Knight Bus to the São Paulo Temple

Oi familiares e amigos!

I have so much to say this week and less time than usual!  I wasn’t sick for long and I’m totally fine now, so that was a blessing.  This is also the last time I’ll be emailing from the CTM! I’ll be leaving super early Tuesday morning (likely between 2 and 5:45!), driving to the airport, and flying a couple hours to Recife.  I will probably be able to send a very short message when I arrive, but I’ll have to wait until Recife P-day (I don’t know when it is) to read emails and send a real weekly one.

Enlightened Hannah at Mr Cheneys
Sister Faulconer

Things I’m excited for:

1. Teaching the gospel

2. Serving the Lord and the Recife-ans

3. Seeing Recife

4. Speaking Portuguese

5. The possibility of occasionally using a kitchen (instead of cafeteria food)

6. Never playing another game of volleyball

Most days we have 50 minutes for physical activity. I’ve played so much volleyball at the CTM, but it’s still languishing at #2 on the Sports I Dislike Most list after kickball. The CTM has an adequate gym with lovely exercise bikes but unfortunately it is never open.

Reasons I don’t want to leave the CTM yet:

1. I will miss my companion (she’s going to Natal)

2. Portuguese

3. Also Portuguese

4. Portuguese (and teaching real live people)

Hannah and Sister Hale at Mr Cheneys--October 3
Sister Faulconer and Sister Hale

It’s difficult to see my progress in Portuguese sometimes, because I constantly hear myself making mistakes.  But I know progress is happening. On August 28th, I knew about 20 Portuguese words and Portuguese was utterly indecipherable.  Today (thanks be to God) I know a few thousand words, I can sorta have conversations, kinda teach missionary lessons, and Portuguese is sometimes mostly understandable and sometimes only partly indecipherable.  That may change with the Recife-ish accent, but God willing, I know I will understand it eventually. Right now having conversations in Portuguese is thrilling — it’s so exciting to be able to communicate in a different language! Sometimes I understand the words people say but don’t interpret the tenses correctly or get confused by words with multiple meanings.

This week our pretend investigator asked if me and my companion would baptize and I said yes!  I thought he asked if we had been baptized. Hopefully now that I’ve made that mistake here I won’t make it in real life in Recife!

In other news, one of our two instructors was abruptly reassigned, (they needed his language skills for the Help Desk) so we got a new instructor for our last week.  We were all sad because our old instructor was great. We spend about 3 hours a day with each instructor, so we get to know them a little bit. Our new instructor seems nice.

Aboard the Knight Bus
Sister Faulconer imagines a possible ride on the Knight Bus in Leavesden, England four years ago.

See the Knight Bus in action on YouTube

For you Harry Potter fans out there, I strongly recommend Brazilian traffic for a taste of The Knight Bus experience. Last week we drove to the São Paulo Temple in a van, and it was so similar to the Knight Bus that I expected the cross + rosary hanging from the van’s mirror to become a shrunken head at any moment. We zoomed around, stopping centimeters behind bumpers, driving on the wrong side of the road to pass, accelerating through tiny gaps, rapidly switching lanes and swerving around semis in bumper-to-bumper traffic — it was an experience. Dad, your right foot will get a lot of exercise on the invisible brake here. Mom, I hope you visit Brazil; you will love it. But find a good TV show to watch so you never look out a car window!

Hannah at the São Paulo temple
Sister Faulconer (second from left) with her mission district at the São Paulo temple.

*Easily nauseated people, skip the following paragraph*

One of the elders in our van threw up during the van ride! He was slightly sick to begin with, but the swerves definitely exacerbated his problems. Another nauseating moment happened yesterday. One day after the MTC President said “leave childhood things outside” about twenty times in different meetings, two elders had a jello-eating contest, complete with cheering crowd. The winner ate 22. The loser ate 20 and threw up (purple) right outside the cafeteria door!

Becoming uma Brasileira

Hannah at the CTM     Seeing all the missionaries at the airport was awesome.  We walked to the flights as a group so there was this wave of white shirt and tie elders (and me) walking around.  It really made me appreciate the size and strength of the missionary force all over the world so they can spread the gospel!  I remember going to the missionary preparation class in our Edgemont ward [congregation].  When I turned on the car to drive home to Orem, the first song on the hymns CD in our car would start playing. It was “Called to Serve,” and when the sun was shining and I was on a spiritual high from the preparation class I felt the missionary spirit so strongly.  Now I’ve experienced that feeling while seeing real missionaries in real life! The flight to Brazil felt so long, but I was counting my blessings after meeting the missionaries going to Johannesburg — they had a 16 hour flight plus all the other flying they had to do!
     I got the window seat for the Brazil flight.  The best moment of my travels by far was on the descent to São Paulo.  We had been passing over this really hilly brown country when I saw the ocean in front of us.  But it looked too white, so then I started to wonder if any of the São Paulo mountains were tall enough for snow!  It turned out to be a super thick layer of cloud.  We flew down into the cloud, and after a couple minutes the clouds suddenly cleared and São Paulo popped into view right below us.  It was gorgeous.
     It was especially great because it was so obviously different than anywhere I’ve ever been before.  Everything you can see is covered in a thick green carpet.  There are red tile roofs and silver metal roofs everywhere and the buildings are red, green, blue, pink, whatever.  It was even more fun driving through the streets.  The bus driver was very skilled at honking and maneuvering through tight turns.  We were in a narrow street when two huge gates popped open and I realized we were at the CTM!  We held up both lanes of traffic for 3-4 minutes while they guided us backwards into the parking lot.
When I got off, Sister Whitaker, my first grade teacher, was there to greet me.  She put my name tag on me!  That was exciting.  People recognize the elders, but sisters blend in, so it was exciting to get a tag that identifies me as a missionary for Christ.
     We reviewed the dedicatory prayer [for the CTM] given by President Nelson (then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles).  I realized that I have always thought of the US as the land prophesied of in that scripture about Joseph Smith and the land being discovered.  But that is so silly because it could just as easily refer to the Americas as a whole!  Yes, Joseph Smith was in the US but we don’t know where the Nephites and Lamanites actually lived, so there’s no reason Brazil can’t be the promised land too.
     A funny moment happened on our first day when we put our suitcases in the elevator.  There was this loud beeping sound that wouldn’t turn off and we were worried we were over the weight limit or that the elevator had broken!  The CTM brothers didn’t know either so eventually we took everything out again. Then one of the sisters realized the beeping noise had followed us out of the elevator. It was the metronome (for playing the piano) in her luggage!
     My companion is Sister Hale.  I met her in Atlanta.  She is great — an awesome first companion.  She speaks a lot of Spanish at home (she was born in Argentina!) so she understands a lot more Portuguese than I do.  There are very few sisters here compared to elders (way way less than the percentage of sisters for all missionaries –we’re the only two in the American group that got here last week so it’s like 1 to 18 or 20 or something) and most of them speak Portuguese or Spanish.  Most of the American sisters also know some or a lot of Spanish — I’ve met maybe two other sisters who don’t speak Spanish and there are hundreds of people here.
     Learning Portuguese is difficult, of course.  On the one hand, it is amazing that I can make any Brasilieros (Brazilians) understand sentences I say in Portuguese, however broken!  I have memorized the missionary purpose (Invite others to come unto Christ . . .) and the scriptures for the first vision and some other sentences and questions in Portuguese (Somos Missionarias da Igrega de Jesus Cristo dos Santos dos Ultimos Dias.  Temos uma mensagem sobre Jesus Cristo.  Voce acredita en Deus e en Jesus Cristo? etc. etc.)  On the other hand, it’s easy to feel like you aren’t learning enough Portuguese when you’re at the CTM.  We keep hearing about people who are learning 100 words a day, memorizing two scriptures etc. etc.!  One issue is that we have a lot of things to do that aren’t memorizing our assigned vocabulary and passages for memorization.  We eat meals, we go to choir, we have devotionals, we have planning, we prepare lessons for investigators, read scriptures — it’s a lot!  They gave us a goal for memorization and learning Portuguese for the first ten days so I’ll tell you how I did next week.  I taught my first two lessons about the gospel this week.  It’s quite hard in Portuguese!
Boa noite! (we’re three hours ahead)
Sister Faulconer