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Monday, May 28, 2012

Elder Jones and Elder Rivera

One Week More and One Week Less!

Alright, here is my clip of Argentine culture for the week:

Mate (Mah--teh). A special drink of Argentina, this herbal tea can be found almost anywhere in the country. Every household has some stored in the kitchen cupboard, and every family offers us some when we visit them as missionaries. Simply put, it´s just part of the culture and quite different. If you would like to create your own at home, here is the process! I´ve heard from other RM´s that they do sell it in the States, so I will make some for you guys after the mission. Here is the recipe:

1) You need a mate. This probably sounds confusing. Don´t worry . . . it kinda is haha. The cup you use to drink mate is called a "mate." So basically you just need a cup.

2) Then you go to the store and find yerba (Sure--bahh), which is a special and very common herb of Argentina. They sell it in bags, sometimes up to two or three kilos in one package! The bags in which you find yerba at the store look very similar to flour sacs, just for those of you who actually go and buy some :).

3) The next necessary item: a Bombilla (Bomb--bee--shaa). This is a cool Argentine metal straw. It looks kinda like an ancient artifact, especially since many of them are designed with intriguing art or ancient symbols. I have already bought two on my mission, slowly adding to my collection!!

4) Grab a bag of sugar.

5) Go back home and put on a soccer jersey; otherwise you wont be Argentine enough to do this special cultural tradition. Seriously :).

6) Boiling water. Put a metal pot on the stove (preferably a tea pot) to boil some water.

7) Sit down on your table with everything spread out as follows:
boiling water in tea pot on a hot pad
yerba in the bag, ready to open
cup (a real mate from Argentina if you have one)
Bombilla ready to sip and in the cup
sugar placed in a shakable container
soccer game playing on ESPN, otherwise you can´t start the process

8) Shake some yerba out into your cup, filling it up about halfway.

9) On top of the yerba, shake about two teaspoons worth of sugar, an important step that adds to overall flavor.

10) Pour boiling water into the yerba and sugar up to the brim of the cup, mixing the sugar and yerba.

11) Use your bombilla to mix the drink until the sugar dissolves and the water turns a little darker.

12) Let the cup sit for about two minutes, allowing the water to absorb the taste from the yerba.

13) You're done! Stick your bombilla until it reaches the bottom and start slurping. Drink it like hot chocolate, else you will burn your tongue haha.

Sidenotes: There are some variations to the flavors. All of it depends on how much sugar you put into the mix and what type of yerba you buy from the store. In 85% of our appointments, someone in the house is drinking mate. This isn´t an exaggeration, but rather just a cool cultural part of Argentina! Generally, everyone in the family makes mate in the morning and sips it outside for a couple of hours while eating small donuts or crackers. They think we are really weird when we tell them that we cook eggs or make other foods for breakfast :). People also drink it during soccer games and just as a snack around the house.

And there you have it. If any of you actually make it, be sure to tell me! I really enjoy reading all of your letters and am writing quite a few today!!! Then we will go to the post office this week :). I hope you guys all have a great week!!!!

Elder Jones

Monday, May 21, 2012

One Week More, One Week Less

Hello! Here is some information about Argentina in general:

Driving in Argentina. Alright, first off, it´s not as similar as one would think. Seriously, I just about died of fear during my first ride in a taxi, which was just days after my arrival. Lanes don´t exist, so people just pass each other and drive really close sometimes, almost bumping side-view mirrors. I feel like a NASCAR driver trying to squeeze through holes sometimes. 90% of the intersections don´t have stop signs, which makes driving in neighborhoods really interesting. I´m sure you can imagine :) In the states, people still kinda do the rolling stop every once in a while. Here a rolling stop is considered safe. Some people just fly, almost without looking. It took me a while to get used to this aspect of the Argentine roads, and now I kinda like it. Luckily, about 90% of the roads are one-way, with a setup kinda similar to that of downtown Houston. With this in mind, you just have to look one way to check if there are other cars before rolling through the intersection. Still every once in a while--like every couple of days--I will see two cars just go through thinking that the other one is going to stop. Not true haha. One ends up flooring it even more while the other screeches the brakes. One time in centro, a taxi literally came within inches of another one. Then he just floored it, and the intersection just keeps on moving with its normal craziness. Wow, there are so many small differences. You can´t turn right on a red light, but I´ve seen people turn both left and right illegally. haha. I turned right a few times, not knowing of the rule. Like I mentioned in an earlier email. All cars are stick shift. For my whole mission, I have only ridden or drove manual transmission. At first, it just felt kind of annoying and weird. Now, I don´t really think twice about it as I cruise through the streets doing random errands. Most roads don´t have speed limits, so lots of people go WAY TOO FAST. I just drive at a pretty steady speed, sometimes a little faster than I´d like, just to keep up with traffic. And those are the main differences. I have forgotten some but will move on. In sum, driving here in Argentina is a complete adventure, and statistically less wrecks occur here than in the states. Interesting, huh? Alright, moving on.

Birthday. I had a great birthday here in Argentina as a missionary. I planned it with Hermano Bravo, one of the employees of the mission home who repairs random appliances and electrical stuff, so that we could have a great lunch on my birthday. So he arrived with his wife in the morning, and that´s when the great day started. I worked all the way until 10pm the night before and like all day, just to finish almost all of my duties, giving me a free day on Thursday :). So I left with Hermano Bravo to a meat house, where we bought a bunch of "Mar de plata," which means "sea of gold." It is one of the best cuts of meat available here in Argentina, and the Bravos put it to good use here on our parrilla. A parrilla is a giant grill that you use to cook meat over coals. I don´t think there is a good translation into English. It is jsut kinda like BBQ but better :). So everyone chipped in a bit and we ate THE BEST LUNCH EVER. I also opened my packages and just started eating candy!!! haha. It really was a great day, and to top it all off, we had dinner with the president to celebrate. It was a pretty combination between my birthday, Elder Benson finsihing his service in the offices, and Elder Hendrickson going home. So to be a little festive, the president´s wife cooked for all of us. So had two incredibly delicious meals and a super full stomach afterwards haha. Don´t worry, I ran six miles with Elder Benson the day before to prepare. It was our last time running together, so it was kinda sad, especially since I might not have another companion who will run with me like that again.

Sushi. So we all celebrated together. Then to make things even better, the next day we ordered sushi. So don´t worry, I put my birthday money to good use, Grandpa and Grandma Jones and Grandma Schank!! We had the best sushi I´ll ever taste here in Argentina. I think this is one of like three places where it is served in the whole mission. It tasted so incredibly good. I got a classic and philadelphia roll :). Then the next day, I bought some work out equipment while running errands with Elder Camacho. I have to go, so I'll have to explain more next week. Long story short, I have started working out a lot more with the hopes of getting back into great shape. Running with Elder Benson helped a ton, but I am still probably five to 10 lbs heavier than when I started my mission. Don´t worry, my pants still fit. hahaha. This happens to like all the missionaries here, and one of the elders has gained 85 pounds!!!! hahaha. Honestly, I had a great day.

Zone Conference is this coming Thursday.

Well, I gotta go. Love you all. Thanks for everything you guys do.

Elder Jones

Monday, May 14, 2012

Elder Jones at his recent baptism.

Elder Jones along with two of the other office Elders.

We had a great phone call with Elder Jones yesterday :) He will have more updates next week!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Here is the Lowdown

Well, we have had one of the busiest pdays ever here in the mission home. First off, Élder Comacho (Coe-mahhch--oh), a missionary from Mexico, celebrated his birthday. We woke up, did office duties until 10am, went and bought groceries, and basically just tried to get all of the routine tasks done early. With all of that finished for the week, we had the afternoon to party! We went to a buffet, making it my second restaurant trip on my mission!! Eating out felt incredibly weird, which made it even more fun than usual. We hit up a popular place we had seen earlier in Centro while working on visa papers called "Las Tinajas (Tea--nahh--haws). They have unlimited fish, Argentine food, Mexican, pastas, fruits, vegetables, a salad bar, and so much more. Yes, I ate too much :). At least Élder Benson and I have run regularly these past few weeks, trying to get rid of the extra pounds we´ve both accumulated over time. We hit 21 miles this past week. Not too bad for a missionary, eh? After eating tons of food and singing happy birthday in both Spanish and English, we drove back to the mission home to have a friendly soccer match.

We played for about an hour and had a blast. We made a small field in the backyard of the mission home and played three-on-three, just between the office elders. Elder Artunduaga is from Columbia and is the best player. He was captain of a national team and plays better than Élder Hull who made it to state in Utah. Soccer in foreign countries is just a whole other world. Anyways, we had a great game and played until we didn´t have anything left and just ended up lying on the grass. Great. Day. Great. Break.

Tonight, we will have dinner with the president. He invites us into the mission home about four or five times a year. This wil be the first time since I have entered the offices. It has been 8 weeks already! Wow, a lot of days pass rather slowly, but I have served as Historian for two months already and will probably stay until August or September. It is a lot easier (and less stressful) than in the beginning, especially since I have everything down pretty well now.

Well, since a lot of my weekly routines are the same, I´ve decided to tell you a bit about Argentina every week. I will at least donate a small paragraph. There is still so much you guys don´t know :)

Dining in Argentina. First off, at every meal, bread is placed on the table, regardless of the food or time of day. You break the bread and use a piece in your left hand to help eat your food. In other words, you use the bread to scoop up small pieces of food into your spoon instead of a knife or other eating utensil. Any other method is considered slightly rude, and newer missionaries are easily picked out by the members since they forget or look uncomfortable doing it! haha. Also, more than half of the time we have a weird dessert: Fruit. More often than not, the Argentines will place a huge bowl of fruit filled with bananas, oranges, grapes, mandarines, and everything on the table. We usually eat a lot of meat, so all of this fruit helps with digestion. Sometimes we have flan, which is a special Argentine dessert. It is kinda like a huge plate of jello that wobbles and has melted sugar on top. Whenever juice gets placed on the table, you generally should fill the cups of those around you before doing your own. They actually eat pretty formally :). And other than that, eating here is really similar to the states. These small differences do catch you off guard at first, though. Oh, and one more thing. You peel oranges with knifes here. I peeled one with my fingers in my first area, and they all made fun of me! haha.

Buying groceries. My companion and I use our allotted money and buy everything separately. Every once in a while we will plan to make something really big together and buy the ingredientes. Usually it is just an individual thing though. Also, sometimes we will just be creative in the middle of the week and make something in a group of two or three. I am still not a great cook, but I have mastered a few things: tacos, pizza, fettucinne alfredo, and some other special noodle dishes. I will be super excited to show you guys and cook every once in a while after the mission. I really appreciate and miss a lot of mom´s cooking more than ever. :)

Meeting with new missionaries. I dont interact with the greenies as much as the assistants. The assistants and president take them through meeting, workshops, and other introductory stuff. I usually have a lot to do with my duties and will be off to the side just working in the office. I still get to meet all of them, and for about an hour or so, I get together with Elder Benson, and we have them fill out some paperwork we need here in the offices. I also take their official photos and just keep them company for the last couple of hours in the night. Simply put, I do a lot of behind the scenes when they come. Since I am the main driver right now, a lot of the time president will ask me to go places and buy food for the new missionaries or to help with the setting-up of chairs and tables. Things like that. I still do get to know the new guys pretty well though. That is one thing I love about the offices. I get to meet and know almost all of the missionaries as they come in for visa renewals, interviews, etc. Sometimes I have to call a bunch of them if they don't send in their baptismal records on time. There are some misionareis who I have to call a lot. Since I also work with all of the stats of the mission in those excel files, I know who works hards, who is average, and who doesn't work as hard as they should! Hahahaha.

Alright, I have to go and start another busy week. Thanks for everything!!!!

Your missionary,
Elder Jones
El Historiador de la misión Argentina Rosario