Monday, August 26, 2013

The Motorcycle Diaries

Hey, Grimlys!!

Sorry this letter will be jet fast but man, oh man, its good to hear from youz guys. I'm glad to hear the wedding was a success. I told my comp about the possibility of an anime wedding and he was in full support. We both have the same anime background—that is, we loved Pokémon back in the day. We had a whole day where we talked about the games on the Game Boy and everything came back to me. Who knows? I could come back from the mission and fall hopelessly in love with Pokémon all over again.  Dreams do come true, you know?

This week was most excellent. My convert Paola got a calling to be first counselor in the primary presidency and is thrilled beyond belief. She reminds me of Dwight Schrute in the sense that, when Dwight was the "assistant regional manager" he was, in reality, assistant TO the regional manager. She is thrilled, happy, and introducing her friends to hear the gospel. We are talking with one of her best friends named Cristal. She had a teenage son die a while ago and we are teaching her and she is progressing really well. We are also teaching this lady named Gabriela and her son Gabriel. They made lunch for us one day and Gabriel made a ceramic pot for my comp and these rockin' bamboo wind chimes for me. I tell you, they would be the envy of grandmothers everywhere. I’ll have to send you a pic of them.

Transfers were last night and both Elder Murray and Hermana Jefferies left and their comps are all going to train which means everyone in the district is training—it’s a genuine nursery up in here. It’s really cool. They are all going to get their kids this Wednesday. I also have this really cool story about my cell phone but I’ll have to tell it later so remind me about it next week—stay tuned for the cell phone story, okay? Now on to questions!

What’s your favorite thing about training?

All the who-lou-dock-moo-frau´ (reference from Best Two Years about the difficulty of learning the language) and stuff like that. Just seeing myself, where I was so long ago. That’s the best part and just helping him take over the area and do stuff on his own. The kid is a stud and is doing so well and progressing so well.
  • Anyone we can pray for?

Cristal, Gabriela and Gabriel, Alejandro, and just everybody here but those guys in particular.
  • Did your rope-swing bump ever disappear?

Yeah, it’s last! I remember it wasn’t going away then I totally forgot about it and when I went to check it. It was gone! Yeah!
  • What’s your favorite thing about Yuto?

The Yuto accent!  It’s such a bad slur of coca leaf-Spanish so I’ll come home speaking like an Argentinean hillbilly but I do love that accent and just how Yuto is so tranquillo. It’s all good here!
  • I sent marshmallows as package filler.  Are they truly a novelty or is that an urban myth?

It’s a novelty. Elias has been eyeing them for quite sometime he really wants those legendary "s´mores".

Will you get your temple recommend renewed before you come home, in Spanish, even?
  • Yeah! Already did it in my last interview with president.

Well fambilys, thanks for everything. Sorry its short but I’ll be hitting you guys up more next week. Until then, I love you guys so much. Pray for us that all will be good. And keep on keepin' on. I love you, its all good!

Con Amor,


Monday, August 19, 2013

Al fin!

Russ and Elder Allan

Dear Alvin/Alshpin/Ajashfin/Alpin/Al fin!
Yeah, I haven’t heard the correct pronunciation of my last name for almost two years now. I’m really not sure how to say it anymore. All of the examples above are what people try and guess at when they read my name tag. For the most part I get called "al fin" which is cool cause in Spanish "al fin" means "to the end" so when you’re explaining the principal "enduring to the end" or "persevere hasta al fin" I get to point to my tag when I say "al fin" and it’s just a riot. HA!
But yes, I’m trying my hand at being one of those single-parent missionaries. It’s a trip!  Allan is a great kid—super culture shocked, trying to adjust and doing the common greenie things.
If you learn Spanish in Jujuy you can understand it perfectly in any other place because in Jujuy they have coca which is basically cocaine leaves they put in their mouths as a chewing tobacco type of thing. So it’s not uncommon to be speaking Spanish with a guy who’s talking a million miles an hour, using slang, smoking, and all with a mouthful of coca. The sad thing is I can understand it but my poor kid is just as lost as I was in the beginning. He got kinda mad about a few things this week. The fact that we don’t have dinner down here was like telling him his house had burned down (they have huge lunches and very light breakfast and dinner). Just stuff like that but he’s getting used to it all. Again, he’s a great kid and I’m sure a lot of it is the stress of trying to accustombrate himself to Argentina. But yes, it’s a good life. To tell him "WELCOME TO ARGENTINA" Oscar Ponce made us a cow’s head. So yes, my poor boy had cows head his 5th day in—what a welcome. He was a good sport about it and even thought the eyes were tasty but yes, face meat, it’s always good.
This week was a good week. It was Children’s Day here yesterday so everyone was having a block party of some sort. Because of that not a lot of people came to church! (Charlie Brown scream) but we aren’t giving up hope. The other day we were walking on the train tracks by a super poor neighborhood and, as we were making our way down to another neighborhood, I felt really impressed to go back so I told my kid “Dude, we gotta go back!"  We went back and it was one of those things like "Well, idk what’s supposed to happen. Maybe it’ll be nothing but let’s go."  We got back to the poor neighborhood and, out of nowhere, a teenage kid came up to us and said "Hey! Do you guys have like a pamphlet or something?" I said "Yeah! Even better! Where's your house?" He pointed to his house and we came back a little later and taught him and his little sister and brother.  They liked the lesson and all accepted baptismal dates! They are way cool: Nico, Erica, and Franco. They range from 16 to 11 and there are even more in their family so we`ll have to hit them all up on a later day. Good week; good following-impressions week! I love it. But yeah, that’s pretty much it on my part.

  • How are the folks treating your new comp? 
They love to joke around with him, ask him a million questions all at once, etc. It’s pretty much the way I was raised up. Here it’s totally chill to tell someone, "Hey man, you’re fat!" Allan is a big football player and when someone said this he was pretty much up in arms telling me "That’s really rude!” I remember that very thing happening to me when I was first here and thinking the same thing. After a while you come to expect it and people still continue to say things like that but you take it in stride because you know they aren’t trying to do any harm. It’s the native way and you just have to let it slide. I think I remember Dad telling me a similar story about how Koreans did that too.
  • Tell us a little about your comp.
Big sports guy, graduated in 2012, was a visa waiter in Mississippi for 9 months. His mom is from México but he doesn’t speak Spanish. He loves peanut butter, knows a few kids from P.G. He’s a quiet fellow but a good one at that.

  • Do you get to speak English with him?  Have you forgotten how?
Yeah, but not a bunch. It’s a rule that outside of the pench you only speak Spanish. Inside you can speak what you want but you want to try and speak as much Spanish as possible. But yeah, I’ve spoken a bit of English with him. The truth is, it’s best if it’s all in Spanish but, of course, there are gonna be times when you speak with him in English like when he turns to me and says "What did he say!!?"  But that’s normal.
  • Do you make breakfast for your comp?
I buy breakfast for him at times. Breakfast doesn’t really exist here. It’s like: Cereal, fruit, tea, etc. but nothing big. Kinda sad.
  • Do you exercise?
30 min. every morning—A few days running, a few, pushups and the like but nothing really specific.
  • Did your CTR rings work out?
Yeah! They are super! They fit so well, thank you!

  • Do you have to go back into Salta to make your comp all legal?
I don’t think so. I think they got him all legal there his first day.
Well fams, I hope all is good. It’s good here. We are really working hard to baptize this week so pray that we can do it and just do the best we can. I hope all is well there and that everyone is ready for some serious back to school funz. Enjoy! Thanks for everything! I love you guys. It’s all good.
Con Amor,

Monday, August 12, 2013

It's A Boy!


Hey guyz! How’s it happenin'? Disappointing Lindon days? Yeah, that’s usually how it is. Lindon Days kinda lost its magic for me when they took out the crazy, dirty Tom Petty-looking biker guys guarding the inflatable bounce houses. The wonder of childhood, I tell you.

This week was a bit off of the ordinary from the rest. Last week, on Monday, I got a call from the assistants and they said "Hey dude, you're preggers!" Yep, I'm training! They said I had to go to the offices in Salta on Wednesday morning with Rosano and there I get to pick up my kid and Rosano will leave with another missionary to go to the province of Santiago del Estero. So on Tuesday, Rosey boy said his goodbyes and, early in the morning on Wednesday, we left for Salta.

By some miracle a group of missionaries finally got their visas.  I got to the offices and there were 3 others training. We had a little capacitation then I met my comp. He is 19 year old Trevor Allan from Springville who has been in Mississippi for 9 months waiting for his visa. Because of that he doesn’t really speak Spanish but he’s a great kid—a football, basketball, and baseball player at Springville High who even lived in Spanish Fork for awhile. Cool kid, he reminds me a lot of Spencer Harris.  After I got him, we took 2 buses back to Yuto and got settled. 

We had a good week. We talked to a lot of people and found a few really good candidates for baptism. It was kind of a hard week for church because the presidential elections took place yesterday (Sunday) so nobody was at church. Bummer man. But it’ll be a better week this week for sure. Pray that it will be and that we’ll have a baptism. So yeah, that’s the week. My comp is adapting well but I can see the culture shock (food, language, etc) but he’s doing great. Keep him in your prayers as well. 

So, questions?

  • Are Vanessa and Elias a couple?

Yes they are.

  • Does Vanessa’s family feed you often?  Does she speak English?

Yeah, like every Tuesday we eat there. She speaks a sort of English but just the basics. And really, no one speaks English around here—just the textbook "Open the window", "Yes teacher!", "My name is...", “How are you?".....So no one really speaks English in Yuto. I talked to a guy in Ledesma who lived in Miami and spoke English but real English speakers are rare to come by.

  • Did you ever get your birthday packages?

Yes, I finally got them when I went to the offices. Thank you guys so much! We are going to make the brownies today. Thanks again, they were a grand surprise!

  • How are the A_________s doing?
Very, very good. I got them a new member package in Salta that has the basic stuff for new converts (a triple, Our Heritage, Gospel Principals, etc) They really liked that. I also got to bless their house yesterday which was nice. They kinda have their up and down moments, those guys, but they are doing great. Thanks for praying for them and templing for them. I tell them about that and they are always so, so grateful and are praying always for you guys too.

Well, that’s about it. It’s going to be a good, interesting week. Pray for the both of us—that we can see a baptism this week. We are working with a few people: A kid we call "Super" (who’s name is Juan) a kid called Jorge who is the boyfriend of a member here, and a lady named Gabriela who is the best friend of an hermana here. And, of course, the rest of the familia B_________. Pray for them (that we can find, teach, and baptize them) and we will work with them (and pray for them) a ton. Thanks for all your prayers and templing and everything. Have a bomb week. I love and miss you guys a bunch. Love you. It’s all good!

Con Amor,


Monday, August 5, 2013

Wild, Wild Life


How the dickens are you? Man, what grand occasions were brought to pass this week. Graduations (FREE BIRD!) new temple movies (my comp fainted when I told him that) and etc. By the way Dad, you look exactly like the district president in San Pedro. He’s a teacher as well. He’s my good buddy—President Rojas. I’ll have to snag a pic with him soon. That’s nuts that Spencer left and Zach and Cody...I mean Jeff… have been out a year. Gnarly.

I feel old but yet, I'm super stoked about everything, especially this past week (and what a week it was). I did divvies with a companionship in my district that’s having a bit of a rough time. We worked super hard in that area and made some goals with them on how they could improve.  And yes, they are improving! I’m super happy for them. They’ll be baptizing in no time.

We also had lider capacitation (leadership training) in Oran this week with Pres. It was AHHHHHHH soooo good! I loved every bit of it. We learned how we can do better verifications and whatnot. So very good. President even gave us a ride back to Yuto and so we got to talk with him for a good while. He’s such a great guy. He even stopped by the church yesterday to do temple interviews for the members there so we had sacrament meeting with him. It was fast and testimony meeting yesterday and during the awkward silence Javier (our investigator who’s is the son of Paola) said "Can I come up and say something?" President Levrino said "Yes, come on up!" Javier said, "Well, I don’t have much to say but I’ll read this part of the book of Mormon that the elders left for me to read.” It was Alma 39, the chapter that drops the Cain on sexual sin. We left him that because we were going to talk to him about the law of chastity. So he totally reads the whole chapter out loud. It was like at first: "NOOOOO!!!!" but it was really good because I think a lot of people needed to hear it. President Levrino thought it was the coolest thing ever and congratulated Javier for it.  President’s son Juan was there visiting as well. He’s about 15 and loves the indie rock so we talked about that for a good while. He’s such a cool kid.

The Belmonte’s are doing well. We are planning on getting Javier and Anabel married really soon so pray that they can do that because they gotta get baptized. We are working super hard and are so stoked and lost in the work. A lot of things have changed around here for the better and I love it. Pray that we'll have a baptism this week. Please!!!! But that’s about it for last week. Querstions?

  • Do you have any souvenirs you’d really like to bring home?

I’m actually diggin' the gaucho stuff they have here as well as dulce de leche de campo quijano and cool stuff like that.  I'll get just as much as I can bring home. I'll have to have a shopping day sometime soon here.

  • Are the Argentineans habitually late like a lot of folks in Latin America?

Only about 7 years behind everyone else. It’s like everyone has their own time and no one is on time.

  • Any exotic wildlife in your area?

I SAW 2 TUCANS THE OTHER DAY!!! It was so cool, they were just flying around and all. They looked tasty! And yeah, there are always parrots around here but they are the ratty birds that plague the area here and are very loud and annoying. But other than that its just a bunch of farm animals and chupacabras.

  • How are things with your comp?

Great! He is really changing! We are using our time wisely and are happy. It’s like the perfect balance now. Sure, there are always some things that annoy you about your comp but you get over it. You just don’t let those things bother ya.

  • If you can only use one computer when you write your emails, what do you do while you wait for your comp to write his?

Read...or read. I think I’ll bring some letter-writing stuff next time.

  • I’m getting your last package ready to send.  Any final requests?

Candy.  Yeah, just that. Gummi worms.

Well padres and all, that’s about it. Pray we’ll be baptizing and continuing to work hard this week. It’s been a good week. The district is doing swell and all. Keep everyone in your prayers. I love you guys and miss you bunches. I best go give my comp the computer. Whatever you need, do tell me. Cheers! I love you, its all good!

Con Amor,


"Long ago and oh so far away
I fell in love with you before the second show..."