Oil, Oregano and Coca Cola (Plus 22)

Hola, familia y amigos…

Remember last week when I wished you all a Happy Tacna Day? (En español, un feliz día de Tacna.) And remember back in July in Kansas when I talked about Cow Appreciation Day, and got the day wrong originally? The same happened with Tacna Day. It was actually on Tuesday, not Monday. But Monday they had some celebrations and things, so I wasn´t completely off. Just mostly off, as usual. 🙂 Anyways, I hope you all had a magnificent Tacna Day. Update on the letter I´m planning to send to you all about my first week/etc….in honesty, it is still unfinished and unsent, but I´ll get it finished…someday. When I have time. Don´t worry, I´m not stressing out too much about it, I promise. You´re probably wondering what the blazes my email title is about…so let´s proceed yet again to the bullets. 🙂
  • So I´m actually going to start off with food this week. You know how I usually tell you to sit down before reading this part? I´m once again giving that counsel this week, but you really need to follow it this time. Strawberries, salads, all that? Nothing compared to this. You know how I used to be the caffeine police? (OK, I guess I never really stopped, but I´ve now seen the light and don´t stress about caffeinated sodas anymore. :)) Well, last Monday, we dropped by the chapel for a little bit for an activity that the Elder´s Quorum was having, and the drink they had there? Oh, a little-known substance called Coca-Cola. My companion poured me some, and I drank it. And what´s more_ I loved it. That´s right. After 20 long, hard years, someone who formerly bothered his family about sodas with caffeine is now a full-on Coca-Cola convert. Dad, you don´t have to worry about me bugging you at restaurants anymore. I´ll be drinking Coke with you. 🙂
  • This week, I had issues with oil. That sounds random, I know, but yeah…so on Friday, we had companionship exchanges with the district leader, Elder Ruiz, and his companion. I was with Elder Ruiz in his area, Grau, and the way their pensionista situation works is that she provides their lunch and dinner, but they have to make their own breakfast. (So I keep meaning to explain what a pensionista is, and I´ll just go ahead and do it now really quick. It´s basically like living with members…you have a room either with a member family, or close to a member family, and they provide your meals. We live with a wonderful family, the Santiagos. More about them in the letter.) The wife of their bishop has a kitchen for them to use, stocked with food and everything, but yeah. I didn´t mind very much, because I´ve always liked cooking, but I´m way out of practice. I started frying an egg…and I´m usually used to making scrambled eggs, but I decided to try one sunny side up, because I´ve really grown to like those…and it was going sort of OK, but when the egg was pretty much ready, I had trouble getting it out of the pan. The problem? I hadn´t put any oil in the pan beforehand. 🙂 My second ordeal this week with oil? Last night, we were at a member´s home and we gave blessings to each of their daughters, since they were all sick. I was using my vial to pour oil on the first daughter´s head (she´s about 5 or 6)…and it wouldn´t come out. I fiddled with the vial a little bit, then started pouring again…and way too much oil came out that time. You could see it on her hair. Yeah. Me and oil are not friends this week. 🙂
  • And the oregano…we were at another member´s home, and having a bit of pizza. (Yes, it exists in Peru. And it is good. In my letter, you will discover that this isn´t the first time I´ve had pizza here. :)) There were little packets of oregano to put on the pizza, and I opened one to put a little oregano on my piece…and the entire packet dumped out onto the pizza. We all started laughing pretty hard, and the pizza still tasted fine despite the abnormally large amount of oregano. Basically, I can´t be trusted to pour things.
  • I guess I´ve had a lot of food-related experiences this week…while on exchanges, I had an empanada with cheese in it that we bought from a bakery while walking to an area to do contacts. It was beyond delicious. Also, I ate something for the first time that´s apparently a Peruvian specialty…picante. True to its name, it´s very spicy. And Mom, it had tripe in it. And I ate it. I can´t say I completely loved it, but it worked out. 🙂
  • It´s my companion´s birthday today! He´s 22, and today is also his 22-month anniversary in the mission. Plus we took bus no. 22 to the Internet cafe we´re at right now. It´s a day of 22, more or less. 🙂 It´s been a fun day so far. Also, yesterday, as I mentioned last week, was my own little mission anniversary…I´ve now been out for 4 months. Time is so weird when you´re on a mission…it passes fast, it passes slow, it seems like just yesterday I was in the MTC, yet it seems like so much time…yeah. It´s crazy. But what I do know is that these past 4 months have been terrific. 🙂
  • Two interesting elements of Tacna…mannequins and random pictures of celebrities. We have to take the bus (here, it´s called the comvee, and in so many words, it´s kind of crazy, but it gets us where we need to go…) to the stake center where we have our zone meetings and whatnot, and on the way there we pass a lot of stores. There´s an abnormally large amount of stores that sell glasses and sunglasses…like 20 or 30 in a 4-block radius…and also there´s a street where there´s a bunch of clothing stores. All of them, and I mean all of them, have mannequins…and they are so creepy. If you want to know what they look like, go to Wikipedia and look up “uncanny valley,” and if I remember right there should be some pictures of similarly disturbing mannequins. (Make sure you haven´t just eaten or are alone at night, because most likely they´ll give you the heebie jeebies. :)) On a less unsettling note, many businesses here also have celebrity photos on their signs. Some of them make sense, like Beyonce and Enrique Iglesias, but some of them are absolutely out of the blue…Hilary Duff and Jessica Simpson, among others. (I even saw one with William Levy, Mom and Ariel. :))
  • There´s a running joke with our pensionista family we have now that I´m going to be here in Natividad for 20 months (which would pretty much be my entire mission here). I find it very amusing right now…in 19 months if I´m still here, I might not be laughing as much, but we´ll cross that bridge when we get there. 🙂 (I´m really growing to love this area, though, so I guess that wouldn´t be completely horrible…still, 20 months? The ward would probably know my full name and social security number by then. :))
  • So somehow it came out in a conversation with my companion that I watched “Barney” as a child. He keeps teasing me (good-naturedly, of course) about it…and rather hilariously, at a house of a member (the same house where I had my oregano pizza), there was a Barney picture book…it was about animals, and my favorite part was when Barney and his friends (there´s some random new creature, Riff, who I had no idea existed) improvise a song about the animals they learned about. Baby Bop was dancing, and Riff, whoever he is, was playing the piano. The thought of Barney improvising a song…definitely something. Yeah, the part of my life where I genuinely enjoyed Barney is definitely over. Aaand…moving on. 🙂 (P.S.: Dad, when I call for Christmas…by the way, I´ll most likely get to Skype…you´re so doing your Barney impression. :))
  • Dad, it was wonderful to hear from you. Thanks for your awesome words of encouragement…you´re amazing. I´ll look out for your letter…and sometime in the near future, I´ll be sending you a card (and letter), I promise. 🙂

So this week, while on exchanges, that day I was feeling a little down. There were a few various little things that had happened that day, and long story short, I wasn´t 100%. But, as has happened so many times in my mission…somehow, things got better. Elder Ruiz and I did a lot of contacting that Friday, and that was the last thing I wanted to do then. However, I ended up talking and participating much more in the contacts…I even started a few (very awkwardly, but it worked out). I still have a lot of progress to make, but it was a step forward for me, and by the end of that day, I felt like that day had gone great. That´s a principle I´ve seen in action so many times in the past 4 months…that however bad a day may be, it always gets better. Almost every single day I´ve had has ended wonderfully. They haven´t all started that way, but by the time 10:30 arrives…things are always looking up. I´m so thankful for a Heavenly Father that loves me enough to test me, to try me, and eventually, to comfort me and lift me up. Like I talked about last week, there have still been ups and downs and everything in between, but when it comes down to it…I´m happy. I´m a missionary. I can do anything with the Lord´s help. No matter how bad things have gotten…there´s always a light at the end of the tunnel. 🙂

 
Hope you guys enjoyed/received the pictures I sent last week. I´ll send some more later, most likely. Keep looking out for that letter, whenever it comes, and I´d love to hear from you all sometime soon. I love you all, I´m so grateful for your love, your prayers, your support…everything. I always say this, but I also always mean it…it means the world to me. I´ll be sure to keep you all in my prayers. 🙂
 
Con mucho amor,
Elder Randall
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