[No photos this week as Hermana Newell and her companion, Hermana Pitts, both had their cameras stolen. They also sent an audio file to describe their first days in Ciudad del Este. They didn’t think they could get it all written down. Here is some of the transcription.]
Hola from Ciudad del Este!
Transfers were Thursday and we had a 6-hour bus ride to our new area. We were chatting on the bus with no idea what would happen when we got here. [The two Sisters are opening a new area.]
Elder Madder came to get us and he has only been here for about a month. We were pretty lost.
Usually, when you get to an area you have a cell phone and you’re prepared with phone numbers of members. We got here and didn’t have a phone. We felt pretty lost the first night. But Friday morning we received a phone.
The apartment is perfection—beautiful. It is like a little house. We have a room for our study room, a wardrobe area, a bathroom, a bedroom, a kitchen, and a separate dining table. It’s pretty great. It is practically brand new except they have problems with ants and with water leakage. [It was raining so hard during the audio recording we could hardly hear.]
Ciudad del Este is nuts. It’s huge as a city. The traffic is ridiculous. We have to watch out because the cars don’t stop for people.
The first day we found out that we have members who live only a couple of houses away. They are from India (!) and they were making their curry while we were talking with them. It smelled so good and we were so hungry. We really wished we were eating with them. They have a gorgeous house. It is bigger than any house I have been in on my mission. The kids were all dressed super nice.
It gets better…
On Friday the Elders invited us to eat with them at a member’s house. They said that they were coming to pick us up and we were like, “what does that mean?” We walked outside and there is an Audi in front of our house with a Brazilian brother taking us to his house for lunch. They take us to the Country Club. It was like being in California at a beach resort surrounded by huge houses and lawns. They served us Brazilian rice and beans. It was so good.
He took us on a tour of the Country Club and the city. Ciudad del Este is right on the border with Brazil. The Brazilian money and economy are down and so Brazilians come here to buy cheap things. Everything is super cheap. There is a bridge across the river [Paraná] to Brazil and there are no regulations. So we could just walk on over to Brazil—we won’t!—but we could. People travel back and forth all day every day.
The brother invited us to go golfing. He doesn’t golf or know anyone that does golf but we could go if we wanted. I have never been invited to go golfing on my mission before.
On Friday we started walking around and contacting. It was super-hot. We come to a house and hear someone yelling, “Sisters, Sisters.” In Brazil the sister missionaries are called Sisters and not Hermanas. The interesting part is that my companion and this woman had talked in a grocery store several months ago in my companion’s last area. At that time the woman was so sad that her ward never gets sister missionaries. And here we were at her home! The family is super strong in the church. They have a son on a mission and two daughters, 17 and 22, who want to work with us.
Saturday we ate lunch with this family, the Sosas. After lunch it started to rain and we were soaked. Soaked and lost. We were walking through water a foot deep. We got lost and didn’t know where we were going.
There is a set of Elders in our area but one of them has dengue fever. So he is has to stay in bed and he is the only one who knows the area as his companion is also new.
Sunday we went to church and everyone had their Audis and BMWs and Lexuses. It is so extreme from the other parts of the mission. Everyone is always taking us around in their cars. It is so weird.
We had lunch with a family on Sunday who spoke Portuguese most of the time. Basically three-fourths of the people speak Portuguese and then Spanish and Guarani and actually a lot speak English. This family is from Brazil. The father was born in the church. They are a very strong family in the church. They could speak more English than Spanish.
The ward mission leader is Mexican. He is cooking lunch for us on Tuesday and we will have Mexican food for my birthday!
The members are all super stoked because they haven’t had sister missionaries in like 23 years. They have this lunch calendar and everyone has already signed up and are fighting over us. Usually we average four lunch appointments per week, but this ward wants to feed us 7 days a week. We told them no for P-days. So now we have lunch 6 times a week and super good food. Even desserts.
We had two investigators at church and we haven’t even done anything. That was pretty cool. Everyone is talking about their friends we can visit, and how they want to go work with us. Hopefully that means we will have guides and won’t get so lost this next week.
The mission is incredible, and there is nothing else like it. I love it and I love the work I’m doing and how it makes me feel. It has given me a new outlook on life and my dreams have grown. There are only 18 months of someone’s life where they get this chance and I’m living it right now!
Love, Hermana Newell