Thursday, December 20, 2012

December 19, 2012

Family! Hi! 

First of all thank you for your birthday wishes and especially for your card, Dad! I never knew that you got out of an exam because of me. You're welcome :)

It turned out to be a pretty good birthday, but busy. It just happened to be transfer day as well. And so my biggest present this year was a new companion! Elder Berthon is my companion for the next 7 weeks (this transfer is long). He is from Bolivia but he has lived in Spain for the last 12 years, in Barcelona. He is a super good missionary. He works crazy hard. Elder Rigtrup and I worked, but Elder Berthon really understands how to give himself to the work. We are going to be a lot busier and hopefully see a lot more success. I´m super excited. I am going to learn and grow a ton this transfer, I can tell. Hopefully I can start becoming the missionary God wants me to be as well. And who I want to be.

That´s not to say it´s going to be easy. The language is already giving me a headache. There is a big difference between speaking Spanish in lessons and speaking Spanish all the time. I speak pretty well for the time I have, but I am seeing how much more I have to learn. A lot. The hardest part is just how much it costs me to speak. In English you don´t have to think about what you say, but it takes so much thought (and time) just to chat in Spanish, because I´m still learning. It´s different to not be able to switch back to English to talk about a lesson or just make conversation. It´s a relief to get home at night and be able to talk to Elder Levorson and Elder Fisher.

The other hard part is just realizing how much more I have to learn about the work and how much better I need to be. I don´t think Elder Berthon has ever had a companion as young as me before, so it´s hard for him to adjust to the fact that I´m still figuring things out. But we haven´t had any problems so far. He is actually always happy which is super nice.

So yeah, my birthday was pretty good. I didn´t get my cake until yesterday because we were so busy, but it was delicious! I didn´t open any presents yet. It´ll be cooler to open them Christmas day. We even have a tiny little Christmas tree to put them under :)

No worries about the video, it probably wouldn´t have fit anyway. They limit our attachments to something ridiculously small. The cake and letter and package were plenty. Thank you!

I don´t really have any requests on the family pictures. One from the family photo shoot would be great and any other good ones you can find. And they don´t all have to be the whole family together. Some of us hiking would be good too.

It hasn´t snowed yet here. The people say it only snows once or twice a year, so we´ll see. So far I am staying plenty warm, it´s not nearly as cold here as at home. And certainly not as bad as Logan.

Wow, I´m jealous of your Christmas break. Just chilling and watching movies sounds amazing right now! Though I would probably fall asleep during all of them. Así es la vida de un misionero. (Google translate that and see it says. I want to see how accurate Google is). X-men is awesome but make sure and get the Wolverine one as well. Haha, I´m not surprised that Bekah has been to see the Hobbit already! There are posters for it all over the place here and it´s killing me! It looks way good. I´m super mad that it´s a trilogy though. The Hobbit is about a third of any of the other books and those only got one movie each. Oh well. Hopefully they will all be out when I get home and we can have a super marathon of the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings together. Oh, and don´t worry about talking about home and that kind of stuff. That´s what I want to hear about. It´s refreshing to hear about something outside of life in the mission.

So, ¨bastante fuerte¨ means very or really strong. Unfortunately we haven´t had a chance to go back since, so I don´t know if they are going to act or not. I'll let you know though. Right now Elder Berthon and I are mostly focusing on finding new people and developing a relationship with the members so we can work with their help. If the missionaries ever ask to come to over and eat, don´t say no. It´ll make their day. Actually the elders in Utah probably don´t even have to buy food.

Well, that´s the news for the week. If I think of anything else important, well I´ll tell you to your face on Tuesday. I´m super excited to see and talk with you all. Oh, speaking of which we are scheduled for 6:00. I believe that should be about 10 in the morning your time. So be ready! Haha, I can´t wait to talk to you! I love you all! See you next week!

Elder Cousins

Thursday, December 13, 2012

December 12, 2012

Hello. hello. hello.
So I am having a hard time thinking of exciting things from the last week. Hopefully they will come to me as I write. 

Some news that may be important. President changed everything this week, so transfers will actually be on Monday (my birthday) , instead of after Christmas. I´m pretty sure I´m staying and I´m sure my companion is leaving. Rumor is that I´m getting a native companion. That should be interesting. The Christmas Skype call should still be the same. I´ll try and do it about 9 or 10 your time.

Nothing is really new with the work. Our investigators are slowly progressing. Carlos read, but didn´t pray. We had a bastante fuerte lesson with Bea and Kancho, telling them that now is the time to make a decision and to pray about fechas for their baptisms. They have a lot of faith, but need to act on it. I hope they will do what they need to. Pray for them. 

Today was temple p-day. Afterword we went and played soccer for a little while. It was all the Elders from our piso with our macthing Spain jerseys (speaking of which, would you want a jersy, Mom? I found the Spain ones for really cheap this week). We played until the B8 Elders came and reminded Rigtrup and me about our eating appointment with Francisco. Dominican food is the best. I am stuffed right now. So that was fun.

Well, I still haven´t thought of anything super cool from this week, so just a few fun stories. We always eat with a Pervian family (their son is a recent convert, but the dad is not a member) on Thursday nights. So this week we went by and Carlos (our investigator) and his wife were there. They are also from Peru. Anyway, for some reason we started taking pictures during dinner and Elder Rigtrup and I were laughing because Peruvians never smile in pictures. Both these families have pictures up on their walls where they're so stern. So we decided to do Peruvian pictures with them. We have a bunch of pictures now where we look super angry. The funny part is that they all smiled for some reason, so it´s just us who look mad in the pictures.

Oh, something I just remembered! Next time you send a letter or package, could you include some pictures of the family? There have been so many occasions where I wish I had some. Most missionaries here carry around a few in their scriptures. Investigators and members love looking at them. That would awesome to have, but it´s not like a rush or anything. Thanks! By the way the Christmas card was great! Thanks for that and for the birthday card from Dad. And GO AGGIES! I can´t believe how good they´ve done! 

Speaking of sending stuff :), deoderant is definitely a must! They have next to nothing here, just some weird stuff that doesn´t work. Peanut butter wouldn´t be terrible either.

That sounds like a pretty fun trip on the train, you know, minus the cold and the crazy people. How long did it take to go from AF to Salt Lake? Is that how you're going to send me back to school when I get back? My luggage and everything on the train? I´ll probably be pretty used to that by then. 

Mom, I am so glad that reference to Nacho Libre make you think of me. ¨It´s fantastic, I love it!¨ But seriously, I am.

Well I´ve got to head! Tell everyone good luck with their tests and projects! I hope your next batch of caramels turn out better. I love you all and I hope I make you proud. Thanks for everything!

Elder Cousins

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

December 5, 2012

I have got some fun stories this week and not very long to write so I´m going to launch right into it.
The first story is that I ate my weirdest (grossest) meal so far in the mission. A Peruvian member family invited all 6 of us in Barrio 6 over for lunch (the big meal is around 2:00, if I haven´t mentioned that before). They brought out a stew type thing that you eat over rice and wouldn´t tell us what was in it, which is never a good sign. Elder Rigtrup turned pale when it was brought out and said he had had a bad experience last time he ate it. Then he explained that it was intestines. So the lot of us had a great time struggling through plates of intestine stew and trying not to insult the members. It actually didn´t taste bad at all, but the texture was disgusting. It was really rubbery and slimy and just knowing what it was made it difficult to eat. It was actually a pretty funny experience because we were all there suffering together. We kept making funny comments (in English) about how there were intestines in our intestines (Inception, anyone?) and the like. My favorite was Hermana Cassinat: "Look, you can see the micro-villi!"
This Thursday we had zone conference with a Seventy there, Elder Richards, to teach us. It was really, really good. He talked about how we need to improve. We are behind in our mission in finding. He focused on improving finding and teaching. He talked a lot about teaching with simple truth, not elaborating or using weird examples. He said when we teach doctrine and bear testimony the Spirit can testify. He also stressed the importance of making sure your investigators understand, by asking questions and letting them talk. It was exactly what Elder Rigtrup and I needed to hear. We had a first lesson with Carlos, a father of a family who are all members, this week where we really focused on that. It was one of the best, most powerful lessons we have taught in a long time. We found out what one of his big concerns is, that he doesn´t know if the First Vision actually happened. It was an awesome opportunity to bear testimony and really help him. He has yet to read on his own, but we are really pushing him and keeping daily contact with him to help him progress. It was time for some changes and this seems to be working so far.
The other exciting part of zone conference was that President Jackson talked about his vision for the mission. He said that we get one baptism for every 100 people found right now. He said that we can to do better. In the next few months we will double the number of missionaries in the field, which will help a lot, but we still need to do better. Then he announced our goal for 2013: 1,000 baptisms. It´s an awesome goal and it won´t be easy, but I have no doubt that we will do it.
Sunday we had a huge combined stake conference to create the new Madrid Central Stake, which includes our barrio. It was really cool to see the church growing here in Spain. We also got to be in the same room as pretty much the entire church in Spain all at once.
And last story: today for P-day we went to Toledo! It was super cool! Toledo is this medieval town that has been preserved almost exactly the same as it was centuries ago. It´s way cool! All of it is old castles and tiny cobblestone streets (don´t worry, I took a lot of pictures). It is also the sword capital of the world, from what I could tell. Every shop had swords in it. Needless to say I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I especially liked the Lord of the Rings replicas, which were everywhere! They were super legit, but I didn´t end up buying anything. Maybe I´ll go back someday and buy myself Sting. Or Arwen´s sword, that´s a sweet sword! As you can see it was a ton of fun. Probably the best P-day so far. I hope I get to go again sometime.
Now, Dad, to respond to your e-mail. I´m glad you liked the birthday card, sorry it was late. We definitely will have a lot to talk about after 2 years.
As far as I know there actually isn´t any Spanish word for ¨greenie,¨ but I haven´t had any native companions or piso-mates yet. Well, Elder Peña, but he was a greenie. I feel fairly comfortable right now, but the idea of taking charge and really doing everything is a little scary. The idea of training next transfer, which could very well happen, really scares me. At the same time, I know I´ll be able to do it. I know that if I get assigned a new companion here or am assigned to train that it will be what the Lord wants me to do and therefore I will have His help in doing it. Which means that I will be able to do it just fine.
Yeah, the work has been a little hard lately. It´s just rough feeling like you have no one to work with. It´s especially hard when people you had won´t see you anymore, so you can't figure out how to help them, like with Albert. But we have Carlos and he is kind of the spark for me right now. More people will come, but I won´t lie, we need to work on finding better. We don´t tract/knock doors at all (I guess you get kicked out if you do), just street contacting. But we need to work on talking to everyone, though there are fewer and fewer people out. Contacting is difficult for me because it seems so ineffective. Almost no one wants to talk to you and most references are fake or fall through for some reason. But we are commanded to do them and I don´t I want to spend my whole mission dreading contacts, so I´m working on being better. We are also focusing on asking for references from everyone, which is slightly more effective. Still not high numbers, but the chance of actually meeting with someone are higher. What we really want are lessons with member refs in member´s houses. That would be awesome. We almost had one yesterday, but she fired us.
Thank you for your encouragement, though. It´s good to know that you are praying for me and that things will get better. I know you are right.
Speaking of thanks, I did receive my Christmas package! Thank you so much! I loved it, getting packages is the best. Those gloves are super nice and warm, the cake is going to be awesome for my birthday, candy is always wonderful and I absolutely love the Lego Hawkeye! I´m so glad you guys know what makes me happy! I didn´t realize you can buy just the figures alone. I want to get all the Avengers, for sure! I´m saving the box for Christmas day so I have a present to open :), but I will probably open the other wrapped one soon, since I´m pretty sure it´s scarf and I need one badly (if it´s a blanket, that´s awesome too).
Ah, I knew I shouldn´t have told you about Christmas presents yet! Don´t feel bad, its actually been way fun finding stuff for everyone. I can´t wait to hear what you guys think. And I bought your present today, so I should send it soon. As soon as I can find a box. I´ll include instructions as to whose present is whose and stories about where I found them. Trust me it´ll be fun :)
Ok, Christmas phone call will actually be Christmas Skype call. Which means we need to coordinate time and everything. I assume you will be home all day, so that I´ll just let you know as soon as I know what time we are going over to the member´s house. But you will need a Skype account set up and I´ll need to know the name of it and everything. I should be able to just set one up with this e-mail that day. We´ll make it work. It should be a lot of fun, I´m excited to see you all again!
 Well, I am out of time. Thanks for your e-mail and for always writing me. Thanks for love. To eveyone else who reads the blog, I love you all, thanks for your support and prayers. I hope everyone is safe and happy and looking forward to the Holiday season. See you next week!

Elder Cousins

Thursday, November 29, 2012

November 28, 2012

Hello, again!

Haha, I´m glad you enjoyed my tiny amount of knowledge about fútbol and Xabi Alonso. Am I worthy to wear the jersey? Haha! Wow, I didn´t know that he used to play for Liverpool! That explains why they´re not as good anymore. Just kidding, I have no idea how they are doing. Speaking of soccer I went to my one game of the mission yesterday! It´s actually a really sad story. The game was a complete bust. An investigator who is a season ticket holder had extra seats for Elder Rigtrup and me, but Rigtrup has already been to a game so he couldn´t go. I was planning on going with Elder Pluim, our old piso mate on exchanges, but it turned out the game was last night instead of the 17th like we thought. So our investigator called us last night and then we had rush over there and Elder Fisher ended up coming instead. All of this was fine (although it would have been cool to go on my birthday) and the game was free, the problem is that it was a second division game. So the second string team played. I didn´t get to see anyone I wanted to. They played Modrich, Benzema and Di Maria. They were the only even remotely good players on the field. The game was 0-0 until the last 20 minutes. Basically it sucked and I´m pretty upset that I wasted my one game on that. I didn´t even get to see Alsono play!! Oh, well, I´m sure I´ll get over it, but right now I´m pretty bummed.
So it turns out paella is pretty expensive (and hard to spell), but Elder Fisher and I did end up splitting one. We went near Sol to go to this cool Toledo shop that has swords and armor and ceramic stuff. They had some of the Lord of Rings weapons there and I bought some Christmas presents for people, so it was good. We´re planning on going to Toledo and the main shop there next week, but that´s a different story. Anyways, we got done at the shop and then we wanted to eat, but we were in Sol so everything was super expensive. We were also running out of time. So we ended up eating at this swanky restaurant and I spent 14 euros for a meal and to split a paella.The meal was small, but the paella was pretty big and it was good. It had chicken, mussels, and four giant shrimp in it. Whole shrimp. We had to peel off all their little legs and everything. It was good fun. It was pretty tasty though, and there was a lot of it. So that was our Thanksgiving. :) I´m glad that you got to spend Thanksgiving with some of the family (after all that). Just from what you made it sounds delicious!

Yeah, we had to do the YMCA again, but it wasn´t so bad. The talent show was actually a lot of fun! There were some great performances. My personal favorites were a cover of Pete Townsend´s ¨Let My Love Open the Door¨ (which is probably not the actual title), but with missionary lyrics and a Dear John version of ¨Hey Jude,¨ both all in Spanish of course. They were pretty hilarious, especially the Hey Jude one. After that Hna. Jackson brought out a ton of American Thanksgiving desserts that she made. That was incredible! I got to have pumpkin and apple pie, so it felt a little like home. :) It was a good time.
We e-mail from places called Locutorios. They are just a room full of computers and some phones.

That´s awesome that we have so many more missionaries leaving from our ward. And all Spanish speaking too! Haha, thanks, but they will probably just make fun of my Spanish. Luckily I will use all kinds of words that are swear words to them, but are just fine in Spain.
Birthday and Christmas package?! My family loves me! Thanks Mommy, that sounds awesome! Especially the warm stuff, it´s getting pretty freezing here. I just have to find a present for Dad (any ideas?) and then I will send your presents. So if you get a box from Spain, don´t open it until Christmas!
Thanks for your advice and encouragement. I promise to do better about being the example and not waste any time. I know how important it is. Thanks also for reminding me how important it is to plant seeds. I know you are right about that and it takes time. I have been feeling down about the work lately. Albert fired us (didn´t show) for the first time this week. I want so badly to help him, but I can´t if we can´t meet with him and talk to him. I don´t mind it taking time, it´s just that I feel like all the people we have aren´t progressing, or are even going the other way. But I know you are right. Who knows what will happen later on in their lives? Maybe now is not the time, but when the time comes they will remember what we have taught. I know the Lord has a purpose in me being here. And I have a long time ahead of me to teach lots of different types of people. I know if I stay faithful and obedient He will bless me with success and with the ability to bless other people. Anyway, thank you for your support and encouragement. It means a lot to me. I´m so grateful to have the blessings of the gospel and a family in the gospel. I love you. Thanks for your prayers. I promise to continue forward and do better.
I hope everyone has a great week! Do something fun and stay safe! I love you all!

Elder Cousins

Friday, November 23, 2012

November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope everyone is enjoying a day of good American food, family and friends. My companion and I as well as our piso-mates have decided to put a Spanish spin on our Thanksgiving. After this we are going downtown into Madrid to a café to eat as much paella as we can (afford). We are still going to the mission activity tonight for desert though. I wish we were going to watch a cheesy movie like you, Dad! Our activity is going to be a talent show and I have to dance the freaking YMCA again. Not fun. But other than that it should be a good holiday/p-day.
We´ve all become pretty close as a piso now. In fact we stayed up a little past 11 the other night playing Risk. It reminded me of when we used to play. I´m a lot better now, in fact I think I´m winning as of now (we only played about 2 turns each, so by the end of the transfer we may have finished a game). I´m glad that we have a fun time together.
Actually, I have felt a little worried lately. I feel like recently we´ve just been going through the motions in our lessons. I feel like I need to improve my teaching a lot and teach with more power. I guess that just comes through prayer and from focusing on the people and the work always. Anyways, just a feeling I´m having. Any advice or encouragement you have would be great. And of course your prayers always help, thank you for that.
I would like Mom to know that I paid an extra 18 euros to get my jersey printed specifically with Xavi Alonso´s name and number, that he plays midfield, can score a goal from the midline, and that I will be growing a beard like his as soon as I get home. Also I have the ultimate Real Madrid/Spain/fútbol in general fan as a companion, so if you ever have any questions, just ask me and I'll find out the answer from him. It is a pretty amazing jersey though, isn´t it? I love it.
The riot/strike didn´t bother us too much since it was p-day. The worst thing was that we had to walk an hour and half home at 10 at night because the metro was shut down. The funny thing was that all the demonstrators had to do the exact same thing because they shut the metro down. Serves them right. Also fun fact we learned about Spain after that: apparently after Franco was removed from power the people created a law that they can have strikes whenever they want and, get this, that there is an annual salary from the government for organizing strikes. Also, this is a law that can never be taken away.
That picture of the tree makes me want to cry! That´s so sad. That is a ton of snow! Has it continued to snow or was that just a freak storm? I love the girl´s costumes, haha! That is one happy nerd. Was Sarah silent all night then? Haha, that looks like it was way fun!
I´m not sure how you guys run things, but if you could make sure the following goes on the blog: "A shout out to Grandma and Grandpa: thank you so much for your card and for the pictures! Those really took me back, haha! Sorry that you haven´t heard from me, I tried to respond to your e-mail, but maybe it didn´t work. I have gotten your letters and I have been meaning to write one back, but I haven´t done it yet. I promise I will. Thanks for all the letters, I love hearing from you." Yeah. . . need I say more?
A funny story for you all from this week. We got a call from a group of college students who were doing some sort of project on the Mormon church and they wanted to know if they could interview us. We said okay and set up a time to meet at the temple. We get there and turns out they are film students. So they have this huge camera and a boom mike, the whole nine yards, right? It wasn´t a very long interview, but they were all very Spanish and I could not understand the questions hardly at all, but they wanted both of us to talk, so I tried my best and then Elder Rigtrup answered what they were actually asking. It was super embarrassing and now in some Spanish college there is a video of me rambling about the Word of Wisdom and sealing in the temple in terrible Spanish, and probably with subtitles so they can understand me.
Other than that the work is going pretty well. We have a recent convert who was practically inactive, who has completely changed this past week. He came to all of church and was super happy, talking to everyone. We have had a couple good lessons with him since and he has really opened up and showed desires to learn and continue forward.
Albert is pretty much our only investigator right now, and I´m little worried about him. He only came to one hour of church and he fired us for a Noche de Hogar with a member family. I think he is getting nervous, but I´m not sure why. But he is still a great guy and we want him to have the blessings of the Gospel too bad to lose hope. Other than that just pray that we can find some new people, we need more people and the excitement of someone new.
Well, I have to go now. Thank you all for everything. Thanks for love and support. Thanks for writing me every week and telling me about life in the outside world. I love you guys sooooooo much! I hope all is well and you have a wonderful Thanksgiving! Remember how much the Lord has blessed us. Until next week.

Elder Cousins