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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Where Were The Seagulls?

I know you all know the story of how in 1848 the seagulls saved the crops of the Mormon pioneers in the Salt Lake Valley by eating up all of the hordes of crickets. Well Fred cooked up a couple of racks of his barbequed ribs and brought them to Mendoza for the missionaries working in the office. The crickets wearing white shirts and ties began to swarm all over the ribs devouring every rib in sight until nothing was left except the aroma and a few bones! And not a seagull in sight to save the day. We continue to visit, teach and encourage the weaker members of the church here in La Consulta. Some are beginning to come out on Sundays and it is good to see them returning. This is an agricultural area and unfortunately some of the people are in poverty. One such family is the Condo family which we have visited twice. They live on a farm and you have to walk the last 200 yards or so to their house and step over a fence to get into the yard. They get a vehicle in there somehow so there must be a secret entrance. The family structure there is a little confusing and we are still trying to figure out who is who. Life there seems more like a colony to us. Each time we visit there are new faces and some of the others are not there. We plan on taking family photos at some point so they will have to identify with one group or the other for the shot! It is a dirt yard with an outdoor kitchen using open fire for heat and some very makeshift housing. Last visit Maria, who is expecting her 9th child in July was cooking bread in the outdoor oven and she shared some with us that was still warm. Yummy stuff! By our best estimate there are about 20 people living there and if we can get them coming out to church we could really fill our little chapel to overflowing. The couple dozen or so chocolate chip cookies that Linda made for them just barely made for one cookie each! We shared a video about the Last Supper from our iPad propped up on the dusty rear bumper of their truck and had some discussion afterward. During the discussion one of the toddlers got restless so the mom, without batting an eye, just went right into breast feeding mode. No modesty blankie or nothin'! Now, that right there is distracting and a bit awkward to say the least. Teaching in Spanish is hard enough but sheeesh! Come to find out from speaking to other missionaries and the Mission President it is a very common thing here. Just going to have to deal with it. And NO we don’t have a picture to share!! Jose Coronel and his wife have been absolute angels going with us to introduce us to the families in our branch. Jose can be a character sometimes like trying on this Bolivian poncho that one of the ladies had just finished making. We had them over for dinner and fed them some of Linda’s yummy taco soup. Afterwards we got on the computer and were, with Linda’s skillful help, able to locate some of Jose’s ancestors.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The UFC in Argentina

We have been very busy with the inspections again this past week. We traveled 4 hours or so to San Luis, which is east of Mendoza on the road to Buenos Aires, then another hour on to Justo Daract. In the search for the missionaries living quarters we ran into an 11 year old member boy named Patricio on his way to school who talked our ears off. Also a cute little calf tied to a fence right in town. One of the fun things about inspections is you get to try on any goofy hats you find! The sisters continue to out distance the elders in cleanliness by quite a bit in most cases. Here are a couple of the stars who wanted their picture taken by our car for some reason. We also discovered a little investigator living in one of the missionary pensions in Tunuyan. He seemed very shy and harmless and didn’t say much. We found him hiding in the freezer so we snapped a photo for evidence. On Route 40 between La Consulta and Mendoza there is an interesting character depicted in a 30 ft tall work of art. We didn’t quite know what to make of it so we just call him Sheriff Woody. We just give him a salute every time we pass by. On to the UFC! You thought UFC stood for Ultimate Fighting Championship…..well here it is the Under Freeway Café! In out travels to and from the mission office we pass by this overpass where someone got the absolute genius idea to use the space by the street under the freeway for a restaurant. Low overhead cost for sure! They set up tables with tablecloths and everything. I don’t know what they really call the place but we call it the Under Freeway Café. Fred kept saying to Linda that one night he would take her there to dine. She was very resistant and wanted nothing to do with going to dine under the freeway and 9 o’clock in the evening when they open for business. Well since it was our anniversary it seemed like a logical place to have an elegant dinner. So reluctantly Linda agreed and off we went on the one hour plus trip to Mendoza. They cook chorizo sausage over an open fire grill and serve it on a roll with several sauces. Smokey and noisy with cars and trucks passing by under and over but even Linda had to admit that the food was absolutely yummy!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Where's Waldo?

We finally discovered why we were picking those wine grapes! While we were out there with our missionary tags on a fellow who was working the harvest came over and introduced himself and asked us about our service project. He told us his name was Waldo and that he had served a mission in Buenos Aires some years ago. He further explained that he was following the grape harvest and we all supposed that he lived somewhere other than here. He asked about conference and where it could be seen so we explained that it would be shown in Tunuyan, the next town north. We were invited over to Brother Coronel's house the following Monday night for Family Home Evening. Guess who shows up. Waldo with his wife and daughter. Turns out he lives right here in Eugenio Bustos until he has to return home way up north in Salta. He did not know the church was here. So he went to conference and will be out to church this Sunday. So where's Waldo?....he's back at church in La Consulta, Argentina thanks to a bunch of wine-grape-picking missionaries. That was the highlight of the week. One of our assignments from the Mission President, after he found out Fred was a Facilities Manager for the State Department, is to inspect all of the missionary living quarters. They are called pensions here. We went up to Mendoza Monday to check on the logistics of a trip 3 hours north to San Juan to inspect 24 pensions and deliver water filters in a three day trip. We parked our car in front of the mission office and went inside to get all coordinated for the trip. When we came out we discovered that the right rear door window had been smashed and was laying under the car. Our coats and the GPS had been stolen. Nobody heard the alarm. The thieves were obviously in a hurry and didn't take time to look into the shopping bag on the rear floor of the car or they would have seen our ipad there and surely would have taken it. So that delayed our trip for another day. We confiscated the other Toyota that the office missionaries use until our car could be fixed. So the next day we headed out for San Juan in the back seat of the mission pickup truck. Not too comfortable. The mission put us up in a nice hotel while poor Elders Ruiz-Diaz and Trelease who went with us had to sleep on the floor of the pension of some of their fellow missionaries. We felt terrible about it but we had nothing to do with any of the arrangements and not much could be done. The inspections were interesting. They varied from very clean and tidy (mostly the sister missionaries) to... they might as well be living under a bridge down by the river. The vast majority were okay but a few.....not so much. We considered threatening to take some pictures and sending them to their mothers. But you just gotta love and appreciate those young missionaries for all they are doing!!! One of the reasons we wanted to come to this particular mission in Argentina was to try and find some of Fred's family that used to live here. We have old letters from the 1920's with an address in San Juan. After the inspections we hunted down the address in the old part of the city. The exact address was not to be found but we spoke to some of the neighbors and they told us that the huge earthquake of 1944 levelled that part of the city. Over 10,000 people were killed and 90% of the buildings were destroyed. Perhaps some of Fred's ancestors perished in that group. In any case the old house that was built before 1900 no longer exists. On our way back we stopped in Watermelon Heaven! We bought a couple at a very reasonable price and headed for home. One for us and one for the young missionaries that slept on the floor. They were good but not the wody we grow and are used to every summer in Vacaville.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Finally Settling In

Well we are finally getting settled into our new digs. We are living on a 30 acre vineyard in part of a large beautiful old farm house that has been sectioned off for us. Since we are the first couple missionaries to serve here a lot had to be done. Nothing except the drivers moves fast here so it was a bit frustrating getting AC/heating, washer/dryer, and internet installed. Yay! We finally have internet! Not blistering speed but it will do. The owner is a widow of about 3 months. Dalia is still grieving the loss of her husband and was in tears worrying about the grape harvest which started this week. She was worried that there were not enough workers to complete the harvest in time so we quickly organized a service project for the missionaries in our district. They were excited to help and spent a whole day in the vineyard cutting and hauling grapes. It is very hard work in the sun and you get covered in sticky grape juice. Yeah, we know they are wine grapes but the poor woman needed help and we figure the good will might go a ways in preparing Dalia to hear a message about the plan of salvation. The mission gave us a brand spanking new 2015 Toyota Corolla to drive. We went shopping last week in Tunuyan, the next city north, and parked in front of the store. When we came out the car was surrounded by 3 motorcycle cops and two on horseback. You would have thought that there was a big drug smuggling ring bust going down or something. It turns out we were partially blocking a driveway, which we didn’t see, and were given a parking ticket. Tried to talk them out of it but the taskforce was undeterred. $35 fine that had to be paid at the bank for some reason I cannot explain. So Fred is an official criminal in Argentina! Last Saturday we went up the road 3 miles and took a free tour of the Fournier winery. Yes, wine again! It was constructed over 3 years and completed in 2003 by a wealthy Spaniard at a cost of $20 million. It is very modern and looks like a huge space craft from the road ¼ of a mile away. It is huge with thick concrete walls and could surely survive a nuclear blast in the area. The Chinese Ambassador was there and got a special tour including horseback riding for him and his family. We have been out visiting some of the less actives in the branch which outnumber the actives 10 to 1 so you can see we have a lot of work to do. The language is getting easier to understand and we can speak better. We went to the district meeting today and gave a presentation and we understood most of what was said as opposed to last time where it was torture to get through. The Branch Mission Leader , Jose Coronel, and his wife, Alicia, who is also the Relief Society President have been very supportive and helpful going with us on visits for introductions. Stay tuned!