Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Ambohimanarina, Madagascar Week 2 - Monkeys and Rongony

December 29, 2014

This week was pretty good, it had it all, from monkeys to rongony (marijuana). This week I have noticed that I am able to understand Malagasies a lot better. Last week I could discern a word or two in a sentence, but now I can make out 3 and sometimes even 4. From this data we can conclude that my language comprehension ability has improved two-fold. Madagascar is a swell place.

Early on in the week, Elder Schroedter and I went contacting around Ambohimararina. On our way across a thin path through the rice paddies, we realized that we were lost, and didn't know which fork in the 1-foot wide path we should take. As we began to head down the path that we thought was the most correct, a fellow in his late 20's corrected us. He told us that we should turn around and so we did, while travelling along this new path we, again, spotted the same fellow. This time the man was sitting down with his friend and what I concluded was the friend's young son. They beckoned us over and wished to talk with us, so we came. As we came nearer I noticed that they had in their hands what appeared to be seeds of a plant of some sort and pieces of paper. My suspicions were confirmed when the man in his late 20's asked, "Te-hifoka Rongony ve ianareo?" (Do you guys want to smoke weed with us?) So naturally my companion and I accepted. Who could refuse homemade Rongony? (just kidding, we sharply refused. Obey the Word of Wisdom) Elder Schroedter told them that our church believes that illegal drugs are not to be consumed. While he was introducing himself, he handed the first man his plaque so that he could read the small letters. But rather than handing him back the missionary badge, the Malagasy in his late 20's put the plaque on himself. (Even without strong and convincing proof I'm fairly certain the man was stoned) Elder Schroedter then asked for his badge politely, but alas, it was to no avail. After a few minutes of the back and forth asking and refusing (and the smoking of the rongony by the Malagasies), the fellow's friend took the badge and gave it back to Elder Schroedter when the fellow in his late 20's wasn't paying attention. We then quickly yelled Mazotoa! (diligence) and left them to their hard work. In Madagascar lots of people smoke rongony, I am pretty sure it is legal here.

A few days ago, Elder Schroedter and I taught a lesson that he remarked was, "The coolest lesson I have ever taught". After a long day of contacting we arrived at a red gate. After knocking, an older Malagasy gentleman opened the door and spoke to us in French. "Bonjour! Comment ├ža va?" He then realized that we were Mormons and got excited, yet cautious. He said, "I won't let you in because I don't want to have to get baptized, but I want to learn more about what Mormons believe in". My companion reassured him that we would only teach him, baptism wasn't our goal. He then let us in. As we entered into his home, he asked us something in Malagasy, he noticed by the puzzled looks on our faces that we didn't understand his question. It was then that we learned that he spoke near flawless English. No Malagasies can speak any English really, so to learn that he was near fluent made us excited. As we began teaching, he asked us a question about what we believe about the Holy Trinity. He then stopped us and began sharing with us his own beliefs. He started by saying that he believes that God is a spirit only, and that he was confused by a scripture that said something like, "God created man in his own image" He asked us (in English mind) "How could God create man in his image if God is only a ghost, just air?" We shared an article of faith and then he shared a story with us. He said that for a time he worked in Senegal in Africa. And one day he went to the zoo and saw a peculiar sight. He said that he saw a monkey that was smoking cigars, visitors to the zoo would throw cigarettes into the monkey's cage, and then the monkey would smoke them. He also added that whenever a guard came close, the monkey would throw the cigarette away. He then said that he was just like the monkey, in terms of behaviors and such. He then said that that day at the zoo a question that he had personally was answered, "He wondered about the beginning of the human race, and whether Adam and Eve were the first humans on Earth or not". He told us that Adam and Eve weren't in fact the first humans on Earth, but that they were the first to receive the breath of life from God. I am pretty sure that he believes in evolution, and that was the basis of his story. He then said that he wondered why Cain was afraid of being killed by other humans if the only humans on Earth were Adam, Eve, Cain, and Able. He concluded that Adam and Eve weren't the first of the human race to have existed, but the first to receive the breath of life from God. I'm running short on time so I summarized the story pretty heavily, but I was shocked by how smart and deep-thinking "T---" was. He has really thought hard about religion and life and such. We then shared a lesson dipping into many areas of our beliefs like Joseph Smith, The Book of Mormon, and the articles of Faith. After an hour we asked if we could return, and he said yes. He told us that he has many questions about the Mormon faith. T--- is a pretty cool dude.

Well, I'm just about out of time. I regret to announce this is the end. I am going now. I bid you all a very fond farewell. Goodbye.

Elder Anderson

Rice paddies in Ambohimanarina, Benjamin's first area, pictures taken by Elder Hein one of Elder Anderson's roomates and zone leader.

Close up of a rice paddie path.

Benjamin's Christmas skype.

Mom Questions
: How are you feeling.
: Fine. I have all of these red itchy bumps on my arms and legs and everyone. what are they?
Mom: From what I've read on other Mada mission blogs they are flea bites, there's not a lot you can do about them - sorry, they are quite a nuisance! You can try to vacuum your apartment a lot and wash your sheets with permethrin you can get from the mission home - but you will likely pick them up at investigators homes anyway.
: How many people fit in a taxi be?
: I am not sure, a lot are crammed in.
: Did it make you homesick to skype?
: No
: When is your next meeting or visit to the mission home and is that the only time you get dear elder letters?
: Not sure and yes.

Excerpt from Mom's email to Elder Anderson
I used you in my young womens lesson today and they were touched by your example. I told them the story of how our family did our traditional sub for santa. We all loaded up in the minivan Christmas Eve to deliver clothes, food and some fun things to a family in need. All the kids got out of the car and carried the bags to the doorstep, then Rachel rang the doorbell. They all got back in the car quickly. Dad said he thought someone had stepped in dog crap and the car smelled awful! We got home, everyone checked their shoes and Isaac, Hannah and William had stepped in it. William's boots were the worst. He had stepped on both seats in the minivan, and on Grace (she had poo on her legs and on her jammies) as he had climbed over the seat to get in the back. There was dog crap all over the place. As I sat in the freezing cold garage scrubbing poo out of their shoes, both van seats and the van carpet - it was hard not to have a really bad attitude and wonder how something so disgusting could happen when we were serving and giving of ourselves. I wanted our family to feel the true meaning of Christmas and instead they were all grossed out. I got the distinct impression at that moment that it was not about me or my family - it was about the family that we served and then I got the impression that said 'Your son serves everyday in situations much worse and doesn't complain!' It is not about the condition - it is about the service. I had wondered if our kids would be able see the good after such a gross experience. Then at dinner tonight Hannah, Isaac, Johnathan and Rachel explained how they told their classes at church that they got to do sub for santa to help a family and how happy it made them to be able to serve. I am so glad that they were able to catch the real meaning of it all - even with the dog poo. I am grateful for you Benjamin! I admire the service that you so freely give, even with the poor conditions that you must give it in. It's not about the sewage - it's about the service - haha. I am touched by your willingness to serve in the conditions that you do - you are such a great example to all of us.

Side note: During Elder Anderson's Christmas skype he mentioned to us - without any complaint - that he walks daily through sewage during this rainy season because the sewage is on top of the roads and they become a 'river of poo'. 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Ambohimanarina, Madagascar Week 1

First week in Madagascar!!                        December 22, 2014

Hello everyone. I just finished my first week in Madagascar. The plane ride was pretty miserable towards the end. On the flight from London to Johannesburg they served some pretty funky food for Dinner. When I opened the main course the smell overwhelmed my senses. It was pretty terrible, imagine the smell of burned plastic mixed with some rotten sweet potatoes or something, it was extremely bad. It was so bad, in fact, that for the next three days I would smell that same horrid smell almost everywhere I went. Somehow my nose would know how to locate and target that smell in everything. My blanket had that smell, the planes had the smell, and when I first got to Madagascar I could only smell that smell. I felt like I was going to throw up everywhere I went, just because of the nasty British food they served. I don't think I am ever going to think about, let alone eat, Airplane food again. Anyways enough of that, just a word of advice to you all: never order the rice with Sweet Potato on your flights leaving London, you will regret it the rest of your days.

And know concerning Madagascar. Madagascar is an extremely different place than the United States, but it doesn't bother me much. It is a very poor country, most people live in small one room houses or even smaller shacks. The entirety of the capital has an odd smell (Not the nasty burnt plastic potato smell) that I have gotten used to after a day. If I remember correctly the smell comes from the way that the Malagasy people make bricks, burning dirt or something, I'm not exactly sure but you can look up the exact method if you wish. In my area we don't get to use cars, instead we get to ride Taxis and Taxi be's. A Taxi Be is a Mercedes Benz that is full of seats and extremely cramped. It doesn't help that I am taller than the small Gasy people; taller in the regular sense and taller sideways. I always look forward to the multiple times I get to literally sit on top of Malagasies on the Taxi Be. One time I was sitting in the front seat of a Taxi Be and I heard an opposing Taxi Be driver shout to my driver saying "Manana ny Fahaza ianao" (You have a Fahaza) and he responded with "Fahaza roa" (He had two Fahazas me and my companion) Fahaza is a word that the Malagasy people all use to mean Foreigner or Outsider, it is a fairly strong and harsh word. Whenever I pass children at play they will always say "Bonjour Fahaza" or "Cava Fahaza?" as the majority of the few white people at Madagascar are people from French. After that I will usually respond with "Manahoana Gasy" (How are you Gasy?) and they will usually start laughing because they never have seen a Fahaza speak Malagasy. People here on the streets are always surprises and excited whenever a white guy speaks Malagasy.

I have a few investigators right now, I don't remember all of their names but yeah. Most of them are really poor and don't have much. I can understand a little of what they say. The first day here I couldn't understand anything haha, I wasn't used to their accent. I am serving in the capital of Antananarivo in a place called Amboimanarina or something. Most of the people that we teach live out of the way, we have to cut through a lot of small dirt roads and such. There is a certain road that I have walked many a time that is very small and right next to a sewage-ish river or something. It is a very small path, about a foot wide, and on the other side is a river of crap (in the literal sense of course) so if I fall then I am going to have a bad day. Some parts of the city smell like sewage, mainly because their sewage is either on top of the roads or a foot below the road level. Nothing like the good 'ol smell of Tana in the morning. 

The food isn't bad, not my favorite though as I don't really like rice and that is their main food here. The Senior Couples in the office say not to eat food and drink off of the street vendors, but all of the missionaries do it, so I follow suit. I still haven't gotten diarrhea yet but there is a 99 percent chance I will. I was amazed to discover that all of my roommates had experiences (plural) where they actually crapped themselves, something to look forward to I guess. It is almost a rite of passage to have your first experience where you poop yourself. The missionaries with the funniest stories are considered legends almost. But yea, back to food. There is a nice store like Walmart where the food is all packaged and clean that I can purchase food from. It is fairly close to my house, just a short walk always. My diet consists of Coke, Corn flakes, Ramen noodles, and Rice (in that order). 

I don't really have any funny experiences to share about my mistakes in the language, no one has started to laugh hysterically after I have borne testimony yet so I think I'm doing pretty decent. There is one family that always corrects every word whenever it was pronounced wrong. We mainly just read chapters of the Book of Mormon with them rather than teach specific lessons, so there is a lot of correcting going on. It is pretty humorous. The family consists of an older couple in their 60's, their daughter, and their 2 grandchildren, along with a family friend. The older man in his 60's has the most trouble with reading words in the Book of Mormon, so he is corrected the most. As soon as someone utters a word incorrectly, the rest of the family will all correct in unison. They haven't corrected me yet, I try to be very careful when I read. They are probably just being polite to the new missionary I imagine. 

The weather here is extremely hot and humid. I take a shower in the morning and stay wet the rest of the day. It is something that you have to get used too, it doesn't bother me as much anymore. The difference in color between my arm and the area where my watch is pretty drastic. It goes from American-Boy White to American-Boy Red. A non-subtle change. 

There are a lot of wild dogs that roam the streets, they are all very small and very, very dirty. There are also some areas where people will have chickens and roosters (also very dirty and thin). Whenever i walk by the chickens they all turn their heads and watch me, while clucking harshly, I imagine they are attempting to formulate the phrase everyone is saying (bonjour fahaza). But yeah, the chicken coops do not smell like a chocolate factory, that much I can say.

Well, I should probably wrap up the email now, if there are any questions just email me and I will try to respond to them. But yeah, Madagascar is an interesting and unique place. I have been craving Nachos all week so eat some for me. Haven't seen Nachos here yet haha.

Elder Benjamin Anderson

(P.S. sorry about any mistakes I made in the email (and in my life), the internet here is French, so spellcheck just marks every English word wrong. The keyboards in this Internet Cafe (Cyber) are also rubbish (the flight was too long from London, "Place your rubbish in this bin please, place your rubbish here!"))

***From Sister Cloward, the mission secretary a day or two after Benjamin arrived.
Good morning,
His luggage all arrived with him.
He will be serving in Ambohimanarina with Elder Schroedter; Elder Gariki and his trainer, Elder Razazakamandimby are living in the same house with them.
He seems to be doing well, and is excited to be here.
Sister Cloward

***Elder Anderson did not have his camera with him so Mom found these pics from other elders of his apartment and area.

The church house where Benjamin went to church Sunday.

First companion and trainer, Elder Schroedter from Texas and Benjamin's living area.

Dining area in first apartment, Thanksgiving dinner and turkey the elders bought live and prepared for dinner.

Benjamin's companion Elder Schroedter far left plucking a chicken for dinner and Benjamin's messy kitchen. :) Benjamin has heard that his apartment is the dirtiest missionary one in Madagascar.

Benjamin's backyard area and a chicken about to become dinner.

Elder Schroedter and Benjamin's apartment.

Elder Schroedter after falling in a rice paddie and 
Benjamin's bed area.

The walls around Benjamin's apartment that fell down during a rain storm.

Benjamin's first area, Ambohimanarina - the northern most mission in Antananarivo. You can see the new stake center that is almost finished to the left of the US embassy.

*Pics from Elder Hein and Elder Schroedter.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Elder Anderson arrived safely!

We received this email 12 a.m. December 18th:

Good morning Brother and Sister Anderson,

We are just getting the new Elders into their Training meetings with their Trainers and then I am planning to send pictures of the new missionaries to their parents.

They all arrived safely yesterday afternoon.  After we took care of their paperwork, we fed them dinner and then they went home with the Assistants for a good nights sleep.

At breakfast this morning they were all doing well and are eager to ‘get started’.  They will spend today ‘in training’ and then travel to their assigned area with their Trainer.

We look forward to having Elder Anderson serving with us here in Madagascar.  He is going to be an amazing missionary.

Sister Cloward

President and Sister Adams with Elder Anderson

Elder Gariki, Elder Anderson and Elder Tangarasi - MTC and travel companions

Over 50 hours of travel to Madagascar!

We have been tracking Elder Anderson's flights. He left the MTC Monday morning, Dec. 15th. His first flight was to Dallas where he called us around 6 p.m. Monday evening. Then he flew through the night to London. His next flight was to Johannesburg, South Africa. He made it to South Africa around 10:30 p.m. Tuesday evening our time and 6:30 a.m. Wednesday morning Madagascar time. That is where his flight itinerary that he got from the MTC ended. Then he was told someone would meet him and then they (he and his 2 MTC companions) wait for a plane to take him to Madagascar. Apparently Air Madagascar only flies when they have filled a flight - usually once per day.

This is a video of a flight (not his) landing in the Madagascar

Drive from the Madagascar Airport to downtown Madagscar -
from youtube.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Picture from the Airport!

A nice gentleman took a picture of Benjamin's Group at the Salt Lake City Airport! He texted it to all the missionary parents. It was so awesome to get a picture of him! We were able to talk with him once he arrived in Dallas. He is doing well. Right now he is on his way to London. From there he will fly to Johannesburg, South Africa. That is were his travel plans end. Madagascar is such a poor country that they only fly planes if they are full. Benjamin will stay in Johannesburg until there is a plane that is full and will take him to Madagascar. It is anticipated that it will take around 54 hours for him to get to Madagascar!

The following is the letter the Mission President sent to Benjamin when he got his call. It tells a little about the uniqueness of the country of Madagascar.

Dear Elder Anderson,                          July 23, 2014

Congratulations! We are happy that you have been called to serve with us in the Madagascar Antananarivo Mission in the islands of the Indian Ocean.  Our missionaries are among the finest in the Church and your call shows that the Lord has great confidence in you.  This mission is one of the most diverse in the world as it includes cultural influences from Asia, Africa, and Europe.  It is probably one of the farthest missions from Church headquarters in Salt Lake City. 

The Madagascar Antananarivo Mission includes the islands of Madagascar, La Reunion and Mauritius.  Poverty is pervasive in Madagascar and living conditions here are more difficult than those to which you have probably been accustomed.  Nevertheless, our missionaries are adequately housed and can follow established guidelines to maintain good health.  The Church has grown more rapidly in Madagascar than on the other islands.  Two stakes have been established in Antananarivo and the Mission looks over several districts and branches in Antsirabe, and in Toamasina on the east coast. There are also other branches in other areas in Madagascar.

We teach the gospel in Malagasy in Madagascar, but French is also spoken by most of the people in the main cities. The inhabitants of Madagascar are warm and hospitable.  Many of them have been prepared and are waiting for an opportunity to hear and accept the gospel.  You will grow to love them and to love your companions.  We know you will experience great personal growth.

Before you enter the MTC, we encourage you to continue daily prayer and study of the Book of Mormon to prepare yourself spiritually, mentally and emotionally to serve in this great mission.

With love and respect,
 President David R. Adams
 Sister Anna M. Adams

Thursday, December 11, 2014

First Letters home From Elder Anderson

Letters home for the little kids. Benjamin sure loves them!
* Benjamin drew a cute little version of a picture Hannah drew and sent to him. :)*
*Isaac had asked Benjamin to guess who he was when he sent him a letter. He also wrote to Benj that he would keep his legos safe :) *
*Johnny had asked Benj if he had any baptisms yet - haha. :) *

Antananarivo, Madagascar Mission, MTC Week 5

December 11, 2014

So I leave to Madagascar in 4 days from today, I am way excited. Let's just hope that I Don't get infected with the Black Death while I am there. The flight looks pretty miserable haha, it is supposedly going to take 54 hours to get from Salt Lake to Madagascar. If I remember correctly, Madagascar is the farthest country from Utah. 

This week has been pretty good so far. The 1st Counselor was MIA on Tuesday during the District Meeting so we combined our 3-member district with an 11-member one. It was a miraculous feeling having other missionaries besides me conversing in the Devotional Review. I am very glad that Sunday will be my last 3-Member District Meeting (hopefully). 

At this moment in time I feel fairly adequate in my language ability. My teachers have all told me that I am doing the best out of the 3 of us. Last week we had some 1 on 1 team (Teacher and Student) and whereas my companions were reviewing grammar principles that they individually struggled with during that time, my teacher just had a conversation with me in Malagasy. One of my teachers remarked that I, "Must have a photographic memory or something" due to the fact that almost all of the words that I see I can remember. I personally feel that my short-term memory is very good, in contrast with my less-than-perfect long-term memory. During school whenever I would take a test all I had to do was review the new information for a nearly non-existent amount of time the night before, the next test I would easily ace the test. As soon as I was done with the test the information left my memory.

Well I am out of time for today, the next time I email you I will be across the world in Africa. 

Elder Anderson

Antananarivo, Madagascar Mission, MTC Week 4

December 4, 2014

Manohoana olona tsara!
I would say that this week has gone by fast, but I wouldn't want to be cliche. I personally don't like it when people say that time has gone by fast. If you think about it time in general just moves fast. In the moment it feels like no time has passed since birth. I feel like the time right now is the only time, it doesn't feel like there was time before today. And tomorrow, today will just be a memory. Truthfully time does go by fast, and after it has passed it feels like it never happened.

Anyways, enough of that train of though, whatever it was. This week I would say has been successful. My knowledge and skill in the Malagasy Language is ever improving daily. I can teach most of the lessons in Malagasy. All i really need to do now to improve my language ability is to study and learn new words and extreme grammar principles.

Not a lot has happened this week, just the usual daily MTC schedule: Wake up, eat, sit in class, eat, sit in class, eat, sit in class, sleep, repeat. I have found a new-found love for four-square during my minuscule gym time. I have gotten fairly decent at the game I would think, sometimes I even almost break a sweat. The MTC choir is nice, although the songs are extremely easy; nothing like the songs I used to sing in my High School choir, but I reckon they can only expect so much from 2 1-hour long practices with a lot of people who have never sang before in their life. Last week we had an extra practice for the Thanksgiving Fireside, so I sadly (thankfully) had to miss my 3-Elder district meeting devotional review. There are only so many words I can conjure up to fill an hour with the Branch President, his wife, and my two Foreign companions. I actually had an experience earlier this week to combine my District Review with another district because the Second Counselor of the Branch Presidency was out of town. It amazed me how less stressful the District Reviews are when there are 12 members of a district all talking and sharing their thoughts, rather than just one lone wolf attempting to entertain a Branch President, his wife, a French speaking Tahitian, and a Bislamic speaking Elder from Vanuatu.

A few days ago I was teaching one of my faux-investigators (teachers) about the Word of Wisdom. We were doing a specific activity where we would prepare for 5 mins and then tach for 5. Most of the things I said were created on the spot. About a third into the lesson I asked him the following question, "Misy ny sigara ve ianao?" And I was attempting to ask him if he had a smoking problem, but instead I said, "Do you have a cigar available?" like I was asking him if I could have a smoke. I realized my mistake and we both laughed a little. The best way to teach about keeping the Word of Wisdom probably doesn't include asking for a cigar in the middle of the lesson.

Well my companions are telling my that our times is up so this is the end. I forgot to mention that I am now a zone leader. In 11 days I will be leaving the MTC for Madagascar!

With love,
Elder Anderson

Antananarivo, Madagascar Mission, MTC Week 3

November 27, 2014

I thought I would write with a little holiday humor today, I hope you enjoy - haha.

Today is a special Thanksgiving schedule consisting of only the best activities; including but not limited to eating a special Thanksgiving Dinner (a sack lunch: the kind we usually eat on P-day for Lunch) and participating in a Humanitarian Project. Not included in today's schedule: Temple, laundry, emails, preparing, sleeping. Technically speaking I'm not supposed to be writing today. Instead of a p-day today we get a busy Thanksgiving schedule (which doesn't include dinner) so hopefully my clothes won't smell too awful after 2 weeks. Elder Bednar came to the devotional in the morning today and hosted a Q&A session, so naturally by dumb luck only the poorly thought 2nd-grader questions got answered. I won't share any with you in the hope that your minds may be spared.

I am learning the language at a good pace, I can say lots of things relating to church-matters. When my teacher speaks in Malagasy I can understand a lot of it, but not all of it. I am ahead of my 2 companions language-wise from what I can discern. My favorite part is learning, the rest I am not too fond of. The devotionals with the random people that no one really knows usually put me to sleep, an uncomfortable sleep mind. There was one specific instance where the entire 30 mins of some random 2nd counselor of the managing district or something just used up his talk time by having random Elders and Sisters from the audience read pre-chosen verses of scriptures, it seemed to me as if we I heard the entirety of the book of Alma shared in the longest half an hour in my life.

Right now my district is supposed to be doing activities in the classroom as decided by the District Leader like writing in journals, reading the scriptures, or studying the language. But as I am the district leader (it was either me or my companions who don't speak English) we are instead illegally using the computer to email. Out of the 4 Thursdays I have been here I have only had 2 P-days, kind of sad if you think about it. I wouldn't judge if you all shed a tear on my behalf.

There are only 2 and a half weeks left at the MTC, so I am filled with joy. Soon I will be out of the fire and into the frying pan.

My teacher shared a few stories about his mission that I thought were funny. One of the stories was when his companions messed up a word and when trying to say Joseph smith was killed by evil men, instead said "Joseph Smith was breastfed by evil men" that was pretty funny. The other funny story he shared was when his companionship was teaching and his companions said, "When we read the Book of Mormon we get naked" the investigators were taken back and responded, "Wait, you have to get naked to read the Book of Mormon?" and the companion responded with a sincere "Marina izany" (which means that is true). I thought that that story was pretty funny. The verb to get strong and to get naked are very similar in Malagasy. To get strong is Matanjaka and to get naked is Matanjika. My teacher's companion was trying to explain that, "When we read the Book of Mormon we get power"

Well my time is running short, I can hear the MTC police walking down the hallway. I just wanted everyone to know that I love them all. Good luck in life.