Coming home

On Monday morning we found out the Americans would be going home very soon.  I packed everything I could that I didn’t need to use and started cleaning the house.  I felt ready . . . then I got a phone call from President Houseman. Emergency transfer to Recife — leave as soon as possible.  It was stressful. I felt a lot less ready all of a sudden!

Sister Ribeiro II (a native Brazilian) was sent to Igarassu to meet her new companion. Sadly, we had to throw out a lot of fruits and vegetables we had bought to get us through a possible month of using food storage (i.e., only non-perishables which means very little fruits and vegetables and nothing fresh). Sister Ribeiro was sick and had to take a taxi. I took a bus to Recife with Elder Eccles from Goiana 2.

Recife seemed to be the scene of a post-apocalyptic movie. You couldn’t see anyone on the street. When we got on the bus we didn’t initially know where we were going except towards Recife — the office? another missionary apartment? the airport? But President Houseman called us on the bus and told us to go to the mission office.  We waited at a taxi stop but a few kids showed up asking for money . . . and then suddenly there were ten kids asking for money and trying to play with the suitcases. Unfortunately we don’t have anything to help with that kind of thing. We started to feel nervous and crossed the street . . . and a few guys walked past separately and also asked for money. People frequently ask for money but not thirteen people in five minutes on an empty street!  We were starting to feel like targets (two very obviously American people with suitcases in a deserted city) and ended up asking the mission to call us an Uber. It was difficult to explain where we were. Traveling without a smartphone makes everything harder. But usually missionaries in my area travel with no phone at all so I was very grateful to have a dumbphone! 

Our last evening with the Housemans

When we got the phone call I thought we might be going to the airport that night or the next morning . . . nope.  The Americans living in farther-out areas (e.g., me as well as others) stayed at a bed and breakfast for a few days. Staying at a bed and breakfast is definitely worse in terms of having things to do during quarantine, but I finished the Book of Mormon, wrote a lot of the missionaries who were staying, and talked to people there.  We thought we would leave Thursday night at 6 pm. At 5 pm, Sister Houseman arrived and said our flights had been cancelled! Recife was sealing off. But the church figured out some charter flights, so we left Friday morning.

It was sad to say goodbye to President and Sister Houseman. It felt like when I said goodbye to my parents in the SLC airport.  I couldn’t believe I wouldn’t see them again soon! Our flight got delayed, so we waited for a few hours at the airport and flew to São Paulo. São Paulo was nuts. Everyone leaving went to São Paulo. So it’s this enormous international airport . . . full of missionaries as far as the eye could see. We thought we would leave at five. Church volunteers there told us to be ready to leave at any second.  We left around midnight!

Missionaries at the São Paulo airport–as far as the eye could see!

It was a lot of hauling suitcases up one escalator, down another, bus to one terminal, then back to the first terminal again. We were very grateful to finally get to security to catch our flight. I went through security and felt lost — I was in an empty part of the airport and couldn’t see any missionaries from my mission coming behind me. Eventually I saw a few and found out that the others got held up at security!  Some of them apparently weren’t booked on the flight. There were several problems. We thought we were all on the same flight and then found out that several people held up at security were supposed to be on a plane that was leaving in five minutes! Talk about stressful! There were groups of missionaries sprinting down the terminal with suitcases. Most of them made it . . . but then 12 elders who would go on the other flight got held back because somehow it was overbooked?!  They had to sleep at the CTM [Brazilian Missionary Training Center] that night instead of flying to the U.S. That must have been difficult.  

Hummus!

We were worried about getting through security at Los Angeles–LAX (health scans? customs?) but nothing happened at all. It was super easy.  We got there at noon, waited for about an hour and a half at the baggage claim and then found ourselves on the flight lists and went to check our baggage again.  I finally got to the check baggage counter . . . and they said my flight didn’t exist. Six of us found ourselves without flights to Utah. We called Church Travel and after much waiting got a flight at 8 pm.  Shout out to the church travel workers and volunteers helping out — it must be so much work! I amused myself eating hummus, Starbucks hot chocolate with soy milk (it was sooo cold), crinkle fries, and two brands of vegan cookies I found at the airport.  It had been a long time without that stuff . . . but now I’m sure I’ll get homesick for Recife and açaí. We finally got to SLC, waited another eternity at the baggage claim and to haul everyone up to the garage and I found my parents! It was very strange to feel 40 degree temperatures again.

In order to fight the spread of Covid-19, families were supposed to send just one or two members to the airport to pick up the missionary and were then asked to wait in the parking garage. Dad was the designated luggage helper!

It was a very long journey but I was happy to get here safely!  I was released on Saturday night, my 1 year and 7 month anniversary on the mission. 

19 months

~20 umbrellas broken

8-ish pairs of shoes destroyed

1 language–Portuguese–learned

25 pounds lost

15% more tan

5 areas served in

12 companions

1 great mission

It’s funny — I was already planning to come home on Wednesday, but the things I planned to do when I got home (work and school) won’t work out well in quarantine! Life is crazy for everyone right now.  I am so grateful to have been able to serve a mission. I love Brasil, I love Pernambuco, I love Pernambucanos, and most of all I love the gospel of Jesus Christ.

1 thought on “Coming home”

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