- ¡Santa vaca! We´re going to have a temple in Arequipa. An email is inadequate to describe how excited and happy I am about it. (Mom, while your email was absolutely marvelous and wonderful, I can´t believe you didn´t say anything about the new temple. Tsk tsk…OK, I´m kidding about that, but seriously. :)) To be honest, there weren´t that many people in the stake center when President Monson announced it…but the small amount of people that were in the stake center were rejoicing like crazy. My companion and I were shocked, excited, quite possibly almost crying, a counselor in the stake presidency that´s in our ward and his wife (more about them in a second) were jumping up and down excitedly, people were cheering…it was amazing. It would have been cool, really, to have heard the temple announcement in the last conference, when I was at home, and I could have gone, “Hey, that´s in my mission!,” but this was so much more special of an experience. I probably won´t get to be here when the temple is dedicated, but to be here when it was announced…amazing. (And I´m very excited for the temple in Tucson too. I can´t believe that when we moved to Arizona just 15 years ago, we only had one temple, and in a few years we´ll have six. We´re very blessed in Arizona to have so many great members, and a temple close by. It was funny how the announcement happened. President Monson said Tucson, and I commented to Elder Flores that it´s cool that there´s going to be another temple in AZ, and then Pres. Monson said Arequipa, and the room went wild.) Elder Flores spent 16 months…I kid you not…in the center of Arequipa (in various areas…he´s often joked that he knows Arequipa now like the back of his hand), so understandably he´s experiencing all kinds of very strong emotions. He´s repeatedly said that he doesn´t care how, he´s going to come back for the dedication in a few years. Even if he has to walk. 🙂 Although I´m not in Arequipa proper right now…Tacna is six hours away…it still means a heck of a lot to the members here. The temple in Lima is a day away by bus, and the temple in Cochabamba is, well, in another country, so having a temple only six hours away…incredible.
- And the other big announcement…I´m so excited about that too. I´m of course talking about the Church lowering the age requirement for missionaries…it´s a great blessing that we´ll get to have so many more worthy young men and women that are able to serve. (It was rather cool, by the way, that they panned to the youth in the audience during President Monson´s announcement.) Ariel, hopefully you´ll forgive me for talking about this in my huge group email rather than in a letter or email to you (by the way…I haven´t heard from you at all yet in Peru…I´d love to get an email or something when you get the chance), but I can´t wait to talk about it…I´m so excited for you and your desire to serve. The first person I thought about after President Monson made the announcement was you…and that now you can serve much sooner than we all expected. My advice to you…if you want to serve…do it. You´ll be one of the greatest missionaries the world has ever seen…I know it. (Something crazy I realized, btw…you can leave the very month I come home from Peru. Wow.)
OK, so that stuff I was going to catch up on from last week? Yeah, it might have to wait for another email. Conference doesn´t come every day, and I have a few more highlights I´d love to discuss from it:
- So, as you may have gathered, I watched the entirety of Conference in Spanish. It was a really different, but very cool, experience. I feel like my notes were a bit simpler this Conference around, for starters. Also, I learned that Elder Scott always records his talks in Spanish beforehand (as opposed to having a live translator, as the majority of the speakers do). I had no idea he did so, and it was very surreal/awesome to hear him talking in fluent Spanish. Elder Gonzales and Elder Johnson recorded their translations as well, and something interesting about recorded translations is that they always ended up finishing before the talks in English. Which meant we said “Amen” to the talks in Spanish, and then “Ay-men” (in English) to their actual live talks. 🙂
- Also, when the intermediate hymns came…it was basically a solo for me. (Kind of a duet, because there´s another gringo in our stake, but I´m not entirely sure he was singing the hymns.) They show the words in English, like they do normally, and thus the members are often a bit confused. In addition, one of the intermediate hymns, “Guide Us, O Thou Great Jehovah,” isn´t in the Spanish hymnbook, so that put the members at even more of a disadvantage. Still, it was really fun to sing the hymns in English, albeit more or less by my lonesome.
- Favorite talks: I loved Elder Holland´s talk. Quite a bit of his fiery delivery gets lost in the translation (it´s a shame he doesn´t record his talks in Spanish like Elder Scott… :)), but still…so powerful. I also loved Elder Nelson´s talk/commercial for missionary work…”Ask the missionaries!” Presidents Eyring, Uchtdorf, & Monson…all terrific. Really, it was just a great conference.
- Something interesting about this conference…I´ve always, always, loved and been excited to watch conference, but also, there´s sometimes always where the sessions seem a bit long. This time…it passed so, so fast. It was incredible, but it was like lightning. Darn it that we have to wait six months for more…
- That moment after Elder Packer´s talk, where the Tabernacle Choir sang “Does The Journey Seem Long?” It gave me chills. The combination of being after what quite honestly seemed like Elder Packer´s final talk, with a hymn I really love and is never sung, with a soloist (which is rare for Conference), and being an incredibly beautiful arrangement…gosh darn it, I was almost crying. So powerful.
- So about the stake presidency counselor and his wife (the Flor family)…they´re so fun. He´s kind of a, well, stake presidency counselor type (a bit serious, but also incredibly friendly and fun), and his wife, she´s a bundle of energy and excitement, and they´re basically awesome. They had a bunch of snacks at their disposal during all the sessions, and gave us a bunch of cookies, crackers, and marshmallows…we definitely were not wanting for food during Conference. 🙂
So, to close, a little explanation of the two photos I´m attaching/the traditional food bullet:
- As I´ve told yáll (that´s how it notates “you all,” but shortened, because it thinks I´m trying to type an a with an accent mark instead of ´a…I´m going to keep it that way because it looks cool :)), I´ve fallen in love with Coca Cola here, somewhat scandalously. Enclosed is a picture of a Coca Cola bottle I currently have right next to me at the computer, along with a bottle of, I kid you not, BBQ sauce that I bought here in what´s kind of a Walmart-type store here in Peru, Plaza Vea. I had some last night with some papas fritas, and it was marvelous. A taste of Kansas, more or less. The other picture attached is a continuation of my pictures that go with your names…I was thinking that I´d never find something to go with Rob, but to my surprise, across the street from the third-floor house of the family we eat with often, I saw on a wall…”Rob´s.” Too perfect. 🙂
- Quick, like a bunny…food. Actually, I´ll have to hold it off till next week, to increase the suspense, and also because I´m out of time. Clues for next week (I promise I´ll catch up completely then): meat, meat, and more meat, noodles and shrimp, and some awesomely delicious bread. (Mom, have you heard of paneton? :))
By the way, quick update on my package…I´ll have it by the end of today, but I don´t have it with me right now. Mom, many thanks for the awesome photos. I´ll respond to your email a bit more next week…for starters, I´ve decided that the kids aren´t allowed to grow up. They´re getting too old. I love you all so much, and I´m thankful for your thoughts, prayers, and everything, as always. And one more time…we´re going to have a temple in my mission! I´m so excited. 🙂