Tuesday, June 14, 2016

"I have never prayed harder that I wouldn’t get struck by lightning."


Sorry I didn’t email yesterday, we were gone all day.

So lots happened this week. I had divisions in Nargana for two days at the beginning of the week. Nothing happened there but I saw some big fish.

On Thursday, I think, I was fishing at the muelle and two pangas pulled up, full of white people. It was terrifying. I ran to the first Kuna people I saw to hide because I didn’t want to talk to the mergi´s and ended up good friends with them. But eventually I had to talk to them and they were a group of Christians of some sort that came to do an activity. Everyone in the pueblo was afraid of them because  they would walk up to people and yell at them to repent because Jesus was coming today. And they gave bucco candy to whoever came to their thing. We were hanging out with some people by where they were doing it and all of a sudden there was a bunch of shouting and confessing of sins in this big prayer circle and the Kunas were freaked out and so were we so we went to the chapel to watch Mormon messages and prepare for Institute. It started raining super hard while we were in there and we could hear thunder super loud so we were talking about how cool it would be to see lightning strike like close by. And a few minutes later I walked outside the office and was looking out over the water and like 150 feet away, lightning struck the water and I fell over it was so loud… ha ha. It was so not cool. And the rain was coming down sideways so I ran back to the house to close everything up and it was already half flooded. So I got some kids and we ran around to all the houses in the pueblo to see if anyone needed help. We mostly moved stuff off the ground or built up sand around their house or caught pigs that were running away. We were literally running around up to our knees though so I had boardshorts on and lightning kept striking super close. Like you’d see the flash and instantly hear thunder. I’m sure it struck the island a few times. And there were two tornadoes over the ocean! So sick but so sketch! The best part of it was that everyone blamed the white people for bringing the storm because it doesn’t rain here that often.

I have never prayed harder that I wouldn’t get struck by lightning.

Also I was reading in the Liahona this week about how they translate the Book of Mormon into different languages and how it takes like ten years, but it’s super important because it is said that everyone shall hear the gospel in their native language. So we tried to do lessons this week using the Kuna Book of Mormon. Only it was translated in Ustupu, on the bottom end of the Commarca, and Tikantiki where they speak Dulegaya. Here in the upper Commarca, they speak Dulegaka. Basically the same thing but they’ve got lots of differences so the book isn’t super accurate for the people here. They still thought it was funny, us trying to read it, and we met a lot of the older people on the island who only speak Kuna.

We’ve also been trying to do more activities, so on Saturday we had all the niños come to the church to play Kuna games. We had like every kid in the pueblo there and they all had a ton of fun. The next day at church almost all of them came so it was hectic. Now we just need to get their parents to come too.

Yesterday we had the dopest P-day. Our branch president owns a couple of tourist islands way out there so he took us and a bunch of jovenes out in his panga. First we went way past the islands to this sand bar in the middle of the ocean where the water was like 2 feet deep and we hung out there for a couple hours playing volleyball and what not before going to the big island which was sick. Kinda like the backside of Tikantiki, just a ton of coco trees and playa. We were there for a few more hours and we were all starving because nobody had eaten anything and we brought no food. So I went fishing and the sand drops down at like a 45 degree angle in the water so it’s like 50 feet deep 15 feet out, and there’s like every type of fish out there. So I caught a diece little one right quick but then my line broke and I had no more hooks. But luckily a cayuco pulled up with a bunch of fish. A lot of the Kunas go fishing way out there then bring them to the tourist islands to sell to the white people. So I ran up and bought three beast sized fish they harpooned. Ask them how much in Spanish and they’ll probably say $30, but I asked them in Kuna and got all three for $10. Seriously the most useful language I’ve learned yet. So we headed back to Carti and we all went over to President’s house for dinner to eat them.

It was a sick activity but I wish we had gotten more people to go because a couple of less active members came and I think it really helped them feel like they have more of a place at church. Like everyone already knows each other here but I think the best part of doing activities like this is that they’re all super good friends by the end of the day so they want to come to church more.

And we’ve been getting a lot more rain the last few days. But the water’s still not running on the island. I think the pipe broke somewhere back in the monte so they’re still working on fixing it, but were mostly filled up on rainwater now and it tastes better than well water.

And fish is my favorite food right now. I think I’ve eaten it every day I’ve been here. We always bring it to Zobey because she knows how to do everything but she’s been in Panama the past week so it hasn’t been as good. 

Anyways sick that you’re the new seminary teacher, mom. I’m glad that I am already done with that. My advice is don’t be annoying. If you play movies don’t leave the lights on so that people don’t fall asleep…that’s annoying.

Send lots of pics from Kate in Tonga when she goes. If I don’t live here after my mission, I’ll probably go there.

Love y’all!

Elder Green

Thursday, June 2, 2016

"So it turns out I'm like a pro dancer."


Just got internet again.

So as you know Tikantiki is now a hermana’s area and I got changed to Carti Tupile. I was super sad to leave but I love it here too. This island's way smaller and a little more crowded, but super fun. There are a lot more teenagers and niños here and like half the Panama Viejo Kuna squad moved back so it’s been sick.

Our house is really cool. It’s the second story of a little shop so we have a view of basically the entire island. I’m sure I could throw a rock from one side to the other. There’s two old Kuna ladies that live behind us, that own our house, and they’re hilarious.

We're way farther from the Monte now, it would probably take like an hour in a cayuco, so we never go, but now we’re closer to better fishing spots so we go all the time.

Carti is actually a little cluster of Islands. I think there’s like four others right by us that are part of our area but we have no way to go visit them, so I asked President for a cayuco and he said we should have one by the end of the change. So stoked.

And we haven’t cooked a meal by ourselves yet. Our neighbor next door, named Zobey, loves missionaries, and they said they’d eat with her like once a week but I’m definitely her fav ever then because I’ve had like breakfast, lunch, and dinner with her everyday- haha. When we’re in the house she´ll always yell for us to come over to eat. She’s our best friend no doubt.

And yeah near about this entire island is members but there’s only like 20 who are active. So really all we do is visit the less actives. They’ll usually come if you invite them. Everyone loves us so it’s easy to talk to people and really try to get them to come. Our main goal is just to be friends with everyone and we’ve been trying to plan lots of activities.

Don’t know what else to say, I guess I’ll just tell some stories.

Like my first week here I was fishing a couple hundred feet off the island with one of the members named Arnie and we could see a storm coming off in the distance. So we were thinking about going in but we were catching bucco fish so we stayed. Like five minutes later we heard conch shells being blown everywhere and the waves started getting huge. Then we were in the middle of the storm and our anchor was dragging on the ground it was so strong. So I pulled it up and we started rowing back towards the dock. Took like five minutes and it was super sketch. We like almost didn’t make it- haha. There were a couple other cayucos out and a sailboat that were getting taken away fast, so everyone with motors was running out to get them. So that was nuts but I’m alive so it was sick.

We had Zone Conference a week or so ago in Ukupa. It’s a little coastal pueblo like half an hour past Tikantiki and they don’t have a dock so the Elders there had to row a boat out in the water and we jumped from our panga to theirs to get to shore. Such a sick little place. They’ve got bucco beach, two rivers, it’s a legit paradise. We were there two days and the second night we had like a talent show with everyone there. I wasn’t planning on doing anything for it, but before it Elder Sagers was singing a song and Elder Senden and I started to dance. And I was like, dude we can dance.  So we danced to that song to start it off. Later Elder Mann, Gibby, and Senden were going up to do the 'Evolution of Dance' dance and he asked me if I had seen it. And I said yeah like 50 years ago, but I joined them and none of us knew it but we killed it. So turns out I’m like a pro dancer.

We also had District Conference this past week. So members from Tikantiki and Nargana came here for that. Super fun because I basically knew everyone. President Carmack came out too and the first day he spoke on authority and power and where it comes from. Like we´ll listen to a policeman because he can put us in jail or shoot us, but like for a parent or teacher it comes from love. When you love someone enough for them to love you back, then they will listen to you or follow what you want for them because of that. Something like that. I thought that was cool.

As we were walking across the island he gave me some great advice as well. He said "Elder Green, just some advice for when you get home from your mission. Get checked for worms. Most of the elders who walk around barefoot out here get them." So remind me about that in 17 months.

That’s it for now, I’ll email again this Monday. I’m the new institute teacher so I teach Tuesdays and Thursdays so I’m gonna bounce to go prepare for that.

Love y’all!
And happy birthday to Hatmotaf (Braiden).

Elder Green

No new pictures this week...but here are some from before he left Tikantiki...

An island cat in a tree.

Kuna kids enjoying the rain.

Friends on Tikantiki.

Bedrooms...look how tidy...



His bathroom...outside and inside.

Taylor drew a picture and asked one of the sisters on the island to make him this Mola tie.

Monday, April 25, 2016

"It is so cool that the gospel is here!"

Zone Conference

WHAT UUUUP? We’re back on Nargana. (That’s why he’s able to email today.)

How long have I been out here? There’s literally no sense of time here. People usually don’t even know what day it is, and neither do I.

Don’t really know what to tell you. Tikantiki is sick. Probably one of the most spread out of the pueblos. A lot of the other islands have houses that are super close together but we’ve got a big old front yard that goes right down to the water, and space in the back. We live in a little concrete house. It’s small with just one room that is divided by cane pole walls, which are cool. And yes, we sleep in hammocks. I don’t think there is a mattress on this island. Also, our bathroom hangs over the water.

Our little house.

Our front yard..beach front property.

 Almost nobody speaks Spanish here. There are a few people, and most of the kids are learning it now, but all the older people and the young bloods don’t know squat. It’s hard to teach but near about every day we go out with the First Counselor of the ward, Edilio, and he translates for us. I’ve somewhat learned this language, but it’s kind of impossible. They have a different number system for coconuts, sticks, mangoes, and fish. Everything is weird, but there is a lot of Spanish mixed in.

We also spend a lot of our time doing service…going back and forth to the Monte, with whoever needs to go there, and doing other projects. There is a man that lives here that owns a tiny island nearby, and has been working to make it bigger for about the last ten years. We put down trash, then rocks, then wood, then sand. It seems to be working.

Working on the Monte.

We also meet with a member, Leni, every day to read scriptures and she teaches us Kuna and tells us the news in the pueblo. She told us the other day about her first time going to the city a few months ago. Most of these people have never left the island. She said she was so scared of cars and escalators and buildings and everything- haha. She’s awesome though.

The kids are legit wild children. They don’t wear clothes and they run around with sticks or on all fours most of the time. They chase iguanas up trees to eat them. The other day I caught a huge crab and showed it to Leni´s 4 year old daughter to scare her, but instead she grabbed it from me and took it to her house then came back eating it.

We’ve been to the Monte and the river many times. Monte is so sick here. Mangoes on mangoes on mangoes. I’ve been eating way too many. Literally we go out to find them and there’s a thousand on the ground and they are constantly falling from the trees. There’s crocs here too. They always say to be careful in the river because there’s buccos. And sometimes they come on the island but I haven’t seen any. There’s a little island behind the little island that’s behind the main island and they live there too. Also sea turtles! Saw two on the way to the monte on Saturday. And you can eat them. So if I feel so inclined, I do plan on killing one…but probably I won’t feel so inclined.

Our transportation to and from the Monte.

We had Zone Conference last week so we all went to Playon Chico like two hours away. We had a slow boat and the waves were huge. Thought I was going to die. That was super fun though. We slept in the congress house (the native church on the islands) there that night which was kind of spooky, but dope.

Sleeping at the Congress House

 Church here is kind of crazy, but fun. We only had about 20 people out the first week I was here, but it’s been getting better, and yesterday we had like 40. People come and then after sacrament about half of them leave, then some come back, others leave, more come back. The kids are running around and screaming the entire time and everything is in Kuna, so I hardly understand anything. After Sacrament meeting, sometimes we have class, and sometimes they just do it later in the day.

Out on this little island, with people that have very little, if any, connection to the rest of the world, I have been remembering a scripture that I read in the Book of Mormon about Heavenly Father promising that the gospel would spread to ends of the earth…even the islands of the sea. Heavenly Father keeps his promises to his children…even a small group of Kuna Indians on a tiny island off of Panama…and so we always need to trust Him. It is so cool that the gospel is here!

I will stop writing now because there’s just too much to say. We have a baptism in the next few weeks. Oh, and Elder Taylor, my companion, is awesome and everything is good.

Love y’all!!

Elder Gwagwa Abgan

(They don’t have a word for green either so my name means ‘color of the iguana.’ And g´s are pronounced like k's.)

Monday, April 4, 2016

"I think I’d prefer to stay out here the rest of my life…"


Not even to my island yet, but it’s a miracle I’m here. We’re on Nargana with Elder Wrigley and Sagers and this island’s got a cell tower and kind of has internet, so hopefully this gets to you.

So Friday morning we got up super early and drove to the port here. Amazing how the Pacific is only like 2 hours from the Caribbean. There was a police checkpoint halfway through the mountains and we had to show our passports or residency cards to get through, and none of us had them. So we had to kind of reason with them and they eventually let us through.

We got there almost without barfing as it was a super windy road, but when we got there the boat that was going take us had canceled. So, I had to go with the zone leaders to drop food off at all the islands that are as far as like 6 hours by boat. We waited for two hours to see if another boat would come that would at least take us to Playon Chico, 4 hours away, but none did. So we sat there until we saw some guys trying to push a big boat out in the water that had gotten stuck in the sand. After we watched them struggling for like 10 minutes, we ran out and instantly got it unstuck. And as we were walking back a guy ran up to us and said it was awesome that we did that, and that we push with the power of God since others hadn’t been able to get it out. So he offered to store all our stuff in the boathouse there and take us out to Cartí Tupile, which is like ten minutes out, in his little cayuco, and we could stay with the elders there for the night. He´d send someone out with all our stuff the next morning to get us.

So we got there and it was sick. Carti is where all the Kuna kids in Viejo are from and two of them had moved back so I went fishing with them and caught like 12 fish in an hour. What a dream. They were poisonous little reef fish, though, so I just used them as bait. Literally took me like an hour to meet everyone on the island. Everyone is super nice there, and all the houses are bamboo and super primitive.

The next morning we got a boat and went to Nargana to meet up with Elder Taylor and drop stuff off. The ride was sick. There are hundreds of little islands out here and only a few have people on them. Some are kind of big and are covered in trees and there are others that are literally like ten feet across and have like 2 palm trees. This island’s like the city of San Blas. Still got little bamboo huts but also a lot of concrete ones. It’s still tiny but a little bigger than the others and there’s a bridge over to the Isla Corazón de Jesus. We stayed because we could watch conference here because of the cell tower. Fell asleep super hard almost every session due to not having slept for a week and because the Spanish translation is hard to pay attention to. The jokes don’t really translate.

Been having tons of fun here. Wrigley was in Panama Viejo before me and I lived with Taylor my first change. We don’t really have any water though. They dug a well behind the house a few days ago but we have to boil the water and it takes forever so were taking a boat to the Monte in a few hours to go fill up in the river.

I think I’d prefer to stay out here the rest of my life…

Tomorrow we're heading to my island. They speak Spanish here but I don’t think they do on Tikantiki. But I’ve learned enough of the Kuna language so far, so I’ll be good. (I can’t wait to hear how that goes…I think he said that when he arrived in Panama too!)

Love y’all!

Elder Green

Monday, March 7, 2016

"That's from my Pueblo!"


So this week was boring again. We set a lot of appointments but almost every single one fell through. They usually do, but we’re still having fun. We’re still teaching Benjamin. He said he really likes talking with us but hasn’t been able to make it to church yet because he’s a welder and usually has to work.

We’ve also been teaching another lady named Berta who’s usually home with her three young granddaughters, who love us. She too really likes us coming by and is trying to get to church.

I was in the office several times this week. Super boring. One day we had to go on splits with Elder Young so he could pay rent on every house in the mission. We had to run all around the city to almost every bank to do that. I hate being in the city, and that I know my way around it.

In the city for bank runs.

On Saturday we went to Torrijos Carter of San Miguelito, my comps old area, because one of his investigators was getting baptized. San Mig is wick, basically the favelas of Panama. Like take the “Nectar” and cover it in houses. And it’s huuuuge. I’m not sure I’d want to go there, though, because it’s even more crowded than where I am now.

We had stake conference, or something like that, yesterday. It was a transmission from the Centro American leaders, and Neil L. Anderson spoke. We were all in the English translation room, which was fun but awk because we had a hard time talking to people. There was a story I really liked from his talk about this kid in the Democratic Republic of Congo who really wanted to go on a mission, but needed a passport, which cost $250. So twice a day he would ride his bike 18 miles on dirt trails to a village that had bananas, and then he’d ride back with them and sell them in his village. And he was so stoked to say after 4 years of that he had enough to buy a passport, and a little extra to save. Made me feel like a fool because I spent the entire summer before I left at the beach or in the mountains.

But that story also made me think about the people here, especially the Nicaraguans. Most of them have only been here about as long as me, and left their families to come work. So they live in little cinderblock homes shared with several families. Their rooms are divided by like a sheet hanging up and they usually don’t even have front doors. Its pretty sketch and probably sucks but for some reason they’re still happy and never complain. I think they’re just thankful to have a job. This also reminds me of a quote from Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia. He said something like the easiest thing to do with your life is to make it complicated…and the hardest thing is to simplify it. Like we have all these phones and computers, and what not, that we think we need and when they’re gone we feel lost. We should learn to focus on the important things we already have and be thankful for them, rather than try to fill our lives with more stuff.

I think there’s like three weeks left in this change and then I’m out of here. I shall miss this place indeed but I am hoping for a bigger area far from the city.

Oh and that picture of the Kennedy’s shirt I had. We went to a little thrift shop and there was a very persistent salesman there that was holding up every shirt and asking if I wanted it. It was super annoying and I was kind of ignoring him, then he held up that one and I’m like, “That’s from my pueblo!!” So I bought it for $2 and I’m stoked.

Look what made its way from Woodland Hills to a sketchy thrift shop in Panama.

What we eat almost everyday...chicken, plantains, rice, beans.

Just had a lame zone P-day of playing soccer. Still not into it.

Love you!

Elder Green

Monday, February 29, 2016

"Now my room smells like a burnt mattress...and there are still bed bugs!"

Elder Varquez and I, above the city.


To answer your questions:

-Yes my arm hair helps keep the mosquitoes off, but not the bottom side, or the rest of my body.
-The pictures of the sketchy lot is the cemetery we cross every day to the Sister’s area that we steal from them.

About to walk through the sketchy cemetery.

-The picture of the sketchy pier is from this abandoned part of the city that’s inhabited by homeless people now. We went exploring it last week.

Of course Taylor had to stand here.
The rooster monument, in the background, is a memorial to the over 20,000 people who died
building the Panama Canal.

-And no I don’t need new shoes. Mine are still good.

So this week was mostly frustratingly boring, but also really fun. I guess I’ve started to realize that I’ve been walking the same streets, which means every Street of Panama Viejo and Puente del Rey, every day for 3 months. We didn’t have a lot of appointments at all this week, so we decided to go house to house, like Testigos (Jehovah Witnesses), which we never do, but we found some really cool people who love the message but won’t come to church. But they say we can come back so at least there’s something to do, because there’s been a lot of sitting under trees thinking of who to visit lately.

We taught our investigator Benjamin who we found last week with two members who served missions the other day and it was wick. He totally understands everything and kept saying he really wants to come to church but his wife doesn’t want him to. So I left him with a few scriptures to show her to try and convince her. All of which I had found that morning studying because the only scripture I actually know is John 3:16. Well I think I know it. Maybe just the first part. But anyways, he´ll for sure get baptized…maybe not while I’m here…but someday.

Franybeck and Carlos, the family who had us over for Christmas, are still more active than most of the members but won’t get married so they can’t get baptized. We have family home evening with them almost every week. Both of their children have said that they want to get baptized, so we are going to talk to them about that this week.

We’re also going to baptize two of the Kuna kids who are nine. Chamille and Chino. I don’t know Chino´s name but one time he got a haircut that made him look Chinese so I called him that and now everyone does.

Teaching the Kuna kids.

I wonder if this cute little girl is about to pull the hair on Taylor's arm.
We taught another awesome lesson to another Nicaraguan guy named Renee this week. There’s a little lawn next to the ocean, by the ruins, that we sometimes go to contact at, and we found this guy sitting on a rock under a tree, so we started talking to him then somehow got to teaching the Plan of Salvacion. He thought it was awesome and luckily my companion knows the scriptures much better than I, so he had everything to back it up. He said he wants to go to church too and that we could come by anytime this week.

In other news, we finally got bunk beds in our room, and as I was moving my mattress to the top I saw a little black spot on the side of it. So I poked it and like 20 bed bugs went running all over the place. And there were several of these little colonies of them. We were freaking out. We started squishing the ones on the ground and they were filled with blood. I have had an extremely itchy face rash as of late, which also covers the rest of my body and especially my right ear, and I think I found the reason. I ran to the kitchen and got matches and started burning all of them hiding in the mattress. And it was working until the freaking mattress caught on fire. So we start punching the mattress to put it out and like thirty seconds later it went out. Now my room smells like a burnt mattress, and there are still bed bugs, and everyone else in the house has discovered their mattresses have them too. So Young has moved to a tiny hammock on the balcony, and I’m just dealing for now. But I’m so freaking itchy.

One last thing. We went shopping before we came here and there’s this homeless guy, who’s a pro with crutches that hangs out in front of the store, that I always talk to. For some reason outside the Super 99 is the mecca for crippled homeless men. His name’s Wheatley, and I don’t know much about him but he always tell me to bring him something to read, in Spanish, English, Chinese, or Hebrew. So I’ve given him all the pamphlets for lessons and like twenty minutes ago I gave him a Libro de Mormon and I think he’s still reading it. Don’t know what else to do, but if he says he wants to come to church we´ll find a way to get him there.

That’s it for this week. We haven’t done anything fun today except throw paper airplanes off the roof of our building.

Love y’all!

Elder Green

Trekking up the hill.
The Ocean!!!

The crazy Elders I live with...
"Duros!" Basically a popsicle in a bag.
Made a little chiminea to roast my cookie.