02 April 2010

Our first couple of weeks in Brazil

Today is Good Friday, and we have now been in Brazil a little over two weeks, 18 days to be exact. We feel real inadequate as we endeavor to adjust to our surroundings and to communicate with the wonderful people that we meet. It is interesting to me that people really have no idea how little of what they say to you that you actually understand.

In my case, I had lived in Brazil before, and spoke Portuguese, albeit 45 years ago. To be perfectly honest, I probably understand somewhere about 70% of what is spoken to me. Panic sets in when all of a sudden someone comes up and begins to speak to you. Your mind goes totally blank, and you begin to tell yourself that you are in trouble! If you are with someone else, and the words are directed to the other person, the panic is not quite so overwhelming. You are in a sense only "auditing" what is being said. At the same time, you are hoping that no conversation will be directed your way.

Over the past couple of weeks, I find my ability to speak with others is improving. I estimate that it will still take a couple of weeks before I will relax and begin to enjoy conversations with strangers.

On the other hand, Carlie is totally at a loss of what to do or say. At first, she was somewhat disheartened, and was hoping that our mission call might be changed to working in the temple where she would be able to function as she learned the limited amount of Portuguese necessary to truly help others.

Added to our sense of hopelessness has been the fact that we are required to commute between one hour to an hour and one half each way to our office in downtown São Paulo. I have never seen traffic the likes of what one encounters every single day here! Cars regularly travel between thirty to forty miles an hour bumper to bumper, changing lanes as often as they can. The cars are all small, because the roads cannot accommodate larger cars. What adds to the shear terror is the fact that between the usual two lanes of traffic is a constant line of "motorbikes" that are weaving in out of the cars with no fear. Even if there is only two or three inches between the ends of their bike handles and the side mirrors on the cars they are passing they still manage to drive faster than the cars. When the traffic is really congested and comes to a stop, the motorbikes will cross in front of or behind your car to see if they can squeeze between the cars on the other side. Buses theoretically have their own lane, but taxis with fares are allowed to use the bus lanes. The constant movement of the motorbikes cutting in between cars that are going slow or have completely stopped reminds me of a cloud of bees or mosquitos that swirl around you at a picnic! It is quite alarming to say the least. We have been told that the young men and women on the motorbikes, who are mainly delivering packages, usually die at a rate of three to five each day in Sao Paulo.

I have attached several pictures of the apartment building in which we currently live. It is called the Alojamento, and is situated next to the stake center and temple here in São Paulo. It usually is reserved for people who come great distances to visit the temple for a couple of days.

It is a five-story building, and we currently are on the fourth floor. We will be moving to our permanent apartment in about five to six weeks, when another missionary couple finishes their mission and heads home in California. I have also attached pictures of the São Paulo temple and the stake center located next door.

I will attach pictures of our apartment here next week. We are somewhat cramped at present. I am not saying that we need more room, only that we are used to more room. Our living room is about 8' x 16', our kitchen about 8' x 10' wall to wall. Our bedroom is also less than what we accustomed to; it is 10.5' x 14'. We have a bathroom that consists of a toilet and a shower stall. The shower is really quite adequate, with plenty of hot water, more than what we expected. We have a queen-sized bed and sleep well every night. I suspect that the reason we sleep so well is that we are usually exhausted when we arrive home each evening.

The phrase, "Give us this day our daily bread" from the Lord's Prayer, took on added meaning when we arrived here, since we find ourselves shopping daily for that day's meals. This is partially due to the fact that there really is little space to store anything in our apartment, or refrigerator, and also the fact that the food here does not seem to have the number of preservatives that the food we are used to buying in the States. We don't drink the water from the tap, and therefore carry water, soda or juice home every day. We have been eating our lunch out every day, but will probably try and break that habit once we are settled next month in the apartment building across the street.

Lest someone get the impression that we aren't enjoying ourselves, let me assure you that we are having a great time! It certainly is easier for me than for Carlie because she has yet to master Portuguese. But she is working real hard to do so and to make the best of some real challenges. We love the Lord, and love this opportunity to serve here in Brazil. I am confident that Carlie will master the language and will yet look back on our mission here in Brazil as one of life's best experiences.

The Brazilian people are so friendly, and so helpful. So are the other senior missionaries serving here. There are 18 senior missionary couples working here, either at the Church's headquarters, the temple, the MTC, or at the Welfare Services Employment Center. Carlie's and my main responsibility is to work at the Employment Center, where we mainly assist members of the church who are seeking employment or better employment opportunities. Much of what we will do as we become more familiar with our duties will be to give the Career Workshop to those who come seeking assistance. Additionally, we have been asked to serve at the MTC (Centro do Treinamento dos Missionários), working specifically with the full-time missionaries who come from the States. Several of the senior couples will complete their missions in the next sixty to ninety days, and as they do so, calls will be extended to several couples to take their places. We have also been asked to consider leading and accompanying the music for the choir at the MTC.

Our major concern involves the fact that the MTC is not located anywhere near where we live, and requires us to arrive at the MTC about 7:30am each Sunday, and not get home until 9:00pm in the evening. It will probably mean that we have to catch two buses each Sunday night to get home. Another choice might be to drive a car from the car pool here at the Church headquarters, but at present, I am not inclined to do any driving in Brazil!

Well, that is about as much update as I can give at the present. We are planning on attending General Conference tomorrow with all of the other senior missionary couples at the Church headquarters building, located next to our apartment building here. The first session begins at 1:00pm, and the second one at 5:00pm. Priesthood session starts at 9:00pm. As you can see, we are three hours ahead of Mountain Daylight Savings time in Utah.

We are excited to be here, serving the Lord, and appreciate your support and prayers in our behalf. We have certainly been blessed in so many ways since accepting our call to Brazil. We love the Lord and love each other more each day!

May the Lord bless each of you in your own set of challenges, that bring usjoy as we press forward with faith.


Chelsea Pratt said...

Wow! It's so fun to hear about how everything is going for you guys. It sounds like lots of sacrifices need to be made, but not in areas that you would usually think about...like driving and riding the bus, shopping for food, etc. I think the MTC would be a wonderful place for you to serve. I think you would both do an amazing job at any of the three places because you are excellent teachers and that would benefit those at the ERC or MTC. The temple would just be nice. We love you and know you will succeed no matter where you end up! Conference has been excellent so far and we wish you a Happy Easter!

megan said...

We love and miss you both so much. And we are so grateful for your powerful example of faith and service. Your names are uttered daily in our prayers!

Dan and Dee said...

You guys are so good to go to Sao Paolo Brazil to fulfill this mission. What challenges! I know it won't be easy, I hope you can keep that positive outlook and know the Lord is guiding you (like the Israelites-look to him for support). I feel your pain Carlie and wish you ALL THE BEST with the language!
Miss you!

Vanalee said...

I think you will get used to all the traffic but I'm not sure you will wan to drive. We have been without a car now for four years. It is great reading about your experiences. We are looking forward to serving in the next few years. I'm looking forward to seeing your apartment. It actually sounds quite large compared to the missionary apartments for couples in Japan.

Matt Arntsen said...

wait, you two are on a mission???? why wasn't I told?

Weston Arntsen said...

I am so excited for you both -- I can't wait for all of the people there in Sao Paolo to meet you. Thanks for the detailed update Dad, and the pictures too! Keep them coming. I miss you both so much.

Randall Smith said...

Hi David and Carlie. Thanks so much for posting to the blog. It is great to hear of your Brazilian adventures in missionary service! Nancy and I are empty nesting in the Virginia suburbs of Washington DC. We will probably retire in the next 5 years or so and we will have our turn. General conference was exceptional.

Randy and Nancy

Dan and Dee said...