- Hola, familia, amigos, y otros,
So here it finally is…my first email from Peru. Apologies for not being able to write this past Monday, but as I will explain in a bit, I was unable to email until now, my first official P-day here. I have a lot of things to cover, and once again, I have a list to kind of organize my thoughts, but this is likely to be a very scattered email. In other words, business as usual. 🙂 (Sorry to reuse my “Wizard of Oz” reference in my email title, by the way, but it actually fit very well this time, so I couldn´t resist.)
First off, an update about mail. Basically, my call packet lied. OK, not really, but yeah, there were a few things it was a bit off about. My address is actually much earlier than I originally told you guys…for both letters and packages, the address is like this:
Elder Brandon Randall
Mision Peru Arequipa
Yep, that´s it. Apparently, all the other random address stuff my call packet had is not necessary. Also, a few updates on packages…you actually can send clothes, but they must be new clothes, and cannot be used. Make sure to keep them in the wrapper, include the bag from the store, etc. if you do ever send clothes. Packages must be of a value less than $100 in American money, or you have to pay customs taxes. My little mission guide (that they gave me here, not my call packet) also says not to send things by FedEx or DHL. Finally, my call packet lied (again) about me being able to send mail through the pouch. Here, I actually just send it using Serpost, which is basically the USPS for Peru. You guys can still send me mail by pouch, so no worries about that, but yeah, I´m not going to have much use for the 28 U.S. stamps I currently possess. 🙂
So I think I´ll proceed to the bullets now. I definitely need them this week, because like I said, a lot has happened in the past week and a half…
- So odds and ends about my last days in Kansas…I covered a bit of this when I called you guys when I was at the airport, so I´ll just kind of give a summary, I suppose. I got the call about my visa on a week before this past Wednesday (wow, it´s only been that long?), after we got home from a zone training meeting that I didn´t particularly enjoy. Like I said in my previous emails that I sent last week, my emotions were kind of all over the place. Anyways, the APs came and picked me up (they already had picked up Elder Armijo) that Friday afternoon, we stayed the night with them in Indpendence (after having dinner with President and Sister Keyes at Red Lobster, and having interviews with Pres. Keyes and so forth), and then left for the airport early that Saturday morning. I didn´t get the chance to say goodbye to really anyone from the ward there…though I did get to have proper goodbyes with my companion, the Atagis, their dogs, etc., so that was good. The flights here were…alright. They were kind of crowded and whatnot, and the dinner on our flight from Miami to Lima wasn´t great, but it wasn´t a terribly bad trip. Mom, I know you probably had kittens that I didn´t call in Lima, but as I told you repeatedly, I totally wasn´t able to…we were, y´know, in another country for the first time, and needed to go through customs and immigration and all that stuff, plus find whoever was picking us up. There were two other missionaries on our flight from Miami, one who had been reassigned to Mesa for a month, and one who was just finished with the MTC in Provo, who were headed to the Lima East Mission, I believe…they went and tried to call the Church Travel Office because we weren´t sure where to go and who would be there to meet us. They were unsuccessful, but we were able to figure it out.
- They went with someone else, probably to their mission home since we were in Lima, and after a few minutes of confusion, we found our driver, who took us to the Lima MTC. Yep, after 14 weeks…I finally made it there. 🙂 So you know how on “The Amazing Race,” the contestants always comment on how crazy the driving is in other countries? Well, it´s like that here…at least in Lima (which is a pretty large city). The driving is insane…Arizona, Utah, and California combined have nothing on the roads and highways here. Our driver was going pretty fast, switching lanes, people were cutting people off like crazy…yeah, it was interesting. Our flight in Miami was delayed for two hours because there was a thunderstorm, so we got into Lima really late and were really tired, and it was kind of a surreal ride to the MTC. We finally arrived at about 1:30 in the morning, we got the keys to our room, unpacked a few things, went to sleep, etc.
- We only spent a few days at the Lima MTC…it was a very awesome experience, though. We were kind of adopted members of a district that was leaving this week (part of them with us to Arequipa, part of them to Quito and Lima North), and they were great. We had a nice Sunday, the food was good, and yeah…it felt so weird being back in an MTC after being in the field, but I loved it there. It would have been nice to have been there when were supposed to, but it all worked out. We also saw two members of our zone at the Provo MTC, who both were leaving this week to Quito. We never imagined we´d end up being with them in Lima, so that was really cool.
- Monday morning we had to go to Interpol to do some paperwork and stuff, and we also had to go to the area office (right next door from the MTC) for some visa things. Monday afternoon, we flew to Arequipa (interestingly enough, the flight was much nicer than our three flights from the US…they gave us an awesome snack box and everything), which took about an hour or so. Sorry this is sounding kind of boring, but anyways, Monday, we stayed in a hotel in Arequipa, the next day we had training with Presidente Fernandez, the APs, missionaries from the office, etc. More about Presidente Fernandez in a second. We stayed in a hotel again that night, and then on Wednesday met our new companions, and went to our areas.
- So who is my new companion? Here´s a story. There´s another Elder Randall in this mission (his first name is Nick, and he´s from Washington state of all places, but west, not east), and on Wed. morning when we met our companions, there was a missionary from, I kid you not, Guayaquil, Ecuador, assigned to Elder Randall. At first, when Presidente Fernandez called the names, we weren´t sure which Randall it was, so for a second I thought I was with him. Sadly, Mom…I was not. My companion is actually Elder Flores, from…you´re not going to believe this, but he´s from Guatemala. 🙂 So both Randalls are with companions from places I´m connected to. He´s from Guatemala City, has been out on his mission for about 21 months (this will be his last area…he only has 2 transfers left), and he´s awesome. (Geo, el dijo a mi para decir a Ud.: ¿Que onda, chapin? :)) He´s funny, but also hardworking, dedicated, and absolutely full of the Spirit.
- I kind of need to start wrapping this up soon…my companion needs to have his email time too. Ay ay ay…I only have 45 minutes here to email, and when I haven´t written you guys for a week and a half, that´s a heck of a time crunch. Anyways, so I´m actually not in Arequipa…I´m in a city called Tacna, which is a 6-hour bus ride (it wasn´t amazing, but it was better than I thought) from Arequipa. It´s in the very south of Peru, very close to the border of Chile. My companion and I are opening an area…we´re in a ward called Natividad, that hasn´t had its own missionaries for about 2 years. Interestingly enough, it´s a situation very close to the one I had in Kansas, except in this case, my companion and I are both new to the area. (He was in Arequipa for the past 16 months, in various areas.) We´ve been doing a lot of finding, getting to know the members, all that kind of thing (again, much like we were doing in Kansas).
- So…it´s really different here. Like really different. I kind of expected that, since it´s a different country and all…but yeah. Like my email title says, I´m definitely not in Kansas anymore. The food is actually very good…how our living situation is here is that we live with members, but in a separate room upstairs, and the wife is called our pensionista…we pay her every month to cook all our meals. So I´ve not been wanting for food, and I´ve found here that I actually like Peruvian food a lot. There have been a lot of good dishes (which I´ll go into more in letters/future emails, because I don´t have much time now), and some OK dishes, but overall the food has been great. I regrettably had to fess up to our pensionista that I don´t like fruit, but besides that, there haven´t really been any hitches with my, ahem, exquisite tastes. 🙂 (OK, there have been a few, but I´ll talk about those at a later date, for the sake of time.)
OK, I´m going to hurry and finish this up. To be perfectly honest, it´s been a little hard adjusting here. My Spanish is doing OK, but I´ve had a few struggles with it, since that´s pretty much all I´m able to speak here. There have been a few times when we´ve been out contacting, and I didn´t know what to say. At first, I thought it was because I was scared…and that´s partly the case, but I realized a lot of it is because I really don´t know what to say. I haven´t studied the lessons and the pamphlets for a while in Spanish, and I´m going to really concentrate on that in the next little while, because I need to be a better companion to Elder Flores. I´ve been working to, as a scripture in Doctrine and Covenants says, “open my mouth,” and be more talkative, less shy, all that, and I´ve been making steps slowly but surely so far. Going to Church on Sunday was a very different experience than any sacrament meeting I´ve had before…but the people in the ward are wonderful, and our bishop is terrific. We met with him on Sunday, and I´m really excited to work with him. I have a few other things to share, but they´ll have to wait until next week…I´m pretty much out of time right now. Just know that I love you all so much, I´m doing well here, and it´s going to be a great two years. It hasn´t been easy, but I know the Lord has been with me, and will continue to be with me. That will never, ever change. I´m so grateful to be on a mission, and I´m thankful for all you guys have done to help me be here right now.