I really appreciate all of your mail and have sent out many cards this past week. Hopefully you all will get them soon. :). Over the past few weeks, I have had some incredible experiences and thought to share them with you all today.
1. Spanish. Right now, I have a pretty solid grip on the language (finally!), and Elder Hull and I can talk to basically anyone when we work together. However, like all good things, it came with a price. One day, after living in Argentina for about one month, I felt overwhelmed as if learning a new language were impossible. Frustrated, I continued studying the gospel and language with high hopes, knowing that one day it would come to me. For those of you who don´t know, as missionaries we can study the scriptures, our missionary manual called "Preach my Gospel," and a handful of other specially selected books. We have the majority of these resources in both languages, as well as a college grammar textbook and some vocabulary packets. Simply put, a new missionary has tons of resources and figuring out where to start can be mind boggling. I decided to think about it and pray some, hoping for some inspiration. I then decided to focus the majority of my studies on the Spanish scriptures and my Spanish textbook of over 2000 exercises and 28 chapters. We really do have lots of language material, so picking what to use was difficult. I still had two other language books, vocabulary pamphlets, church magazines, and even more to help us learn the language. So this was when my adventure began.
Every day, I would spend about an hour reading the scriptures, either listening to it on my ipod or reading silently, always in Spanish. Many times, I had a dictionary right at my side to look up words and to help with the grammar. At first, it was incredibly hard, but little by little, I made progress. For another hour and sometimes two, each day I would study the language out of the college grammar book, trying to learn as much as possible and apply it throughout the day. Long story short, I know a divine hand helped me during this part of my mission. I finished the college textbook at the end of my fourth transfer. I had felt all along that when I reached this point, my language abilities would be sufficient. Just two days later and basically right after finishing the book and all its exercises, the president called me on our cell phone and asked me to come work here in the offices. This experience hit me powerfully. My responsibilities changed dramatically through my transition to my position here in the offices, where I´ve worked since the middle of March. Instead of just working alongside an older missionary, in the offices I have had to send emails in Spanish, call people in Buenos Aires, help out missionaries with their records, talk to president, and basically do tons of daily tasks in Spanish. Without the inspired study, I don´t know if working here would have been a possibility for me. It has blessed my life, even though the older guys make fun of me a lot since they go home soon :). I know that the Lord guides us when we seek His help and assurance.
2. Finding an Apartment for other Missionaries. Some days I leave with Elder Camacho to help with apartment/contract information. Two elders have had to switch apartments, and we have the responsibility of finding them a new one. Since the Internet isn´t used as much down here, we couldn´t find anything online, which is usual. So the only other common method here in Rosario is to drive around and look for a "to rent" sign! A bit tiring and tedious, it is still the best option. I know what it is like to not have an apartment, so I always urge Elder Camacho to find one for them. Sleeping and cramming in the apartment of other missionaries is terrible, and luckily it doesn´t happen too often. One day, we left and had looked for over an hour, crossing through almost every street in this area called Belgrano, just hoping to find a small litte house for them. We were about to give up. I decided to turn down a road while we headed home, even though we had already gone down it earlier that day. Elder Camacho asked me why, and I wasn´t sure, but we just kept going on down the street. We found a sign hidden behind a tree that we hadn´t seen before the first time after about five minutes. We were really excited! We wrote down the information, and Elder Camacho is working with the landlords and contracts right now. Once again, I know a divine hand guides us in our decisions and daily tasks.
Alright, I planned to write about our recent converts today too, but I´ll save it for next week since we have a lot to do here today! I will still squeeze in a small, quick cultural note!
La Siesta (See--eh--stah). A nationwide tradition, the siesta takes place from 12:30pm to 5:00pm. Everyone sleeps, and the majority of businesses and stores close down since customer flow slows down significantly. Walking in the streets or driving during the siesta feels really weird, and everything really appears completely deserted. Literally, almost EVERYTHING shuts down. It is just different and kinda cool. They then work from about 5:00pm until 9:00pm. So the average worker's schedule here differs from that of the Untied States. They then usually go to bed at about midnight and wake up at 9:00am. This is common and took a while for me to get used to, as well. Everyone eats dinner here around 9:30pm, which felt incredibly late at the beginning of my mission. :). Just like everything, you get used to it with time!
And I guess that´s it for now. I really do appreciate your mail. I can´t explain how it makes my day to sit down after working hard and to be able to read your messages. It sounds like many of you are doing well, and I can´t believe a whole year of BYU has come and gone during my missionary service. So many of you are JUNIORS in college now. Crazy stuff.
Oh, and just a few side notes:
- I made homemade sushi! It tasted pretty good actually :)
- My companion had severe stomach cramps numerous times. I drove him to the hospital yesterday, where he received an IV and some medication. He is doing a lot better.
- I am going to take a nice long nap today. Finally!