Well hello everyone!!!

So I am writing you from one of our local internet cafes on my first P-day in the field!!! Yeah, let's all just take a moment to realize what is happening.

I am in the Philippines.

Okay, while that sinks in, I will share with you about this last week and the craziness that I have experienced so far. So on Monday we all trekked to the SLC airport and boarded our plane for LA. we got to stay there for 5 hours. That was awesome. The international terminal at LAX is crazy and lets be honest, those of you who have been there before, it's pretty much just Asia. We already felt like we were in Taiwan. Finally we got on the plane and started the longest plane ride of my entire life. Luckily I was sitting next to the 3 elders that I loved the most from our district. I handed out pink earplugs and niquil and we called it a night. The airline we flew was interesting (totally asian) and the flight attendants decided it was necessary to turn on all the lights and make us put our seats up anytime they served a meal. Even thought we didn't want to eat, we still were yelled at in broken english "Sit up please! You want food?" Crazy Asian!!!! You all know how I feel about them... Anyway, finally we got to Manila, had a crazy experience trying to get from luggage claim to the ticket booth ( I don't remember what real words are.. so these things may sound weird) and then finally boarded that plane for Bacolod. As we were flying in I looked out the window (and what did I see?)... the most beautiful place EVER. It is So green and lush and incredible here, seriously, it is unlike anything I have ever seen.

President Tobias and his wife and some office staff were there to pick us up and take us to the mission home. That's where Sis. Vaipulu and I stayed. The elders at a hotel. We had our first Filipino meal and then went to bed. We were exhausted. The next day we had this really long orientation and were introduced to the trainers, just not the ones we were getting. That night we had dinner with President and then spent our last night in the mission home. Let me just say that I LOVE my mission president. He is the sweetest man. He is a native Filipino and is kind of a quiet guy, okay, he's super quiet when he speaks, but he's hilarious and amazingly dedicated and obedient to this work. He just has such an amazing spirit. I love him.

Friday we had the transfer meeting. So the day before, before we left the orientation, I started chatting with one of the American trainers (a sister). We became instant BFF's. We were having a blast and jokingly we said that we should tell President we want to be companions. But really, we both did want it pretty bad. At the transfer meeting they made us all get up in front (greenie tradition) and then announced our trainers. And lo and behold... I got Sister Stadler. I'm pretty sure we let out shrieks of glee that only dogs could here, we were so excited. Seriously, I love this girl. She is amazing and pretty much just a carbon copy of me, but in a good way. haha. We get along so well because we have SO much in common. It is incredible. I am so grateful, because when things get overwhelming, she calms me down and we laugh. It is the perfect set-up. So along with the assignment for her to be my trainer, also came the challenge of "whitewashing" an area, which means it hasn't had missionaries and we are re-opening it. It hasn't sisters FOREVER. So everything is new. I mean, it's all new for me, but it's also new for her. So we are learning together which is great. I actually feel like I contribute, even if it is in really small ways, like remembering where we live. It means something to me!

So we are now in La Carlota, which is south of Bacolod City and out in the Province. I LOVE it here. Seriously, it is so hot all the time and I feel like I have bugs crawling on me all the time, which they probably are, but I seriously don't even care. I love this place so much. I love the people even more. We have already met so many people and they are all so amazing. I can't even believe how much they mean to me, how much I love them. And I don't even speak their language. Oh yeah, sidenote, but they don't speak Tagalog here. I mean, they can, because everyone learns it, but they don't. They speak a dialect called Ilonggo and I don't know it at all. But it's okay because I have faith I will learn it and in the meantime I speak broken Tagalog and English so at least I can teach. Everyone understands English too here, which is good. So yeah, we are working hard to find people. The goal in this mission is reactivation. It's a huge problem here in the Philippines, so it's pretty much everyone's focus. But here especially. The branch we are assigned to used to be a ward, but the leadership got totally corrupt so they are a branch now. Our job is to get them to be a ward again... basically. woohoo!!! It's awesome. The people here really are so incredibly nice and really honest and just awesome. I get told that I am Guapa (beautiful) every day and every person that learns my name asks if I am related to Michael Jackson, but it just adds to the charm for me. I do tower over EVERY single person here, like in a huge way. I get stared at ALL the time, but I love it. And the love us, so its great.

Here are some fun experiences/observations I've had so far:
*Our apartment is AMAZING. Usually they are pretty rough, but we have a hot water shower, an oven, and AC in the bedroom. That is not common here and is basically the Celestial Kingdom of housing. I do not have to shower with a bucket and a ladel (but that will come, I'm sure). We are totally spoiled. Like out of control spoiled.
*Driving here is OUT OF CONTROL! Like for real, it's crazy. But I kind of love it. We ride around in Trikes, which are motorcycles with side cars that you sit in, or hang off of. They are crazy and awesome. There are also Jeepneys, but we don't have those here. Only in the city. Today we went to the city and got to ride in them, and I don't love them, but they're a fun experience.
*The bathrooms do not have toilet paper. If you don't have toilet paper you have an interesting situation. I will not provide details, but I have an intimate relationship with this situation... Yeah.
*Everyone burns their garbage. It is gross and always smoky. Not awesome. My lungs are not loving that, nor is my throat, but apparently you get used to it. Yay...

Okay, I'm sure there is so much more that I could share but I can't think of much more. It is the end of the day here and so I am exhausted. We had a rough P-day. But it was good, of course! I want you all to know that this is really the greatest experience of my life. I am learning so much and experiencing so much. I see A LOT of poverty (Russia doesn't have a whole lot on the Philippines, Grandparents... sorry. ) but these people are so happy. I have so much to learn from them. I also have felt just an incredible outpouring of love from Heavenly Father. It's amazing. I prayed really hard before I left to be able to have a positive attitude throughout and I really have. Honestly, nothing really gets me down. I've been overwhelmed a few times, but I don't let it distract me from what is so important and it has made all the difference in the world. I am SOOO grateful to Heavenly Father for knowing me perfectly. What an incredible gift.

Ok, time is really spent and I need to get going. I will try and report more spiritual things next week. I hope you all are doing well and I miss you all terribly, but I love this a lot, so I don't miss you too much! :)

If you want to email me, do it at hayley.jackson@myldsmail.net. I put the wrong one on before, this is the right one and it will probably be a bit easier than mail. But you are welcome to still send mail if you want.

Keep me posted on your lives.

Love Love Love,

Sister Jackson


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