Saturday, February 13, 2016

February 9, 2016

Dear family,

I really enjoyed reading Mom's letter this morning.  I will add a few things.  The ride to Aracatuba was gorgeous.  Farmland as green as green gets.  I was wondering how São Paulo gets its food supply as the supermercados are full always.  After our ride, now I know. The size of the fields is breath-taking and they go farther than the eye can see.  We even saw the Embraer airplane factory.  If you have ever taken a connecting flight to somewhere on a two prop jet engine plane, you have flown on Embraer.  They are the third largest producer of airplanes in the world behind only Boeing and Airbus.  We saw huge sugar factories and thought about Evan.  They produce sugar and alcool (gas for vehicles).  

Arriving in Aracatuba, we checked into the Ibis Hotel, same one we were at in Curitiba.  I sleep good on their beds and they have hot water and AC.  They also have excellent food.  We then headed to the chapel, an area where as a missionary I could have found with my eyes closed.  Yes, we got lost.  So I rolled down the window and asked directions.  We finally made it.  We parked inside the gates to the church.  It sits on the exact property that the old rented chapel sat on when I served there.  Right across the street where we lived in a tiny hut sits a 20 story fancy apartment building.  The corner is now just an empty lot which got me choked up.  There, years ago sat a home in which I baptized all five children in the family.  The oldest, Selma Martins wrote to me after I returned home.  I wonder where they all are.  At that meeting moment I just wished I could hug each of them.  Elder Gallup and I had a funny experience where we lived.  There was a mexerica tree right by our hut and when the fruit was ready, we began eating it over the course of a couple of weeks.  We thought how convenient it was to have breakfast right outside our door.  Then one day our landlady, Dona Alice (pronounced Aleecy), came to our door all excited and cross.  She said, "Elders, make sure you lock your doors at night as their are thieves in the area.  They have stolen all my mexericas right off the tree."  Oops!  We were naive, thinking it was just a tree especially for us.  We didn't dare say anything, but after all these years I wish we would have.  I got to see her in 1993, but she has since passed away.  

As we went into the chapel, there were the elders and many other people helping the cadeirantes get into their new wheelchairs, 109 of them.  We found the organizer and MC of the event in the chapel, Marcio Saito whose father Horacio had been the branch president when I served there.  I was present at Marcio's baptism on his eighth birthday.  He and I had visited together five days before in SP.  He invited us and the Guimaraes to be there.  We sat back toward the cultural hall.  Marcio began the meeting.  He said a lot of kind things to the dignitaries in attendance and for their help in making the event possible.  The Church is well known and highly thought of in Aracatuba.  The first speaker was the vice mayor who really lambasted the federal government for doing nothing for the crippled and maimed people of Brazil.  He then went on to say that if not for the LDS Church, these type of events would never happen.  The Church has done numerous projects there including wheelchairs, painting, cleaning, fixing, donating and many others.  I can tell you that your fast offerings mean everything to both members and non members here in Brazil and around the world.  Several others spoke and really praised the Church and Marcio Saito.  Marcio is a doer and has accomplished much in Aracatuba.  His sister is Elder Costa's secretary and I had a great visit with her and told her how much her father meant to me.  I see her in our offices quite often.  Their brother Marcelo is the stake president in Perdizes here in SP.  He is paralyzed from the neck down and is in a wheelchair.  He still serves valiantly.  Elder Zaugg was at a stake conference and he said after the meeting practically every member of the stake came by to hug him.  The Saitos came from Japan after world war 1 because Brazil had opened it's doors to foreigners.  They have done much good as a hard working and faithful family.

Marcio the surprised us by introducing the two Welfare Program couples who had come from São Paulo.  Then he said, "........And interestingly, Elder Sonderegger served here in Aracatuba 44 years ago just like all these young men you see here today."  I got really teary-eyed.  I never wanted to get transferred from Aracatuba.  I loved the people and it is where I baptized sister Cavinati.  I was a junior companion, but I worked with a young Brazilian companion anywhere from age 5 to age 17 many days as my companion was often in SP for meetings.  Aracatuba is where I learned to be a missionary and that I could do the work with the help of the Lord.  The day I transferred by bus to work in Campinas, all the branch members of Aracatuba gathered at the bus station and began singing hymns to me.  I will always remember that.  Before the meeting, a sister about my mom's age came up and talked to me and said she remembered me.  After the meeting, a fellow came up to me and said that I had been to his home when he was a young boy and taught some discussions.  His father however finally kicked us out.  This young man eventually became a military policeman and then finally joined the Espiritualist Church.  A member of the Presbyterian Church eventually convinced him that the Espiritualist Church was a Satanic Church.  He became so distraught as he then thought, "There is no God and there is no truth."  He decided to commit suicide.  He was 30 years old.  But he then began thinking about the Mormon Church and took the lessons again.  He decided, "My father can no longer stop me from being baptized", and so he did.  He has been a bishop and currently serves in the Stake Presidency.  He just wanted to thank me.  Can you imagine how I felt?  There are no words to describe my feelings.  We never fully know the extension of our efforts until many years later.

After the meetings all of the missionaries wanted their picture taken with the "old" Aracatuba missionary.  If you look at the photo Paula took, there are only four Americans including me.  I never imagined a day when there would be more non-Americans serving here.  Several of the elders in the picture are from Paraguay, Argentina and Peru.  We then went to Marcio's and had a churrasco.  We started eating at 10:30 pm and my system is still not used to that.  But it sure was good.  I got to visit with Marcio's mother who is still alive.  She is a sweet lady and has so much faith.  In 1993, we had our picture taken with the Saito's cute little girl.  She was darling.  Sister Saito, Marcio's wife talked a lot about their two wonderful sons and their accomplishments.  One is living in Salt Lake and the other preparing to go on a missionary.  The one in SLC wants to go to BYUI.  I kind of wondered how their daughter was doing and then all of a sudden, the conversation switched to her and that at age 15 she had committed suicide by jumping off a ten story building.  I was shocked.  They said she had always been so quiet and withdrawn, but that they as parents had not recognized anything.  A woman who saw her jump said she never said anything or cried out, she just jumped.  It was a heart-wrenching story to say the least.  They have created faith that all is now well with their daughter.  

The Guimaraes are awesome.  We love them.  We took them back home which was a miracle.  You just can't believe SP traffic.  Everyone hates it.  The Guimaraes live in what is basically a small cement home.  It is not much to see on the outside, but they have fixed it up nicely on the inside,  They had nice sofas, kitchen appliances and a Flat screen tv and even some Florence Hansen sculptures (we are related).  They are so faithful and have accomplished much.  Sister Saito was looking at Irmai Jose G. And said, "You look familiar."They finally figured out that Elder Guimaraes was the BP and sister Saito served in his branch.  It was really neat to hear their story.  Well, I better quit for now.  We sure enjoy hearing feedback on our emails as we know you read them.  We just enjoy hearing anything from home and those we love and miss so much.

Love you all,


February 7, 2016

Dear family,

We have had a good week this week.  We actually got to do something related to our specific mission call.  On Wed. we went to Aracatuba (the C sounds like an S) to attend the ceremony where a lot of wheelchairs were delivered to those who were in need.  We drove out and took the missionary couple, who are Brazilian, who are over the wheelchair program with us. 

It is about a 6 hour drive and it was absolutely beautiful!  As soon as we got out of the city the scenery reminded me of Wisconsin or eastern Nebraska with rolling hills and completely green.  There were cattle and horses and even a herd of goats!  Soon we were in the farmland; miles and miles of sugar cane (sorry Evan), Eucalyptus tree plantations (tons and tons of them in all stages of growth), coffee fields, an avocado orchard, corn, etc.  It was really refreshing to see the farms.  It only takes 10 years for the trees to get to maturity until they are harvested.  They are used for paper.  

Aracatuba is a city of about 200,000 and was so refreshing after being in Sao Paulo.  By the time we got back to our hotel room Wed. night it was midnight.  As we drove through the city to get to the hotel, everything was quiet.  There wasn't any traffic, there weren't any people on the streets.  People were at home, in bed where they should be at that hour.  Sao Paulo never sleeps!  Also, there was hardly any graffiti which was nice.  Dad worked in that city as a missionary and loved it.  That is where he baptized Beto's mother.  We met several people who knew the Cavinati family.

The ceremony was really neat.  The cultural hall was packed as well as half of the chapel.  Down here they can switch the direction of the pews in the chapel for these kinds of events.  There were city dignitaries there as well as representatives from the Salvation Army and doctors.  There were lots of speeches given and all praised the church immensely.  There were about 20 young elders there who were helping.  It was fun to talk to them.  One of them was from Montana.  We asked where and he said, "South of Billings."  We asked specifically and he said, "Red Lodge."  We told him that we have been there and been over the Bear Tooth Pass.  He got really excited.  He said that he skis up there in July.  He has tried to tell the other missionaries about it but they didn't understand so he was excited to meet someone close to home.  Dad asked him if he had ever been to West Yellowstone and he said lots of times.  We asked if he had ever been to the Playmill and he said, "Yes!  Every summer for my whole life!  We have a cabin on Hebgen Lake."  That was kind of neat.  Of course we told him that my parents helped start the Playmill and he was excited.

We took the Guimaraes couple with us.  They are very short!  She is under 5' I'm sure and he is maybe, barely 5'.  He is on crutches and has been his whole life.  Twenty or so years ago, he spent 3 years straight in the hospital.  He had leprosy.  His hands are all deformed and parts of his fingers are missing.  He still has a big sore on the bottom of his foot but Sis. G. said that he never complains.  They are a fun couple to be with and are very animated, especially her!  They don't speak any English, so for two days I had total Portuguese.  I think that it helped me a lot.  She has only been a member for 9 years.  They were both married previously and have been married for around 9 years.  I think that they must have gotten married shortly after her baptism.  I told them a little about my heritage and now they have invited us to speak at a fireside next month!  It will be good for me.  I already have a short talk prepared about Benjamin Benson.

The wheelchair experience was really neat.  There were wheelchairs lining the hallways of the church and people everywhere.  Some were there to replace their old chairs as they had worn out.  Probably some people turn around and sell them but, from what I understand, most of them are honest about them and get them because they really need them.  They all looked very grateful for that special gift.  A large part of the funding for this program comes from the Humanitarian program of the church.  If any of you have any extra $$, I would encourage you to donate to the Humanitarian fund of the church.  Fast Offerings go to help members only, but the Humanitarian fund helps anyone who is in need, member or not.  Whenever there is a disaster somewhere, the church is there helping out with money and supplies from the Humanitarian fund.  One of the things I am doing down here is preparing reports on Fast Offerings.  It is a huge problem down here with not many members donating and lots are receiving help.  We are working on a plan to try to reverse that trend.  Another thing, I hope that you are all donating a generous Fast Offering.  What I have learned is that the generosity of the saints in the US is what helps the other countries around the world.  There is so much need in the world.  We are really blessed to live in the USA.  Something that was said in our Welfare Training in SLC before we got to Brazil is that people living in the USA are not living in the real world.  The real world lives in complete poverty and we have seen plenty of that down here.  Poverty in the USA is different than in other areas of the world.  We have the poor but I don't think that we have misery.  Even our homeless have places to go to get something to eat.  It is different in the "real world."  Anyway, please give generously.

We had an excursion yesterday with the other senior missionaries.  We went down to the south of the state of Sao Paulo and went to the Cavernas do Diablo (Devil Caves).  It is a cave like the Lewis and Clark Caverns or  other caves in the US.  It was neat.  It got its name because the slaves discovered the cave in the 1890's and they would hide food and other things inside.  When they would go back to get their stuff, it would be gone and they would hear strange noises.  Turns out, it was the monkeys who were coming in and stealing everything!  They thought it was the devil.  It was a fun day but very long.  It is Carnaval weekend and there was a ton of traffic plus all the construction (it is on the way to Curitiba) so the 3 1/2-4 hour ride took about 6 1/2 hours to get there.  We went down in a 15 passenger van.  Sadly, that ride took a huge toll on Dad's back and he is flat in bed today in a lot of pain.

It is Carnaval on Tuesday.  Well they celebrate it for several days but the official day is Tuesday.  It is a very wicked holiday.  Even many of the Brazilians who are not members of the church don't like it.  What is interesting is that Carnaval always falls on the day before Lent.  So after all of the sinning they go to their priest on the first day of Lent or soon after, and buy their forgiveness.  The other churches make a lot of money that way!  Our ward today was short of all of the youth.  All of the wards and stakes down here take their youth on an encampment during Carnaval.  

One last thing.  On Monday morning I discovered a HUGE cockroach in our apartment!  It was about 3" long 3/4" wide and 1/2" thick!  Yuck!! Disgusting!!  It crawled up on our blanket that had fallen off the bed during the night so we took that to the cleaners!  Dad was telling one of the maintenance guys about it and he said, in a very serious way, "The way to get rid of the cockroaches is to paint lipstick on the one and let it go.  All of the others will die from laughing to death!"   HAHAHAHAHA!!!!!  We had a good laugh.

Well have a great week.  Love to all of you.


P.S.  The first pictures are of our wheelchair day.  One of the pictures is with the Guimaraes couple and with Bro. Saito.  The other pictures are of the caverns.  The last one is a fruit stand near the caverns.  They have interesting fruit down here.  The big thing is called Jaca, in Hawaii it is called Jack Fruit.  It grows on trees and is as big as a huge watermelon! 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

January 31, 2016 - From Dad

Monday, Jan. 25th was a holiday here, the birthday of the city of Sao Paulo I think.  So all the American missionaries (us old ones) went to Pico de Jaragua, the highest point in the city.  It is a mountain covered with jungle and we have taken our kids there in 1996.  We hiked up the many many stairs to the huge tower at the top and we had a marvelous view of part of the city and the surrounding areas.  We could not see all the city from there as it is immense.  They have a saying here that goes, "Sao Paulo nao para" (Sao Paulo doesn't stop), and it doesn't.  It goes for ever and ever.  We saw one of the miniature monkeys which is common to the Atlantic Forest here.  There are so cute, but as you kids know (remember Pres. Barbour), they can bite, so we didn't get too close.  While at the top, a Brazilian fellow came over and started showing me all the pictures he had taken on his phone of different kinds of monkeys he had seen that day.  It was really interesting.  We had a good visit about a lot of things for probably over 30 minutes.  I gave him a pass along card.  We then had a picnic that sister Zaugg had prepared and it was wonderful.  She is a really good cook.  She had make homemade rolls for ham sandwiches and a bunch of salads and chocolate cake.  I noticed all day and as we were eating that we were being watched by a lot of people.  As we were finishing, I noticed a lady with her family paying a lot of attention to us and she finally came walking over and went right up to Elder Hart who speaks very little Portuguese.  I could see he was getting a bit nervous so I ran over to save him.  She said, "Who are you?  You are such a beautiful group of people."  So I told her who we are and why we arer here and that most of the men served missions here anywhere from 43-55 years ago.  She was amazed.  I gave her a pass along card.  One family came up to us and said, "Hi elders."  They were members.

We next went over to a small amphitheater and Elder Zaugg began playing his guitar, mostly hymns and we all sang along.  That got a ton of attention.  There were hundreds and hundreds of people up there because of the holiday.  Several came over and I got up and talked to a number of them.  One little girl came over and took a bunch of pictures with her phone.  She couldn't have been more than 8 or 9 years old.  Some came over to practice their English. We stopped at the Villa Lobos Shopping Center (huge, really huge) and went in for some ice cream.  Tons of stores and restaurants of every kind, like Outback, and of course mostly Brazilian restaurants.  I will go out on a limb and say that quite frankly, you would have a hard time finding better restaurants in the USA.  Brazilians know how to cook.  I apartment smells good all the time from the smells coming from our neighbor's kitchens.  Well it was a really great day.

On Wed. Fernando and Paula and I went to Praia Grande on the coast again.  I drove most of the way down and so I got to drive through the chain of mountain tunnels which is pretty cool.  Some are several miles long.  We went down purposely to see the Stake President as we needed a signature from him.  When we got to the church, he wasn't around, so Fernando called and he said he would be there in an hour.  So Fernando decided to visit a few members in the area that he had know when he was a bishop and stake president in the area.  He is from Santos, the neighboring city where Pele played.  The first home we went to made me feel really humble because of how little they had and how much we have.  The family was actually in pretty good shape compared to many in that area.  They are good people, really good people.  For as little as they had, there was the scripture from Matthew 22:36-40 painted in beautiful writing on their wall.  It made me think that the family understands what is most important in life.  They have a spot of ground, very very small, but enough to do a tiny garden.  We will be going back there.  We then visited another family and the sister brought us a lemonade.  As I listened to several people talking with Fernando, I realized that there was a problem.  The good member fellow who originally offered to let other needy families use his large piece of ground for gardens is having second thoughts.  That is where Paula and I held our first training meeting about being prepared and being self sufficient.  All who attended the meeting had the exact same thought about what the project was going to be like.  But the brother has decided differently and he never had the same idea about our presentation as everyone else.  So I was feeling a little discouraged.

We finally met with the Stake President, Presidente Vallafan.  As soon as he began to talk to us, I could see why he hadn't signed the paper.  The situation wasn't right.  He was really wise not to sign.  He must be a man about late 30's.  I really liked him and could feel the strength of his testimony.  There were quite a few of us discussing the problem with Paula the only sister in the room.  One fellow, another young member is in charge of taking care of the grounds of 30 different chapels in the area.  So in reality, he is an accomplished gardener.  So he has been assigned to lead out on this or be what we call the "Champion" of the project, making sure that things keep moving along.  Paula and I are ready to start buying seeds and tools.  Brother Mauro will be looking at things like topsoil and materials for building box type gardens.  I really like him a lot.  He had a lot of insights and we are excited to work with him.  One neat thing happened which was unexpected.  We had visited briefly with a brother in the SP temple while waiting in the lunch line.  I mentioned that I was happy they had some pasta today and he said he was too.  He said, "I am a polenteiro which made me laugh.  It is just a made up word which basically means, "I am a polenta lover".  I said, "Oh you must have some Italian blood in you."  He replied, " Through and through."  So midway during our meeting that night, in he walks to the Stake President's office and the first things he says after looking around was, "Hey, I know you."  We laughed and gave each other an abraco.  He is the stake executive secretary.  Well we finally got the signatures we needed.  I had a chance to tell some of them about by father's experience (He was the stake president of the stake that was hit the hardest) with President Kimball at the time of the Teton Dam Flood in 1976.  I had everyone's attention.  Dad asked Pesident Kimball if he might be able to do two meetings on a Sunday so all the members could hear him.  The Hart building on campus couldn't hold everyone.  So here is the Prophet, the most powerful man in the Church and Dad has just asked a favor of him.  I can imagine that some people in different positions of power would have replied, "Don't you know who I am and how busy I am.  Who do you think you are asking me a question like that."   But this great prophet simple replied to dad, "President, I will do whatever you ask me to do."  Dad got some tears.  He had a great love for President Spencer W. Kimball.  

As the meeting ended, I said, "Before we leave, I have something I would like to say.  Tonight I have learned a lot.  This is the way the Savior would want us to proceed with this project.  We came here in the spirit of of listening and learning from each other.  I know the Savior is happy with the decisions that have been made here tonight.  I love you all."  I got a little choked up and so did they.  Then I looked at President Villafan and said, "President, I owe you an apology."  He turned and said, "No you don't Elder."  I replied, "I do.  I was a little irritated that you would not sign the form and send it back to me.  It seemed such a simple thing to do.  Now after this meeting, I know why you wouldn't and I apologize."  A few tears and another big hug.  I felt like I had known all those men my entire life.  I am excited to go back and work with them some more.  That night was probably the first time that mom and I felt like real missionaries.  We felt like we could make a difference.  My attitude has changed from being terribly homesick to wondering what steps we need to take next.  I can see that we have a ton of work to do now.  The Lord had several reasons that He wanted us to be in that meeting and one was that we need to understand that He is in charge, that He loves us and that He will direct us.  He opened His vision of what needs to be done and we could see quite a lot of it for the first time.  We still have a way to go and a lot of work, but I know that the Lord and His son Jesus Christ are directing this work.  It made our whole week and we came home filled with more love for the Lord and for the Brazilian people.

So we have been busy getting other forms signed, meeting with another brother to do a food project at his home just a mile from us, and getting ready for other assignments.  I happened to see a piece of paper at the copy machine that had been left there.  Without trying to pry, I quickly saw two things: the name Marcio Saito and 109 wheel chairs.  So I wrote to Marcio Saito and told him we were here in SP.  He immediately wrote back.  You see, Paula and I stayed with him and his wife in 1993 in the city of Aracatuba where I served as a young missionary and where his father Horacio was the branch president.  I was at the baptisimal font the day that Marcio at age 8 was baptized.  Marcio invited Paula and I to represent the Welfare Department on Wed. Feb.3rd in Aracatuba when they give out the wheel chairs to 109 people who currently have no means of getting around.  Fernando said that we should go.  We are taking brother and sister Guimaraes with us.  The are the wheel chair missionaries and we love them very much.  Brother Guimaraes himself uses crutches.  I asked him one day how long he had used them and he said, "All my life."  The bones in his legs did not grow correctly and were very weak.  He is also mission parts of some of his fingers but i haven't every asked him about that.  He is a very small man with a very huge heart.  I could pick him up easily even with my fused back.  He has a great sense of humor and always laughs at my dumb jokes.  He is from the city of Bauru which we will pass through on the way to Aracatuba.  I said the other day to him, "We can eat a bauru in Bauru," and he went away laughing and saying, "Ha ha, a bauru in Bauru."  A bauru is a ham and cheese sandwich with tomato.  I guess it was dad humor, but Elder Guimaraes thought it was really funny.  

I guess that is about it  I think I will let mom tell about our shopping experience on Rua Joao Paulino in the center of SP.  Very interesting and some humorous things.  I love all of you.  I know the gospel of Jesus Christ is the way to lasting happiness.  I know that the Father and the Son have great love for all of their children in spite of the hard and horrible things we see happening all over the world.  Some time I will tell you why I think the Lord allows these things to take place.  It is not an easy thing to understand, but I do know that He loves everyone.

All My Love,

Elder Sonderegger

More pictures

I had to make another email for the other photos.  The first are of our picnic on the mountain and the monkey in the tree.  One is of Dad and the man he talked to on the top.  The last is of the shopping experience.  You can only see a fraction of the area but maybe you can get an idea.  

January 31, 2016

Dear Family,

I know that I just wrote but since I hadn't written for a while I was just catching up.  I have a few more things to write about today.  First of all, Tuesday makes 3 months since we started our mission!  I can't believe that it has already been that long.  I wish I had more experiences to write about but they are staring to come.  It's just been a slow process.

Last week I did something that I've never done in my life........I taught our Gospel Doctrine class!  Most of the senior missionaries meet together for class and we have our class in English.  Our teacher was in the U.S. visiting his son for a couple of weeks so we took turns to teach.  He was supposed to be home for last Sunday but got caught in the storm that hit the east coast so he wasn't able to leave until Tues.  We had planned to have someone teach since he was supposed to get home very late on Sat.  Anyway, that lot fell to me!  I have never done that before and I wasn't thrilled to teach it but I think that it went very well. 

 Something happened before class started that I've never seen ever in my life.  All of a sudden a young lady and an old gentleman (the oldest man in our ward) appeared in our room and she said that he wanted to sing for the missionaries.  She was his granddaughter.  She led him to keep him on beat and he sang, in broken English, "You'll Never Walk Alone."  He wanted to give his appreciation to all of us for the sacrifice that we are giving.  It was very touching.  Dad took a picture with his ipad and I'm glad that he did.  It wasn't fair to me to have to teach after that!

Last Monday was a holiday so we planned a special excursion to the top of a mountain north of Sao Paulo.  We took our family up there in 1996 and had a picnic.  Because of the holiday it was packed with people.  We climbed up the steps to the base of the radio towers and saw a view of the city like you've never seen before!  I took for or five shots to try to get it all in but I think it would probably take several more to do it justice.  You just can't believe the immensity of this city!  We saw a little monkey in a tree.  Someone told Dad that there were jaguars that live in the forest around the area.  

Dad was able to talk to a man who seemed like a "golden contact."  He seemed really interested in the church.  Dad gave him a pass along card so I hope that he will call the number on the back.  We had a picnic at the base of the big hill and then we gathered in a little amphitheater and sang songs about the mountains and we shared spiritual experiences about being in the mountains.  I told about Aunt Mary Lou and Aunt Marilyn's experience about Darby Girl's Camp.  A couple of the other missionaries had heard about it.  Dad told about his experience in Yellowstone Park when the crane fell onto the building he was working on and would have crushed him if he hadn't been warned by the Holy Ghost.  When we were singing, people were really staring at us and some took pictures of our group!

On the 23rd, we went to a place in the city called Liberdade which is Japan Town.  I think I mentioned that but I didn't share any of the pictures.  One is of the crossing sign on the corner.  I think that Dad is in it also, but look at the "don't walk" sign.  I thought it was cute.  We took a couple of pictures of a little food market because the fruit or food was so different looking that I wanted a picture of it.  I've never seen anything like some of the food down here.  Dad talked to a man about the fruit so he is also in our picture!

Yesterday Dad and I went shopping with Dagmar Gaspar and her mother.  I've never seen anything like this area in my life!  I seem to keep saying that!  It is a street, several blocks long maybe even 1/2 mile, that has one clothing store after another on each side.  I bought some clothes for me which I really needed.  I was able to get 3 skirts, 1 pair of jeans, 1 top and a couple of boy's soccer shirts all for less than $100!  The only trouble is that the sizing is way different than back home and you can't try anything on.  You have to put in on over your clothes out in the middle of the store!  There was one store where you could actually go and try something on regular like, but when I got to the area it was one room (bedroom size) full of women, in all sorts of undress, trying on clothing!  Well you know me, I wasn't about to undress in front of anybody so I just didn't look around me at all and slipped the top on over my clothes!  I didn't buy it!  I even actually tried a skirt on outside on the sidewalk and ended up buying it!  Luckily everything fit when I got home.  The other thing about that shopping area is that it is in a very bad part of the city.  To get to it you have to walk past people laying all over the sidewalks, some of them doing drugs and others waiting for a pick-up.  It was basically the red-light district.  I don't think that we will be going back.

On Thursday, Fernando asked me to make a chart that shows the 5 year welfare plan for Brazil.  Luckily I've got Shelley to give me pointers as this chart will be given to the Presiding Bishopric and to Elder Holland!  Fernando said that we have a secret weapon!

This week we will be going to Aracatuba to assist is giving out wheelchairs.  Fernando wants us to take pictures to document the process.  It is about a 6 hr. drive out to the interior of the state of Sao Paulo.  I've been there before in 1993.  Dad worked there for several months when he was on his mission.  On Friday a man named Mario Saito came to visit us and he is from Aracatuba.  Dad was in attendance at his baptism when he was an 8 year old boy.  He has stayed faithful all his life.  We are going to be taking another couple with us this week.  They don't speak any English and they are fun to be around.  I really like them a lot.  They are actually the missionary couple assigned to the wheelchair program but he can't drive.  Next week I'll have some pictures of them.

I love you all very much.  Have a good week.


January 29, 2016

Dear Family,

Sorry it's been awhile since I've written.  One of the problems was that somehow all of our mission pictures got deleted from off of our computer!  I was trying to organize them and then all of a sudden, they were all gone!  I had also emptied my recycle bin so I was feeling sick.  I took our computer over to the office this week and a young man in the technology dept. was able to recover almost all of them.  I was very grateful to say the least!

Another reason that I haven't written much is that there really hasn't been all that much to write about.  It seems like everyday is the same.  Once in awhile we have a little more to do and that does help.  We did go to Curitiba a couple of weeks ago to deliver some wedding dresses from the Bishop's Storehouse here in Sao Paulo to the Bishop's Storehouse in Curitiba.  It was a long, trip; just down and back.  It took us about 6 hrs. to get down there and a little over 5 to get back.  There was a lot of construction on the way and we got stuck in it for a while on our way down.  We took time to do one relaxing thing while we were there.  We went to the Botanical Gardens and they were beautiful.  It is a huge park with about every kind of exotic plant that you could dream of.  I took a picture of the borders of begonias that will make everyone back home very jealous!  I hope that it was one of my recovered pics!

We went to the zoo one Sat. and that was fun.  I'm afraid that a bunch of my zoo pictures were not recovered.  I guess that means that we will have to go back.  :)  Mostly I took pictures of the flowers on the trees.  You've just never seen anything like the foliage down here.  It is just gorgeous!  The flowers are so different looking and they are beautiful.  Picture a huge tree covered in blossoms like a bed of petunias or something like that.  There is always something in bloom and in just about every color.  Brazil is a beautiful country.  Our trip to Curitiba was breathtakingly beautiful!  The rainforest is so dense that it would be very difficult to walk through it without a machete.

We are trying to get two garden projects started.  We have one down in Praia Grande (on the coast) and another one very close to where we live here in Sao Paulo.  We have been down to Praia Grande three times now and this last time, yesterday, was the most productive.  It looks like the way we had our project set up is not going to work out that well.  What was going to be one very large garden serving many families is now going to be a bunch of little gardens, each serving their own family.  It will probably work out better that way.  Then no one can blame someone else for not doing their part.  We have been putting together a list of supplies and seeds, etc.   The people down there are very poor, but they are also very humble and very sweet.  I have had several hugs and kisses down there.  We are very blessed to be from the U.S.A.

Our meeting last night with the Stake Pres. down there and the bishop and then two of the participants was very good.  It was like a council is supposed to be.  We went down (over an hour away) a little irritated that the Stake Pres. just wouldn't sign the papers and email them back to us.  After being there and going over all of the concerns, we were glad and realized that that is the way things are supposed to happen.  We have been given guidelines and channels of authority for a reason.  The Stake Pres. is very young (probably Diane's age) but he is very wise.  The dynamics of our project changed completely and I'm sure it will be for the better.

One of the things I do is to put together the end of month/year fast offering reports.  I have to use excel and PowerPoint, which I had never done before.  To make matters even harder for me is that all of my instructions were given in Portuguese!  This month I was completely on my own and it took me a little longer than normal to get it done.  Needless to say, our big meeting with the important people had to be postponed for a few days.  I know that next month I will be much faster and more accurate with it.

Little by little Fernando is giving me a few more things to do.  Today I have finished a chart showing the 5-year welfare plan for Brazil.  This chart will be given to the Presiding Bishopric and to Elder Holland!  Thankfully, I have Shelley to give me some pointers so that it looks better!

I've attached a few pictures of the gardens in Curitiba and a couple of the zoo.  The one animal looked really funny just laying on its back with its legs up. 

We love you all very much.  Hope you are all doing well.  It was good to "see" some of you at Mom's birthday party.  I was glad that I could be part of it.  Have a good week.


P.S.  Next Wed. we are going to Aracatuba (the c sounds like an s) to deliver wheelchairs.  We are taking the couple over wheelchairs with us.  They are not able to drive themselves.  It is about a 6 hr. drive to the northwest of here.  It is another trip where we will go down one day and back the next but it will be a change of scenery.

PPS I forgot to tell you something.  Two weeks ago when we were at the store I went up to a worker and asked (in Portuguese) if they had any batteries and that I needed a 9-volt battery.  "Voce tem pilhas?  Eu preciso uma nove volta."  He took me to the isle where they were and then he asked me, "Are you from Portugal?"  I laughed and said no the United States!  Then he wanted to practice his English.  

Last Sat. we were at an area in Sao Paulo called Liberdade which is the equivalent of Japan Town.  There are more Japanese people living in Brazil than anywhere else in the world, except Japan.  I think that the first immigrants (or emigrants, I can't remember which) came in 1908.  Anyway, there were lots of tents set up with people selling their wares.  I asked one man how much his item was (only I think I asked him how old he was!) and then he asked me if I was Japanese or Spanish!  I guess that is saying that my Portuguese is coming along a little bit.  

I made a goal this year to study everyday and to try to talk to someone each day.  It is really helping me.  I still have a very long way to go but I am trying.  Whenever I say something to someone, which is usually a three or four word sentence, they say, "Oh you  speak Portuguese so well."  Sometimes I only get one or two words out and then they say that!  

We saw a woman in the store last night who is in our ward and she also works on our floor at the office.  I haven't ever talked to her before but we talked to her for quite a while and I understood almost everything that she said.  She spoke slower than others and it was easier to understand her.  I said some things to her also.  She hasn't ever said anything to me in church either but I can almost guarantee it that tomorrow I will be like her best friend!  I will get a hug and a kiss I'm sure!

Dad and I are going shopping with Dagmar and her mother this morning.  I need some extra clothes and they are taking us to an area that sounds amazing.  We invited all of the other missionaries to go as well but now it is just us.  They are all going to another activity and I wish that we could go with them as well but we are committed to go shopping.  Oh well.  It will be an adventure.

Love you all,