Sunday, January 24, 2016

January 19, 2016

Dear Family,

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 5 minutes later,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 10:30 p.m.  It is very common in Brazil for people to have their evening  meal at 10:00 p.m. or even after midnight.  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.

Sunday, Mom had her choir practice at 8:40 a.m. 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

Saturday, January 16, 2016

January 11, 2016

Dear Family,
How are things going?  Things are going okay here.  Dad is starting to get better from his cold.  We are just plugging away here at the office.  Unfortunately, there isn’t a ton that I can do right now because of the language barrier.  I am trying to work on that as best I can.  I try to talk to someone everyday.  I have set a goal to get up at 6:00 every morning to study the language.  I have found that only reading the Book of Mormon isn’t enough and besides scripture language is a lot different that the way we speak today.  I will keep reading the B of M everyday and I am in the middle of Alma presently.  I read one verse at a time, well actually I am listening to it on my scripture side by side app so I can see the English as well as Portuguese.  So I listen to one verse and follow along and then stop and reread it and then check to see if I have understood it.  It takes quite a while to get through one chapter.  I have been doing this since the middle of August when I finished reading it in English.

One thing that I think will help me even more is that yesterday I started my ward assignment of directing the choir.  I loved it!  I had practiced a choir scenario during the summer with my language tutor and that really helped me.  I had three pages of notes with music terms in front of me and that helped.  I also can do a pretty good pantomime!  J  It was a lot of fun.  I hope that more people will attend.  Maybe when the other ward members see how much fun we are having they will start to come.  My motto is this:  If we sing, they will come.

I have also been working with a lady who lives near us and they are moving to Utah next month.  She is a nurse and is going to get more training at the U of U.  They are actually going to be living in the same apartment complex where Lynn and Brandi lived for a while.  They will live there for a while at first and then will probably move to a better place.  They will be gone for at least 4 years.  So I am helping her with English and she is helping me with Portuguese.  She is a ball of fire and is a lot of fun to be around.  The other day she was trying to say “successful” only it came out as “sussexful!”  When she realized what she said she about fell on the floor from laughing so hard!  Her name is Dagmar and her husband calls her ‘Daggi” which sounds like ‘Doggy.”  Dad told him that he better not call her that in the US or else people might think that he is abusive! J They are a sweet family.

We went down to Praia Grande last week to do the next step in our gardening project.  The man’s name is Ivan and he has a very large yard.  Unfortunately, the soil is very poor.  The area was a bog and a lot of fill dirt was hauled in and it was full of junk as you can see in this picture.   The whole area is like that.  It will have to be raked up a bunch and then they will build boxes and fill with good soil.  We are working on finding out where we can buy tools, seeds, soil, lumber, etc.  It isn’t like just running down to the Garden Gate next to Grandmas.  It is kind of complicated to find that kind of a store or stores.

We never really know what is happening around here.  Fernando (our “boss”) has a tremendous load as he has lost most of his staff due to retirement or relocating to another department.  So it is basically just him and 4 missionaries (three of whom don’t speak Portuguese-me included).  I guess there is one other fellow on the staff and he works very hard but he is only over the welfare area of mental health and there is a lot more to the welfare program than that. One day Fernando will say, “Oh, we are going to Praia Grande in an hour.” Or, “Tomorrow we are going to Curitiba.” Or, “I will let you know if we are going to Curitiba tomorrow.”  We really don’t ever quite know what we are going to be doing.

We had one week of no rain and now the last couple of days it has rained a lot.  A couple of weeks ago it rained so hard that there were a few people in our ward who got flooded.

Well I hope that you are all doing well.  We love you all very much.  Take care.

Mom and Dad/Paula and Ferron

Garden area at Ivan's house

Dad in his element, teaching.

Mom doing part of the presentation. Ivan's wife is in the floral shirt.

Nice gathering area.

Ivan presenting the squash. The Brazilian people are the most generous I've (Emily) ever known.

The soil conditions they're working with. Yikes.

Papaya trees.

The Mazzagardi home.

Mango trees.

January 10, 2016

**My apologies for being late - I've had issues with blogger and this is the first time I've been able to get in!**

Dear family,
Most of the week I have been sick with a bad cold, the one I get every time I come to Brazil.  I am hoping it is a one time thing this time.  I didn't feel like going down to Praia Grande on Wed., but I went anyway armed with Kleenex, Vicks, cough drops, and cold medicine.  When we got to Ivan's house, it was plain to see that it had rained like crazy as part of his property was flooded.  I kidded with him that he now had a private swimming pool.  It was warm and humid and we sat out under a tree with several families.  I had made a questionnaire that I had them fill out about their intentions to work on this gardening project, why, what, how often, etc.  Fernando Souza our Welfare Manager for all of Brazil had to help the older couple fill it out as they could not read or write.  He was very good about it and just asked them some questions.  The circumstances we were in were very humble, but Sister Tomas had made some doughnut holes (except better), and had a lot of fresh fruit and some soda.  In other words, they had done it for us.  Very touching and humbling.  We had bananas right off the tree.  Irmao Tomas (Ivan) had already planted some manga trees and I was happy to see that.  As soon as we get the okay from Salt Lake, we will purchase everything we need to get this going. 

Fernando got things going and then turned the time to us.  Paula had made a flip chart of our presentation and it is good she did because there was no place to do a power point.  So for the first time in over 42 years, I started teaching in Portuguese about the plan of our Heavenly Father to help us all become self-sufficient.  I thought things went well although I made a few mistakes.  We asked questions and got great responses.  We had pictures of the Teton Dam Flood.  Paula showed a picture of her mother and talked about her little garden.  I pretty much left her on her own with the Portuguese and for the most part she did just fine, and the people were appreciative of her effort.  There was a very good spirit there and it was wonderful to feel like maybe we could make a difference in someone's life. One sister had a brand new darling baby and I made sure I visited with her.  She was very proud of the two week old little girl, a beautiful little girl.  The mother was all smiles which tells me that you can make anyone smile when you show genuine interest in them.  As the people left, they all came and said thank you.  I am sure they will all be back again soon.

Sister Tomas was a black belt in judo.  I wouldn't have believed it.  She actually qualified for the Seoul, Korea Olympic Games.  Her coach had warned her about not competing right before the games, but she did and got injured and didn't get to go.  She said she didn't know what hurt the worst, the injury or not getting to go.  She is a sweet lady.  All the people who came just made us feel good and we fell in love with each of them.  One time Fernando, who is my size got up off the bench that he and I were sitting on and I about went flying.  But due to my great athletic agility and band new hip, I avoided a disaster.  Every time after that, anyone sitting on that bench warned everyone when they were going to stand up.  It was pretty funny.  In fact, I got some kind of fruit squished all over my pants but it was no big deal.  They have a young pit bull who is friendly because they treat him well.  When we arrived, he wanted to play and he was standing there with a semi-flat basketball in his mouth which looked very comical.  So we will be going back soon after we get back from Curitiba.

I am spending quite a bit of time translating Portuguese Missionary recommendations into English and I am enjoying it.  I will tell you that these Brazilian missionaries come from (most) very humble circumstances.  Some are the only member in the family and have no parental support, but they express a great desire to serve the Lord Jesus Christ.  I can't help but get a little teary-eyed when i read some of them.  They are so willing.  One young man said he had spent many nights sleeping in the street, but he literally pulled himself out of the mud and eventually became a Sushi Chef..I haven't mentioned any names as everything is confidential.  Some can only afford $2-15 dollars a month for' their support.  Thithing and Fast Offering as well as the Missionary Fund are of great help to many here.  The economy is in really rough shape right now.  When we arrived, it was 3.70 Reais to a dollar.  Now it is 4.04 and rising.  When I see what the Brazilians have to pay in the supermarket it makes me sick.  Oh for the day when the Savior comes again and there will be no poor among us.  Even with all the millions of dollars the Church donates for anything you can imagine, we can never take care of everyone.  But it is like the story of the little boy throwing one star fish at a time out of thousands back into the ocean so they could live.  A fellow asked the boy, "Surely you don't think you are making a difference?"  The boy said nothing but picked up another star fish, threw it into the sea and replied, "It made a difference to that one."  Such is our mission.  We hope we are making a difference to someone.  May the Lord bless each of you and keep you safe while we are gone.  We miss you, but we are here for a reason.

Love You All,

P.S.  We have some wonderful friends who are soon moving to Salt Lake, Carlos and Dagmar Gaspar.  Dagmar is a nurse and is going to get more education.  They are awesome people.  Carlos always calls Dagmar 'Doggie'..  I told him he will have to change that to something else in the USA or people will think he is an abusive husband.  He thought that was pretty funny.  Dagmar and Mom help each other with English and Portuguese.  They were talking a couple of days ago and  Dagmar pronounced the word 'successful' as sucsexful.  Paula waived her finger "no no" can't say that.  As Dagmar realized what she had said she about fell on the floor laughing.  And that is the best way when you are learning a new language, just laugh at yourself with your mistakes.  Their son just got home from a mission in Japan. 

Thursday, January 7, 2016

January 4, 2016

Jan. 4, 2016

Dear Family,
Wow!  It’s already 2016!!  I can’t believe how time flies.  I never ever dreamed when I was little that I would be living at this time!  I know that seems weird, but back then the book 1984 by George Orwell was talked about and that seemed like a long time in the distance.  This should be a good year.  I hope it will be a good year for all of our family and friends.

We had a good time during the holidays.  It was different for us being away from family and we missed everyone a lot but we had a good time anyway.  We have a good group of missionaries here and we spent Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve with them and we had a good time together.  It is nice that we get to talk on the phone or FaceTime whenever we want.  I don’t think I could do this if I wasn’t able to talk to my family and to see them.
One thing we gave ourselves for Christmas was an indoor electric barbeque grill.  You put water in the drip pan so that it doesn’t smoke.  We bought a tri-tip steak and were very excited to cook it on Christmas Day.  Well, the plug didn’t fit the outlet in our kitchen.  I realized then that it was a 220v (well down here I think it is 225v).  The only 220v we have is in our living room behind our sofa.  (It is a red outlet.)  So we pulled out the sofa, moved a little table over and cooked it in the living room!

It was fun to be able to “see” some of our grandkids open up their presents.  We really got a kick out of Lauren rushing in to see what Santa had brought—a storm trooper helmet from Star Wars and a Frozen doll!  They took a picture of her wearing her helmet and holding the doll!  It was cute.  When Jamison opened up his gift from us (a framed picture of the aircraft carrier USS Midway which is now a museum in San Diego and we took him with us), he exclaimed, “I LOVE IT!!”  That made us feel good.

We had a wonderful New Year’s Day.  We spent the day with the Mazzagardi family.  Jairo is a member of the Quorum of the Seventy and he and his wife are our good friends from when we lived down here with our family in 1996.  They have a very beautiful home and yard and it was such a nice escape after being in Sao Paulo.  There is no graffiti anywhere and there are no high rise buildings in their city and you can breathe the air!  Elder Mazzagardi is the one wearing the plaid shorts!  His wife, Elizabeth is next to him.  They are so nice.  They have mango trees, banana trees, coconut palms, and lots of other kinds that we don't have anything remotely like them in the US, at least not in Idaho!  We brought home a couple of fresh picked mangos and are they ever good.

Also at their party were our friends, Edson and Marise de Marques.  They really helped take care of our family when we were here in 1996.  We haven't seen them for 19 years but it was just like old times.  On our way home Junior (Jairo's son) took us to see some other old friends, the Barbour family.  He was the temple president when we were here and we stayed with them before we came home.  Their son Dennis was visiting with his family and it was good to see him again.  He took us all over Sao Paulo many years ago.  He was at our home when Lynn got his Eagle Scout.

It was a very good day and we came home feeling very full.  It will be counted as one of the highlights of our mission.  We were able to take one couple with us, the Hales, and they also said that it was a highlight.

I went with a group of the missionaries to see the museum of art.  Dad decided not to go this time as he had recorded a football game and he wanted to watch it.  There was some paintings from very famous artists, Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh, Raphael,Rembrandt, and Picasso to name a few.  I included one by Renoir.  I really liked his paintings.

This week will be a busy week for us.  We will be going down to the coast on Wed. to start a gardening project.  One man, a member, has a huge yard and he would like to open it up to any ward members, who are struggling, to plant a garden.  We went down last week to meet him and look the place over and this week we are supposed to meet with the people who want to participate.  We've been putting together a presentation about self-reliance and providing in the Lord's way.  Our presentation is taken from Pres. Uchtdorf's talk from the Oct. 2011 Priesthood session.  It is a very powerful talk.  I would encourage all to re-read it. 

Well, we love you all very much.  Hope you have a good week.

Mom and Dad
Paula and Ferron

Dear family,

I drove home from the coast to the temple/office area in SP and we survived.  I feel like the monkey is off my back.  I'm not worried about driving in SP anymore.  Mom said I look way happier and relaxed.  It was a great blessing.  Mom and I taught a wonderful lesson to several families in Praia Grande and we weren't nervous.  We love them and can't wait to go back.  We are real missionaries now!   Love, Dad

PS. I went even though I have a really awful cold.  I felt fine during the lesson and on the way home.  But now I am flat in bed.  It was worth it!

Friday, January 1, 2016

Happy New Year!

Dear Family,

I hope that everyone had a great Christmas.  We were very happy to be able to FaceTime with all of our kids and grandkids and Mom and Lynda and Don.  We looked forward to that more than anything else.  This was the first time that I have ever been away from family for the holidays.  I think I did okay but I really don't recommend it to anyone.  :)  I guess I have to admit that I was glad when the day was over.  Don't get me wrong, we had a nice Christmas Eve and a nice day on Christmas; I just like to be with family.  We have one more to go, but I guess I won't think about that until the next Christmas season!

On Sat. most of the senior missionaries went to see Star Wars together.  It was a lot of fun!  If you haven't seen it already, I would highly recommend that you go see it.  We loved it!  We went to a huge mall to see it and then we went to a Mexican place afterward and had lunch.  I think that it is about the only place around here where you can get Mexican food.  Dad doesn't really like Mexican food but he was a good sport and he did like what he had.

That evening one of the other couples came over and we had a really nice visit.  She is one year younger than me and she went to Rigby High School!  She grew up in Lorenzo!  While they were here we had a giant rainstorm!  I've never seen it rain like that before.  You couldn't see anything out the window.  Yesterday in church they announced that 5 families were flooded on Sat. night.  I guess that for a couple of them it was pretty bad.  It rained really hard again yesterday afternoon and it looks like it is going to rain again today.  The member of the bishopric said yesterday that water seems to be the big problem here--either not enough or too much!  They have been in a bad drought for a couple of years so I'm guessing that these rains are helping the situation.  Down in the south it is raining so much, though, that they are having major flooding.

We are hoping that we get our presentation finished up this week so we can present it next week and then hopefully we will have an assignment to go and actually do something.  It's pretty tough sitting at a desk day after day and try to make up something to do so you look busy.  One of the senior sisters said that she wants to talk to the senior missionary dept. when they get home and let them know what it is like for senior sisters down here.  She goes into the office on Monday mornings and does her report and if she drags out the time, she gets done at around 8:30 a.m. and that's all she has to do for the whole week!  She is teaching an English class one night a week and that helps.  I sure hope that things pick up for us soon.  I think that it is harder on Dad than on me.  One thing he has done that he has enjoyed is writing up some workouts for the young missionaries.  Some of them have been struggling and having too much energy built up and this is helping a ton!  The senior sister missionary who is over mental health has sent it out to all of the mission presidents throughout the entire country.  She is getting some very good feedback.  That makes Dad feel good.

Tonight we are hosting our weekly FHE.  We put together a slide presentation of the Teton Dam Flood and we are showing that and then we have dinner.  I guess it started out as having light refreshments but somehow it expanded so now it's a dinner!  That's okay.  I've kind of enjoyed being in the kitchen today.  I didn't go over to the office today because I had too much to do to get ready.  I've made Borscht and breadsticks and a Brazilian dessert (caramel flan).  They eat a lot of beets down here and we started making Borscht when Evan came home from his mission.  We really like it.  I even found dill at the store and I found out how to make a sour cream substitute and it tastes good so I think we are in business.  I hope everyone likes it.  Dad is bringing a car home to transport the food.  We eat in the apartments that we stayed in back in 1996.  There is a kitchen in the basement.

I hope that everyone has a very Happy New Year!  We love you all very much.  

Mom and Dad/Paula and Ferron