The food in the Philippines has been alright for me. I just eat what is given me. I don't always know what it is. The Filipinos always want to give me more servings then everyone else though. I'm American, so somehow that means I eat a lot more than they do. Usually we make our own food each night, but sometimes we have dinner appointments. Last week I was talking to some members, and didn't really completely know what was going on. They asked me a question and I gave an answer, I don't really remember what my answer was, and I don't think I ever understood what the question was, but then they said "Great you can eat dinner with us." My companion congratulated me that I got us a dinner appointment, but I hadn't even known what I was doing. They served us tuna fish and rice. I played the piano again for Sacrament meeting. It turns out there is one member in the ward who can play the piano, but he isn't good at sight-reading so on Sunday when he finds out what songs will be played he plays the ones he can, and the ones he doesn't know I get to play. This means that I get to play all the hard Hymns. It's fun, I am only an ok sightreader but am happy to help out the ward. The little kids here are really fun. I don't usually know what they are saying, but that's ok. The kids don't seem to understand that I don't speak the language very well. When talking to an adult, they will speak slower and help me, if I ask them to repeat what they have said it is slower. The children will just repeat what they said at the same speed. Often there is a large crowd of children and they are all speaking at once. They really like Americans because they don't see many whites so they all want to talk to me. They also assume that because I'm American I must know Kobe Bryant, or Shaquil O'neal. I have been asked that many times. I have also learned that many kids don't speak Tagalog as their first language. The first language here is Ilocano. ilocano. Everyone can speak Tagalog, but they will often say it first in ilocano until they realize you don't know ilocano. Sometimes when members find out I am a new missionary they will say something to me in ilocano and then watch me struggle to figure out what they said. After I become concerned that maybe I don't know Tagalog at all, they will say it again in Tagalog and say they were just kidding with me before. After Ilocano, there is also a few other dialects sometimes spoken, but Tagalog is the national language, so everyone knows enough to get around. Actually my companion says that occasionally the American missionaries can speak better Tagalog than members. That isn't very often though.
I don't know if you watched the Christmas devotional or not. For you I think it was last week, we watched a rebroadcast Yesterday. In it President Monson mentioned 3 stories he always reads around Christmas time. They aren't all in the missionary library, so I can't read them, but I thought Dad or Elizabeth might enjoy them if they don't already know about them. The stories are a Christmas Carol by Dickens, The Mansion by Henry Van Dyke and of course the Story of Christ's Birth from the Gospel of Luke. He talked a little bit about the stories and how they encourage people to be giving, especially around Christmas. President Monson said that to keep Christmas in our hearts this season is the gift we should give the Savior. I have to give a talk in church next Sunday. They asked me to give a talk on Christlike attributes, in Tagalog of course. My companion and I have been talking to a lot of people on the street. We are opening an area, and don't really have many investigators, so we talk to everyone on the street about the church. It's really quite good. It helps me with Tagalog as well. We have been teaching a lot about the Atonement of Christ. We teach mostly inactive and part member families, and the Atonement is a universal message that can benefit everyone. I am getting better. I can contribute to the lessons and be of more help to my companion than before. It's hard not being able to say everything I want in Tagalog, but the universal language that everyone understands is the Spirit. I know what I am saying is true and I am learning to say it more effectively each day.