These past two weeks have been so crazy! My last week at the MTC was good, but it felt really, really long. Class dragged on for what seemed like DAYS, but the time we had to prepare for departure flew by and my suitcases were not getting filled up very quickly! But eventually I got everything shoved in somehow and I only had to cheat on the weight of my carry-on. (They were only supposed to be 17 pounds for LAN Chile airlines, but I think I would have had to have sent home half my clothes or all of my books in order to be able to do that, and neither of those things seemed like such a good idea. But they didn´t weigh it in the end anyway, so it was fine.) Then Monday finally came and even though I was pretty terrified and I didn´t really want to move to South America, somehow I got on the plane.
Our first stop was in LA. We got off the plane, went through security again into the international terminal, and then we were waiting at our gate when they announced that our flight had been cancelled and would not be leaving until the following morning! So we called Missionary Travel and they said to just do whatever the airline told us to do. The airline put us all up in the Hilton LAX and made arrangements for meals. So then we hung out at the hotel and kind of tried to be missionaries, but we didn´t really know how! (This is why there are TRAINERS!) We talked to people but we weren´t really very well equipped to teach, nor did we have many materials with which to do so. But Hermana Frandsen and I did make friends with a Korean man who was also stuck in the hotel because he was headed to Lima on our same flight. He couldn´t speak English hardly at all, but we were able to communicate fairly well with him nonetheless. He told us that he was a teacher at a high school in South Korea and that they were looking for an English teacher - and then he would look at Hna. F. and I as if he expected us to hop on a plane to Korea and work at his school! We told him we couldn´t, because we are missionaries and we were going to Chile instead. Then we showed him a picture of Christ, and he got really excited. He had a little Korean-English dictionary on his phone that he would use whenever he didn´t know how to say something or we said something he didn´t understand, and he typed the name of the Church into it and said, "I don´t think we have that in Korea." We assured him that they do, and told him to visit mormon.org. He said he would "hunt for" the Church in Korea once he got home. He also took a picture of a scripture Hermana Frandsen wanted to share with him (2 Nephi 25:26) so that he could translate it later. He gave us his email (I think in case we wanted to be teachers at his school) and I passed it along to AnnMarie, because I figured she speaks Korean and she could help him. Also because she could take that teaching job if she wanted, I guess! He was really awesome. I think he is like a principal of some kind or a department head or something at his school, because he kept saying "captain" or "King!" when he talked about his job title. And then when we would do something well, he would call us "King!" too. It was so great. He also kept taking pictures of us with his phone. We were basically best friends with him in like 30 minutes. Too bad he doesn´t live in Chile or I´d try to find him and teach him, too.
So we were in the hotel all day Monday, and I just kept saying, "this is the weirdest day of my entire life," and it really kind of was. Some kind of strange mission "limbo," where we were "in the field" but we weren´t and it was just so strange. But interesting!
Then the flight to Santiago left the next morning. It was long, long, long and they fed us at really weird times. We had a couple hours to sleep in the airport, then a connection to Concepción, and then we were here! President Humphrey and his wife and some office elders and the senior couple in the office came to meet us, we went to the mission office in the city, had interviews, got pictures taken for our visas, and then went to our transfer meeting, where we had lunch and met our trainers!
My trainer is Hermana Bowns, and we are serving in the city Chillan in the Cordillera sector. She is originally from California, but her family followed her to Utah when she went to BYU. She is tiny - like 5-foot-nothing. It doesn´t stick out that much in Chile but it is strange for me to tower over someone for once. She´s awesome, though. She has been taking really good care of me! And when I even taught a little in Spanish in our first lesson together, she was really impressed. She said she didn´t speak in a lesson for an entire cambio (transfer). I´m not sure that I believe her though, because her Spanish is really awesome. Mostly I just stand there and stare at people while a bunch of white noise comes tumbling out of their mouths. Church was especially weird, because it was like supposed to be so familiar and yet I didn´t understand like a single word of what was happening. I had to get up and bear my testimony and when I have to do things like that mostly I cry because it´s just overwhelming to try to express thoughts and feelings that are so important and so close to my heart in a language that I have to struggle to use. Sigh.
The culture shock hasn´t been too bad. Everybody "saluds" everyone else (I mean EVERYONE) both coming and going, by giving a kiss on the cheek (well, in the air next to your cheek). If you don´t salud someone when you come or leave they could be offended, so like when we leave Church meetings and stuff we have to run around the whole room kissing everybody (well, we shake hands with the boys and men). Food is not different here really at all, but meals are. They eat like bread and juice for breakfast and then have a big lunch and everyone comes home from school and work for it. Then they eat "once" sometime between 6-10 PM and that is bread and butter with like a hot drink. We feed ourselves breakfast, and then we are fed by ward members at lunch every day except Saturday and Monday (which is P-day). Hermana Bowns says I have been lucky and so far no one has fed us too much. But in almost all the houses, they plate your food and you eat everything on your plate. But it is against mission rules to eat máriscos (any seafood except fish), so I am safe from that! And mostly it´s been normal stuff, lasagna, stroganoff, chicken and mashed potatoes. But I still feel weird at almuerza (lunch) because I don´t really know yet if I am conducting myself properly, and I don´t have anything to say because I can´t understand the conversation, so I just keep eating until my plate is clean and then I get finished way before anyone else. But Hermana Bowns says I´ll figure it out.
We had a weird teaching week, Saturday and Sunday we didn´t teach any new investigators. We just knocked doors and did street contacts all day and no one wanted to let us in. But she says that is unusual, and on Friday we had 6 new investigators, so I am hoping that she is right.
Well, my time is up! I will tell you more about the people and everything here next week. I love you and miss you all. Keep writing to me and know that I love you even if you don´t hear back.
Here is your commitment this week: Will you commit to pray every night before you get in bed? If you are already doing so, GREAT! If not, START NOW! Heavenly Father loves you and wants to hear from you and He WILL answer your prayers. :)