Saturday, April 21, 2012

First Letter from Brazil!!!

Dear Mom,
     Its a whole different world down here.  That sentence sums up pretty much the whole experience I've had the last couple of days.  Everything you can think off is different, from the Cars people drive, the house people live in, the language they speak, the pavement of the roads (cobblestone), the food they eat, and most especially the new set of mission rules.  I can't believe how different it is.
     When I first hopped on the Airplane in Atlanta, my first thought was, "What did I get myself into?".  I couldn't understand anyone on the plane speaking Portuguese, and knew that my whole world was about to be turned upside down.  Flying overnight was as comfortable a flight I've ever experienced, but that's not saying much.  Sleeping was absolutely miserable on the plane, but I manged to squeeze out about 4 hours or so, enough to sustain me.  When I arrived at São Paulo, I couldn't believe how SLOW everything moves.  I thought getting Baggage/tickets was slow in the States, but it took me about an hour and a half standing in line to finally re-check my baggage to go to Porto Alegre.  Needless to say, as soon as my plane took off I fell asleep for about another hour, waking up just in time for my first glass of Antartica Guaraná in Brasil.  Its a shame we don't have this drink in the states.
     Flying into Porto Alegre I had only one thought in my head.  ITS HUGE!  I had seen the skylines of big cities in the US during my flight, L.A., Salt Lake City, and Georgia and they were big, but mostly just the downtown/business areas had the high rises.  When I flew over and into Porto Alegre, there were high rises as far as the eye could see.  (Note when I flew into/out of São Paulo, it was still dark and I was unconscious so Porto Alegre was the first Brasilian City I saw).  When I arrived in Porto Alegre, I met the Assistants and we hopped into a taxi.  Taking a taxi from the Airport to the Mission office made me realize very quickly why missionaries do not drive cars in Brasil.  The drivers here are CRAZY!  There are no such things as lanes here, and so long as you can fit you go.  People were swerving from left to right, crossing 2 or 3 supposed lanes, trying to mingle their way through traffic.  Motorcycles are especially crazy down here, going up onto the sidewalks if they can't mingle with the cars.  Needless to say, I'm VERY cautious when it comes to crossing the streets, because there really is no such thing as a crosswalk.
     When I got to the mission office, the Assistants informed me that because Tuesday is transfers, I'd just be hanging out in the office with them and the secretaries until then.  We didn't go out again until about 7 o'clock that night where I had my first lesson in Portuguese.  I forgot to mention that the Assistants and Secretaries are all Americans except Elder Oba who is Japanese/Brasilian that also speaks English.  So 7 o'clock was the first time I really got immersed into Portuguese.  I couldn't understand hardly anything that was being said after about the first 15 minutes.  That coupled with the grass/tea thing they drink down here in the south being passed around like a peace pipe, well I guess the best way to explain it is just culture shock.  Its like my brain just shut down for a while and wouldn't process anything that was being said.  Thank goodness Elder Oba and Keesling where there to handle things because I was completely lost.  We then went around for about an hour before heading home.
  When we got home I was pretty tired, got myself ready for bed and then slept.
     Today we all got up and showered (there are 7 missionaries using one bathroom right now which was a pain) and walked to the temple.  I should say hiked, because the sidewalks are rather non-existant, and it was ALL uphill.  By the way, I've never lived in a place that's so humid!  It was 8 in the morning and we were already sweating.  I've been sweating about all day since then as well, just a natural part of living here I guess.  Anyways we arrive at the temple and guess what, no English translation for me!  I was rather lost, but made my way through it.  The temple here is really tiny, about the size of the Newport Beach temple or smaller.  After the temple we walked to outback steakhouse for lunch and then walked all the way home.
     The rules here are VERY lax compared to the Long Beach mission.  I'll provide a small list of rules that if I were in California I would of broken in the last 48 hours.
  • No drinking caffeinated beverages
  • You must run every morning for 20 minutes
  • You can't be in public with more than 6 missionaries
  • You aren't allowed in malls
  • You must plan every night for 30 minutes
  • You must be out proselyting by 6:00pm
  • You must be in Proselyting clothes in public on P-day
  • Must be in bed by 10:30
As well as many others that I can't think of right now.  Now mind you, all these we did WITH the assistants, so apparently we have a very lax interpretation of the rules down here.  It has thrown me for quite the loop!
     The other big thing that has stood out to me is the cars people drive.  First off, people still use horse and buggy down here instead of pickup trucks.  That threw me for a loop when I saw a horse coming down the road like it belonged there.  Secondly no one has an engine in their car larger than 1.8L.  Most people have real subcompacts (I.E. A Toyota Corolla is one of the largest cars I've seen down here) that have 1.2 or 1.4L engines.  I didn't even know they made engines that small!  Let alone I haven't seen a single V6 or V8, even the trucks have '4-bangers' down here.  Lots of people also drive motorcycles or just take the bus or even walk everywhere.  I have never seen SO many people just on the street, walking from point a to point b.  Absolutely crazy.
     So far for food I've had everything other than Brasilian food.  Yesterday we had Habibs, which is an Arabian fast food joint, and today we had Outback Steakhouse.
In all, my Portuguese is better than I give it credit, but not good enough to really converse with the natives.  Just enough to survive in a pinch, but it is coming to me much quickly than I would have anticipated.  I get to practice a lot with Elder Oba, and so long as he's speaking to me slowly I can have a conversation only in Portuguese.  I have a lot of holes in my vocabulary for some of the silliest things, just as fork, cup, shoe, foods, and other random stuff they don't teach you in the MTC.
     In all I'm enjoying it thus far in Brasil.  It hasn't really settled in that I'll be staying here for 15 months, but that will come soon enough I'm sure.
     By the way P-day is on Tuesday here, but since I'm in the office they have p-days on Saturday, so the next time you'll hear from me is a week from Tuesday.
     I love you lots, I'll make sure to take good notes and lots of photographs of what I'm seeing here.
Elder Henry

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