Friday, November 23, 2012

Thanksgiving Day in Guarapuava

Elder & Sister Davis
We spent the day at the home of Casal Davis. We are called the Casal McKinney; casal meaning married couple.  We were spoiled to have an American thanksgiving dinner in the middle of Brazil in the springtime.  Elder & Sister Davis invited the whole zone – 10 Elders and the 2 couples making 16.  The traditional Davis Thanksgiving dinner included two small turkeys served with dressing, mashed potatoes, corn, gravy, sweet potatoes, layered Jello, carrot sticks, and water or Guaraná (Brazilian pop). Very shortly after this tableful of food disappeared it was again covered with three apple pies and blackberry tort served with ice cream.  There was a plateful of colorfully wrapped home- made chocolates filled with coconut, cherry and a caramel-chocolate mix.  Needless to say, I was stuffed.

Brightly wrapped chocalates
await the rest of dinner.

Elder McKinney & I had traveled by onibus to Guarapuava a day ahead to help in any way that we could.  We were able to wash, cut, cook, cleanup, and then start over again.  Most of you that have done this type of cooking have an idea what the drill is like.  What I had not imagined was trying to fit all of the trimmings in a very small refrigerator. That is all that is allowed senior couples in our mission.  The Davis’ did a magic trick getting everything in fridge and freezer only leaving three covered pies on the table overnight. 

We cut up, cooked, peeled, and sliced the sweet potatoes the day before but the mashed potatoes had to wait ‘til morning.  Though most stoves are equally as small as the refrigerator, the Davis’ have one that twice the size of mine.  Still there is only one rack and it was good that the two turkeys were smaller or the height would have brushed the top of the oven.  We cooked potatoes and corn on top while turkey and dressing moved out to make way for berry tort.  The slow cooker was used for the sweet potatoes.  No rolls since there was not room or time.  The giblet broth was used in the dressing along with onions, celery, cubed bread, bacon and sausage – all part of the Davis family recipe.  Apple pies were prepared with crisscross tops.

Classy marshmallows
Just as lemons look like oranges but taste like lemons; the sweet potatoes had red potato like peels with white insides though they have the standard shape and taste. The marshmallows here are assorted colors, not white.   

The cooking and overnight stay were made more interesting by a rain storm and several power outages.  We were glad to have completed the hour long seminary class we attended and that the pies were cooking in a gas stove.  We continued preparations until the length of the next outage sent us to bed by flashlight.

This is a new apartment for the Davis’ last five months of their mission. Their old landlord decided not to renew their contract and move back into their leased home himself.  The Elders and the Branch president moved them using farm crates and his truck.  They have a larger, but more expensive, apartment.  They had purchase a second-hand table and six chairs.  By adding these to 4 chairs and coaches everyone was seated and able to eat off paper plates on their laps.  The food was so good that it was pretty quiet for a while. 

Guarapuava Zone - Thanksgiving 2012
Of course, we had to have the zone pictures since transfers are coming soon.  This is a great bunch of hard-working, exemplary young men. There have been several baptisms since our last zone meeting and this always creates a lot of excitement.  What a terrific P-day.  We now have several more Brazilians saying “Happy Thanksgiving”.

As I write, we are at the area district office so John can meet with the president to ask questions and clarify differences in how branches run.  It is a bit different than our home ward and stake.  We are learning a lot and want to how best to fit in to this part of the vineyard.

Marina & Sabrina
Elders Affonso & Brooksby
The Elders in our district did baptize Marina, 9, and Sabrina, 11, last Saturday.  They have two very supportive aunts in the branch.  The girls have attended church since we started coming here and I did not realize they were not members until we were invited to attend the baptismal interview with them.  On Saturday we were able to meet the additional family members.  As we arrive to church on Sunday morning a glowing Marina ran out and gave me a hug.  She is sooo excited to be a member and have the Holy Ghost. I hope the rest of her family will follow her lead soon. 

My lack of language skills was a small hindrance on Sunday as we completed the practice for the Primary Program and found there was no teacher for the younger children.  I fortunately had crayons and a coloring page of Nephi building a boat with me.  After the coloring and mounting of these artworks we sang the program songs a Capella and they helped me with the Portuguese words.  I have to learn faster.

Well as I write it is getting late and we are awaiting the bus to take us back to Prudentópolis this evening.  Hopefully it will be the short ride today.  Thanks to all who have shared your well wishes and love with us.  Happy Thanksgiving!  We are very blessed. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Conversions of Many Kinds

Leonara takes piano lessons from me at our apartment. She was baptized last weekend.  The girl next to her is a non-member friend that she brings to church with her.  Maria Eduarda is the tall young woman on the left of the picture. She is a cousin and an investigator.  They both come each week to church.  This is very important because many parents here are not married so these young people are learning about a lifestyle that is quite foreign to their culture when we talk about eternal marriage.  

This picture is of Juliana and her father.  She just turned 8.  Their family has been sealed in the temple and they all come to church.  Her father works out of town on a farm to support his family.  He is a builder but cannot find enough work here so he is not home every night – he comes home on the bus on weekends to see his family and to come to church.

The picture on the right is of Marcos and his kitten. He is 6 years old.  His sisters, Sabrina and Marina, are getting baptized this Saturday.  Their parents are not members but they have been coming to Primary every week with their cousins. We were at their home yesterday when the Zone leader interviewed them to be baptized.  They glowed with happiness when he told them they could be baptized.  They mother signed the papers to allow their baptism – she is not a member.  The younger missionaries are teaching her lessons too.  We hope that she will be baptized soon so she can teach the whole family about Heavenly Father in their home. 

We see a wide variety of clothing at church. Many girls and women wear pants – some don’t have a dress.  Even members don’t always have special Sunday clothes. It is very cool when the young men can come in a white shirt and quite rare to see suits or dress slacks instead of everyday pants.

There is one family who lives so far away (in the “interior”) from the church that they have to ride a horse for a ways, then take a bus ride, then walk to get to church.  They want to come so bad that they do this but only once a month because it costs them so much money and that is all they can afford.

3 way adapter - top, bottom, middle
Brazilian plug & outlet, round prongs

Standard 3-prong adapter

Other types of conversion occur when we read the Conversion of Temperature - Celsius to Farenheit -- as well as the temperature on the oven when I cook and the liquid measures in liters instead of quarts and gallons. I buy food by the kilo, gram, or mil. We convert electricity using our American plugs with adapters.

My cookies are somewhat of a hit with the sisters and youth. It becomes interesting when we try to share recipes.  At one home we had “Bolo de chocolate” and when I got the recipe it involved copo de oleo, xicara de trigo ou mais, colhor de ferment royial.  So not only was there a conversion of language but of measurement.  I had the same problem when Alana, the 24 year old Young Women’s president, asked for a cookie recipe.  We are teaching her the temple prep lessons at our home on Saturdays, when she is home from college. 
Foods we purchase regularly at the store.
There are no zip lock bags only the rolls seen at the left side of the photo.
They are much like produce bags in the US.
I handed her the recipe where I had converted the ingredients.
Shortening=Gordura Vegetal. 
Brown sugar=Açucar Muscavo.
Flour=Farinha de trigo
Soda=Bicarbonato de sodio
Cinnamon=Canela em Po                       
      Etc. For other spices

I thought I was thinking great – I had even converted the temperature to Centigrade -- until she wanted to know what teaspoons and Tablespoons were.   Then I learned about colher de chá and colher de soupa being their teaspoon and soup spoon.  The copo and xicara are different size cup measurements.

One of our most interesting searches has been to find whole wheat flour. Whole anything usually has “Integral”, meaning whole or complete, on the package but people did not understand me or maybe why I wanted “farinha de trigo integral”.  Finally as we visited with Sonia Mello at her home this week the question was answered.  When we arrived for our visit she had two sisters visiting her, one from out of town.  We were going to make our visit short so we were not intruding on their visit but they had prepared a “lite” supper for us.  The daughter –in-law from next door came over with croissants – some filled with jam – others with meat and cheese. Then there was cheese and meat and regular rolls along with punch. 

Since Sonia is the only member among her living siblings, the two sisters seemed a bit uncomfortable with the missionaries at first.  We talked about their family history. Their father had 15 children by two wives.  The father had 23 children in his extended family.  Needless to say there are a lot of people involved in the family.  She brought out a book published in 1988 about the ancestors on her father’s side.  We were able to take the book home and I scanned all 244 pages and will make discs for her to give people since the book seems to be unavailable anymore.  Of course, I had to go on and see about the connections there.  Much of the family appears there but there are gaps that could make for some good research for her family.  By time we left her house that day her sisters were smiling and talking with us quite freely about children.  There are families in the US working in the Boston area and some of the “netos” (grandchildren) are looking pretty American to them. We hope to have more contact with the whole family and get to know them better.

Back to my whole wheat problem—the daughter-in-law makes all kinds of bread.  When John told her I made banana and “abobrinha” (zuccinhi) bread last week and was looking for whole wheat she gave us directions to a specialty store.  We finally found it on one of our longer walks.  The owner, Cynthia, is of Ukrainian descent, and was very helpful.  We found lots of herbs in her store.  She spoke at length about the importance of learning English.  Her daughter speaks Ukrainian at home, Portuguese in school, and is learning English from a teacher.  She also said she had taught piano for over 15 years and that Elder Carter had invited her to the branch to play for them.  It didn’t happen.  We will try to visit her again. She is golden.

We also met the barber…… story next week!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Bus Rides and Summer Flowers

Luana Oliveira - 3 on Nov. 4

Did I mention that we spend a lot of time on buses?  Since I last reported we have taken first; a bus with the branch to Guamiranga and back to participate in a service project for branch president Elias, who was moving into a new home, second; the following Monday we took the 6:15 a.m. bus to Guarapuava for our Zone Meeting then third; rushed back to Prudentopolis to host a FHE for a family at our apartment, the next day we had the Elders over for breakfast at 7 a.m. as a bribe to move up our District Meeting so that we could take fourth; the early morning bus to Irati to get our CPF numbers that day and fifth; return that same day.  All of this is explained below!


Oliveira family after FHE lesson -
The kids loved the balloons!
Friday, November 2nd, was a National Holiday based on Catholic holiday All Souls Day. It is in essence the same as our Memorial Day. Everything closes for the day. In our case almost everything was also closed on Saturday. As we delivered a keyboard to a member on Sunday evening, we noticed that there were a lot of vendors open that evening because there were lots of people in the park and back in the city. The Elders reported to us that this was their fault as they had prayed for someone to contact that day. We have not yet figured out where everyone goes, but on holidays it is like a ghost town here. {I have now gone on-line to find out what other holidays are celebrated here so we can plan.}  

This bus was very upscale -
the members are waiting to go home here!
The members had planned this holiday Friday as a service project for the Stadlers, starting at 1 pm. We were to meet the members at the church for a bus ride since most members here do not have cars. John and I were surprised to find the 1st counselor in the branch was driving the tour bus and the branch had use of it for the rest of the day

Lucas - 10 - working hard
Stadlers had been leasing a home that had no water because the owner had planted a row of trees on one side to serve as a wind block and shade-- which all sounds nice -- but they sucked up all the ground water that fed the well. Their new home had been vacant for a year and was mildewed and over grown. The growing does not take long here. The branch members took a pressure washer and tools from the church and cleaned inside and out. Many weeded the grounds and hauled off/piled up leaves and branches. The large ant pile that got disturbed was pretty interesting.

Jobs for everyone?
Wiping clorox off
his face - Elias
The water at this house comes from a well also. They put a big tub full of water at a high altitude outside the house and use that to get pressure. There was a problem with the current tub and it overflowed outside the house for quite a while. I was able to file buckets of water from the dripping water for the children, who then got busy scrubbing the wraparound porch, while the adults pressure-washed and Cloroxed inside and out.

The house and yard are much cleaner at Stadler's new home.
Resting in shade during lunch!

The RS had brought soda pop and buns with ham and cheese for dinner. Sister Ivaldete Stadler had made a cake for everyone to share. After the scrubbing was done, the busload of members stopped at the home of Graça & Dario Santos that lived in Guamiranga. She had roses, lilies, vegetables and fruit all growing around a brick fairy-tale like home in the woods. We then went to the Stadlers old home where the bus unloaded again.  The kids played soccer and the adults visited for about 1½ hours – a branch activity so to speak.  John was able to pick a sack of lemons from their tree as did many other members before we returned to town.

After work - on way to party at Stadlers!
Dario Santos had been ill with shingles for the past four months. He was excited to find out that I could play the piano -- he is in his 70s and plays by ear. He wanted to play his flute (self-taught at 72), with me on the organ, at church. When he found out that I could also play the flute he was very excited and brought it to

church on Sunday to test me out. I felt like I was on trial as a group stood around in the primary room to see if I could play it.  Fortunately I was able to squeak out a hymn.   

Hydrangea across the street
The basket is where people put garbage.

The summer flowers are beginning to be planted and many of them look very familiar to those at home. There are marigolds, petunias, coreopsis sunray, etc. Some of the beautiful orchids and lilies that we pay so much for at home grow on the side of the road or in the cracks of the sidewalk like weeds.  There are many small bushes of hydrangea in flower everywhere now.  On the bus I have often noted oasis-like areas with palm trees and ponds that could be right out of a scene from Israel.

Sundays John teaches the Elders quorum lessons three out of four weeks. There are only 10 elders on the branch rolls and one is currently serving a mission in São Paulo.  John is the only High Priest here. Last Sunday was the quorum business day and Elder’s Quorum President Daniel Oishi taught. There was an investigator (Francisco) who was well versed in Bible literature as he is writing a book about the apostasy and he felt comfortable in the quorum discussion.  John caught him at the door and was able to give him a Book of Mormon and some literature after the block meetings. 

Statue in Irati
Our Monday and Tuesday were pretty much taken up with hours on the bus rides and meetings reported above. We have tried to cut down the wasted time on these days and proposed the breakfast district meeting at our home so the Irati elders could get home on the early bus to do some work there.  It takes them days to come in for a Zone meeting and get back because of the bus schedules. (Sometimes the meetings end just as the bus is leaving. With a 15 minute walk to the bus station from the chapel, it means they miss the bus and have to wait hours for the next one. Can you tell that my mind is trying to propose a better way here! )

Receita Federal in Irati 
Why did we have to go to Iriati? We had to have a CPF number– I don’t know what that stands for – which would allow us to make purchases here.  Apparently after paying the fee at the post office in Irati we were then able to go to the Receita Federal and get clearance for this number that allows them to keep track of the purchases we make here.

Church - Irati - by Federal building.
Wednesday John and the Elders helped Stadlers move their furniture into their home (another unmentioned bus ride for them).  I gave a piano lesson to Leonara (who will be 9 on the 17th and brought an invite to her birthday party).  She brought her mother and her cousin with her.  It is a challenge to try to make myself clear in Portuguese and to overcome the natural curiosity that everyone seems to have about any kind of technology.  I think that her mother, Dinorah, will end up either playing or leading music for the branch as she is very interested in everything. I sent them home with a disc that includes the chorister and piano courses in Portuguese since they have a computer in the husband’s office at home.  One of the hang ups about me teaching a church course is that they gave me the keyboards to use but not all of the materials to pass out. I will learn a lot teaching these lessons.

We had set up an appointment with Sonia Mello for Thursday afternoon thinking she was the Relief Society president [since that was what was written on the only records we have had access to so far—it turns out that Graça is the RS president],  When we arrived two of her sisters were visiting.  Sonia is the only member among her siblings.  We thought we had better make it a brief visit because of her company. When we proposed leaving they all said, “no, no” because they had prepared a light meal for us—her daughter-in-law came from across the street with some really terrific stuffed rolls {some sweet with jam, others with meat and cheese} and we ended up having a great visit.  In the process we discovered her father had a large family. We were able to obtain a copy of book on their family history to scan.  Hopefully we will gain permission to submit these records to the church as there are few Brazilian records currently available.

I could continue to ramble forever…. More on cooking and conversions (measurements & people!) next week.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Is the water here clean?

Most of you know that I am a scrapbooker.  The pages below are the Creative Memories records I made of a Zone Conference Food Demo that John and I did.  We have had a lot of meetings in the first month that we were here.  One of our major expenses has been for bus fare to different towns to attend meetings for training -- the Elders have their bus fare paid through reimbursement from the mission but the senior missionaries do not.  

For most of these meetings they will call a day ahead and ask for me to play the piano for opening and closing song and John will give a talk or a prayer.  They also don't mind if I bring cookies.  For this particular meeting I took zucchini bread that was a real hit.  

However, the point of this blog is to share our more unusual assignment.  President Cordon called Sunday evening to ask us to talk about cleaning fruits and vegetables for the Tuesday morning Zone Conference.  We had received a communication from the medical missionaries about a problem that many of the missionaries were having with stomach aches etc.  The article attached to the e-mail was "Diarrhea & Vomiting: How to Prevent & Treat".  It was in both Portuguese and English.  So I began by copying the article for all the missionary houses to take home.  Then, after planning our strategy, we went to buy groceries and try to show, by picture, what to do.  I made a series of photo pages that we turned into a Power Point Presentation.  Below are some of the pages with only the English translation that I will put in my scrapbook.  I know that some of the words are too small to read here but if you really want to see them you can really pan in on them.  

Note: Bottled water is another major expense for us.  The missionaries are reimbursed if they will use the bottled water -- I suspect in an effort to get them to use it.  Again, it is an expense that Senior missionaries pay. Elder Een is one of the missionaries in our district and is currently serving in Irati.  He told me of an experiment he had done where he sat a bottle of tap water with a lid on it outside for a few days then went back to see some pretty disgusting things that had grown in the bottle.  I would think he is one of the few who turn in their reimbursement vouchers for bottled water.

We found a cemetery! Are my kids surprised?

Everyone who knows me well knows that I love the information found in cemeteries.  This Ukrainian Cemetery is at the end of the street that we were told one of the sisters lived on.  We did finally find her on November 1st -- one street over.  Since we had walked over a mile and it was the end of the road and again lunchtime, we stopped to look at this beautiful, well kept cemetery.  There are many European connections here and a gold mine of info.  I wonder if I can get the information extracted for use?  Maybe this could be a service project for the youth. 

I have tried to help some of the members with their family history.  Since my language skills are lacking I have mostly tried to supply them with information and access to my computer.  The nearest family history center is several hours away by bus ride and not very well equipped and open only by appointment.  In my searching on line I found a very good series on Brazilian research --- all in English.  It does not help them much.  I have also found that they hesitate to index because they don't understand the English descriptions.  Soooooo  I spent some time translating a four page handout for their use.  I learned a lot.  I hope they will too.

Walking & More Walking

John and I are part of a walking mission.  No one has a car but the mission president and his wife, who I am sure put many miles on their car daily as they travel from zone to zone doing training almost daily. 
We have found that the branch records are a little spotty.  A young elder worked hard to get as much information as he could before he left on his mission several months ago.  Some of the house addresses here are out of numerical order so 532 might be followed by 564 and then 536 etc.  We find that some of the members are listed with addresses of their neighbors etc.  There are no children on the records. In an effort to find out how we can best help we are trying to meet everyone at their home and find out from them about their families.  The members are wonderful.  They are all very open and welcoming.  We are sad to find some in pretty poor conditions physically and others who have nicer homes that are alone because of the death of their spouse and working hard to make ends meet.  Several have grandchildren living with them because their parents work in the interior or because one or the other of the parents has walked out on the family.  Some young people are the only members in their family.

I have written the primary program for the branch as they have been waiting for the district primary to write it.  Since there hasn't been a district primary presidency for over a year---it hasn't happened yet.  I have also downloaded some of the scripture characters to use in lessons since they don't seem to have many supplies here and do not have a lot of training on teaching children.  They do however have strong testimonies.