Monday, August 11, 2014

Caving and Transfers

Dear family, 

My chikungunya has been acting up this week, causing pain in my hands, feet, and left knee and making things like walking down stairs and opening water bottles rather annoying. It has also made all my old scars stand out, a lovely shade of purple. I hope it's not permanent because I have a lot of mosquito bites on my legs, not to mention the large burn scar on my foot. But what can I do but keep moving forward? 

One good thing that happened this week was Esterlin's baptismal interview. We were able to finish teaching him everything and he passed with flying colors. He is going to be baptized on 23 August. I'm so happy for him. He's a very quiet person, but I can tell that he's excited as well. 

We got transfer calls yesterday. As expected, Hermana Hildman is leaving. She's been transferred to La Venta with a Latin. I'm staying in Ocoa and receiving Hna Martinez. I'm happy to be getting another Latin. I had expressed to Pres Nuckols some of the things I wrote in my letter last week and he promised me that I would receive a Latin. I'm looking forward to speaking Spanish all day again and Hna Hildman is ready for a change of scenery. Four transfers is a lot of time in one area and I think a change will do her some good. 

Interesting things that happened this week:
- We attended the 2nd annual Hermanas Conference. I was one of the few that had been there last year as well. It was a lot of fun to see everyone. President and Hermana Nuckols put a lot of effort into it.

- Last Monday we decided to hike up to the waterfall with the zone. It was way up in the mountains by Parra, but a lot harder to get to because there is no path; you just have to cut straight through the forest. So we sloshed our way up rivers, climbed over massive boulders, and hoisted ourselves up steep hills, clinging onto hanging vines and tree roots for leverage. 

It was a little less than 2 hours to the waterfall, and upon entering the clearing, we were a bit disappointed to see that there wasn't much water flowing down the cliffside, but there was still enough to count as a waterfall and I still thought it was gorgeous.

Even though we had arrived at our destination, it wasn't time to rest. I watched as several of the elders climbed over a boulder, parted the vines, and slipped into a hollow in the cliffside. They emerged carrying a 15-ft long ladder made of tree branches and descended with it into the churning pool at the base of the waterfall. As they leaned it against the cliffside the top wring fell into place at the base of a small hole, just big enough for a single person to squeeze inside on their stomach. We were going caving!

Well, not everyone. Some people watched the first person wiggle their way into the crevice and disappear into the darkness and elected to wait outside. I knew I'd be kicking myself later if I didn't go inside, so I descended into the pool of water and waded over to the base of the ladder.

As I climbed upward, wrung by wrung, I refused to look over my shoulder. I saved that view for after I had army crawled my way into the tiny hole. Already wet from head to toe, I used the light from a cell phone to look at my surroundings as I crouched into the dank cavern. Pointed stalactites hung from the low ceiling and water was flowing from somewhere deep in the mountain and spilling out of the entrance I had just come through. 

Once everyone made it inside, there was another narrow tunnel to squeeze through, approximately 7-8 feet long and slanting upward. It was an uneven shape, so to fit through I had to start on my stomach and then twist onto my side. Once I emerged on the other side the cave opened up enough so that I could stand.

Emilkin, the member who led us there, wanted to go deeper. He shone his light further up into the inky darkness. The beam illuminated the ceiling above us and, to our surprise, it was covered in hundreds of tiny bats, all huddled together in the blackness. Several were disturbed by the brightness, dropping from the ceiling and hurtling past us in a trail of frantic screeches and flapping wings. People screamed... of course... and we ended up deciding not to go any further after Emilkin moved forward and sunk down past his ankles in guano. I was okay with that.

It was easier getting out than it was getting in, but by the time we made it back to Ocoa, it was late in the afternoon and I was exhausted. The next day, a colorful array of bruises blossomed on my arms and legs amid the scrapes and scratches. It was totally worth it though.

Until next week, 

Hna Kaitlin Olsen


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