So if you thought last week was insane, it really doesn´t hold a candle to this week! It would have been strange enough if it had only been that it was my last week with Hermana Bowns before she went home, but there was just so much more to it! All week I was thinking of the song, "Something´s Coming" from West Side Story, because there was a palpable feeling of change in the air the whole week. Though I think the lyrics to that song say, "something´s coming, something good" and I felt more like whatever was coming was just likely to make me feel sick to my stomach....
Monday, as you know, Hermana Lish and I were still in Conce. We got back late that evening and didn´t have the opportunity to work at all that day, especially since when she went to the doctor to have her "curación," the hospital worker who did it was pretty rough. She was using these long tweezer things to dab at the hole in her leg with medicine-coated cotton balls or something, and kept commenting on how deep (profundo) the hole was. At one point, she stuck the tweezers right down in the hole to measure and said to Hermana Lish, "Look! Look how far down they go!" like it was something really awesome. I thought of my mom and knew that she would have loved being there. I couldn´t watch. It was awful and Hermana Lish was hurting more than usual. We came home to a sanitized house, though! Since staff infection can be communicable, President Humphrey´s wife called our companions and said that EVERYTHING had to be cleaned and sanitized, and laundry had to be washed in hot water and everything. They did a really good job. Hermana Bowns told me that she learned how to was blankets by hand from our "vecina" Hermana Myriam, who we rent our house from and live behind. She said that she washes blankets and other large items in the tub and gets in there and walks on them! Hermana Bowns said she was doing that with our linens one night while she reported numbers or something to our district leader over the phone. I couldn´t help but think of I Love Lucy, when she tries to crush grapes.
Tuesday was back to work as usual. We had our last district class of the cambio (and Hermana Bowns´s last one ever!) and took many pictures since we knew the zone was going to change significantly because three missionaries from our zone were going home, including a zone leader and a district leader.
Wednesday afternoon Hermana Lish had to go back to the hospital in Conce for "curación" and stay until after her doctor´s appointment Thursday evening. This time there was another Hermana, Hermana Miskin, who works in the other zone in Chillan (and lives with Hermana Frandsen) who had to go to the hospital as well, so I stayed in Chillan to work in a trio with Hermana Bowns and Hermana González. It was not a very productive day, as we were trying to work in two sectors which aren´t exactly close to one another, but we were able to procure members to do splits with us for some of the day, which was good. And we had our clase de inglés, which I love because I lead the clase de conversación with the advanced students. I get to converse with them in my native tongue and help them correct their grammar and pronunciation. It´s really awesome. Our class is really growing and it´s almost completely investigators! The past few weeks we have had at least a dozen people in class, with only one or two of them members! For a while we only had one or two students each week, so a dozen for us is really a lot! We have this one investigator who had never even come to English class, but she just thinks it´s such a great idea and such a great service that we offer that she took it upon herself to advertise it all over the free classifieds on the internet and on Facebook and everything, it´s so great!
Thursday Hermana Lish was still gone and we weren´t able to find members, so we spent half the day in our sector, Cordillera, and half in Hermana González´s sector, Agronomía. We knew Hermana Lish had to be coming home sometime that day, but nobody in the office seemed to know when they would be coming back and neither Hermana Lish nor Hermana Miskin had a phone since they had left them behind with their companions to work in their sectors. So we kept calling the office and asking them to advise us when to expect her so we could pick her up at the bus station, but nobody ever did. Then we got a call from Hermana Brennan from the other zone, telling us that Hermanas Lish and Miskin were arriving that very moment in the bus station, and we were 20 minutes away at least! But we procured a collectivo (A collectivo is kind of a strange mix between a bus and a taxi. There is a fixed rate and it only drives to certain places, though it doesn´t have necessarily a fixed "route." Also, you sometimes have the collectivo to yourselves, and sometimes there are other random people riding with you. Remind me to tell you more about public transportation here, it is different than at home - but mostly in a good way.) and raced to the bus station, where Hermana Lish told us that she had spoked with President and that she would be on the plane to the United States with Hermana Bowns and Hermana Brennan on Monday. Because they are afraid she is likely to get the infection again if she stays here with so many bugs, she has been assigned to finish her mission in Provo! She was not surprised to hear that her mission had been changed, and was ready to accept it because she had had a moment of confirmation while she was in the hospital that whatever happened was the Lord´s will and it was going to be okay. And it turns out that she was an answer to a prayer for her new mission president in Provo. He had too many people to teach and not enough Spanish-speaking missionaries, and was planning to close a sector when they called and told him the she would be coming. Now he gets to keep that sector open and he and Hermana Lish are both excited. The Lord really workd in mysterious ways, because if someone like Hermana Lish, who is from southern Idaho, had gotten their mission call in the first place to Provo, they probably would have thought it was really lame and been discouraged. But that is where the Lord needs Hermana Lish to be, so He did what He had to do to get her there. We are really going to miss her, but we´re excited to compare and contrast missions in the US with those in South America. For example, we already know that her new area in Provo covers 8 stakes, whereas here she was working only in one ward (about the size geographically of a stake in Utah)! I know she´s just going to take Provo by storm!
Friday morning Hermana Bowns and I had to go the the International Police Department to register my visa. Why didn´t we do that on a P-day, you ask? Well, to explain that I have to go back a few steps, like to P-day two weeks ago, before conference and before I went to the hospital with Hermana Lish. We knew that I needed to get my passport with my visa back from the office and go to the DPI (Departamento Policia Internacional) to register my visa and go to the Registro Civil to "pedir" (ask for) my carnet (Chilean ID card) within 30 days of when my visa went through and we really wanted to get it done before my companion changed, just in case my new companion was latina and I wasn´t able to communicate as effectively with her, but we hadn´t heard back from the mission office yet as to whether my visa had been processed or not. Usually when they are finished they send them to you at district class of they distribute them at conference or something, and I knew several of the other missionaries who arrived the same time as me had already gotten their carnets, but I hadn´t heard anything from anyone, nor had I received my passport. So we called the office and asked Hermana Kimball, the mission secretary serving a senior couple mission with her husband, if she had my visa ready. She said that it had been ready for a while and that she was pretty sure she had given it to me at Christmas conference. We told her no, that we definitely did not have it, and then we proceeded to spend half of our evening on the phone with practically every zone leader in the mission trying to locate my passport. Nobody had it, nor had they seen it and Hermana Kimball wasn´t sleeping at night. They decided that if they couldn´t locate it by Wednesday at conference, they would arrange for Hermana Bowns and I to go to Santiago to work on getting a replacement passport! Well, conference came and still nobody had seen my passport anywhere, so Hermana Kimball got all the paperwork and the money ready for us to go to Santiago. Well, literally minutes after she had given me all the necessary paperwork and all that, she goes over to start getting things ready for the return trip to Conce, and inside one of the Rubbermaid bins that they use for transporting plates and cups and tablecloths and who knows what-all, she saw a plastic grocery bag. She took it out, wondering what could possible be inside, and there was my passport and all my visa papers! It was a tender mercy, because I could not have gone to Santiago last week. I had to be in the hospital with Hermana Lish. But, the bad thing was, once we finally found my passport, my 30-day time limit for registering my visa had already expired. I asked Hermana Kimball if it would be a problem, and she said she was pretty sure they were good to give us a little but if leeway, but to do it as soon as possible. But then after I got back from the hospital P-day was over and things were really crazy, and we didn´t go to the DPI. Then Thursday we remembered that we needed to do it and called Hermana Kimball and she said not to wait until P-Day, but to go Friday morning instead. So we went. And they were not really good to give us a little leeway. They were pretty upset. The woman we first talked to was very brusque and kept asking questions to which we really couldn´t give her satisfactory answers, like "Why didn´t you process your own visa?" "Why was your passport ever "en camino"? Why didn´t you just go to Conce and get it yourself?" "Why didn´t you come here immediately after you received your passport?" And she kept saying "Chiquillas, we have a problem." And then she told us to come back when her boss was there. We were scared about that, but he turned out to be a lot nicer than she was, and he at least seemed to understand a little why we don´t process our own visas and how this could have happened and not really been my fault. But I am still in serious trouble, as I have lived the past couple of weeks in Chile illegally! So he took down a report of what happened and tried to make me sound as blameless as possible. That report will be presented to a judge, who will decide if I have to pay a "multa" for my passport violation, or if I will just be given a warning. In the meantime, I have to go to the DPI every Friday morning to "firmar" (sign) and prove that I haven´t tried to leave the region. I have to do this until my visa problem is straightened out, which could take up to three months! If I need to travel outside of the region (like to Talca for a conference, for example), I have to call him and ask permission to do so. And they are keeping my passport so I really can´t try to run away. It´s totally crazy! I was pretty upset and wanted to cry, but after we left Hermana Bowns was able to explain to me that although the gentleman at the PDI did try to make it clear to us that this was a serious infraction, he was very polite and respectful and did as much as he could to make this situation as easy as possible.
Friday night we had a ward activity that was all about the Book of Mormon. We had our ward mission leaders present scriptures from the Book of Mormon and the Bible and show how the Bible testifies of the Book of Mormon and how they both testify of the Savior. We also watched some videos, including this Mormon Message:
It was really cool though, because we had several investigators there, and after we were done with the presentation, we had a bunch of Book of Mormons and reading calendars to pass out if anyone there didn´t have one or if they wanted to give one to a friend. We had several members take Books of Mormon for their friends, and even had an investigator who already has a Book of Mormon take one to give to someone else! I was pleased with the turn-out and it was a great activity.
Saturday there was a "surprise" despedida (goodbye party) for Hermana Bowns. She knew that something was going to be happening, because our ward mission leader was just too insistent on the exact time he wanted to meet with us that night (I am not available at 8, nor at 9. I am only available at 8:30). She was really stressed about it because she didn´t want everyone to make a big deal of her leaving, but it was really special and the members made it really nice. It was really a testament of how special she is and how much these people love her. They invited as many of our investigators as they could get a hold of and many of them came! The most awesome part about it is that they did like some Chilean cultural stuff, and I got to wear an extra "18" (dieciocho) dress. The 18th of September is like Chilean independence day and it´s a HUGE deal and there are traditional dances and foods and everything and it is a law that everyone has to fly the Chilean flag outside of their house that day. I am told it is awesome. And now I have worn a dress so I can tell you that if nothing else, the dresses really rock! They also had like the Chilean flag and the American flag put up together and they performed the Chilean national anthem and had made a little video presentation filled with pictures that they had procured from Hermana Bown´s companions who have now gone home. And since Hermana Lish was leaving too they did as much as they could to include her in the celebrations. It was really nice and I felt so grateful for the love and the support of the members. It is clear that they recognize the importance of the missionaries in their wards here.
Sunday was really rough. Sundays are always hard if for no other reason than that we have to get up an hour and a half early, but also it was Hermana Bowns and Hermana Lish´s last day in the mission. I did okay for most of the day, but when it came time to take them to the bus station I kind of started to come apart. I just didn´t feel prepared for my trainer to leave and to have to be in charge of training someone else in my sector and everything like that. It was so hard to say goodbye and put her on the bus. She has been such a great trainer and I have learned a lot from her. Her Spanish is really good for a gringa, too. I will especially miss how she stops in the street to pick up garbage that she thinks might be useful!
And now here we are on today. Cambios. Obviously I knew that I would be getting a new companion, but with so many new missionaries coming I couldn´t be sure about what was happening. Except that I would stay here in Cordillera to train someone on my sector, I was pretty sure about that. Well, they called this morning to tell us our transfers, and boy were we ever wrong! They are closing our sectors completely for Hermanas, and bringing Elders in in our place! And they told me I am going to San Javier. "Where´s that?" I said. "In Talca," said Elder Silva. "Elder Silva," I said, "I am not allowed to go to Talca! The policeman said that I couldn´t!" So that was a complication, and everyone has been going crazy because our sectors are not ready to be closed and neither Hermana González (who arrived in the country only one transfer before me and has only worked in one area so far as well) nor I are equipped to do it on our own! But that´s how it´s going to be! Hermana Bowns was in the office and in President´s house today and she kept calling me to find out what was going on. She couldn´t believe it either at first when they told her we were leaving, and she feels really bad that we didn´t prepare our sector better beforehand. At one point she called me and was standing there talking with Hermana Humphrey, and they were telling me what to do about the International Police. They said I needed to go tell them that I had to move and see if I could sign in somewhere else. I asked what would happen if they said no, and Hermana Humphrey in the background was like, "Tell her NOT to ask for permission!" But it turned out to be okay. I advised the DPI that I am moving and they are okay with it as long as I sign in in Talca every Friday still. I cannot pay my "multa" in Talca though, and they won´t move my passport there, so when my restriction has been lifted I will have to go back to Chillan to process all of that. It was a relief and relatively easy to do - I didn´t even have to have Hermana González translate for me in the police station! I talked to the man all by myself!
Anyway, so today I have to pack up all my stuff and try to get the ward and the area book and everything ready for elders to come here! In San Javier I am going to be companions with Hermana Fajardo, who is from Guatemala and who we stayed a couple nights with in Chillancito while Hermana Lish and I were in Conce. I am not sure I am ready to have a Latin companion, especially since the Guatemalan accent is much different from the Chilean accents I am used to. I am told that San Javier has a tiny ward where the missionaries often have to fill in teaching Young Women´s and things like that, that´s it´s in the middle of the desert, and that every Hermana who has worked there never stops talking about it because they loved it so much. But I sure am going to miss my ward and my investigators here - they have been so kind and helpful and loving to me always.
Anyway, I have no more time to write. I have lots of pictures to send but no time to do so today. Hopefully next week! Love and miss you all.
Your commitment this week is to PRAY BETTER. I am putting this as your commitment because it is something I really need to work on, so let´s all do it together! If for you that means pray at all, great! If it means pray more than once a day, great! If it means working on making your prayers less repetitive and more meaningful, great! But set a goal and do something this week to strengthen your relationship with your Heavenly Father through prayer.
Lovelovelove you all,