- Flying into Bahia was like flying into Brazil for the first time. I felt like Bambi when I looked out the window, and shocked at the sight of snow in such a hot place, said to Sister Oliver, ''What´s all that white stuff??" Imagine my surprise when she said that it was not snow, but sand! I never knew sand could be so white and fluffy-looking. The dirt here is truly red, too!
- I love, love, love President and Sister Andrezzo. When they picked us up from the airport, I forgot mission rules for a moment and threw my arms around President Andrezzo! He did´t chastise me for it, so maybe it was OK. But I sure felt embarrassed.
- I saw a tree full of monkeys as we made our way up to President´s house for dinner. That´s right, monkeys! Very small black and white ones the size of squirrels. I thought they were adorable, but Sister Andrezzo is afraid of them. I guess one of them bit her son´s hand once. That was a wealthy area, though. In my area we don´t have monkeys- we have rabid dogs and rogue pigeons.
- My new companion is a drop-dead-gorgeous Brazileira named Sister Rosado. My area is Murunga in Salvador, very, very close to the beach.
- I didn´t know what was going on the whole day, but it was alright. I don´t understand a word Sister Rosado says, but I do try. Mostly I just followed her around the whole day, went into people´s houses and just sat there while she talked to them. Every once in a while they would look at me and talk about how I don´t understand them. Sometimes Sister Rosado would ask me to say a prayer and afterwards they would all smile as if I was the cutest and most pathetic thing ever, and say, "Para bens!" (congratulations)
- My area is very poor, but very friendly. I am constantly in awe at how warm and welcoming people are, even to missionaries. For the whole second day I could never tell who was a member of the church that we ran into on the street or who was a stranger, because Sister Rosado would talk to them all the same and they would all talk to her as if she were an old friend. Also, something I really love is that everyone greets each other with a hug and a kiss on each cheek. This makes it harder to tell who´s a new acquaintance and who´s an old friend when you don´t understand what anyone´s saying, but it sure makes you feel welcome!
- I was especially amazed at the friendliness of people when we knocked doors. Here, everyone has a gate in front of their house, so Sister Rosado would walk up to the gate, clap her hands, and sometimes call out,"Oi! Somos missionarias!" (Hi, we´re missionaries!) And always, someone would come out to greet us, even if they weren´t interested. They would come out to the gate, greet us as old friends, listen to what we had to say, and then say yes or no to hearing our message, thank us politely, and either let us in or bid us a good day. Amazing!
- Sister Rosado and I hopped on a bus and took it to the local chapel, where we had a district meeting. There is only one other American in my district (Elder Duncan) and he wouldn´t speak English with me. That´s good, because I´ll learn so much faster this way. It sure is challenging, though. Whew-wee! :)
- After the district meeting, Sister and President Andrezzo drove up and all the missionaries were talking with them. As usual, I understood nothing and just stood there smiling. I´m the District mime, you see. Then, everyone looked at me and started clapping. No more confused than I always am here, I started clapping too and turned around to see what we were clapping for. Sister Rosado threw her arms around me with a big smile on her face and cried,"Sister Weetahkeh, porque não disse?" and then everyone was singing happy birthday to me. I had completely forgotten it was my birthday! Ha ha ha! They all laughed at me when I said I forgot.
- The rest of the day I just drank everything in. Bahia is a gorgeous place. I am in constant awe that this isn´t a dream. It´s like living in a dream! Every corner has its own potent smell, from mysterious delicious foods to garbage to dead dog to car fumes to perfumes. Everywhere you look there are trees bowing under the weight of coconuts, bananas, or some other exotic fruit. The leaves make a constant, rushing whisper as the sea breeze rustles them. This, combined with the plastic bags blowing around the streets, the cars, the people, and the birds all contribute to the music of Bahia.
- The people of Bahia have great faith-- especially when they drive. Great faith. Faith that they´ll make it through that tiny space at such a high speed, faith that everyone will move for them. Their faith is so great that they never cease moving forward. It´s astonishing.
- I feel badly for Sister Rosado. I´m sure she feels like she´s living with Eliza Doolittle sometimes.
- That night, President and Sister Andrezzo brought over a birthday cake for me. Their daughter, Clara, was with them and she tripped on the way in, receiving a nasty gash on her leg that bled so much that she had to sit with her head between her knees. They were all so embarrassed, and I wished I knew how to talk to them. Sister Andrezzo said, "Quick! Let´s sing to Sister Whitaker and then we can worry about Clara." They proceeded to rush through the birthday song, clapping their hands, and poor Clara clapped her hands in the air with her head still between her knees. Then they all wished me a good night and Clara said, "Disculpa, Sister," as her parents helped her limp out the door. I guess she had to get stitches.
Well, I´m about out of time, but I just want you all to know that I´m learning the language very rapidly. Trying and trying again. The Lord has been blessing me more than I deserve.
Oh yeah! And I´m allowed to email friends now! I can also print off emails, so even though I won´t have time to read and respond to every email, I can print them off and write responses through letters. Cool, eh?
I hope you are all well! I miss everyone more than I thought it was possible to miss people. I ache to hear from you all! I get letters once a month now that I´m out of the CTM, so if it takes me a long time to respond to you all, that´s why.
The church is true. God is our loving Heavenly Father. He knows us, knows what we need, and wants nothing more than to shower us with blessings. I love being a missionary and sharing the sweet message of the Restoration with people! Someday I´ll be able to actually do it with words. For now, it´s mostly smiles and hugs and service. Be graetful for all that you have! Be kind. Be good. Be happy!
All my love and a big fat hug,
P.S. Mommy, thank you so much for sending me a package!!! I´m super excited to get it!!! I miss you so much it hurts, even though I´m also very happy to be here.