I am having trouble with the computer today in several diferente (!) ways. It is trying to fix my spelling so if you see a random Portuguese word — that´s why. Also, Google Drive isn´t working and I have less time than I expected, so blame any oddities in this email on that!
My first almost-a-week has been great. There are so many things I want to tell you guys! You actually can feel the humidity the second you step out of the airport. It´s so diferente (I can´t fix it!) If I make my hand a fist it will be covered in watery sweat after a few minutes. My first area is a small city called Palmares. It´s very hilly, like San Francisco, except that there aren´t any trolleys to take you up the hills, so we do a lot of walking! There is lots of greenery and a big river. It is hot, but there are clouds and a nice breeze. The flowers are beautiful, the weather is great, the fruit is awesome, and the bugs are not bad. It would be paradise if I didn’t need so much sunscreen!
Speaking of which, so far a couple diferente Brazilians every single day have said something like “You are very white. Use sunscreen!” I got a very mild sunburn my first day from walking to the Palmares bus stop in Recife (we waited for the bus for 3.5 hours! It’s two-ish hours from Recife to Palmares.) but I´m making a serious effort to keep the sunscreen manufacturers happy.
I have a very clear memory of someone in the CTM [MTC] saying that their instructor was praying they would get trainers who didn´t speak English so their Portuguese would progress faster. For some reason, I thought that seemed super unlikely, because how could you possibly function if your companion didn´t speak English?! Guess what . . . my companion is Sister Porcote.
She´s super awesome, she´s from Curitiba, she´s been on a mission for six months, and . . . we only speak Portuguese. She learned some English her first two months here but not enough that speaking English helps us communicate better. I understand enough Portuguese that we can talk about everything we need to talk about. Obviously I ask her to explain lots of words, but not so much that communicating feels super laborious. So that´s cool!
I can understand other missionaries pretty well too, but understanding and speaking to Palmares-ians here is a lot harder. Church talks and lessons are super easy to understand. Outside of that, sometimes I understand enough to participate in conversations, and sometimes I only kind of know what´s happening. The accent is very diferente, so hopefully as I keep listening I´ll start to understand better.
My favorite thing about the past two weeks was General Conference. I think maybe one reason I started my mission so late was because I needed to be in the CTM [MTC] during conference. We got to watch all the sessions in English, whereas lots of missionaries in the field didn´t get to see all the sessions. I felt the spirit so strongly, and I felt very clearly that the announcements and talks were inspired. At one point, [Elder] Rasband said something about how if we are faithful and diligente our questions will be answered or we will be able to put them aside for now. That resonated with me.
2-3 weeks ago we had a devotional broadcast from the MTC with Elder Cook (I think). He started off by saying that he had given lots of talks to missionaries in his lifetime but he had never talked about his current topic before, but that he felt inspired to talk about it that day. Then he started talking about the very thing I had been praying about for weeks. I had been praying especially fervently that day, and I really believe that talk was an answer to my (and others) prayers. It was a little miracle from God for me. He didn´t actually answer any of my factual questions about the subject (why is this like this, etc;) but he answered all of my spiritual ones (why do I feel like this, shouldn´t I feel differently, is this right, what can I do to find answers to my questions). The same thing happened at General Conference. Some questions were answered, but mostly I just felt a profound sense of peace — that I was doing the right thing, that what the apostles were saying was true. If you haven´t watched it [yet] you definitely should!