Tuesday after lunchtime I got a note that I needed to go to the travel office that day to talk to Alison. I didn't think too much of it because Alison was the name of one of the people in the Health Clinic that I frequently had to talk to. So after class on Tuesday I went down to see what they needed me to do, and a totally different Alison asked me if I knew that I was leaving tomorrow. I think I may have squealed. Actually I am almost positive I did. Don’t get me wrong, I love/d the MTC, but hearing that I would finally be getting out of there was what really made me so excited. I had almost steeled myself to hear that I wouldn't be leaving for a long time but lo and behold that wasn't the plan. Back to the story, so she handed me my travel plans and I had like 12 hours to be packed and waiting at the travel office, the next morning at 5 am. The reason I had such short notice -- I got cleared on Monday afternoon after my regular visits with Dr. Brown. After that, he called the district president to get it all set up for me to leave. But it was his first week and he forgot to send the memo to anyone that I was set up to leave on Wednesday. Elder Ruiz [Elder from Mexico that Sam met his first week in the MTC who called him “Elder Vegas”] got cleared earlier that day as well, and he wasn’t sure what his plan was, so just by chance he checked in at the travel office to see if they knew when he was leaving. They searched around a bit and found his travel information and let him know that he was leaving on Wednesday. Then, and I am forever thankful, he asked about me. They said they didn’t have any information about Elder Anderson, so he asked when I was leaving. They searched it up a little bit and then found that I, in fact, was leaving the same day but hadn’t been forwarded or something yet. So then they sent me that note. Alison at the desk said that Elder Ruiz was very cute about it all, he wanted to be sure that we were going on the same flight and everything like that. Bless his soul. I then spent the next few hours packing and buying scripture cases and the missionary reference library. I got to go to the devotional, which was a cool one, and then I went to my classroom got my junk, took a few pictures and went to the residence. The next morning, I woke up and carried my two exactly 50-pound bags and my exactly 40-pound carry-on to the travel office to meet up with Elder Ruiz. We took the hour-long bus ride to the Salt Lake Airport and then made our way to our gate. We had to stop and talk to a lot of people because missionaries are a big deal, I guess. We got on the plane and took a nice 90-minute ride to Vegas. When we got out of the plane and into the Vegas airport, the first thing we saw was a line of slot machines, and Elder Ruiz says to me, "we have a lot of work to do." We both laughed and walked towards the baggage claim. He was constantly telling me how fascinated he was by all the technology because in Mexico they don’t have a lot of the stuff we have here and in the MTC there isn’t much more than tvs and computers. When we got down to the baggage claim, the severity of Las Vegas hit me with all the advertisements. It only took us a few moments to find the group that was waiting to pick us up. Not too many people in dark suits there. We met the AP's [assistants to the mission president] and a missionary couple, Elder and Sister Royal. They were all pretty awesome. Elder Rogers gave us both the nice tip to look down and he would lead the way. Thinking back, that was a great suggestion because distractions were everywhere.
I just remembered about the MTC. I am 90% sure that Elder Ruiz would not have been able to get through the airport if I had not been there to translate for him. It was his first time on an airplane and he had no idea where to go and his English doesn’t include too many of the airport type words. He had a bunch of things from his surgery that he forgot to announce before baggage claim that I didn’t know about. They were asking him to surrender his bag but he could not understand what was happening. So I felt like I was meant to be there to help guide him though all that and to show him all the things he needed to do. I was quite surprised that no one filled him in on what was going to happen and how he needed to prepare.
Annnyyyyway. Then after that, the APs and the couple took us to breakfast which of course was at a place that only served eggs. So I had a small headache for the rest of the day, but it was okay because it was so darn delicious. Chicken Enchilada omelet or something like that. Then after that, they took us to the mission home, which was part of the ward building, which I was not expecting but that was kinda cool, I guess. There, I watched 2 hours of car and bike safety [videos] and picked up my bike and filled out a bunch of paper work. Then I got to meet President Neider, which was really cool. I had been looking forward to meeting him for a very long time. We sat down in his office and just had a pretty normal conversation about the mission and football and Las Vegas and the MTC. He was way cooler than I ever expected. I didn’t get to meet Sister Neider because she was in a meeting. (Actually, they both were, but President had to leave to meet Elder Ruiz and me). Then I got all my sweet packages that had been waiting for me at the mission office.
Then the APs and I got into their van and they drove me out to the [Las Vegas] west mission, on accident. One of the Elders fell asleep, but not before putting in the wrong address into their GPS, so we drove for about an hour before he woke up and freaked out because "elders, we just went full apostate." So we turned around and drove back to our mission and then they drove me to my new home, Oasis Springs on East Bonanza between Pecos and Lamb. In case any of you wanted to see where I live. So we drove into our place and I got to meet Elders Bishop and Bennett my new companions. They, of course, are both awesome. We are what's called a three-pack. I guess that's mission terminology. MTC terminology is long gone. Elder Bishop was sick so while he slept I got to talk more with Elder Bennett, my trainer, and get all unpacked. Then after like 2 hours. I got to ride a bike for the first real time in my life and teach my first lesson in Spanish. By bike, I mean almost get killed a bunch of times because I can't bike straight and by teach a lesson I mean introduce myself, bear my testimony and sit quiet because true Hispanics speak so absurdly fast. And they slur. The sister's name was Juana and her husbands name was Juan. Guess what her 2 sons were named? Juan and Juan. I kid you not. The entire family was named Juan/a. It's stuff straight out of a stereotyping b-movie. But it’s true. Then we got picked up (thankfully) to go to dinner at the Bishop's house. Bishop Austin is the only Caucasian in the ward, but he speaks really good Spanish. I got to meet him and his wife and they served us chicken parmesan. It was delicious but not quite what I was expecting for my first day in the field. A pleasant surprise. Then we went around our area contacting people. I got pulled over by a police officer at about 8:30 because I didn’t have a light on my bike and it was dark. He just told me to get a light for my safety and told us to keep up the good work. I think he was probably a Mormon. While this was going on, Elder Bennett was contacting a woman on the sidewalk but as soon as the cop pulled up she practically ran off, it was pretty funny. So then we went home, planned, and I crashed. I left out a bunch of stuff.
The next morning, I woke up at 5:30 am to play dart wars at 6. It's like paintball but with blow darts. It was my first time playing (of course) so I was horrible. Two teams and everyone has blow darts and you try to shoot each other around and over obstacles. Last team standing wins. We played with the whole zone, so it was chaos but still really fun. I had a few welts from some of the more experienced missionaries. I got to meet the rest of the district and the zone and they are all pretty sweet. It turns out our district, sisters included, are all obsessed with the zombie apocalypse (obsessed being reasonably interested so as not to distract from the work). I showed them my sweet poster from mom and I was an instant celebrity. They have already planned their escape from Vegas, if that happens, all the way down to the theme music. It's a sick slow song that we listen to a lot that I always have stuck in my head. It was so nice to hear real music after so, so long. While we studied, Elder Bishop played the Spirited Away sound track, which was super cool. It was nice to have nice, calm, good music, to help me focus that wasn't a hymn.
Food was crazy today (Thursday). The elder's didn’t have any when I arrived, so it was a good thing I lugged my food from the MTC here, because all I ate all week for breakfast and lunch were the granola bars Sidney sent me. They like saved my life.
Thursday was my first 'real' day as a missionary. Three hours of study and then a day full of teaching and tracting [door-to-door contacting]. We had like three lessons and 17 contacts, which was almost double the standard of excellence, so that felt good for a first day. A quick note about our area. We don’t live inside our area, we live about 15 minutes away because it is not safe to live in anymore. The last missionaries that lived in the area saw a murder in their complex and then that night went to stay at their zone leader’s apartment, and it was a good thing too because the next day when they went to move out, there were 4 bullet holes in the door. Sketch. So that is my area. The ghetto of Las Vegas. Some of the places we went were really scary, but I always felt pretty safe. The neighborhood and most of the people we come in contact with know who we are and are pretty nice to us. I've gotten in the habit of waving and smiling at everyone I pass, which makes my day awesome to get so many smiles back. For dinner on Thursday, we went to a member’s house and had some traditional Guatemalan chicken soup with tortillas; it was sooo good. There were fresh jalapenos and it was incredible. They didn’t have any clean water (oh, another thing, the water in our apt isn’t safe to drink.... sketchhhhy) so I had to drink coke, which was fine, but I was planning on not drinking too much pop on the mission. Oh well. Then for dessert, she made some delish fruit cake. I had worn my back pack all day so when I took it off, I saw that I had massssive sweat stains from the backpack straps. It was so gross I was sooo embarrassed until I saw that no one cared. Our district leader told me I should wear them with pride. That's pretty much all of that day.
Friday was filled with biking. We went, what felt like, 500 miles and all across the country. It was really only like 15 but that was a lot more than I was and am used to. We taught a lesson to an investigator named Austin who is planning on getting baptized soon. He spoke Spanish and English which was nice because I was able to participate a lot more. I drew him a picture during the lesson and he asked for another one, so later today I'm going to draw him a sick choose the right dragon. He's gonna flip. Then, after a lot more biking we went to the ward activity to eat dinner and meet investigators and the ward. The food was good and the horchata [almond milk] was amazing. I also had to sing my first musical number in Spanish on Friday. We sang “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” in Spanish in front of the whole ward. I was not prepared at all, but the members loved it so I did too. After that, there was no real reason for us to be there, so we left and contacted a bit more before going back home. Apparently, ward activities (the Montebello Ward, my ward) usually go from like 7 - midnight.... it’s a different world over here.
Saturday, we got up and did service for a few hours. We were painting for an elderly couple that couldn’t do it themselves. It was actually super heartbreaking. They both were smokers a long time ago so they couldn’t even talk without getting winded. 'JT,' the husband, had to have oxygen all the time and he was really grumpy about that. I got a chance to talk to both of them and they told me their story. It was nice to hear them talk and be there to listen because it was clear they didn’t have many people to share with. Then went to a baptism, which was cool, because I got to translate the program into English for the elders and visitors that didn’t speak Spanish. BOUSE [to be the best, to “sick wit it” according to urbandictionary.com]. Then, we went out to teach some more. We have an investigator Marcos who is really cool. We met him Thursday and taught him Friday as well. He was cool and invited us to play volleyball with him in the mornings. I hope we get a chance, because I would love to play some vball. For dinner, I about died. We went to another member’s house and she cooked enchiladas from El Salvador and they were incredible. Tender chicken with a homemade green sauce and some homemade cream. They were incredible. Then for dessert they served us cheese and jam, which was a little odd but still pretty good.
Yesterday was Sunday and church, and it felt good to be in the real church world, not with just missionaries. It feels good to be in the real world in general actually. Seeing people that look think and act differently is quite refreshing.
I want to write more so bad but there is too much to say and not nearly enough time.
I'm about to finish the Book of Mormon for the 2nd time out here, which will be cool. It's a good book. You should read it sometime. Life is crazy different in Las Vegas and not just because I’m a missionary.
That's all I really have time for. I'll write more next week.
Hope everything is going well.
I love you all