I got a lovely birthday package in the mail last Thursday that absolutely thrilled me to the core! Thank you so much, dear family, for your beautiful letters, scribbles, fun, and deliciousness! Sister Rosado and I waited until today to have a big party with ourselves. We blew up all the balloons and made the cake (baking in Brazil is an adventure), and it's currently cooling in the fridge. So when we get back we're going to frost it and have a ball. It's her 7-month mark today, so we're celebrating that as well.
I haven't talked about the animals here? Are you kidding me? I guess there's always just so much to say. There are more dogs and cats here than I can count. And while the dogs in São Paulo and other places in Bahia are a fright, the dogs here in Mussurunga have it good. They lounge around all day on heaps of garbage and sand, fat and happy. They travel in packs sometimes. I've never seen them fight with each other, the cats, or anything else. They're just happy, friendly, lazy creatures. I've even seen them sleeping with the cats! They play with each other, wait to cross the street together, and smile at you when you walk by. It's pretty funny, actually. And the coolest thing about the dogs here in Mussurunga is that they provide the town alarm clock. It freaked me out a little the first time I heard it, but I'm used to it now. Every morning, all the dogs in Mussurunga (which are many) howl all together for about 40 seconds. Then they do it again at night. I don't know why they do, but they do it every single day.
But enough about the dogs. Y'all need to hear about the busses! I've never really been afraid of death, but every time I step on a bus here, I see my life flash before my eyes. The bus drivers think that they're manouvering little sports cars. They travel at rediculously high speeds, swerving around the other cars, bouncing over the uneven pavement, stopping suddenly when they have absolutely no ther choice. I'm not exaggerating, it feels exactly like you're riding on the night bus in Harry Potter. And most of the time, the bus is so crowded that you have to stand and hold on for dear life. It's a full-body workout, riding the bus. Even your toes are working overtime to keep you from flying through the windows. Sometimes, the bus is so crowded that you wouldn't think it's possible to be knocked over, because every inch of your body is being pressed against the sweaty skin of someone else and you think, "I couldn't move if I tried". Yet, somehow, it's still necessary to hold on to something.
Two days ago, Sister Rosado and I had to get up early and take a bus out of town so Sister Rosado could have her knees looked at. The bus was very crowded that morning and I was standing, gripping the bar above my head with all my strength as the bus jerked us around. When it came to a screeching halt, the woman who'd been pressed up behind me said, "Com liçensa," (excuse me) and tried to swim her way through the people off the bus. But her belt buckle had gotten to know my skirt very well during the journey and the two refused to part. You know how in old movies, the sound of clothes tearing always seems hilariously exaggerated? Well it's not an exaggeration. That's really what it sounds like. By the time that lady got away, I had a hole the size of my bum, directly over my bum, in my skirt. For the next few minutes I held on to the bar overhead for dear life with one hand while using the other to hold my skirt over my backside. When we finally got off the bus, I tucked up my skirt (thank goodness it was so long!) in Tarzan-esque fashion and strolled around the streets of Brazil that way for the next several hours until I could go back to the apartment and change. Thankfully, our lunch appointment was in the home of a member who makes and sells dresses, so after an awkward 40 minutes of keeping my back to the wall so the Elders wouldn't see, this Sister pulled me into her office and stitched me up.
I love the people here more and more every day. I'm slowly starting to understand them, even if I don't know what they're saying exactly. They all have a hard time saying "Whitaker" and many refuse to try. They laugh and shake their heads and talk to Sister Rosado instead. One member asked me what my name meant and as I was explaining to him that my ancestors lived and worked on wheat fields, the words I knew off the top of my head in Português were 'campo de branco' (field of white). Then I realized it sounded like I was talking about D&C 4, where it says that the fields are white already to harvest. It was pretty cool. I realized that I am a worker of the white fields and that my name calls me such, too! But, sadly, most of the members don't call me Whitaker. They call me "Little White One" or "Boneca". I didn't understand the meaning of the latter for a long time, and then Sister Rosado explained to me last week that I always look like a ceramic doll, because I'm white and quiet and wear cute dresses and always have my hair in braids. So they all call me Doll. Yesterday I felt like I heard the word even more than usual. Funny.
In honor of the Christmas season, I've begun writing my own Christmas carols to fit with how Christmas is here in Bahia. Here's one for you: (To be sung to the tune of 'Stars Were Gleaming')
Sun is shining, Street dogs whining,
And the Palm trees, how they sway!
Lots of walking, Not much talking,
This is Christmas Bahia's way.
Always sweating in the sun.
Oh, this work is so much fun!
Hope you all are happy and well and enjoying this Holiday Season!!! I miss you all and love you very very much!
P.S. Mom! I can't believe you met the Luke's Panties man!!!!