Hola mi Queridos!
Hermana Boren. Week 3. I must begin with thanks--thanks to all of you for your beautiful emails, the gift of your words and loving thoughtful things you say to me. I so appreciate every word!
Another week in Argentina, I can hardly believe it. I have to tell you some more facts about my time here. Firstly, all the native--spanish--speaking missionaries call Americans¨"Jenkies" (zshjankies). At first I wondered if it was derrogatory, but I´ve come to understand it´s an endearing name. Sweet white blond blue eyed people who don´t know how to talk yet . . . like me! Also, all the church members here call Utah the ´fabrica´, or factory, because it produces so many missionaries/members of the church. Some of my favorite words in Spanish that I have never heard before Argentina are ´coso´, which means thing or stuff, and ´fa´, which means wow or huh. It´s fun to learn spanish in such an informal light, at times. I catch so much from conversations, facial expressions, hand gestures, etc. Everyone here talks like a song. At times I realize I need to focus on the words instead of the beauty of the intonation, but it´s so hard to concentrate when you feel like investigators and church members are going to burst into ´bella notte´ at any moment and invite you to dine on spaghetti with their pooch. The language is spanish, but for the sing-song voices I feel I´m in italy. And everyone is so caught up in love--what for all the besos (kisses) and talk of marriage and whatnot. Hermana Ferraez had a lesson with a woman in her mid 70´s, and she expressed to us that her greatest trial in life right now is not having a companion to share life with. Her husband passed away a decade or so ago (I think . . . it´s all bits and pieces right now) and she kept expressing how much she wants a boyfriend. It was the oddest thing. After the lesson Hermana Ferraez explained that this is normal--almost every one of the ´viejitos´ (grandparent aged people) who are single long for love. So with that said, Argentina truly is the France of South America.
I think culture shock really hit this week--there are some things here that just aren´t the same. Truly, appointments are so hard to fix in the afternoon hours from 12 to 4 or 5. The whole world shuts down to sleep! I got used to running, running fast in washington--appointments for every hour of the day, teaching, proselyting, sharing what I love and what has brought me so much joy! It´s killing me to have to be okay with the afternoon hours running slow. Appointments in the states were usually never longer than 1 hour and a half, tops. Here, that´s a normal appointment. These people sure love to talk! I´m adjusting and not complaintant, just wanting--so deeply--to work hard, as the Lord would have me do. I don´t want to waste any of his time or miss sharing the gospel with anyone. But Argentina, Rosario is different that Tacoma Washington. A different culture, a different people. Right now I´m struggling to find a balance between becoming accostomed-acclamated to their culture, and keeping my identity and drive to work. I know all things will come in their time, in God´s time. I know he called me to both places for a very distinct reason, and I´m comforted by that. Right now I´m searching to do his will in Argentina! He is with me always! This, more than anything, brings me peace and joy. The Spirit is real, as is the Atonement. I feel it in affect all the time.
First story of the week--Saturday. I felt so alone! Amongst all the angry dogs in the street and the angry wind tearing through our coats, and It was amidst all these emotions, all this angst and frustration at not being able to share my testimony or worried about working hard and whatnot, that I found myself walking alongside Hermana Ferraez in the chill Venado Tuerto night to the home of Hermana Puck. She is in her mid 80´s and immigrated to Argentina from Germany when she was 24 years old. We have cena (dinner) with her every Saturday evening. She greeted us with her green eyes and snow white hair, inviting us into her home. And to my surprise, laid out on her couch, was a guitar! She had remembered me mentioning my love for music the week before, and my mentioning that I played guitar. Before I knew it I was tuning, humming, and strumming strings while singing hymns of the restoration. It felt so good to put my fingers to work on a fretboard again. After seven or eight songs--my singing in english, Hermana Puck and Hermana Ferraez singing in Spanish--Hermana Puck smiled at me and said (in Spanish) ´This is a balm for your soul, isn´t it?´ I could have cried. Instead my eyes and smile lit up and I offered her sincere thanks. It was, truly, a balm in my tired heart that day. Hermana Puck then proceeded to direct us to her electric keyboard and we took turns playing a song or two for each other. When I began to play loch lomond and sing the words, she suprised me by singing along! In her young years, she memorized many tunes and poems in german, french, english, etc. alike. Her grandson, Matias. age 8 (he´s the spitting image of Ian Johns, Mom, it´s incredible!) surprised us with a visit as well. We began composing a song, the four of us, about Hermana Puck and our adventures singing and sharing the gospel. I felt home, home all around me, in that moment.
I realized in this sweet, simple, moment, how much God loves each of us so individually. Through his sweet daughter, Hermana Puck, he rescued my soul on a chilly Saturday evening, through music. Such sweet music. This was, truly, a manifestation of God´s love for me!
Right now we are teaching Carolina, age 17, with eyes like melted chocolate and a smile like sunshine. I don´t know why, but she reminds me so much of Casey! She runs a little kiosco (little shops. In parts of Venado far from the center of hte city, many people have their own mini store with food, candies, etc.) with her parents and brother in the front of their home. Hermana Ferraez encountered her wiht previous companion, Hermana Castillo, a week or two before my arrival. Her parents are members but haven´t been to church in years. She attended church my first sunday, and it was her first sunday as well! After Sacrament meeting, Hermana Ferraez and i walked with her to the little classroom for sunday school for all the young men and young women. There are only a handful of youth, maybe 6, in this branch. I prayed, with all my might in my heart, as we walked away to Gospel doctrine. Normally, I can use my words to offer comfort and welcome to new people. Or introduce them to others. In this moment, I was a stranger myself. How could I Help Carolina feel welcome when I couldn´t speak myself? So I prayed with all my heart that one of the young men or women would reach out to her. Off and on during Gospel Doctrine I wondered and worried.
Much to my surprise and delight, Carolina and one sweet young woman in the Branch, Candela. After we came out of class, they were in the hallway, chatting and laughing as girls do. Candela is 14, and to me, is an angel! Later, that day, walking back to our apartment to study and have dinner (we study at night on sundays) we encountered Carolina, Candela, and 3 or 4 other youth from the Stake chatting in the park and drinking matte together. I felt like a little kid, I was so giddy to see such friendship and fellowship blooming so fast! Since that first Sunday, Candela and Carolina have become fast friends. Carolina has attended nearly all the ward activities, and is even starting Personal Progress. She wants to be baptized, but is still looking for an answer as to whether or not she should make this covenant. She is a responsible, lovely girl, and she wants to do the right thing and make sure this is a committment she can keep. I have so much hope for her.
Another investigator--Daniel. He is 10 years old, and instead of shaking our hands normal, he has his own handshake for the two of us missionaries! His baptism is this Saturday! I´m reminded of my sweet first baptism in Washington, Josh Huey. It seems that both my missions--Washington and Argentina--begin with a Baptism of a good, wonderful, 10-year-old young man.
I am so grateful, every day, for Hermana Ferraez. Every companionship study, we practice the lessons in spanish, one principle at a time, back and forth. She quizzes me in the street, what is this thing called? or that thing? She gently corrects my conjugation when I need it. Our lessons with investigators--usually 4 or 5 times daily--she does the same as we do in Comp study. one principle upon one principle, I am involved with my simple testimony at least half of the time. It´s incredible, I understand so much more clearly when we´re talking about the gospel. There is a language barrier, but it´s breaking more and more all the time. Last night we retired to bed in fits of giggles. I´m grateful that no matter what happens or what words I say wrong, at the end of the day I have a friend who helps me out and helps me learn. It´s not always easy--there´s some definite differences between our cultures!--but we have learned to overcome it and press forward. We are united when we´re both striving to serve the people we teach and each other.
Much love to you all!