Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Wow, another week. Let me start with the chickens from last week's pictures. First, they were alive (well most of them). It was market day, so they were being delivered to be butchered and sold. I guess that sounds a little gruesome, but we were just walking down the road when all of the sudden we saw all of these chickens in the back of a truck. I had to stop and take a picture. It was hilarious! The chickens were really upset about all of it. There were a few ducks in there too. That's how they transport animals though. Just tie them down to the car and go. Whatever works, you know. And if there's not enough room in the truck then put 'em on the roof!

As far as packages go, they only go get the packages once and a while. Even if my two birthday packages came two days apart, if you hit it just right it can be weeks before they  get here. They have to clear customs too. I don't know the next time they'll go get them, but I'll let you know when they arrive. (Note from mom: I mailed both of Alex's birthday packages at the same time. One arrived within four weeks. The other hasn't arrived yet and it has been nine weeks. I sent a package of toiletries five weeks ago. It hasn't arrived either.) Also, please wish dad (and everyone) a Happy Father's Day and birthday. I have a card coming. It should get there someday... hopefully!

So this is the week in review. As you know, President Foote comes in less than two weeks. Right now we're preparing for that. This week has been the most we've worked in the office and not our normal proselyting area. We are helping get everything ready for the new mission president. We are also setting things up for the Wolleys (new office couple) and answering lots and lots of questions. Recently I've been trying to study French again. (Note from mom: the birthday package that is still in transit contains a French verb and grammar book.) I don't usually have a lot of time. When I do have time I usually try to study Malagasy, but French seems so easy after studying Malagasy. On a few occasions we've run into people who don't speak Malagasy and I've been able to talk with them, which is pretty exciting. I can't wait to study more French when I get back! Hmmm, other things... we made Mexican food yesterday, which was pretty fun. Anyways, that's all for now. Talk to you next week.

Elder Ahlstrom

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

birthday flour

Another week, another transfer. Things are moving along quickly here. Although this week is transfers, for me this doesn't mean a whole lot. I'm still working with Elder Stokes, I don't get transferred very often, but I like that it allows me to have closer relationships with the people in the areas I work. Regrettably, this week we didn't get to do a whole lot of work because we spent most of our time moving people to and from the different bus stations in Tana. The most exciting things here are the continuing political stuff, but I'll talk about that later.

The Clowards are leaving today. I already miss them. They're awesome. They've been the office couple the whole time I've been in country, and I've worked with them everyday in the office. The weirdest thing is that this means President and Sister Adams will be leaving soon too. Working in the office you get to learn the President and other couples are humans (as opposed to popular belief).

Today Elder Stokes and I are going down to Anala Kely the huge market to buy flip flops. Finally! Mine are broken and I've fixed them like 50 times, but I think they've passed the point of no return. After that I think we're going to go home and just have a calm p-day.

One general spiritual thought... one of the most amazing things about being a missionary in Madagascar is that we get to explain things in Malagasy. I think that because it's so hard sometimes, and you're forced to speak simply and clearly, that it allows the spirit a lot of opportunity to move on your thoughts. One of the most special feelings is explaining something to someone and then learning something new yourself! There have been times when words come to my mind that I don't remember ever hearing. Or explanations are so free and easy to put across. You receive just such a constant stream of blessings from being a missionary. It's a little bit weird. I can only describe it as a real and actual force; the power of God in our missionary work. It's not a passive force. It's active. Always, when you've been tracting and no one is letting you in, or you feel that you're at the end of your strength, that is when the Lord steps in. I think He pushes us because only then, in humility, can he lift us higher. Remember that pride is ultimately the only true sin, that is choosing one's own will over that of God's. I love Madagascar. Sometimes you have to choose to love it, but once you do the Lord will make things clear to you, which you were not worthy to receive before.

Lastly, the political intrigue here. I'll be brief because I obviously don't want to exaggerate or make you worry. But I also know you (mom) like to know. So the whole problem can be summarized this way: the President and the Parliament both have power to dissolve one another. Currently they're both trying to do that... at the same time... so you can assume that would lead to some problems. Now it all comes down to the Supreme Court to rule for one or the other. Pretty much whoever they're more afraid of, or who can offer the larger bribes. Everyone is expecting riots to break out. The question is just how big. Thankfully missionaries are really taken care of. We have a lot of friends in the government who let us know if anything is up so that everyone is safe. South Africa and Salt Lake are following it closely. There's always something crazy happening here! Anyway, have a great week.

Elder Ahlstrom

(Note from Mom: Alex sends emails to several of his friends each week. Occasionally they will forward excerpts to me. The following is from a letter that Alex sent to one of his friends from St. A's)
Okay, honestly right now I'm freaking freezing COLD! There are many causes of this. First, I haven't experienced winter for a year until right now. Also, our washing machine and dryer are broken so I washed my clothes by hand and am now letting my clothes air dry... on my body.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

I'm doing well. We had transfers yesterday. I'm staying in Antananarivo, but that wasn't a surprise. I'm really enjoying my area. We are teaching some great families. One family in particular is a veterinarian and wife. He went to school in the Czech Republic and speaks Czech fluently. That's not something you run into very often in Madagascar. The current office couple is getting ready to go home in a week. A bunch of new missionaries are coming on Tuesday and Wednesday, and people are leaving Thursday. It's just crazy. Lots of people going lots of places.

We also had zone conference this week. We talked a lot about how to get the most out of a mission. Also, it was President Adams' last zone conference so he gave us life advice. It was really good. We talked about all sorts of things. He essentially gave us all an exit interview. We talked about how we have to focus all of our energy on our mission to get the most out of it. It's hard to do that sometimes, but it really has taught me a lot. It's easy to be obedient and to do the work, but it's hard to live the law of consecration. I'm still working on it, but it's a matter of conversion. I think it's a good opportunity to learn how to school your thoughts. It's much harder than just allowing yourself to be folded and molded into what you need to become through your mission. The great blessing of a mission is that you're "qualified" for things you weren't before. You learn a special kind of truth on a mission - fanomejan-pasoahavana (a gift of grace). I've learned a lot and I'm so grateful for the gift of knowledge that I've received.

As far as everything else, it's pretty calm. Nothing crazy with the politics. The impeachment decision regarding the president will probably come out this week. Keep you posted.

Lots of love,
Elder Ahlstrom

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Pictures received June 1, 2015

June 1, 2015

I am very thankful that you are all safe after the floods in Houston. It was very strange seeing those pictures of home because many of them seem more like what I see here. Please know that you are all in my thoughts and prayers. Do what you can to help and support others. Most of all I'm glad that you are safe, that the house is fine, and that you didn't experience any flooding or equivalent issues. I love the picture of dad walking through the water. It feels very close to my heart - ha ha. It's not so bad, right? It's just a mindset thing.

To change the subject and talk about something a little bit lighter, I ate three things this week that I think you'll find pretty amusing. Okay ready, this week I ate chicken gizzard, crocodile, and snake.

Chicken gizzard. Yeah, not that good. It's okay. It kind of tastes like cartilage. I think it's pretty much impossible to cook. But if you ever get a chance to try it, I recommend it.

Crocodile. This was really good! It actually tastes a lot like a big fish, except it's meatier. It is a very strange consistency. I only had a little bit, but it was really good. Another recommendation.

Snake. Also not bad. My biggest complaint was that it had too many bones! Mostly it's just cool to say you've tried it. It's best with something spicy because it doesn't have a whole lot of flavor.

Living in Madagascar is so COOL!

Elder Ahlstrom
May 25, 2018

I'll start by answering your questions, mom. I'm doing well. My camera is working great. I'm just really bad about uploading my pictures. My weight is fine.

I am doing well. As I try to recall all that went on this week, I'm drawn to one memory in particular that I wanted to share with all of you. I'll try to keep it short. It's about a wonderful new investigator we have been teaching. His name is Ilyass and he is from Comoros. He is Muslim. I've actually taught quite a few Muslims on my mission, which is pretty unique. He barely speaks Malagasy. Initially that made trying to teach him pointless. The first time we taught him a friend translated, sort of. It wasn't a very good set up, so after that we didn't go back to see him. We kept running into him on the path and every time we saw him he'd ask when we were coming back. Since it was difficult for us to speak with him, we didn't know what to tell him. Eventually we said we'd stop by. Well, it kept happening so finally he asked if we had anything he could read. We brought him a Book of Mormon in French and thought that would be the end of it. We didn't see him for several months, but yesterday we saw him again. This time we decided to visit him. He said he had read the whole Book of Mormon and had questions about it. It was still difficult to communicate with him, but he said that he would come to church on Sunday. I can understand French, but it is still hard for me to speak it, and there would be people at church who are fluent. He said that he really wants to learn. It was amazing. First, because it fulfills prophecy from the introduction of the Book of Mormon that it convinces those who don't believe in the Bible of Christ. Also, it's amazing that the Lord kept allowing us to run into each other. Lastly, for the gift of tongues. I was able to speak enough French to him. (Although I understand French, when I try to speak it comes out as Malagasy.) And that he was able to understand us. He has lived in Madagascar for three years. but between the first and most recent time we saw him his Malagasy had improved a lot. He's an awesome man. I'll let you know how it goes.

Elder Ahlstrom
May 18, 2015

Well, another week has gone by. This has been a wonderful week. Let me start with my birthday. I had a really good time. My companion was actually really nice and bought me dinner. We went with the AP's and then we went home and they threw flour on me (a Madagascar tradition). I got some pretty funny pictures of it. I also received one of my birthday packages from you guys. Thanks for all of the birthday stuff. Missions are definitely not quite the normal birthday, but I really enjoyed it.

I saw you had a few questions in your email. Since not a lot has happened since I spoke to you on Mother's Day, I'll just answer your questions.

Is Madagascar what you expected? Ha ha. Well, no mission is "what you expected", nor is it really what they prepare you for in the MTC. The most important thing is being okay with change. I certainly didn't expect to serve in the office the way that I have these last few months. Yet, I enjoy it. I think it is important to remember what you're doing because one thing that is universal about all missions, you are called to serve.

Is a mission in general what you expected? I think a lot of people see missions more like they are portrayed popularly, but in reality you just have to stay focused and work. Even when you don't want to work or you're tired. I would say it is better than I expected.

I have to run.

Elder Ahlstrom