Ah yes, mi primera email en Chile, bueno. I don’t really know where to start, also there are going to be lots of typographical errors [most of which the editor hopes to catch] in this email because the keyboard is a little bit different in the setup. Okay. Well, I love the pictures; you all look great, and I am excited that all is well. I am going to write about what is going on here and how life is and then try and send some pictures with that.
So we left the MTC at 10:00 am on Monday morning and arrived in chile at about 9:20 [I think it was really 8:20, based on flight stats] on Tuesday morning.
Not so bad really; it was then two hours in a van too Viña del Mar. That wasn’t terrible. However, it was long, and I still didn’t feel that great.
We got to viña and took pictures in front of the reloj in Viña, which you were supposed to be sent [see the last post]. Then President Gillespie said, “You are going to be spending your mission finding and teaching. The key to today is finding. Here is the address of the mission home, you have been assigned a partner, now go find it.” So Elder Prusse (whom I do not know at all) took off looking for the mission home in Viña del Mar. We found it in approximately 30 minutes because we found a map and asked. Due to our large amount of travel experience, I was super comfortable in the city and Elder Prusse kept asking “Are you sure this is where we should be going?” But we got there about 20 minutes before the next group showed up. Super fun. They then ran us through some orientation and we had empeñadas for lunch. They were really yummy. Then the trainers [each new missionary is assigned a more experienced missionary who is tasked with teaching them how to do missionary work in the field] showed up, and we had to ask each of them if they were our trainer, in Spanish. I walked up to the secretary of the mission, who had a picture of a trainer who was in la Serena (7 hours away) and said “ùsted es mi entrenador” or “you are my trainer” not a question but a statement and a true one.
He was my trainer. Which meant, after everybody else left, Elder Mateski (the other elder headed up to la Serena (the mermaid)), and I got to wait for two more hours and then hop on a bus to la Serena. We were supposed to get on the bus around 6:30, but it didnt show up until 7:00. We got to la Serena around 2:00 in the morning. Our trainers were there to pick us up; my trainers name is Elder Wintz.
He is from Boise Idaho and is about 6 foot 4. Huge guy. We got to our pension (apartment) around 2:30 after a short taxi ride and then finally got to go to sleep around 3:15. So all in all, my travel from the MTC to my first area was just under 40 hours. So good.
La Serena is super pretty, right by the ocean. The photos that I do have really don´t do it justice nor do they really give the feel for the city that I would like them to. There are roughly 500.000 people in the city and 10 companionships of missionarys. The address of the pension is: Augustina Ruiz street, in la Serena. We don´t actually know the number, but it is like the 8th house down. Not that you can really tell from above.
So I can’t fill you in on everything, even though I have an hour and a half to email. So I will try and just give some of the best stories from the first 5 days. Wednesday, first street contact. I didn’t practice any street contacts in the MTC, so I had no clue what to do.
We walked up, and my companion just started talking and answering this ladies questions and pulled out all sorts of good stuff. We ended up giving her a Book of Mormon and are going to have an appointment with her tomorrow. However, I think I understood about 8 of the words that she said. I just stood there in awe of what was happening. It was crazy! I was pretty much in awe. Humbling experience. This was followed by our first lesson, where I also did not talk that much but at least for the most part understood what was going on and what she was saying. Best part, end of the lesson, we asked her to be baptized, and she said yes! SCORE! So that was my real first teaching experience.
The food here is really simple, but really yummy, really heavy, and super fattening. Rice, potatoes, chicken, avocado, tomato. That is pretty typical to have at lunch (we have lunch with the members not dinner). In fact, we don´t get back for dinner in our pension till around 9:30 at night. Anyway, so the food has been fine. I have had to choke down some tomato and avocado. Well, the avocados are actually super delicious, well at least better than the ones at home. The tomatoes are a different story entirely, which makes this next story super funny. Second meal we have with a family. I walk in and sitting on my plate is a giant tomato filled with some sort of a mix of vegatables in meat. However a large part of the tomato was still there. On the side, of course, were slices and slices of avocado. YUMMM! That is slightly facetious. I ate it, with a smile, and was happy to have food; but it is going to be quite some time before I like tomatoes. I really do like the food up here though; it is solid. I am just worried about putting on weight. They always give us tons, and I am pretty sure they mix something akin to lard into the rice. Now as for the food that I have bought down here. The milk is ultrapasteurized but other than that it is fine. I got oatmeal squares!!! So yummy, and a cereal called milo which is like cocoa puffs. The yogurt is batido. So it is super thin, and comes in bags. I drink a couple cups of it a day. So the food really is quite normal. Nothing too exciting to say about it as of yet.
The other day we got yelled at by a guy “Gringo asesinos” he called us, Gringo assassins. I had to smile. Unfurtunately, we have not been able to work in that part for a little while becase of that. Super dissapointing. We have run into the whole range of people though: staunch Catholics; I am Catholic, but I am not really Catholic; atheists; philosophers; evangelicals; uncertains; and a couple more-out-there-kind of beliefs, like aliens. Super great stuff. We have run into a lot of drunks, which unfortunately is a pretty big problem here. In fact there was one of them passed out on the side of the road the other day. We wanted to leave a pass along card [cards that missionaries and members carry that point people toward information about the Church] in his shirt pocket, but there was a crowd and then the cops came, so we couldn’t do it. Que lastima.
Sorry this isn´t super ordered, my thoughts are all jumbled and I can´t remember the days anymore. I have only taught three lessons. We have had a lot of people drop our lessons and a lot of them just not be there. Then, it is also vacation time, so a lot of the people [we contact] are not from here and aren´t going to be here to teach. That is making it kind of difficult. We do a lot of walking and street contacting with out much result. It is interesting though. The past couple days we have searched and searched all and then, when we are exhausted, tired, a little sad because we haven´t found someone, and probably most importantly, humbled because of it, the Lord blesses us with a little bit of joy. One night a lady ran up to us and asked us if we had something for her. She was so excited. We gave her a pamphlet and got an appointment with her. Another night, the last house we went to, this little old man came out and was so excited that we were there, because we gave him someone to talk to. His name is Carlos, more about him later. Yesterday, our two appointments fell through but we taught two lessons. One to an old investigator. Super intelligent man, probably in his 60´s. We taught for an hour, and he is getting baptized the 29. Then we missed a lesson and decided to stop by Carlos. He woke up from a nap to talk with us, a nap because he was wasted. He wants to stop drinking, we and the gospel are going to help him stop; and if everything goes as planned, he will be baptized on the 29 also. That was incredibly gratifying. To be able to teach and help others is a really wonderful feeling.
Alright, there are a thousand more stories. Oh one other quick fact, my companion and I sing to people; and, oddly, they love it. Neither of us is very good. There must be angels singing in the ears of those people.
up at 7 exercise and shower and get dressed breakfast at 8 till 8:30
8:30 until 9:30 personal study
9:30 till 11:30 is companionship study (only two hours for a little while longer) [I think meaning that it will decrease to an hour once he is more experienced]
11:30 till 12:30 is language study (also only an hour for a little longer)
12:30 till 1:30 hacemos la obra (we do the work)
1:30 till 3:00 we have a meal with a member family
3:00 until 9:30 or 10:00 we work and work and work
9:30 till 10:00 we plan for the next day
I have zero trouble sleeping here right now and no trouble with the appetite. I love it, it is great.
Haha, okay another story. Our heater was messed up. It is a gas fed, fire heater. So our showers would alternate between super hot, like boiling, to freezing, or at least cold. We fixed it this morning but it was a super crazy first couple of mornings here.
Alright, I know there is more to say, but I have to try and send some pictures and type another quick email so I love you all.
Elder Tonkinson (in chile pronounced, thomson, tonkeenson, tonkson, or just about any other method you can come up with)
PS: Also, sorry there are not more pictures, and none with me in them. The camera takes a while to load but it works. Next time I will start them loading when I start typing, therefore I will have plenty of time to write and send pictures.
Gideon, Vacan is prounounced more like bacaan. but the B and the V are like a cross of the two.
Oh, the Spanish is coming along, I continue to make progress. I obviously have work to do speaking it, but I can get my message across and introduced myself in front of the congregation on saturday with relative ease. My main problem is understanding the Chilenos. They talk super rapìd and drop letters out of words frequently. It is getting easier; and just given the progress I am making, I suspect I will be fluent at the end of this first transfer. [transfers are every six weeks]