I can't believe how fast our time is running down. We are now down to 4 1/2 weeks until we leave! Eighteen months seemed like such a long time when we got here but now it seems like it was only a few blinks and it is over. Soon this will all seem like a dream.
We have been able to do some neat things while we have been here and yes, sometimes it seems more like we've been on an extended vacation but no matter where we have gone or whatever we have been doing Dad/Ferron always takes some church literature along and he ALWAYS finds someone to share a gospel message with.
Last week we had a chance to go to Rio de Janeiro. We originally hadn't planned to go to Rio as it is a very dangerous city but it is also the most well-known city in Brazil and the harbor is one of the world's seven natural wonders. Some of the other missionaries have either already been there or else they were going or had just gone and I thought it would be a shame to leave Brazil never having seen that city. So we went. I am so glad that we did. We left on Thurs. and came back Sat. so it was a quick trip and we didn't have much to do at the office on those days and the temple was closed so it worked out well.
Rio is absolutely beautiful! The harbor has all kinds of peaks just jutting out from the ocean. One of those is Sugar Loaf. That was our first stop on Thurs. We lined up a tour (there were 5 of us) and that worked out really well. The tram up the mountain was very smooth and I couldn't even really tell that we were hanging on a cable until we got to the top and stopped. They it swayed a little and it made me a tiny bit dizzy as we were exiting the car. The view from up there was breathtaking! We could see the Santos Dumont airport, where we landed, from up there and man is it ever a short runway! I have some pictures of it. When we took off on Sat. we started the climb very fast. I've never had a takeoff quite like that before. When we landed there I thought that it was a good thing we were wearing our seatbelts because they had to stop practically on a dime! I wasn't worried about either of those things but it was interesting.
The Christ the Redeemer statue was really neat. There were a ton of people up there! It sits up on a mountain opposite of Sugar Loaf facing east. It is very large! At night it is lit up. Each time I saw it from different parts of Rio, it gave me a very special feeling. At night it was really neat and from the airplane it was impressive. I wondered what it is going to be like when He really does return.
We saw some other neat things around the city that I've never heard of before. One was a staircase between two streets (instead of a road) that years ago a man started to tile different parts of the walls and then the stairs themselves. It is a popular site and there were a lot of people there. We had lunch at a quaint little restaurant that really gave you the Brazilian feeling and the food was good. We also stopped at a HUGE cathedral built to resemble the ancient Mayan temples found in Central America and Mexico.
On Friday we went inland to the city of Petropolis where the Emperor Don Pedro II had a summer home. It was a really neat city and very clean with almost no graffiti. The story of Don Pedro II is very sad. The regular people really liked him as he was a good ruler. For instance, his summer palace wasn't built with tax money. He used his own resources from other ways to build it. One night in 1889 he and his family were literally yanked out of bed and were exiled to Portugal or somewhere else in Europe. They were never allowed to return to Brazil. The military took over the government. I can't remember everything but it was sad.
The mountains going up to Petropolis were BIG! They were every bit as big as the Tetons or the Wasatch front, it is just that they start at sea level and not at 4 or 5 thousand feet. It was very beautiful up there.
On Sat. we walked along the beach and waded in the water a little. Our hotel was right across the street from Copacabana Beach. I like watching the waves. There is a fort separating Copacabana and Ipanema beaches that was in use until after WWII. It was interesting. We walked to a restaurant just off of Ipanema Beach for lunch. It is where Tom Jobin and Vinicius Guimares wrote the song "The Girl from Ipanema." It was fun.
One thing very interesting about Rio is that much of the flat land around the harbor and the ocean front was all brought in from the mountains. It is like Holland. It is essentially a landfill. Another interesting thing about Rio is the number and the size of the favelas, or slums. The population is around 6 million and there are more than 700 favelas there. One was right behind our hotel. I don't know how the people can even get to their homes as they build right up the mountain side and I couldn't see any streets. One of the favelas covered an area about the size of Rexburg, Sugar City, Salem, Hibbard, and everything in between. It made me realize why Rio is always very low on our Fast Offering report. There are many members of the church who live in the favelas. I hope that one day they will realize that paying tithes and offerings is a commandment for everyone and not only for the rich people.
Dad was able to give out several Books of Mormon, pass along cards, and other literature to several people. He always finds a way to spread the gospel with everyone he meets. Who knows how many people will actually investigate the church because of him? I do know that there is a young man from Israel who we met in the Amazon that is trying to get into BYU and his dad even wants him to go to school there. Dad has been in contact with him, off and on, since our trip last Sept. Elder Burke sent him a BofM and Dad sent (well Shelley did it for us) him some other church literature. He sent us a Christmas present. We got it in Feb. and it was chocolate-melted into a lump of course! :) But maybe someone, somewhere will call the number on the card and listen to the missionaries because of Dad. I hope so.
I sure love you all and we are always happy when someone writes to us. :) See you soon. BTW, we will be reporting our mission on .
P.S. Here are some pictures. I'll send more later.
1. Sugar Loaf from the first cable car
3. On top of SL
4. Airstrip of the Santos Dumont airport!
5. Little monkeys live in the trees around SL