Yep, I'm still here! haha. Just in case you forgot :). Here´s this week´s lowdown:
Cultural Note. Dogos (Doe--goes). Due to the lower security and higher lever of crime, many people have guard dogs to watch over everthing night and day, especially since many of the nice houses have valuable property. So yes, we get barked at A LOT while we visit houses. These types of guard dogs vary from german shepherd and pit bulls to vicious muts and dogos, the most ferocious of them all. I mention the dogos with emphasis and as part of this cultural note because, guess what? They are illegal in the United States for safety reasons! You guys can read more online about them, but here is the brief description. They were bred to become the most ferocious dogs that are still controllable. Pure muscle and poise make them appear like a tiger or lion when they walk (no joke). I was terrified the first time one came out of our invesigator´s backyard. They are HUGE! Some people inject them with steriods here too, just so they grow bigger. To make matters worse, it has a genetically developed lock-jaw. When it cloes its jaw (which is gigantic, by the way), it doesn´t reopen at all. Just to give you a better idea and wrap things up, its jaw is probably big enough to enclose itself around my thigh. These animals are simply ENORMOUS. The only way to tame them is by raising them from birth. So with their owners, they appear just like normal dogs. However, with robbers or other unknown people, they go into wild animal mode. All in all, they aren´t incredibly common, but I have seen about five on my mission up to this point!!
Mailing System. Having worked in the offices for five months now, I have a better knowledge of the behind the scenes of the mission, which really has been an interesting experience. First off, I want to say thanks to Grandpa & Grandma Jones, Grandma Schank, Malia Johnson, Shantel Sanders, Kimber "Kimbz" Haner, Michael Meehan, Kailey Sherman, and Brother Strader! These past couple of weeks or so, I have really enjoyed reading your letters. You guys all have busy lives as well, and I know it takes time to sit down and write me. I really appreciate it--like a bunch! It makes my day, and reading a nice letter after a long, exhausting day of work just makes me happy. Like I´ve said before, it serves as my only glimpse back to the states. I always write back, but sometimes it takes awhile since we have really busy days here in the offices, even on pdays sometimes. I hope you all receive my letters soon too!
Anyways, so you guys all understand how the letter leaves your hand in the states and arrives here on my desk later, here is the process:
-You put your stamp on and place it in the mailbox, where it sits until the USPS removes it and goes through their normal process.
-It travels all the way to Argentina, where the workers unload all of the mail.
Okay this next step is why the process can take so long:
Every piece of international mail has to go though the aduana (Add--do--ahhnah), an official government building where they scan and monitor all imports. This process, as you imagine, can take up to weeks and sometimes months.
Letters make it through in a couple of days, whereas pacakges can take FOREVER!
-Finally, the mail gets distribuited to all Argentine post offices, where it gets sorted and put into bags.
-The mailmen gather their bags together and visit all the houses in their area, leaving the mail in the small metal boxes outside of every house.
-We take our huge quantity of mail and sort it in between the 12 zones here in the mission whenever it arrives. We usually get a small amount of letters and cards daily. We also receive the church pouch with Dearelders and other letters each Friday.
-Once a month all of the zone leaders have a council about how the mission is going. After the meeting, they all fill up their suitcases with packages and cards for their whole zone.
They travel back to their areas, and the following week, during our weekly district meetings, they distribute all the mail to each companionship (if they are good zone leaders, that is. haha). Sometimes they forget, and then many missionaries get upset, as you can only imagine.
On average, letters take about 3-4 weeks. Packages, on the other hand, take about 5-8 weeks. In addition to this time is the travel time from zone leaders to companionships. Luckily, here in the offices I get first dibs, a true and appreciated blessing. Remember, these are just averages, and sometimes we have HUGE suprises. For example, one time I received a letter in nine days!!! How is that even possible??? Then there was one missionary who received his package after eight months. Man, that´s a terrible wait! haha. It is all just a gamble, but at least they make it here safely.
On day after helping some missionaries move, Elder Camacho and I drove back to the mission home. Camacho challenged me to back up the van instead of just pull in normally. Guess what? I did it in one smooth motion without having to pull forward, and it was super funny! haha. I just turned off the motor and said, "eso es lo que hacen los hombres reales," which basically means, "this is how real men do it." hahaha :)
It´s been a chill, normal week. We have transfers this coming week. We always know a bit in advance since we have to do our jobs. For example, we know that 10 go home and eight new missionaries are coming.