all changes when we act out of love and obey not because of fear or obligation but because of love. Let us all act/obey/react out of the highest-quality motivator: love. Let’s leave our egos at the door and enjoy success together. I promise its better this way.
With lots of affection,
Elder Ericksen
Other tidbits:
  • Adam made pizzas this week with one of the local familes. If you look closely in the top most photo you can see a mini-mini pizza in the center of his hand. Adam has been requesting lots of recipes from Lisa recently and may come home with some new culinary skills
  • Adam and Elder Cuevas went to the "real" Equator monument outside of Cayambe today - not to be confused with the "touristy" one closer to Quito. The days and nights are equally long, all year round, on the Ecuator.