Wednesday, September 28, 2016

One more update from Dad

Dear Family,

Well, we finally realized our dream to see the Amazon River.  We took a 9:30 a.m. flight on LATAM (Brazil's top airline) to Manaus which is in the middle of the jungle.  The population is approx. 2.6 million.  When you arrive and realize that the only way in or out is by boat or airplane.  You can travel north to the state of Roraima on a highway, but there are no roads coming from the popular and richer Southern Brazil. The trans-amazonia highway isn't really an option because it is closed most of the time and is in disrepair or destroyed my Mother Nature.  Eduardo Urtecho, the manager/owner of the tourist agency was waiting for us with a sign that said, "Paula Sonder".  We figured it out okay.  He took us to the Tropical Hotel Manaus on the banks of the Rio Negro, a 1400 mile black water river and the largest tributary of the Amazon.  It begins in Colombia.  The water is black because of all the vegetation that is constantly decaying.  During the high water season, all the animals including the jaguars live in the tops of the trees.  In the dry season, they all come down.  In some places our small boat was on, the river was 3-4 miles wide, but during the wet season, it can be as wide as 19 miles.  We felt like we were out on the ocean.  I am getting ahead of myself.  Our room was pretty good and the restaurant was good.  We had frango a milanesa or chicken fried chicken.

Boy, it sure is hot and humid here.  You sweat like crazy even when you are just sitting around.  We went to the 4:30 p.m. session in the Manaus Temple which also sits on the bank of the Rio Negro.  It is a gorgeous temple inside and out.  Not real big, but beautiful.  We were warmly greeted.  The session leader said that he hoped his American friends felt welcome and that we would come again.  The session was really enjoyable, partly because of the air conditioning, but the spirit was present.  We could not help but think of the caravans from Manaus to São Paulo in the past which took several days on the river and several days on a bus to get to the temple.  Often, the people would run out of food and water.  It was a great sacrifice for them to go 1800 miles to the temple.  Elder Costa, the Brazil Area President told a story of a family who sold all their belongings to have enough money to go to the temple and be sealed.  Elder Costa was the first president of the Manaus Mission.  He told of how happy the family was that they had furniture to sell so that they could go.  A couple of years later, Elder Costa went back to visit this family.  When he entered the home, he noticed that it was furnished again.  He said to the father, "It is nice to see that you have everything back in your home", to which the father replied, "Yes, isn't that wonderful.  Now we can sell everything again and go to the temple one more time."  Such is the attitude of the people here and the sacrifices they are willing to make.  President Lopes (temple president) was very nice to us and we had a good visit with him.  He was born in the state of Minas Gerais.  He speaks very good English.  He served as the mission president of the Maceió mission some years ago.  Although we did not ask, he took us back to the hotel.  

The next morning, we went on the city tour, mostly by foot after we got to the centro.  We started at the Manaus Opera House or Amazon Theater whose construction was finished in 1896.  It was a very ornate building with French glass and Italian marble.  It is the home of the Amazon Philharmonic Orchestra.  Many well known musicians and opera singers as well as other musical entertainers, choirs and orchestras come to Manaus to perform.  They were rehearsing while we were there and a fellow on the trombone was an American who was the invited guest for several performances.  You may wonder how a city in the middle of the Amazon River Basin could be so large.  Well, Manaus was the first city in Brazil to have electricity and telephones.  Why, because of the rubber boom.  In the 19th century, it was one of the richest cities in the world, controlled by the rubber barons.  There was much influence on the architecture of the city from the French and the Italians.  When the rubber boom was over, Manaus fell into disrepair and suffered for a long time.  Today it is the center of ecotourism and many biologists and zoologists all over the world spend lots of time here.  It is also a duty-free zone and the port of Manaus is very important to the economy of all of Northern Brazil.  We walked downhill through the city and headed to the old marketplace, The Mercado Adolpho Lisboa founded in 1882.  We went through the vast fish market where there were numerous people cleaning and cutting up every kind of fish imaginable, none of which we had ever seen.  It was interesting to see how busy the fish market was.  There was also a large area of fruit and vegetables.  Much of the fruit cannot be found elsewhere in the world unless it is imported.  The açaí berry is found in this region and is very popular for drinks, ice cream and just to eat.  We stopped at a small restaurant and had a meal of rice and beans and a fish called the "Pirarucu", a freshwater fish that gets 10-11 feet long and weighs up to 450 pounds.  It was pretty good.  It was quite an experience to see how busy the marketplace was.  It is definitely a whole lifestyle for many people here.  A couple of times I felt as though someone was going to pickpocket or rob us, but each time I turned the person would quickly move away.  We headed back to the hotel and took a walk through the hotel zoo which was a lot of fun.  We saw a jaguar (onça) and they are so beautiful.  They have the most powerful jaws of any animal in the world with the exception of a hippopotamus.

The next day, we went on a small and very nice bus to our island resort on the Rio Negro.  When I got on the bus, I sat next to a young Brazilian fellow and began speaking to him in Portuguese.  He answered in English and told me he was from Israel.  His name is Itamar Tsror.  He is one of the nicest young men I have ever met.  He had served three years in the Israeli Army and was touring all over the world and decided to check out Brazil.  For the next 2 and 1/2 days, we talked about Israel, the Abrahamic Covenant, the Ten Tribes, the Second Coming, etc.  He was amazed that our religion takes such an interest in Israel and that we believe they are the 'Chosen People'.  I was able to talk freely to him about the ties we share.  Later that night, he came to me and said, "Is it okay if we talk some more.  I want to ask some questions."  So we did.  I had him read Joseph Smith's account of the first vision.  He liked that.  I had him read D&C 19:27 which says, "Which is my word to the Gentile, that soon it may go to the Jew, of whom the Lamanites are a remnant,that they may believe the gospel, and look not for a Messiah to come who has already come."  I told him that there are Jewish people who are already beginning to accept Jesus Christ as the Messiah who already came and that more and more Jewish people will begin to accept Him.  Ross Baron, formerly of the Religion Department at BYU-I and now the Associate Dean of Curriculum, is the first Jewish stake president in the Church.  I sent Itamar an email today and he wants to keep in touch with me.  He gave me his mailing address in Israel.  It was a great experience with a really great young man.  He enjoyed talking to us, enjoyed our company and is interested in finding out more about the Church.  One thing I didn't say was that when I sat by him and found out who he was, a voice said to me, "If you don't open your mouth, how else are my people going to learn of me and change their thinking about me."

That night we went for a boat ride with our little Caboclo guide Fábio.  He is not 5´tall.  He spoke good English and was completely at home in the jungle.  When I asked him if he ever goes to Manaus, he said, "Only if absolutely necessary."  Then pointing to the forest he said, "This is my city."   He stopped the motor and began lightly paddling and then stopping to listen and to watch.  Eventually after quite some time, we began to see more birds and then a lot of different kinds of monkeys.  Soon we saw some small gray dolphins which Fábio said weighed about 30-35 lbs.  They were having a great time in the river.  The river area and the jungle are so vast.  You could get lost so easy.  We were grateful that Fábio was taking us all around and knew exactly what he was doing.  We saw lots of fishermen placing their nets in the river.  I say river, but where we were you could not tell if you were in a river or not.  Water everywhere, but little and big islands her and there and little coves and entrances everywhere.  The fishermen hate the piranha because they make holes in their nets.  As we would approach them, they would signal to Fábio where there nets were so he wouldn't go over them and ruin them.  Finally got back after a very wonderful evening, just in time for dinner.  We had a choice of fish and more fish as the main dish.  They cut the head off of a fairly large fish, the tambaqui, which can weigh 90 lbs., grill it and serve it.  It tasted really good, although Paula liked it more than I did.  Then it was off to bed.  There was no air conditioning, no fan, a thin mattress and humidity off the charts.  It was a miserable night.  So much for the idea we had that we were going to these cute little air-conditioned huts up in the tree branches.

The next day we went to another island and went hiking through the jungle.  Fábio showed us mahogany trees, Brazilian rosewood trees (rare, as the Portuguese shipped most of it back to Portugal), Brazil Nut trees, Açaí tree (Very hard to get to the fruit), and lots of other cool things.  There was a hanging anthill in a tree that Fábio hit three times with his machete and 1000's of ants came pouring out.  He promptly put his hand in the middle of them and his hand turned dark with them.  But none of them bit him.  He then began wiping them(smashing them) back and forth on this arms and then had us smell his arms.  There was a distinct odor, not unpleasant at all.  He said, "That is our insect repellent and it works better because it is safer than chemicals."  He showed us several holes that armadillos had dug and then we cam across a mound of dirt with a fist size hole in it.  He told us that Shelob was in there (just kidding).  He told us that there was a big spider in there and said, "Lets see if we can coax her out."  He took a long thin stick and carefully moved it into the hole and then very shortly, the largest spider we have ever seen appeared.  She did not appear to be upset, just curious, but wow was she huge.  Just her head was the size of a silver dollar and very large fangs, legs that went forever and all in all, a very formidable and hairy thing.  She got tired of us and went back inside, probably to have a snack.  

Later in the afternoon, we took off to see the pink dolphins (boto).  About 2/3's of the group got into the water and one of the guides got on and coaxed them in with fish.  Fábio told me that the tourists aren't allowed to feed the fish because they don't let go of them quickly enough and they get bit.  He wondered why we weren't going in and I said we didn't bring swim suits and would have to go in only our birthday suits.  He didn't know what a "birthday suit" was so I told him what it mean't.  He and all the other guides thought that was pretty funny.  We were kind of glad we didn't go in because the floating house where the dolphins came had a toilet and yes, it emptied into the river right by us.  After that, we went piranha fishing.  You may think it would be easy to catch one, but they are so quick.  They take the meat off the hook like lightening.  Mom caught the first one and I caught the biggest one.  We were pretty lucky to do that.  I really enjoyed it though but the way Fábio was running around on the boat, I thought he might fall in.  I finally had him hand me the chicken meat/fat and told him I could bait the hook myself.  He seemed happy about that.  On the way back to our island, I noticed a pencil sized hole next to me in the boat.  There was a lot of water coming in.  I couldn't tell Fábio because he was too far away and the motor too loud.  So I took a banana peel and carefully poked it down into the hole and kept working it in until there was no leak, not a drop.  I showed Fábio when we got back and he said, "Oh, you are becoming like us."  The night was not good.  I hadn't had a shower for almost three days and decided that orange water or not, I was taking a shower.  During the night, I got eaten alive by borrachudos (a black blood sucking gnat - no exaggeration).  I have about 25-30 bites on my legs and a few on my hind end.  They are all blistered and red and very ugly.  I had to go to the doctor on Monday and they said that the bites were infected and put me on an antibiotic and some anti-itch medication (thank you).  They appear to be getting better.

The next day, we headed for yet another island where we met a tribe of indigenous people.  They were all dressed in leaf skirts and or loin cloths and that was it.  Hadn't expected that.  They danced for us several times and then came and took us by the hand and we danced with them.  Up to that point in my life, I hadn't danced with naked ladies.  A 13-14 year old girl was my partner.  So what do you do?  I just danced and didn't worry about it.  It was actually very innocent and of no consequence.  I had some pretty tender feelings watching them all, but especially the little ones.  I reminded myself that they were Heavenly Father's children just as much as me.  I asked the chief if I could pick up one of the children as I was missing my grandchildren and he said yes.  "Will she cry?"  He said she wouldn't and she didn't.  When I went to put her down I gave her a kiss on the cheek, for her, and for my grandchildren.  We bought a couple of things from them.  A little boat made of Brazilian rosewood and a type of wind instrument that mom liked.  We gave Fábio a tip and then got in a boat and headed for our ride back to Manaus.  When we got there, Eduardo was there waiting.  Mom and I and sister Cox got in his truck and the Burkes went in a car with Eduardo's son who I had given a Book of Mormon.  We went across the 1.5 mile bridge and into Manaus.  Eduardo looked at me and said, "Can I ask you some questions about the Mormons?"  So we  talked back and forth for over an hour.  It was wonderful.  He even wondered who was on top of the temple and so I told him about Moroni.  I won't take any longer to talk about our conversation, but he absolutely wants to know more and wants a Book of Mormon.  I am sending him a book, a history of my great great grandfather John Watkins (in Portuguese), the book "Our Legacy" and a letter with my testimony.  He was a really sincere man and had such a good spirit about him.  We talked like we had known each other for years.

Eduardo took us to the port where we got on a bigger motor boat (covered) and headed out on the Amazon River to see the "Encontro das Aguas" (the meeting of the rivers).  The Rio Negro which is black in color joins up with the Rio Solimões which comes from the Andes Mountains and is a tan, muddy color, about two kilometers out into the river.  You can see it on Google Earth.  As the rivers first touch, they don't mix for several miles but run side by side as if a line had been drawn the middle.  The Rio Negro is 9 degrees warmer than the Rio Solimões.  Science can't completely explain this phenomena.  It has something to do with density and temperature.  It is awesome to see.  This is where Brazilians officially say the Amazon begins it't 4000 mile journey to the sea.  It was so awesome to see this.  There is more water coming our of the mouth of the Amazon in one day than in one month of the Mississippi River.  This has been a great experience in every way with the exception of the bites.  Seeing the Amazon is worth it and it surely gives you a different perspective on what God is capable of creating.  He must have really enjoyed getting the Amazon region set up with all it's different plant, animal, bird and fish species (more than 600 kinds of fish in the Amazon River).  Well, I have rambled too much, but I am pretty sure that my grandchildren will enjoy hearing about our experience.  Love all of you very much.

Com Muito Carinho,

Dad - Grandpa

Photos from Manaus

1.  Shows the level of the Black River for different years.
2.  Fish market
3.  More fish market-Jamison would like the machete!
4.  This roadway is closed during the high water season.  You can see the water line.
5.  The bridge across the Black River-it is 1 1/2 miles long!
6.  The beach along the river in Manaus

1.  Boat we rode on to the island
2.  Our room
3.  Cashew tree with fruit right outside our room
4.  Jungle-you can see how much the water has receded
5.  Our guide catching caiman 
6.  No explanation needed :)

1.  Dad caught a piranha.  He is also holding onto the fish one of the other people caught.
2.  I also caught a piranha-the second fish I have ever caught in my life!
3.  cool reflection
4.  another cool reflection
5.  Sunset on the river that seems like the ocean!
6.  Indian chief

1.  This little boy reminds me of Joshi because he was so serious and determined in his dancing.  I tried to send a video but it is too big of a file to send.  He is holding his pet sloth.
2.  This is the type of boat we went in.  That is Shirley waving.
3.  A picture of one of the dances
4.  The dancers
5.  Our guide, Fabio
6.  Heading to the boat dock

1.  anthill in a tree
2.  Brazil nut tree
3.  Our guide calling out the spider
4.  Giant tarantula-if it was spread out it would be as big as a dinner plate!
5.  swimming with the pink dolphins-they are different that the other fresh water dolphins
6.  The "tunnel" we would go through to get to different areas of the river

1.  On the speed boat on the Amazon
2.  The two rivers meet
3.  Better view of the two rivers.  The muddy water is cool and the black water is warm.
4.  Huge ships on the Amazon
5.  There are water lilies and other vegetation in the Black River


Update from Dad

Dear Family,

I have gotten way behind on my letters.  So I will start with an experience with sister Neusa Manetta, a widow in our ward.  Some time ago, we bought tools and garden seeds for sister Manetta and then Julio Sales Souza and myself bought some soil and fertilizer and hauled that over to her humble home.  She lives on a property where at least three other families live, all relatives and hers is the last little house on the end, sandwiched in between 5-6 25 story apartment buildings.  The challenge for her garden will be `sunlight`.  On a Saturday, about three weeks ago, Vitor Souza, myself and Brother Bellini went over to fix up her garden spot.  Vitor and I went to the LeRoy Merlin store and got a few things we needed and then we started to build her a hanging garden with several plastic planters that we had and we utilized some old rain gutter.  We filled those up with a mix of dirt and steer manure and then did some planting.  Her son asked me how to plant something.  I was a little shocked that he had no idea how to do that.  So I hoed a little row, got some carrot seeds and lightly sprinkled them in, covered them, and tamped the soil down.  He then did a row and he was quite pleased.  Some things we really do take for granted.  I had purchased a few live plants and we planted those.  We got her some insect spray as that can be a major problem here, far more than in our colder climate of Idaho.  It turned out looking really nice and sister Manetta was so pleased.  She was baptized in Sao Paulo in 1972 when I was a missionary here.  She attended the well known Pinheiros chapel in the city which was next to the mission home.  Both those have been torn down since and the Church sold the property (actually my mission president, LeRoy Drechsel sold it on behalf of the Church) and with that money purchased the land where the SP temple now stands.  Sister Manetta made us a lunch and also a dessert later on in the afternoon.  She is a sweet lady.  She always calls me "irmaozinho" which means "little brother".  She is maybe 5'-0 tall and that is stretching it a bit.  We had a real good time doing that.  We will keep tabs on her and how it is all doing.

The next day I was the closing speaker in sacrament meeting.  I was given the topic of "The Power of the Priesthood".  I told a story to begin of Elder L. Tom Perry when he gave a blessing to one of my high jumpers, Tom Clymore.  Tom had placed third at the national meet in Texas with a jump of 6-11 and 1/2".  He was coming back for his sophomore year and I was excited for him.  While doing a workout in the Fall Semester, doing 30-40 dunks to work on his timing and condition his legs to jump, Tom came down wrong (and he could get way up there) and tore all the cartilage and every ligament in the knee of his take-off leg.  It was devastating.  I thought that in all likelihood his career as a high jumper was over.  He and his parents decided to have the surgery done in Rexburg.  I think it was probably Dr. Larsen.  After the surgery on a Tuesday afternoon, Elder Perry had come to be the devotional speaker.  After the devotional, I went back to my office, finished up some things and headed home.  As I walked down the hallway in the Hart building, a voice came to me that said, "Call Elder Perry to give Tom a blessing."  I was a little startled and I even told the voice, "We are not supposed to ask for blessings from the General Authorities but from our local priesthood leaders."  I kept on walking.  The voice came again and this time said, "Go back to your office and call Elder Perry."  I turned around and went back.  In my office I was trying to figure out how I could possibly get ahold of Elder Perry when he was already in all probability gone.  I called President Steve Bennion's office.  His secretary answered and I somewhat apologetically told her my request and why.  She was gone for a minute and came back on the phone to say, "Elder Perry and President Bennion will meet you at the hospital in ten minutes."  When I arrived, Elder Perry on hearing my name wondered if my father was "Stub Sonderegger", the great Aggie football player and captain.  I told him yes.  He seemed to have a lot of respect for Dad.  President Bennion anointed Tom and then Elder Perry sealed the anointing.  In the blessing, Elder Perry promised Tom that he would yet recover and jump higher than he ever had before.  I was a little astonished at those words and even had the thought, "Elder Perry, don't you understand that Tom's knee is totally shredded?"  Oh me of little faith.  Tom came to me a couple of weeks later and said, "Coach, I want you to push me hard, no babying, I want to work", and work he did.  That Spring, he jumped 6'-9" and qualified for the national meet by winning the Region 18 Championshiip in Bend, Oregon.  I never thought he would be able to jump 5 feet again, let alone 6-9.  He still had some swelling issues and only went 6-7 at nationals, but a remarkable recovery at any rate.  One year and six months after the blessing, Tom, now jumping at Montana State University, jumped 7-1 1/2 at the Big Sky Outdoor Championshiips, placing first.  I wrote Elder Perry and told him what had happened.  He sent a nice letter in return.  It has made me wonder why Elder Perry could give such a powerful blessing.  Most priesthood holders in the Church would not have the faith or courage to pronounce such a blessing.  The priesthood can be conferred upon us, but the power is only made manifest according to our diligence in living the commandments.  Elder Perry had learned that lesson a long time ago and he lived his life as close to the Savior as is humanly possible.  That experience will always have a profound effect on me, not because Tom jumped higher, but because priesthood holders are capable of exercising their priesthood in far more powerful ways than we think.  It is certainly something for us to work on.  It is my personal belief that the priesthood will one day be a means of protecting our families not only spiritually, but physically as well.  That can be found in a talk given by Elder Russel M. Nelson.  I think my talk went well.  The next day at the office, Camilla Nagata told me that it was a powerful and faith building talk.  I always feel a little awkward when people say things like that, but if my talk was of benefit to someone, then I am happy

For our FHE on Mondays, we have changed our format of having one couple cook for everyone and we are now having three couples divide up that chore.  It is working out a lot better as having one sister do all that work was becoming a real burden in my eyes.  So we have the meal rotating schedule and then one couple does the lesson on a different rotating schedule.

A week later, at the request of President Thomas of the Sao Paulo West Mission, we traveled 35 miles outside the city to the little branch of Ibiuna.  We had no address, just a description from the branch president of where it was.  The address is on a public highway, thus, no specific street address.  We arrived there without a single problem.  The branch meets in a warehouse which has been remodeled to have classrooms, office, chapel and a large activity room.  The 4 elders met us at the door.  One from Curitiba, one from Herriman, Utah, one from Goias and one from Cali, Colombia.  There are also two sisters serving here, one from Buenos Aires and the other from Brazil.  They are great missionaries.  We had a chance to speak to them all quite extensively.  I was asked in sacrament meeting to come up and bear my testimony which I did.  As I headed off the stand, the BP asked me to have Paula come up and bear her testimony.  This she did with me at her side.  She only asked me twice for a little help and gave a wonderful testimony all in Portuguese.  I was very proud of her and so were all the members.  There were two sisters there in attendance who work in our department and we know them well, Sandra and Sonia.  Sonia was the closing speaker and she used Paula as an example of trying to do things on your own without depending on everyone else.  Sonia said, "You noticed that Elder Sonderegger was at her side to support if needed, but Sister Sonderegger opened her mouth and spoke without hesitation.  She could have said, "I can't do that, I'll just stay here in my seat and be comfortable", but she didn't do that, she got up and gave her testimony in a foreign language and you can all imagine how hard that would be if you had to do it."  Her point was that we have to make the effort if we are going to progress and become self-reliant.

The branch is very strong as far as I can see.  Much stronger than branches I served in many years ago.  The lessons we had in Sunday School, Priesthood Meeting and Relief Society were outstanding and well presented.  We felt spiritually fed by these faithful members.  After the meeting, the branch had a big dinner as most of the branch had stayed to take a self-reliance class from Sonia.  So the RS decided to make a dinner.  It was wonderful.  When I went to get my plate filled, the sister asked me if I wanted white beans or the black bean feijoada.  I opted for the feijoada.  She smiled at me and said, "Don't worry elder, we don't put anything disgusting in our feijoada."  It was really good and we had some wonderful cake too.  The members were super friendly and that after only one time.  We look forward to returning.  I told the branch president that we were willing to do whatever he asked us to do. 

I keep giving out Book of Mormons, Our Heritage and pass-along cards to lots of people.  I enjoy the conversations we have.  Paula still works on the Fast Offering Report and does a good job.  We were in charge of taking all the couples on a Saturday adventure.  So we went to the Brazilian Soccer Museum located in Perdizes (where I served) in the Paecambu Stadium.  President Hinckley attended the re-dedication of the SP Temple festival there with about 50,000 attending.  It was an awesome museum and brought back many memories of Brazilian soccer.  Elder Salisbury who served here when I did, told us that when he was serving in the port city of Santos, he ran into Pele, yes, that 'Pele'.  Pele who is considered far and away the best ever told Elder Salisbury that he needed to learn English and that he would trade soccer lessons for English lessons.  So that is what they did.  Wow, what an awesome experience that would be.  At the museum, we got to see a lot of film on Pele's playing days.  I still can't believe some of the things I saw.  One time, he flipped the ball up onto his own head and then dropped it behind the defender, went around him and scored.  He did it so fast you could only see it in slow mo.  Another time, he flipped the ball (with his foot) onto the head of the defender and it happened so fast that the defender couldn't find the ball on his own head.  Pele's ability to stop on a dime and change direction is beyond anything I have ever seen in any sport.  He truly was "THE KING" (as he is referred to here and around the world.)  We ate at a nice bakery and restaurant just off Paulista Avenue and plan to return.  We had the best omelets, real fluffy, that I have ever had.  We found out this week that our rent is only $650.00 a month instead of $800.00.  Haaaaappppppyyyyyyyy!

Love You All,

Elder Sonderegger or Dad or Grandpa or Ferron

Trip to Manaus

Dear family,

Well we survived our trip to the Amazon!  I wrote up a summary of our trip to give to the other missionaries as they all want to go up there.  We learned a lot on this trip.  You can read the summary to find out what we learned.  It is a remarkable place to visit.  I wouldn't want to live there as it is extremely hot and humid.  It was pretty miserable and the last two nights we didn't have air conditioning!  Other than the accommodations things were pretty good.

The Amazon River is so huge that it is unbelievable unless you see it!  We spent most of our time on the Rio Negro (Black River) which is a tributary of the Amazon.  This "tributary" is 1400 miles long and in places is over 2-3 miles wide, and 150 feet deep!  I felt like we were out on the ocean at times as it was so big!  After it joins the Amazon the river in places is about 27 miles wide!  Where it joins it is 300 feet deep.  There is an ISLAND at the mouth of the river that is the size of the country of Switzerland!  There is more water that flows out of the Amazon in one day than the Mississippi does in one month!  The force of the water is so strong that when it enters the Atlantic Ocean it pours out for 200 miles before it mixes into salt water.  It is incredible!

The first day we went to the temple and it was really nice.  It sits on the bank of the Rio Negro and the steeple can be seen for miles around.  We met the temple president and after the session he took us back to our hotel.  By the way, there were five of us who went on this trip, the Burkes, Shirley Cox and us.  On Wed. we did a tour of the city of Manaus.  It was very interesting but we walked a lot and it was very hot.  Poor Shirley got a severe blister on her foot and that put a damper on the rest of the trip for her.

We started out at the Opera House.  It was built 120 years ago.  It is beautiful.  You see, Manaus was a booming city a hundred years ago because of the rubber.  It was the first city in Brazil to have electricity and telephones.  Rubber was as valuable than gold back then here in Brazil.  We visited the fish market and wow, there are lots of kinds of fish that I have never seen before!  Some of them are pretty strange looking.  I think that we ate some of them!  We visited the Port and the markets nearby.  It was interesting.

On Thursday we headed into the jungle.  We went to quite a remote location to board the boats and I was a little wary when I saw the boats.  They were very old looking and were pretty much a large row boat with a small motor.  They held about 12 people.  It was a little unnerving when the driver of the boat that had the supplies was bailing water the whole time until we reached the island!

I thought that we were going to be staying in a jungle 'treehouse' lodge but that wasn't the case.  Just picture boy scout camp only maybe a little worse!  You can read about it in the summary.  It's a good thing that we only spent two nights there.  As it was, Dad got eaten alive the second night.  His legs were so bad that he went to the Dr. yesterday and he has infection in the bites.  I didn't get touched!  Go figure?  

Each day we got in the little boats and went exploring in the jungle.  The different shades of green are something else and sometimes the water was so still that I had a hard time trying to decipher which was the tree and which was the reflection.  I took a bunch of pictures of the reflection as it was so neat.  The jungle is so dense that it echos.  We watched monkeys playing in the trees and we saw fresh water dolphins swimming and jumping in the water.  We didn't see any snakes or sloths or jaguars in the trees though.  Our guide said that during the high water season the animals never touch the ground.  They spend 6 months in the trees.  Right now it is the dry season, which means it only rains a little each day.  :)  The river is dropping everyday.  The native Indians who live along the river get their water from the river and during the dry season they have to haul water for over a mile.  During the rainy season they only have to step out of their huts to get the water.

Our guide also caught three baby caimans (alligators) with his bare hands!  We watched the sunset on the river on Friday evening and it was gorgeous!  By the way, the Black River is black because of all of the decaying vegetation in it.  It is also very warm.  It was nice to be out in the fresh air and to be able to see the stars.  I found the Southern Cross constellation which is something I've wanted to see for a very long time.  

On Saturday we visited an native Indian village and we were very surprised when the men AND women were half naked!  We weren't quite prepared for that.  It wasn't anything thrilling to say the least!  After we left the village we headed back to Manaus to see the joining of the waters.  It is where the Solimoes River and the Black River come together to form the Amazon.  Some people also call the Solimoes River the Amazon.  It is muddy and brown and much cooler than the Black River.  When they join they stay separate for between 7-10 miles before they mix.  It is a natural phenomenon.  The captain of the boat (this time it was a speed boat with seat backs and cushions) slowed down and had us put our hands in the water to feel the difference.  You can't believe it. The temperature was completely different from one to the other.  You'll see the difference in the pictures.

One other thing we did on Friday is go fishing for Piranha!  Dad and I each caught one!  They were little but we wouldn't have kept them even if they were big.  The natives don't eat them as they taste bad.  There are 12 different kinds of piranha, and yes, they do eat other animals if they get a chance.  Our guide has watched a school of piranha eat a cow!  Their teeth are like razor blades.

Well I hope you don't feel overloaded with the pictures.  I sure love all of you very much.  It really is okay if you take the time to write to us.  :)  We would like that a lot.  Hope all is well back home.  


1.  Temple
2.  Temple
3.  Opera house
4.  Opera house
5.  Ceiling of opera house-painted to look like the Eiffel Tower
6.  More OH


Hi all.  Here are a couple of pictures from last week's excitement.  The first is our last dinner outing with the Hales.  They left yesterday after being here nearly 2 years.  They are the last couple in the picture.  We will really miss them.  I kind of feel the same as when mom left after Emily was born.  I didn't know how I would ever manage, but somehow I did.  The Hales are a really neat couple.  They live just off of Fort Union Boulevard in Murray (close to where Lynn and Brandi lived.)

The second picture is of the tumult we witnessed when we came out of the movie.  There was a fire (burning garbage) under the stairwell.  You can kind of see the smoke a little.  On the left are all of the police cars and motorcycles.  It was quite the experience and we were glad that we all made it home safely that night.

The third picture is today as we went on a little walk to show the three new couples our neighborhood.  Dad/Ferron is standing on the sidewalk and those are tree roots!

Love to all!

The first picture is the view from Ellen's living room balcony.  How would you like to look at that every day?!  The second is the group of senior sister missionaries and Ellen.  The order from left to right is:  Sister Cox, Sister Burke, Ellen, Me, and Sister Hart.  If you look closely you'll see a church building just down from Ellen's apartment.  It is 5 stories tall!  It is just off center on the right, just as the road curves.  The next are some pictures of our new little branch.  The building used to be a warehouse and they have converted it into a church.  The "swimming pool" is the baptismal font!

Here are some pictures of the soccer museum.
1.  Olympic posters from the beginning.
2.  Pele doing the "bicycle" kick.
3.  Dad looking at the photo display
4.  Need I say more?
5.  Display of the evolution of the soccer ball.
6.  Ditto only of the shoes.

1.  The sign says "Everything is a ball."  After church yesterday I saw some of the kids kicking an empty 2-liter soda bottle as their ball!
2.  Dad at the stadium.  He used to work in this area but never went inside this stadium.
3.  Stuck in the middle of the city.
4.  Looking in.  There was a "feirra" (farmer's market) going on in the parking lot.  That is a very common sight down here.
5. The Shumways.  They are from Phoenix and we really like them.
6.  A tree outside of the bakery.  This is also a very common sight to see down here-flowers growing on the trunk of a tree.