Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Crazy Brazilians

     This has been an awesome second week here at the CTM. I can't believe it's only been two weeks. I've learned so much and grown so close to the people in my district. My love for Brazil grows every day (thank goodness I get to see outside these CTM walls every P-day and interact with the locals). I'm still muito far from speaking Portugues, but I'm already saying my prayers (personal and public) in 100% Portugues and I can bear my testimony, and communicate very simple things with the Brazilheiros.
     Speaking of the Brazilheiros..... They. Are. Insane. !!! And I absolutely adore them! They really like cologne. Walking down the stairwell every morning for breakfast is akin to entering a gas chamber. Sister Oliver and I beearly make it out alive every day. I know it's a tender mercy of the Lord.  The Brazilians also really like to NOT sleep, and to sing U.S. songs and laugh and laugh and laugh until Sister Whitaker is about to roll over dead from laughter. Even when you don't understand what they're saying, they are hilarious. They like climbing the trees around here, like packs of laughing monkeys. They are just way too fun. One day, one of the Brazilian Elders ate 10 bowls of rice and beans, just to see if he could, and then he and all his fellow Brazilheiros ran out to the scale to see how much he weighed, laughing and laughing all the way.
The Elders in my district are absoluetly amazing. I adore them to pieces. Never in my life has it been so painful to not hug someone. They crack me up, and they inspire me to be better, and they let me mother them, and sometimes they mother me. We take good care of each other.
    Funny moments of the week (actually, there are waaaay too many to tell them all, but these are the ones I can think of at the moment):
       -- Elder Johnson, the smallest Elder of my district, has dry humor down to the T. By all appearence, he is always lost in his own world, sitting with a frown on his face and eyes that stare very intesely at nothing. Then, when you least expect it, he opens his mouth and in his quiet monotone says something hilarious that makes it very clear he heard every word of the conversation. One such time, everyone was talking about the new Batman movie and how Anne Hathaway didn't make a very good Catwoman. They were all trying to come up with actresses who would have done a better job. Elder Johnson, with perfect timing, said, "Whoopie Goldberg would have made a better Catwoman."
   His companion, Elder Hermansen (another master of dry humor), agreed with, "She would certainly blend into the night better."
       -- There's always some church movie that they play in the auditorium every sunday, and they set up chairs and turn out the lights so it's like a big movie theater. This Sunday we watched the movie "Legacy". The chick-flick of church films! Oh goody! At that part where the buck-toothed heroine is saying goodnight to the supposed-British-convert-with-the-American-accent-and-long-hair on the porch (you know the part?) after their date and she's trying to tell him that she's "swarn to marry Jacob", I forgot that I was in the CTM momentarilly. The girl goes off on this tangent about how "love is kindess. It's patient, it's long-suffering, it endures all things--" and then the guy shuts her up with a kiss, and right at that part I said (kind of a lot more loudly than I meant to), "Oh YEAH!"  The entire room of missionaries burst into laughter. I realized right away how innappropriate such humor was in such a place and ducked down, hoping that the dark was enough to hide me from all the heads turning to see who'd said such a thing. The sisters on either side of me were laughing so hard that they were crying for quite a while, and all of the Elders in my district, scandallized almost as much as they were entertained, whispered accusingly at me, "SISTER WHITAKER!!!!"  It was very emabrassing.
In other news, I sang a solo on sunday (don't ask), and then during the evening devotional I sang "I Need Thee Every Hour" with a small group and President Degn liked it so much that when we finished, he asked us to sing it again. It was very powerful and beautiful. President Degn is a concert pianist, and he can rock the keys like nobody's buisness.
Speaking of doing things like nobody's buisiness! Ya'll would not believe it if you could see me playing vollyball!!! I can serve like a ninja. That's about all I can do, though. The Elders cheer every time I so much as touch the ball. Especially if I do it on purpose. It doesn't even matter which way it goes, so long as I actually try to hit it. One day, one of the Brazilian Elders realized that I was only useful as a server, so he put me in that position and kept me there for the remainder of the game. I was ok with that. Ha ha.

Iiiiiiiit's Sister Whitaker!!!

    When Ryan first left for his mission, he described it like falling down the stairs only without the fear or the pain. Reana described it as being thrown into a freezing cold pond.  My home teacher described it as being a fish that had just been caught and had its head whacked against a rock . For me, the last description feels the closest.

  That's almost exactly what it felt like for me my first week here at the CTM.  It's really hard to explain.  I don't think you can ever really understand what it's like unless you've been through it.  I feel just like Rapunzel in the new cartoon after she's just left the tower and she goes back and forth between joyful exclamations of ``I'm never going back!`` and mournful lamentation, wondering why on earth she'd left the tower.

  It's been a rough week.  A wonderful, amazing, powerful, hard, scary, hilarious, fun, funny, dizzying, horrifying week.  I've never felt so weak and pitiful in my entire life.  I have so much to work on before I'll ever be ready to walk the streets of Bahia as a representative of Jesus Christ.  Every day gets a little better, though, and some days are just down-right, all-out FUN!  I have the most amazing district imaginable.  I feel so blessed. And minha compenhera, Sister Oliver, is a blast and a half.   I'm really grateful I have her as a compenhera, because I have a tendency to stress and be a perfectionist, and she is the most chill human being alive.  Sometimes we goof off way too much in our district, but I'm grateful for the chance to learn how to relax every now and then.  We had an awesome testimony meeting the other night.  I am absolutely amazed by these Elders.  They're younger than Risa, most of them, but just in the past week I've watched them change in remarkable ways.  I can't even believe we've only known each other for a week.  It's scary how quickly the idea of ``home`` starts to fade into a vague kind of dream.

    So, what do I think of Brazil?  Sao Paulo is madness.  Sheer, blinkin', bloomin' madness.  And I love it.  When we first arrived, the other three sisters and I got to ride in our own, personal car apart from the Elders, and we thought we were probably going to die before we reached the CTM.  Drivers here are INSANE!!!  And the city is humungous. Sky-scrapers as far as the eye can see in every direction, with smog so thick overhead you start to forget there's any such thing as a sky or the sun.  Traffic is so bad here all the time that a lot of people just take the train and endure a 2+ hour commute to and from work every day.  One of my teachers does that.

     The food here at the CTM is pretty good.  Brazilian cafeteria food, basically.  Not as bad as US cafeteria food, but not nearly as good as what our teachers tell us we have to look forward to in the field.
     Here's a Portuguese tongue-twister my teacher told us about that was cracking me up so bad I couldn't breath or see through my tears for almost a full minute.  I want Ryan to try and say it to you all so you can hear how hilarious it is.  ``A ra arranha a aranna, a aranna a arranha a ra.``  The translation is something like: a frog scratches a spider, a spider scratches a frog, or something like that. It sounds amazing.
    I'm learning a ton, getting a little better at Portuguese every day, though it's coming to me very slowly, and just loving the Gospel! I know this is where the Lord wants me and I'm so grateful to be here.