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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Beast!

Well last Sunday was Father’s Day and we had a special activity for the fathers in the branch on Saturday. We met upstairs in our chapel and played games where all the fathers won of course and received lots of prizes all containing lots of sugar plus a new pair of house slippers. Then they herded all the dads into another room where there was a TV with a curtain rod going over to the widow that served as an antenna of sorts where they watched a soccer game between Argentina and Jamaica. The reception on the TV was not exactly HD. You could see the ball but not very well. They served hot chocolate and cookies to the dads during the game. Argentina won 1 – 0 and all was right with the world. We have had some problems with our water supply lately due to a worn out booster pump. It is not fun to wake up in the morning with no water. The landlord finally replaced it and we are good to go. The weather has been chilly lately with temperatures in the 20’s at night. We heat with gas here so of course the gas went out one night. When we moved in here Fred insisted on having heat pumps installed instead of plain air conditioners so we could have a backup heating source. Well it for sure paid off the night the gas went out when the temperature was in the mid 20’s. Ice sickles on the unit in the morning! Bought some candles today in case the electricity is next. We found a restaurant in Mendoza called Fidelitos. It is owned by an Argentine who lived for a while in the US. He came back to Argentina and opened a restaurant serving American style food which is very popular here especially with the missionaries. They offer a burger called “The Beast” that Fred has threatened to try one of these times. Still trying to figure out how to take a bite! They have on the menu listed as a starter the most scrumptious chili cheese fries that are a meal for two. We could not finish them! The work (yes we still do missionary work) is going well. We are working , along with the Elders, with the Valdez family who, as it turns out, live about a 4-iron away from us! Alejandro is a member but his wife and children are not. The Elders are going through the lessons with them and we are helping fill in the details and providing fellowship. They are now attending on Sundays and we are excited for them. Two weeks ago our District President came to our Branch and assigned Fred to be the Elders’ Quorum President. He should do well since this is his 3rd time around. Last week he gave his 1st Sacrament talk in Spanish. It went well. The people all said they could understand him.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Beware the Car!

Our car is great but we are beginning to think that it is jinxed. With the history of the bumper getting scraped in the parking lot of the grocery store, a parking ticket in Tunuyan and window broken and our stuff stolen in front of the mission office what else could happen?. Well we were off doing inspections in Lujan just south of Mendoza when we took a wrong turn. It was a very low traffic area and surely a U turn would be easy. We pulled over a bit to the right to get a good wide turn and THUNK….. the right wheel went into a concrete ditch right down to the frame. How could that happen??? It looked clear there. Turns out that it was a short uncovered section of the ditch about 30 inches long (just enough for the wheel to fit) that was camouflaged by some weeds growing out of it. With the help of the two young Elders that were with us and some nearby construction workers we lifted it up and out of the ditch to asphalt with no damage done. Later that day as we returned to the car after an inspection and some repairs we discovered that the pigeons would add insult to injury by pooping large quantities all over the side and windshield of the car! Sorry, no pictures of either incident. Hmmmm….. not sure what else lurks out there in the future. Speaking of inspections, we went into the pension of the Office Elders and up on the cabinets there was a huge collection of cereal boxes! Good home for cockroaches I suppose but we did not find any. The siesta time where everything closes between 1 and 5pm continues to be an obstacle at times. On another inspection the bathroom sink was not useable due to a very bad leak in the drain. There was a missing compression washer in the piping. So, not realizing the time of day, we all piled in the car to go to the local hardware store only to find it closed for siesta. Not having time to wait around for another 3 hours Fred was thinking of some alternative way to fix the leak. In the meantime we swung by for the Elders to pick up their lunch from one of the church member’s houses. When we saw the woman hand them their lunch in a plastic bag, Ding-ding-ding-ding-ding! Of course! A plastic bag just might do it! So Fred took strips of the plastic bag and twisted them up to fit around the pipe inside the slip-nut and BINGO! No runs, no drips, no errors. Sink back in service. Fred said that Ray Erickson, the guy who taught him the plumbing trade is probably rolling over in his grave (but more than likely with a smile). Along with visiting several less-active member families in our Branch, we are now officially teaching 3 non-members. The first being Delia Esponda, our landlady. We may have mentioned that her husband passed away in Jan. & now her niece just died from breast cancer. She’s been very sad and lonely and we asked if we could share a message of comfort with her. She was very open to that so we began teaching her about 2 weeks ago. We started with the Plan of Salvation which is usually the 2nd lesson, but due to the eternal aspects of it, we decided that would be better for her to hear it first. She is Catholic and has a pretty good understanding of life after death but not from an LDS perspective. She really liked what we taught her and has never hesitated to make another appointment with us. On Tuesday, we taught her the Restoration lesson which was all new to her. She said she believed the Joseph Smith story. As directed by President Goates, our mission president at our last Zone meeting, we asked her to be baptized!! Her eyes got very wide and she said, “That’s a difficult question!!” As we pursued it, she just kept coming up with that same sentence, so we thought it best to just let her think, pray & read about it some more. She said she enjoys our visits very much and welcomed us to come again on Fri. So stay tuned. Our other two are Bolivian teenage girls, 12 & 13, who belong to the huge family of Condos who live on a farm where they are currently growing a big field of garlic. We have visited there several times and always thought that these girls we’re baptized but they told us last week that they’re not. So we offered to teach them the lessons and they got all excited about it. So, on Sunday, they also had the Restoration lesson and we gave them each a Book of Mormon and had them write their name in it. Their older sister/aunt, Juana, is baptized but has been away so long that she’s sitting in on the lessons too. It’s so great to see the intense interest in their faces as we teach them & show videos! WE LOVE THIS WORK!! As we were leaving their house in the dark, Linda discovered the chair she'd been sitting on was wet and so was the back of her skirt!! When we got to the very l-o-n-g path that led from the house to where we parked the car, our flashlight wouldn't work. So here we were two diligent missionaries slowly walking along a path that had ditches across it every now & then and we couldn't see a thing, it was freezing cold and Linda had a wet skirt!! About half way there we realized, "Duh, we can use our phones for light!!"The youngest, Analis, is finally warming up to us as well. It was our turn to sponsor the monthly activity for the couple missionaries so we all went out to the Fournier Winery for a tour and lunch. A very hoity-toity restaurant. We had a great time and the food was spectacular! We left a lot of unused wine glasses. We all then went to our house to watch the video “A New Day for the Book of Mormon”. A great, sort of, documentary on the Book of Mormon. If you haven’t seen it, Google it and you can find it on BYU TV. Some very interesting nuggets in there. Cintia, a 24-year old member, is married to a man who is not a member of the church so we visited them to get better acquainted. She is trying her best to get her husband more interested in the church. Not sure yet what we can do to help. They have the cutest little girl named Flori. Now what could be cuter than a pretty little girl with a puppy and a balloon? Zone conference was this week. We got a lot of good instruction from President and Sister Goates and our other leaders. Of course afterward there is a lot of goofing around! Yep that’s our zone leader , Elder Gil, from Mexico City on top. He is actually one of the tallest Mexicans I have ever seen. About 6’3”.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Outdoor Baking the Bolivian Way

We are enjoying making friends with the people in the little shops here and just generally taking part in this little friendly community. We found a wonderful family who owns a butcher shop. Roberto custom cuts the meat we buy from him. He also gives us samples of salami and other cured meats (with crackers). He is the connection for good ribs! Linda also noticed that they sell cake decorating supplies?!? You never know what you’ll find in these little shops! President Polla, the La Consulta branch president, continues to lead our little branch with dedication and hard work. He and his family have been very gracious to us. We are having some success in getting people back to church. Last Sunday Gregorio Quecaño, father of one of the Bolivian families we’ve been working with, came out with his family for the first time in quite a while. But the big surprise was 5 Condo family members showing up….only 15 more to go! Their huge commercial size van can fit all of the family but…….no seats, just sit on the floor! The attendance was up to 33 at Sacrament Meeting! If we can sustain an attendance of 80 for a year, the Church will build us a new chapel!! We are trying and do our part in achieving that goal. There’s a very strange religious custom here that we thought you’d like to hear about. Along the roads in the mountains there are little Catholic shrines set up…usually of the Virgin Mary. Around each shrine are 2 liter soda bottles filled with water. This really puzzled us till we learned that the people who come there leave a bottle of water as a token of their respect. May 25 was Memorial Day in the US, but here they celebrate the Day of the Revolution when Gen. San Martin began the quest of liberating Argentina from the Spanish. We got to practice a lot of Spanish at the Branch all-day activity at a camping/resort place where one of the members is the caretaker. We had the whole place to ourselves. They made a big lunch of steak, bread, salad and a special soup of beans, corn, chicken and (we think) tripe!! (We knew we’d have to eat it sooner or later!) The rest of the day was spent playing futbol (soccer). They asked Fred to be the referee! There was also a foosball table for the less agile folks. Around 6pm came time for the traditional hot chocolate, cookies and pastries which were really good. They don’t eat dinner till 9 or 10 at night, so the 6pm snack tides them over. One of the absolute highlights of the week was our usual Sunday visit to the Quecaño family. We mentioned to Juana once that we were interested in seeing how they make bread in their outdoor oven. So when we pulled up, she immediately got into high gear preparing to make bread. She buys flour in 110 pound (50 kilos) sacks and makes a lot of bread. Nothing was measured. She did it all by heart. The mixing and kneading were all done on her knees in a dishpan on the floor. We got to help roll out some of the dough, but I am afraid we slowed the process down. Her two daughters, Alejandra and Natalia, got the fire going in the oven while the dough was being prepared. It is poetry in motion to watch Juana remove each piece of bread from the oven using a pole with a nail through the end then with a Frisbee action throw the new dough right in place in the empty spaces in the oven.
Ahhhh……nothing like partaking in the fruits of your labor!
They do all their cooking in that big brick outdoor oven that her husband made. They don’t even own a stove! The Quecaños are such a sweet family. They invited us to stay for dinner and spend the night! We had to tell them that we need to keep the mission rules and had to decline the overnighter. Whew!! Today was our weekly District Meeting. There are 4 Elders, 2 Sister and us in the Valle de Uco District. So we took everyone to lunch after the meeting to celebrate that no one got transferred out!
They do transfers every 6 weeks.