Dear my family,
I haven't written you all in so long it seems but I hope today will clear a lot of your questions up of how Bolivia is. Well, first off let me tell you the story of getting to Bolivia. So lets rewind several days to my last day in the CCM. After gym we went to a meeting about all of the missionaries flights. And the Santa Cruz missionaries found out that they were leaving in 2 hours. We had to eat dinner still, pack completely, and have a 30 minute meeting with president Dyer! SO that alone was a little stressful but that all went fine. We got to the airport and got on a plane to La Paz. Our flight was at 10 pm and we didn't get to La Paz until 3 in the morning, which was so exhausting. Then our next flight was not until 8 am that same morning so we had a long layover in the La Paz airport which was hardly an airport. More like a bus stop for airplanes. So we hung out until around 6 when the check in counter opened again so we could check our baggage. But, to our surprise something had gone wrong with our flight and we had a ticket from Santa Cruz to La Paz not the other way around. So that was a problem. With my broken Spanish I found out that the church had booked our flights backwards so I called the Mission office here in Santa Cruz to ask them what to do. They called the travel agency that the church uses and sent us some help. Things were fixed, but the next flight to Santa Cruz wasn't until 12 pm so we had another 7 hours to sit and do nothing. Luckily the travel agency had this tiny room up stairs with a small couch and a lot of floor space so I went and slept on the floor for several hours. Well more just dozed off. We got on our flight to Santa Cruz which was only about an hour and we met president and hermana Williard there. That was such a relief!! We met the APs and Pres. secretaries and then we drove around Santa Cruz for a while until we got to the mission office. We had interviews, ate pizza, which was so good, and took pictures for our passports. We then went to a small restaurante for dinner and then we stayed in a Hotel that night (Martes). The hotel was ridiculously nice. No a/c but still waaay nicer compared to the other places we could have stayed in. Then the next day was all immigration stuff. Taking our blood, signing a million papers, and driving all over the city. It was pretty boring and long. We stayed in the hotel again that night (Miercoles) then on Jueves we met our Trainers in the morning and went into the field right after lunch!
My trainer's name is Elder Chavez and he has been on a mission for 22 and a half months. He knows what he's doing. I'm sad though that he's leaving after this area because usually you are with your trainer for 2 cambios. He is teaching me so much. And he's kind of a neat freak, which is nice. The first thing we did when we got to our house was clean because neither of us could stand how dirty the other missionaries had kept it. But our area is La Merced. Its huge. And I've never seen living conditions like this, or even imagined a place like this before. No paved roads, all mud and dirt, not a single shower with hot water, not a single kitchen that isn't outside over a fire, not a single yard without a line for clothes, and not a single family who doesn't own a million stray dogs and cats and chickens, all very underfed and skinny. We live in a mansion and I feel like I'm camping. We have 4 rooms. 1 with 2 desks and 2 chairs. One with 2 beds, one with an electric table top stove with 2 burners and a mini fridge, and a bathroom with a spigot coming out of the wall for a shower. Oh, and no flushing toilets. Its just so strange to me. A culture shock if there ever was one. I can't send pictures right now, but today I am going to buy a usb adapter so I can send some next week.
Its such a different culture, but the members are amazing. Our first day we walked and walked and walked. Well, we do every day, but we went and taught lessons that night. My Spanish is non existent it feels like. I can't carry any normal conversation at all. My Spanish in lessons is okay but I can't understand hardly anyone except Elder Chavez. I know it will get better but its so hard to keep my spirits up when I'm not talking to anyone. But its cool to me that when I talk out loud in English, which is hardly ever, it sounds weird, and wrong. But I'm learning little by little. Answering the phone is the worst of all. SOOOOO hard to understand members when they call us.
2 lessons that have been so powerful. 1 with an Hermana named Marsalina. She is about 40 years old and talks super soft but is a reference from a member. We went and introduced ourselves and she let us come and sit in her yard. We started talking with her and then the lesson was over. It was weird. I couldn't remember really what had happened or how the lesson went. I just knew we had invited her to church, to read the LDM (Book of Mormon), and to pray. Afterwards Elder Chavez told me how powerful the lesson was and I was still kind of confused. I taught part of the lesson with perfect Spanish he said. Every word he said was correct and he was just shocked. As was I! The gift of tongues is real. The lord blesses his servants when they need it and let me tell you, I need it all the time because I know nothing out here.
The 2nd lesson was yesterday afternoon with a contact from a 15 year old. His name is Raul and we went and introduced ourselves to him and it turns out his wife had just left him 3 or so weeks ago and he was having a super hard time. He was in tears when we were telling him that through the Evangelio of Jesucristo we can all be helped in our lives with whatever problem we have. It was such a powerful lesson and he was the first person to accept my Baptismal invitation. He is preparing to be baptized with him and his 2 kids at the end of April. Miracles happen. And I can't even tell you all of them from the past few days because there have been so many. I love it here. But at times I feel like I'm never going to make it. But then I think of the love of the Lord and realize its all worth it!
A few other things that I forgot to mention. Here the Bolivians say "super" in front of things when they are really emphasizing a word like "Super bien" or "super rico" is super funny to me! Becuase they don't know what super means. I asked E Chavez and he said its because of Super Man so it makes a little more sense now. Also, can I mention the amount of mosquitos? Swarms. I think Im 20 pounds lighter because they've eaten so much of my blood. Also, I wake up every morning with sweat pooled around me because its so hot. Also, when it rains, everything is a swamp and there are more mosquitos!! We had to wear rain boots all day for the past couple days because of the amount of mud. We have gotten stuck several times. Also the snails. Think of the giant snails in Houston and then imagine them way bigger. That's what they have here. Crazy. Also the food is so good. Meat every meal. The best Beef, Brisket, Chicken, everything I've ever had. Also lots of rice and bread. But I seriously love it all. Oh, and for dessert they usually drink soda. Crazy amount of diet coke, sprite, apple soda, you name it, they have it. Oh and things are crazy cheap compared to the US. I can buy a bag of rolls for about 75 cents. (5 or 6) bolivianos. Oh, and its hot. Did I mention that? Oh, and there are a ton of cute kittens... everywhere. And a crazy amount of chickens roaming the streets... and horses too. And cows. And its hot.
I love it here. I miss you all but, here is a new home for me. Well for 2 years at least! I pray for you always. I love to hear from you and I love getting emails. My pdays are on Mondays and I write from 10:30 to 1200 my time. I'm not sure when that is for all of you. My comp is awesome, my President is more awesome and the mission Santa Cruz is the best. Hurrah for Israel!
ps: Deben mandar paquetes solo por el servicio nacional de correos del Estados Unidos. (USPS) Deben enviarlos (paquetes y cartas) a la dirección:
Mision Bolivia Santa Cruz
Casilla de Correo 2042
Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz
Es muy muy muy importante que haya el titulo Elder antes de Gehring.
También, no deben utilizar FedEx. Nunca nunca nunca!!!