Monday, July 25, 2016

Thirty Weeks

Hello Everyone! This has been a pretty tranquilo week, and so I don't have all that much to share, so that means that hopefully I should be able to get out some more shorter personal emails. :D 

First of all, we havef started playing soccer on Mondays for P-day with a lot of the youth that go to the church here and they in turn invite a lot of their friends to come play as well. It is a lot of fun, and with living in a city of nothing but residential houses there is not much else that we can do to entertain ourselves on P-day so it is a nice way to get a break, run around, and have a little fun with exercise. (I included photos, the field is that of the chapel; all the chapels in Argentina have soccer fields outside instead of how the chapels in the states have basketball courts inside).

As far as lessons go, we had a total of 16 this week (which is not too bad, especially for being the coldest month of the winter here (which gets to be pretty cold when you are outside the entire day by the way)) but most of them where with less active members or those that have not gone to church in a long time. We have a list off all the members that pertain to this area with their adress, and so we have been passing by to get to know them all, whether they are members or not, but that can also lead to some interesting situations. One house that we passed by this week for example, we were looking for a husband and wife and just the wife came out and told us that the husband died just last month, and so that was a nice little ball to juggle for a couple minutes while we talked to her.

Other than that though, my companion gets $10/week from his Grandpa to spend on him and his companion, and so normally once a week we get some kind of food to eat (a milanesa sandwich, empanadas, or the Choripan of last week). Well this week, he decided that he wanted to buy just a bunch of cookies and a liter of milk to eat all in one go, and so we did just that on Saturday night. We got oreos and Toddy, which are like Chips Ahoy, with one sleeve of the two different kinds each, for a grand total of 28 cookies a person. The first half was enjoyable, the second half was kind of hard to get down... I included photos for all to see just how many there were though. We just put them in a bowl and ate them like cereal.

That is about all for this week though, so I hope that everyone is doing well and has a good week to come! I love hearing from you all even if I don't respond to everyone, so keep it up!

Love you all,

Elder McCollum

Monday, July 18, 2016

Twenty Nine Weeks

Hello everyone! This has been a super busy week and so I have to work on writing this email fast because it might turn out to be another novel haha. First of all, we foud ten new investigators this week (which means that we found 10 new people, taught them, and have an appointment to come back and visit them again), which is the most I have had in one week in the mission, and so I am pretty excited for that, but we'll see what that number pans out to be in a few weeks, but not too bad for week 2 in a new area.

We also had some really good lessons with less active members as well (which don't count towards the ten new investigators), with some really spiritual lessons. A member that served his mission in Brazil went out to work with us for a few hours as well and I was able to learn a lot from him - in Brazil they are way more receptive to anybody teaching about Jesus Christ, and so they actually had to invite people to be baptized in the initial contact they had with them (before even teaching anything) to find out if they even had any real interest in listening, and then they were able to contact hundreds of people in a day whereas here we contact maybe ten on the very best day, but some of the stories that the member shared with us gave us some ideas that we might be able to use, so that was pretty alright. 

On Saturday there was also a baptism, and though it was the daughter of a member we were asked to fill up the font and so we had to get up at 5:00 in the morning and lose an hour and a half of sleep to get ready and head over to the chapel to fill the font (the baptism was at 10:30am and normally they are at around 5:00 in the afternoon) so we were pretty dead for the rest of the day but we found stuff in the chapel to make some pretty quality hot chocolate while we were waiting (it was very cold outside), so it all turned out okay in the end (hot chocolate is normally pretty not quality here in Argentina).

Also, we visited a less active member that is retired law enforcement (and a little crazy) that after we taught pulled out his pistol from his belt to show us (which is fine, I like guns) but was waving it around all over the place without paying too terrribly much attention to where he was pointing it, so that was kind of interesting. (Did I mention it's very very hard to own a firearm in Argentina?) He then also showed us his very large knife that he uses for Asado (barbecue). I'm not exactly sure how often we'll be passing by him from now on lol.

Also, we are teaching an older lady that has Diabetes and because treatment is so bad here, if you have diabetes it is not good at all. She recently had a toe die and they had to amputate it off and so she was super sad (she's in a wheelchair for now and has to depend on her family to take care of her) and could hardly sleep because of the pain. We gave her a blessing though that it would heal fine and that she could sleep well on Saturday, and that night she slept like a baby and then on Sunday she let us come look for her in her house and take her to church (she lives right around the corner of the chapel), so that was really cool.

Fun stories of the week now though:

So my companion's grandpa gives him $10 a week of spending money to buy (normally food) for him and his companion. So, this week we bought some Choripan (A type of really tasty grilled sausage they have here that they put on bread (like french bread, but just common bread here) with some sauces) on our way back to the pench and we were talking with the vender about how yes we were north americans, etc. etc. and he said that we'll have to tell our families about his street stand (it was just any old street stand) and so we said okay. Fast forward about fifteen minutes and we arrived at the pench, having already eaten the Choripan and began planning for the next day right away as usual. A handful of minutes in though, the Choripan started working a number on my comp and so we finished up the planning in record time (literally, I have never planned that fast since being here), followed by my comp running to the bathroom saying out loud "I'm definetely going to tell my family about your choripan!" Maybe it was funnier in the moment, but I got a really good laugh out of it.

Secondly, I had just about the coolest visit of my life with anybody here in Argentina. So next to the church, there is a huge property with a huge house and a few smaller buildings around the property, as well as all kinds of exotic tropical trees and above the gate it says "Los Leones", or "The Lions" so of course we contacted it last week. The owner came out and was super friendly, telling us that we could come back this Sunday. So yesterday, we went and had our visit to teach him but he also gave us a small tour of his museum (yes, he has a museum on his property). Inside the museum though, he had a whale vertebrae that they found in their property while digging up the hole for their pool, an actual human skull (with models of more primitive human skulls), an actual egyptian statue of a person that is about the size of a fist that his son found while travelling there, a ton of different insects and beetles from all over the world (literally), and a ton of different seashells and corals, with one small one that he has valuing over $1 million US dollars because of it's rarity (he made sure to tell us), as well as a bunch of different rock type minerals, a whole pile of petrified wood, and two softball sized meteorites that he found on his property. He let us hold the meteorites (which were extremely heavy, much more than you would expect) and then his wife actually broke of a little piece that was crumbling off to give to me, as well as one for my comp and then a little bit of petrified wood as well (I included pictures, because the fact that I now have a piece of meteorite is just way too awesome, but I didn't have my camera to take pictures inside the museum). He then told us he also has a workshop with a lot of other cool stuff and two libraries, one with a preserved body (like Body Works) [because he is a surgeon] and said that next time we visit he might be able to show us a bit more. We then went inside and were talking to get the lesson started and we found out that not just him, but his wife is also a surgeon and that they are almost always travelling all over the world to whatever different country. He said that his two most crowning achievements were being part of the team that performed the second heart transplant ever in the world, and also that one time he reattached a man's head to his body that had been cut all the way to the spinal column (the only part still attached, otherwise the operation could not have been performed) in an attempted suicide and afterwards the man was even able to speak because by freak chanche the knife had passed through the millimeter of space between the two vocal cords. His name is Mario A. Paganini if you want to look it up, but afterwards we taught our humble lesson and it went really well according to what I would think. They said they would read a little bit of the Book of Mormon and we have an appointment to come back so I hope that all goes well. I have never taught such highly intellectual or wealthy people before though and so it was a very unique experience.

That is about all that I have got for this week though, so hope everyone is doing well and has a great week to come!

Elder McCollum

Monday, July 11, 2016

Twenty Eight Weeks

Well this has been a super fun week with a lot going, but it goes by really fast. First of all a huge announcement that I somehow missed - apparently you can now send packages to Argentina (with the new president) - not exactly sure how it works, but I think that it might have to be something small besides, but it's super expensive regardless - a Priority Mail flat rate envelope (the size that I saw another missionary get, which is how I found out that it's possible) costed about $30 in postage... Just wanted to mention it though in case anyone was interested haha

Before anything else though, the people that we are teaching and then I have a few fun stories: this week we visited a family of four (one mom and three kids, 19, 13, and 11 that are all members but not going to church) where the father passed away last year - they were all super cool though, especially the 11 year old kid. They were extremely happy to have us visit and it was awesome to get to know them.

We also visited with a young girl that is about 17 years old that was also super awesome (and also a member even though the rest of her family aren't) that now has a hard time believing in god because someone that she knew that was a really good person died in a really unfair way and she couldn't understand how god could let that happen. I was able to learn a lot just listening to her story though, and it made me realize that a lot of people seem to attribute all the bad things that happen in the world to god but don't very often attribute all the good things, no matter how small they might be because they just become commonplace to us, things even as small as a tree or a pretty view, and it made me realize that if we are all a little more appreciative of the small things in life instead of just focusing on all the bad things we can all walk away a little happier, regardless of whether you believe in a god or not.

Other than that though, we have been doing more or less just a lot of walking to get to know the area and it has been a little bizarre - as I said I was studying the map a lot because I had to be able to get my way around, especially with the bad numeration of the streets. I was able to do that and succeed very well in doing so, but that's why it has been a little bizarre - I can end up on some random street somewhere, surrounded by things that I have never seen before and know exactly where I am at and exactly where I need to go to get where I want to go to. Normally it works the other way around and you learn where you are at by landmarks and things like that but I guess that'll just have to come with time.

Fun stories though for the week:

This fourth of July me and my companion met up with two other Yankee missionaries and made hot dogs. We ate them with potato chips while drinking Coca Cola and it was about as close as we could get to an American 4th of July, but it was very enjoyable regardless.

Another time, me and my comp were just walking down the street going from one appointment to another, when a motorcycle with a couple of of college age guys on one motorcycle sped towards us, then stopped in the middle of the intersection at the end of the street we were walking down, took our picture (we gave them a thumbs up for an even better picture), then turned around and sped off - it was very random but pretty entertaining - missionaries can be a pretty entertaining sight for Argentines from time to time though, which is I'm sure why they took the picture.

Also, this past Saturday was the independence day of Argentina (9 de Julio) so the ward here put on an activity where they made a bunch of Locro (classic Argentine stew that is normally only made for special occasions with how difficult it is to make) in a giant pot over an open fire and so we were able to help prepare it by peeling vegetables, cutting up meat, etc, and then we had a delicious lunch eating it - I had three bowls haha but I forgot to bring my camera so we didn't get any pictures, sorry.

Also, there is a family of three that goes to church every sunday (members) where the father is blind, and him and his wife have an 8 year old daughter. The church is also pretty close to where we live and so we just walk home afterwards (we walk everywhere else during the week anyway, so not a big deal) but this last sunday the wife was driving the family home when they passed us walking down the street and the 8 year old daughter said to her parents ''There go the Elders - Can we drive them home?'' and so they stopped so we could get in and drove us home. Something super small, but sometimes little kids can be super caring as well, and it was really awesome to see that.

Last story though and then I am done - this week we did divisions so for one day I was with a different missionary instead of my regular companion. He was in Libertad before though about a year ago and so he showed me around a lot but when we got back to our apartment for the night, he was starving and wanted to buy Empanadas and so we ordered some to the pension as a rare treat and they were super good. Normally Empanadas on their own make me happy, but the place that we got them from made them top notch quality and had around 20 different flavors for about the same price as any other place, and they mark the flavor by punching a series of holes in the crust around the edge so you can compare it against a paper that they give you and know what you got. I included a photo.

The last photo though is the four of us that got together for the 4th of July posing together in front of a sign that says "Men Working" (in spanish, obviously) - it was too good of an opportunity to pass up though.

Anyways, hope you all have a great week and enjoy my novel of a weekly email - sorry for making it so long haha.

Elder McCollum

Monday, July 4, 2016

Twenty Seven Weeks

Hello everyone, so this has potentially been one of the most interesting weeks for me in the mission. First of all, it has been raining. A lot. Soooo, all the streets in Parque San Martin turned into mud, a lot of them pretty deep and I have been walking around in rubber muck boots for a few days because regular shoes don't cut it haha. It's been pretty interesting though, and at the end of the day walking in boots like that (nice and heavy as well) you get to be pretty tired - the one day we probably walked around 18 miles (30 kilometers) because we didn't teach a single lesson or enter a single house, despite the fact we had 6 appointments set. It was all in good spirits though, something about walking around in boots and not having a care in the world where you step, even if it's inches of mud or a foot of water because you know your feet are going to stay nice and clean and dry is very entertaining and fun. 

Also, the Familia Suarez, who were teaching in my last area got married this last Friday and baptized the next day (Saturday) and even though I wasn't there, it makes me super happy. They are super awesome. All the photos that I have of them are more or less blurry, but I'll throw up what I've got.

Lastly, I am no longer in Parque San Martin. I am now in Libertad. This Saturday right after we were finishing our language study time at 10:30 in the morning, we got a call from our mission president (a big deal, you never get calls from him so you always now something is going on) and I didn't believe it was actually him at first (I thought it was a fake call on the phone or something, which they have) but when I answered it was him. He asked us how our area was doing and if we had anybody in specific that we were teaching frequently and when we said no he said more or less, "Okay, good - you and your companion are going to go to Libertad and re-open that area - it has been closed without missionaries for a couple weeks but we're going to re-open it. You need to pack your bags and you'll go there tonight, and the other elders close to you will work in their area still and Parque San Martin, so you will need to show them around today s well." And so it was - we showed them around Parque and then packed our bags and at 8:00pm we were in our new pench, in our new area. It is pretty interesting though, because normally when there are transfers, one missionary stays in the area and recieves a new companion, and the other goes to a different area so that there is always someone there that knows their way around. With two new missionaries in a new area though that hasn't had missionaries for a time, you have to start everything from scratch so Elder McDonald and I are working on that right now haha. This week should be pretty interesting as well, because I have to more or less memorize the map so that I can get my way around without getting to lost and find adresses and such (even though I will be carrying a map with me). The other fun thing about Libertad as well is that all the street numbers are messed up and so all the directions are more or less like this: Street A, number xxxx, between streets B and C (the cross streets at the end of the block), yellow house. I'll let you all know how it goes next week haha, but that's about it for this week. Love you all and hope that everyone is diong well!

Elder McCollum

p.s. In our new pench, there is a window in the kitchen door that opens up into a passageway between us and our neighbor's house, and if you open it up, her dog (named manchita - little spot) comes running. It's a very bizarre looking dog but it makes me happy because it's the closest to having a pet on the mission that it gets haha.

Photos: Flia Suarez (only the mom and dad in the back got baptized this last weekend), Two of Manchita, one of my boots (clean in the photo), and the picture of the map has my old area and my new one marked so you can see what they're like. They're relatively close together.

Also, Happy 4th of July to everyone!