We had transfers this week, I got sent to the area Jardín Del Sur, Cañoto in Santa Cruz. My new companion is Elder Ramos from Sucre, Bolivia. He has only 6 weeks in the mission and I will be finishing the other 6 weeks of his training. He´s a very good missionary, but lacks a bit more training. I had the pleasure of arriving in an area with a baptism on Saturday. Arriving to the baptism, I broke my personal record of the most people crammed in a Toyota Corolla Taxi. We had 1 taxi driver, 8 adults, 4 children and a baby all crammed into the taxi and the hatchback. It also appears that when the mission splits in June, that I will most likely be part of Santa Cruz South because I am currently in the Southern part of the mission.
I didn't have time to write, but here's what I wrote to mom about the food here:
The food is a lot of chicken, a lot of rice, and very little flavor. While there are a few dishes that I like a lot, such as sopa de maní (peanut soup), the truth is that I don´t like the food very much because it is pretty bland and frequently makes me sick. We eat lunch every day with the same family and every once in a while, we eat lunch or dinner with another family, but we usually don´t eat dinner (lunch is the big meal of the day here). I have grown to like salsa more and am eating with an increasing level of spiciness in my food. They don´t eat much salsa here, but it is pretty much the only condiment that is easy to find and I like to eat.
There is pizza here, but it is of a very low quality and comes with little or no sauce. In Santa Cruz, there is a pizzeria owned and run by an American that´s pretty good. It´s about the quality of 5 Buck Pizza, but it's quite expensive and the missionaries only eat there for special occasions.
Now that I am out of santa Cruz, it is also impossible to find things such as barbeque sauce and peanut butter, but there is an awesome Agentinian hostess-like pastry called game that only costs $0.28.
My favorite Bolivian food is actually a juice-box like juice that comes in a 150 mL sack. It´s called pilfrut and is like a watered-down Gogurt. It´s delicious, costs only $0.07 and is especially awesome on a hot, sunny day (pretty much every day here).
I have a personal goal to eat every single thing that someone puts in front of me (that isn't against the mission rules or the Word of Wisdom) throughoutt the whole 2 years of my mission. Other than the 5 times that I have thrown up due do dengue or stomach infections, I have left every single plate clean of food and even cleaned my companion´s plate a couple of times. I am actually quite proud of that feat, because as you well know, I was a very picky eater before. I have also discovered (which probably won´t surprise you) that some of the things that I would never eat before, such as bananas actually taste pretty good. Tomatoes, however are still nasty, but I eat them anyway now.
We had 2 baptisms this week, but none of the 3 USB ports in this computer work, so the pictures will have to wait until next week. We baptized Amberly Belen Reynaga (11 yrs) and Maria Alejandra Flores (10 yrs). Both of them are children of less-active members who we helped to return to the church.
The last week or two honestly haven´t been that great. We weren´t teaching very well, nobody was opening their doors to listen to us, and we just weren´t having much success. I was trying to incorporate new ideas, trying some other things to give our companionship a bit more life (One of these things should have a couple photos and stories next week). Wednesday morning, the thought came to my mind that I should pray to have less conflict and problems between my companion and I. "No, I don´t need to do that, there´s not conflict between us, we´re buddies." I thought. Later, came the impression, "It´s what you need. Just trust me." I prayed. Just after praying, I felt a warm feeling come over me and I knew that I had found what our companionship needed: more unity, so that we could be guided by the spirit. The next day we found a man who said that he had been praying, crying and asking God for help when he heard a knock at the door (us). Yesterday we found a young father who was worried for his family and wondering what he could do to help when we appeared in his window. The church is true and the power of prayer is real. I invite you all to pray, you may not think that it is what you need, but...it is. 1 Nephi 32: 8-9 8 And now, my beloved brethren, I perceive that ye ponder still in your hearts; and it grieveth me that I must speak concerning this thing. For if ye would hearken unto the Spirit which teacheth a man to pray, ye would know that ye must pray; for the devil spirit teacheth not a man to pray, but teacheth him that he must not pray. 9 But behold, I say unto you that ye must pray always, and not faint; that ye must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul. Elder Casdorph
We had an interesting week this week because of some protests headed by university students who want a bigger campus. It´s apparently quite common here that if a group of people wants something from the government, they block the freeway to Santa Cruz until they get what they want. Sometimes, if that doesn´t work, they block every single road in the whole town. This week the students from the government-run university in Yacuiba decided to do this to solicit more funding from the government to expand their university. With the help of a few local taxi companies, they were able to block basically every road in Yacuiba, including the entrances to the bus terminal, the airport, and crucial trade routes to Argentina and Santa Cruz. Motorcycle, bicicle and pedestrian trafic continued, but due to the taxis parked in the middle of the intersections, the car traffic couldn´t do anything. It was this way Tuesday, Wednesday, and half of Thursday until they were able to come to an agreement with the government. While this probably sounds like an unstable, dangerous situation, it´s apparently fairly common here and those that could continue working by walking or going in motorcycle or bike continued working normally while the others enjoyed a small vacation from work. We kept on walking as normal.
To those who could not see the 183rd General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day saints, it was awesome and I invite you to watch it at www.lds.org
The highlight of this week would have to be a very unique service opportunity that I had this week. About 5 months ago, I decided to make a monedero (coin purse) for my money, because the monetary system here is primarily coin based and the trifold, George Costanza, wallet didn´t work very well for the coin system here. I took note of the basic design of the coin purses that many have here, and made my own with the plastic cover of a notebook and some super glue to make it look pretty (I would send some photos, but none of the USB parts in this computer work). Later (when I was sick with dengue, we had Carnival, my companion had a throat infection, and my companion was sick with dengue) I had tons of free time, so I came up with a new design and made a coin purse wallet thing for the elders in my district out of cereal boxes and a badly printed Libro de Mormón that we had in the house.
My companion pulled his out the other day, and it called the attention of a couple nearby kids in the street who asked me if I could teach them to make one. I told them to bring me a cereal box and some scissors, and after running to their house they quickly returned with cereal boxes and scissors. I made a couple coin purse wallet things and then we asked if we could talk to their parents. Their parents were busy working, but they seemed quite impressed that a couple of missionaries were willing to teach a couple of kids in the street, and we invited them to the church and English class.