Well, we had quite the experience going to Curitiba and back on the 12th and 13th of Jan. Everybody was surprised we were driving. Part of the highway was fine and other parts not so great. We got held up by construction for 40 min. The hardest part of the driving was having to adjust our speed about every five minutes. The speed limits are 60, 80, 100, and 110 kilometers per hour and they change randomly and constantly. The other hard part is that there are surveillance cameras everywhere, hundreds of them. If you are speeding, your picture gets taken, license plate looked at and a fine sent in the mail. Some of them are placed at the bottom of a hill you are coming down and that makes it hard to slow down for them, especially when you can’t see them sometimes until it is too late. But it is a week since we went and no fine yet. Maybe I lucked out.
We stayed at the Ibis Airport Hotel. We found it easily but couldn’t get to it as there were no left turns for over 5 miles. So we drove 5 miles one way and 5 miles back to get there. It also took a while to get to the Bishop’s Storehouse. Our GPS mostly worked but sometimes had us going in circles. I ended up driving on a one way street twice. The first time the drivers were friendly and just waited for me to turn. The second time they all wanted to run me over. Lots of glares. We were taking about three dozen beautiful wedding dresses for the temple. The girls who live in that area can come borrow one instead of the cost of buying one which is near impossible. We met the missionaries taking care of the facility, elder and sister Mendes from Curitiba. We had a nice visit with them and they are obviously taking great care of everything. All the clothing and food was really well organized and easy to find as was everything else. When we got there, there was a non member couple from Haiti who are taking the discussions. They hadn’t been in Brazil long and so the Church was helping them out. They seemed very grateful. Elder Mendes said there are 100’s of Haitians entering the country. It will be very tough for them to find a job with the economy like it is.
We had a really nice buffet at the hotel and even talked to the chef. It was only about $10.00 each in dollars. The room was fine and we got a good night’s rest. The next morning we went back to the restaurant for breakfast. A young gal waited on us and had us sign by our names as having had breakfast. Breakfast was a ton better than most breakfasts you get at US motels. There was a lot of food. I went back up to the room and got a Book of Mormon (Livro de Mormón) and brought it back to the young gal who attended us. She was just a very sweet young lady. I told her I had something for her because she was a special person and that I could see it in her countenance. I had written the words, “Este livro vai mudar a sua vida”, (this book will change your life), and also our address in Idaho. She took the book and said, “Livro de Mormón?”, so I explained about it and that it doesn’t take the place of the Bible but actually is another set of scriptures to learn more about Jesus Christ. She then with a look of surprise held the book to herself and said, “Para Mim?” (For Me). I said yes and that there was no cost or commitment. I will always remember her smile. Maybe nobody has ever done anything nice for her. I will never see her again, but maybe it will make a difference in her life.
The ride home was a lot faster, more than an hour shorter. The drive is beautiful as you are driving through the Mata Atlantica (Atlantic Forest) and it is greener than green, gorgeous. We had also for a little over an hour gone to the Botanical Gardens in Curitiba. It is a place everyone visits. The grounds are immaculate. There are actually some birds and small mammals, fish, turtles and an assortment of very different looking insects that live there year round. I can tell you that with it’s rolling hill, scenery and large area, it is a great jogging area and many Brazilians were taking advantage of that. I did have a scary, bad experience that I never want to have again. I was in the passing lane and some crazy guy came up the closest to my bumper ever by anyone in my life. I couldn’t get over and to do so I had to speed up a ton. Then I did something that missionaries and men my age should not do. As he came flying by me I shook my fist at him. He leaned way over and flipped me off. He had the most hateful look in his eyes of anyone I have ever encountered. If he could have, he would have killed me and I have no doubt about that. I also have no doubt that we were protected by the Lord. He sped off and even passes a Corvette that had been going way over the speed limit. His weaving in and out, out of control was nothing I have ever before witnessed. Very frightening and unnerving to say the least. Don’t ever think that your prayers don’t help. They do and I thank you for them.
Friday night we went to a movie at the El Dorado Shopping Center which is a short bus ride from our apt. After, we couldn’t decide where to eat so some went to an Arabic place and we went to a pizza rodizio and buffet. All you could eat of super delicious food of every kind and the waiters/waitresses coming by with all kinds of pizza which you could take or say no thanks. I really liked the 3 cheese pizza and the chocolate pizza. The people who waited on us were really nice. I had not had a piece of the chocolate pizza and told the waiter I just wanted one piece and then I was done. About ,he came back and purposely went past me like he was going to another table. He then grinned, turned around and came back. I said, “Brincando com a gente hein” (kidding around with me huh.” He grinned again. We got home about It is very common in Brazil for people to have their evening meal at or even after . When we left El Dorado, it was packed with people still.
Saturday we went to the zoo (Jardim Zoologico). On the bus, a black lady started talking to me and we talked about everything. She has a friend in Florida who wants her to go there. When we got to the Metro, she followed us as she was going on the same line. So she started talking to us again and actually showed us an easier way to use the Metro to get to the zoo. Suddenly, a man began shouting in a piercing voice everything you can think of about Jesus Christ. Everything he said was true but the way he presented it wasn’t. All the Brazilians around us were embarrassed and let us know they were. But I finally said, “I agree with everything he saying, but the gospel is better taught in a gentle way, not loud.” They agreed. We then had a conversation, and everyone was listening about Brazil. I mentioned what a great effect Brazil had on my life and how wonderful the people are. I noticed one young gal listening intently. Elder Hale gave the black lady two pass along cards. She let us all know that she was going to visit our church in her area. She was a really wonderful lady and we could feel her sweet spirit. Well, we got off and went upstairs on the escalator to get on the blue line. The girl who had been listenind intently came running up to us and said, “I want one of those cards.” It surprised us but a pleasant surprise. She had a look of goodness from head to toe, a really neat young girl. She had heard the things that I and Elder Hale were saying and it struck a chord with her. It was a neat experience. I gave another card to a couple with a little boy Calvin’s age. The fellow had gotten up to give mom his seat on the zoo bus. We had a good visit.
The zoo is humongous. It goes forever and there is also Simba Safari and Dinosaur Land attached to it. You could put 6 o 7 Hogle Zoos in it. It was quite a well kept zoo. Every kind of mammal, reptile and bird you can imagine. The park is so large that many of the flocks of birds are migratory and come back and forth from all over the world. Boy, we really get stared at by everyone, but that isn’t bad. Many times we strike up a conversation and we did many times at the zoo. Mostly families were there and some had brought their aging parents with them. DinosaurLand was cool as the dinosaurs made noise and moved. I don’t know for sure if the exhibit was on loan or not, but all the info on each dinosaur was mostly in English. We had a real good time but our legs were dead when we got back to the apt.
Mom had her choir practice at and more people came. She worked on having everyone move up and down on notes. Some stay on the same note forever. She got us singing really well and she taught mostly in Portuguese. Very hard for her but she doesn’t quit on things as you all know. You all have a very special daughter, sister, mother and grandmother, etc. Best companion ever!
Um forte abraço and all my love,
Elder Dad/Grandpa Sonderegger