October 8, 2012 (First letter from Chile)
I am sitting in the upper level of a little mall in the middle of Talca, in an internet shop, and the computer is telling me that all of my words I am typing are incorrect. Ha. Joke's on them. THEY’RE NOT.
Super crazy week! Everything here is super great-- so, so different. I'll start with the very beginning-- I've heard that's a very good place to start. After talking with you for those two minutes in L.A., because of that stupid phone card, we boarded the plane and flew to Lima, Peru, where we had to disembark at two in the morning, then flew to Santiago, then to Conce. It wasn't that bad, except for that everyone around us was watching movies and it was very hard not to look at all of that Babylonia garbage. But it was fine-- we barely made our flight in Santiago, our bags barely tambien. But it all worked out and we finally got there. We were met by the assistants, the President and his wife, and the two senior couples, the Clawsons and the Kimballs. The Kimballs are getting trained and will be with us for the next year and a half.
We drove from the airport in Conce, relatively small, to the mission office, where they quickly started all our visa work and we had a quick interview with the President. He is very nice, and very easy to understand in Spanish. He really sounds like a gringo. We kinda hung around there for an hour or two while everyone got their visa stuff figured out. Then we went to the chapel in Conce and met all the trainers and ate Domino's Pizza and jugo. Then we had a brief testimony meeting, met our trainers, and peaced out to get to work!
Elder Conti is great! He is from Paraguay-- he was a professional soccer player there before the mission, is a qualified computer programmer, his polola (girlfriend) is a professional tennis player there, and his dad is a general. Elder Conti is district leader, and I am his first hijo. Oh-- and he speaks zero English. So we had about a three and a half hour ride up to Talca on this super hot bus, and when we finally got here at about eight went straight to work! My first lesson was to Carolina, a recent convert, and her two children, Mariapaz, 17, and Christopher, 10. It was great-- we taught the kids about the first lesson and they have baptismal dates for the twentieth of October. More on that to come.
Chileans don´t speak Spanish. In the mission office, I was feeling really good about myself-- there were two elders there from Peru and Guatemala that I could really converse with, and all of the other gringo elders had no idea. But depending on the person out here, it sounds like they are just mumbling vowels. They don't pronounce words PARA NADA. But I have been learning fast-- it helps that we speak next to no English. Elder Conti this morning while we were doing exercise started yelling at me 'for kor' or something-- with further searching I discovered he was trying to say 'fourth quarter como los jugadores de futbol americano.' Funny guy.
But since then, we have done a lot. We get up at seven-thirty each morning, exercise until eight, then study until twelve, then eat lunch with a member, then work, then come back at ten, plan for a half hour (which usually takes us more like an hour), then go to bed at 11:30. Busy days. We have a lot of lessons, but they fall through a lot. We are teaching Claudia Mundaca, but she has problems with ley de castidad. Christopher is super ready-- but Mariapaz is having lots of problems. We do a lot of contacting-- my first full day here we found a great family who we gave an LdM and taught the first lesson, but haven't been able to get back to. I think tomorrow night.
Hardest parts so far-- I can speak and say most of the things I want to say really well, and I feel like people understand me. I can understand now most of the Chileans, but sometimes there are a few that are really hard to understand. Most of them are super impressed with how well I speak, though, so that’s promising. Talca is super poor by American standards-- just streets of dirt, little houses with walls thrown up and stuff. Most people have tv, though, so they aren’t that badly off. We have had some great lunches with members-- they just stuff you full and we basically eat nothing for the rest of the day. Always starts with ensalada, then soup, then arroz y pollo, or some other meat, then a dessert. They eat mayonesa with EVERYTHING. Our sector is pretty big-- we have bikes-- my bike is super broken, the seat doesn´t work, the handle bars are twisted weird, the pedals are weird-- I spend most of my time just trying to keep up with Elder Conti. But we have had lots of good times. Our house has a study room, a little kitchen, a little bathroom, a little bedroom, and that’s it. It is pretty rundown. We cleaned this morning though, so now it’s a little better.
We were contacting and came across a little girl who Elder Conti thought was a member named Alison. The family wouldn´t let us in that day, but she stood there at the door and just pleaded with us to come back. 'Por favor, por favor.' It was the most heartbreaking thing I've ever seen. She can't come to church because she has no one to go with, and she is just in a bad situation. But we are going back on Friday I think. It´s so sad to see these people that need the gospel so badly but won't accept it. Really hard to watch, but I am really starting to love the people of Talca-- I never want to leave this sector!
Missions are much harder than I have ever given them credit. It is hard to be among all these poor, suffering people, but still be rejected. It is depressing seeing all the abuse, alcohol, and broken families, and all the evil out here. But I can't wait until we baptize Christopher and Mariapaz, and their Mom can finally get a little more peace. Anything broken can be fixed-- and I am starting to see that here with the families of Talca.
I love a verse from Jacob 2:8-- this was shared with me by a great friend from the MTC. Any wounded soul can be healed by the word, the scriptures, the hope it brings, the light and forgiveness. Interesting to note that one of the names for Christ is The Word.
We played some futbol with the zone this morning and then went to a fast food place-- I ate my first completo. Huge hotdog. Lots of mayo, avocado, y tomato. Not too bad. We are grocery shopping today, and all that. I'll try to send pics next time, but I’m not sure how that works. I hope everyone has a great week! I love you all! We are hard at work here in the best mission in the world!