Since I didn’t get this blog created earlier, I thought I would include some fun excerpts and pictures from David’s past months’ letters. In future posts I will just include current letters and stories. Today I am making up for lost time.
Learning a language is hard
It is cool when I try to speak during lessons. When I am out and about trying to speak the language, people have a hard time understanding me and I have a hard time speaking and understanding. I can already hear my own accent; it is very strong. But when I am teaching a lesson, the words flow and I hardly ever stumble over my own thoughts. When I have the Spirit, the people have no trouble understanding me. They say that my accent is strong, but they understand what I am trying to say.
That is very cool.
A few funny things. . . . My companion and I had to split up with members in separate vehicles to pick up investigators for church yesterday. My goodness, that must have been the most comical thing for people sitting in the back. I was frantically trying to communicate where to go in my broken Portuguese and the driver was frantically trying to understand and respond. It didn’t help that I couldn’t tell what the heck he was saying. This was all in the heat of the day, in the city traffic, in Brazil. Sheesh. Just picture two people in suits half yelling at each other where to go, while two kids are laughing their faces off in the back. Yeesh. I hope I don’t have to do that again for a while.
I often find myself getting sick after lunch because I am stuffed like a cream puff about to explode. I try to keep food in my mouth at all times so I am not expected to respond. The conversations are the worst. I never know what anyone is talking about. It is so hard.
May I begin with wow, this week was all kinds of different.
I had to give my first full talk in Portuguese on Sunday. I was terrified. I decided to talk about prayer from the perspective of a missionary. I spoke on how prayer was important for the missionary and the investigator because it helps them both to grow spiritually. I would have had so much more to say if it had been in English. I didn’t mind speaking in front of the entire ward — except for the fact that my Portuguese is horrible and I could see all of their faces. Whenever I said anything slightly confusing I would see the faces of everyone change, especially when I didn’t pronounce a word correctly. I would see everyone wince and hold back a smile. It was a very humbling experience.
Afterwards, however, was really cool. Everyone I talked to said that it was hard to listen but they understood me perfectly. I must have had the Spirit with me because there were some awkwardly formed phrases (that they wouldn’t have understood otherwise). It was also cool to notice that after my talk, I was understanding almost everything that anyone said to me. Before my talk I wasn’t understanding people very well. . . . After my talk I could speak better and understand better. It was cool to feel the before and after change.
Another blessing I notice is when people talk. It is very interesting to me that when a person does not want to hear our message or will not pay attention, their speech when they respond to us is physically slurred or garbled. It is not just my understanding that changes, but the speech of the person changes depending on their desire to learn. When a person is actively listening to us, their words are crystal clear and I understand perfectly. This is very interesting to me.
I am also starting to notice those tender mercies more often now. Like you would not believe the length of some of the stairs we have to climb (stairs like the ones in the picture below). I am sure Coach Young would love to utilize these stairs. But one day I was ready to pass out when we started to climb. Then all the sudden, I realized that I was at the top. I did not even remember climbing the staircase. I could not believe it. It was so cool.
Another thing that I am beginning to notice: I never thought I would ever say this, but here it comes. I am so grateful for the childhood that I had. I am so grateful for all of the time that my parents told me to go outside and play rather than play a video game or watch TV. I’m gonna say sorry to my brothers now, but Mom and Dad, keep doing what you are doing. I am noticing that every song I ever listened to, every movie or TV show I ever watched, every video game I played, or any other thing likewise is a distraction to me now. I didn’t believe I would be thankful when my parents told me to get a life, but I am now. It is difficult to focus on the work and language, especially when I have an old song or movie that I liked pop into my head. They are all distractions now. I adore every memory that I had with my family or brothers and have a greater appreciation for them now.
Preparation day fun
I did not really know it before, but I am pretty good at soccer. I made 5/8 goals last P-day in the street game that we do every week. All the Brazilians were disappointed that an American was beating them at their own sport. I keep trying to teach them real football but they do not get it. It does not help with my football mindset either. Today, while playing with other missionaries, I kept getting the penalties — mostly because all the small Latinos would try to get past me and end up knocking themselves over. I do not know why these soccer players have such horrible balance. It reminds me of when I played basketball with Gentry in the driveway and he kept falling over.
An unexpected surprise
Nothing exciting happened until Sunday. At church we were sitting in class and this woman pipes up: “I want to be baptized. How do I do that?”
We (missionaries) instantly perked up and said: “Let’s talk right now!”
We pulled her out of the class, talked to her, got her in an interview for baptism, and we baptized her when church was over. Turns out that she had been attending church for a while, but all of us (missionaries) thought she was already a member. That was the fastest baptism I have ever seen. She was baptized within two hours of us meeting her. Also, because of her spontaneous baptism, one other person was baptized by the other Elders as well. That was a cool experience.
Keep the Christmas spirit with you and remember that Jesus in the gift to the world!
All of us (us being the three other missionaries in the house and me) were anxious to talk to our families and a tad homesick. So we all decided, while we were walking, to do something cool for the evening. Naturally, we all thought of a Christmas Eve dinner: Meat. We went to the meat market and bought, between the four of us, three kilograms of meat and some carbon. My companion and I returned to our house a little bit early to prepare while the other Elders finished a commitment they already had.
A few days before when we tried to make cookies, we had tried to get the oven to work, only to find that the gas line was welded shut. (We ended up cooking the cookies in the microwave.) Since we did not have an oven, we went out into the street to find a bunch of rocks. We took the grate out of the oven and out on the back patio area and we made a makeshift grill.
When the other Elders returned, we started cooking–that is, only after I had started a massive fire with the carbon that we had. We left Elder Borba to cook the seasoned meat and started brainstorming in the kitchen. We had to have a dessert, right?
Quite spontaneously, Elder Hunt said, “I’m feeling apples today. . . .”
I said, “Apple crisp?”
Elder Zenteno said, “I have a recipe!”
In only those three sentences, we picked our dessert for the night. Then we realized we did not have any apples, or any of the ingredients for that matter. The store was about to close because it was almost 9pm. I looked at Elder Hunt and asked him if he wanted to run. He agreed.
We put on our workout clothes and sprinted all the way to the store. We got apples, ice cream, and sugar. I realized that I forgot my wallet so Elder Hunt bought it all. We sprinted back. Only then did we realize that we did not have enough apples. We also forgot nutmeg and oats. I grabbed my wallet and we sprinted all the way back to the store. We got all the stuff, I bought it, and again sprinted back to the house. The store was not that close either. Man — we wanted that crisp so bad.
Again we ran into the oven problem. After finishing the crisp mix stuff and cutting up the apples, we did not know how to cook it because we did not have an oven. We sure as heck were not going to use the microwave; there was too much. We used 24 apples . . . there was a lot to cook. The meat was done so we decided to figure it out afterwards.
Dinner was delicious. It was nothing but meat and Coca-Cola, but it was glorious. Elder Borba and Zenteno had moved the table and the couch out onto the deck. We ate our meat dinner and watched all the millions of fireworks going off in the valley. It was so loud you had to shout to talk to each other. At least it was not raining.
After dinner I decided how I was going to cook the crisp. I put about a tablespoon of oil in a big pot and started frying half the apples. When they were half soft and half crispy I put in the rest. I mixed it up and continued to fry the apple choppings until half were really soft and the other half was crispy. I then took it off the heat and added the crisp mix. The butter in the crisp mix melted and created a sugary sauce. It was hot enough that the sugar slightly caramelized. We each had a giant plate of this apple, sugar goo. It was much different from apple crisp, but I am going to do it again in the future. It was soooo good.
Elder Hunt, New Years, and the truck tire
Well, the grand news this week is almost nothing. Elder Hunt, the new Elder in our house since last transfer, was sick for four days straight. (A “transfer” refers to moving to a new geographical area, at which time the missionary also switches companions.) I got the grand prize to sit in the house with him for four days. I was nearly bonkers to go teaching afterward. Since I was with him for so long, I got to know him really well. We are actually very similar. We have a lot of similar experiences, especially football. I now feel like I have Gentry with me. . . . Think of a person with a personality mix of Gentry and I and you get the personality of Elder Hunt. I learned a ton from him in the sense of bringing people to baptism. This is his fourth transfer in his mission and he has baptized 36 people. He is super chill.
New Years Eve was just like Christmas. So many fireworks going off all night that you have to yell at each other to have a conversation. Elder Hunt and I made the apple crisp again (we used 54 apples) and it was glorious. We had another barbecue that night and all went to bed with stomach pain.
Elder Hunt and I were walking back to the house from a baptism and we saw this big truck tire in the street. I looked at him and he looked at me. We both knew what the other was thinking. I said, “Tire flip?” and he replied, “Let’s do it!” So we grabbed the tire and rolled it back to the house. Do not worry — we were really close to our house. Now we have a truck tire in our garage and we have been doing about 20 minutes of hard-core tire flipping every night. It is an awesome workout. It reminds us of our football glory days. This also kind of reminded me of when Gentry and I would walk home from the bus stop and would drag home anything we found on the road. For example, I remember bringing home that 6-foot long 2-foot wide sewer half-pipe. . . . I think that is still sitting next to our treehouse, is it not?