Mara with President and Sister Essig just after arriving in Santiago.
Mara with her companion, Sister Anderson.
THIS HAS BEEN THE BEST WEEK OF MY LIFE. I have never been so unbelievably happy. Chile is amazing. When we were flying in it looked like we were flying into Heaven. The coastline, draped with the Andes mountains, the clouds, we arrived with the sunrise, I was teaching a steward, and I love my life. I have SUCH a desire to work. My week has just been so filled with joy. I´m so grateful now that I was sent home. I´m not sure that I really wanted it bad enough before. But now, I just want it with all of my heart. Right now is the time to dedicate my life to the Lord and just work dang hard.
I'll try and answer some of your questions:
1. I was serving in a town called Quilicura, but now I´m going to a large city called Los Andes. Every time I tell someone, they freak out and tell me how freezing it is. I find it hard to believe. Chilenos seriously exaggerate EVERYTHING. You wouldn´t believe the exaggerations we hear everyday.
2. We taught quite a bit this week including some new investigators that we found doing contactos. Here, to knock doors you yell ALO at the fence and bang on it until they come out. This area is super rich. Everybody lives in Condominiums and we live in a gated area of Condominiums. The truth is that everywhere is gated. IF you´re not gated, you´re robbed and graffitied instantly. But, I guess where we are going is even MORE rich. Like real houses. The mission office is in a relatively sketch area, but not bad. There are lots of tins roofs and what not where we are (we´re really close to the mission home right now for cambios).
3. My companion, Hermana Anderson, was in Quilicura for the last 8 months so this has been an insanely difficult first few days. I´m learning a lot from her. A lot. Things I do want to be and what I don´t as well. She is part Korean and everyone thinks she´s Chinese (people love to note our ethnicities) and she´s from Utah. She goes to BYU, studies communications, and is 22 years old. She is leaving the mission in 6 weeks so I´ve got to keep her from getting trunky. Luckily for me, I have such an insane desire to work hard that I don´t think it will even be possible for her to get trunky. We just heard from an elder who came from there that there are basically zero members. The ward has 30 people and most are kids..
4. My foot is doing great!! Seriously. It was a little difficult at first, but now all is well. I do therapy stuff everyday, and ice it, and take medicine and everything else that I should be doing. I accidentally ran one day in my really hard orthotics because we were about to be late (it was like 9:55)... and so that was not good. But, now I carry my other orthotics and wear them when it gets really late in case we have to run. And lately we´ve run a lot.
5.The language? Quite good. I can understand about 80 percent I´d say. I get nervous when people ask me questions, but if they´re just telling a story or whatever I usually get it. Thankfully, I can say anything I want. My companion is from Utah and speaks super gringa, but she understands everyone. She can help me when I don´t understand and then I respond back. Chileno is kind of a new language though. The conjugations are generally the same, but they changed all the vocab words. Why I ask you? Why? Like seriously, outside of gospel vocab, I have to guess as to what they are referring. They also have this funny word: po. It comes after everything and can mean anything from sure, to of course, to definitely, to well I guess maybe basically whatever else you want it to be. It usually comes after a si or a no. It´s such a cute little word.
There are dogs EVERYWHERE. Some of them bark and get mad but none of them have bitten us....yet! Everyone and there dog has a dog. And some dogs don´t like to be locked up in condominiums all day... you can hardly blame them. So they escape. And run the streets. They´re like gangs. It´s so funny. And the little ones are rare... because little dogs would hardly survive a gang of bigs dogs right? So, imagine like 200 Cody dogs just roaming the streets eating trash and getting feisty. There are also lots of cats.
Oh, also, you would not believe how many kisses I have given and received this week. Like hundreds. Every person you meet, you kiss. Or at least make the kissing noise up against their cheek. Except we´re not allowed to do that with men. I accidentally did with an old man on my first day... but I learned. It´s so cute! My dislike for touchiness is quickly disappearing.
Food- I'm seriously going to get fat. A lot of Chilenos ARE large in stature. They eat a small breakfast, a GIANT (I mean GIANT) almuerzo at 2 or 3 and then they tomar once (dinnerish) at 11ish. We take an hour for lunch which I think is a RIDICULOUS waste of time, but I'm working on my patience. Members and investigators feed us everyday. We can´t tomar once in a home unless it´s an FHE. For some reason, the missionaries think it's ok to do an FHE every night... working on that too. In Quilicura, we had to pay the members to feed us. But where we´re going, I guess because it´s so rich, we don´t have to pay anymore.
Housing? Where we were living is supposed to be the nicest house in the mission. And it was nice. Super nice. With hot water, a washing machine, two floors, two bedrooms, two bathrooms, kitchen, big living area, two patios (there are no yards here just patios). Unfortunately, it looks like I will be doomed to rich areas. One of the first things President Essig told me was that elders only take the poor areas. Pucha (dang in Chileno). I really want to work in the tin huts and dirt floors.
Everyone in Quilicura had the same type of house, a duplex with a high fence. Super super narrow home with two stories. Usually one bathroom upstairs with a bedroom or two and the living area and kitchen below. Patios are a big deal. It´s kinda like the south. Everyone is out on their front patio. We can teach single men on their patio which is nice. It doesn´t count as their home because it´s still basically outside.
The Essigs are so funny. Sister Essig CLEARLY runs the show... but she speaks basically zero castellano. LIke hardly at all. President Essig is super quiet and realizes that his wife is in charge.
Weather? The weather is not bad. It´s usually pretty nice and warm during the days so we have to carry a lot with us for when it gets super cold in the evenings. But super cold for the Chilenos is like... not very cold. I have several blankets from the mission office and cow pajamas so I´m sure I will be fine.
We had space heaters in our apartment and in fact, because of the wealth in our area, many of the homes we entered had space heaters. It´s more motivation to get in homes!
We usually teach several discussions every day. The MOST DIFFICULT PART for me is that we hardly have time to work. We wake up at 7:30, excercise, and don´t have to begin studying until 9. 9! What a waste of time! Then we study until ONE. ONE IN THE AFTERNOON. You´ve gotta be joking.
Some guy just came by on the sidewalk riding two donkeys. haha. I´m in love with this place.
Anyway. We have to be in by ten, unless we´re teaching. Then it´s 10:30. And bed is at 11:30. My companion the other day said she prefers to be in by 10. I asked her why. She said because she gets tired. I said yeah we don´t have time to be tired Hermana. We need to be working till the last second.
Transportation? We walk everywhere, but apparently we´re going to be riding bikes in our new sector. Bikes. Dah. Pucha. But it´s fine. That´s gonna be a bummer though.
We get an hour and a half every monday to be on email - to read and write. Just so ya know.
It sounds like trek was a wonderful experience. How neat that you four were able to be there together.
oh P.S. when I say Quilicura was rich... I mean like 3 steps below Metarrie, New Orleans rich. Like taxi drivers and blanket makers and hair cutters type rich. Rich is a relative term. But from what I hear, Los Andes actually is legitimately wealthy. And freezing.
The people here are all so unbelievably kind. But I have come to hate the phrase "es que". Es que is something that we don´t have in english but is wonderfully useful. It can be used to make an extremely invalid excuse somehow legitimate. Es que I have to work. Es que I´m busy. Es que I have to take care of my kids (there kids are in school and they are out front sitting in their chair literally doing nothing). Oh if only we had an es que in english! Life would be much more relaxed. That´s another thing. Everyone is so relaxed. There is no such thing as being in a hurry. Except for in their language. And they KNOW that. They´re so proud of their beloved language that they changed and sped it up to make all their own. One lady the other day was telling me about how clearly the Peruvians speak. The Peruvians. Let us remember how dad says they are the least clear speakers. But I have been very carefully studying the accent and exactly how they form their words. I watch their mouths a lot and study out their accents in my mind (my companion thinks that I need to keep my gringalike accent so I talk more clearly and they can understand better... but they don´t understand gringas... so um... yeah). I´ve discovered that they say their s´s only when there is a vowel on either side. Otherwise, forget about it. Mostly, it´s a language of vowels. You hardly really say consonants.
I am a fascinating creature for most people. I´m by far the tallest female in Chile, and probably the tallest person in general. Not to mention, I'm a rubia - blondie- with bright green eyes. This can sometimes be a little dangerous. I´m not allowed to wave at people in cars or even really make eye contact... which can be really difficult because the drivers are literally insane and if you don´t make eye contact you might die. haha. Not really. Well, I don´t know. Maybe. A member drove us home a few nights ago and we were literally fearing for our lives. But yeah. I get a lot of catcalls and hola hermosa and all that. I figure it´s mostly harmless. I´m especially fascinating for little kids. They´re obsessed with my blonde whiteness which is alright with me because little kids have turned out to be the best people to ask for references. Adults refuse to give references, but little kids want all their friends and family to have a chance to see the rubia. Sometimes when we ask adults for references we ask questions like Do you know anyone that has recently had a baby. NO. Anyone who recently had a death in the family. NO. Anyone who recently moved. NO. Anyone who needs help. NO. ANYONE who is just a good person. NO. Really? You don´t know anyone who is a buena person? NO? Right. Ok welpt. See ya later.
Ope, the guy with the donkeys just passed by again.
I was very impressed with the ward I just came from called Lo Zañartu. The members there were so invested in the missionary work. They did everything they could to help us. Like I said before, I am CONVINCED that this is the absolute only way to truly unify a ward.
Ok welpt. I love you all! Feel free to write emails because I do have an hour and a half. Thank you for the ones you sent. I appreciate them!
Cuidense, que les vayan bien!
La Hermana Thomas