29 April 2010
Last night we had dinner and games with two other senior missionary couples, and something they told me just laid me out in laughter! David and I are missionaries of Bem-Estar, which is church welfare, focusing on employment. When we arrived in Brazil and there was no available apartment for us, we were put into the temple workers' lodgings until an apartment is made available. The Brazilian receptionist downstairs had no idea who we were, but when the other American couple returned from the temple that night, she hurriedly told them they should visit the American lady on the 4th floor who was on welfare, who didn't have any food, etc. They came to my door not knowing what to expect. I guess the receptionist saw "welfare" on our tags and figured we were down and out! We laughed for a long time over that one. Never a dull moment.
23 April 2010
Yesterday we had the privilege of going to the MTC in San Paulo to hear from Elder Russell M. Nelson. He has been in town with Elder Holland this week and they have been visiting various missions with the area Seventies. Before Elder Nelson began his talk he requested all of the missionaries, including the "old folks" to pass by him so that he and his wife, Wendy, could shake our hands and look in our eyes. What a thrill it was to do so, and the spirit in the room was exhilarating. What a privilege for these young missionaries, especially the Brazilian natives, to shake the hand of an Apostle of the Lord. He reminded us that we should teach two things: The Atonement and Christ's example. These two teachings encompass all of the gospel and what we have been asked to live. I understand that after our meeting both of the Apostles were off to other missions and then to separate firesides in the evening. The Lord really does sustain us in our callings; they seemed full of vigor and energy. We, on the other hand, were tired at the end of the day. Go figure!
17 April 2010
Greetings from beautiful São Paulo, Brazil!
Carlie and I have become a little "more at home" now that we have been here in the great city of São Paulo for one whole month. For the most part, we have learned our first lesson: where and when to catch the bus to and from the Employment Center in downtown São Paulo. This doesn't sound like a critical skill to master, but I assure you that if you want to get home, a distance of probably seven or eight miles in less than an hour and a half, you need to know what bus to get on. In most cases, the buses are very crowded, and you will be standing for the entire trip.
In the last couple of days, we have taken some walks around the neighborhood where we live to acquaint ourselves with the small businesses (barbershops, hardware stores, etc) and places to eat that abound in this large city. Today we ventured out with another missionary couple to a store that sells sewing supplies, where Carlie felt right at home, and then on to a neighborhood cafe that sells breads, cheeses, pizza, sandwiches, etc. for lunch. The homes in our neighborhood are very nice, and adorned with beautiful plants and trees, and very high walls to keep intruders from getting too close.
The second picture is of our "big room," the bedroom, where as you can see the double bed takes up the greatest portion of the living space. However, with the large fan on the desk against the left wall, we sleep quite comfortably throughout the night.
These next two pictures are of our kitchen. What you see is all you get. The door on the left is our outside apartment door.
02 April 2010
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.