Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Benefits and Blessings

First, just a note on the weather.  People keep commenting on how cold we must be down here because all the pictures show us all bundled up.  Many of those pictures are in front of a very big glacier, and a chunk of ice that big does tend to make things cold, even during the summer.  It is winter here, and it is cold, but we find it interesting that it is not that cold.   All the locals keep telling us how unusually cold it is this winter.  The humidity is high, and when the wind blows it feels cold, but it gets colder in Utah.  Montana winters were way colder than it gets here.  The average daytime temperature is above freezing and today it was over 40 with blue skies and no wind.  Gorgeous!  The locals are telling us that the worst of winter is over already.

If any of you look at our experiences (and us being all bundled up), and wonder if you should serve a mission, especially as member and leader support, there are some great unanticipated benefits.

We are walking a lot more since it helps us be visible in the area, and we bought yoga mats and try to exercise for 30 minutes most mornings.  There is time built into the schedule for exercise and we can take the time we want or need.  We actually eat together all the time and we are good about reminding each other that we probably don't really need seconds.  As a result, each of us has lost about 2 inches around the waist.  My doctor will be very pleased if I can keep up or improve those results until I get home!

We don't have to keep the same schedule as the younger missionaries.  Our schedule can still be rigorous, but it is also more flexible.  I have really enjoyed taking an afternoon siesta when I need it!  I'm going to really miss that when I get home.

We spend almost all of our time together.  We do have the freedom to occasionally go off by ourselves with the understanding that the other one has to know where you are.  For example, we do home teaching and visiting teaching with members of the branch.  But, if you really need time away, you can get it.  We don't need it very often.   We can still get frustrated with each other, but we are learning to repent and forgive faster!  It is amazing what spending time with your spouse does for your relationship.  It also helps that we have a set of common goals, and that we are more concerned about other people than we are about ourselves.  We had a good relationship before our mission, but we have found that our marital relationship is sweeter and more tender now.

The opportunity to spend all our time ministering and not have to worry about administering is incredibly unique.  We visit people in all circumstances and have the opportunity to testify of the power of the gospel.  Multiple times in a day we have the Spirit testify to us and them of the existence of God and of the Divinity of His Son.  The Holy Ghost has a special calling to witness of God the Father and His Son and every time we bear that witness the Spirit comes with incredible strength.  That is a blessing that is indescribable.

I really don't know what we will be doing when we get back home but this experience certainly doesn't feel like a sacrifice right now.  

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Note to Self . . .

 . . . the next time the young, single missionaries offer to find housing for us on a road trip, inform them that it is OK but we will make our own arrangements. And it is probably worth it to pay for the upgrade.  I'm not a big fan of the Dick Van Dyke-Mary/Tyler Moore sleeping arrangements they found for us in our hostel in El Calafate!

  The Argentina Comodoro Rivadavia Mission of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was established a year ago, and President Rogers gave the missionaries a day to go do something to help them understand more about the place where we are all serving.  The missionaries here in Rio Gallegos chose to go to Los Glaciares National Park.  Since we had already been to the park just a few months ago, we thought about skipping out on the trip, but then we decided that as part of our cultural experience, we were going to take this trip like the young missionaries do.

  We were scheduled to take the "colectivo," which is the Argentinian word for bus, from Rio Gallegos to Calafate.  The inter-city colectivos are large double-decker buses with seats that recline more comfortably than your standard airplane seat.  The missionary in charge of organizing the trip apologized that we only had the half-bed and not the full-bed seats.  So apparently, they have first class seating on the busses as well.  Things started getting interesting as the schedule started bouncing around.  First we were leaving at 8:00 p.m., then at 4:00 p.m., then at 8:00 p.m. again and finally we found out that the bus would leave at 8:30 p.m.   We didn't want to leave our car in the bus terminal overnight, so again in the spirit of doing things like the young missionaries do, we packed up our overnight bag and took the 25 minute walk to the terminal.  Fortunately, the wind wasn't blowing so even though the temperature was just above freezing it didn't really feel very cold.

  The bus ride was pretty uneventful except for a little slipping on icy roads.  I was glad that I wasn't driving in those conditions.  The drive that took about 3 1/2 hours by auto during the summer took closer to 5 hours by bus in the winter.  We got into El Calafate at about 1:15 a.m. and waited for a taxi to take us to the hostel.  The missionaries had gushed over how nice the hostel was, and I will admit that it was clean and at least had a private bath, which is better than some places I have stayed at in my life.  However, the quality of the mattress left a little to be desired.  Even though the mattress was hard, it didn't matter that much since it was such a short night.  Lights out by 2:30 a.m.

  Our alarm went off at 6:30 a.m. so that we could be up, showered, and dressed in time.  We walked to the chapel and met rest of the missionaries and made our way back to the bus terminal to catch a bus to the national park at 8:00 a.m.  I did find it interesting that the round trip bus fare from El Calafate into the park, about an hour drive, cost more than the 5 hour fare on the big colectivo.  Tourist towns!

  The time in the park was cool and rainy.  We were amazed that there wasn't much snow on the ground.  The brochure says that the mean temperature during the winter is 0.6 C, just above freezing.  When we first got into the park, the pathways were icy, but as the day progressed the ice melted.
Missionaries climbing the paths around the glaciers

 The park was not nearly as busy as it had been in the summer so we were able to enjoy some parts of it in peace and quiet.  The walk through the woods around the glacier was particularly captivating.  The deciduous trees were all bare but there were still many signs of life and growth even in winter.

The path and woods surrounding the glacier.

Winter-time in the woods around the Perito Moreno Glacier.
Even though the park was quieter in winter than in summer, we still met people from Italy, Belgium, Japan and the United States and we got to tell several of them why were here living in Argentina. 

Members of the Church in Rio Gallegos have told us that they enjoy coming to the park more in the winter than in the summer because they think it is more beautiful.  I don't know if it is more beautiful, but it is certainly a different experience.  The glacier is constantly growing, moving and changing so it appears different than the first time we came.

The Perito Moreno Glacier on a cool, wet day.
We really are here, even though sometimes we can't believe it ourselves!
Don't they have something like this in Park City, UT?
After spending several hours wandering around the park we jumped on the bus and went back to El Calafate.  We had pizza for a rather late lunch.  The normal pizza here has ham, cheese, strips of pepper and whole green olives.  It is pretty good pizza, Hermana Merkley's crust is better though!  This time we actually got a little more variety and I think we all enjoyed it!  We then got a chance to wander around the town of El Calafate.  It is interesting how similar tourist towns are all around the world.  We did look at a number of interesting crafts but we really weren't tempted to buy anything, except for chocolate.

Our new shirts from President and Sister Rogers!

  We also got a gift from President and Sister Rogers in honor of the World Cup and the mission anniversary.  They are selling a lot of Argentina shirts worn by the Argentinian soccer star Lionel Messi with a #10.  I had considered buying one of those because they are admittedly pretty cool,  However, I have to concede that the shirts with the mission logo are way cooler and much more unique!  Considering that we were running on four hours of sleep and suffering from "hat hair" we don't look too hammered!

  We left El Calafate on the colectivo at about 8:00 p.m. and made it back to Rio Gallegos at about 12:30 a.m.  This time we decided that it was worth it to pay for a taxi to take us home.  It was an interesting experience, but the one thing I know is that I'm not 20 any more!