Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Week 13 Manaus

Hey guys!

I've only got an hour to email and send pics, so it might be a little shorter today. Hope you don't mind. We just got done bowling with our zone. It was pretty fun, and after this we are going to get some good ol' McDonalds. Too bad it's way expensive here, but American food is just so good. We had Pizza Hut last week and went full out- large pizza with canadian bacon, pepperoni,and stuffed crust and unlimited refills. Too bad it was like R$70...But it was SO good. I'm already getting tired of rice and beans, and the pizzas here aren't normal. So Pizza Hut was sweet!

Anyway, this week was alright. A lot of stuff fell through and some investigators are being a little difficult, but some went well. The 16-year old girl, Camila, came to church again and went to seminary every day they had it this week. We've visited her a lot. She's hard to teach because she just drills us with questions. But, we got her to pray about our message and she felt something. She's difficult but I'm sure one day she will be baptized. I'm hoping soon. I guess we'll see what happens....but she is progressing.

So, I caught some Amazon sickness for 4 days or so. That was fun. Don't worry, I'm not dying or anything. But I'll be honest, it sucked. I had a fever and my head felt like it was about to explode. My entire body hurt. I honestly felt like I had been hit by a truck. repeatedly. I guess one benefit of the sickness (I can't remember the name of it) was that I was cold! Freezing, actually. That has never happened here, and I don't see it happening again unless I get sick. So, I guess that was a benefit. I'm pretty much better now, still kinda sore, but it's all good.

It rained this week. We were at lunch at a member's house and heard a LOUD burst of thunder, the power went out and the heavens opened with rain. It was amazing. It poured like Seattle in April. Possibly even more. It was nuts. It also hailed. All the Brazilian kids who have never seen snow thought it was snowing. Poor kids. It didn't last more than 45 min, but it was cool. After, it was super muggy and gross. It's already super humid here, but it made it even more muggy and sticky. Bleh!

I can honestly say I don't think I've ever sweat so much in my entire life. This hasn't happened to me yet, but people sweat so much that salt forms on their forehead. It happens to my companion sometimes. I can see salt on my black socks when I take them off at the end of the day. I'm sure you all really wanted to know that. Apparently, papigaios (the little green parrots) love when salt forms on your forehead and lick it off. Elder Christensen told me a member had one as a pet and every time they went over, it would lick his forehead. haha. I'm waiting to see that happen.

I need to tell you guys there is a strike at the post office. So, letters are being slow right now. I hope your package shows up soon, but I honestly think it will take awhile.

So, yeah, that was the highlights of my week. I'm still just chilling here in the amazon, talking to people, teaching, and trying to find more people to teach. We are having a baptism this week and another 2 the first week in October. I could technically not be here, but I'm pretty sure I won't get transferred. I'll write more next week. Have a great week, keep it real, love you guys!

-Elder Eric Stapley

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Week 12

The Manaus Opera House

Sou Eu! We have 3 more baptism dates and some new investigators. Two dates are for a couple that's been wanting to get baptised for 6 months, but like most couples in Brasil, they aren't married. No joke, nobody here is married. It costs R$350 to be married, with the church it's only R$80. This couple went through a bunch of missionaries and they finally want to get married (we had to do some encouraging/throwing down). We've marked a day for their wedding and baptism. It's right after the transfer, so we'll see if I'm still here.

In some areas you baptize a family every week, and if you don't, the members ask why there wasn't a baptism that week. Our area isn't like that, but we are working really hard and seeing some successes. We taught more than 20 lessons this week, so there's potential.

I'll share a story with you guys. There are tons of churches in Manaus. Everywhere! We pass one that's pretty intense- every night on the way to our house. They yell and scream and cast out devils. They can get pretty crazy. Every night we see a girl in the church. Elder Christensen says she has been giving the missionaries the death glare forever. So, I decided to start staring back. why not right? So every night it was like a staring contest between me and this 16 year old girl. We thought she wanted to kill us. But, we show up to church on Sunday and guess who's there, 20 minutes early, sitting next to Bishop's wife? The girl! She said she might be looking for a new church (her mom and fam too). She sees us every night and knows a bunch of yw. She really enjoyed church and asked if we could teach her. We met up to teach her yesterday, and this girl is smart. She knows the scriptures like none other and asked some really hard questions. Luckily, we answered all of them (as well as we could...) I thought I knew the Bible, but I think she's got me beat. Luckily, Elder Christensen knew what to say and how to answer everything. By the end of the lesson it was an in depth, rapid fire question answer session. She had read some in the Livro de Mórmon and was asking good questions. Finally though, after a long time of Elder Christensen and her going back and forth, I asked if I could say something. She agreed, I told her I wanted to bear my testimony. I told her I know the things we teach are true and we weren't there to convince her, but to invite her to know for herself. I promised her if she prayed with an open heart (I emphasized that) she would know if it's true. We closed up our lesson and took her to seminary (it's at night here, and she wanted to go). We'll see what happens when we visit her later this week, I'm hoping for good things...

We are going to Pizza Hut for Elder Christensens b-day! President isn't able to go with us, which is unfortunate. He said if he were in town he'd have gone with us. They have pepperoni!!!! I'm so stoked!

Some of the poor parts of our area have wooden bridge walkways and wood houses up on sticks. When it floods, the water goes all the way up to the houses. When I'm in those areas it really reminds me I'm in the Amazon.

Portuguese- some days are better than others. Some people here are so hard to understand! I have no clue what the older people are saying. Just when I start feeling good about the language, I meet someone I can't understand and get humbled. Elder Christensen is helping me with my accent. I'll be honest, it's hard. Elder Christensen speaks so well that some people think he's brasilian. I'm hoping one day people will ask me if I'm brasilian!

Brasilian girls really like american guys. It's awkward. Well, not to them. NOTHING is awkward to them. They don't even have a word for awkward! So, they tell us as we walk by (so we can hear) that they like us. Yeah...sometimes I wish that things were awkward....

We had a zone conference on Monday. 80 missionaries met up and had trainings from President. I met some of Irmão Ramóns old companions who wanted to meet me. The bus ride to the conference was 2 hours, on a crowded, crowded bus. It was insane. The conference was really fun and definately a booster.

Thanks for the updates. Hope all is going well back home, love you guys.

-Elder Eric Stapley

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Week 11

This week went well. Not as easy as last week, but still well. A lot of appts fell through (which happens a lot) but we are teaching and have some progressing investigators.

We now have AC in our church building! It's sweet! We only had 50 ppl at church last Sunday (and you guys thought our ward was small...) It was testimony meeting, so I introduced myself and bore a little testimony. I think they understood least I hope so. We are in one of the hardest zones and wards in Manaus. When I move to an area that baptizes every week -I will appreciate it that much more! But, I'm enjoying my ward and getting to know and work with the members.

The people here have a nickname for me. Elder Harry Potter. They all think I look like him. And,also- Elder Grampeador (Elder Stapler). It's pretty fun. My Portuguese is getting better and I'm starting to be able to joke around with the people a little more. I continue to understand and speak a little better every day, When I teach, I don't always have to think about how to say things in Portuguese. I still can't wait until I'm fluent though!

It's freaking hot! Starting at 10 or 11 in the morning, it's 100 degrees for the rest of the day. I'm getting a sweet tan line. It's really attractive... We try to drink a lot. I like the heat and I'm glad I'm not in Siberia or something. Fortunately, our showers don't have heat, so that's one of my favorite parts of the day.

I'm glad to hear about BYU!!! Elder Christensen got more details than me, we got a good update. I hope it's not like every other year where they just die near the end (or middle) of the season. Next Wedneday for Elder Christensen's b-day, we are going to Pizza Hut! We are even inviting President. It's right on the edge of our area and I'm stoked for the change from rice and beans.

Sorry this may be a little short, but I have to email the president. Thanks for the letters btw (j, k, andrew, blaine!) Erynn, who are your teachers? How's the 'quah? Hope you're doing well. I'll email next week! Love you guys, Tchao!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Week 10

Well, I just got done with my first week in Manaus! It's been good for the most part. I baptized a girl named Brenda. She and her mom were baptized, and she wanted the elder I replaced to do the baptism, since I took his place, I was able to do it! It was a pretty cool experience. We had the baptism on Sunday after church and it was great! A lot of members of the ward came and a lot of investigators. We had 11 investigators in our ward on Sunday, which is a miracle for this area. I'm serving in one of the hardest areas in the city. But, after a lot of investigators saw the baptism, they all want to be baptized as well! We had a few ask us if they could be baptized right then and there! We are hoping for some success this month with baptisms. We had several investigators that are SO close! A lot of them know it's true, they know it. There are just some life-style changes that need to occur, but I have faith that things will work out with some of them. So, if all goes well, we should have some weddings and some baptisms. I'm excited!

It's hot here! My first couple days were pretty cloudy and not really that bad, but it's been getting warmer. Turns out September is the hottest month of the year. Whoo! It's the dry season, never rains and there should never even be a breeze. But, I brought some Seattle weather with me I guess. A few days we had some breezes and there were some clouds. So that's cool. The Brasileros make fun of me for being white. I put a little sunscreen on and have never really burned. Well, a little on my neck, but it's not bad. I'm getting tan and have a line. Gross...but whatever I guess.

I've learned so much with the language this week. The first couple days were pretty hard. People talk fast and with and accent. At first I had no clue what was going on- which drives me nuts. I'm starting to get better with it and am understanding more than at the beginning of the week. In the CTM, I learned how to speak decently, but hearing is different. My trainer speaks like a Brazilian. It's helpful for me. He's helping me with my accent and helping me learn the language. I can't wait for the day that I'm fluent! I just wish it were soon!

My dad (Elder Christensen) is way cool. All the trainers are called pais and the trainees are filhos (dads/kids). He's funny and we get along well. He's been in this area for 3 months, so it's nice to have an in with the members. We get along really well, and I can never imagine there being a problem with us. He's a good missionary and teaches me a lot.

So, you asked about the food. This one is going to be a big surprise. Rice and beans!! Every lunch (well- except one- there were no beans). It's pretty good though, and I'm glad it's not something worse. For breakfast, (which isn't really formal at all. It's like a snack) I eat cereal. Lunch is the big meal here, and we usually eat with members, unless they forget. Then they usually give us money and we go to a restaurant. They also like to eat noodles, but with nothing on them. It's kinda weird...but I like the variety. We don't eat dinner. I think we did once. That's our time to find people at home and to teach. When we get back home we make some eggs or a little snack. That's the food. In some of the poorer areas they eat a lot more fish, but here- rice and beans. The drinks are way good though. Like passion fruit juice or pineapple juice, guava, mango. So good!

I'm in the central part of the city and not really IN the rainforest. But even parts of the city are right next to it. You see monkeys and snakes. You could just walk right into the forest. I hear that's a cool area to serve. The wards are big over there and the work is exploding with lots of baptisms, and the churches are packed. I saw my first snake this week. He wasn't too big, but it was cool to see. I've seen papigioes. (I'm sure I spelled that wrong.) They are the smaller green parrots and are crazy. I haven't seen an arara yet, the BIG red parrots. I guess they are huge. The little papigoes are pretty funny and some people keep them as pets and teach them words. It was funny the first time I heard one saying "oi". They yell words and whistle at you. It's pretty funny. I guess some will even say their owner's name. I'm looking forward to seeing a full arara.

Today, we are at the center, the downtown area. My pai took me to see the Rio Negro and showed me the old opera house and other sights.
Props to Shannon for the mission papers! It's hard, but you'll love it! Hopefully, you get called to Brazil. But, props to you.

So one interesting thing- this area is nuts with churches. There are more churches than I ever knew existed, and some of them are crazy. You can hear them yelling and screaming down the street. There are so many different churches- like more than the McDonald's and Starbucks combined in Seattle (probably add gas stations to that, too.) The people are super religious, which is what makes it hard sometimes. They all have their church, or believe there isn't one true church. Most of the people are nice, but it can be hard to talk with them about religion because they believe so many different things. But,it's fun!

Well, that's pretty much it for now. Oh, if you guys ever feel like sending me a package you should send some skittles, peanut butter and jelly, and taco seasoning. You are probably wondering why taco seasoning. It's because this place is driving me nuts for mexican food. Elder Christensen, too. I feel like I should be able to go pick up a taco or tortilla or Mexican food anywhere! But it doesn't exist! So, if you ever send a package, that would be appreciated. So, have a good week, keep it real, and yeah...Love you guys. Tchao!