Oct 14 at 5:01 PM
¡Estoy en Chile! I am in Chile!!! This has been the longest, craziest week of my life and I have so much to say (and also a bazillion pictures, but those will have to wait for next week because today is a little crazy).
Every day I wake up and I cannot believe that I am here, and that Heavenly Father has blessed me with the opportunity to serve here. It is stunningly, unbelievably gorgeous here. I know everyone here is super-biased, but I agree with them...this is the most beautiful mission in the world! In our sector, we have a fantastic view of the Volcan Villarrica. All around it, there are other gorgeous mountains. Also, it is spring here and the flowers and trees are growing and it is so beautiful. I can´t wait to send the pictures.
Being here in a completely different culture is really interesting and super hard at times. Like Uncle Evan warned me, there are approximately 8 bajillion dogs here. They are EVERYWHERE. Some are loud. Some are big. And some are scary. And it didn´t help that on the first day here, President and Hermana Rappleye told us what to do in case of dog bites! AHH! I really don´t want to get bitten by a dog! Also today I bought a waterbottle...and it is water with gas, which means...I think seltzer water in the States? I don´t know, but it´s super weird!
As a missionary, every day is an adventure. On Monday night, we flew all night...about 8 or 9 hours from Mexico City to Santiago. (for time purposes, Chile is 2 hours ahead of Mexico City). It was the longest night ever! I have super issues sleeping on planes, and every time I would fall asleep the baby next to me would start crying again...but at the same time it was really great, because I got to sit next to a 23 year old Chilean girl, and she was fabulous. We had entire conversations in Spanish, and that really calmed my nerves for when I got to Chile and needed to speak to native Chileans. She told me a lot about Chilean culture and she thought that what I was doing was really great. As we were landing, she explained to me different things about the cordillera, or Andes Mountains. I never imagined how it would feel to see the Andes Mountains with my own eyes. They are unbelievable. I could not keep my mouth closed! So, SO beautiful. And GIGANTIC! I thought the Rockies were big. No. Not in comparison to the Andes. I consider it a blessing that the Lord has given me to be able to see so many beautiful things. Once we landed in Santiago, we had to go through customs, security, all that jazz again and then, finally, we got to our gate for our second flight. I sat next to Elder Johnson and Elder Washburn and it was really fun to have a conversation with them, get to know them a little better and everything. After an hour drive from the airport to Osorno, we had orientation with the mission president.
On Wednesday I met my new companion! Her name is Hermana Nappa and she is from Paraguay. She is super interesting. We are very different, but thankfully she talks a lot more than my last companion, so it´s not as hard to maintain conversation. She is 22 and has already finished 4 years of college. She has three left because she wants to become a doctor! I have learned a lot from her already. She is very hard-working, smart, and obedient. Also...she speaks English! Not entirely fluently, but enough so that she can help meunderstand a LOT. We are getting to know each other better, and I hope that as the weeks progress it will be more of an equal partnership. A lot of the time I am frustrated because she knows what´s going on while I have no idea, and she doesn´t really tell me, so I feel like she´s kind of dragging me around...but I am doing my best and I am going to ask her more questions this week. We had to travel 5 hours by bus to get to Pucón, the northeastern most area in our mission. Our casita is really cute, but also really cold at night. So yes, I have been chilly in Chile. :)
Thursday was my first official day in the mission field. It was tough, but great. We had three lessons on my very first day! I actually understand quite a bit of what people are saying. I got to meet our ¨golden¨ investigators...the ones who are progressing. There is a mom, a dad, a teenage daughter, a little boy, and a baby girl. They are wonderful! I am completely in awe of their patience and their willingness to love. The people here are easily the kindest, humblest, and friendliest people that I have ever known. It´s hard though, because this specific family really loved the hermana who was here before, and they really want her back. I hope that they will be able to love me too. We also had a meeting with our branch mission leader and the other elders in our branch. Our branch has a tiny amount of members, but a HUGE area, so there are 4 of us to cover it. The other elders are both from the States, which is really helpful so I can ask them questions. Our mamita makes us lunch every day. She is so hard for me to understand! She speaks really fast and with lots of ¨chilenismos,¨ or colloquialisms of Chile. On the first day,she told me that I looked like someone from a storybook with my blonde curls. It´s funny to be compared to Goldilocks when in our country I look super normal! Everyone here tells me that I am ¨linda,¨ or pretty, which is so sweet.
On Friday we got to do the coolest thing. There is an elderly couple in our branch who both have Alzheimer´s, and we got to share service with them. We went on a walk with the lady, who is in a wheelchair. She is wonderful! It was so wonderful to be able to serve them because I could almost see them through Christ´s eyes, and understand just how much He loves them. To feel that love is all that I want to feel! I know that is pure charity, and I want to always have that. Also, when we were tracting we found a really great woman and her daughter. As we were talking, she said that she had prayed for help...and there we were to help her. It is miracles like this that tell me that I am doing what the Lord wants me to do. What a blessing it is to be able to share this beautiful gospel! I feel the Spirit so strongly every day.
As I was typing that I remembered some things I don´t want to forget to tell you. When we knock doors here, we don´t knock. We stand outside the gates and shout, Allo! People here don´t actually say hola, or adios. They say Allo for hello and Ciao for goodbye! Also they love it when I tell them things about the United States. They think it´s really cool, or ¨super bakan.¨ haha. :) I really haven´t eaten anything here that I didn´t like! The food is really agreeable. There is a ton of bread. But I have also tried two new things here. One is called manjar...it´s kind of like caramel, but soft and squishy and spreadable. It is SO good. The other is digueñes. They are a kind of mushroom that grows on trees. They are really interesting, kind of spongy and kind of sweet. I have pictures of them for next week!
On Saturday we went to visit a man in our branch who lives SUPER far away, in the next town over, Curarrehue. It was an hour bus ride, and then about 2 hours hiking to his house up in the mountains. The pictures are unbelievable! Oh my gosh. So beautiful. We were there with the elders and a couple of members from our branch to make him lunch and spend some time with him. It was really fun. When we got back, one of our investigators taught us how to cut firewood so that our casita can be a little bit warmer. So I used an axe for the first time and chopped firewood! We learned how to start fire in our little heater. And now our house is calentito (warm). The fire makes me so happy! It is so sweet and relaxing and most importantly, warm. The first night here I wore tights, thermals, pajamas, a jacket, 2 pairs of socks, and like 6 blankets. It´s not that cold outside, but in our house it used to be freezing!
Sunday was a lot of firsts for me. We went to church, and there was nobody to teach the Primary. My companion is one of the counselors in the Relief Society Presidency, and one of the elders is the first counselor in the branch presidency. So naturally, we help a lot. So...approximately 2 minutes before Primary was supposed to start, I was asked to teach! I was TERRIFIED! So, I taught Primary to four precious little girls for the first time ever teaching Primary...for two hours...in Spanish. We drew pictures of the things we are grateful for and talked about our blessings. I think it was okay for my first time ever. After that we had branch council (which was a HUGE deal because this branch hasn´t had council meeting for over a year) and I have never been more confused in my life. They were planning about 6 activities for the upcoming week...all at the same time. In normal conversation, when people are talking about one thing, I can understand the general idea of what´s going on. But in branch council I just felt so stupid. I was so frustrated. But everybody here comments on how good my Spanish is for the short time I´ve been here, so I keep trying to remember that. I have super high expectations of myself and I just want to know everything right now! But I am doing my very best to ignore the voices of Satan and to believe that I CAN do this. I CAN learn how to be the missionary the Lord needs me to be. (speaking of the activities...can you please send me the recipe for Easy as Cake Cookies? I realized that I am living in a country in which Cool Whip doesn´t exist, so I can´t make banana pudding for our branch potluck. But there should be cake mix.)
Yesterday also President and Hermana Rappleye came to Pucón to interview our investigators...they can´t get baptized yet because they need to get married first! But after the interview, the dad agreed that he would get married. So that is our super fabulous news for the week. Today is P-day, but tomorrow is zone conference, which is far away from where we live. So we are in the town next door, Villarrica, spending time working with the hermanas here. We will spend the night with them tonight and all travel to Lanco together tomorrow. It is so nice to be with other hermanas! We celebrated the birthdays of two hermanas today with crepes and we watched the movie about Emma Smith. One of the sisters in Villarrica went to BYU and she is really helpful answering all of my questions.
I think a messenger bag would work really well. I like the idea of the more fabric-like, water-resistant one. Also I have another thing to ask for Christmas...I lost my black sweater somehow in the move, so I would really appreciate a black cardigan. Also my favorite missionary scripture is Jacob 5:72 (And it came to pass that the servants did go and labor with their mights; and the Lord of the vineyard labored also with them; and they did obey the commandments of the Lord of the vineyard in all things.) Thank you so much for your advice in your letter! I love you so much and I miss you every day! My new companion doesn´t like hugs and I´m struggling....but thankfully everyone else here does like hugs, so I´m okay. I wish I could say more, but we have to leave! I love you so so so so much! I think of you every day and I miss you.
Love you always.
Abrazos, Hermana Latham