Someone who leaves their family for a short time, so that others may be with their families for ETERNITY.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Hey there.

So, my week was pretty boring. We had a bunch of members feed us Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday before lunch, so I was pretty full. Then I spent most of Thursday waiting for my new comp because he was supposed to be here about 2 and he showed up about 6:30. Not his fault, the bus doesn't leave until it's full. He is really cool though. Elder Mocellin, French, super skinny. Loves skinny ties, skinny pants, thin fit shirts, all that stuff. He has a bazillion scarves. He is a really good cook, and super picky about food. Also he eats almost nothing. I have to finish his food for him most of the time. He is a year and a half in Mada, so he is pretty good at Malagasy. He is a super hard worker and as for the French thing, he just doesn't bring up that he is french haha. If people ask he doesn't lie or anything but he doesn't mention it. Malagasy people are just poisoned from the years of French rule. Not a good deal for him haha but by and large they don't care too much. Doesn't like using french when he teaches either so it's good things. He is getting used to the bike though. He hasn't ridden one on his mission yet, and before he lived in the city so if he rode is was flat and smooth. Not the case here at all. But he is a really good missionary and a hard worker. We get along well. He loves asian stuff, and is very artsy. So yeah, not me at all. But it's good. I'm excited for this companionship. 

Farming techniques. Here in Mada they do everything by hand. They have hand scythes for harvest, and cow carts for transport of goods. Lots of rice paddies, terraced hillsides. I haven't actually learned that much about the farming techniques here, but I want to haha. Everything by hand though. Everything. 

Sunflowers sound cool, huge field of flowers. Romantic haha you better send me all the senior pics that you get from the lady. I seem to remember you guys getting a package for that at the dessert social, is Julie Waites doing the pictures? If not who is? 

I taught a guy the other day who would not accept that there are still prophets. That was so frustrating. I showed him the scripture in Amos 3:7, I showed him that God and Jesus Christ do not change and they worked through prophets before. He wouldn't buy it. So it just came down to I showed the scriptures and explained it and bore testimony of living prophets. I just said "and you can choose to believe it or not, you have your agency" We went back the next time and he was like, "well missionaries, I thought about it and there could be prophets today. I don't know if I believe you have them or not but I admit there could be." So we are off to a good start. Other than that though not too much interesting. 

The Todds are from Utah, not sure where exactly. He used to be the head of the engineering department at BYU and before that he worked at Michelin as the head of the design team and has about a million patents. He is a super smart guy. 

Love you a bunch, 
Elder Galbreath

Monday, July 22, 2013

Tsy haiko mihitsy ny lohateny tokony mampiasa androany

Well happy early pioneer day to you guys. In answer to your question no, there is no celebration. No one really cares about the pioneers over here. Like they respect it and I think some of them know about it, just nobody talks about it or celebrates it. 
 As for the new kid with Elder Jensen, yeah Jensen is in my group. Him and I think three other Elders from my group are training right now. Pretty cool stuff. I am just here doing my duty, trying to split an area. I am really enjoying working with another senior missionary. Two missionaries good at teaching and Malagasy, we get a lot of work done. Also we go on splits almost every day so I spend most days working with a malagasy kid who isn't even a missionary yet. So it's pretty good work out here. As for dialects we run into it every now and then but in all reality in Tana and Antsirabe, also Fianarantsoa you don't run into it too much. If you go to a beach province (Ft Dauphin, Mahajanga, Toliara, Toamasina) then you will see it a lot. In all reality though everyone inland speaks merina so you don't get much opportunity to learn it. 
 The mini trek sounds fun really, and yeah boys are dumb and eat too much. That I think is the reason boys are required to go on missions and girls are just encouraged. We need it more. 
 Yeah Wyatt told me all about the Dave Grohl concert that Paul McCartney opened for. Background, He loves Dave Grohl of the band Nirvana and at the Paul McCartney concert Nirvana came on stage and performed a few songs with him. 
 Sydnee is doing great, makes me happy to read about her enjoying her mission. Alyssa on the other hand pig feet are not that bad, just fatty. I really hope she gets used to the mission life and it starts going a little better. No lessons makes for a very hard day. I imagine a lot of those days would make for a very hard week. Fortunately here in Mada the amount of work that gets done is usually directly proportional to how hard you work. Obviously there are other factors but if you have two good missionaries doing stuff right then the work will go. 
 So you said you were DL, what does that mean for you.  How many are in your district?  
Being District Leader essentially just means that I take stats from the areas in my district on Sunday night and pass them on to the Zone Leaders, conduct District Meeting, assign lesson and spiritual thought for said meeting, go on splits and work with every member of my district at least once every transfer cycle. Also when transfers come in I pass those on to the areas in my district. Exciting right? Really not too much to do. 
Are your branches running better?  I think I remember you talking about helping them with getting better at paperwork.  
They are progressing. The paperwork is basically what we are trying to get worked out right now but it is rough because it's not organized. It's the MLS records, the membership lists on the computer, that are the problem. They just aren't accurate. There are a bunch of people not in it at all, people in the wrong branch, people not updated (priesthood, callings etc) and stuff like that. So we are making headway but it's still a long way to go. 
Anymore Baptisms on the schedule.  I am so glad you have enjoyed the ones you have done.  
We have one family getting ready for August 24th so hopefully they can make that one, and then some old people trying to catch October. They live way out of town so we are making sure they are fully converted before baptism. 
Jonelle saw a thing talking about Mada and how one of the traditional religions there unbury their dead every three years to party with them.  Have you seen or heard any of that.  
Wow. When you put it like that it is a really weird thing. Maybe I can explain it and make it sound a little less tribal woogie-boogie. It's not a single religion, it's the Malagasy culture. They put their dead in a stone tomb and wrap them in a sort of cloth to protect them. They write all their names and birth/death dates on the stones and give them food and clean mats to rest on. Then every three years or so they open the tomb and rewrap the bodies in a new cloth, replace the mats, and the whole family gets together and helps and cleans up the tomb and everything. It's not a weird tribal thing, it's respecting your ancestors. Some religions do it to invite the spirits of their ancestors into their bodies but mostly it's just a respect thing. I have been invited to a couple, and they do it in the middle of the day so I am gonna try to go to at least one. It's really interesting because when they do it, as the time goes the bodies turn into just dust. So since there is a limited amount of space in each fasana (tomb) they condense the families.  I'm not sure exactly what the rules are for that but basically they keep going and condensing and when it is too big of a stack to add too and the fasana is full they go until the bodies are all done. Then they seal the fasana permanently and make a new one for the next person. It's really interesting to me. I ask about it fairly often haha and I really hope I can make it to one of them. 
Are your garments holding up?
Yeah they are good. I accidentally got a black sock mixed in with my last load so the tags turned gray but other than that no problems. 
Do you want or need any spice things.  Chalula, seasoning salt, taco seasoning?
Let's see, if you wanted to send me some cholula that would be nice. Other than that I am good. 
and please tell me a story of an adventure Elder Galbreath and Elder Kumar had!
Hmm. Well this week went by really really fast. On Thursday night we went to a members house to say goodbye to the daughter, she left on her mission yesterday. Manchester mission, speaking english. Pretty cool for her. She is super excited. So that was fun. Let's see here. Pretty interesting adventure last night too. We worked through the day, normal. Had a soiree with our favorite member (feeds us every Sunday night) and that was cool and normal. Then we went home and tallied up our stats. pretty normal week. Then I called the zone leaders, told them the stats, they said thanks and good night and I hung up and went to sleep. About ten minutes later the phone rings again. It's the zone leaders. I was like "what could they possibly be calling about?" They said they had some news, I asked what it was. Lo and behold, transfers. Surprised everyone. Nobody knew it was coming. So I was pretty afraid because I really love my area right now. But I will follow the revelation that the Mission President gets because he is in charge and has the keys. So a couple people in Tana got changed around. Then in Antsirabe, Eler Kumar is working with Elder Landon, and Elder Galbreath is working with Elder Mosselyn. They aren't splitting the area though, only one of those companionships is in Antsirabe. It's me! I don't have to leave. Elder Kumar is going to Toamasina. Coincidentally this is the second time in a row he is replacing Elder Rakotoniaina. It's not normal for a missionary to stay and have more than two companions in one area, but here I am. Maybe my pleading with President Adams to let me stay and split the area made a difference haha. Either way I am super happy I get to stay here longer.  So we are saying goodbye to members this morning and whenever we can basically. We went to the family that feeds us every Sunday this morning and the mom cried when we told her. I hate when people cry here, because all I can do is talk and shake their hand. No hugs allowed. The members have all said basically the same thing "No you guys can't seperate, the branch has gotten so much better since you guys got together." The Elder's quorum president in Mahazoarivo told us that all the members are happy with us because we work hard so that was all super flattering. So I will be working with Elder Mosselyn (hopefull I am spelling his name right). He is French, from France. So this is my third companion in a row that doesn't speak english as a first language. Also he is continuing my streak of companions not born in America. I had one American companion but he was born in China. Fun right? So looking forward to that. Also half of the district is now French. Elder Prouteau and Elder Mosselyn from France and Elder Galbreath and Elder Baker from Amurka. That's the whole district too. Big right? 
You asked about leaving behind my shirts and pants and stuff for the members and missionaries heading out. I definitely plan on doing that; I will be coming home with suits and souvenirs and the cloths I have on my back. That is it. My shirts are so destrAoyed haha there is no way I can wear these in America. Same for pants. I might bring home a couple ties that I really like but those are mostly gonna stay here too. Shoes are coming with me though. Not giving up these bad boys. They have seen stuff. 
Glad you found President Adams' blog, I'm sure it's interesting haha I am also positive his wife writes it. He is a really smart guy, knows a lot of stuff. Saradroa is not in my area, it's another place in Antsirabe. I think he might come to Andranomanelatra when it splits, or maybe when the new chapel comes, or maybe never. His visits are mostly to big places. I'm not sure why he went to Saradroa actually, but I am sure there was a reason. 
Well other than that nothing too interesting.
I love you a bunch!
Elder Galbreath

Monday, July 15, 2013

Tena tsisy madinka

Well it's p-day again. To start off I will let you know that I am sick of third world country technology. I have a virus of some sort on my memory card so I can't send pictures home today. I am going to try to get it sorted out so I can do it next week but I don't know. 

Alright to respond to your email.
Both Merkley talks sound solid, good job.
I like the lesson. Definitely goes well with the obedience lesson, and I like what you said about not making exceptions to make people feel good. President Boyd K. Packer said it very well I think in this last conference. He said "Tolerance is a virtue, but like all virtues if taken too far it can become a vice. We must avoid the tolerance trap." We need to remember that the laws of man are ever moving and ever changing, and that, to quote another apostle but not directly (Robert D. Hales) the laws of god are not moving, and they never will. The gospel is an ever steady compass. If we keep our eyes on the prize, as it were, we will have no problems. I would encourage you to go through the last general conference and read all the talks about obedience, because there are a lot, but you sent me your copy of the ensign. So maybe just buy a new one or something haha but they are really insightful. 

Following Gods commandments needs no rationalizing.  It just is.  If we try to find our way around things or try to make the thing OK then we need to stop and rethink what we are doing.  It is hard because sometimes we really want to do something or make something fit into our lives and it sometimes will hurt to have to stop and look at the real thing or action that we need to take.  But if we follow the pathway set before us the road will be clear and we will find success in our endeavors. 

Thank you so much for the portion of Sydnee's email, it was really cool to read that. I actually sent her an email to let her know I am happy for her. Since she is a sister missionary she gets to have lots of people write her letters and emails, so I don't know if she will be able to write back but I could care less honestly haha I am just happy she is hitting her stride and having things go good for her. 

No really interesting proselyting stories this week. I hit a new personal record though for lessons in a single day, with 13 lessons taught on Friday. We barely made it home on time and we were hauling between lessons but I didn't do any wimpy little 15 minute spiritual thoughts. That's for shmucks. 

Saturday we had Zone Conference with President Adams. It was AMAZING. He is so I-don't-know-a-word-that-works-here-in-english-so-mahay be. He spoke/taught about the Atonement. Really opened up my understanding of the amazing-ness of what Christ did for us. He talked a lot about our potential to become like Heavenly Father, the things that prevent us from doing so, and how Christ's eternal sacrifice made it possible for us. It also gives us one person that understands exactly what we feel at all times. Christ suffered not only for our sins, but for all the pains and experiences we have in this life. He has felt the striking pain of cancer. He has experienced the sadness of a wayward child, he has felt the utter hopelessness of someone who feels there is nothing left to lose, and he has felt the stinging homesickness of a missionary who has been away from home for over a year. It is incomprehensible to me how he did this, but I know he did. President Adams read a small section of a book called "The Infinite Atonement" by Tad R. Callister. I would thoroughly enjoy reading that book, so you should buy it and read it and I can read it when I get home. It is very insightful. There was a really good quote by C.S. Lewis too, but I don't remember what it said. It was good though. Then the crowning speech, he ended with a talk by Brad Wilcox called "His Grace is Sufficient". It was so amazing. This is the link http://speeches.byu.edu/?act=viewitem&id=1966 I recommend watching it but be warned that I cried a little bit so be in the right mood and make sure you're not in a crowd or something. It is so good. Talks about grace and the miracle that it really is. 

Then he taught us about repentance. Mostly just better ways to teach it and use the resources we have. It was really good and I think it will help us help our investigators and help them become more solid members. 

Interesting news from HQ is the dress standards have changed a little. Good things for me are light colors are in. Khakis, light gray pants and suits, are all OK for missionaries. Bad things for me are backpacks are out. This makes me sad. Not only is my backpack too destroyed to use in America again, but it still has at least a year of Madagascar life left in it. Also I am pretty emotionally attached to my backpack. Also it is gonna be really hard to ride bikes with a sidebag. President Adams has said though that the backpack thing will be a phase out type thing. Basically that means that the new missionaries will be bringing sidebags and if we have a sidebag we should use it but we don't have to run out and buy one. Personally I think I will just keep my eyes out and if I find a nice one for a good price I will snag it and start using it when I am off a bike. Sure you can ride fine with a sidebag when you are on pavement, but over half of our area is what I would call extreme mountain biking. We are up and down and jumping ruts and over rocks and through puddles and all sorts of fun stuff like that. The last thing I need is to be hauling down a dirt hill and have my bag go free willy style into my handlebars. That could spell something that rhymes with gisaster but more likely it would just make me crash. So I am gonna start looking for khaki pants today. Should be fun. I am excited. 

So, you think that weeks go fast? You clearly don't remember your mission. I legitimately woke up this morning thinking it was friday. I had a fast week. Or maybe it's the whole close to the equator thing. I dunno. Just saying, I'm a big deal so my days go fast. Maybe that's like a blessing for serving two years away from home, the time goes faster than civilian time. I don't know how that would work but there are a lot of things that I don't understand and God makes them work anyway. See the atonement later in my email. 

So just be aware that the rest of your email is what mom got, I am going to add a story and a few thoughts I had that mom didn't get so still swap emails. 

First added story: At the end of the Zone Conference we had a testimony meeting. I shared my testimony and I told the other missionaries there that sometimes members ask if I get trunky and want to go home. I always answer them the same way. I say "You know, I would love to be able to talk to my mom every day and live in America and all that. However, I do not want to go home." They are a little confused at that point, and some of them ask if I want to stay here forever. So I explain "When my mission is over there is little anyone could do to keep me from going home, but until then there is little anyone could do to make me leave. I know without a doubt in my mind that I am where I need to be right now, and home will be there in another year. I would not give up this experience for the world." Then they understand. Then Elder Rasmussen stood up to bear his testimony. He said he remembers watching the olympics a few years ago, and there was a guy running the four hundred meter dash. About 50 meters from the finish line he tore his hamstring. He was a competitor so he wanted to finish, so he was limping and struggling towards the finish line. Then from off the sidelines, his Dad comes out, puts his arm around his son and helps him to the finish line. He said this is a great representation for what Christ does with us. He gives us everything we need and more. When we hit a rough spot he is ready to put his arm around us and carry us the rest of the way, and he will do it for every single person. All we have to do is not give up. If we try, we will succeed, because He paid that price for us. Man I am such a baby now. I was thinking about this story and how it really does resemble what Christ does for us. I was also thinking about how great that father is. He ran from the sidelines on national television in front of millions of eyes and carried his son. What an expression of love that is. I was thinking too that I am so glad to have that type of father. I know that you love me (you remind me often enough haha) and I am so glad that you are always there for me, to give me the help that I need and to carry me and help me limp to the finish line when necessary. 

Second thought. I was thinking about what my days were like before my mission, how I spent my free time, what I enjoyed doing. Then I thought about the huge contrast between those things and how I spend my free time now, what occupies my thoughts, and what I enjoy doing. It's quite a difference. Then finally I was thinking about the people I have come to really admire here in my mission. President Adams, Elder Todd, even people like Grandpa and the members of the 70 and 12 that I have never met. I was thinking about how much closer I am right now to being like them than I was before my mission. I was thinking about life after my mission, and what I am going to do. How am I going to adjust to suddenly having so much free time, to being able to be alone, to having a choice on what to wear? I had a thought that yeah missionary mindset is not normal for the real world, and yes, you have to adjust and adapt to a lot of things. However, I also had a thought that my mindset right now is a lot closer to what Heavenly Father wants it to be than it might ever be again. I don't want that to change. I want to continue to be the kind of person that can have the spirit with me at all times. I want to continue to enjoy my scripture study time, I want to continue to look forward to general conference, not just because I get to go to Uncle John's house but because I have the opportunity to hear from the living prophet and apostles. The servants of God here on earth. I don't want to spend my day thinking "how can I become a rock star and not make my parents disappointed in me?" but I want to keep thinking "How can I make my parents, especially my heavenly parents, proud of what I am doing?" It's not easy, and I am ready to take some falls. I enjoy the way I am right now. I am not perfect, and progress is a constant goal and a struggle almost as often. But I think I am headed in the right way. I know, old fashioned, mission centered thoughts. But I am in the center of my mission, what do you expect? 
Well I think that's about it for this week. I love you all, have a great week. You're the best. Also don't judge me most of this email is going to both of you. 

Elder looking-for-khaki-pants
Elder not-going-to-write-back-to-Wyatt-because-he-definitely-didn't-write-me-like-he-told-you-he-would

Monday, July 8, 2013

Halako izany fandikan-teny izany

So, I had another big day of translating yesterday. Second week in a row I have done four hours of translating for Elder Todd. It's not that I hate translating, I just am so worn out after doing it. I actually fell asleep at a members house last night after they gave us dinner. But they are cool so they just woke me up and had a good laugh. Then I went home and went to bed. We had a hard week too, but we got a lot done. We taught 41 lessons, had two baptisms, and a branch missionary activity on Saturday. So essentially we taught 41 times in four days. Beat that missionaries that eat good food and go to the temple! I am deprived of earthly pleasures so I just go all out on the work. Rice is good too. Literally rice at every meal. 

I like the bike ride analogy. It is a very good one. Plus I ride bikes a lot so it applies to me. 

I'm really sorry this is such a lame email after I "chastised" you guys for not sending me stuff. 

I gave the lesson in district meeting on the fourth of July, and we had Whitney Houston guest sing the National Anthem for the opening hymn. I was gonna give the lesson on freedom and liberty, but I felt led to obedience instead. So that's what it was. I talked about how the gospel doesn't change. The rules don't change, even though society does. In the whiplash of society we can keep a firm grasp on the iron rod and not waver. Then I asked why we should obey. First reason, love. If you love me, keep my commandments? Stuff like that. Second reason, blessings. If we obey we are immediately blessed. If you want I can send you a letter with a better rundown of the lesson, we are a little short on time today. Then I hit it hard. I asked if everyone understood that we should obey. Everyone did. Then I asked "So why don't we?" Room goes quiet. Elder Proudeau says "because we are weak" Elder Baker offers "Temptation" I basically summed it all up. Justification, laziness, and pride. Basically, in the words of President Adams, weapons of rebellion. Put down your weapons of rebellion and just do it. Pretty solid lesson. You can give that to ward person or just tell me and I can write a letter with a more eloquent thought in it. 

So did you have more baptisms?  
We did! Dina and Emile, sorry cyber is being gay I can't send pictures today. Next week though I promise. 
What excitement have you had this week. 
Not too much really. Saturday I had seven and a half plates of rice and loaka, and a liter and a half of Coca Cola. 
Did you find sweaters?  Beside the plaid one everyone owns. Also I did not send any because it would have cost 26 just to send one sweater.  If you can’t find any I will try to squeeze one in.  
I found one, a fleece one that hasn't even been owned before. So it's nice, I wear it most nights. No worries, there is stuff here.
How are your inserts working or are they working?  
They are great, my feet feel fine. If you would stick another pair in with the next package whenever that may be I would appreciate it though, I don't know how long they will last. 
Need anything?
Love, prayers, a nap. I am getting by just fine. I am just tired a lot haha 
Fried any chicken yet?
Not yet, I am too lazy to be honest. 
Want anything from this side of the world?
Just prayers and love. I am good, pretty adjusted to life in Mada. I actually haven't even run out the stuff from my last package yet. Well, the last one actually I ate in about a week. The one before that though is mostly still sitting on a shelf in the kitchen. 
Remember that your parents love you more than you can possibly know.
You know, reading the scriptures a lot lately I am discovering there are a lot of things I can't know. Where are the three nephites right now? Where is John the Beloved? What is in the bermuda triangle? Just how many worlds are there? Maybe I should ask these questions to Wyatt. He seems like he would know some of this stuff. Are mermaids real? Everyone by the ocean has those myths, but no actual proof yet. I just might have to wait until the resurrection. Or, if I get diagnosed with some incurable disease I am going to sort everything out and fly straight into the Bermuda Triangle. 

Sorry kind of a lame email today. I am exhausted.  Elder Kumar and I are working super hard and it is wearing me down. We are getting a lot done though, so it's good. 

Well, I love you all very much. Tell Shad I say happy late birthday. Give him kisses for me. 

Love you,
Elder Galbreath

Monday, July 1, 2013

Izao le izy

Alright first things first. My year mark was last Thursday. I entered the MTC on June 20th 2012. It was a Wednesday if you want to look on a calendar. I have it written in my journal, I can send you a picture if you want. My call should be at home too, it has the date on it. I am officially chastised.  And he was right.  That is ok it is two days closer getting him home. 
First of all, I finally got my package! It was unopened and undisturbed so good job! Yahoo! I killed a tube of the thin mints that night and the other one I am afraid to open; lest I eat them too quickly. Maybe tonight. Summer sausage is great too, only about half of it disappeared that day. Thanks for the shirt, the ensign, and the camel haha I was pretty confused when I got the camel because the papers came out last. I like it though, it sits with my Captain Americas. 

Second of all, we had a baptism on Saturday! Pictures are up. We had two investigators and three member kids get baptized. Since none of the member kids' Dads are around anymore they asked me to baptize them. One of the kids was so short he was literally neck deep in the font. I was afraid I would have to hold him up in the air and then baptize him like that, but he made it. He is the shortest one in the group picture, and the only one with no font picture. Camera freaked out I guess when he was doing it so yeah. I baptized one investigator and the other one got baptized by her son, who was the first member of his now all member family. He is a great kid too, young mens president. 
Third interesting thing is Independence Day. June 26th. There really was nothing that interesting, they had a big concert with fireworks not far from our house but I was tired and irritated so I slept through those. The only thing really different is that everywhere was full of drunk people and way too loud music. Malagasy people do not understand the concept of too loud. I have seriously been to concerts not as loud as their parties. But we did have lunch and dinner with some members. Lunch was amazing, super good and a lot of food too. Dinner we had pig feet. It was pretty weird. Mostly just really fatty. Just tasted like pork though so no big deal there. 
Fourth and basically final interesting thing is that I was asked to bless a home last week. We taught one of our investigators in his new house, which is really just a room of his families house, and he asked me if I could say a prayer and bless their house. I don't know where he heard about that or if he just thought it was a good idea but it was cool. I felt really special haha 

Had another translating packed Sunday. Literally four and a half straight hours of back and forth for Elder and Sister Todd. All three hours of church, assorted conversations, and a branch council meeting where Elder Todd did a lot of intelligent person talking and fried me for good. But translating is pretty good for language learning, so I don't complain. 

So we were promised the truck last transfer, so we should have been driving. But we got a call that said we weren't getting the truck, so they were giving us the new bikes that were coming instead. Then on Friday morning the bikes came up and we got a call telling us that we weren't getting those either. So after a lot of flip-flopping decisions and getting our hopes up and then having them smashed we are back doing exactly what we were doing before. Not any worse, but a lot of up and downs for Elder Galbreath's hope. 

1) I can see on a map where you are.  I don't understand all that I see.  Tell me about the general area.  It isn't rainforest, is it desert?
It"s not really either. Definitely not rainforest though haha I guess you could say it is desert-ish. There are a lot of rice paddys and corn fields. Here in Antsirabe it is a lot more developed than other places in Mada so there is a lot of places that used to be something that are roads now or soccer fields or schools. So it's good. I don't really know how I would describe it though. It's not dry. It's not too wet. There are banana trees, rice paddies, pine trees, and some trees that have no english name because they don't exist outside of Mada. So I don't know I guess. 
2) I hope that winter isn't hurting you too much.
Not too terrible. I am getting used to it. And now I know you guys didn't send a sweater so I am gonna be looking for a heavier sweater today. I am triple layering most nights now, plus a hat and scarf. I lost my gloves though. 
3) I LOVED your suit!!  The red lining is outstanding!!
Thanks, I felt inspired when I found that material. I am gonna be working on the cowboy suit next. 
4) Anything else that is unique to your current area?
We used to have the biggest dairy in Mada here, but it shut down when the new Pres took over because the old one owned it. Lots of cows, but nothing too unique. 
Bill and Julie had another grandbaby.  Eli Kavaakaukahe.  How is that for a name.  The middle names means Chief who rows his own boat.  The Dad is hawaiian.  So you should find a few really good Mada names for when you have kids. So we can't pronounce it and can call them Bud. 
As for Malagasy names for babies, I have been on the lookout. Hery means strength but everyone would just call him Harry Potter. Tantely means honey or bee, same word. I like that one. There are more but I'll just give you those for now. 

Spiritual thought for the day is Proverbs 15:20. 

Love you very much  

Elder Galbreath

Walking a mile in anothers shoes can be hard when there is a huge size difference.
They were drying a bear on the fence. Paper says "save me" in Malagasy. I added the paper.