Getting Used to Mission Life

Dear Family,                                                                      February 27, 2012
El Salvador is still pretty tough but it is getting a little better here. I am starting to understand people a little bit more and am getting used to it a little more here too. I am feeling a lot better now than I was and I´m not sick anymore, but I am not used to it here still.

I really like my companion, but the language barrier between us is pretty tough. My companion is actually really good about not answering the questions people ask about me.  He always says that I can understand and to ask me, so that is really good.  I have learned a lot from him.

I´m trying to keep a positive attitude about everything, but it´s really hard to do sometimes.  I am getting better with it though.  Everyone here says that things get a lot better after the first transfer and time starts going by a lot faster.

El Salvador is pretty rough and I´m not the biggest fan of my area right now.  The area I´m in is always noisy and I never get enough sleep, which is making these first few weeks go by even slower.  This morning, I got woken up at 3am and couldn’t get back to sleep after that, so I just laid there for three and a half hours.  I wish it was quiet at least every once and awhile, but it is extremely loud.  Almost everyone here makes their cars as loud as they can and it´s annoying, but I´m trying to get used to it.  I would have to say that I like living in a place that is not constantly loud though.  I really miss how quiet our house is. There is always a bus or something else going by and they are all way loud.

There are tons and tons of busses here and every single one of the drivers is crazy.  They are always cutting each other off and doing all sorts of stuff to get in front of people.  It is a competition here to get the most passengers in a day so they are all pretty much running each other over just to get the edge.  It seems like the only requirement to be able to be a bus driver is that you are able to find the floor with the gas pedal! Haha.

The air here is pretty gross too.  There are no regulations for cars, so they all pollute the air really bad.  Also, the rivers here aren´t natural rivers anymore.  They are the sewage water that is getting sent out to the ocean.  They smell horrible!! haha

I am getting to where I understand spanish better and can converse with a lot of the people here.  There are some people that talk really fast though and I can´t understand them that well yet.  In one of the families that we are trying to re-activate, they all like to talk over each other and pretty soon there is four people talking at the same time.  Well I just space out after a minute or two of not being able to understand a word they are saying, and then they look to me for an answer to a question that they had aparently asked me.  My mind was just off in space though and I had no idea what they were talking about though. I had to have them repeat it again.  For all of my friends that are going to speak another language on your missions, you are going to be doing that a lot.  And when I say a lot, I mean a ton!

My mission president is a pretty cool guy.  He interacts with us a lot and always likes to go out and have some fun.  The stay in the mission home was a lot better than my apartment.  I would wipe off the counters with disinfectant except for the fact that we don´t have any.  We don´t have a table or anything either.  [Mom wrote for him to get some disinfectant and spray everything since he had been so sick.]  I don´t use my desk either because it is in what used to be the bedroom and I can´t even hear myself talking in that room.  It is so loud in our apartment that I can´t even hear my companion a lot in the quietest room of the three.

There is tons of fruit here, and I honestly don´t really know what my favorite is.  The pineapple and watermelon is way good and the season for oranges is starting now too. There are little stores here everywhere and you can buy things for really cheap.  My favorite is the Chocobananos.  They are frozen bananas that are covered in chocolate with crushed peanuts or something in the chocolate.  You can buy one for 15 or 20 cents.  Another great thing is the papusas.  They are so good!  It is a batter type thing that has beans and cheese in it.  Then they put it on a griddle and cook it.  The closest thing I can describe that it looks like is a pancake.  Most of the food here is really good though!

Well I hope that everyone is doing well and having an awesome week!  Love you all!
Con amor,


First Week in El Salvador

Dear Family,

How are things going at home?  So far I have not liked El Salvador much.  I have been pretty sick the last few days and haven’t felt like doing anything. I was really sick yesterday and after church we had to go back to our apartment and go to bed. It was not a good day for me at all.  I can understand some of the people here and others I can’t understand at all.  It is really hard for me and really frustrating.  Our apartment is the biggest piece of junk I have ever seen.  It probably hasn’t been cleaned in a year and is just disgusting.  It is also right next to a busy road so there is always noise and I have had a lot of trouble sleeping. I am in San Salvador and there are lots of cars that make tons of noise and it is never quiet.  That will take some getting used to.  When I meet new people here, they will almost always ask my companion about me instead of me.  That really annoys me when they do that because I can understand them and am fully capable of answering them. It is going to take awhile to get adjusted to all of this.


First Views of San Salvador

My companions name is Elder Caceres and he is from Panama.  We get along pretty well but he can barely speak English, so sometimes it is a little hard to communicate.  The English he can speak is extremely hard to understand.  He doesn’t really like to be very active.  He is big into videogames.  I like him, but having an American companion to start my mission would have been a lot better I think.  Then I could have someone that I could actually freely talk to and could relate to a lot better with this big change.  The mosquitoes aren’t that bad right now, but they will be soon. There isn’t really a place that I can hang the net up, but if I end up needing it that bad, I will figure something out.

We have a lady that cooks lunch for us every day so we never have to worry about that.  We also eat dinner at members houses about half the time too.  I eat tons of beans, rice, and potatoes.  The potatoes are a little different than what you are probably thinking of though.  I like it, but something that I ate sometime in the last few days has caused some digestive problems.  All the missionaries that I have talked to got sick and had the runs when they got here and I am going through that stage right now.  My favorite food is the papusa. The are awesome!  They are way better than the ones at the place in Logan!  I cook my own food sometimes, but all we have is a camp stove and a mini fridge, so the things that I can cook are very limited. We also have someone that does our laundry for us once a week so we don’t have to worry about that.

I will receive mail whenever we have a baptism and the zone leaders can go to the office to get it.  There is a baptism almost every week though so I will get it pretty regularly.  Speaking of baptisms, we had two this week.  I was only here for one of them, but I was there for the conformation of both.  It was awesome to see them baptized and confirmed.  I hope all is going well there! Love you and I miss you tons!

Wendy Nelson being baptized by her Father
In front of the Chapel

El Salvador Here I Come

Aaron is leaving the training center in Guatemala on Monday to start serving in El Salvador.  We are looking forward to hearing about his first area and what missionary work is like there over the next few week.  As his email from this week shows, he is excited and ready to move on.

“I haven’t really gotten any El Salvadorian meals yet but I will soon [Nathan and Tanya often ask Aaron about the food]. I have had lots of Guatemalan food though. I’m sure some of it is probably pretty similar. Jared, are you glad the season is over? That is so awesome that you are starting varsity! I really wish I could come watch you. The MTC here is fairly small.  They have some really weird foods, but I have really liked most of it.  I got to go out proselyting on Monday and that was a really cool experience. I am sending a letter home today with more info in it.

My companion is serving in the Santa Ana mission so just next to me.

The cook Christian is really interested and seems like he wants to know more. The next set of missionaries in the MTC will get to teach him. That is super awesome about everyone’s [several of his friends] mission calls though! Tell them all congrats for me! Love you all!”

“I broke my retainer again and had to get a new one [more than three years with no problems and now twice since leaving on his mission].  I will be needing a new one or something else again when I get home because I really don,t like this one at all! haha. I am super excited to get to El Salvador. I leave on Monday morning at 10 and take a bus there! Sounds like quite a lot of stuff is going on there at home. I wish I could be a part of it, but I am loving my mission and having a lot of fun here right now!”

“I am extremely excited to get out into the field on Monday and find out who my trainer will be! It is going to be so much fun to actually be able to go out and teach people after all of this training! The MTC here has been pretty good but I am ready to leave. I feel like my Spanish is to the point of being good enough to communicate! I hope that you are all doing great! I sure am! I cant believe that I have already been out for two months! Time flies here! Well I love you all! Have an awesome week!”

The Guatemala CCM is Great!

Here are a few excerpts from Aaron’s emails Saturday February 4. We hadn’t heard from him since the day he got to Guatemala so we were excited to hear how well he is doing.

“I love the CCM here. My companions name is Elder Gottschalk and he is a way cool guy. He is from Layton and we get along really well and both really want to be here on our missions, so our missionary companionship is great. We had a devotional the other day and I didn’t even use my translator. I understood pretty much the whole thing and it was awesome.”

“Yes I am getting pretty healthy food here. I haven’t gotten sick at all actually! They don’t make papusas here in Guatemala but there is lots of other really good food. I will write more about stuff in the letters I am sending, but I don’t have much time for emailing. I was called to be one of the district leaders here at the CCM. It has been a great learning experience for me and I have learned a lot from it.You can send dear elders to the CCM here too so if you want to send a couple soon that would be great. We get them a couple times a week. I really like this CCM here though and have been learning a lot and speaking lots of Spanish. Me and my companion are actually teaching a real investigator here. His name is Christian and he is a cook here at the CCM. He is a nonmember and our teacher here asked us to teach him. We are going to church with him tomorrow. Pretty sweet huh? Not very many people get that opportunity in the CCM, so it is an awesome experience.”

(Aaron wrote to Tanya – she always asks about the food) “They don’t really have much American food here.  Some of it is fairly similar but it is still pretty different.  I like it though.  I am learning lots of Spanish and can speak pretty well.” 

(Aaron wrote to Jared):  “That is good that your team is doing well!  Keep working hard and playing hard.  I have been playing quite a lot of basketball too.  I also work out a lot here.  I do 100 to 200 calf raises every morning in gym and my vertical is going way up.  Today during p day, I pro-hopped a kid and threw it down on him!  It was so awesome.  Guatemala is pretty sweet.  I like it here a lot more than I liked Provo.  I cant believe that I have been out for almost two months already though.  Time is flying by.  I am learning a lot of spanish and have been doing really well with learning it and speaking it.  I was called as a district leader too so that was pretty cool.”

On the Way to the Guatemala CCM

Aaron left the Provo MTC on Tuesday afternoon (January 24th), and had a 5 hour layover in the Los Angeles airport, then a 5 hour flight to Guatemala, where he is training for 3 weeks before he continues on to El Salvador for the proselyting part of his mission.  (CCM is the acronym for missionary training center in Spanish).  Aaron was the travel leader for his group, which we thought was a good fit, since he could probably get through an airport blindfolded by now!

When Aaron was in the LAX airport, he got to call us.  We talked for about an hour, with all five of us hanging over the speaker phone.  It was great to hear his voice, and how happy he is to be a missionary.  He arrived at the Guatemala CCM on Wednesday morning (Jan. 25th).  He got to send us a quick email from there Wednesday evening:

“Hey I made it to Guatemala City and am starting into the process of things here. It is about 75 or 80 degrees, so it is pretty warm. I like it here so far and the food has been pretty good. I have started to use a lot more Spanish here too than I did in Provo, which is really good. There are lots of Nativos here and we sit with them during meals and they teach us Spanish and we teach them English. It is pretty sweet and I know that I will learn Spanish really fast this way.

My address here is at the CCM is Aaron Black Boulevard

Vista Hermosa 23-71, zona 15 Vista Hermosa I.

Gautemala, Guatemala C.A. This is a spanish keyboard and I can´t figure out how to enter to the next line so the spaces are the next line. Also, it says don´t put elder on the envelope when you write.

Just put it exactly like that.  Well I love you all! Hope to hear back soon and it was good talking to you on the phone yesterday. I will send a detailed letter about how things are here later.

Amor, Aaron