Sunday, November 29, 2015

November 29, 2015

Hi everyone,

It has been a slow week for us at the office.  There just isn't a whole lot for us to do right now.  That does make our days drag on a bit.  We are trying to come up with a plan to start a food initiative somewhere.  I've been doing some research to see where the greatest need has been as far as fast offering help for food.  Maybe we will learn some new things this week.  I sure hope so.  One thing I have been doing is learning Excel and Powerpoint.  The fellow who does the presentations will be leaving in Feb. to move to Utah so I will probably be doing those reports.  I haven't ever had a need to use Excel or Powerpoint so this is a learning experience for me.  I just hope that we will have the opportunity to get out and do something that seems more productive to me.

We have had an interesting thing happen twice today, once this morning and again just now.  All of a sudden we heard tons of cars honking their horns and there were two big dump trucks moving in the line.  Just now it looked like a lot of the cars had something on top of them, like a Christmas Tree or a pile of bananas or something.  I couldn't quite tell what it was but it looked like it could have been either.  We have no idea what that all means.

One interesting thing in the Brazilian culture is people selling their wares.  When we were in Campinas years ago we would wake up almost every morning to the sound of Beethoven's "Fur Elise."  That was the gas man selling his tanks of gas and if you were in need of a new tank (for your stove) you would run out and flag him down.  Here it is the "egg man."  We have heard him every Sat. repeating over and over and over on a loud speaker, "40 eggs for only 10 reieis (that is the Brazilian money, plural for "real" which sounds like "hayall"); fresh from the farm. 10 reieis for 40 eggs," etc.,etc.  It gets a little old after a while.

We had a fun weekend.  On Friday evening we went into the city center and went to a shopping mall to see the Christmas decorations.  I've never seen anything like them before!  WOW!!  That is about all there is to it.  It was awesome!  That mall is in a very rich area of the city. It was very fancy.  One thing for sure is that we really couldn't afford to buy anything in it!  We did go to dinner there to a really nice place.  We did't get home until about 10:00.  It was a lot of fun.

Yesterday we went back into the city to a park called Ibiripreira and rented bicycles and rode all around the park.  It is probably the equivalent of Central Park in New York.  There were thousands of people there walking, riding bikes, scooters, skateboarders, jogging, working out on equipment that was everywhere, just enjoying the day.  It was a lot of fun and absolutely beautiful!  You just can't believe the flowers down here.  They are gorgeous!  It was a beautiful park.  We went there years ago with our family but we went to the museum under the big obelisk.  Our kids probably will remember, well probably Emily does.  :-)

When we got back we were just going to go back to our apartment and do some cleaning and go to the store, but we got talked into going to Embu dos Artes.  It is a little town or suburb of Sao Paulo that reminds me a whole lot of West Yellowstone, Jackson, Park City, etc.  Get the picture?  There are tons of little shops selling gifts and souvenirs.  It was fun to walk around.  We did buy a couple of little things for our apartment to spruce it up a bit.

On our way home we stopped at a big store like Costco.  The other couple we were with had a car for the day so we stopped there and picked up some things that we can't get at our grocery store.  It works out a lot better going in a car rather than trying to bring your stuff home on the bus.  We are getting good at carrying our groceries home in a little cart and bags.  We were lucky to find a cart as soon as we did.  It sure helps out a lot.  

There are some really interesting stores right around here.  We like to go there.  When we need something for the house we go to FiFo's.  It is crammed tight from floor to ceiling and the isles are so narrow that you have to turn sideways if someone else wants to get by!  We have found some good things over there.  They have just about everything you can think of as far as household goods.

It was a really good day.  The other missionary couples are really neat.  Not all of them go out and see the sites, but we are going to do it.  Riding the bus is an adventure in and of itself!  If you are 60 or over, you get to ride for free.  Since I am almost there (two more weeks, aaaaahhhhh!) they let me also ride for free.

We have a really good ward here.  The members are really strong.  There is a man who teaches the Gospel Doctrine class in English for the missionaries and anyone else who is visiting and wants to get something out of the lesson.  This man is one of the translators for the church.  He teaches at the University of Sao Paulo as his regular job but then he translates for any of the General Authorities who come down here.  He did the final checking on the Book of Mormon a few years ago when it was put into the triple combination and cross-referenced to all the scriptures.  He did the D&C and most of the Pearl of Great Price.  He has some little translating devices for all of us to use during our meetings and that is really nice.  Either he or one of his students, who is a member, does the translating for us.  It is a miracle what modern technology can do.

I have attached some photos for you today.  The first is the view out of our living room window. 


Monday, November 23, 2015

November 22, 2015 (from Mom)

Hi all,
This has been a good week.  It's amazing how one week can make a difference in how you are adjusting to things.  I really think that we have done really well.  We are getting to know the other Sr. missionaries and some of the other members who we work with.  It was a good feeling to be able to know how long it takes to get to church and exactly where we needed to go when we got there.  It will be good tomorrow to know where to go and that we have our work stations all set up.

Right now we have been doing (mostly me) lots of computer inputting all about fast offerings.  I hope that we will be able to do other things working with people but I think that we will.  We met with a couple of people during the week who told us about some welfare initiatives that they would like us to be working on.  They are:  "Clean water," and the "Benson Food Initiative."  We told them that that was very fitting since I am a Benson!  It sounds like we will be doing some traveling around the country at times.  It may not be till next year but we might do some traveling soon.  We have a meeting at 8:00 on Mondays so maybe we will learn more about it tomorrow.

I'm just glad that I've had things to do to keep busy.  One of the other senior sisters told me that they got here last year at about the same time and she didn't have anything to do for 2 1/2 months!  I've been busy every day and I come home tired.  It is really something that sitting at the computer can wear you out like that.

Brazil is an interesting country.  I don't think that there are any zoning laws.  If someone wants to open up a store in the neighborhood, they just do.  There are homes, apartments, schools, dr. offices, restaurants, meat markets, bakeries, dance studios, hospitals, etc., etc. all thrown together.  I guess that is nice for those of us who don't have a car as we can walk a short distance and get anything we need.  Also there are no j-walking laws here either.  It is kind of funny to see so many people, young and old, j-walking.  I'm really glad that I had the experience to be here 19 years ago as I know it has helped me get used to things quickly.  The sights and smells are just totally different than they are in Rexburg, or pretty much anywhere in the U.S. The people are very friendly and helpful.

I am trying to be more brave speaking Portuguese.  Ferron didn't come in until the afternoon on Thursday as his back had been so bad in the night, so I had to talk to Bro. Gaspar, who doesn't speak any English, to find out what I was supposed to do to help him.  I was able to speak to him and we understood each other.  Hopefully I'll get better each day.  It is when I get put in a situation where I haven't had time to rehearse something in my head where I mess up badly.  Actually, I think I mess up badly when I do have time to rehearse it in my head as well!  ☺

I can't believe that it is Thanksgiving this week.  It sure doesn't feel like Thanksgiving down here.  The sr. missionaries are getting together for dinner that day, but I don't know what time.  We are going to another couple's house who are here working for the church as the legal counsel.  We will have to go by taxi I think. It should be fun and it will be nice to not have to be alone on that day.

We love you all very much.  Hope everyone is doing well and we wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving!!


November 22, 2015 (from Dad)

Dear family,

Hope all of you are doing well.  We enjoy hearing from you all.  We are still trying to get our slingbox working.  Today, a member who works at the Associacao came up before sacrament meeting and gave us a new cable to try.  People are so generous here.  Today was the Primary Program, the third one we have seen this year.  Having been in St. George exactly two weeks ago, it made us a little homesick (saudades) for our family.  The children sang their hearts out and didn't miss a beat.  When I was a missionary here, these programs weren't even done.  The children did all the things we see at home like waving to everybody.  It was really cute.  We could see our grandchildren in some of the Brazilian children.  I noticed that every American couple was wiping there eyes and I know I used up my handkerchief wiping my own eyes.  I talked to Irma Souza afterwards.  She is the Primary president and the wife of our boss, Fernando Souza.  I told her how maravilhoso the singing was and she gave me a kiss on the cheek.  Here, that is a sign of great love and respect, not just a gesture.  It made me get a little teary-eyed.  We talked to a lot to the little children and told them how well they sang.  When we told the parents we had seen our grandchildren sing just two weeks ago, they all nodded their heads, understanding how we felt.  

I was sitting by Elder Hart in priesthood mtg.  He is a retired pediatrician and his wife grew up in Lorenzo.  He is black and one of the nicest people I have ever met.  I only tell you that because I was able to tell a story during the meeting.  One year at Ricks College, I had three athletes from the countries of Jamaica, Ghana, and the Dominican  Republic.  They felt a little alone on campus being black.  So one day I had them all in my office.  I took out a sheet of white paper, placed it on my desk and told them to put their hands on it.  I then put my hand on too.  I asked, "Which one of us is white?"  They looked at our hands then at me then at our hands and finally said, "None of us."  I replied, "That is right.  Black and white are terms made by men.  Remember that God does not see us in colors, He only sees us as His sons and daughters."  I have never forgotten that experience and I hope they haven't either.  Our stake president is of African descent.  It is funny because we don't go around saying,"There goes Brother Sonderegger, he is Swiss/Danish, or there goes Sister Benson, she is Swedish."  Some day when we get over a person's color, the world will be much better.  I think it will be called the Celestial Kingdom.  I thank the Lord for giving me the ability to not see color, but just the person.  

Yesterday after we bought a ton of groceries, we went walking all over the place.  We found a meat store that sells meat and cooks meat.  If you want to eat really good meat, come to Brasil or Uruguay, Paraguay or Argentina.  These people understand meat like nobody else.  Those smells come through our apt. every day and they are wonderful.  I guess will go buy something there next week.  There are bakeries that are heavenly, docerias with everything sweet imaginable, pastelerias with all kinds of good things cooked inside of dough, and fruit stands that have every fruit imaginable.  We have really been enjoying the juice and the watermelon.  The watermelon is so sweet, not yukky sweet, but just really good.  We walked over a mile on hilly roads and sidewalks, so we had a good workout.  I am eating a lot but losing weight because of the humidity.  I feel for Shelley when she was in Uruguay with no air conditioning.  The humidity here averages about 80%.  But last night was cool, enough that we used a blanket instead of just a sheet.  Winter in June will be interesting.  We have another dinner appointment today.  We have three more scheduled, so I hope we can keep up.  A real tough thing to have to experience (Ha Ha).  

We went to Pinacoteca Museum in downtown Sao Paulo.  There really isn't a downtown as when you have more buildings of 15 stories and above than anywhere in the world, everywhere is downtown.  So truly, we were in the old Centro da Cidade.  Pinacoteca is the oldest museum in SP.  I wasn't too keen on going to an Art museum until I got there and began reading about each painting.  I learned a lot of Brazilian history I didn't know.  Dom Pedro II was the only emperor of Brasil and he actually visited Salt Lake in 1876, one year before Brigham Young died.  He went to a play in the SLC Theater and the orchestra played the Brazilian national anthem for him.  On Sunday, he attended sacrament meeting.  The bishop asked Dom Pedro if he would like to sit on the stand but he declined, preferring to sit in the congregation.  The speaker that day was John Taylor, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve.  I found that story to be interesting.  We ate at a huge buffet at MASP, another huge art museum of world famous artists.  It was $18.00 a plate,a little expensive, but more than worth it.  I could only name about 1/4 of the food, but it was all good, really, really good.  We didn't eat dinner as we were still stuffed.  It was a fun day.

Well, tomorrow we keep up our training of our assignment.  Please pray for us both.  Paula is doing computer things she has never done and I will most likely begin calling Stake Presidents all over Brasil and discussing their fast offering situations.  Unfortunately, some leaders take advantage and give half to the members and half to themselves.  So it is a matter of educating over and over, the  purpose of the fast.  Pray for us that we can do this.  We have not felt in danger,even when we accidentally walked through a red light district trying to get to the Metro.  We talk to everyone in the elevator and are trying to make friends.  There are 3000 or more people who live in Vertentes, our apt. complex.  Yesterday I gave a penny to a little boy and he was happy but his mother even more.  It is fun to make friends everywhere.  People often stare at our name tags and it gives us a chance to explain.  When I tell them I was a missionary here 42 plus years ago and have returned, they all seem pleased.  People in the supermarkets are very helpful with finding things we are looking for.  We are loving the people and that is the first step to becoming good missionaries.  I am proud of Paula for what she is doing and how she is speaking Portuguese.  We love the Lord for his confidence in us.  This is not easy, but we can do it with His help.  We sure do love all of you.  My dad used to say, "Absence makes the heart grow fonder."  We are finding that to be true.  Wish you could all come down and see this giant city, it's people and get to taste the food here.

Love You All,,

Elder and Sister Sonderegger

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

November 17, 2015

Dear Family,

On our 12 min. Walk to the office, a young man from the ward who had passed us the sacrament recognized us and stopped to talk.  He was on his way to work and his big smile started our day out great.  We went to our boss Fernando Souza, who we really love already and had a really good visit.  When the girls come down, I am sure Fernando will want us to go traveling with them.

Fernando gave us a bunch of material to study including one on a pilot program he wants us to do in the entire state of Sao Paulo about jardinhagem (gardening).  I told him we had planted 39 gardens in 40 years of marriage.  He looked at me and said, "I had no idea.  I just felt you were the ones to do this."  He told us we would probably travel a lot like up to Fortaleza and down to Curitiba in Parana.  He said to plan on driving.  I looked a little shocked and told him my driving experiences in SP.  He smiled and said, "I'll go with you the first time."  We also started today to input all the almost 300 stakes in Brasil into their correct regions using Excel. We did ok. Carlos Gaspar, aged 57, is training us to take his place as he is moving to Salt Lake so his wife, aged 39, can get her nursing degree at the U.  Carlos was baptized by Fenton Broadhead.  Carlos later baptized a fellow who works in our building, and that young man baptized Carlos' daughter in law.  What a story.  To top that off, all of a sudden there was Fenton and Brother Lindford and Brother Peck standing right next to our cubicle.  A great surprise for us.  We were all in the same ward or stake at one time.  

Paula needed some thumbtacks today and nobody including the Brazilians could think of the Portuguese name.  I finally said, "you know, that sharp thing that you put on the seat for someone to sit on."  Then they got it.  We got brand new computers too.  We then went shopping at Fifos, a little shop owned by some Japanese people.  It has every thingymajigger you can think of, shelves to the ceiling, stuffed with stuff and aisles about two feet wide.  We got some better wastebaskets, liners, napkins and some big grocery bags to haul our food.  We about died of heat stroke at Fifo's it was so hot and stuffed with stuff and people.  We took that home and then went to Pao de Ascucar for groceries.  Bought a sweet huge yellow melon, really sweet bananas, etc, etc.  I handed this little girl cashier a one dollar bill and said, "Will you accept that?"  She replied, "I don't even know what it is," and I said, "It is a United States dollar. Estou brincando com voce."  (I'm joking with you). Then she smiled and said in English. "Thank you", and I replied, "You are welcome."  I am having fun teasing people and talking about the Church.  My Portuguese was good when we arrived, but it has been flying the last two days getting better and better.  We always stop to talk to the missionaries we see and they wonder why my Port. is so good.  I'm not bragging, but I know the Lord is helping me, I can feel it.  

Tomorrow I start calling bishops and Stake Presidents all over Brasil to talk about their welfare needs.  Fernando told your mother and I that he prayed us here, that we were badly needed.  I told him that we had come in part because of my mother in law who encouraged us.  

I was so proud of my dear wife the last two days as she is trying to speak and people love her for trying.  While Carlos was training us today, she was understanding a lot of it.  Really proud of her.  We love you all.  We feel your prayers.  Keep them up as we need them.  We are being careful, but we feel safe.  The Lord is watching out for us in this incredibly large city which only has 7,000,0000 cars and thousands of motorcycles.  The motor boys are the ones we watch out for the most.  

Com muito carinho e um forte abraco,

Mom and Dad

P.S.  Someone please save this email as a part of my diary.  Also, we learned that the healthiest bananas are the very ripe ones as they actually kill viruses.  So don't eat green bananas.

November 15, 2015

Dear Family,

Well we made it!  We had a great week of training at the MTC and in Salt Lake City last week.  Our training was on the Welfare/Humanitarian programs of the church.  WOW!!  That is about how I felt after that training.  I had no idea the huge scope of the welfare area of the church.  One thing I learned is that if some other group is doing something really well and having good results, the church doesn't automatically step in and say, "Our program is better so let us do it."  The church has lots of partners all over the world and when they see that something is working they say, "What do you need from us to keep it going?"  Usually with those projects the church helps out with money and let whatever group keep doing their work.  

Another thing I learned is that if people don't want to change, they aren't going to.  We all have the mindset that everyone would want our lifestyle if they had a chance, but that isn't the case most of the time.  One brother said that the American lifestyle is not normal as far as the world goes.  We often hear around Rexburg, "You need to get out and experience the 'real' world."  Well the 'real' world lives in total poverty.  We are definitely the exception.  

We had presentations from several different people from the welfare department all week.  One brother told about a group of women in Africa who went to the river to wash their clothes.  The welfare missionaries felt like things could be a lot better for them so they built a washing station with multiple sinks and then a public shower next to it.  It worked great, that is until the couple went home and the women started going back to the river to wash their clothes and used the shower as a latrine.  The problem was that the missionaries didn't ask questions of what the women needed or wanted.  They LIKED going to the river to wash because it gave them a chance to socialize and the washing station took that away.  We heard many stories like that.

Another one was an interview with a lady in the Philippines who lost her home in a recent typhoon.  The church helped fund a program for the victims and train local people to build new homes.  This lady was so grateful to get a new home and was completely overcome with emotion as she never thought she would ever have a home so large.  It was 10x12 feet and one-room.   

Anyway it was quite the humbling week.  There were six couples in our welfare group.  Two couples went to Kazakhstan, one to Moscow, one to Liberia, one to Madagascar and then us.  I was very grateful to be going to Brazil!  Brazil has lots of problems but nothing to compare to those other places.  

We had a great flight, in two legs, to Brazil.  We flew from SLC to NYC and then to Sao Paulo.  Sao Paulo is huge!!!  It is ranked the third largest metropolitan (incorporated) area in the world, behind Tokyo and Mexico City.  The city is managed in 31 boroughs (New York has 5).  The city of Sao Paulo is more populous than 170 countries of the world, including Australia!  It also covers more land area than the U.S. states of Delaware and Rhode Island combined!  Anyway, it is a humongous city.  It stretches on forever it seems.  

We went to church today and I came home (our home away from home) feeling like I had been spiritually fed.  They have a system to translate for the English missionaries.  I hope that at some point I will be able to understand on my own but this was great for now.  The RS was so big that they have to meet in the Cultural Hall.  It is a very good ward.

We start our training tomorrow and learn what our assignment will be.  We hope that we won't just be in the office.  The senior couples have FHE each week and they are planning a trip to southern Brazil during the Christmas holidays and they have invited us to go along so I think we will.  I guess things get pretty slow here at that time.  We went to the store yesterday and the first thing I saw was a decorated Christmas Tree!  The whole front of the store is full of Christmas decorations!  It is kind of funny seeing snowmen, etc. when it is so hot and humid here!  You will remember that we are just going into summer.  It will be a different Christmas for me, that is for sure!

Our apartment is very comfortable and has new appliances, including a washer and dryer.  The shower is interesting but way better than what we had 19 years ago and the water must be naturally soft and now my skin feels heavenly!  Our bed is comfortable and we have lots of storage space (hopefully we won't fill that up).  I think that we will be very happy here.  We are only a short walk from the temple, church, office, grocery store, and WalMart!  We are saved!  :)   

I'll try to figure out how to transfer my pictures from my camera to this laptop.  We hope that you are all doing well.  We sure love you all.

Mom and Dad/Paula and Ferron

(Note from Emily: Mom took me on a FaceTime tour of their apartment. It's really nice and has a fantastic view. I feel much better after seeing their accommodations!)

Saturday, November 14, 2015

November 14, 2015

Just a quick note to let you all know that Mom and Dad made it safely to Brasil and are getting settled in. I'll post again when I hear more from them. Thank you for all of your prayers and support!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

November 8, 2015

Dear Family,

Well we have survived our first week at the MTC!  Things have been going great! We are actually in St. George this weekend visiting with Diane and Chris.  The rules are much different for the senior missionaries.  There wasn't anything planned for the weekend and we received permission to leave.  That was nice.  We didn't tell Diane and boy were they ever surprised!  We got to watch Zach and Lauren play their soccer games yesterday.  Luke finished his season of flag football last week.  Shelley brought us down so it has been nice to spend some extra time with her also.  I went to the temple with her and Stephanie last Wed. We are planning to go again this week.

We had Preach My Gospel training all week and it was really amazing.  We really felt the spirit strongly all week.  We had the opportunity to "teach some investigators" two different times during the week.  Volunteer members (or not) come in to help us practice.  We don't know for sure if they are members or not.  One couple in our group actually had a real investigator so that was interesting for them.  

We had to say good bye to our "district" on Friday.  Some of them left, one couple is actually going to Lynda and Don's mission and will be in their branch.  One couple has gone to Mexico and the other is going to Mississippi.  It is really weird because I felt that I had actually known these people before and had seen them.  They felt the same.  It was like I had know them all of my life.  They are really neat people from all different backgrounds.

All week most people had trouble saying our name, but once in a while someone would say, "I had a Sonderegger at Ricks College; or Ralph (Renee's brother) is a good friend; or I had a class at BYU from a Sonderegger."  I guess the most special experience we had regarding our name was on the very first day.  We had a large group meeting and everyone was to introduce ourselves briefly.  We were sitting on the side with 4 chairs and another couple came and sat by us.  Their last name was Price.  After Dad introduced us, Sister Price leaned over to me and said, "My husband's grandmother was a Sonderegger.  His Great Grandfather was Johannes."  My jawed dropped and I replied, "My husband's great Grandfather was also Johannes!"  Turns out that they are 2nd cousins!  That is really close and we didn't know them from Adam.  We got to talking about family stories and they all match!  It was really neat.  We also met a "shirt-tail" relative of Renee.  Her brother-in-law (married Carol) has an identical twin brother and we met he and his wife.  In fact, we will be doing welfare training with them this next week.  They are going to Kazakstan.  It has been a neat experience.

Tomorrow we will be in Salt Lake City all day receiving Welfare training at Welfare Square and other places.  We are supposed to meet with the head of the church welfare dept. for lunch and questions.  It should be a huge learning experience for us.  We have never been to Welfare Square so that will be neat.

This is a very special place.  I've never experienced anything like it before in my life.  The spirit is very strong here.  Even in my practice teaching moments there were times when I felt completely overcome.  It is hard to explain.  

We fly out on Friday morning.  We leave SLC at 11:00 a.m and fly to New York (JFK), then off to Brazil.  I think we arrive at 7:30 in the morning next Sat.  For now, until we go back on DST in March, we will be 5 hrs ahead of MST, then it will go to a 3 hr difference.  I'll send you all the info this week so you can "watch" our plane.

We love you all very much.  You are all very important to us.  We hope and pray every day that you will all be blessed in all that you are doing.  You are always in our hearts and minds.  This is a neat but difficult experience for us.  It was very hard to leave our family and our home.  It will be hard to say goodbye to Diane and Chris again today.  They keep telling us that our families will be blessed while we are serving the Lord.  We are hoping and praying for that.

We love you all very much and are proud of the things you are all doing.

Mom and Dad