Welcome to May Pen
companion: Elder Barber
area: May Pen
Welcome to May Pen, a small bush town a little bit over a half hour from Kingston. Life here is constantly moving and crazy, and yet no one is ever ever ever in a hurry. When you drive in jamaica, there are two things you do: you drive with your horn- thats how you let people know where you are and make yourself known to other drivers. Second, you drive like there is a rabid tiger in the backseat. If you don't keep moving you become an obstruction to traffic and a risk. So that first drive from the airport through Kingston was eye opening for two reasons. The insane and constant switching lanes while driving, and the extreme poverty. I never imagined anything like this. Nothing is new in Jamaica. Just like ukraine, people build their house a piece at a time from the outside in. So you end up with empty shells of houses with rebar sticking out of them all over the place. Building materials include cinder blocks, rebar, stucco, and corrugated metal sheets. Every house has some sort of fence (either painted rebar or corrugated metal) outside and gates are always locked. Although I am living in a ghetto, people, including me, are happy here. Jamaicans are sort of shy on first meeting, but the ice is easy enough to break and they become very friendly quickly.
Just to kill and confirm all of your jamaican stereotypes,
Jamaica is: Beautiful, tropical, lush, ghetto, and 100% african american. (The only white guys in May Pen are me and the three other elders in my apartment).
Jamaica has: tons of stray dogs with loud barks and no bite. All you have to do to get them to leave is bend down and pretend to pick up a rock. They will scatter in every direction.
Goats. Jamaica has goats. All over the place.
Lots of bikers.
Open air markets.
Hot, humid weather (although the humidity is not much worse than Maui, so thats a relief)
Its own definition of on time. Most of our appointments fall through, so we don't plan ahead much. We call investigators as the day goes and try to meet up with them. And it doesn't matter it you show up two hours late. It just doesn't matter.
Push Carts. Like for real. No races though.
and hardcore patois. I can only understand people when they know jamaican english and address me. When jamaicans talk to each other they use patois. It is a whole different language based more around ideas and phrases than actual words. It is flowing and impossible to understand until you have been here for at least three months, from what I've heard. Even the Jamaican english took me three days to begin to understand and is still hard sometimes.
My call packet said I would be preaching in english. That may be true, but jamaicans nah speak nah english.
I have: No hair on my right thumb because we have to light our stove with a normal lighter every time we use it.
My bike is pretty awesome. It was probably new sometime around the year I was born. So much for "get the nicest bike you can and take good care of it" dad. Don't think Im complaining, but like I said, nothing is new in Jamaica. My bike has been pieced back together time and time again as needed by a man in spanish town where we picked our bikes up. It has lightning blue rims and makes people jealous. Thats why I picked it.
When we met at the church in spanish town to get our trainer and our assignments, President Brown gave a fantastic message about how this is Jamaica's time. He told us how he had read (I think it was) 3rd Nephi 22: 1-2 where it quotes a song about a barren land recieving the gospel. He told us that that verse had stuck out to him and a strong voice had come to his mind telling him that this is Jamaicas time. There are the ancestors of jamaicans beyond the veil, born as slaves. He told us that he doesn't even know his own real last name, and he doesn't know how they are going to trace all of those people so that their work can be done for them. He counseled us to teach with the temple in mind as the goal. Many need their vicarious work done. He told us that there will be stakes in jamaica. There will be stakes in jamaica by the time I leave. Now is Jamaicas time.
Jamaica is a country that needs the gospel badly. There are a few investigators that we are working with and I feel are close to baptism. Elder Barber and I had the same thought that we need to get our investigators, specifically Dwayne, Brittanya, and Marsha to read their Books of Mormon and pray daily in order to get them to commit to baptism.
That is one thing that jamaicans dont like to do. It is very hard to get a commitment out of them. Most of the time you get a "its too soon" or "later" or "eventually" on baptism, and a "I will try" on invitations to church. They are a good God fearing people that have no problem with talking about God. It is hard to get them all the way into the fold though. And then we have to retain them. No one has cars or motivation, so they don't get to church. Church is actually one of the hardest commitments to get them to make, and we actually require them to get to church at least three of four times to be baptized. It is a very important piece that we have to push.
My companion is Elder Barber. He is a great kid, also from utah. He is a good missionary and we are connecting pretty well. We share our apartment with Elder Bateman and Elder Whitlock. They have the May Pen 1 area (we are May Pen 2) and they are both great guys.
We end up riding our bikes at least ten miles a day because our area is actually on the other side of May Pen. We have to ride a good mile up the hill through the main street of may pen to get to our area. And our area extends quite a ways from there.
Our apartment is a decent size. We live in the upstairs of a house owned by a non member jamaican family. At this point we eat mostly ramen and rice mixed together and strained for dinner, although I am going to get some better food when we do our shopping today. Jamaican food is delicious. Outside of the house, we eat a lot of fried and jerk chicken, and rice and peas. I also had krill, mangoes (pronounce mongoes here) and sweet potatoes at a dinner appointment last week. The krill was salty, but not bad. They grind up the whole krill in the dish though, so you end up with tails and legs here and there. The mangoes were delicious. When you eat them, you simply pick them up, peel the skin off with your teeth as you go, and dig in. They were ripe and amazing. They were actually our dessert. We also had a delicious mango puree drink. Jamaican food is good. I also got my first patty this week, and I approve. It is a nice hot, flaky packet of meat. We buy it with coco bread. You put the patty in the coco bread (like a bun) and dig in. Good food.
Going to church for the first time was cool. I love the people and the congregation is strong here. Nothing like Utah, but strong. I was able to bear my testimony to the branch and get to know a lot of them. We also teach a mission prep class every sunday night at five with the other two elders in our area.
At first I was having trouble understanding, talking with (because I couldn't understand), and connecting with people, but I am getting better and beginning to adjust to the mission life. Things are going well! I love May Pen and I love the people.
As for the art gallery- I don't really want to get rid of anything in my portfolio without going through it all, but you can display my big painting and priest ink drawing and anything else you think is good at your discretion. I don't mind my work being seen. Its great that uncle kevin is doing that.
I hope you all are doing well. Tell Nathan and Lydia to be good and that I love them. I want you all to remember to say your daily prayers as they provide us strength against temptation. Tell Matthew to enjoy himself and to stay strong. As for Rachel, I hope work is going ok. I love you mom and dad. Thanks for being such great parents and raising me correctly. I think you did a good job of making me ready to leave and self sufficient enough to do it when I did.
I love you guys!
Elder Daniel D. Pullan