Saturday, July 25, 2015

Villa Elisa: May 22, 2000

Querida familia [tr: Dear family],

Yet another week has blown by, leaving me in the dust.  Not really, but it sounds good.  This letter's probably going to be pretty hefty.  I've got my week to talk about, a page from Dad to respond to, and a massive seven-pager from Mom.  Plus, I want to start a "Paraguayan Peek."  Each week, I'll pick one aspect of life here in Paraguay and blab about it.  Good idea, ¿no?  Now all I have to do is remember it.  Oh, by the way, up there on top means "Dear family."

Here's Dad's letter first:

… your new area.  It sounds great!
It is great!  The people are so nice.  I've yet to have a baptism, but that's okay.  It's not the number of baptisms that matters.

Our health is about the same.
Sorry to hear you're not better, but glad to hear everything is at least okay.  I don't want to hear that you've taken a turn for the worse!  Actually, if you do, I want to hear about it, but I don't want you to.

We now have the house plans for the cabin.
Could you send me a copy so I can have an idea of what it will look like?  And pictures, too?  I mean, pictures of the stages of building.

Please more details in your letters.  Mother likes that.
And you don't?  You can't tell me you don't, Dad!  Mom already told me that you always want to be the first to open my letters!  Too late!  :P

Okay, that was Dad's letter.  Here's Mom's now:

Do you need me to send you some stationary?
Um.  I don't think I do.  If you want to send it anyway, go for it.

I think it's pretty ironic that someone who has done as little physical stuff in their life should get a walking mission.
Hmph.  Exactly what are you saying?  I've done physical stuff!  I walked a lot at camp.  I, uh, helped Dad do weird things with weird things. I, uh, um… I see what you mean…

Tell us about him.
Him = Elder Handy.  Well, he's tall as me, but I outweigh him by twenty pounds.  Uh, he leaves in a couple weeks.  Other than that, I'd rather not say.

What happened to Elder Miller?
He's in La Floresta right now, which isn't far from Villa Elisa.  This puts him in my zone, so I see him every Tuesday.

(stupid Americans!)
Heh.  Americans aren't the only ones who are stupid.  There are some Paraguayans that make you say, "Why?"  Some of them make me think that their parents should talk to the bishop because they (the parents) sinned by bringing them into the world.  [ed: Wow, I really wrote that?  I'm ashamed.]

… living accomadations.
Um.  Apartment.  The two of us.  We're leaving it next week.  Exciting.

And food—what's it like?
Good.  I like almost everything I eat.  Almost.  I don't particularly care for sopa paraguaya and mandioca is a sin.  [ed: Yet, I look back on them fondly now.]  Other than than, tranquilo [tr: it's all good].  And I haven't had cereal or Smack Ramen once.  Cereal is expensive and I've yet to see the other.

So [your letters] take a while to get here.
Yeah.  What happens is I write them on Monday, give them to the zone leaders on Tuesday, who in turn gives them to the cartero (mailboy, basically), who stamps them and mails them.

Can we send things to your physical address?
Sure!  My physical address is the mission office because the mail system down here, well, isn't worth anything.  I probably shouldn't call it a system…

Will they get there?

Are the postal authorities… uh… "sticky-fingered" in Paraguay?
You could say that.  If a package is under two kilos, it's probably okay, but if it's over, it goes through customs.  I have heard of missionaries getting a package labeled "2.2 kg" but the box weighs half that.

What would you like me to send you?
Hmm… this could be useful…  I'll have to remember this…  Ahem.  I can't think of anything right now, so surprise me!  :D

Any chance of getting email?
Yes, I get email weekly.  If you mean from me, no way.  The rule is "Missionaries are not to have access to the Internet."  Okay.

Will you be allowed to call home on certain occasions?
Yes.  Christmas and Mother's Day.

So who "looks after" you besides yourselves?
Nobody.  We're big boys, Mom.  :)

Do you have a bishop?  Branch president?
Branch president.  The branch here in Villa Elisa is about eight months old and meets in a rented house until a chapel is built.  Yesterday was branch conference and we had no less than 142 people there.  That's twice as many as some wards with chapels!

Is Craig Cheney nice?
Huh?  I thought his first name was President… oh, well.  Yeah, he's awesome.  Really great guy.  Sadly, I don't get to talk to him very much.  Zone Conference and monthly interviews.  And Hermana Cheney (sorry, "Sister Cheney" just doesn't flow) is nice, too.  Great cook!  I had a chicken salad a while back.  Yum!  I actually don't eat there (the mission home) very often.

Charlie is starting his training for assistant manager at the Best Western.
Cool!  It's good to finally hear what he's up to.  It sounds like he's been doing good!  Keep me posted!

Whoa.  Four pages, and I haven't even done my own writing!  Well, I'll do that now.

Let's see… Tuesday… Ah!  Zone Conference!  Four pages of notes, all in Castellano [ed: what the Paraguayans call their dialect of Spanish] (aren't I proud of me?).  Last month, my zone (#3) baptized eight people, and there were a total of 99 baptisms in the mission.

President Cheney spoke about the Holy Ghost first.  He gave seven scriptures about it; both about teaching with the Spirit and that it is required to be a member.  Without the Holy Ghost, the baptism is worthless (Acts 19:2, 5-6).  He also said that this time isn't mine; it's the Lord's.  He told us that we aren't a bother to the people.  We are a blessing to them.  He invited us to have 100 charla cortas [tr: short discussions] in one week.  Elder Handy and I are going to do it this week.

The APs [ed: assistants to the President] were next.  They talked about using the Book of Mormon to resolve doubts.  They pointed out that doubts about anything are based on modern revelation, no matter what it's about.  And that means that if the Book of Mormon is true, then we have prophets today.  If we have prophets, we have revelation.  Good talk.

Since it was Mother's Day, Hermana Cheney talked about mothers.  She told us that we have a Heavenly Mother also, and had some elders sing "Oh my Father".  Then, she shared some stories about mothers.  Very powerful.  Also, I have written down this next sentence but I don't remember where it came from.  "God be thanked for the prayers of my family."

President Cheney talked again.  This time it was about Abraham and the covenant made with him.  I wrote a lot, but on reading it, I didn't write anything.  To put it simply, this talk wasn't too fascinating.  No, it was, but not enough to relate.

Well, that was Zone Conference.  Afterwards, we didn't really do anything so I'll just end Tuesday.

On Wednesday, the zone leaders inspected the new charla cortas and a charla [tr: discussion] one, of which I gave half.

My agenda on Saturday is full, too, but I don't remember doing anything.  Nope.  Nothing.  Well, that night we had dinner at my neighbor's house to celebrate Elder Chaston's (Elder Napoleon's comp) birthday.  They work the other half of Villa Elisa, by the way.

Sunday was good.  Branch conference with 142 in attendance, four of whom are my investigators.  It's cool when investigators attend church.  After that, we did some stuff and then took the new landlords to a fireside.  It would have been really cool if I could have squeezed in.  I spent the time studying charla two.  They liked it, though, and that's the important part.

It turned out that I didn't get to go shopping with Elder Handy after all.  He went with Elder Chaston instead, who is also leaving.  Oh, well.  That just means I won't get to buy any illegally imported electronic equipment.  Well, I don't know if it really is illegal or not, but I've seen a really nice stereo with a 3-CD changer for about $40.  Contraband?  I'll let you decide.

Paraguayan Peek (hey, I remembered) for 22May2000: Coletivos.  This is the Castellano word for bus.  Since bus is a heck of a lot shorter, I will call them buses.  Anyway, since practically no one has a car, everyone rides the buses.  They cost a mil (mil = 1000 guaranies [ed: the guaraní is the currency of Paraguay]) to ride.  That's about thirty cents or so.

Have you ever been on a roller coaster?  I have, and after riding these buses, that roller coaster ride was nothing.  The roads here are terrible.  Most are a rough cobblestone called empadrada.  In addition, the bus drivers drive pretty fast.

Remember when I said everyone rides the buses?  Well, I really mean everyone.  Sometimes all at once.  Just the other night, I rode home standing on the last step.  I could lean back just a bit and be outside.  The bus was packed.  That was actually the most fun I've had on a bus before.

Okay, I've written enough for one day.  I'm going to stop now.  Good bye!


PS Love you!

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