Well I finally made it to Jamaica and have my first Preparation day so I can finally respond to all the emails. Luckily I get more email time out in the field than at the MTC I get an hour instead of 30 minutes. Well Thanks for all the emails I really enjoy reading them! first off let me go through some random bits of info/important things before I forget them. Firstly I sent you a letter on wednesday saying I arrived safely...it will arrive in like another week! In it I mentioned that I didn't want you to have to much money on my credit card in case it is stolen but then I learned the next day that Jamaicans don't steal credit cards, only cash. They are afraid that if they take cards that they will be tracked by the US government, so you can do whatever you want with how much money is on my card. secondly if you do want to mail me anything via snail mail....it will indeed be snail mail, it will take 7-10 days to reach Jamaica and then because of the area I am in it can take an additional 7 days to get to me. So up to 17 days. Patience is required with snail mail. I can recieve pictures in my email and I can send pictures...if these computers had card readers. We write emails at this british email cafe. Possibly one of the nicest buildings in the entire city that I serve in. I have access to email every week on monday so don't worry abotu not hearing from me. I will let you know if somethign happens where email will be unavaliable for a time. Okay I think I covered all the random info I had for you.
Well Jamaica is great! It is absolutely nothing like a resort. But I will get to that later. First I will explain my final week in the MTC.
Well I don't remember if I said this or not but when I was at the MTC I had difficulty with my flight plan. The problem was that our flight was scheduled to leave in 1899. so I had missed it by 110 years. luckily I was able to sort that out and leave on time. I had to pull an all nighter, and was up for close to 36 hours. Luckily when I arrived in Jamaica President Gingery let Elder Sizemore and I go to bed at 7 pm. We left the MTC at 9pm monday night and drove to the University mall. We than turned around due to some stranded missionaries at the Airport and went to the MTC again to get a bus. We got a bus and Elder Sizemore and I were the only missionaries on it. It was quite entertainging to ride on a bus with no one else on it. The bus was very comfortable. We got the the airport, checked in and then waited for 2 hours until our flight left. we then flew to atlanta then to florida where we waited for 3 more hours. In Florida some random guy walked up to us and told us how his boy was on a mission and then he bought us lunch. It was great! Finally we flew to Jamaica on a small uncomfortable plane.
We landed in the Kingston airport and got through customs really fast, they didn't really care what we were carrying into the country. I think they have dealt with the missionaries often enough that it went really fast. We went to get our luggage. The luggage conveyerbelt was strange....it kept braking down and then it would beep loudly and restart. I think it was manually run by goats that ran in a wheel in order to generate enough power to turn a crank which than turned the belt. It didn't work so well but eventually we got our luggage.
Met the Gingerys outside and drove to the mission home. The Drive was the most terrifying thing ever! The roads in Jamaica have 0 laws. There is no police that watch over traffic. Street signs/lights mean nothing, lines painted on the road mean nothing, speed limits mean nothing. It is just a giant mess with everyone trying to get to their destination in the fastest was possible. So we nearly got in like 4 or 5 different accidents. President Gingery said every missionary who gets a chance to drive (The Zone Leaders) has been in at least one accident. Luckily I don't have to get in a car very often, they are not a pleasent experience.
We ate dinner at the Gingerys, had interviews and then just enjoyed a peaceful evening. It was only Elder Sizemore and I. The Gingerys live in a super nice home. It is way comfortable and air conditioned! (a rare feature in Jamaica) The Gingerys are really nice and really funny. I enjoyed staying with them.
Well on Wednesday I got up and got to have my first day as a misisonary in Jamaica! I didn't know where I was going yet and wouldn't know till the evening but I got to just go and work with the Zone leaders in Kingston. In Kingston I went to a district meeting at the church. In kingston there is a fairly large branch with close to 300 members. The church there looks like ours except for one difference....the benches aren't bolted down. so everytime you move the pews move and so nothing is straight at all, they are just everywhere. District meeting was good and then we went for lunch. For lunch we went to one of the few Jamaican franchise restaurants called Jucci Patties. They are interesting... it is more of less a restaurant where they serve hot pockets. The menu is small but the food is good. The first thing I was told was to just eat it and not look inside it...what great words of comfort! The food looks like it is really really expensive (a beef patti costs $70) but that is because the inflation has gotten so bad here that for every one US doller you have 91 Jamaican dollers. We get to feel really rich by getting close to $20000 Jamaican dollers a month! (it doesn't go that far) Well after lunch I went out with an Elder Richardson to go tracting. In Jamaica you don't knock on doors. mostly because their are few functioning doors and everyones house in Kingston has a big iron fence around it. So we just walk up to the gate and then yell until someone comes out. Everyone is always home because most people are unemployed. This one lady that we met was a bit odd, we asked her to pray for us and she refused to pray until she found her fancy hat inside. and then this other lady refused to come to the gate because it was locked, we asked her if she could come and unlock it but said she couldn't because the gate to her veranda was also locked. So then we asked her what she would do if there was a fire and all the gates were unlocked. She didn't have an answer but was willing to listen to our message from 30 feet away. We had to yell through most of it. Well at the end of wednesday I got to see where I was going the next day and who my companion was going to be. I was told I would be going to a city on the far west side of the island (farthest point on the island from kingston) called Negril and that my first companion would be an Elder Stevens. I also had a 4-5 hour drive coming the next day.
Thursday: Today I spent almost all day driving. It was really boring. Luckily on the country roads there is limited traffic and so it was much safer and relaxing. After multiple stops we got to Negril (pronounce in 2 syllables, Ne prounouced as in the sound the N makes in None and then Gril as in a Grill where you would cook meat) Negril is right next to the ocean. The city of Negril is anything but a resort. It is a giant ghetto. There are no nice streets and no street signs. and the residential areas have 0 streets. just houses built randomly everywhere. Everyhouse is the same. a one room house with a bed in it built out of whatever the people can find. Since this doesn't really accomadate missionaries Elder Stevens and I (the only 2 in negril) are forced to live in a much nicer home 7 miles away. So every morning we hop on our bikes and bike for 7 miles down into town. Our house is nice. It has running water most of the time and 3 lightbulds! (most homes in Jamaica have 0 lightbulbs. When we teach at night we have to use our Cellphone to give us enough light to read our scriptures to our investigators) The bike ride isn't that nice. It is on a narrow road with a bunch of crazy drivers and our bikes are terrible. Our bikes cost about US $125 so a decent amount. But they are the worst bikes imaginable. They don't really work. Just imagine the worst bike you have ever seen, remove the brakes and remove any form of comfortable seat and that is what we are given. The missionaries have to go to the bike shop and purchase a complete set of replacement parts once they get there bike. It is interesting but a lot of fun!
Well I am going to give up organizing this email by day and just explain random things that have happened. The weather is really nice and Jamaica is a really cool place! I love the people! they are really accepting of the gospel, the only problem is that most have very little or no education so they can't read. Definitely a hinderence. And they don't understand very big words. even though there are 5 lessons in PMG we normally split it up in close to 20 lessons just to help them. Each lesson even though it covers very little takes about an hour. It is really interesting and a lot of work but I enjoy teaching the people of Jamaica! I ate at one of the local cook shops the other day. It was good except I learned that the people of Jamaica never remove chicken bones. So even though they mulched up the chicken it has lots of pieces of bone. The Jamaicans just eat the bones but Elder stevens and I eat it slowl spitting out the bones as we go. Luckily the Jamaicans dont' get offended by anything. Lessons are helped a ton because of that. We can aske anything and they won't lie. We are very very very blunt in our questions concerning various commandments. they always answer happily. The people of Jamaica have 2 different hair styles (at least the men do) really short hair or dreads. The really short hair accounts for about 90% of the population the other 10% has dreads and is crazy. Pretty much if they have dreads we don't talk to them, mostly because they are litterally crazy and no one knows what they are talking about. They just ramble on about strange things like this one guy was telling us how these beatles that live in Jamaica talk to him. Speaking of bugs...they are the only wildlife in Jamaica. In Jamaica you have birds, ants and beatles. and that is it. so very little wildlife. I am running out of time so I am going to rush through a couple of other random things! Our branch in kingston has about 20 members and the branch president is about 23 he is the only return missionary in the branch. The branch is really cool and great! one of the families feeds us dinner every sunday! they are slightly more wealthy and so they can accomadate missionaries. It was delicious! My companion is really cool. He went to BYU and I have since then taught him how to solve a rubiks cube. Rubiks cubes are a huge thing in this mission, along with really really really really ugly ties. Missionaries hold ugliest tie contests and if they win they get presidents tie It is interesting. I have already been given a rubiks cube and a tie by a missionary that is leaving. Every misisonary has a rubiks cube and they race at meetings. It is qutie entertaining. Overall Jamaica is wonderful! I am having a great time and loving it! I have so much more I would like to sit here and type but I am out of time and got a lot of other things to do before p-day is over! keep emailing me I love the emails and Wish I had time to respond to them more in full. I will try and answer any quesitons you mention in them but don't know if I will always remember them all haha.
Grandma & Grandpa. Thanks for the email about keeping a positive attitude, it is really important here in Jamaica where every single person has such extreme problems, it can get depressing really fast when you see the sort of poverty these people live in.
Siblings, sounds like you had a great little activity where you got to go and practice some missionary work! that is great! practice is one the most important things, the more we practice the better we will become. but it takes patience. We must have the Faith go out and do but then have patience in that God will eventually bless us with the talents and blessings that come from serving. I am happy to hear from all of you! keep working hard in school and take time to study the scriptures every day!!!!
I love you all and wish I could say more!!! Thanks for the support and keep me updated on whats going on! I am really busy here in Jamaica (29 different investigators) and I really got to run now!!! Next week I will have another hour to explain even more!! If nothing else in 2 years I can tell all of you all about it here! hope all is great back in Utah!!!!
Love- Elder Talbert