Feliz Dia De Tacna!

Hola, famila y amigos…
So I have to tell you something. I wasn´t completely happy with my email last week. It wasn´t bad, per se…but because of the massive time crunch, I felt very rushed, the place where we went to email last week was a really strange place, and in general I felt like I didn´t get my point across very well. As a result, I´m currently working on a letter…kind of like an extra “email” in written form…to send to you all, filled with lots of details about how it is here in Tacna and whatnot. Much of it will be focused on my first week here, and thus this email won´t be as rushed, because I can focus on what happened this week rather than play catch-up for last week. I should get the letter done in a few days or so, which means it will probably arrive in the U.S. sometime next week (I´m not sure how fast Serpost will be…). As time permits, I´ll cover some things I´m planning to include in my letter, but for the most part this should be a smooth, much more focused email. And…let the bullets once again commence. 🙂
  • Happy Birthday (Feliz Cumpleaños), Dad! I usually don´t tell people this in advance, but I´ll be sending you a card and whatnot very soon. I hope you had an absolutely wonderful birthday last week. 🙂
  • So the title of my email this week comes from the fact that today (and tomorrow? I´m not entirely sure), there are celebrations commemorating the anniversary of the city of Tacna…in English,”Tacna Day,” basically. Almost every building has a flag of Peru flying today, there are apparently parades and parties and all kinds of things, and it´s basically a time to celebrate being a Tacneño, y un peruano. (A citizen of Tacna…no idea how to say that in English…and a Peruvian. :))
  • Like I mentioned last week, the ward we´re serving in is great…though I didn´t quite tell the whole story. They haven´t had their own missionaries for quite a while (about two years or so, I believe), and thus, we´re kind of starting from scratch a bit. We still have some work to do in firing up the members about missionary work, and in supporting the ward, but I feel like we´re off to a good start. The bishop is amazing, and has a very positive attitude about us being here in Natividad, so that´s a major plus. Sacrament meetings here are…definitely different, but also show how wherever you go, the basic principles of the Church (and of Church meetings) are always the same.
  • Speaking of sacrament meetings…I´m now the ward pianist, more or less. Why? Because I´m the only one in the ward who can play piano. 🙂 I played yesterday on a portable keyboard, and it went pretty well. I´m very grateful for the time I had as ward organist, because now I can play much, much better on a keyboard, where there´s no sustain pedal to make the notes sound smoother, because I´ve had a good amount of experience now with an instrument that also doesn´t have a sustain pedal, the organ. There was a little confusion in the opening hymn with me playing an introduction or not, and we need to get a new power cord for the piano, because the one they have won´t stay in very well, but otherwise, I´m very excited to have the chance once again to play piano every week. 🙂 The members are very excited about there being piano in their sacrament meetings again, too, so that´s really good. (I´ve also had the chance to play piano for our zone meetings as well. The stake center in which we meet has a real piano, which is very nice.)
  • In what I´ve written of the letter to you all so far, I´ve talked a great deal about food, but in the spirit of Elder Randall weekly email tradition, I´ll talk about food-related items from this past week, a bit. 🙂 Once again I advise you to sit down, because I´m about to type something quite surprising…I´ve eaten two plates of salad. Seriously. So our pensionista (I´ll explain the whole pensionista concept in the letter, but as I said last week, basically she makes all our meals, and we live, more or less, in their house, but not exactly…that I´ll also explain in the letter) knows I don´t like salad…she doesn´t make it that much (and unlike Kansas, it´s never been the main dish in a meal), but when she does, she´s very kind and gives me much less than Elder Flores. The past two salads we´ve had, however, I´ve actually eaten. They´re not great (the best salad in the world for me is still very, very, very low on my list of favorite/edible foods), but I´ve been able to eat all of them. I promise I´m still the same Elder Randall you know and love. I just can sort of, kind of, a little, tiny bit, tolerate certain salads a small bit more now. 🙂
  • Also, my companion, who has been here for a whopping 22 months this next Monday (also his 22nd birthday!), is very, very tired of rice. They serve it with everything here, and finally he had to talk to our pensionista about it, because…well, it gives him problems with his, well, you know. We´ve had a bit less rice since then (and more noodles…I love dishes with noodles here, much like I do in the U.S.), but it´s still a major staple of our diet here in Tacna (and really, for Peru in general). I´m very happy, because I love rice and I grew up with it (btw, in Kansas I grew to enjoy American rice a bit more…now that I´m used to how tasteless it can be, it isn´t that bad…but I still love South American rice way more), but I wonder if in 18 months (next week is my 4-month mark…how crazy is that?!?!?), I´ll feel the same way. 🙂
  • My companion is working with me on my Spanish pronunciation, among other things. My major problems are with R and S…so you know that absolutely hilarious scene in “The Pink Panther” where Inspector Clouseau is trying to say “I would like to buy a hamburger”? Yeah…I kid you not, when he tries to get me to say words in Spanish properly that have Rs and Ss, it´s almost exactly like that. 🙂 I have a lot of work to do, but Elder Flores says aside from that, my pronunciation is actually pretty good, and once I conquer my problems with those letters (I´ve had that S problem for a long time), I´ll sound like a native. That´s cool to think about…I just need to get there first. 🙂
IIn my email last week, I talked briefly about how I´m doing here so far…and I don´t feel like I communicated it very well, so I´ll try to clarify a bit here. This week has been a week of ups and downs…the downs have been bigger than they have before, but every time, they´re followed by ups, as they always have. I´ve had struggles with talking to people…not necessarily in lessons and whatnot, but more concerning contacting people on the street/etc. My companion has been pushing me a lot to open up more with that, and I´ve had a lot of frustration this week regarding that. I still have a lot of work to do…and above all, I need to act…but my attitude right now, and the attitude that I´ve kept coming back to this week, is that I can. With the Lord´s help, I can do anything. I just need to trust in Him…a theme that´s recurred throughout my whole MTC/mission experience so far, but that´s incredibly important now. I know I need to step up and be an equal partner to my companion…and I´m going to have bumps in the road, most certainly, but it´s a road I need to take. I´ll be brutally honest, here in Tacna I´ve had my first brushes with feeling like going home. However, right now, I feel like I have what I think of as a spark…a certain something that kept me going in the MTC when times got hard, kept me going in Kansas, and is keeping me going now. I´m very happy to be here, when all is said and done. I´m incredibly grateful for my companion, and even grateful for the fact that he never lets me off easy. I need that push right now in my mission. I´m going to keep working to be a better and better missionary in every way…in my ability to talk with the people, in my Spanish, in my knowledge of the doctrine…and to do that, I´m going to keep turning to the Lord. I know He won´t steer me wrong…He never has, and He never will.
In closing, look out for that letter…it´s going to be a bit long, so I don´t know what the practical course is for spreading it around to those who would like to read it (since I´m intending for it to be like a normal weekly email, but an extra one), but we´ll see. I love you all so much, I´m so thankful for all you´ve done and are doing for me, and that thanks in large part to all of you…I´m here in Tacna, Peru, serving the Lord. 🙂
Con mucho amor,
Elder Randall
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