Friends, family, fellow country men! While I was in Brazil I wrote a few entries that I had intended to post on my blog but never got the chance. So, I will go ahead and post them now. I know it's 6 months later, but oh well. Knock yourself out.
September 13, 2009
Bahia must be a cousin of the Bermuda Triangle. Weeks and weeks have passed by, I have met countless numbers of people, and yet, my calendar claims this is only my fourth day here. Yes, I am quite certain Bahia is something like the Bermuda Triangle, where time is warped into millions of loops and turns, leaving the innocent occupants terribly befuzzled. Regardless, I am pleased to share my experiences thus far in Bahia with the world of blogging. If you have not already heard through the grapevine, these first few days have been rather trying, to say the least. Being thrown into a completely new world with very little ability to communicate with anyone around me, let alone my world back home without internet or telephone, was not quite what I expected it to be for some reason. I didn’t do a whole lot the first two days, I mostly sat in my room and read my books, and watched a couple of movies on my lap top. It didn’t really hit me that I was terribly homesick until Thursday night when I looked at my little room and realized that I was going to be staying here for an entire three months. Anyway, with the help of the best family in the world and talking to them lots on the phone, I started to feel a little better. I don’t wish to focus on this negative part for too long, but I will say that I have already learned a great deal on how to call upon God in times of complete loneliness and isolation. Friday night was the first night I really felt it, feasting upon the scriptures and crying unto the Lord with all my heart, asking to have a change of heart and start seeing the silver lining. I knew that the Lord could not deny me my desires if I believed in Him, as it states in 1 Nephi 11: 6 “blessed art thou, Nephi, because thou believest in the Son of the most high God; wherefore, thou shalt behold the things which thou hast desired.” Of course in Nephi’s case, he was asking the Lord to reveal unto him the vision of the Tree of Life that his father, Lehi had seen, but while reading this, I felt so strongly that if believed in my Savior, then my desires would be granted. I am receiving many tender mercies from my Heavenly Father and I know that if I continue to be faithful, then my prayers will continue to be answered. I am still a little shaky, and a little overwhelmed by how much I don’t understand, but I do feel a little better than I did on Day 1. :0)
Today was my first day of church, and that in itself was a tender mercy. I have always heard people express that the church is the same wherever you are in the world, and if you feel as if no one is there for you in a foreign place, then you only need attend church. I met Jaca as soon as I walked into the building, and I have to say I already love that girl. She took me in her arms and hugged me with such warmth and compassion, and held my hand and showed me to the Relief Society room where the lesson was taking place. I was a little lost, because it was about 8:20 when I got there, and I thought I was early because I was told it started at 8:30, but as the room was almost full and the lesson seemed to have been going for a while, I gathered it started at 8. I sat next to a very nice lady, I don’t remember her name but she was so kind and loving as well. Everyone around me came up to me and gave me a hug and smiled so big, it was pretty much heaven for me. Jaca must have a calling that requires her to be out of class a lot, because she never stayed during any of them. I still don’t really know what people tell me to do, I just kind of go with the flow haha. Sacrament meeting was great, lots of singing hymns and cute babies. Despite the fact that I didn’t understand everything that was being said, the Spirit was still so evident, and it warmed my soul immensely. After Sacrament meeting, I met a couple of guys who spoke a little bit of English, which was such a relief, it’s just nice knowing there are some outlets here if I ever feel like nobody can understand me. And then, I met the missionaries, and one of them is fresh out of the CTM, his first week in the field! His name is Elder Green and he is from Layton, Utah. We talked a lot in English. I think we are kind of going through similar experiences haha. Don’t worry, I was not being flirtacious or anything of the nature, it was just one American speaking to another, in a land of Brazilians. A comforting thing. I learned that Jaca would be picking me up tomorrow morning at 8 o clock to go to the school that I’m going to volunteer at, which I am super excited about. It sounds like I’ll be there for about 5 hours every day, I think from 8-1, but I’ll find out more tomorrow. If that is the case, it would be great because then I can go there every day, and come home for some lunch, and then set out to the church to teach piano lessons, which I still have no clue how many people want to take. Jaca said she was going to get a list of people for me, she is the nicest person in the world. Ah, and I almost forgot, the senior companion of the elders, Elder Rodriguez, has been out for a while, so I decided to ask if he knew an Elder Simons (George). He laughed and asked if I meant the elder who is extremely tall, and I said yes. He definitely knew him, and said that one of his old companions is serving with Elder Simons right now in a city about 5 hours away. So the good news is, I don’t have to worry about running into him while I’m here! I seriously doubt that he will be transferred here within the next three months.
Well, after church I came home and one of the renters who is staying in one of the Melo’s apartments came up, and it turns out that he is from Florida and speaks English! Haha he is a very very interesting man. 70 years old, extremely nice, and almost too talkative. We ended up talking for about an hour, well he did most of the talking, but it was still enjoyable. He quickly revealed to me that he was gay and is living with another man, but he is currently living in Switzerland. I don’t really understand it. Haha. Anyway, he is very nice and does not speak Portuguese well at all, I’m not sure how he gets around here. He said he came here for a visit 2 and a half years ago and liked it so much that he decided to stay. Interesting fellow. But harmless enough. He wants to show me around the city some time, we’ll see.
The Lacerda Elevator
Jaca and Me
September 21, 2009
Well, another week has begun, and more adventures lie ahead of me. Last week wasn’t exactly what I thought it was going to be. Because I was beginning to feel better emotionally at the beginning of last week, I guess I assumed that I would be over my homesickness and start loving everything about being here, but I was quite wrong. This past week has been something of an emotional rollercoaster for me, and I am still struggling a great deal, but I’m alive and surviving. On Monday of last week I went out with Jaca and her friend Iverneide to see more of the city, which was a jolly good time. Tuesday I hung out until Jaca came to pick me up and we went to the school to meet the teachers and talk to them about me helping teach with English. They were all very nice. Afterwards, we went to the bishops house which is right across the street from the school (the bishops wife is a teacher at the school) and we hung out there for a while. I really like their family, they are good people through and through. Later, at around 7, we went to the church and met with the bishop and planned when I would teach English lessons at the church. I will be teaching Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 7-8. I start my first class tomorrow, and I am feeling confident thanks to the help of my dad who gave me the lesson plan they use in Daily Dose. On Wednesday, the next day, I spent the day at the school teaching English, which I had no clue I was going to do. Basically I just reviewed stuff they already knew and worked on pronunciation with them, played a few games and sang a few songs. It was tiring and required a lot of patience since I have a heard time communicating with them in Portuguese, but it was good. Thursday was the day of death for me, lots of depressed feelings, but it got a little better when Jaca and Iverneide came over and we studied the scriptures for a while, hung out at Jaca’s house, then went to the Bishop’s house again, and went to Institute later that night. Plans fall through a lot in this culture, people just aren’t very fussed about time, so last week I learned that when someone says they will come pick you up at 9 AM, it isn’t uncommon to not see them till 3 PM, or even later. Those instances left me a lot of time to read and study, but being a very punctual person, I was waiting anxiously for people to show up at any time. Friday was one of those days. I was supposed to go with Jaca to a dance recital some time in the morning, but she called and said that we weren’t going to go anymore and she would come pick me up later that afternoon. Also, that night we were going to go to a big birthday party that started at 11 and went until 6 in the morning, but that fell through too, although this was a good reason, since the person’s grandfather passed away. Friday night we went to what I thought was going to be an amusement park. I pictured something like Magic Mountain, maybe not with quite as many rides, but something like it. However, I quickly discovered upon arriving that it was a run down version of the Ventura County fair with only the rides, none of the booths or exhibits. And the rides were probably the most dangerous, poorly constructed things I have ever seen. Nonetheless, we had a great time, and for the first time I actually feared that the contraption might break in the midst of the ride and bring me to my death. Quite terrifying.
Saturday morning I went to the beach with Rose, but we only stayed for about an hour. It was a nice time though, I just read my book and enjoyed the beautiful view. Later that afternoon I went to the church to a ward activity, and then went with Jaca and Iverneide to an Institute dance, which was more like a little gathering with maybe 20 or 30 people listening to music and eating really weird hot dogs. Haha but I met a man there who works at the CES office with the institute program and speaks English. He was Jaca and Iverneide’s Institute teacher a while back, and he invited us to his house on Monday night (tonight) for Family Home Evening. His wife is an English teacher, so she is going to give me some ideas on teaching, it should be nice to be able to speak English with someone more. This morning I drew pictures of family members for my English class on Wednesday, which is focused on the family. My art is not the best, but I think it is sufficient to get the point across. Haha sometimes I wish I was blessed with more of the artistic abilities of my mom. I teach at the school on Wednesday and Friday, and I have some plans for those classes. Leah Florence gave me a great idea to make little cut outs of characters in a story and tell the kids a story. So I drew little pictures of 2 dogs who are going to be best friends in my story, and they are going to go on all sorts of adventures, and I will tell the story to the kids and stop throughout to teach them different words in the story. I think it should be fun. I also made up a counting song to teach the little kids how to count to ten.
Ah, I forgot to talk about my Sunday yesterday. I spent the entire day with Jaca, went visiting teaching with her, and then Sunday night we went to the broadcast of the CES fireside featuring Elaine S. Dalton. It was a strange sensation seeing the Marriot Center at BYU projected on the screen, as I have been there so many times to attend various firesides and devotionals. All the way in Brazil, people are partaking of the goodness and the wisdom of the General Authorities, it’s pretty amazing. An even stranger thing was when I recognized two of my friends that I worked with at EFY singing in the choir. It made me a little homesick, but also so grateful that the church is world wide, and that we have the technology to broadcast these great talks all over the world.
I want to thank all of my friends and family members who have helped me through the hard times I have experienced so far. Everyone has been so understanding, so encouraging, and so loving. I can feel all of your prayers, and I thank you for them. I am learning so much from this experience, and I am grateful that the Lord has given me strength to survive so far. I have never relied so much on prayer and scripture study as my main source of peace and happiness. It’s interesting because it’s almost like this experience has stripped me down to my bear core. I don’t have the false securities of worldly things to make me think I’m happy or content, so I really do count on having true happiness which comes from the love of God. Last night at the fireside I felt His love in such abundance, and I know that I am truly His daughter, and He wants me to be happy. I have been studying the book “Preparation Precedes Power” by Randy Bott (a mission prep book) and I have been learning amazing things. It teaches that we don’t ever have to wonder whether or not we are doing the Lord’s will or living our life so we can inherit celestial glory some day. For if we can feel the Spirit with us and recognize the promptings of the Holy Ghost, then Heavenly Father is pleased with us. We just need to be trying, every day, to be better and better and more like our Savior, Jesus Christ. The tone of this book makes me feel like receiving eternal life isn’t that hard, we don’t have to be huge figures of authority and greatness, we just need to do our best. But we also can’t trick ourselves into thinking we don’t have to work to be better, we should be doing everything in our power to bring the Lord’s will to come to pass and to develop Christ like attributes in ourselves. It’s all about finding a balance where we are not too hard on ourselves for not being perfect, and not giving ourselves too much slack. But we don’t need to stress about it, for as we study the words of Christ and commune with Him through daily, fervent prayer, we will naturally want to start adapting His qualities, and we will lose the desire to obtain worldly happiness or power. I know these things are true teachings of God, because as I write them, my soul burns within me, a feeling of warmth and overwhelming love, the kind of love that only comes from a loving Father in Heaven who wants us to return to live with Him some day. Yes, our time on earth is short in the eternal perspective, but it is also extremely important and could change our outcome forever. And forever is a long time.
September 23, 2009
Wednesday. I’ve almost reached my 2 week marker, tomorrow. Ha. 2 weeks. It seems like it’s been 2 months. I left off last reporting that I was about to go to Jairo’s house for family home evening, the man I met at the Institute dance that speaks English and who’s wife has taught English in the past. I went with Jaca, Iverneide, and Rosalanga (one of the teachers at the school I volunteer at and whom I LOVE!) We took the bus to get there, like usual. I’m sure any of you who are familiar with public transportation can vouch for me when I say that it takes a skilled and experience person to stand with ease while the bus is in motion. Well, that is especially true here in Brazil, because the bus drivers are insane. We got on the bus, and there was one more seat in the back, so I was moving towards it since I am not very good at standing on the bus. However, right before I got to my seat, the bus jolted unexpectedly and flung my whole body across two other people sitting in the back row. It all happened so fast, I hardly knew what had happened. But as if I don’t already draw enough attention to myself by being blonde and blue eyed, I had to make a huge episode of falling dramatically. I quickly got up and apologized profusely to the people I had landed on. One of the guys sitting next to me said it was fine, and then all of a sudden he grabbed his arm and started moaning and making terribly, painful-looking faces. I knew it right then, that was it, I was going to be sued for breaking his arm and I would have to go to court and my life was over. But after about 30 seconds he stopped, turned to me and gave me the thumbs up, only to stick his head out the window and start screaming. He then proceeded to stand on his seat and hang half of his body out, continuing to scream. It was then when I concluded that he was simply crazy. It was a funny experience.
Anyway, family home evening was wonderful. Jairo’s wife, Nadia, is the type of person you meet and feel as if you have met an angel. She has the sweetest face, and the sweetest spirit. I talked to her for a long time, telling her about my family, my aspirations, my interests, everything I’m not able to talk about in Portuguese because my vocabulary is so limited. I cannot express how nice it was to be able to talk to her without feeling confined. They have 3 kids and you can tell they strive so hard to teach the principles of the gospel to their children. They are an amazing family. The entire family home evening took place in English, and I had the opportunity to bear my testimony about the Savior and listen to other wonderful testimonies. I lead the opening song, Love One Another, and they made me sing the closing song because they liked my voice. Haha. I chose Abide With Me, Tis Eventide because it has kind of been my theme song for my Brazil experience so far. I have listened to that song probably a hundred times since I have been here, it brings me so much comfort. Anyhow, I loved family home evening and being able to partake of this family’s wonderful spirit. They invited me to come back again next Monday and spend the whole day with them. Nadia, the mom, has been teaching herself English using the same program that the church put out that I am using, and she really wants some help with some questions she has. I am looking forward to going to spend the day with this amazing family. Tender mercies anyone?
Yesterday, Tuesday, Jaca and I were invited to a member family’s house for lunch along with the missionaries, which gave me another opportunity to speak some English with Elder Green. After lunch, Jaca and I stayed there until 6:30, watching tv, making a delicious tapioca cake from scratch, and preparing some more cut outs for my English lessons at the school. I had my first English class at the church that night, and I think it went really well. The only bummer was that we went to the church to print the handouts from Daily Dose, and the computer wasn’t working, so I didn’t have the first hand out for them. I just went ahead and wrote all the words on the board, and we worked a lot on pronunciation until they got it. It was a good class all in all. Lots of students, I think there were about 23 people there.