Monday, January 31, 2011

A Big Old Lizard


OK, well this is officially the craziest thing that I have ever done in my entire life. This place is like I stepped straight back in time. There is no technology.  Everyone owns a motor cycle and there are no cars.

My new companion’s name is elder Piaz and he is really awesome. I have been really blessed so far with all of my companions. He is always happy and excited.  He has only 13 months in his mission left.  He is the man. He too is from Guatemala, and speaks in super clear understandable Spanish.

So... speaking of that... we were right, the Spanish in Lima is extremely clear and there is no accent.  Lima= pure Spanish.  The jungle is a whole different ball game. The people here are simply uneducated and so they speak basically like they are from the south. I am not saying that the people in the southern half of the United States are uneducated just that.... they talk slower and different here.

About my room... I have to sleep with a mosquito net every night because there is this nasty sickness called dengue fever (translates into bone breaking fever) and you can only get it through mosquitoes. That’s cool I guess? (Referring to mosquito net)

I was taking a shower this morning and had a guest join me... a big old lizard. Well not that big. It was just about the size of my hand but still really amazing.

About my area... Mom don’t get too worried but I am in one of the most dangerous areas in the mission. This area is called Belen which translates to Bethlehem, sort of funny. It is not dangerous because people get stabbed or anything like that.  It is only dangerous because people rob other people like crazy here. We don’t wear watches or bring our cameras (sorry no pictures) or look fancy at all.  We don’t want to attract too much attention. It is kind of cool. I feel like every day when we go in there we are trying to sneak through and not been seen, we then visit our investigators and then we quickly leave the area. It’s exciting, almost like a spy operation everyday.

More about Belen... it is one giant outdoor market.  There are streets and streets with just people everywhere in stalls selling their products. Now what do they sell...well good question? EVERYTHING, literally you think it and it is there in Belen. Fish, snakes, knives, flash lights, drugs, tigers (yes, no joke), monkeys, every plant you can think of, animal furs of every kind, skulls and much more. It is incredible, it is like nothing that I have ever seen, and I don’t have the words to appropriately describe it.

Oh, another cool thing is that Belen has two levels. The top level is all one giant market (that goes on forever) and the lower level is literally one of the tributaries of the Amazon. Ergo, all of the houses are up on giant poles. Everyone pretty much has tree houses minus the trees. We walk underneath all the houses every day to get to appointments. Yes, we have to be really careful cause as you can imagine there really aren’t any bathrooms in these huts so... they do all their business stuff through the cracks of their houses. lol.
It is just plain hot here too, and it rains every single day. I get totally soaking wet in hot rain every day.

Super cool... My pensionista is sort of a crazy lady. She talks in this crazy accent and most of the time I don’t understand what she is saying to me. She makes good food though. Oh if you get the chance can you send me maple extract because she wants some. I don’t know why.

I want so badly to take you here to Iquitos when you come so that you can see this place. If you do come and we do come here... we will have to wear the nastiest clothing you can possible wear and have a member with us as a guide. The market is always changing positions, parts die away and new parts are born. Dad I think that it literally will blow your mind and mom I think you would think it is the most dirty, nasty, smelly place you have ever been in your entire life because it really is.

Side note: Right now my companion has a pet alligator. Named? Don’t know yet because he hasn’t named it. Well I will be sure to send you pictures of it. Mom I still cannot send pictures through the internet, only though the mail. I hope you received the CD I sent, and the other thing that I sent to you.  I don’t know if you got them or not.

Well first ever p day in the jungle I don’t know what is going to happen....

Con amor,  Elder Harris

Monday, January 24, 2011

Some Info on Iquitos and Elder Harris' area Belen.

Iquitos (Spanish pronunciation: [iˈkitos]) is the largest city in the Peruvian rainforest, with a population of 370,962.
The city can be reached only by airplane or boat. The climate is hot and humid, with an average relative humidity of 85%. The wet season lasts from around November to May, with the river reaching its highest point in May.

A boat tour of Belén is a common tourist attraction. Belén is a community east of Iquitos that can be accessed by foot and moto-carro, both in the dry and wet seasons. Many of the homes are tethered to large poles, from which they float upon the river's rising waters every year; some homes float year-round.

Welcome to the Jungle!

Well drum roll.......................................................................................
I am being transferred into the jungle. I am going to Iquitos. It is the city that is furthest away in the jungle and I will be taking a plane to get there. I leave tomorrow morning at 8:00 in the morning. I am super excited because I will be serving in a part know as Belen, and pretty much all the houses are up on giant poles this time of the year because it is really rainy. Sometimes it is so rainy that it creates random (ha ha ha - random) new rivers in the middle of the city.  I guess it rains every single day in Iquitos and it is super hot, way hotter than here in Canto Chico. My new companion´s name is Elder Pice and from all that I have heard of him he is super funny and super cool and a super crazy hard worker. In all actuality, everyone is kind of jealous that I get to be with him in the coolest part of Iquitos. So pretty much for lack of better terms, "I scored".

I am a little upset that girls have not received my letters, I sent them all one. I’m super happy that woody and the cook boys got theirs. I am going to try to write to the Harris’ boys today before I even read what you put in your email. I hope that I have time to write to them.  I don’t know if I will be able because I have to pack up all my stuff.

So a little bit about transfers here, I guess that it doesn’t happen very often that both of the missionaries in one area leave at the same time. Oh ya, Elder Xicara is leaving too. He is being made zone leader in another district. We were both really shocked that we are both leaving, it is really rare. I don’t know... personally I think that it is really awesome. I can’t wait to get into the jungle and see all the crazy and amazing stuff that I am going to see there.

One the rules for all missionaries are to be back in your apartment at 9:00 every day because it is dangerous to be out later than that. This week we were up in the mountain making our way back to the house at about 8:45. Of course if we were to walk back we would have been late. So we started to run. Basically we were sprinting to get back in the house on time, because let’s be honest... if you want blessings you have got to be obedient. Well I don’t know if I’ve told you sufficiently but there are hundreds of stray dogs everywhere. We were running and had this trail of dogs behind us... probably because they were thinking "sweet someone to play with".  So just imagine in your mind´s eye two missionaries running down a hill with about 15 dogs behind them and.... Tell me you wouldn’t want to investigate the church.  Honestly I wish I could have been an investigator on the outside because I would have been laughing my head off. In all actuality, the moral of the story is, what will we sacrifice to be obedient? Sometimes in this life we may feel silly to be obedient, like running down a hill with 15 dogs, but what great blessing the lord has promised if we follow his commandments.  Our supreme expression of love for him is in his words, "if ye love me, keep my commandments". I think about all the times that you,  Mom,  have asked me to clean my room and I haven’t, and later in the day I would say that I love you. There is nothing wrong with this expression of love, but how much stronger it could have been if I had kept your "commandments".  This is the principle of obedience; we obey in order to show love. So the opposite principle applies, if we do not obey, we are not showing our love for him that gives us all our blessings. Once again the question must be asked who´s side are we on? 

Saydi, I was thinking about you this week, more specifically about my room. It’s yours. When I come back, you do not need to move all of your things out, that will just be really annoying for you, and I was thinking of all the experiences that you will have in that room and I don’t want to take it away from you.

Wow, I was packing up a few things this morning and found one of the letters that you had written to me and I was so shocked at how totally awesome it was. Thank you for baring your testimony to me in your letter. It was very powerful. I love you so much and thank you for such a powerful spiritual boost. Love you lots and I too cannot wait to come back and tell you all kinds of crazy cool stories.

Love Elder Harris a.k.a. Jaren,  your brother & son

Monday, January 17, 2011

Pray always that ye may come off a Conqueror!


OK, so what a crazy good week I had.

First, let’s just begin by first apologizing for all the spelling and the lack of detail. I promise that I will do my best.  Interesting that you were thinking about marriage this week... I had some thoughts of my own, strangely, enter my mind, sort of out of the blue, I wrote them down, and realized that I had written the description of a perfectly impossible women that I want to marry. (poop)  Well a little about the weather here. Well it’s hot, but the other day we had this strange rain thing happen. It rained, but when the water hit the ground, the ground was so thirsty for a drink,  it literally drank the water up. It would hit the ground and just disappear, Crazy!  By the way I am getting a really nasty farmer´s tan... I like it.

The churches here are small but they are extremely pituco which is slang for rich in Spanish.  They all have filtered water and are small.  I should have taken pictures of it to show you but I forgot.  

I am sending out another cd today with more pictures on it.  Oh, this week I had my second baptism. We baptized the daughter of my first baptism. Her name is Guadalupe. I have cool pictures on the cd that I am sending you. This time Elder Xicara was in the water and I was a testigo. I felt the spirit just as strong as my first time. Incredible!  There are five things that the Lord wants of us in order to return to him. Have faith in Jesus Christ, repent, baptism, receive the gift of the Holy Ghost and endure to the end. The path has all been laid out before us, we just have to decide to put one foot in front of the other. I was thinking the other day about the baptism of Christ and there are three important parts, first is that there is a lot of water because the true form of baptism is full immersion of the body. The second is that of John the Baptist.  John had the authority to act in God´s name or in other words he had the priesthood, and last that of Jesus. Jesus, who had no sins, desired to be baptized because as he said on John 3:5 “except a man be born of the water and of the spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God”. Can it be any more blunt?  Baptism is an essential part of the plan of salvation, without this saving ordinance we are not permitted to live in the presence of God. The baptism of Guadalupe was fantastic!  I know that because she made the choice to be baptized with the proper authority of God, her life will be blessed.

 I imagine baptism is a door, and directly behind the door is a path that leads to the temple. The path is repentance, faith and keeping the commandments (A.K.A - enduring to the end) and after we accomplish that, we are privileged to enter into the Lord´s house. In all actuality what is our goal, if not to enter the temple. This leads me to think of another investigator we have named Percy. This week he could have been baptized but he didn’t pass the interview. I know that he has a sincere desire to be baptized because he knows of the importance... but he doesn´t believe that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God. In the introduction of the Book of Mormon there is a promise in the last paragraph that says that if you pray and receive an answer saying the Book of Mormon is true... then you also know that Jesus is the Christ, Joseph Smith is a prophet of God, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only true church on the earth today, and one more that it doesn’t say directly but that Jesus Christ will come again. The problem with Percy is that he hasn’t taken the first step to the door of baptism... and that is to pray to know. “Pray always that ye may come off a conqueror, yea that ye may conquer Satan.” 

God lives. Christ lives. The Book of Mormon is the word of God. Read the book and follow the advice of James 1:5.

Con Amor Elder Harris

Friday, January 14, 2011

Dedicate Sundays to the Lord!

First off because it is the first thing on my mind..Peruvians have this fantastic cake here called Caycay.  It is the best ever!!!!!!  I want you to try some.   It is really good and you can only get it in a bakery.
Well not this week but next week we have two more baptisms. I am so excited.  We are baptizing the daughter of the brother who was my first baptism. The second baptism is a totally awesome guy named Percy Velázquez.  He is only 19 years old and is the man. I pretty much love him.
I am really happy that you received my last letter. I have sent out letters for the girls.  I hope that you receive them soon.  Pretty soon I will send out another CD with more pictures on it.  I don´t know when I’ll get to send it but it will have baptism pictures and zoo pictures. It seems so crazy that basketball season has already started and I have really lost track of time at home. It’s amazing I just don’t really have time to think about that stuff. Every day is so full of work and Spanish that I often forget that I am a gringo!!!  Let’s talk about Spanish, right now I can almost understand everything that someone says to me. The only times that I don’t understand is when someone uses a contextual word that I haven’t heard before. For example, a funny story...Very close to where I live and in my area is a silver mine. I had no idea what the word for mine was in Spanish.  This lady was going off about how she used to work in one and what her job was and I could not figure out what she was talking about. I understood the words around that word. It was pretty funny. It wasn’t until she started making actions of mining and pointing at different rocks did I figure it out.
 So that’s super cool about Aunt Kathryn.  I hope that everything is fine with her and that the baby is doing well.  
Hey, tell Tegan that I love him if you get a chance... I am praying that he gets the opportunity to return to his mission.  Hope he gets feeling better.
Hmm... Other things I’ve been thinking about in Peru ... Dad´s birthday is coming up and I have found something cool that I want to send to him. I promise that I will send amazing things for all of your birthdays just keep in mind that they may not come in time. So the other day I was thinking about what it is going to be like to give my homecoming talk. Hmmmm...Well I think that I might just do the entire talk is Spanish so that no one understands what I am saying. Lol, no I won’t do that.
The 25th of this month might be a change for me out of Canto Chico and into the Selba or jungle. I guess that it is really random so I could stay or go. Amazing how quickly this week went by, I closed my eyes and opened them and found myself right back in front of the computer telling you about another week. Or really I more or less just am telling you about my thoughts. Well so I was thinking about Sundays for our family a lot lately. I realized that our family needs a spiritual rebuke. Sorry... BUT guys we need to dedicate Sundays to the lord, and I know this may be hard but... no more TV, bad music, work and other things that do not bring you to remember the lord. I know crazy tough but I testify that the lord will bless you if you keep this commandment. Just experiment with this commandment this coming Sunday and I promise the blessings will be so large and so great that you won’t want to go back. I love you all and I promise to send photos soon.
Con Amore,   Elder Harris

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Run Away, Run Away

Snail Mail - Dec 21, 2010
Hola Mi Familia!
Well long time no see…I thought it would be nice to send you a letter from Peru.  By the time you actually receive this letter I will most likely have been here for two more weeks. (He was right!)
Peru is a very hectic place, always moving, always yelling and always hot.  It’s kind of like the fair...just that the crazy people...are a lot more crazy.
Cool story, my companion and I were walking up this street when out of the blue this man that had been ringing a door bell in front of us came over and started talking to us.  When he got close to us I could see that he was crying and he smelled heavily of alcohol.  My radar was going off telling me to run away, run away.  I noticed this guy had claw marks with fresh blood all over his arms and face.  That’s when that little voice in my head turned to a blood-curdling roar.. (Couldn’t tell if it was the spirit, I think possibly it was, ok, maybe not..It was more like my Mom’s voice)..To get away.  My Companion must have felt a similar we quickly excused ourselves from the conversation that had never really started and made off quickly for the bishop’s house.  I hate to have seen what could have happened if I had stayed.
So I have really taken to two things, ok, well three things.  First, writing in my journal.  I have been writing more and more.  It is my only chance to think in English in a very Spanish world.  Second, Exercise.  We were blessed with a little weight set in my house and I do crunches, and or all manner of exercises.  It takes my mind off things for a bit.  And last but not least and my personal favorite..Brushing my teeth.  I know, miracle, right? Amazing, fantastic, marioosa Y Chevire, I just like doing it.  Its..F…U..N..I think.
Well about the good old Comp..WELL…  He is very demanding, an extremely hard worker and he is a kind of sink or swim, my way or the high way kind of guy.  He has been out for nine months and is currently district leader which of course he takes very seriously.  He is not really much of a joker; in fact, I don’t know if he knows what that is (exaggeration).  He is always asking me how I am and how do I feel.  I usually reply fine or good which is shortly followed by (Esta bien) well it is good.  Spanish is a different mindset and something that I am learning quickly is you cannot translate English to Spanish.  When we speak in English everything we say is some sort of phrase, where as in Spanish everything they say is more literal and gender specific.  I have been told more than once now that sarcasm doesn’t exist.  I believe it now that I am in the field.
Well I have to run out real quick and do some contacts.  I will be right back and you won’t even know it –Well today I had my first exchange, yes, pretty cool.  What happens is my companion and one of the zone leaders exchange then they check my district leader/companion progress in our area.  It should be really fun because my zone leader is a really cool guy.  He is from Idaho and has been out for 15 months now.  Crazy long time! Well as you should know the gospel is true, it helps people receive saving ordinances and salvation.  God loves you and I love you!
Con Amore, Elder Harris

Provo MTC district send off

Elder Harris' first apartment

Lima, Peru Temple

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

New Years Eve

Well this week has been fun... first, on New Years Eve due to there being no laws regarding  fireworks, every single person buys them and lights them all off at the same time... midnight... Well let’s just say that it was way cooler than any firework show I have ever seen in my entire life.  Literally it was so bright and so loud, with all the lights off I could see my entire room clearly and it was louder than our surround sound at home on full blast. A.K.A.... Impossible to sleep.
 This week on Saturday I had my first baptism.  I was able to baptize Sara Salomon and don’t worry I have pictures. The spirit was so strong when I was in the water, the Spanish was a little hard but it was all ok and everything went well.
By the way quick side note have you received the letters that I have sent you with the CD that had pictures on it? Pretty soon I am going to send you another one with the pictures of the baptism on it.
My companion and I are getting along just fine.  We have had rough spots but overall we teach the gospel well together.
Ok, another side note, I will never have the opportunity to read the blog... this is sort of poopy but who knows it could be possible some day to just see it for a few seconds.  
So really cool stuff happens on a daily base here, for example, just the other day we went into the home of an investigator and she brought us out this strange green liquid. Ya I was thinking like “no flipping way am I drinking that green puke,” but of course I had to try some.  So I did and holy crap it was great!  It was some kind of smoothie thing that had kiwi, mango and this other fruit that can only be found in Peru (I cannot remember the name of the fruit) . The concoction was a horrible nasty green vomit color but tasted like sweet delicious goodness!  Another interesting thing that I ate the other day was duck.  Yes, I was just eating some meat didn’t know what it was.   I asked my pensionista and she said pato, which is duck. Cool right!?!!!
So there is some speculation about me being moved out of the city and into the jungle, it could be on the 25th of this month, but I won’t know until the Saturday before.
We are going to THE PARK OF LEGENDS. The park of legends is .................... The world’s greatest Zoo. Yes, super fantastic right? Today we get the wonderful opportunity to go to one of the world’s coolest zoo.  Ok well I don’t actually know if it is the world’s coolest, but everyone here says that it is. I am pretty excited. I am going to take tons of photos.
Another fascinating thing that I thought dad would think is really cool is you can get your shoes shined for one sol here which equates to about 33 cents, and it is the best shoe shine job ever. Don’t worry though dad, I shine my own shoes too.  Another detail, I think I have a caffeine addiction or soon will have one because they just serve Inca Cola at every single meal. I am not joking around, it’s everywhere.   I have it at least 3 or four times a day in what would be the same amount as a can, every single day.
I don’t know if you have ever seen it there in the U.S. but here are some cool keys that you can find on a Spanish key board. èìòà`ñ¡ º ª ¿¡¡¡   Crazy right?  Lol! Well I love all of you so stinking much and every time that I look at the family pictures you sent I get a little home sick.  ¡pero esta bien!  I cannot wait to show you, Mom and Dad when you come all the really cool things here in Peru.   When we actually come closer to the end of my mission I will have to tell you some of the rules about being here because there are a lot when you have your parents come to pick you up.
Con Amor, Elder Harris