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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Ho Ho Ho

President Ulisses Soares of the Presidency of the Seventy came to Mendoza to speak to all of the missionaries in the mission. It was quite a crowd and all were edified and energized.  If you look carefully you can see us in the front row.
We had Thanksgiving at the mission home with President and Sister Goates along with the other couples and presidency members and wives.  Great grub!  Fred's back went out and we were "immobilized" for the first part of December.  Our branch had a surprise birthday party for Linda at our little place.  They all showed up at our door at about 9:30 at night.  Just the way they do stuff here.
We had two Christmas parties for half of the 200+ missionaries on one day and the other half on the next day.  We were in charge of the piƱata and Fred made a battle axe looking bat to swing at it which the young missionaries liked.  Fred was doing some serious teasing of Elder Warner because he got chosen by Sister Goates to be Santa for the mission Christmas party.
  What goes around comes around!
The branch Christmas party was next and Fred got selected to be Papa Noel (Santa) which he reluctantly accepted.  Now Elder Warner and Fred can share Santa stories.  The Santa suit was made of very flimsy see through material.  Fred decided that if he was going to be Papa Noel he would have to be a well-dressed one.  So we bought the material and President Polla's daughter, who is a good seamstress, made the new suit plus beard in two days!  Fred discovered a Christmas fact; when you are Papa Noel you are popular with EVERYONE (except for the ones that are struck with sheer terror at the sight of the big guy dressed in red) from...
 ...cute little kids
 to cool teenagers
to suave adults!
Well, it has not been all parties this month.  Linda was called as 2nd counselor in the Young Women program.  The president & 1st counselor are both 18 yrs. old and only speak Spanish, of course!!  We have helped the Elders teach some people who have subsequently been baptized. But this month Fred was privileged to baptize two girls who we have taught all the way through the lesson process.  Isabel Condo(12) and her aunt Yesica Condo (13). 
They are two sweet teenagers that live on a farm in a HUGE 3-generation family.  We are also teaching Isabel's younger brother and sister who may be baptized in January.  Stay tuned!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

What's in a word?

We managed to cross the Andes Mountains to go to the Santiago, Chile Temple.  What a journey!  We picked up the Warners, a couple from ID who are also serving here, in Mendoza and started out at 9AM.  It was a beautiful trip and we reached an altitude of about 10,500 ft at the summit. 
We stopped along the way to inspect the missionary pension in Uspallata.    So after about 4 1/2 hours we arrived at the border which was backed up quite a bit and it was moving slowly.  We really missed the days in the State Department of having diplomatic passports which always expedited these situations.   After about another 3 hours of lines and forms, we arrived at the last window where they told us we needed written authorization from the church to bring the car out of Argentina.  What???  We already had permission from the Mission President!  We argued with him but to no avail.  We huddled up and decided we would make the trip no matter what.  So we headed back to Mendoza.   The mission office Elders found out, after speaking to the Area Office in Buenos Aires, that we had to be in the country a year (for what reason I’ll never know) before we would be allowed to take the car to Chile.  The Elders ended up buying us bus tickets on a trip that left at 10:30 PM.  After a sleepless night on the bus, we finally arrived in Santiago at 6:30 AM the next day.  We arrived at the hotel about 8AM and crashed until noon.  We got up and ate lunch, did some shopping and made it to the temple in the afternoon.  We were able to attend a session and then do some sealings for our Branch President's wife's family.

Santiago is a huge city of 6.5 million people and is very modern and clean because they employ a massive workforce to clean the streets in the whole city each night. It also lays claim to the tallest building in Latin America, the Costanera Center, at 980 ft. 
We went to the top and what a view! 
The trip home Saturday in the daylight was much easier to take.  Climbing the western slope of the Andes took us through a section of steep terrain where we went through a series of 29 hairpin turns one after another to get to the top. 

We finally got home around 8pm Saturday night.  We will never forget our trip to Chile with the Warners.  
We were at our branch president’s house the other day for his birthday celebration. He had commented once on how much he liked Fred’s Duck Dynasty tie, so he gave it to him for his birthday.  Not sure he totally gets the whole redneck thing but he liked the tie and wore it to church the following Sunday and to our last district conference.  While we were at his house, Fred mentioned that his birthday was in March (marzo in Spanish).  Fred started getting text messages on Tuesday  (martes in Spanish) from some of the branch members wishing him a happy birthday.  He went to a branch council meeting that night got a birthday greeting phone call after which he announced to the branch council that his birthday was in MARCH not November.  President Polla took issue and said that he understood it to be martes based on the conversation at his house and that he was responsible for spreading the word. Martes, marzo, I suppose you could get that confused easy enough.  Anyway they had a whole birthday party set up in the room across the hall with a big cake and all. 
Since we had only been here a week and didn’t have any celebration for his actual birthday we all decided it was just an 8 month delay. 
It is garlic harvest time here.  It is all done by hand and loaded on to slow trucks that plug up the roads on the way to wherever they process the stuff.   
They keep some of the harvest under plastic in the fields for next years seed. 
Spring brings a lot of agricultural activity here with the grapes and a myriad of other crops.  Can’t wait for all of the fresh fruits and veggies!
Spring also brings lots of pollen which brought on Linda's annual allergy attack on her throat and bronchial tubes.  She had to wear a mask and couldn’t venture out for 10 days.  Fred teamed up with the Elders from time to time and managed to get some work done until Linda could recover.


Saturday, October 31, 2015

Late Spring Snows

We went back to Manzano with the other missionary couples in the mission for our monthly outing. This is one of the places General San Martin used to formulate his plan for crossing the Andes Mountains to engage the Spanish Army in liberating Argentina, Chile and Peru.  It had snowed about 3 inches and it really made the place look different than the last time we were there.
This is the actual Monument that was built in the 1950's to honor San Martin.
No this is not a close-up of a golf ball.  It is actually the texture of one of the walls inside the museum.  Those dimples are about 3 inches across. The designer had to be a golfer!
We could not resist making a little snow man!
We all got indoors out of the chilly snow to enjoy a wonderful buffet lunch of beef ribs, suckling pig, sausage and goat plus a bunch other goodies and yes some healthy stuff too!
We finished the last of our overnight trips to do inspections of the missionaries housing.  San Rafael is a beautiful area where we saw some of our old missionary friends again.  Wine country of course and we found this interesting work of art in the center of one of the large roundabouts in the city.
Transfers are both a happy time and a sad time.  After working shoulder to shoulder with these young missionaries for awhile it comes time for some of them (all of them eventually) to move along to a new area in the mission.  We miss them and wonder if we will ever again cross paths.  On the other hand it is exciting to get new missionaries transferring in with all of their renewed enthusiasm and energy. 
We have started and are continuing a tradition of taking all of the missionaries in our district to lunch at transfer time just for one last get-together.  
They celebrate Mother's Day in October here so Linda got to have TWO this year.  Our branch president had all of the men produce a video from the family to the Mom.  We had a big party at the chapel and all of the moms got a little gift presented by family members.  Then all of the videos were shown.  Linda was VERY surprised to see the one our kids put together for her.  Thank you internet. 
All of this took about 4 hours while one of the dads barbequed a large quantity of chicken out back.  We had a wonderful meal that started around 10:30pm with about 55 in attendance.   Yes that is not a typo, 10:30.  Dinner here is commonly between 9 and midnight due to the siesta between 1 and 5 which pushes the work-day late into the evening.

Yes we are not just traveling and having parties.  We are very engaged in missionary work.  As the Elders Quorum President Fred is busy organizing the home teaching routes.  It is so much easier now with all of the reports and organization being available online.  We are presently teaching 3 investigator families.  Humble people who live out on some of the farms and we hope for some baptisms as they embrace the gospel.  We along with another couple plan on a 3 day trip to Santiago Chile next week to attend the Temple there.  Crossing the Andes will be fun. Stay tuned!




Monday, October 5, 2015

A Useful Pioneering Project

All of the missionaries in our district went to the San Carlos Museum for P day. It is on the site of an old fort from the 18th century and only a corner of the original is left but it was very informative and we all had a good time. We are currently teaching some Bolivians in Chacon which is a small community about 5 – 10 minutes from our house in Eugenio Bustos. They do farm work for a living, are poor and live in humble conditions. Their houses are one room and are self-made from the log trimmings from the saw mill. Inside is a layer of black plastic for water proofing then covered with cardboard for insulation. No windows! Ponciano and Hilda Estrada’s (plus two small children) house has a concrete floor and a woodstove but Wilbur Acua’s floor is dirt with no heater. Neither had any chairs and we taught the first lessons with everyone sitting on the only bed in the house. We since have given them a couple of plastic chairs. Not sure how they afforded it but the Estradas have a pickup. The other day we were visiting and Fred helped them in building a “carport” from bamboo. Reminded him of doing pioneering projects with the scouts. Notice in the 2nd picture that Hilda carries her one year old daughter on her back while working around the house and yard. It worked out pretty well and all were happy with the final product. We gave the Book of Mormon kids version to another family we have been teaching and a couple of the kids, Miguel and Anita, immediately sat down by the fence and started reading. Such sweet kids! We came across a van that was Wal-Mart on four wheels. They had a little of everything! The inspections continue with a trip to San Luis and parts east. It is about a 4 or 5 hour drive and almost half way to Buenos Aires. Look who we found hanging out in downtown San Luis with her torch held high outside a casino! We passed a little town with a familiar name! Amy and Donna Fraga should be proud.
The follow up on maintenance items was a bit complicated and often never got done so the Mission President authorized Fred to issue work orders for repairs directly to a contractor which cuts through a lot of previous red tape. Some things from your career just have a way of following you around.
Our widowed landlord, Delia got a new little dog named Pompi from her children and he is a perfect little companion for her. 
We had Elder Wakley and Elder Lott over to our house for all five sessions of General Conference streaming over the internet Saturday and Sunday.  Our best efforts to fill their stomachs was futile.  They enjoyed the ribs, spaghetti and other assorted foods.  Linda had to make a special trip to the store Monday to resupply the depleted shelves and fridge!  Conference was really great with three new Apostles called to replace the ones who had passed.
Putin' on the armor!
Found this cool picture in one of the pensions we inspected so I took a picture of the picture.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

We Found It! (sort of)

We had a baptism in the La Consulta branch! Judi Vladez was baptized and welcomed into the church. I know this looks like the picture was taken in a dungeon but it was getting ready to be painted. It looks much better now. We have a collapsible baptismal font that seems to get the job done. It is set up behind the chapel and taken down after the ceremony. We are teaching nine investigators at present. Not sure yet how many will continue to progress but it is a wonderful experience giving them the opportunity to learn about the church. Some are very poor but nevertheless deserve all of the blessings the Lord has in store for them if they will follow his teachings. Maria Condo carries her little one on her back everywhere during the day doing chores, cleaning and cooking that yummy bread in the outdoor oven. When the baby gets hungry mom is right there! We finally got a chance to take a picture of this unique wash tub made from 1/3 of a tractor tire. It is usually in use when we drive by and we don’t want to cause any awkward moments. It serves as a bathtub for the kids and a laundry tub for washing the clothes. A pretty good idea actually. We have started the inspections again beginning with San Juan. Hard to believe we have already been here six months! Some interesting things in the missionaries’ pensiones continue to amaze us like a way overdue defrosting of this freezer. We have the inspections down to an efficient routine now. We have developed a scoring system with candy bars as a reward for the cleanest places. The REALLY good ones get a Snickers from Wal-Mart. It actually works as word has gotten around the mission! While in San Juan we actually found the house with the address of Fred’s great aunt when she lived in San Juan almost 100 years ago! The original house was destroyed along with all of the others in the area by the 1944 earthquake. Unfortunately neither the people living there now nor any of the neighbors know anything of Teresa Garcia or her family. We had another of our monthly activities with the other missionary couples in the mission. We went to a monument of the Ejercito de los Andes (the Army of the Andes), led by General San Martin, in Mendoza. It is up on a hill overlooking the city. Then we went down to the Plaza Independencia and rode bikes around for a while and ate some yummy ice cream. We met a group of Hari Krishnas chanting their thing as they walked around so we joined with them for a bit mutual fun. They got a kick out of Fred ringing the bell on his bike in time with their chanting and instrumentals. Here is the sunrise between Tunuyan and Ugarteche one early morning on our way to Mendoza. Love these mountains!