Our area is called Reñaca and is a suburb of Viña del Mar. I live three blocks from the ocean and see it every day. It is absolutely beautiful here!! Our whole area is hills because the Andes literally start at the ocean and just go up from there. The whole country is one giant mountain range, literally. My legs are getting in super good shape. Here, the people speak Canstiano which is a break off language of Spanish. It is super hard to understand but every day gets better. I can understand the people pretty well and am getting better in my ability to speak back. Reñaca is the wealthiest area in the entire mission but that isnt saying much. Its so odd. Many of the houses are made of plywood and tarps and then you go inside and there is a huge plasma TV with surround sound and a brand new mazda or something in the driveway. I dont understand it. I love it though. Some of the houses are super nice and huge and after the style of the US but most are simple and modest. Air conditioning and heating dont exist here which makes our apartment super interesting at night. It gets super cold at night (by that i mean like 50 degrees) and then super warm during the day (75). It is two rooms but all the space we need. Screens in the windows dont exist here either because there arent that many bugs. I was super surprised actually but I havent seen hardly any and none in our apartment. Dogs here are like cats in Oakridge. They are literally everywhere. Im not talking small dogs either. They come up to my knees or thighs at least. They are beautiful too. They look like german sheppards or something. They follow us everywhere and are super gentle and sweet. I love it. Cows roam the streets too. Its the weirest thing to be walking down the road and have to pass a cow. Machismo is alive and well!! This is the idea that the man is pretty much the ruler of all. Men down here walk around in packs and make it a point to assert their dominance. Many whistle at us or try to say something sweet in English or call me their amor but I just brush them off. I dont know if some of them have ever experienced that. Its kind of fun to give them a reality check. Because of the way men are down here, the women are different too. The purpose of women in this country is to bear the mens babies. They all, and in mean ALL, wear high heels, even if they are 60 or 70 something. The idea is either to attract a man or to look like a prize on the arm of your man to make him look better. That is how they think and that is how they dress. In the street, if a guy is with a girl and sees someone looking at her, he will immediately grab her and start making out hard core to show that she is his property. It gets super awkward sometimes. I just want to hit them all across the face with a law of chastity pamphlet and say DONT YOU KNOW THAT YOU ARE A DAUGHTER OF GOD AND DESERVE BETTER THAN THIS!!! I guess that is why I am here though huh so I better get to work!! Everyone double takes when they see me. For many reasons as I am sure that you can imagine but mostly because I am huge, white, blonde with blue eyes (according to their standards), and wearing a name tag. All this makes for one huge double take. Some of the people we have met here have never seen someone as white as I am or as talk as I am. When we are teaching investigators or in a short lesson where a prayer is appropriate, they all want me to pray so they can listen to my accent. It is kind of embarassing but entertaining at the same time. Every time I start to talk, they all light up, smile big, and listen intently so they can hear my accent.
The work is alive and well here and the spirit of the Lord is with us. We had 7 investigators in church yesterday and last week, had 4 baptisms scheduled for the week from saturday. We have to postpone two of them because they werent able to come to church. This is a miracle in this area. There are 2 members in the whole of Reñaca. This makes it very difficult but people know who we are and who we represent and everyone here believes in Christ and has some kind of religious background. Tracting is very hard here but literally everthing is inside a five foot high fence. Because this area is so wealthy, they have the money to build fences around everything so they do. You dont knock on doors here. You go up to the fence and yell AHLOW!! and they someone comes to the window and yells DIGAME or QUIEN ES!! and then you answer and begin talking. Its kind of fun. Because it is so hard to tract with all the fences, most of our work is done in the street while we are walking to and from appointments. I actually love this part a lot. I love to meet new people and learn about their lives and their problems and then to be able to tell them that their is a way that they can know for themselves how to improve their lives is an amazing feeling. The people are super receptive and love to talk about themselves and what they believe. They are amazing and I love them.
Mom, dont worry, I will NOT be driving here. The mission doesnt use cars and that is for good reason. Yall think Utah and California is bad, you should come here!! Its nuts!! They drive like there are no laws and no lines on the road. If you want to be on the other side of the street but you are in the wrong lane, you go there. If you want to stop in a two lane road, you simply stop and put of your hazards and everyone else just makes two smaller lanes around you with about 3 inches of clearence between you. We use busses and collectivos(taxis) for transportantion. The buses slow down just enough for you to hop onto the bottom step and then hit the gas. You better be holding on or you will fly off! Then the driver takes your money and gives you change with one hand and stears with the other while you try and keep your balance long enough to find a seat if there is one. There are literally bars in the buses so everyone, including the driver can hold on while he floors it around corners. It is madness!! I thought I was going to die my first day in the collectivo too but I didnt and all is well. The food is super different but not bad. Just super bland. I dont mind it though and my body didnt have any problem adjusting. I sleep super well too. I know you all dont want to know that but Im sure Mom does so I am just letting you know that I am happy and healthy and well. I love you all so much and miss you but I am happy and am excited to be doing the Lords work!! There really is so much joy in this work. It is incredible.