Monday, March 20, 2017

Sixty Four Weeks

Hello Everyone!

This has been a pretty busy week, but definitely not a usual one (but I guess that comes with the offices).

First of all, Elder Moreno is no longer my companion - he has already moved on to a different area, one that I just so happened to be in a while back. The last time that I was in a trio (with Elder Aguirre from Argentina and Elder Pinheiro from Brasil) was in Loma Hermosa B, my second to last area (my previous being Loma Hermosa A). Well, that was the area that he got assigned to, and so when he goes to church on Sundays he´ll be able to see Kevin, Diego, and Esteban. So it´s just Elder Ehlert and I now that work in our area (all the same though, there are 3 other Elders in the offices). 

In our area though, we had some pretty awesome lessons this week. We found a few new people to teach too, which is always super awesome. One is super friendly with us and has a little shop where he sells football jerseys among other small little things, and after teaching him for the first time (we taught him in his shop in downtime) he gifted me and my comp each a can of aerosol cologne "since you spend all day walking in the street." It gave me a chuckle, but it actually was pretty quality so I've definitely been taking advantage and using it the last few days haha. The other people that we found to teach are couple in their 20s that have a 7 year old son, and that live in the Villa de los Russos. They too were pretty awesome and I look forward to going back to visit them.

I had mentioned as well that we were going to have a potential of 4 baptisms this last weekend, but in the end none of them ended up getting baptized. Two of them are going to get baptized this weekend though (Armando and Milagros), and we need to help one of the other two (Fabian) get a stronger testimony before he commits to baptism, and the last (Cristian) is completely ready to get baptized, he just wants to wait on Fabian to be able to get baptized together. Here's to hoping they can all make it soon though. :)

Other than that though, life in the offices has been crazy - we have been having special trainings these last couple of weeks, with interviews with the mission president for the entire mission, and then this coming week we are going to have a temple trip as a mission ( :D ) on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday so that means having to be in the offices at 6:30 every day this week, and then next week we are going to keep going with all the interviews and special trainings. It´s a lot of fun though being able to help out other missionaries too as well as teaching about the gospel. It definitely keeps you busy though, that's for sure.

As I mentioned though, we are going to have a temple trip this week, and so I am super excited to be able to go again. It has been about 8 months since the last time that we went as a mission, and so it will be super awesome to be able to go back again.

Other than that though, not all that much new to be honest. I´ll include some pictures taken by Elder Moreno of the people that we are teaching though. Until next time though, hope you all have a great week!

Elder McCollum

273: Yamila - a recent convert of Elder Moreno and Elder Ehlert.
274: Hna Cisneros - the mom of Yamila and a member now going on a few years but that is basically like a mom to the missionaries.
278: Brian (in the vest), a convert of a little over a year, and his brother Cristian (in the shorts) who wants to be baptized already, but is just waiting on Fabian.
293: Juan Pedro (striped shirt), a recent convert of Elder Moreno and Elder Ehlert, and his son Armando (shirt with the mouths on it), and Milagros (girl on the right). Armando and Milagros should hopefully get baptized this Saturday.
299: Members that we come across a lot (they live in the Villa de Los Russos and we are always passing by the door of their house). This day we had lunch them and so grabbed a photo.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Sixty Three Weeks

Hello Everyone!
This week has been a pretty adventurous one full of lots of fun stuff. First of all, I'll talk about normal missionary stuff (which has been going awesome) and then about office life to be able to keep my mind straight haha. 

First of all, this Tuesday both of my companions had to stay a little over time in the offices and so I went out to work in our area with one of the other office Elders, and they went out later. It was the first time for me going out to lead this area by myself, but miraculously I didn't get lost, not even inside of the villa. :) We did find a really cool person to teach though named Rosa and so we will hopefully be able to go back and visit her this week. She's a very rare case for Argentina because she's not atheist nor agnostic, just doesn't know hardly anything about god, the bible, etc. and so we explained a little to her there in her door, but she was super open to learning more and invited us back and so we will have to see how that goes.

There was also another person that we taught for the first time named Nicolas - he is the husband of a less active member (whose family is all active, but in another stake) but that actually has sincere interest in learning about the gospel. He's a super cool guy - he has to travel a lot for his work (he works in a coffee brewery type deal where he teaches other how to make huge vats of coffee, and any other coffee drink under the sun, including drawings in the foam on top of lattes) and has his own outdoor van to be able to go on camping and travel adventures with the family. He just needs to load up the equipment and go - it's pretty awesome. We had a super spiritual lesson with him though and like I said he is pretty genuinely interested and so we will see how it goes over time.

Another thing that happened this week is that one day when we went to visit Cristian (an investigator that we have who is 15 years old) He had made me and my companions each a keychain out of some electrical parts he had that looks super awesome (hence it ended up on my keys). It was a super cool gesture though - it's not often that people you teach gift you stuff, much less things that they made by hand and I really appreciated it. 

Last but not least, is that this weekend we are potentially going to have 4 baptisms. They are all planned for this Saturday, but we area really going to have to work to make sure that they all can go through. The people planned are Cristian (the one that made us the keychain) and Fabian (his cousin, and then Armando and Milagros (brother and sister, children of a recent convert). They are all 15-18 years old though, and so it is super cool to be able to help people so close to our age and see them be baptized. I'll be sure to be sending photos next week of those who make it to their baptism. :)

Alright, now for the office stuff:

The biggest, and most fun, and most exciting news about office life for this week is that I get to drive in Argentina! :D Here in the offices we actually have a Volkswagen Amarok (a mid-sized truck with a diesel engine and a 6 speed manual transmission) because we often have to go around and run errands, bring materials to people, pick stuff up in the mail, move missionaries around, etc. It's really fun to drive, and I love it, but it makes me sad that it doesn't exist in the USA. :/ Part of the reason that I was able to be called to the offices is that I have a valid driver's license and I know how to drive manual. Everyone else in the offices is the same (except one that doesn't have a license, and one that doesn't yet know how to drive manual). So when I came to the offices they put in for me to get an international drivers license (and now I have one :D). It's a lot of fun driving in Argentina but a lot different than the states. There is not a single residential intersection that has a stop sign, and pretty much only major intersections get stoplights - a lot of the time it is only a flashing yellow caution light. Also, there are a lot of one way roads, and a lot of them are plenty wide enough to fit 5 cars across, but the only roads that actually have designated lanes are the highways and so in that 4 or 5 lane road, you just put your car where you need it to be, and often times you end up much much closer to cars on either side than you would were there to be an actual lane, and so it definitely keeps you on your toes. It sounds kind of dangerous, but it actual works out in a very natural and fluid kind of way (like people walking on a sidewalk) so it's actually pretty cool.

So, with that, this week I got to go on a few errands. The missionary that doesn't have a license is the one that is in charge of maintaining and coordinating all the apartments in the mission, and so he is often in need of going to sign a contract, or having to help someone move from one apartment to another. In my position in the offices though, I tend to have more free time than others as I can get my work done quicker, and so I imagine I will be accompanying him a lot. This last week though we got to do a move, from an apartment on the 3rd floor of a building (without elevators) to an apartment on the second floor of a different building. It was a pretty interesting time because we had to move 3 desks, 2 clothing wardrobes that you hang your clothes up in, beds, a fridge, and various other small things such as suitcases, carrying them all down the stairs of one building and lifting them up through the balcony of the other haha. It was a good workout to say the least. :)

On another day I also had to drive to Liniers (about the busiest part of Buenos Aires because it's a transportation center with taxis, big Micros (two story buses that take people long distances), trains, and street vendors all over the place, in the street and on the sidewalk, selling anything you can think of from any country in South America you could think of) with another office Elder to pick up and drop off a couple of sister missionaries so that they could travel to their respective areas via Micro. 

And the last of the driving errands was driving an Australian missionary to the airport because he got reassigned to work in Australia as a missionary instead of Argentina for various reasons. It was kind of sad because it was the hijo (like how I trained Elder Dosdall) of Elder McDonald, the companion that I had for 3 months from California and he had only been in Argentina for 2 weeks. I asked him how it was being the hijo of Elder McDonald though and he said he tried imitating his Australian accent a lot, at which point he would correct him on how he was doing it, and then Elder McDonald would try harder but come of with a New Zealand accent instead haha. He was super good spirits about it all though, so I know he'll be able to do just fine in Australia as well.

Other than that though, there is not all that much new to tell for this week, so I hope that you all are doing well and that you can all have a great week!
Elder McCollum

Foto0030 - One of the walkways in the villa we always visit
Foto0034 - Entering the Villa (in a different pasillo)
DSC01440 - Keychain that Cristian made us
DSC01441 - Keychain that Cristian made us (2)
DCS01436 - The Truck that we get to drive in the offices :D
DSC01437 - International Driver's License
DSC01438 - All the countries I can drive in
DSC01439 - The License itself
DSC01421 - Super huge row of toll booths (leaving there are no lanes until it goes back down to normal interstate width of 3-4 lanes, which makes it look very funny with a bunch of cars just driving on a randomly super wide patch of asphalt)
DSC01430 - The International Airport in Ezeiza
DSC01435 - Photo of Elder McKay with Elder Moreno and I

Lots of pictures, but hope you all enjoy! :D

Monday, March 6, 2017

Sixty Two Weeks

Hello Everyone!

Not all that much new to tell seeing as the last time that I emailed was on Wednesday, but a little bit about my new area. First of all, our area is huge, but really we work mostly in just one part of it, or better yet in just one block of it all. In Argentina there are things called villas which are normally a little more dangerous neighborhoods where you have a bunch of houses crowded together in a block (or more) with little tiny walkways as almost a maze going through them all, with nobody having a yard. Most of the time the houses are of lower construction quality as well, because people that live there are normally a more humble. Well, we have one of those in our area, but it is only one block in size and it is actually a very easy-going one, without really that much danger. What is really cool as well is that the former Capo (or boss/head) of that villa about 3 years ago was converted and baptized a member, and changed a lot. He goes by the name of Genie. Before he was in some pretty hardcore stuff and if he was angry or upset everybody there went inside and shut their door. He's not like that anymore, but if people get in a fight with his kids still but then find out whose kid it was, they often go to his house to ask him forgiveness in person. Well anyway, he has a lot of family in that villa as well and a lot of them end up being the people that we teach and that progress towards baptism as well, so that is super cool. We have other people in other families that we teach as well but I would say that when we are out working, we probably spend about 90% of our time in the Villa de los Russos (what it is called). 

Speaking of villas though, the other Elders that our in our ward (but that don't work in the offices) have in their area perhaps the most widely known villa in all of the mission, "Fuerte Apache". That villa is much more dangerous and instead of being just one block, it covers the expanse of about 10 blocks by 6 blocks, and actually has military stationed just outside of it to keep it more under control. Also, instead of being just a 1-4 stories high like ours is, many of the buildings get to be sky-scraper hights, and it also has 3 schools and a church inside of it. Well, one day one of the members wanted to give us lunch, but lived right on the outside edge of it and so we got to go there to have lunch. It was like a completely different world, in serious and we only touched the outside edge of it. If we are able to go deeper in one day on divisions or something, it would be a really interesting experience (but before anyone panics, they don't do any harm or anything to missionaries, so there is no need to worry there). 

Other than that, starting to get a little more used to life in the offices. This last week, I made a list of all the phones that we have in the mission and the area that they are assigned to and it turns out that there are exactly 100 of them. All last week I had a fun time trying to get more phone chips in too so that we could have some extra phones in case somebody gets robbed or we need to open a new area or something of the sort and so we will see if they arrive this week. I definitely consider myself fluent in spanish at this point, but it's definitely a fun exercise with my language skills making phone calls and sending emails to take care of phone problems and deal with phone management type stuff all in spanish. Also it's pretty fun being able to spend the entire day basically with 5 other missionaries here in the office. It's pretty hard not to be in good spirits because there's always something to smile at, or something funny/random/unexpected going on.

Also, last week I made a mistake in telling you all about my new companions. Elder Moreno is in fact from Mendoza, Argentina but Elder Ehlert is actually not from the USA. He is from Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Yeah! How's that for a fun mix-up? I've included a photo of them so you all can see them (with all of us in our big comfy office chairs). Elder Moreno is on the left, Elder Ehlert in the middle, and obviously I'm on the right. 

Other than that, not all that much new to talk about, so hope that you all have a great week!

Elder McCollum

p.s. I caught the world's tiniest Gecko inside of our pench. He was super cute. I have also included a couple of pictures of him.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Sixty One Weeks

Hello Everyone!

Well this has been an interesting week for certain, and perhaps the most busy thus far for me in the mission. (Including from when I wrote last Monday until Today, Wednesday, which I know is more than a week.) One thing that I had not mentioned in my last email is that on this Monday/Tuesday we were to have transfers (with us finding out Monday morning and packing, and Tuesday actually doing the change), and honestly I was expecting to go to a different area (potentially in a flash or another change before Monday because I have rarely had a normal change from one area to another). Well what happened was not expected haha. I was waiting for a random call to say that I was going to get flashed through the weekend, but it never came and so on Monday morning we were cleaning our apartment before going to the ciber-cafe to check on the computer to see what transfers were to be when our mission president called to tell me that he hoped I could be packed and in the mission offices that very afternoon because I was going to be one of the Elders that works in the offices of the mission! (I included a picture of my reaction just after the call haha. So thus it was; I had from 9:00-12:00 to pack my bags and then was in the offices by 1:30. Normally what happens is that an Elder is in the offices for a few transfers, and then about a week before the end of a transfer, the mission president lets him know that he is going to be replaced, and then a replacement comes in to learn everything over a few days to a week, and then replaces him. Well I was called in the day before the Elder I was to replace was leaving so I had one day to learn everything that I need to do, and then the following day I had to help out with transfers (coordinating, sending out, and setting up for about 120ish missionaries to come to the chapel that the offices are in, get their new companions, and then head out again) and now today is my first day doing everything (and I am able to email you all too because Monday and Tuesday were huge national holidays too and most people weren't actually able to email their families on Monday). 

Anyways, life in the offices is thus: There is a financial secretary (in charge of all the finances for the mission), a pensionero (in charge of all the apartments and housing for the mission, a materials secretary (in charge of distributing materials to all of the mission to help with going out to teach, etc.), a tramites and references secretary (in charge of paperwork/visas, etc.), and a technology secretary (which is me :D ).  I am in charge of the paperwork that gets sent in when someone is baptized so they can be registered a baptized member of the church, all the cell phones that every companionship in the mission has (about 100 of them), making new maps for all the areas when they ask for them, and various miscellaneous other things. For example, the computer I was given to work on (which just so happens to be the central computer that has all the storage and printers connected to it, that has to be turned on and working for all the others to use those things) did not have internet access and had various other random things going on and so I got to enjoy a 2 hour long tech support call getting it all fixed. While waiting for things to load or whatnot though, I got to just make conversation with the tech support guy on the line and it turns out that he had served a mission here in Argentina as well more than 30 years ago and just so happened to pass through one of the same stakes that I was in, which is pretty cool. 

For us though office hours are from 10:30-5:00 Tuesday through Friday, but the rest of the time we go out and do normal missionary work all the same which is still nice (provided that there isn't some kind of special event going on or something that we need to help set up and take care of). I've included a picture of my work space though so enjoy. :) This next week should be a fun time as I get everything down though and learn the ropes, and I'm definitely smiling a lot more than in my initial reaction. It's actually pretty fun because you get to know the entire mission really well, both the Elders and the areas, so it should be a lot of fun. :) My new companions by the way though are Elder Ehlert (from the USA, tramites secretary) and Elder Moreno (from Mendoza, Argentina, pensionero). They are a lot of fun, and I'll get you a picture next week, but yup I'm in a trio again. :)

In other news, now that I have ranted on about that quite a bit, Elder Dosdall finished his training! I have also included a picture of his reaction just after finishing the last video that we had to watch. I also got a much more entertaining video reaction, but it might be a bit too big to upload. I will have to see if I can bring the size down a little bit to send it next week if possible. 

As far as Diego and Esteban though, they are doing great still and I will at least be in the same stake, if not in the same ward, and so if there are big stake conferences or activities I should be able to see them from time to time, as well as Kevin, which should be really cool. I was pretty sad to leave Kevin behind, but he is doing great and so I am pretty confident that everything ought to turn out just fine for him.

I am sure I am forgetting a lot of things, but I'll try and include what I forgot next week because I don't have all that much time left with which to write. Love you all though and hope you all have a great week!

Elder McCollum

p.s. I included a 4th photo - in my new apartment we sleep with the window in the Bedroom wide open (because it is very hot still) but that means that I wake up each morning looking at the sunrise in a view just like the picture I sent, but with more pretty colors because I obviously got the picture a few minutes after waking up haha. It's pretty awesome though and I love it.