These people don't speak Spanish. I swear everyone is just an actor paid to yell gibberish at me until I crack. Haha, now I know why they call it "Castellano". I really under-estimated the effect that a different dialect would have on me. Yet everytime I speak to someone, they look shocked, and say "Wow, you speak Castellano very well..." then go off about something I can't understand. Sometimes they speak really slowly as a joke, then laugh as if I don't need it. I say "no, no that's actually better!" but they just think that I'm going along with the joke and keep speaking a million miles an hour. Oh boy.
The first day I got here, I spent the whole day with the new missionaries, the president's family, and the assistants. The latino missionaries are so hilarious. They´re so eager to learn English, and will randomly yell out things like ¨You are so pretty!¨ in a thick accent. The sad thing is how much American media has had an effect on their English. They´ll say things like "What´s up n*****?" without even knowing it's bad. I saw a member girl wearing a Playboy sweatshirt with "Sexy B****" written on the front. These aren't the nostalgic references to home that I want! It's hard to know when to correct them, because for all I know, that sweatshirt is the only one she has. Whoever told me that I was going to the rich part of Buenos Aires lied. These people live in more humble circumstances than I can imagine. (I did hear that the South part of San Ignacio where I am is where "the villas" or the slums are, but so far, I haven't seen anything else other than my president's neighborhood.) I don't want to make her feel bad, and if nobody knows what it means, then there's no harm done. Now I just hope that I haven't accidentally been cursing people out for the past 7 weeks.
There were 34 new missionaries, so they made a real effort to make us feel welcome. My president is awesome, and he made sure that I knew that my companion, Elder Pirez "is a baptizer". That's definately the truth. The apartment is covered in signs about baptism including "BAUTIZAR O MORIR". Everytime the scriptures mentions baptism, he circles it. I admire his dedication to the work. He really is an inspiration. A lot of times, people will say things like "a mission's not about baptisms, it's about bringing people to Christ." They need to take a closer look at 2 Nephi 31. This is a chapter that they drill into every missionary's head. Christ explicitly says so many times that to come unto Him, we must be baptized by the proper authority, in the proper way, and at the proper age. Baptism is so important for many reasons, the key being that no one can enter the Celestial Kingdom without it. It signifies the death of our pagan and carnal life, and the birth of our renewed life as a disciple of Christ. It's a commandment of God for everyone to be baptized. A mission is all about baptism. Not to gain statistics for the Church, but to provide people with the opportunity to be a part of God's kingdom. It's glorious!
Elder Pirez is 24 but looks like he's 35. He's from Uruguay, and speaks faster than the Argentines. The other Elders in San Ignacio (my area), Elder Fuentes and Elder Marchant tease him about how nobody can understand him. They're both Chilean, and some of the only people I can understand. They speak slowly for me, and are learning English, so they throw it in every now and then. I can understand the other gringo missionaries in my district, but practically none of the latinos. Everyone assures me that understanding will come, but I feel so useless sometimes. I feel like I can't do anything if I can't understand the people. I don't want to serve a mission for 75% of my two years after I learn the language. I want to serve a full two years. I've told Heavenly Father that I will try my hardest, and asked Him to help me to know what to say, even when I don't know the context. I just say what ever pops into my head, and hope that it makes sense. Luckily, my companion has so much experience, and he is really good at making it sound like it fits right in with the discussion.
Okay, more about Argentina. Here are some things that I've learned from Argentine traffic:
1. Speed limit, Shmeed Limit
2. Red lights only exist when you feel like it.
3. Road lanes: optional.
4. You always have the right of way, so go for it.
5. If something is in your way like a dog, pedestrian, or another car, don't worry. It'll move. Probably.
6. Call a bus by "Heiling Hitler". No, I'm not kidding.
7. Tailgating? Don't be a wimp.
8. Cross walk? Oh you poor, confused, gringo.
Many more things, but you get the idea. It's like Frogger out here. But amazingly I haven't even seen one accident, or anyone with road rage. It's totally normal to them. What's wrong with Utah drivers?
So there's a little kid named Rodrigo here who is basically like my little brother. (Don't worry, Ryan, he can never replace you. He doesn't understand any of our YouTube quotes. Then again, I don't understand ANYthing he says...) He thinks it's hilarious how little I understand, but tries to help me learn all the little basic nouns and stuff. He's 11 or 12, and was baptized the week before I got here, and confirmed this Sunday. He tags along with us almost everyday, and loves to mess with us. When we were taking him to be confirmed, he took like 30 minutes just to wake up, then kept walking away from the chapel saying "Tengo sueño. No quiere ir a la iglesia." We knew he was kidding, but that punk was stubborn. He walked to a bus stop, and it took all 4 Elders to convince him to stay. Well, some bystanders thought we were kidnapping him and La Policia showed up in the middle of sacrament meeting. Rodrigo started cracking up, and we explained that it was a confirmation, and his grandparents were at the chapel the whole time. Everything was sorted out, but leave it to the Argentine cops to show up when the missionaries are trying to bring people into the kingdom of God, but are nowhere to be found when they're being mugged.
With all it's craziness, and foreign culture, I absolutely love Argentina. I can't understand a thing anyone says, but I still have such a love for them. They're always so kind, which is probably because I just assume that the things I don't understand are just compliments. Assume the best in people, right? Anyway, I have such a desire for these people to know the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They're faith is so evident whenever we talk to them. They want to know Christ and want to express their faith in Him. Sometimes it's misplaced like when they worship the saint "Gauchitogil" (Basically he's a cowboy saint), but I know that Heavenly Father knows the desires of their hearts, which is why He sent us to them. I'm learning to include Heavenly Father as a companion in all that I do. I'll get this language down. I have faith, and know that Heavenly Father wants me to. If He can do all things, and both of us want me to understand, then I'm guarenteed to be blessed with it! All I need is patience.
Se amo muchísimo. Yo sé que esta iglesia es el reino de Dios en el mundo hoy. Todos son invitados a juntarse, y volverse como Cristo. Sé que Jesucristo es el Salvador del mundo, y porque Su Expiación, podemos regresar a nuestro Amado Padre Celestial. Dios y Su Hijo Unigénito no aman muchísimo, y quieren que nosotros aceptemos Su Evangelio y regresemos a Sus presencias. Estas cosas digo en el nombre sagrado de Jesucristo, Amén.
-------------Second Email for the Day------------------
I´m still trying to figure out how to send pictures. Bear with me. Everything is in Spanish.
My buddy Elder Christensen sent this to me, which brought me so much joy. Sometimes, I feel exactly like this, so I'm glad that he sent it to me!
HE'S BEEN THERE BEFORE
By Elder Troy Whittle,
The alarm rings at 6:30; I stumble to my feet.
I grab my companion's bedding and pull off his sheet.
A groan fills the room, is it already time to arise?
It seems like just a second ago I was able to shut my eyes.
The morning activities follow - study, prayer, and such.
When it's time to leave the apartment, you feel you haven't accomplished much.
"We have a super day planned," my comp says with a grin.
I lowly utter a faithless breath, "Yeah, if anyone lets us in.
"With the word of God and my faithful Schwinn, we ride off in the street
Prepared to face another day of humidity and heat.
It's 9:30 in the evening, the day is almost through;
My companion and I are riding home, not accomplishing what we thought to do.
We ride up to the mailbox, hoping to receive a lot.
Only to look inside and hear my echo reverberate "Air Box."
We go up to our apartment, the day is now complete.
The only thing to show for our work is a case of blistery feet.
It's past 10:30 PM, my companion is fast asleep.
Silence engulfs me all about and I begin to weep.
In the midst of sadness, I kneel down to pray;
I need to talk to Father, but I'm not sure what to say.
"Oh, Father," I begin, "What happened to us today?
I thought we'd teach somebody, but everyone was away.
My hands, my aching hands - worn, hurt and beat;
If our area was any smaller, we'd have knocked every street .."
"Why on missions are the days so much alike?
The only difference about today was the flat tire on my bike.
Will you send some cooler weather? The heat is killing me.
I sweat so bad, it gets in my eyes; It's very hard to see."
"Why do I have to wear a helmet, isn't your protection enough?
People always laugh at me and call me stupid stuff.
Please send us investigators so I may give them what they lack;
I want to give them Books of Mormon, the weight of them hurts my back."
"And what about my family? They don't have much to say,
I'm sick of not hearing from home, day after day after day.
Oh Father, why am I here, am I just wasting time?
Sometimes I just want to go home, I'm sorry but that's on my mind."
"My companion, Heavenly Father, what are you giving me?
The way he rides his bicycle, I don't think he can see.
Now you have it, I can't go on I don't know what to do;
That, my Father in Heaven, is the prayer I have for You.
"My prayer now finished I stand up, then jump right into bed.
I need my rest for tomorrow; we have another long day ahead.
Sleep starts to overtake me; I seem to drift away,
Then it seems a vision takes me to another time and another day.
I'm standing alone on the hill, the view is very nice;
A man walks towards me and says, "My name is Jesus Christ."
Tears of joy well up inside, I fall down to His feet,
"Arise," He states, "Follow Me to the shade - you and I need to speak.
"My attentions toward the Savior, total and complete.
He says, "Your mission is similar of what happened to Me,
I understand how you feel, I know what you're going through;
In fact it would be fair to say I've felt the same as you."
"I even know how you felt when no one listened to you.
At times I felt not quite sure what else I could do.
I know you don't like to ride a bicycle, for you a car would be sweet;
Just remember the donkey I rode wasn't equipped with 21 speeds."
"I understand you don't like sweating, in fact it's something you hate;
I remember when I sweat blood from every pore, oh the agony was great!
I see you don't like your companion - you'd rather have someone else.
I once had a companion named Judas who sold my life for wealth."
"It's hard to wear a helmet and have people make fun of you.
I remember when they put thorns on my head and called me King of the Jews.
So you feel burdened down by the weight of your pack.
I recall how heavy the cross was when they slammed it on my back."
"Your hands hurt from tracting and knocking on doors all day.
I guess when they pounded nails into mine, I ached in a similar way.
It's hard not to hear from home when your family's not there to see;
I lost my communication on the cross and cried, "Father, why hast Thou forsaken Me."
He embraced me with His arms, His light filled me with His love,
With tears in my eyes I watched as He went back to the Father above.
I stood with awe and wonder when a beep rang in my head,
I listened and heard the alarm, then realized I was in my bed.
My companion let out a groan, "6:30 already, no way!"
I sat up and said, "Come on, I'll even carry your scriptures today!"
No matter what we go through, when we feel we can’t take more;
Just stop and think about Jesus Christ. He has been there before.
Okay, this computer is slower than the speed I need people to speak at, so I'll upload as many as I can, but the rest you'll have to wait for. Love you all!
Hermano Salisbury and District 17 C
The one where I'm doing a back flip, I'm really just laying on an ironing board. Don't worry, I wasn't breaking the rules. :)