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Sunday, May 31, 2009

"Pahlangy" (Pah-long-ee) = White People 05/26/09

Dear Family,

So I've been going through last week in my planner trying to find something worth telling you all. A spiritually-uplifting experience, a funny story, even something I heard someone else do this week that you all might like to hear. I got nothing, and right now I'm sitting next to an old man and a homeless guy, who are both talking to themselves, and each has their own distinctive smell. So I'm having a hard time focusing.

Elder Uelese often talks about some sort of animal called a "Pahlangy" (Pah-long-ee) that he and other Polynesians like to cook and eat. He also sings a lot of songs about hunting and killing Pahlangies. So I've been looking for a restaurant that serves Pahlangies, but haven't found one yet. Then the other day a Samoan member of our ward said that they used to be in the Tongan ward before they came to this Pahlangy ward. I was a little confused, because most of the members of our ward are white Americans, and wouldn't know much about Pahlangies. If anyone knows where I could find more info on Pahlangies, let me know.

Anyway, thanks for the letters, everyone, and if you see Kenyn, Nate, or any of my other friends that recently came home from their missions, just yell really loud at them "Ooga-booga-looga!" for me. It's a missionary thing. If they truly served with all their heart, might, mind and strength, they'll know what it means.

Love,

Elder Karlsven

Exploding Tires! 05/18/09

Dear Family,

What a week it's been. Being with Elder Uelese reminds me a lot of when I was living with Kamalei. Except Elder Uelese is three times as big as Kamalei, has a New Zealand accent, and we don't spend 6 hours a day playing Guitar Hero.

We've taken to street contacting using a ukelele. As Elder Uelese promised, it worked like magic. We were walking down a main street in Mountain View - I was playing the uke and then some people shouted to us to come over and play them a song. We hadn't prepared anything, so I just played some chords and Elder Uelese made up some words, and it wasn't bad. After we finished, we not only were able to give them a Book of Mormon and teach a little bit, but one of them gave us a dollar each! I just wonder what the Bishop is going to say when I give him a tithing envelope with a dime in it.

Elder Uelese says he is a professional rugby league player, and I believe it. He has some pretty good stories. Mostly about injuries or concussions he has gotten while playing. One of my favorite stories though was how when he and another Elder spent a P-day training the San Jose State rugby team. One thing led to another, and they ended up helping the team beat the number 2 rugby team in the nation, and even got their photos on the front page of the San Jose State magazine. That story needs to be made into an inspirational film.

Another good thing about having Elder Uelese as a companion is that people are less likely to yell things at us or start arguing with us. And the people who still do these things are more likely to be beaten up - by him. Man, I love Polynesian missionaries.

Let's see, oh yeah, Saturday was my birthday. I got mom's birthday packages on time, which was sweet. Then went and street contacted in downtown Mountain View where a bunch of booths for different companies and products were set up, along with some bands and attractions. Pretty fun. I even gave myself a birthday present by going down this HUGE slide they set up. It didn't seem as awesome though when I had to wait for 2 moms and their respective 3 year old children to go down before me. But still, it was sweet.

Then we celebrated with shish-ca-bobs (sp?) and ice cream cake at dinner with some members. Not such a bad birthday after all.

A few minor drawbacks to a Polynesian companion:
-He eats as much as I do, and it's a race on who gets the leftovers first.
-Having to keep my back straight as he bench-presses me.
-Having to replace 2 bike tubes for him after they exploded under his weight (this is true).

Actually only one of the tubes actually exploded. The other one just got a hole. The exploding tube:

We were riding back home from dinner and went down a road with some police cars and a gathering crowd. They were all looking at a car that had crashed and was now on its side. I was ahead of Elder Uelese, and right when we passed the crashed car, I heard a BOOM! behind me. It sounded like a quieter gun-shot or a really big balloon popping. I looked back and saw that Elder Uelese's back tube had exploded and was completely flat. Of course, now everyone who had been looking at the crashed car was now looking at Elder Uelese. No one made a sound for about 3 seconds. Then this big, fat Hispanic guy from across the street just starts busting out laughing at us. Everyone else started laughing too. We walked our bikes away in shame.

But it really was hilarious.

Anyway, thanks for the updates and good luck Dave and Brigette with getting the new home and Joe and Meagan visiting Europe. Have fun everyone, and enjoy your week!

Love,

Elder Karlsven

Obedience 05/11/09

Dear Family,

For the past 3 months I told Elder DeAngelo a lot about how San Juan Bautista is and about how it was to be a missionary there. For some reason, the weird and more negative stories (strange people, chickens everywhere, small population, etc) were more fun to tell than the positive ones (making good friends, everyone knows you, spiritual lessons, etc). Well, as luck would have it, he just got transferred to San Juan, and I'm sure he's thinking it's not going to go too well. And it's all my fault! Meh.

My new comp is Elder Uelese (Weh-less-ee) from New Zealand. He's a pretty big guy, and he seems pretty solid, especially after the car's rear suspension went down a good 2 inches after he put his dumbells in the trunk. Then another 3 after he got in. I don't know much about him now that I've known him for about an hour. But I've heard a lot of good things about him.

Well, we're off to a pig roast in San Jose. It was great talking to everyone yesterday. Oh yeah, a good excerpt of the phone conversation:

Family: So how is your missionary experience different than you expected?

Becky: One thing is that all missionaries aren't perfectly obedient.

(phone beeps)

Family: Oh, I think that means it's been an hour. How long can your phone call be?

Me: 40 minutes, but that's not that important. Now, let me tell you more about these disobedient missionaries...

I'll talk to you all later. And if you see Nate Perkins or Kenyn Koop, give them a pat on the back or a hearty handshake for me.

Love,

Elder Karlsven

Santa Cruz 05/04/09

Dear Family,

Although my sickness had barnyard-esque symptoms, you can rest assured that it was not the swine flu. Thank you for your concern.

In less than a 10-minute time-frame today, I saw 6 people with dreadlocks, 3 street performers, and hundreds of otters and surfers in wetsuits. That's right - we visited Santa Cruz.

Taking a windy road into the Eucalyptus-tree-filled hills of Santa Cruz, we approached the area known as the Mystery Spot. The Mystery Spot is renowned for its strange effects on certain laws of physics and perception as well as its ability to distribute large amounts of bumper stickers. Balls roll UP slopes instead of down, people change heights and size depending on where they are in the Mystery Spot, the downward pull of gravity is not a factor in the Mystery Spot.

I'm sure you can read a lot more of the fantastical descriptions of this place online. But to tell the truth, I was a little disappointed about the whole thing. Most of the tricks didn't seem amazing, or even made you wonder how they did it. Actually most of the effects were based on that you were in a crooked house on a slope. I guess I've just lost my childlike imagination and wonder about things like that. I hope it comes back someday though. I'll just have to wait until I'm old and senile I guess.

Seeing the ocean was great, and seeing surfers wipe out was even greater. Santa Cruz would be a fun place to surf - I mean serve.

We've had some great lessons this week. We have two investigators preparing for baptism in a few weeks - Gian Singh (An Indian from Fiji) and Florence Ting (Chinese lady that we've been teaching with Elder Young - from Provo High).

We also had a very spiritual lesson in a Starbucks this week. It was the first time teaching a 25 year old named Lewis, who studied to be a Lutheran preacher, but then 3 years ago decided to convert to the Greek Orthodox church. Lewis lives with his parents, so he wanted to meet at Starbucks instead of his place. Not the best environment to teach, but we agreed anyway. We brought Dave Barney, a member of the ward to help teach Lewis.

As we taught, Lewis had a lot of really good questions. Honest, sincere questions and not wanting to bash (most of the time) even though he knows the Bible really really well. As Dave Barney testified of his own getting an answer that the Book of Mormon is true and that Lewis can get an answer too if he reads and prays with sincerity, real intent and faith, I remember how all our loud, distracting surroundings melted away and the Spirit could be felt and recognized. Great lesson. Members helping out with teaching investigators makes it SO SO SO much better (most of the time). And yeah, we probably won't be teaching Lewis at Starbucks again in the near future.

Anyway, I'll think of some good stuff to tell you all when I call on Mothers Day, and you all do the same. Can't wait!

Love,

Elder Karlsven

No Bueno 04/28/09

Dear Family,

Been inside most of the week. Yep, sick again. I thought it would be nice to have hot weather when you are sick. Not so. The most miserable day was I think Wednesday, the hot sun beating into our apartment, where for 5 hours I was sprawled out on the couch, drenched in sweat, periodically swaying in and out of consciousness. I realized my appearance that evening at our dinner appointment probably concerned the family when I had to stop them from calling an ambulance. No bueno. Absolutely no bueno.

We passed the time playing Settlers of Catan. This helped take my mind from my ever-worsening illness, but it also brought back bad memories of family feuds back at home caused by playing this game. I was shunned by our district at district meeting, and the mission president refused to shake my hand. All because of the symptoms of my sickness - cough, runny nose, weakness, sickly composure, and a near-uncontrollable urge to complain about it constantly. This week has been as much a mental and emotional battle as it has been a physical battle against the adversary and the bad-health he sends to me.

Okay, it wasn't THAT bad. But having to stay inside is so boring, especially as a missionary. I got some anti-biotics, and just finished taking them all, and I've improved a lot. So this week we are back to work at full-throttle.

One thing of note happened this week - I may or may not have accidentally gone outside of the mission on a split with Eddie Baik from the Elders Quorum. He was driving me around, looking for a less-active member that lives in Los Altos Hills - lots of winding roads, and few street signs. The man we were looking for lives on the north border of the mission. We were driving along and start passing several software companies that Eddie says are based out of Palo Alto. Huh? We realized we probably missed a turn, but cannot find a place to turn around. We finally turn around in a parking lot at a building for Stanford University. So, as any missionary would, I had Eddie take a picture of me in front of the Stanford sign (for bragging rights) and then we rushed back into mission boundaries.

Let's just keep this a secret between me, you and the world-wide-web, okay?

Not much else to report this week. But with my health back, I'm sure the coming seven days will be eventful.

I love you all. Thank you so much for your prayers!

Love,

Elder Karlsven

Questions and Answers 04/21/09

Family,

Wow, Mom is moving from music teacher to regular teacher? Are her students going to put on a surprise concert for her like in Mr. Holland’s Opus? Hopefully her opus will be better than Mr. Holland’s. That one was terrible!

In Mom’s last email to me she asked a few questions. In response:

Q: What's your apartment like? Do you share it with other Elders? Or is it just you and your companion?
A: My apartment is acceptable. There are several large and mysterious stains on the carpet that won’t come out, but other than that it’s pretty good. Just Elder DeAngelo and I. Living below us is a large man named Roy that is drunk often and occasionally waits for us to come home at night to talk to us. The last encounter with him he started crying and hugged me several times, and then told us several graphic details about his life. Ugh.

Q: Are you cutting each other's hair? Or going to a professional hair style place?
A: We met a man named Al Galedrige who runs a barbershop in downtown Los Altos. He is a balding 81 year-old that has been cutting hair for 63 years Very talkative and also losing his hearing. Great guy. Gives 50’s style haircuts, which luckily is exactly what I like. We go to him

Q: Are you taking care of your suits? Getting them dry cleaned occasionally?
A: Yes, mother.

Q: Do you cook much? Or is it cold cereal in the morning and meals with members in the evenings?
A: Member meals are almost always delicious and even occasionally nutritious. The extent of my cooking is melting cheese on nachos in the microwave

Q: Are your shoes in good condition?
A: Yes, mother.

Q: How are your teeth doing?
A: I counted them this morning. All present and accounted for.

Some missionaries hate it, but I love being looked at on the street and having weirdos (and some normalos) come up to us to talk. Maybe I was just starved for attention before I came out here, but I like it. I’ve gained about 10 pounds in the last 3 weeks. I’m trying to convince myself it’s from the muscle being built in my legs from biking. But I still haven’t forgotten my initial goal of gaining 200 pounds on my mission.

I’m sorry to hear that the ski season is winding down. I hope you all enjoyed it.

Oh yeah, I should mention that Elder Ames, serving in the ward next to Los Altos, from North Pole, is good friends with Nicole Jensen (our cousin). Small world.

I’m happy and having fun while simultaneously working hard. Sounds impossible, but it’s true.

Love,

Elder Karlsven