Dear Mother, family, friend, assorted cousins of varying relationships,

The internet is despicably slow in the jungle, but they have spell check, so I think they’re on to something. Also normal keyboards.

So, it’s been a while. A lot’s changed. A lot.

I have a new companion. Her name is Hermana Martinez, she’s from Bolivia, and she’s wonderful. Also doesn’t speak a word of English. Well, I taught her grandma, but that doesn’t really count. She’s amazing. She’s patient, and pushes where I need pushing, and is generally an amazing person. She’s also right in the middle of eight children, except she’s the only girl. Sound familiar?

The hardest part is, predictably, the language. Of course. What I learned in the CCM and what I’m speaking here are hardly classified as the same language. Remember how we read that Iquitos has a rather unique accent? Well, it’s true. It’s beautiful, and I find myself talking in it all the time, but imagine for a moment trying to learn a new language where it sounds like everyone’s trying to yodel. I think it might be the equivalent of a Hispanic learning English in the MTC and being sent to deep, backwoods Alabama.

The good news is that this doesn’t feel any harder than I was told it was. I’m not panicking. I can’t tell if I’m really good at adapting to change, or I’m really good at denial. Either way, I’m okay. I have moments where I stop and think, ‘I have no idea how to speak this language. I have no idea how to adapt to this culture. I have no idea how to teach through the Spirit. What am I doing here?’ But then I’m okay again.

Teaching is my favorite. I honestly don’t say hardly anything. It’s not that I can’t say anything—I can, a little, a bit, with no grammar whatsoever—but that I don’t understand what’s going on in the conversation at all. How am I supposed to help meet the needs and teach a person when I can’t figure out what they’re saying? I have no idea, but I hope to figure that out soon.

Journal time

Nov 24, Day 46, Week 8

Listen, guys. Family, friends, and cousins. I don’t know how to tell you this without oversharing, so I’m just going to overshare. You may turn back now and return another, perhaps less sharing week.

But let’s be honest.

Now you’re curious.

I’m glad you’re still reading.

Anyways, sharing.

I have the foot fungi. Gross, right? I don’t even know what kind it is, just that it was sprouting—sprouting, got it?—before the first forty-eight hours were up. Itchy little dots up and down my toes. It’s really ugly and I’ve been lathering it with foot cream my mother told me I wouldn’t need—mom.

Okay, now that you’re all done being grossed out, I’ll let you know that it’s not actually that bad. It only itches when I think about it, and I’m outside sweating half my bodyweight so I hardly have time to think about anything other than fans and cold camu camu, a delicious drink here made from mashed up mystery jungle fruit.

Of course I get home and remember that I have a left toe that’s roughly the size of an early civil war cannon. That’s when I whip out the foot fungi cream, but really, how often am I going to have mystery fungi growing on me?

(Hopefully never again.)

I also wanted to talk about other things, too. Mostly I wanted to talk about languages and how I’m drowning in this one. It’s slowly, slowly killing me. I’ll come back alive, after a while, but I suspect I won’t be quite the same.

See, I don’t have a personality right now. I’m a little shadow that follows a Bolivian missionary with curly hair. In Spanish, Hermana Compton doesn’t really want things, need things, or have hobbies or jokes or favorite foods or favorite words or stories to tell.

It’s been interesting to be almost completely stripped of my personality for 14 to 16 hours of the day. I pray a lot more, if only to speak to someone in English. I feel like sarcasm is some far away concept that I cannot even begin to fathom in Spanish. I’ve caught reflections of myself in passing and I’m genuinely surprised to find Melody there.

Anyway, mother, here’s this.

An address. Finally. It’s for the mission office.

Melody Compton

Jr. Napo 478

Iquitos, Maynas

Loreto

Peru

Please send the parasite cleansing bottles in the cabinet by the sink. Stuff with enough cotton that it won’t rattle when people go trifling through my things. I know I wanted to ask for more things, but I honestly can’t remember. You better send it quick if I’m to get it by Christmas, which, by the way, is only four weeks away. Also put a sticker of Mary and Jesus on it, because that helps people think about like choices. Also literally everyone’s been Catholic for a century or two.

I love you all in varying degrees! Bye! Pray for no more jungle feet, and more language comprehension!
Also, I sweat. So. Much.

I go to bed sweating and wake up sweating.

And never eat vegetables. I don’t think they’ve been invented down here yet.

Unless you count rice. Rice is totally a vegetable.

Nov 7, 2013

IMG_0284For context, this is part of the letter home from Mom:

I make dinner every night and Aurora climbs up to her spot at the table when I say that dinner’s ready. She is getting more talkative and grown up. Last night, Nathan stepped on a pen or pencil and fell on the floor, accompanied by loud yelling/grunting. Sam mimicked the yell and it was so funny. I laughed and said,’Sam, that was a great Nathan impression. You almost nailed it.” Then Joy said, “Yeah, if only you had fallen down, bugged your eyes out, and made weird noises, you would’ve nailed it.” So true.

Tonight, I made peanut butter cookies and Sam told his friend, Christian, “Oh, my mom makes the BEST peanut butter cookies! You have to try them!” This made me feel warm and fuzzy. 🙂 I made homemade spelt bread on Sunday, which we ate with butter, while it was hot out of the oven, and I got pretty much the same reaction from Sam. He thinks I’m the best cook in the world. Yesterday, when I got home from work, I opened the garage door and before I could get in the house, Nathan came outside to ask what was for dinner. So he approves, too. That’s one advantage to living on a tighter budget–I cook dinner every single night. And it’s very good stuff.
What address should I send you a package to? And what will your address be when you leave the MTC? When is your last day? SIster Gonzalez is already asking me what your address will be after you leave the MTC. And Sister _________ brought over a package for me to send to you. It’s nothing but peanut butter. Like 6 containers. Did you tell her it was your favorite? Or that it’s in short supply in Peru? She also included a very nice card.
love, mom
Letter from Melody:
Mother,
Everyone in my district thinks the six containers of peanut butter is hilarious. It’s not so much as in short supply, but just expensive. It’ll probably be even more so in Iquitos. You should sent it to the Iquitos mission address, because I don’t know where I’ll be serving yet. You have that, right? It’s too late to be sending stuff to the CCM now.
Also, the food here’s okay, but I would commit petty crimes to get a full homemade meal with peanut butter cookies. Also. Sam and Aurora. I miss them.
Onward to the journal for updates on what’s happened the last couple of weeks, yes?
Day 20, October 29
I swear, Mother. I’ve never fallen asleep in so many places in my life.
I can fall asleep in class, during devotionals, under tables, in the middle of fields, against walls, at computers.
Everywhere.
And I’m getting my eight hours of sleep and everything, and I try with all my might not to fall asleep, but my eyes roll into the back of my head anyway.
Day 24, November 2
A Saturday
Off to teach out in the city again. Trying to decide if I have enough wits about me to communicate in the Spanish language.
Pray for me, whoever’s out there.
Later Saturday Night
Today was an interesting day. Last time we went out teaching, it went really well.
Today was a lot harder. I got paired with a girl that speaks less Spanish than I do, which is not a great start. My spanish’s pretty dismal, guys.
Anyway, we couldn’t get in any doors, and not very many people were all that interested in discyphering our attempts at Castillano. But when heading back to meet up with everyone else and go home, we stopped by a less active member’s house. She came out onto the porch, but wasn’t interested in letting us inside. The members helping us out quickly introduced us, and then figuratively shoved us under the bus. I started–very slowly, very badly–explaining why prayer was important, and that it’s a literal conversation with God, and that he’s always, always happy to hear from her, but I just stopped and stared at this shivering, aging woman, and I could feel how very missed this woman was. I could feel it, and I wanted to tell her how much God missed her, but the words weren’t there. There was nothing, and so I had to let my companion take over while I subdued some tears.
After I collected myself a little, I gave her a folleto and told her that the church would always be here, that it was here for her.
I just. . . wish I could have been able to say those words, because I could feel them, right in my chest, in my lungs, just for her.
Day 26 November 4, A Monday
I’ve been thinking about Faith this week, and how it’s not just a belief in something, but an action word. I believe, therefore I do. And I’m thinking about how our church is one of action, and what that means for me.
My perspective on prayers has also changed, and is still changing. I understood that it was direct communication with Heavenly Father, and that that’s really important, but I think I’m just glimpsing the raw power calling upon Heavenly Father in the name of his Son has.
I am, in the moment, grateful. Very grateful, and a little sad. Bittersweet?
. . . I think I must go in search of hugs from mi hermanas .
Day 27
A Tuesday
Showers are still a game of molten vs. arctic. Not sure which extreme is preferred.
I also suspect I’m going to come home a new ethnicity altogether. New language, new skin color. I’m already a few shades darker. I literally have a classes tan.
Quotes:
‘I only play hop scotch in graveyards.’ E. Neilson
‘My greatest fear in life is hotdogs. You think I’m joking. I’m not.’ H. Florian
‘I need a tapeworm. That’d be great! It’d be like a pet inside of me.’ E. Lamaroux
‘If you had a tapeworm inside of you. . . would it have the Priesthood?’ E. Nielson
‘I need more natural disasters in my life.’ E. L.
‘The reason the world has problems is because all the angels in the world are busy stopping traffic accidents in Peru.’ E. Nielson
‘One time I got a tattoo. . . then it washed off.’
‘I don’t get offended. I offend.’
Today, November the eleventh, 2013
A Thursday
Today in the Temple there was a flock of adoring, adorable little Peruvian women. They sat there for a solid half hour and told us how amazing they thought we were, and how adorable, and how grateful they were for the work we were doing. They then gave us all at least one hug, if not two, and let me tell you something. Peruvian hugs are the best. They just gather you up in their arms, and they hold you there for several seconds. The cheeks go together, side by side, because that’s a thing here, and there’s just such comfort in being hugged by a Peruvian woman. It was definitely the better part of my day.
Anyway, I love you all.
Until next week.

Nov 1, 2013

moroniMother,
Did you get any pictures? Did you get Marissa her birthday gifts? I doubt either. Also, why on earth is my bank account so low? I don’t feel like I’ve used that much. Also feeling a little paranoid.
Also, seriously, is the government back up? That’d be really cool.
Hey, remember how I didn’t write yesterday? It was a crazy, crazy day. Immigration and pdays really don’t mix all that well.
I don’t have my journal with me, so I literally have no idea what’s transpired between the last letter and now.
EXCEPT! Okay, children. Story time.
A kid went home the other day, a five or six-weeker, I think. What to know why? Okay, so, one of our Elders walked into the boys bathroom and found ‘spaghetti’ on the floor. Orrr tapeworm. Tape. Worm. Maomasdf lkjsfd. Please, I have the tapeworm drink stuff, but I forgot my two pill bottles I was going to take. If at ALL possible, start packing that and more parasite cleansing goods into a box and ship it to me, like, in two weeks. If you want me back alive and somewhat parasite free. It’s up to you, mother.
Anyways, since I honestly cannot remember what happened in the last seven to eight days, I’ll tell you things you already know. Firstly, I’m a terrible memorizer. Terrible, terrible. Other kids sit down and memorize thirty words in an hour and a half. I work on thirty words for roughly four to five days. It’s terrible, but I’m progressing. Really, really slowly. But I love speaking with the Latinos, even if I only have about five solid minutes of conversation fodder.
I have an Argentinan (I have NO idea how that one’s spelled. Sorry.) roommate. It’s equally horrific as it is hilarious. See, the thing about Argentinan Spanish is that it’s really hard to understand. They don’t say any of the words they’re trying to say. They get out half the proper syllables and move on to the next words. You think I’m exaggerating. I’m not. They say it’s ‘die medi´for ten thirty. But the thing is is that they tend to be my favorite Latinos. They’re hilarious, and really friendly, and are amazing. Just unfortunately difficult to understand. It’s an acquired skill.
Anyways, I love you all, but I’m going to write Marissa now.
(Mother. Please just put it on a blog. Don’t make people read my spelling. They don’t deserve that.)
PS. Thanks for the twenty dollars.
PPS. Tell Sam some generic lie for me today. It’s been too long.