Dear Family and Friends,
I would just like to start off with a big THANKS for all the emails. I received 15...a lot more than I was expecting. It made my day! This week was pretty eventful and we also got a first-hand glimpse at some serious Amazonian rain. It rains really hard here but, fortunately, only lasts 10 to 15 minutes at a time.
I had my first baptism last Friday, which was a great experience. Her name is Telania Palheta Dos Santos and she is about 40 years old if I were to guess. After the interview, everybody started coming up to me saying stuff in Portuguese and I didn't know what was going on. Finally, in broken English, our district leader said, "They want you to perform the baptism." The first thing that entered my mind was...oh crap...I don't even know what to say...how to pronounce her name...and there is going to be a ton of people there. Nevertheless, all went well and I performed the first baptism in the font in our building...not too bad for being out less than two weeks. I was grateful for the experience. The funny part about the baptism was some little kid locked the door to my room, so I watched the rest of the program while seated in the doorway dripping wet...only from about my quads down, though, since the font is so tiny due to the people here being so short. I tower above everyone...for the first time in my life (haha). We are currently teaching Telania's son.
The people are very generous and overfeed us (2 - 3 meals every day not including our breakfast, which we make ourselves). If we are teaching someone, they send their child to go down to the corner store and buy some soda and bread or cake, and of course, we eat it...we have to. Fortunately, I don't think it's possible for me to gain weight, so I'm good.
The houses are built on stilts in some places and the area is pretty poor. Every house here sells something...mostly food products. It's crazy just knowing that this is how these people make their living. It really makes the community more close-knit, though. Something else I have noticed is that everything stops here from 12 - 2:30 p.m. It's pretty weird. Everybody just leaves what they are doing and goes home to eat and nap.
The Rio Negro is huge. It's dark black but clear...if that makes any sense. Speaking of which, I've got some picture this week that I'll attach. Every day here is hot...very, very hot. I don't understand how people can live here, but I guess they are used to it. We do a lot of walking, but once a month we have to take a taxi and once a week we take the bus (which is crazy) for various meetings.
They have a greater variety of fruits and vegetables here than in any part of the world. There is every fruit you can possibly imagine, except nothing looks perfect like it does in the United States. The watermelon here is about double the length and lighter green in color on the outside. The oranges and bananas, too, are light green when ripe, which is really strange. Another interesting fact is that star fruit and mango can be seen growing all over the place. The fruit is dirt cheap. People drive around selling abacaxi (pineapple) and melancia (watermelon) by the truckload. They sell pineapples and ice cold coconuts for 75 cents each. They hack the tops off coconuts and put straws in them, so you can drink the milk. They sell bananas by the stalk here...they are still attached in massive clusters, which is pretty cool. The meat in Manaus is really nasty but tastes fine. They just have it hanging by hooks, not refrigerated, and they sell huge blocks of fat to people...I don't know why. I drink more soda here than water. They have Grapette and Fanta uva (grape) and laranja (orange) and guarana...most are sold in the old 1L and 2L glass bottles, which is pretty different. Every meal is served with beans and rice and a salad of sorts. Most people have a meat product of chicken with it and they have something called farinha, which is like eating pebbles...it's some kind of grain, but it's rock hard. I had cow intestine just sitting in my beans the other day. It was pretty disgusting. That's one thing I won't eat, so I fished around it to get to the beans.
We had our first conference, which was a total bust. A Seventy was here and gave the same speech as one of the Twelve Apostles. I was kind of hoping, given the long journey and the fact that he has such a high position, that he could come up with something original. Nonetheless, it was interesting and we were given milk, vitamins, and chocolate mix.
Today we are going to CIGS, a wildlife preserve, where they have animals and such. It should be pretty cool. Congrats on the Eagle, Kyle and Happy Birthday this week, Dad...it's the only chance I'll have to say it. Make it a good one and have a double-double or peanut butter sandwich for me.