Hola Familia y Amigos!
So I am in Chile!!!!!!!!!!! THINGS ARE CRAZY! I have already had a sector/zone change. So to begin with, the best way to communicate is through e-mail. Packages could take a month and letters could take from 2 weeks to a month. I love it here!! Chile is so awesome. The missionary work is great and my companion is great. First of all I want you to know that I am not home sick and I am not sick J.Things are just so awesome!!!! So it was overcast when I arrived. The weather is amazing here. In many ways, it is like California, but there are also many significant differences. In parts of the downtown area it is pretty nice, but that part of the city is in the “East Mission”. Chile in general has many similarities to the USA but is also strikingly different is many ways.
So I arrived at the Mission Home and then met my “trainer” and headed to my area. I was in a “trio” (3 missionaries) for the first few days but today our third companion was reassigned. When we were first assigned to one another, we walked to a bus stop and into the craziness of the downtown area. The other two helped me with my bags but it was chaotic. We got on the bus and headed to our zone and sector. The bus rides are like the “Indiana Jones Ride” at Disneyland and they are packed with people and dogs. There are tons of dogs here. Many of these dogs are very unhealthy: I would describe them as “gross and close to death” and most are mean. They usually don’t bother you though. When we got to our sector, we had to get off the bus and walk to our house. The area was very “eye opening” to say the least. The area is very run down. There are tin shacks and blocks (or apartment buildings) that are really ghetto-looking. Everything has big bars over the windows and doors. Trash is all through the streets. It was very different and shocking. We got to our house and it is supposedly one of the nicest houses to stay in because it is more spacious. But it is still not much. I loved it though.
So since my arrival at the house it has been insane!!! We walked everywhere and had lots of lessons to teach and people to see. We ate at members’ homes for lunch each day and one member family does our laundry, The Dias family. They are amazing. I had my first meal there. It was “completo”. Basically, I ate a huge hot dog with guacamole, mayo, ketchup and mustard. It was very weird but kind of good. I even ate 3!! People only drink coke and Fanta or things like it. I have eaten chicken and rice for pretty much all of the other meals. The food has been really good and we get fed a lot of it. We live with 2 other missionaries. We are all “gringos”. It is so fun. The evenings are a blast.
My “trainer-companion” is awesome. He works so hard and I am so lucky. He is a great example but is also very “cool”. We are a lot alike, I think J.
So let me tell you about some of the people I have met. We actually baptized a nine-year-old girl named Paloma on Sunday. She is so awesome and smart. Her mom is less active but is coming back. She is so cool and funny. They live in a block in one of the most run-down areas. The people love the missionaries though. Everyone knows who we are. Most people are willing to talk but some reject us. We also taught this man who had an aneurism and can’t really use the right side of his body. We got him to stop smoking and he says that he knows God has blessed him and we have been sent to help him.
I understand a good amount of Spanish. I don’t speak very well but my companion is amazed at how much I know. I have been so blessed in this way. The hard thing is Chileans in some areas have a serious accent. In some areas trying to understand conversational Spanish is nearly impossible because of the accent. They don’t say their “S”s and say “po” at the end of most words. They also add an “i” sound to the end of a lot of things. For example, como estas turns into como etai-po. This is really weird but super cool and fun.
My life is definitely changing. I am so blessed. I am realizing more and more that I have no reason to complain about anything. When I think back about how I would want a certain brand of jeans or certain type of food, and then just go right out and get it, I realize that I have lived a very privileged life! These people are just overjoyed that they have very simple things. It is very crazy. I have also seen how necessary the gospel is. It is a literal light in the dark. During lessons we will be sitting in a poorly lit shack and you can hear chaos outside. But there is an amazing peace and calm inside the room. I am so grateful to have been born into this church. My shoes are dirty all the time, which is awesome (you probably don’t believe this Lauren)! It is awesome because I know I am working hard.
The church is the nicest building in the area. It has huge 15 foot fences around it with spikes on tips of the fences. Most homes and other buildings with fences in front have these really intense spikes all across the top.
So much has happened and I don’t have time to tell you all of it. The work is going great. I am loving it. Have I mentioned that I have been fed well and am not sick J. An awesome rule for my mission is that everything is pushed back an hour. We go to bed at 11:30 and wake up at 7:30. So awesome!!!!! This is because Chileans stay out really late.
Here are some other funny stories. I met a couple that had been out drinking and so they were a little drunk. They were acting crazy and funny, but they kept asking us the question. “Why are you guys in Chile? The States are so cool! I love the States.” It was pretty funny.
The mountains are beautiful. Downtown is really cool although I haven’t really seen it all. So the next big thing is that today my companion and I changed our sector and zone. We had to move all our stuff and go to the office. We used the metro and buses then finally got there. Then we were told we were moving to Downtown. We then had to find a taxi and navigate our way to our new house. It is an apartment and in a much nicer area than our last area which was (Quilicura-Lo matta 2). We just got here and ran down to some strange store that has two computers so that I could send you this e-mail. Crazy! So much has happened and time has just flown. I had my first street contact. It was so good and he wanted to know more. The “epic fail” was that I gave him an English pass along card. It wasn’t until afterwards that I realized I had given him an English one. We will see what happens to him though. I have so much more to say but no time. I love you all. I know that the gospel is true and can help anyone with any problems they might be having. I know that Christ lives and through him lives can completely change for the better. I love Chile and can’t wait for what is to come.
Love Elder Neser