I think that I will probably send some pictures of the Philippines. I am not sure when, but there is a photo shop that I can print pictures. ( Said photo shop can also take professional pictures quite cheaply and other missionaries said they are going to get pictures with their companions there as well, I don't know) Speaking of pictures, I don't have any. I didn't bring any, so the only pictures I have are pictures that people have sent to me. I wouldn't mind getting the Christmas card either, I believe you said it was the wave picture. Christmas in the Philippines was fun, but New Years was crazy. The Branch President here told me before hand that it is comparable to war. They no one has real time, they all just have personal watches, so at about 11:45 they start setting off fireworks and yelling Happy New Year. The fireworks are loud and continuous until well past midnight. There is no break in sound and it really does sound like a war, they also can use all the fireworks that are illegal in Utah. It is much louder than any New Years in Utah, and apparently that is pretty consistent all throughout the Philippines. Elder Tolman didn't wake up.
Elder Tolman and I had a good week this week. We were to meet most of our goals. We are teaching quite a few lessons each week. It's good to practice the Piano before your mission because you will be asked to play a lot. Because my companion is the district leader, we have to go to do baptismal interviews, we also usually go to the baptisms. At the baptisms, they ask me to play the Piano, every time. There hasn't been a meeting since I've gotten to Agoo that I haven't played the Piano. While I am sure there are better piano players in the Baguio mission, I am the most competent in our zone. This week at a baptism one sister wanted to do a special musical number. When she found I could play the piano, she wanted me to play for her singing. So I ended up sight reading a song for a special musical number.
We did exchanges this week and I worked with Elder Domdom. Elder Domdom is a Filipino missionary, he is about to go home and is a really good missionary. We worked in my area. Because we worked in my area I was really the leader here. He didn't know who to teach or where things were located, he also didn't know where we could go when scheduled appointments fell through. It was the first time that I really had to do everything. It was a good day, I was also a little nervous, but we got a lot done. This was also the first time that I really worked with a Filipino for an extended period of time. I worked with someone who knows Tagalog a lot better than they do English. It was a little weird though, to be with someone who wants to learn English, he wants to speak English to me to practice his English, and I in turn want his help in Tagalog. He would sometimes ask me questions about English, about the best way to say a certain sentence, it was kind of different for someone to ask me a language question. (Sometimes in the Missionary Training Center the Samoans would ask me English questions as well.) I also had an interview with the mission President, President Jensen this week. President Jensen said something to me, something that he probably says to a lot of American missionaries, but I decided I should take it to heart. He said, almost in passing, that someday in the mission I would start to think in Tagalog and it would come easily to me. A few days after that interview I was thinking about that. I was thinking about how cool it would be to eventually think in a different language, then I decided I might as well do my best to help that along. I made the decision to whenever possible, whenever words run through my head to make an effort to think in Tagalog. Obviously I can't do that completely, and of course I have to make an effort, but it has helped me. I find I become increasingly aware of words that I do not know, I also am better prepared to start speaking Tagalog if I didn't have English running through my head only a moment before. I made the rules that if I am writing in my journal, or doing personal study that I wouldn't try to think Tagalog, but any other time of day I should make that effort. (Writing because I write in English, and that would be hard indeed. Personal study because I am reading in English and it would probably detract from my reading, and slow it down a lot, and my study wouldn't be as productive) That's is what I've been doing the last few days now. Have fun in 2012! I love you all. Love,
Elder Nathaniel Merrill