Monday, January 28, 2013

Dearest Motherly,
Good Morrow! Good Morrow!
Okay, so I have been thinking about it. You probably do not need to send me an umbrella. If I have to use this slightly broken one for a couple of months, that's fine. I can do that. And you make an excellent point that it probably won't even get here until the rainy season is at the descending peak, so it's okay. And that way you can use that space to send me other things of greater importance. :) As far as anything I would need? Well.. I would once again say everything is great. I can't really make any requests. Perhaps the instructions to that metal puzzle-y chain thing you sent me, because I have made absolutely NO progress. At all. Even. 
The guy who owns the cyber here where I am typing my email is playing that one computer game you used to always play. Do you remember that old one? I don't remember the name, Zuma or something (which is extremely similar to Friday in Malagasy), but it's the one where the frog shoots different colored balls out of his mouth. It's all Mayan themed and what not. Anyway, yeah. He's totally playing that right now.
You better get that modem problem figured out, for by the time I come home I won't know any more about technology than you do!
I am afraid that all the Malagasy food i know how to cook may turn into gassy food, haha. Lots of beans. All I really like is beans, but I will be on the lookout for something nice and simple. The main thing to eat is rice though. Lots and lots of rice. More rice than you think you can handle, and then once you tackle it, you get more added on. That's how to eat Malagasy food.
We had a councilor from the mission presidency come and visit us this past weekend. He's Malagasy, and when I first met him he asked me where I am from. I told him Payson, Utah, a little hesitantly fully accepting that this man most likely has no idea in the world is Payson. Utah is easy to know for any member of the church, but a little town like Payson is a bit tougher. When I told him though, he acknowledge it, then replied that he has been to Payson. It is fair to say that this shocked me. Turns out, this man served a mission in Utah back when (as he put it) I "was this tall," he says gestering to mid-thigh length. He never worked there, but he had a Zone Conference there one day many years ago. Well how about that? To meet a Malagasy who has crept around my quarters was not on my list of things I expected that day.
I also got to see another wedding. I would say this one was a lot different than that one I saw last April. Even my Malagasy companion thought it was pretty crazy, and he is Malagasy. The reason fo this is because each of the tribes here in Madagascar have their own traditions, and the people her in Mahajanga are different than those in Tana. This actually wasn't the wedding even, just the "fangataham-bady" aka asking for the wife, aka a big party to commemorate ones engaged status. The actual marriage will take place in Antananarivo, so this was the party for the half of the family here in Mahajanga. I will try to send you pictures last week, but I just so happen to be using the same computer that caused all my pictures to be deleted last time, so I apologize if I am a bit hesitant to plug my card in this ol' machine. I got some doozies though, just you see.
This computer is getting all weird and laggy, so I best call it good here.
I'll see y'all in February.
Elder Tuff n Stuff

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Earth to Matilda,
I am here!
Okay, I promise that I had a letter written last week and everything, all ready to send, but as I wrote it the connection went out in all of Mahajanga. The entire town had no internet connection. Something happened somewhere in Maevatanana (the hottest place in Madagascar, and on the road to Antananarivo) which killed the whole connection here. Lucky for you now though, I saved that letter which I wrote last week, so here, enjoy my revived one-week-old letter:

Hello Snow-Dwellers,
From the look of those pictures, it seems all you guys got kissed by the snow gods. That is a figure of speech of course, for we do not believe in such pagan gods, but hey, it's all good. Seriously though, that's way cool. Those pictures are looking way nice; a nice blanket of love covering everything in sight. Sometimes I try to explain snow to Malagasies, but hey just don't understand. They don't know what real cold is. It's good though. Antsirabe gets pretty cold though, but they don't have snow falling down so they only know half of what is winter. I am glad that this winter is much nicer for you all that what last winter sounded like. I hope that next winter will be the gnarliest one yet.
As for life here, it is going well.
We had that baptism on Saturday, and that went well. All according to plan and what not, so no room to complain. I had the pleasure of baptizing the man, Claude. As I finished the baptism prayer I told him to plug his nose while he goes under. Right as we were ready to go down, he started leaning forward. At this point I realized that I should have practiced with him before we entered into the water, but it was too late. I had to just semi-awkwardly lead him by force down backward into the water. Don't worry though, we fully submerged on the first go, so no silly seconds over here. After I finished, I gave ol' Claude a pat on the back and we walked out onto the shore again. My companion, Elder Rasolofonirina, baptized his wife Marie. They both bore their testimonies yesterday at church, and they both did great. Marie wears a nose ring, which a lot of people do here in Mahajanga. I am not quite sure where exactly that trend came from, but I think it is the large Muslim influence here. Anywho, it's about as normal as wearing regular earrings pretty much. The people here in Mahajanga do another cool thing too, for they wear golden teeth. For the lack of dental care which I am sure you can imagine, there are a lot of people with missing teeth. Sure they could just go around with gapped and dangling teeth, OR you could just put some gold teeth in there are you are good to go. That's what the people do here. Gold teeth, baby. (but not gold baby teeth.) It's way cool. I am thinking I might get my two fake teeth replaced with two fake gold teeth. A smart move? I let you answer that.
Hm.. what else could I tell you about?
We have been making a bunch of good Malagasy food, for my comp is obviously good at that. I am trying to learn, but I am not yet learned in the art of Malagasy cuisine. In just this past week we have made both voanjobory AND kabaro, both with sausage. It's been nice.
As far as fitness goes, I got a little lazy there for a while, but alas, do not worry. We went running this morning and I am feeling great. I will have to take my camera with me running sometime so I can show you where we go. It's not every day that you get to go running by the indian ocean, so I'll try to get that going.
I would hate for you all to think that I am only having worldly experiences though, haha. All this talk of “cuisine and oceans, cuisine and oceans...” HA. That doesn't even measure up to all the undeniable spiritual experience I have had lately, but I don't know how to tell you about all those over email. It just doesn't seem fair, haha, to the experiences I mean. I don't think I could even explain in words the greatness of it all. It is all so great. For example, once the sacrament ended yesterday, we were immediately asked to teach the young men and young women’s class. We accepted of course, and we ended up teaching it. The point I am trying to get across is that we didn't hesitate or were even scared at all, we just did it. We just had put ourselves in that position for the Spirit to work through us, and once we did, it was out of our hands. That's how it works. It just mandeha ho azy.
All in all though, it has just been another great week of the mission. Time is still going on hyperdrive, and I can’t believe how long I have been out here already. Yes, it feels it has been an entire lifetime out here sometimes, but at the same time, I can’t believe I have been gone 15 months already.
Here’s to 9 more!
 Elder Austin “here’s looking at you kid” Bergera 

Okay, and there you have it. I am sorry if I caused you any worry or grief due to lack of communication on my part. I assure you that if was an eagle, I would've angelicly flown to Maevatanana and fixed whatever had broke just to get this email sent to you. "But behold, I am a man," (Alma 29:3).
As far as this last week has gone though.. it's gone well. The rain is a-coming still, but it's all right. It's not as big as a shock to me this time around as it was last time. I found a broken umbrella in our house which I have been using lately. It's not torn or anything, so it isn't broken that way, it just doesnt stay open by itself. I remedied this with a shoelace in which I wrapped around just right to where if I hold it, the umbrella will stay open. Umbrellas are really nice to have. I should've gone on more rainy walks before, because umbrellas are inventive. You could totally walk around in the rain and not get wet. It's crazy. I don't like wearing my rain jacket anymore, cause it doesn't really do anything. The way it protects from rain is by slowly absorbing it, which is to say, it doesn't protect from rain. '~'   I might as well wear a sponge.
I don't mean to complain though, for my new love for umbrellas has made me completely forget about my old jacket "friend." 
Oh yeah, and I found out something about myself yesterday. I don't like shark meat. It's potent. And perhaps 'potent'-ially dangerous. Okay, it's not dangerous, just gross. The way it was prepared for me was kind of weird, so that may be a good cause as to why I didn't like it so much, but still. Bleh. The flavor was very sharp, as millions of little shark teeth rested within the meat itself. The kind I ate was first dried into a long, odd strip. This was followed by it being deep fried, and then served with tsaramaso, a Malagasy favored local bean. I loved the tsaramaso, though the ankivy was quite mangidy.
All in all though, things are good. Life just keeps going on. 
Thank you again for the Conference New Ensign. I have been reading through it a lot lately, and I am really enjoying it. One quote I really like is in Elder Walter F. Gonzalez's talk 'Learning with Our Hearts" in which he shares a quote from a children's book. 
“Here is my secret … : It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."
I will end this letter now. I hope you enjoy getting two letters this week, and that the joy will replace whatever disappoint which came from no letter last week. 
I love y'all.
Elder Misionera Bergera

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Bonjour Maman!
Hey, funny to see you here!
So you asked me (direct copy and paste quote), "ANY NEW LESSONS OR BAPTISMS FOR THE NEW YEAR?" to which I may reply, yes. I am not quite sure what you meant by new lessons, but we have taught a lot of lessons, so I would reply that we have had many new lessons. With 2013 here and thriving, we put on our nicest boots and kicked all of those 'old lessons' out of the house. 
As far as baptisms go, we will be having a baptism this weekend. We have a couple here who have been coming to church for a good while now, and the only problem they had between them and baptism was that they were not legally married. They have been diligently working with the Branch President here to take care of that, and lo and behold it is now finished. On Friday morning we went with them to the 'City Center' of sorts, and we got their marriage all finalized and certified. They are an older couple, at least in their upper 50's. Claude and Marie are their names, respectively. 
I love what the church does for people. I already wrote a big ol' entry about this in my journal, but I'll paste a little blag on here anyway. You see, here we have one couple who have gone who knows how many years without being married legally. Oh how easy it would've been for them to go the rest of their days carefree, not worrying about this little blip. They would've finished it, sure, it was just a hassel tucked away deep in the storage sheds of their minds. But now, thanks to helping hands and a caring heart, they were able to get in finished. Their marriage is now complete. Now, I don't know if they love eachother now anymore than they did before, but it's official now. It's all.. milamina. I don't know a better word for that in English.
So yes, like I previously mentioned we should be having that baptism be taking place this weekend. Claude has had a coffee problem in the past, so if he happens to drink again we may have to postpone the baptism, but we are praying for him. 
I really liked that dream you had. It was funny. Here, I will copy and paste it in here so that when other people read this they can know what I am talking about:
"I actually had a dream about you the other night.  I dreamed that you and your companions were allowed to fly home for Christmas day, but because you had so many places to stop (kinda like Santa, I guess), then you couldn't stay long.  We families got about 1/2 hour each to visit and hug on you.  Well, your companions came in, and I'll like, "Where's Austin?", and then you came in and your hair was twice as long as it ever was in high school.  And I was like amazed, and you said it was because they decided you were the next Samson, and you had much more power if you had your hair long.  I was like, "wow", and then you laughed, and all your companions laughed, and you pulled off this long, dread-lockish wig, and you said, "Too bad it's not April Fool's."  It really was good to see you in my dream, even if you were pulling a trick on me."
Haha yeah. I like that. Samson in my hero, even though he did fall. He obviously wasn't strong enough though. Silly man, you never cut your hair for a girl. Unless that girl is a little cancer girl, then it's okay, then you can donate it, but for stinky Delilah? "Come on!!"
The rain has really been picking up. If you have room, a nice little umbrella would be a nice gift, if you were thinking about sending a package any time soon. I don't know if I told you this before, but the one we bought when I was getting ready for my mission broke in the MTC, so I left it there. But yeah, the rain is staring to come down pretty hard. It's rained every day this week. My Daily Planner is getting pretty thrashed up, haha. Sometimes i forget to put it in my backpack. It's all good though. You'll all be impressed when I show it to you and you see how rain-warped and tattered it is. My new companion has been counting everytime I fall and slip into the mud. I think we are up to three now. The trouble is the bottom of my shoes are completely flat, so I get into a lot of goofy situations. It makes sense though, because here in the Southern Hemisphere, fall is coming up.
In all seriousness though, things are going well. I am really trying to figure out how to best incorporate the branch council into the work, cause that's something that isn't as well formed here as I imagine it is in other places. The people are still all figuring out how to do it all. I believe we can get it going well and truly make a difference here. 
Things are going great though, and even though I am 86% I stepped in poop (hopefully dog) on my way to the cyber, the sun is shining so there isn't much to complain about.

Thank you!

Eldera Bergera

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Greetings from Mahajanga!
I wish you all well as you go into the last day of 2012! 
These New Years celebrations sure do bring us into a pondering and reflecting mode, don't they? Here I sit in a cyber cafe, squishing ants between my fingers, forced to think back to all the stuff I have done this year. Exactly one year ago today I did my first baptism ever to a young pregnant woman. Here I sit now with a year full of unforgettable experiences behind me, and it's crazy! I can't believe a year has already gone by. I am looking forward to tomorrow though; a new year, a new fresh start.
Just so you know, the people here have that same joke that we always pull at this time of the year. "Hisakafo aty aminay ianareo amin'ny herintaona... amin'ny zoma zany!" (you guys will come eat with us next year.. so on friday!) said one of our recent converts to us last night. Even with our infinite amount of differences, mankind is all the same, haha.
So I had a pretty nice week this past week though. It has been one of those really long ones. Not so much in the fact that it has dragged on, but just that a lot of things have happened, and thus feels like a long one. 
First of all, like I told you on the phone, Elder Fox got transferred. He is now back in Antananarivo, and I am here in Mahajanga. I am not going to lie, I have gotten pretty fond of that kid. We have been together a pretty significant portion of our missions, haha. He left on a taxi brusse on Thursday, and I assume he has made it safely. Nah, he has, I talked to him once since. He was lucky enough to be able to back on a night voyage, which i assume is better than leaving in the morning like I did when I came here. Then you can sleep the long 12 hour drive, but it's all good no matter. 
Secondly, we had a nice Christmas. The sun blazed my skin and I sweat a lot. The branch had a little program at night that i was surprised to see. Mostly because i had been wondering if there would be one for a while, and I had heard that there wouldn't. To my surpise on christmas day however, they had a little get together at the church. The primary had put on a little program, and I actually really enjoyed it. Kids are funny. I never really realized that before my mission, but they are. After that all the kids went out into another room, and one member shared a spiritual thought about Jesus Christ. I really enjoyed that. I really felt the christmas spirit deeply as he bore testimony of the Savior. Though the attendance wasn't huge, only twenty or so people, I felt a huge bond with them as we all sat together in this room learning and feeling the spirit of Christ. 
As far as other Christmasy things we did, we both actually received packages from our family before hand, so Elder Fox and I both opened those on christmas morning all nice like. 
I would send you a bunch of pictures, but right now I was going to look for them I am pretty sure my card has a virus or something, cause a bunch of pictures got erased. I mean a lot. The memory still seems to be taken up though, I so I don't know if they are legitmenty lost or what, but I don't really have to time or resources to check up on that now, so I am just going to go buy a new card and stash this one until I get home. Hopefully I can raise them from the dead, but I guess only if my faith is strong enough. It's way mahakamo. I'll take some nice babies this week though and send them over to you.
Anywho, my new companion's name is Elder Rasolofonirina. He is from Antananarivo, and honestly I am not used to they way they speak their anymore. At least the way that the youngins speak. It's all funny and kind of sounds Chinese, but it's all good. We are doing well and just trying to work hard. 
Thank you for the picture of Michael, haha. It's way good to see him. He's still looking all missonary sharp, and he's making my picture look bad with all of his handsomeness. Dang it Michael! haha just jokes. 
I guess that's about it right now. I am pretty bummed on my pictures, but I have got a whole journal full of memories anyway that could never get erased. I am about 2/3rds way through my 3rd journal by now. It's all going well.

All right, I guess I have to end in sometime. 
I'll see you all in 2013!

Elder Bergera