Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Consejo Monday

A foggy morning in Concepcion - the fog just rolls along over the river and mountains.  It often clears off by 11 or 12.  You can see the smoke rising from the chimneys of the homes.  
Here we are in our dining room again - next day!  It is our monthly "Consejo" meeting - which is a training council for those missionaries who have been called to serve as Zone Leaders and Sister Trainer Leaders.  We have 20 Elders and 12 Hermanas serving in these capacities.  They travel in for this meeting from all over the mission area - some having to come by bus the night before so that they can be to the mission home by 10 for the meeting.   Those who travel in stay in the casas of nearby missionaries.  We meet for a couple of hours, take a quick snack/potty break, then meet for another hour.  At that point we have Almuerzo together.  This time I taught Ingrid how to fix Hawaiian Haystacks - you know - the layers of rice, chicken gravy, green onion, tomatoes, cheese, pineapple, and this time we added corn and peanuts:).  The North American missionaries were elated - it is a comfort food for us!  The Latins were a little skeptical - but hungry enough to eat it:).

The only problem was, we ran out of rice before about 6 of the Elders got some!  I think that Elder A (center) was the most disappointed.  I told him that we were going to fix it and he had gotten geared up for it - a family favorite for him, too!  We scrounged up something else real quick - nachos, I think.  And I promised a plateful for him at another time.  He and Elder P, behind him, are our Assistants and we see a lot of them.  They are always polite and let everyone else eat before them!  They are OUR trainers!

Here are our twelve Hermana Sister Trainer Leaders - an absolutely outstanding group of young women!!

This is the narrow entryway that leads to the parking area behind the mission office!
And here is the President - happy and ready to go to work - again!!

Happy Birthday, Elder Pendley!

That same Sunday evening was very special.  The Pendleys are a senior couple serving in our mission office.  They are absolute life savers!!  Hermana Pendley handles all of the visa, passport, travel, etc. issues for the 230 of us.  Elder Pendley takes care of all of the finances and housing contracts - two HUGE jobs!!  We could not function without their help and are already anxious about when they will finish their mission in another 9 months!  Good senior couples are so valuable and so badly needed!!!  At any rate, it was Elder Pendley's birthday today, so we had a fun and lovely dinner here in the mission home with 12 of us.  Libby (Hermana Pendley), had come over yesterday to do most of the dinner preparations - hoping to surprise her husband.  He was pleased and we were all the beneficiaries of her culinary talents!

Birthday dinner in the dining room - balloons, flowers, and all!  You can see President Arrington on the right at the end.  He is taking the next photo, so you don't see him there.

Here we are in the living room, with the picture window behind us that looks out over the BioBio.  From the left, after us, Hermana Arrington - mission mom of the Concepcion Mission (her husband, the President, is taking the photo), the Pendleys, the Baldens - she is the mission nurse for both missions and he handles housing inspections and many other jobs, the Kenningtons - who work with the Perpetual Education Fund and Self Reliance - also teach English classes, and the Kauers - who do what the Pendleys do for the other mission.  Such a great group of people!!
Happy Birthday, Elder Pendley!!

An Unforgettable Sunday!

Sunday, July 27th - an unforgettable day.  Lothaire and I had been invited to speak at a little branch in Santa Juana, about a 40 minute drive from our place.  Here we are driving along the banks of the BioBio River - just to show you a little water! It had been raining for four days straight - where does that much water come from, anyway?!  We don't get any of it in Arizona!!

Lush green forests - incredibly beautiful!

Approaching the town - "Bienvenido a Santa Juana" (Welcome to Santa Juana).  And the sign near the oxen says, "Monumento al Campesino" - Monument to the Farmer.  Lots of agriculture in this area.  Interesting that there is a big billboard advertising new housing above such a quaint little scene!

The town dog strolled over to greet us.
Kinda cute, but too wet to let in the car:)

Meet my new best friend, Daniel.

He and his family attend church in this cute little home which serves as their chapel.  Lothaire and I arrived a little early and so I chose to use the bathroom before the meeting began, knowing that we would be there for three hours.  I was delighted to find a nice, clean restroom - until I tried to unlock the door to come out and it wouldn't open.  I worked on the lock for several minutes and it wasn't going to budge.  What to do??  I knocked lightly on the door from the inside - nothing.  A little louder - and heard giggles from some little ones outside the door.  I knew that the meeting would begin in the next few minutes.  I was one of the speakers and had stayed up until 1 in the morning trying to prepare a decent talk instead of just getting up and babbling in broken Spanish.  I was grateful for the Google Translate program and my son-in-law, Max, who talked me through it from San Jose, California!  I had practiced reading it so that I wouldn't sound too much like a first grader!  And I was locked in the bathroom.  I finally used some force with my knocking and attracted the attention of one of the adult members on the other side.  I tried to ask her to go and get my husband, which she did.  By this time there were many, if not all, of the members gathered outside of the bathroom door to try to rescue Hermana Bluth, the gringa from Arizona.  I was beyond being mortified, and just told Lothaire to read my talk for me - it was in my scriptures on one of the chairs.  He tried to talk me through getting it open, but nothing worked.  Finally, I noticed that there was a small window over the bathtub (remember that this is a house, not a real chapel), and I pushed it open as wide as it would go.  The next thing I knew, a man was lifting my soon to be best friend, Daniel, up and through the window.  I thought to myself, "and what is this little guy going to do about it?", but he was coming through, so I climbed in the tub and caught him so that he wouldn't fall.  He was so cute and shy - and just hopped out of the tub, ran over to the door, and opened the lock.  Did that really happen?  What in the world?  I am a grown woman who has opened locks all of my life with no problem whatsoever!  And there was the entire membership of the branch on the other side smiling at me.  Nothing to do but smile back and say thank you:).  They assured me that they had been having trouble with that door for weeks.  I just figured that the Lord thought I needed a little more humility:).  I wondered how I would have the courage to stand in front of the congregation and try to give a serious talk.  I was spared, however, because the Stake Patriarch showed up unexpectedly, and he spoke instead of me.  A tender mercy!!

This is after the meeting.  The chairs were all set up neatly prior to this, and there is a podium behind the white board (which was pulled in for the Sunday School class that Lothaire taught after Sacrament Meeting).  There is a keyboard to the right, and the Sacrament table to the left.  And a warm little "estufa" (stove) in front of the whiteboard in an effort to add some heat!
Here I am with the four Hermanas who serve with the members of this branch.  From the left, Hermana V is from Mexico, Hermana M from Colorado, a humbled Hermana Bluth:), Hermana C from Guatemala, and Hermana L from Utah.
These four faithful, fabulous little Hermanas do a wonderful job!  Notice the heavy coats, scarves, and boots! This is in front of their little casa. We were glad for the chance to be with them on this unforgettable Sunday!

Flash Mob at the Mall!

This photo is a bit dark, but just want you all to know that there is a Lego Store at the Trevol Mall by the Airport in Concepcion, Chile! This Mariachi is completely made out of Legos!  Our good friends, the Arringtons, invited us to go to the mall with them Saturday evening (July 26th). A lot of the youth from the church in their area were planning a flash mob at the mall!

We stood on the upper level looking down at where they planned to gather.  There was a great mobile in the center with wooden birds suspended on wires.

They started playing some great dance tunes - changing songs every 30 seconds or so.  Gradually they went from 5 or 6 kids to about 80.  And they were great dancers!
At the end they all took off their jackets and had matching tshirts - they provided some great, wholesome entertainment for a mall full of people, and had fun doing it!  After the show, the four of us ate at Johnny Rockets there in the mall.  A little taste of home, and it was so good!!

Trip to Lebu

On Tuesday the 22nd of July, Lothaire felt that we should take a trip down the coast to Lebu - one of our areas that we had not yet visited.  I was a little reluctant since we had just been on the road for most of the last two weeks, but he felt strongly about it and I agreed - trying to be a good companion:).  Turned out to be an inspired trip, in my opinion.  The little town above is called Curanilahue (try saying THAT 5 times fast!).  Crammed full of houses, but so picturesque!  This was our first stop.

This is a bus stop, or a "parada".  They come in every shape and size and are in the most random places!!  You can see the ocean in the background.

Not quite like the beaches in California or Hawaii, but a beach nevertheless!

Our first stop was at the "casa" (apartment/home) of four great Elders.  Elder C and Elder G are sitting in front of the map of their sector, studying their scriptures and planning out their day.  Funny story:  while trying to find our way in to their apartment complex, Lothaire turned left in the wrong spot, apparently.  There were lots of honks and a few heads shaking at us and next thing we knew, a "carabinero" (police officer) pulled into the parking lot behind us.  Lothaire was all smiles and apologized for not knowing the streets and explained that we were strangers to the town.  Apology accepted, and no ticket - this time:).  Quite the entrance!  See the box that says Estufa Infrarroja?  That is what most of the missionaries have in their casas to keep them warm.  Little gas stoves.  Elder G, on the right, is from northwest Brazil.  So his first language is Portuguese and he is learning Spanish AND English.  18 years old - first time away from home - and happy to be here serving the Lord.  These missionaries inspire us!  And speaking of inspiration - our visit.  Elder C, on the left, is from the northern part of Chile.  He has some medical issues that are very concerning to him and he was so grateful to have Pres./Dr. Bluth there in person to calm his concerns.  He gave him a big "abrazo" (hug), and I could see the relief flood over him.  I was so happy that we had come!

Next stop, the little town of Los Alamos.  Four Hermanas (sister missionaries) live in this home and have their very own guard dog:).  There are dogs EVERYWHERE in Chile, and this one has taken a fancy to these Hermanas.  They don't feed him or pet him (flea risk right there), but he still watches over them.  Good boy!  

Here are Hermana T, from Utah, and Hermana L, from Virginia on the inside of the casa. There is one more bed to the left, so all four Hermanas sleep in this room (their front room) with a little wood burning stove to keep them warm.  They were both coughing and a little bit sick, but happy and hard-working.  Their apartment was so well kept!  Another inspired visit:  they had run out of wood for their stove, and when they went to the bank (not close to them!) to get cash for more wood, the bank was closed. We were so grateful to be there to extend a little loan so that they wouldn't suffer from the cold!

We drove on to Lebu - a bigger city by a river and the ocean.  On our way, we came upon the remnants of burning roadblocks that had been set by the indigenous Mapuche tribe, who are trying to regain their land.  The traffic had been blocked for hours - we lucked out and got through!  And here in Lebu we found Hermana F, from Utah and Hermana R, from Columbia.  They have a great kitchen!  So much bigger than most.  No stove, but a fridge, microwave (behind them), and a washing machine - unheard of!  Cute little casa inside, and, again, very well kept.  Another set of incredible missionaries!

Outside of the casa - the owner of the property also owns a funeral home and parks his hearse in the carport next to them.  A little morbid, but they are okay with it.  Inspired visit:  they had been hoping for someone to give them a blessing to deal with some issues with the people they were working with. They were so grateful that Pres. Bluth arrived and could do that! 

Beautiful "campo"(countryside) as we head for the town of Canete!

Foreground - a little memorial for what must have been a fatal accident.  These are frequently found along the highways.  Background - the most modern and unusual hospital I have seen in Chile!  And in the middle of nowhere!!

Two of the town dogs in Canete.  Guarding the bank!

As we waited in the Plaza in Canete for the missionaries, the young man on Lothaire's left, came running up after us.  He introduced himself as Matais, and said that he had been in Temuco at the huge Youth Conference three days before - where Lothaire and I had both spoken (imagine my very sincere but very broken Spanish).  He had become an inactive member of the church, but decided to attend the Conference anyway.  He said that he had been touched by our remarks and was going to return to activity and work and save to serve a mission.  He was amazed and delighted to see us appear in his little home town!  Inspired visit - I will never question my companion when he feels prompted!

Here is Matais in his candy shop!

And here are our four Elders in their neat and tidy apartment in Canete - from the left:  Elder F from Hawaii (hang loose!), Elder M from Ecuador, Pres. Bluth!, Elder P from El Paso, and Elder N from Utah.  Fantastic Elders!!

Elder N showing off their neat little kitchen and their stovetop that doesn't work:).  Good thing that kind-hearted members of the church feed most of these missionaries their "almuerzo" (lunch) each day!

This is the back of the pretty little chapel in Canete.  Here is where I had my FIRST DRIVING EXPERIENCE in Chile!  Two of the elders were in the car with us as we approached the Chapel.  Lothaire needed to go in and do some interviews, and I needed to find a little birthday cake somewhere for one of the Hermanas whose birthday was that very day. Can't have a birthday without a cake, right?!  SO - we dropped Lothaire off in the front of the chapel and the Elders directed me to a nearby Pasteleria (bakery).  I think that they were more nervous about me driving than I was!  Remember, they are 18 and 19, and haven't driven very much themselves! Elder P nervously asked, "Hermana Bluth, did you drive very much back in the states"? I assured him that I had pulled a four horse trailer in my day and had driven many a Suburban full of noisy children.  He seemed to relax.  We got the cake, then returned to the Chapel.  So this is how parking works at these little Chapels.  They are always completely fenced and gated to prevent vandalism.  Someone opens the gate and you drive down the narrowest passageway you can imagine that an SUV can fit through.  Then you park on the back basketball/soccer/volleyball/tennis court, which serves as the activity area for the members.  And THIS driveway was the smallest I had seen so far! The boys were sweating and were quite sure I wouldn't make it unscathed, but I surprised us all.  Especially Lothaire, when he tried getting back OUT of that narrow passageway! He has a whole new respect for me now:).

Baby it's COLD outside!  Remember - it is Winter here in Chile!!

We went on from here to our last stop for the day before heading home.  And that was to go back to Los Alamos, where Lothaire had many faithful members waiting to be interviewed for Temple Recommends.  I had taken my knitting with me (note the pink bag), thinking I would have nothing to do.  But I am a bit of a spectacle here in Chile - tall, blonde, English speaking.  So whenever I am in the midst of a crowd, there is a great deal of curiosity around me!  I SO wish I had a good handle on the language so that I could communicate better!  The Chilenos speak a little different form of Spanish!  They speak faster than should be humanly possible, and they leave off a lot of the endings of the words.  And then they look at me, waiting for a response:).  And always want photos.  So I practiced my social Spanish until my head hurt, instead of knitting.  I know I have mentioned this before, but the people are so warm and friendly here.  At first meeting they treat you like a long lost friend, with a kiss on the cheek and a big hug.  We Americans could do better in this area!

Our last experience for the evening (by now it was about 7:30 PM and very dark), was to go to a teaching appointment with two of our Hermanas there.  They were teaching a sweet little 81 year old lady by the name of Erva.  She was a delight!  She was very Evangelical and considered herself a bit of a prophetess and a healer.  But she had read the Book of Mormon and had felt the truth of it burn within her.  The Hermanas were teaching her about tithes and offerings tonight - they were SUCH good teachers, and so patient with her interruptions!  They taught with love and sincere caring, and we could see that she could feel that.  She enjoyed asking questions of Lothaire, and was so pleased that we had come all the way from Concepcion to teach her!  Another inspired part of our trip to Lebu.

After the lesson, she proudly gave us a tour of her little casa, and presented us with some freshly baked little sopaipillas, and some pan amasado (baked bread).  We left wondering what would become of her, and found out on Monday that she had gotten baptized on Sunday!

Just let me say that I LOVED our inspired trip to Lebu today!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Home again at last!

My private chauffeur:).  This is our "mission car" - it's a great one!
This is the outside of our condo building, called Edificio Boston.  Lots of lush green plants!

Pretty little garden area - can't wait for spring!  That begins here about November.

We drive by this pretty little home every day on our way home.  Love the tree in front!
Almost looks fake, right?!

This is our kitchen and our little eating nook.  Tomato soup with cheese and crackers is an "once" (OHNsay = little snack in the evening) favorite for us!

And here we are with Elder S (can't use their full names for privacy purposes).  He has finished his mission and will be heading home to Oregon tomorrow morning.  He has been such a good, hard-working Elder!

Odds & Ends

One day we had Jack's burgers for almuerzo.  This is Joe - owner of Jack's.  He received his MBA from the University of Florida, then came to Chile to start a farm equipment business.  It didn't work out too well, but he met a great girl and married her here, and now has a cute little boy and a  burger business.  Such a nice guy.  He decided that Jack's was more of a burger name than Joe's:).  And they are great burgers!!  I'm sure that we will visit him again.  By the way - the exchange rate here is about 500 pesos to a dollar.  So he gave us a deal where we got burgers and fries for 4 mil (thousand) pesos per person - roughly $8.00.  Things are not cheap in Chile!
This is how we celebrate birthdays in the mission - can't go wrong with chocolate! Happy, fantastic missionaries right here!

This is the outside of the little casita where Hermana N and Hermana B live.  They have a wood burning stove inside to keep them warm - thus the firewood!

And now the inside - love the bright colors, right?!