Sunday, November 30, 2014

December 1, 2014

This past week was pretty average I reckon. Though, there is certainly nothing wrong with that. In all of my past areas, it was always a little irritating when things didn't go the way that we were wanting them to go, but here, it's pretty much no worries. Which is awesome.

I can't believe it's December! Smokes, the time is going quickly. I'm really happy that I'm still around here. It'll be good to be able to spend Christmas with people that I already know, as opposed to being in a new area and have to be getting to know a whole new batch of people. I guess if there's anything you learn from a mission, it's how to get to know people quickly. I still don't particularly enjoy having to talk to everybody I see, but it's kind of just turned into a part of me now I guess. That's something I'm not sure I realized before coming out here; the fact that we talk with everybody. I'm not sure what I pictured missionary work as before, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't like this in my imagination. It makes me wonder if my people skills have gotten any better. I'm curious if, when I get home, everybody will mention how different I am, or if I'll get back and everybody will mention how I'm exactly the same. Hopefully it's the former.

That's one of the things that I've learned since being out here too, is that it's not just about all of the people that we talk to and how we can change their lives, but it's also about changing my life. Changing who I am. Really just putting me in a differet situation for two years that is designed to modify my behaviour, and really hone me into someone better. I reckon that's probably true for most every calling in the church; you're there to help others, but you're also there to help yourself. Here's to hoping that some of it has worked, eh.

The school here in town is holding a Kapa Haka exposition this week, and we were invited to go around and watch. I'm very happy with all of the things that we get invited to here. Somehow everyone is always really nice, and we actually end up being able to meet a whole heap of people. I can't stress enough how incredible it is to be somewhere where we're not just those weird, tie wearing Mormon boys. We've actually had quite a few people mention to us how impressed they are with what we're doing, even though they're not particularly interested. The Lord knows all, and he's certainly taking care of me.

Sorry there's not a whole lot of mega intersting stuff to talk about, but that's about all I've got.
Ka Kite! Kurt

Monday, November 24, 2014

November 24, 2014

Had a good week. I'm not jealous at all of the weather you're enjoying.
It's still been raining most every day, but it's not really all that cold, and it's doing wonders for our garden, so I'm not fussed. I'm actually pretty stoked about our garden. The corn still hasn't come up, so that's slightly concerning, but the rest is doing really well. Got some potatoes planted this week, and the tomatoes have really taken off, as well as all of the silverbeet and bok choy. Too bad I'll probably be gone before any of it comes to fruition. Lucky buggers whoever comes into this flat next. Aside from the garden we've also got oranges, lemons, fiijoas, and peaches. Needless to say, I came in at the wrong time of the year.

Anyways, enough about that.

Being the small town that it is, we seem to get sucked into a lot of what the community is doing, and this past week was no different. The school hosted an athletics competition that included four other schools from the surrounding area and we were able to help out with it. It's been really cool helping with all of the stuff that goes on around here. It's really helped the community to see that we're not just a couple of stiff weird guys that walk around in formal clothes all of the time. I ended up helping with the high jump while my companion took care of the food for most of the day. The day finished off with an adult relay race that I actually ended up running in; in my full attire as well. A shirt and tie isn't the most comfortable thing to run in, but I did well enough, and apparently everybody was very impressed. Must have looked funny seeing the super white guy in church clothes burning it up the track.

Over the weekend we had Herewini Jones come through and it was really awesome, as usual. He held two different meetings at the chapel; one on Friday night and another one on Saturday morning. Friday he covered Whakapapa; he connected the Maori up through the islands and through the U.S., then over to the middle east. He spends a lot of time going through the islands and the states, so he used traditions, names, and all sorts of stuff to show the path that started with Lehi and ended in New Zealand. Then, since pretty much everyone here has some sort of European roots, he also connected the twelve tribes into Great Britain. He dissected the flags from that region and their meanings, then spent loads of time going through the Queen's crest. Turns out it's FULL of symbols coming from the twelve tribes. Never would have guessed. The stuff that really got me though was what he talked about on Saturday.

He taught us about the sacred stones that were placed in Waikato, Easter Island, and some place in Arkansas. Basically, when the Waka first landed, they placed stones on the land. They put a big stone in the middle, with four more stones placed slightly away from the middle stone and marking the four points of the compass, with the entrance to the circle of stones being exactly on the East side. Once they place the stones, they stood in a circle surrounding the middle stone and gave thanks, but also prayed to leave all that had happened in the past behind, and to make this new land one without bad feelings. In essence, they were required to have only good feelings as they stood in the circle, and to leave all bad feelings behind. Apparently there's a Native American tribe that does the same thing every year, but doesn't really understand what it's all about; they just do it because it's tradition. He also spoke about the Haka that the All Blacks do. He reckons it doesn't mean what everybody thinks it means though. He said a while back he was taken to speak with this old woman that wanted to pass on some of her knowledge. She told him that the Haka had been passed down through her ancestors as the original Karanga. A Karanga is a series of calls made when you go onto the Marae (The person calling you in is always a woman, as well). It's how they call you onto the holy ground and invite you into a meeting. She said that this Haka was the original Karanga called in the courts of heaven; the one that was called to begin the meeting that we all had before coming here. How cool is that? Makes me curious how much spiritual knowledge the Maori had. Think about how much you could learn without all of the distractions that we have to deal with today.

While I'm on the subject, I'll mention another interesting thing about their Maraes. The Marae is always built in a very specific way. There's always the main building (pretty sure it's called the Whare Nui) surrounded by an expanse of lawn, and then the outside fence. When you're called onto the Marae, you stand outside the fence, and walk in once the Karanga begins. I can't remember what it's called, but everything outside the fence is where the evil spirits can reside, but once you're inside the Whare Nui, there is only supposed to be good. So as you're called on, you think about your ancestors, but from what I understand you also let go of everything else.
Well. That should just about do it for today.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

November 17, 2014

So, its nearly summer and I'm a little torn when it comes into this season here. On one hand, it's really awesome to be able to gloat to everyone back home about how sunny and beautiful it is, and send awesome photos of the sun out. While on the other hand, it's really not that cool having Christmas be sunny. Not sure a white Christmas is worth the other months that are needlessly cold in Utah, but I think it gets pretty close to making it worth it.

It's getting close now. Just under three months left, from what I understand (not that I'm counting or anything). For the most part it isn't that much of a distraction in the day to day. Every now and again I'll have a moment of clarity where I realize how long I've been out and how long I have left. Usually though, we stay busy enough so there's not really the time to think about it. When it does get to me though is at night. Whenever I start going to sleep I always end up in this weird spot where my mind wanders free, and currently all it can think about is what's going to happen after the next three months. So annoying. By that point I'm asleep enough that I can't force my thoughts to shut up, but I'm not actually asleep. So I've started on some meditation techniques I learned in Sports Psychology in high school, and they've been working out well enough. Still though, so annoying.

I think I mentioned in my last letter, but transfers are this week. Usually the calls come through today and tomorrow, so I'm praying for no calls. Especially since we've got some awesome stuff coming up in the near future.

Heriwini Jones is coming here this Friday! I've mentioned him before in a few of my letters. He does really powerful talks on Maori Whakapapa, (Whakapapa is the recitation of genealogies or stories which create a base or foundation of meaning for people. As whakapapa can include genealogies or stories about the entire world, whakapapa are ways by which people come into relationship with the world, with people, and with life.) connecting them through the islands and to the Native Americans through the Book of Mormon. He'll be holding three separate meetings; one on Friday night, then one Saturday morning and one Saturday afternoon. We've been handing out flyers for it to our investigators, and the members have been trying to spread them around too, so I'm hoping that we get a good turn out. You never know if people will respond well, but Heriwini always speaks so boldly and the Spirit is always so strong that I'm hoping somebody will be touched by it. Aside from the good that these things always do, I'm really excited to learn some more. The history of this country is so amazing, it makes me wish I could just go around with Heriwini and learn what he learns. For example, I'll give you a bit of history on Kawhia.

Apparently Kawhia was settled by one of the original Waka (canoes) that made it to Aotearoa. The first waka settled on the East Coast of the island, but the second was led by a prophecy to continue to the west side. So they landed on the east and carried the waka across the north island to the west coast. Once there, they sailed down the coast of the island, eventually making it to the bottom of the island. Upon getting there, the leader of the waka knew they had gone too far and had them sail back up, searching all the while for the place that matched the description of a prophesy. When they reached this bay, they knew they were in the right place, so they settled Kawhia. The waka that they came in on is buried in a hillside on the Marae at the end of town. The stones that mark each end are still there, buried in this hill. How cool is that?  Almost on a daily basis I drive past those stones that mark the location of a boat that settled New Zealand. So awesome. The coolest part is that people still know that history. It's not lost or forgotten, but pretty well common knowledge. I find it extremely interesting.
 Anyway! Enough of my carrying on. I hope everybody has a good week.
 Arohanui! Elder O'Neal

Sunday, November 9, 2014

November 10, 2014

Mom asked about the sizes of the wards don here and for the most part all of the actual wards I've been to have plenty of people go to them. They usually wait to split wards until they're way overfull, so they are usually able to avoid any problems with being under-attended.

Didn't have the greatest of weeks last week. It wasn't too bad, as far as most things go, but I ended up getting sick. It seems that karma finally caught up with me. In all of my past areas, there's always been at least one time where multiple missionaries have gotten deathly ill around me, and I somehow never caught it. It seems that ever since my really bad sickness in basic training, I have the Hulk of all immune systems. I always made sure to point out with copious amounts of gloating. Then, sometime early on last week, I managed to get a nasty cold that somehow nobody else acquired. Started in my throat, then went to my nose, then spread to my ears, which made it so I couldn't swallow, couldn't smell and or speak correctly, and also couldn't hear anything. I felt like someone stuffed my head with cotton balls. Now it's gone for the most part, all except for a raging headache that it has so lovingly left behind.

The other little tid bit that made it not all that fun happened on Tuesday....
Every Tuesday we have District Meeting at ten, but since we're so far away they don't want us driving in for it, so instead we have to call in. I've tried every single week to get out of it but to no avail. It's really pretty useless, if you ask me. We end up sitting around for an hour trying to decipher the garbled mess that manages to make its way through the speaker phone.

I'd rather just forgo the meeting and get on with the real work. Usually the District Leader calls at five to ten. Ten o'clock came, and we still hadn't had a call. Another five minutes passed, and I decided to seize the opportunity. We had some service planned that day to go help put up a fence on one of the member's farms. So we quickly got changed, and just as we were heading out the door to freedom at around quarter past, the District Leader finally called. Nuts. So close. We usually go across the street to the chapel for the call, since it keeps us from raiding the fridge. So we grabbed our study material and went over so we could have the call. We were sitting in the hall, about ten minutes into District Meeting, and some random guy showed up to check the chapel over. Not sure what his job is, but he wandered around outside for a little while, then came in and started checking through all of the rooms, and spent a load of time in the cleaning closet fiddling with all the chemicals. As he'd walk from room to room he'd give us a stink eye or two, but I didn't really care. Turns out I should have though. He ended up going back later that day and telling President Rudd that his missionaries in Kawhia were "lounging around at the chapel all morning in their P-Day clothes." NO mention whatsoever of us having been on a call. What a legend. We ended up leaving the phone in the car that night, so we missed the call from President. Next morning I go get the phone and have my heart jump into my throat a little seeing it; it is never, ever a good thing when you get a call from President halfway through a transfer. We called him back but he didn't answer, so we ended waiting for his call that finally came on Friday. I wasn't too worried, but my comp was stressing out the whole week thinking he was closing the area or something for some reason.

Anyways. Other than that, everything is good. I still love it here, it's still beautiful, and there's a lot of awesome stuff coming up on the schedule. So long as I stick around and don't get transferred next week. Pray for me..
Arohanui whanau!

Here's a picture of the super awesome sunburn that I got from the Hangi weekend. I've only just now stopped peeling. Needless to say, I have since purchased not only sunscreen, but Aloe Vera gel AND Lotion. I was quite pleased to find they sell Banana Boat products here, what a pleasant surprise.

Monday, November 3, 2014

November 3, 2014

Everything here is pretty much on the same track as before; The weather continues to get better, though still intermittently interrupted with cold, rainy days.

I'm not positive if I mentioned this last year; though I'm pretty sure I did; Halloween in this country is a joke. Not a single house had decorations up, for one thing. I reckon it gets really out of hand back home, but there's always that good middle ground of just enough into the holiday, but not too much. At home, people like to either skirt or totally defy the line between good and way too much, whereas here everyone quietly resides within the "I really don't care about this holiday" zone. There was one group of kids going trick or treating, and out of the eight kids within the group, only one was dressed up, and even then only dismally so. Apparently white pajamas and an afro pass as a costume around here.


Looking on the bright side, Guy Fawkes day is on the fifth, so that'll be cool. I'm not sure on all of the details, but it's a holiday that celebrates some dude trying to blow up parliament (ironically enough, since this is the only time of year when you're allowed to buy fireworks). If the weather holds out (and I pray it does) the town will be holding a (reportedly massive) fireworks display. I remember last year for Guy Fawkes, one of the members bought around $500 worth of fireworks, and we lit 'em all off with him. Then a wee while after that as we were reading through the Missionary Handbook, I noticed a sentence that I had previously somehow never internalized, which mentioned something about how we are not supposed to handle fireworks or explosives of any kind. Whoops. So with that in mind, I will not be handling any this year, but I will be quite pleased at the opportunity to watch a few.

On another note, we finally got most of our garden planted. We still need to put in the potatoes, watermelon, and taro. Which we should be doing this week, along with a few more of the member's gardens. Turns out my companion and I are on a committee with two of the members that are supposed to get everyone in the branch self-sustaining. Apparently I'm the mechanic. I'm totally fine with that, so long as this committee's mechanic is only required to work on single cylinder dirt bikes. Not sure how long that'll pan out for.

I was supposed to have some more pictures to send this week, but I didn't get my hands on them yet, so hopefully next week I'll have em.
 Until then,
 Ka Kite Ano