Monday, October 29, 2012

Santiago (The Guy, Not The Place)

Oh Familyz:

Man oh man, what great, gladness it is to hear from you. Glad to hear we all had such a smashing week. Our week was pretty good. We had ourselves a baptism! Yes sir, his name is Santiago Cabello (James Hair, if you translate that to English).  It went great. He was very happy to be baptized. He seemed very content. The service went great. Larsen and I had to kill like five gigan-titantic puppy spiders in the baptismal font (I stood closely by peeking over the baptismal font ledge while this was happening). After that, we got things underway. The service went really well. We confirmed him yesterday and that also went very well. It was so nice to have a baptism again. Santiago is a great guy. He´s one of those Argentines that’s loves to talk with their hands, great stuff I tell you. 

We went to San Lorenzo yesterday which is just about the most gorgeous place ever. We had sacrament meeting there and it went fairly well. We got some assistance from some of the members out there and it was just awesome. It rained a little and we heard some rolling thunder in the distance so it was just as tranquil as last time—so good. 

Well, here comes the big news. We had transfers yesterday and we were thinking that nothing was gonna happen. So wrong. We got the call:  Larsen is going to Santiago del Estero (for the summer—pobrecito). We also got the call that I’m getting a new comp: Elder Inman from Murrieta, California...he has 6 months in the mish...which means....I’m now Señor comp....CRAP!!! AHHHHH!!!!!!! He´s a way cool kid. We dropped off Larsen at terminal this morning (which while I was there I talked to one of my very best buds in the mish, Elder Lopez from Concepcion, Chile and he asked me if I knew an Elder Torgersen. I said, “Yes, of course, he´s in my ward.” Elder Lopez said that Josh was at his family’s house the other day and he sends his best.  How cool, right?  

I got the package you guys sent to me with the goodies, soup, and drink stuff in there (thank you a billion) and after that we picked up Elder Inman. He´s a really nice kid. He knows a good amount of Spanish which is great but now (and I hopefully imagine everyone felt like this when they became senior comp) I feel pretty scared. I get the responsibility for all the senior comp stuff now. I hardly slept last night. I know I can do it to the best of my ability but I’m feeling pretty inadequate and baffled at the moment. I still don’t know the area super well so if you can pray big time for me it would be so much appreciated. The new district leader is a good friend of mine named Elder Clawson (he was comps with Zulauf) so that makes it a little easier but yeah, deep breaths I guess. Please, any advice would be very much appreciated. It’s sometimes hard, ya know. I hate moments like this when it just kinda feels like life is whizzing by and you’re stuck somewhere doing something hard. I know I can do it if I just pray, be humble, be good, be Hinckley… It’s just kinda hard sometimes, ya know. Well, enough of that. It’ll be a great week. It’s all good. Just deep yoga breaths.

And ?´s

  • Are there more new converts or “lifers” in the ward there?

More or less. We have some recent converts that are still having a hard time getting to church but the ward is really working with them. The ward is really not that strong and it kinda takes some pushing on our part but it keeps moving along.

  • Are we to understand that you do not have air conditioning in this apartment?

Oh no, but we do have the next best thing: A fan! So we got that going for us.

  • Do they have a Halloween or Day of the dead celebration there?

I haven’t experienced it yet but I imagine they would. Everyone is very curious about U.S. Halloween, though; they are fascinated by the candy factor.

Sorry for kinda the downer letter. I’m just beginning a whole new chapter and I have to adjust to every new chapter. Just keep me, the area’s success, my comp, etc., in your prayers. I know you guys are always praying for me and I can really feel the effect of those prayers. You guys are more than amazing! Have a great week! I love you and it’s all good.

Con Amor,

Bautismo de Santiago

Monday, October 22, 2012

Hollywood Argentina

Dear Bradys,

Well, Lady Gaga’s "Just Dance" has just started playing in the cyber so it´s indeed party time! How’s it going everyone? I’m sorry about the new carpet in the family room, that’s a bummer but I’m hoping the shaggy leopard-print carpet that will be put in its stead will fit in just nicely. It´s so nice to hear from everyone.

Speaking of ticking like ticks:  I was at this house the other day sitting down next to a hair care machine (I don’t know what exactly it was but was for hair) and I looked and about 5 to 8 ticks came crawling out...slowly in my direction. I kept leaning over farther and farther in my chair as they were crawling towards me at a slow (yet somehow fast) pace during the lesson. Luckily the lesson ended when I was like 2 seconds from falling out of the chair. It was fairly fun.

Guess what? Happy belated Argentine mother’s day, Mom! Yep, almost every country in the world has mother’s day in May except Argie-tina. They had a mother’s day celebration yesterday in church. It was nice. I could have joined in with the primary kids making handmade, hand shaped, bedazzled pot holders but alas, I had to the teach gospel principals class instead.  Next one for sure, right?

I told you we live in Hollywood, didn’t I? I have to take pictures with some of our investigators and recent converts. We have one recent convert named Oscar who looks the spitting image of Morgan Freeman, we have an investigator named Nestor and he looks like Jack Nicolson, and we have a new guy named Martin that looks (and acts) like Doc from Back to the Future. Good, good guys. It’s just their resemblance to those actors is creepily uncanny.

We have some good investigators as of late. We have a kid named Martin that we talked with about the plan of salvation. When we started taking about the resurrection he was kind of getting excited. He then told us he had a sister pass away a few years ago. He said he had a dream where he was in heaven and he saw her in a perfect state—with a body, a glow, etc. He asked us, “Is that true? Having a body when you get to heaven?”
We happily told him yes it is. He was very happy and excited about the message so we are hoping for the best with him.

Other than that it has just been HOT!!!!! I mean it just seems unseemly hot these days. We are keeping cool. though. We have a good fan and a lot of cold water but, dang it, it’s just so hot!!! Milk was a bad choice. Well that’s pretty much it this week.

  • How’s your bed it this new place?
Look at the picture. Just classy!!! And yes, it’s very nice. It´s really new.
  • Are the people more friendly in Salta?
Oh yeah. A lot more random holas from out of nowhere. It’s a much more friendly folk here.
  • Do you do a lot of contacting?
The siesta is dead time!!! We try to visit with menos activos at this time but really, everyone is awake at night so the golden hours are like 6 to 9. Crazy! We do come contacting at the doors but man, it´s really all about the references.
  • Do you have a big store there?
Carrefour! I think that’s how it’s spelled. It’s very nice. Very Wal-Mart-y.
  • Do you remember that we love you every minute of every day and have great faith in you and your abilities? (Yes, that is a mom question.  Just don’t want you to forget).
Yes :)

Thank you so much guys. I’m so thankful for you guys. It’s always so nice to hear from you. I miss you guys so much. But I hope all is good and dandy, as it always is. Have a great week and until next time. I love you, it’s all good!

Con Amor,


P.S. Its transfers next week (blast!) so just putting that always fun transfer warning.
Prestige Worldwide

Second-Hand Lions

Monday, October 15, 2012

Fuzzy Fur Feet

Ah Ferngullys,
How goes it? I imagine from what it sounds like, great! I saw the pic from the zone conference. I’m glad to see I look like I’m 5 years old, haha.  Yes, I’m glad you got to talk to Grizzly Adams and, yes, the packages he’s sending are just what he said. You can open them if you want when you get them—as long as they just get there.
Well, while you’re enjoying your last days of oh so wonderful UEA, you can hear about our week: It was, well, ok. We kicked the week off by having lunch at the familia Gastelos house (where we had bone marrow soup last week). When we went over there we found out the gas has been shut off all over town. They couldn’t cook so they whipped up the next best thing:  Old canned fish and onions—a nightmare! I took a bite of it and thought, "this is really bad chicken....wait....FISH!" Sooooo gross and possibly the stinkiest dish of all time. It´s like lutefisk's little brother. SOOOO NASTY! But I got it down, not happily, but down. Then we had to pay our respects after to the baby Jesus. Yes, they love their saints down here and one of favorites is the Niño Jesus. The prayer scene from Ricky Bobby races through my head each time I see an 8 pound, 10 ounce (don´t even know a word yet) Niño Jesus statue. Good times!
I got letters from Grandma and Grandpa Allphin, Brother Sandburg, and that Packer talk Grandma Molly sent me. Good talk! Packery but good.
We are working with this family in San Lorenzo that has a girl ready to be baptized.  She was totally ready for baptism I guess but the missionaries just stopped coming by so we are working with her now. She is very cool. Her name is Camilla her mom is the Hermana Sanchez. She is a lady who lives in San Lorenzo in this super-cool house but she and her family used to live in Orem, Payson, and Spanish Fork for about 3 years. We talked about all the places in the Valley including the great Stone Drug (which she had been to). I noticed they had a few English books on the shelf. One of those books looked really familiar. I took it out and, lo and behold, it was Fuzzy Fur feet himself—from the great Foot Book by Dr. Suess. I talked about my absolute terror every time I see that page; very anti-foot fetish right here, I’m sorry. But the family is really cool and we’re gonna keep working with them.  
Other than that, we had a very o.k. average week. We had sacrament in San Lorenzo and I rode there in the Hermano Golenburg’s truck. He had John Denver, Israel Kalowookiepookiesomewhereovertherainbow and the worst of the Mamas and Papas (is that the same as the best of the Mamas and Papas?) playing in the car. Just being on a nice, short Sunday drive was very tranquil. We had yet another nice, humble sacrament meeting. Very cool. Well, other than that, Q´s?
  • Do you do as much walking in Salta as you did in Chijra?
Yeah, almost. But it’s all on paved roads, thank heavens!
  • Do you have a lot of dogs there?
Not as many as in Jujuy but the little ratty, loud dogs are twice as plentiful here.
  • Do you have a lot in common with your companion?
Yeah, he´s a cool kid. We have similar tastes and we love to tell stories from high school and stuff—he´s a good little kid.
  • Tell us about one of your investigators.
We are teaching this guy named Santiago who is 52 and almost ready for baptism. He went to church yesterday and said during sacrament that there was like something in his chest or in his heart.  At first I thought, "Crap! Heart attack!" Then I was like, "Wait, no, it´s the spirit." We taught him a little bit more about the role of the Holy Ghost (which is one of my favorite things to talk about) and that went really well. We are hoping to have more success with him soon.
  • How long does it take to get to San Lorenzo?
About 15 minutes by bus. Such a pretty place.
Well famz, it´s been real. The mission sent us this survey thing we have to fill out so I guess I’ve got to go do that but I love you guys and pray for you. Hope all is well ‘cause it totally is. I love you! It’s all good.
Con Amor,
p.s. Sorry the computer is being dumb again and the usb isn’t working. Next week for sure I’ll send pics!


A Painting of me and Larsen we commisioned from a 5-year old

Monday, October 8, 2012

Conference, Bone Marrow, and Blood Sausage

Dear Alpine family,

Hey-hey. Man, oh man, good to hear from y'all. Wow, what an up and down email that was:  Lani´s leaving and Traci is adopting! I’m kinda like super thrown off there but for the good stuff, that’s great! Give Traci a big hug from me, she’s got the right attitude about things. And do hit me up with Lani's mission address, if you would.  And tell Kevin he is in my prayers and he’s pretty much my hero no matter what.

Yes, how about that conference? 18, huh? When we heard that everyone was saying things like, "Dang it! I could have been married with kids now had I known that!" It was very exciting news, though. It was a good conference. I loved Holland’s talk. We have a talk he gave at the MTC about a year ago and it’s very similar--it was so good. When he came on all the missionaries were suddenly at attention and scooting forward in their desks and chairs—missionaries love that Jeff Holland. I also loved Dieter’s talk how he said we are in charge of our own happiness—and Christofferson's and Monson's talks in priesthood session. When Christofferson talked about we should do the best at what we are doing and Monson’s story about the missionary’s analogy of seeing the people in white. Scott’s made me regret not doing family history with Papa. And Oaks? Well, he pretty much just dropped Cain on people who aren’t nice to kids. That talk just about broke the missionaries’ hearts because we see so much of that here and there’s just so little we can do about it. I did like how Ballard talked about bees and Eyring about eagles (although all I could think of was dad’s very favorite (not) eagle song: Let the Eagle Soar).

Conference really taught me that I should listen to the spirit more. I’m gonna really try to start doing that more here. It was just so cool. I remember hearing somebody say that conference in the field was better than Christmas and I remember  thinking "are you high?" but now I see that they were pretty much dead on with that. We had conference in the nice, two-story stake center where Christofferson spoke when he came here. We had about 7 or so people in our comfy, English-speaking room. We had to go in our suits (which sucked because it was soooooo humidly hot) but it went well. As you can tell that’s pretty much the highlight of the week. Conference is always so good (and only 2 more here).

We had a goodish work week. We are slowly but surely coming along closer to baptism with Sebastian and hopefully Ignacio. We ate lunch at this guy’s house this week and had this weird soup. It was like the texture and taste of cold, refrigerated gravy. Turns out it was some good, tasty bone marrow soup! Dig it. Later that day, at a house of a recent convert, the wife of the recent convert gave us some morcilla (blood sausage). We ate it all, happily but oh, our poor tummies! We werent sick but it’s always kinda like you feel like you will.

I was talking to Larsen the other day about kids at his school and I asked him if he knew a Dan Isrealson who was in my MTC group going to Paraguay. Larsen said that, yes, he did know him and that he went to school with him and they used to hang out when they were little. Pretty tight, huh? But other than that there was really nothing new in the week.

Well, ?’s

  • What is your overall impression of Salta?

Good! Hot, humid but really it’s become pretty much home now.
  • Do you cook?  What do you cook?

Milanesea, ramen, empanadas, cereal with yogurt, etc. Nothing much, we don’t have an oven.
  • In the photo of your zone at the zone conference there was a cake looking thing in the front of the picture.  What was that?

A cake for the goal of 200 baptisms......hooray!
  • Do you ever get to talk to President Levrino?

Yeah: Interviews, conferences, the weekly letters, and just every now and then.
  • Did you see any old friends at conference?

I didn’t really see anyone I knew but I made a few new friends like Adams's old comp and some other peeps.

Well famz, I need to be heading. Watching conference did make me think of you guys a lot. You know at almost 11 months you feel very comfortable in the mish: A lot of the old fears and worries are gone or are starting to go away (like the homesickness of the first little while). Things like conference do make me a little homesick but in a good way--to know you guys were watching and listening at the same time was a really nice thing to know. I miss and love you guys so much.  Have a great week. Keep on keeping on, praying for us here, and just being happy. I love you guys it’s all good!

Con Amor,


p.s. I was going to send a pic of conference but the computer is being stubborn as of now so we'll see.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Sacrament In San Lorenzo


Hey hey hey hey! How goes it? Good week, huh? That’s always nice to hear about the adventures of stuff and all. You guys are great. It really is so good to hear from everyone, in fact, I got a couple letters in the bolsa the other day (and I got one last week from good old Damon Hulsey, tell him I said "sup!") one dear elder and a letter from grandma. I was stoked to read the letters and, as I was reading them, I noticed they were kind of funkily written with sentences
such as " was so good to hear your voice the other day..." and "...well it looks like it´s graduation is next week..." I looked at the dates on the letters...May was a good laugh. That’s the only time I’ve ever gotten really late letters but it was fun to read them.

It was a good week for us here. I had what is possibly the only decent haircut I’ve ever got in Argentina from our good friend Jorge. He´s a cool, chill guy. All his family members are baptized and he loves the church. I believe he´s less active but he´s cool. He is gay but he is a way chill dude that loves the church all the same. He had "Papa don´t preach" by Madonna on repeat like 17 times at his hair salon and he has around 7,000 poodles (true story...maybe more like 6 poodles, though) but it was chill.

I had to get my haircut because we had zone conference.  It was nice. our zone set a goal to get 200 baptisms by year’s end AHHHHHRRRGGGH!!! but its chill, it can be done. Turns out my old stalker victim, Elder Huston, is in my zone (Russ read his blog when he first got his call to Argentina). He´s a cool kid, I’ll try and get a pic with him come general conference.

Elder Larsen had to do his papers this week so I went along with him and, since the offices are in the next zone, we went there and I got the package that you guys sent me with the tootsie roll stuff—thank you, it was much enjoyed. At the mission office I saw my picture is up on the board. It’s scary, my picture is in the same place as my papi´s was when I first got in the mission. Crazy.

We decided this week as a ward to hold a sacrament meeting up in this city in our area called San Lorenzo. It’s a nice, quiet little town. The house where we were going to have the sacrament meeting belongs to the Hermano and Hermana ------------, they are super cool. I guess the Hermana’s dad was good buds with Eva Perón. Hermano ------------- looks like the absolutely spitting image of Jeffery Tambor (George Sr. on Arrested Development) and he talks like him too. We went over there earlier this week to give his wife a blessing because she hurt her arm in a car accident a couple weeks ago. I gave her the blessing and it was really great—there was a nice spirit in that room. It was even better yesterday when we had sacrament meeting there. We rode up in the bishop’s Plymouth minivan (Mormons world wide are cursed to drive at least one in their lifetime). It’s really a beautiful house; it’s like 150 years old but it’s been all done up to look very nice. We had the meeting on the patio of their nice, quiet country home overlooking the Andes with the sun coming up behind them. The sacrament meeting had such a great spirit to it. It was just a small congregation in a tranquil setting. To know we were helping to expand the church and help build a branch in San Lorenzo (hopefully) is awesome. Larson and I blessed the sacrament and it was so cool. There was this nice breeze gently blowing through during the sacrament. It was such a great experience—one of the best sacrament meetings I’ve ever been to.

Now, onto Hermano ---------:  Great guy, super smart, rich, and insanely nice. At the end of the sacrament he asked me if I could save a little bread and a cup of water so I put some aside and he took it into the kitchen. I was talking to one of the people on the patio and I noticed the Hermano with his dog named Falcor (named that because he looks like Falcor from the movie The Never-Ending Story) in the kitchen.  He was giving Falcor the bread and water from the sacrament.  Now I just love the Hermano too much. Dog-gone it was a good sacrament meeting and it’s gonna keep happening there so we can only hope it’s gonna get better and better...

Well, how ‘bout some questions?

Who are your investigators?
This kid named Nico who’s about 15. He´s a cool kid, shy but good. We also have this guy named Santiago who had that disease that Michael Jackson supposedly had with his skin, except he´s actually got it. He is about 40 and he is a really funny guy. He´s one of those talks-with-his-hands Argentine guys. We also have this girl named Maribel who is this super nice, sweet, college girl who has a lot of interest in the church.  Then we have some others that I have not yet gotten to meet because they are super hard to find but I’ll be sure to fill you in later on that.

How did English class go?
Mehhhh. Nobody showed last time so we´ll see and hope people come to the one tomorrow.

Do you have an oven and sink in your pench?
No oven and, yes, a sink but it’s a bathroom sink and it’s the everything sink. That’s like the only bad thing about the pench, though.

How far away is your mission office?
Like 30 blocks into the next zone; a short cab ride from the pench.

Why is the food better in Salta than in Jujuy?
It doesn’t give you stomach infections. Naaah, it’s just like better quality stuff. It’s more fresh and for some odd reason it’s just tastes better.

Do the members still feed you
Yes, except for Monday and Thursday (and the occasional day we get dogged on a lunch).

I love you guys so much. I’m so thankful for your sacrifice and prayers. You are all more than amazing. Well, I best be going. Have a suburb week and do know that when Carol Burnett pulls on her ear when she gets up to speak at general conference, it means "I love you".  At least I think she´ll be at general conference. I love you guys, it’s all good!

Con amor,

Russ and Elder Larsen

Russell's Zone