Querida amiga mia,
!Ayala vida! (A Panamanian expression akin to "oh, my goodness!")
I think it's been like 3 months since I sent you a nice, handwritten letter.
Oct 3, 2010
...And that pathetic excuse for a beginning to a letter should give you an indication as to why it's difficult for me to get everything I want to done on P-days. Wow.
ANYWAY...I feel like I have so much updating to do! Howsabout a quick little recap of events since the last time I wrote:
- I stayed in my area (David) but with a new companion: Hna. Perez from Honduras. Coincidentally, she and Hna. Castro (my old comp) are from the same neighborhood and arrived together on the mission. But the similarities stop there, I'm afraid. That transfer was tough. I don't want to relive it on paper but I will with great happiness tell you all about it one day when I can do a live re-enactment. I added a lot of material to the future novel/CDS drama. It ended all right, though, and I'm happy to say we're on good terms. I never appreciate those so-called "growing experiences" when I'm in them but they always make me laugh looking back. Such is life.
- Good thing from my transfer with Hna. Perez: we had the baptism of 17-year-old Natasha who is a DOLL. (She actually called me a couple of nights ago to wish me a late Happy Birthday. Sweet Kid!)
- We had our first interviews with President Ward, who I'm convinced was sent from Heaven directly to this mission. He's so great - always positive, always smiling and always doting on the hermanas. (Hna. Ward tells him, "Dear, don't make it so obvious." We are very well taken care of and I feel like I've got my parents here.
- President knew things were tough with Hna. Perez, so he moved me from David right into the heart of the city with Hna. Calderon, whom I've worked with before when I was sent to help her out for a week in my 2nd area, Chorrera. I could write an entire letter about Hna. Calderon. I've really grown to love this crazy little Peruvian who's literally half my size. We're quite a pair, the two of us. Sometimes when we're walking in the streets I'll glance sidelong at her and just start laughing because I imagine how strange we must look to passersby.
We just got back from zone P-day! (Hence, the change in ink color.) IT really does pay to be in the Panama Zone for P-days because we have access to just about everything: major historic sites, tourist attractions and malls. Kind of feels like I'm in the States sometimes. It's weird. You're going to have to reteach me how to socialize in English because I've found that I'm incredibly awkward around Americans. This is mostly due to the fact that I'm thinking in Spanish all the time and I translate things literally. Here's a small sample of things I've said:
"I have 22 years."
"Oh...that gives me pain!"
"I have hunger!"
Spanish words are always creeping into my English conversations, but sometimes it works the other way. My companion will ask me something and I'll reply, "I dunno...er...inose!" My brain's having trouble with all this rewiring. In 9 months it can only get worse.
And speaking of 9 months...as that is the time I have left, I now give you the "green light" on that future family of yours. I know I'll be home for little Jamie/Jaro junior, so you're good to go! By the way, HAPPY ANNIVERSARY in a few days! That completely blows my mind. I was thinking today about how you, Marissa, Scotti and I watched "Father of the Bride" the night before your wedding remembering with great fondness how we got all teary and nostalgic. If you play your cards right, we could be doing the same thing with "Father of the Bride II" when I get back...or if Marissa and Scotti are on the marriage boat we could do it with the first. Rest assured that I will not be jumping on that boat any time soon. One of the blessings of the mission has been to teach me how I need to be extremely careful about whom I choose to spend the rest of eternity with. I have to marry somebody who has the same goals, principles, values and who will just be fun around. While everyone is equal in the eyes of the Lord, He made us all distinct and I've learned that humans are like ice cream - certain flavors just don't blend (I say this from experience. Note: papaya and raspberry do NOT go together.)
Don't get me wrong - I want to get married. Every time I see a cute little family sitting together in church, I think, "Aww...I want that!" But I can wait for it. We'll see what the Lord's plan is.
What I want to know is how was your first year of marriage? I'm sure you could tell me a thing or two. I have in my mind this picture of you with your professional job (which I want to hear more about!) coming home at the end of the day, making a delicious Jamie meal and then sitting down on the couch to watch a football game with Shehan. Is that an accurate picture?
I sure miss you and that hubs of yours. I'm sure you're doing great and getting excited for your Hawaii trip - and yes, I want pictures! I'm happy that you're both working hard and having fun while I'm away. You certainly deserve to enjoy yourself.
Thank you so much for your insights in each letter you send. I'm always impressed by how spiritually mature you are, James. What you said about being sober and waiting on the Lord in your last letter really rang a bell with me. I think there's definitely a balance that has to be struck in life. We can't be too frivolous but neither can we be too serious. I have my moments on the mission when I'm too tightly wound and just need to enjoy myself - but if I'm having too much fun I start to feel guilty. The trick is finding the right time for everything. (See Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. I'm not making it up.)
I miss you and I wish you could be here with me to...
...to see how incredibly crazy busy this mission life s as it is now October 17th and I have been writing this letter for nearly a month. Man. I'll probably be handing this to you when I get off the plane if I continue at this rate.
So right now I'm listening to "I'll Go Where You Want Me To Go Dear Lord" and thinking of how we sang this in church when I was filling out my mission papers. I had no idea that a year later I'd be here writing to you from my leaky little apartment in Panama. It's crazy all of the parallels that exist between the mission and the Plan of Salvation, actually.
I left my home, my family, my friends and everything that was familiar knowing it was going to be hard but trusting that it would all be worth the sacrifice. I get to learn and progress, experience a lot of trials and blessings and meet many different amazing people. I can't say I was fully prepared for everything that's come along but I also can't deny that absolutely everything has, in the end, been for my good. Though there are many things I wouldn't care to relive, I'll always be grateful for the experiences I've had here. The mission molds you in ways you don't even realize. It's an incredible blessing and my perspective's been widened a little. In the same way that I want to make my parents proud and return with honor at the end of my mission, I want to "return home" with honor at the end of all things to my Heavenly parents. That'll be a happy day, don't you think?
I could go on for pages but I think I better finish this letter before the end of the year, so we'll just leave it at that with a promise that you will be hearing more in the future.
Already past the halfway point, James. I think I'm gonna cry. This place is my home. These next 8 months will be awesome for the two of us. I have no doubts.
I love you so much.
Hermana Allie Brewster