This week has been super crazy. Probably the most craziest week of my life. Let me explain. On Tuesday, I left the MTC. I only went with one other missionary, a sister missionary who was in my district in the Provo MTC, Sister Merkley. We flew out of the airport in Campinas. It was really strange being alone with a sister missionary, but it was all good. We even taught a lesson to a woman as we waited for our plane! It was an interesting experience teaching a reall lesson in Portuguese for the first time with a sister missionary. I imagined that it was Sarah teaching alongside me. What a great companion she would be! Anyway, we boarded the plane without any hiccups and were on our way. I slept most of the way, but woke up to see some of the most gorgeous coundtryside I have ever seen. The landscape here is so beautiful! There are so many mountains. It's great! Anyway, we landed and a random guy with a sign that said "Missao Brasil Juiz de Fora" picked us up in his car. It was about a 30-45 minute drive into the city of Juiz de Fora. We were dropped off at the stake center to find out that a zone conference was already underway. Let's talk about instant immersion! I sat in a meeting for a few hours while my new mission president, President Cascardi, taught us about how to be better missionaries...completely in Portuguese. Afterwards, I sat and talked with other missionaries completely in Portuguese. That's when I found out about my new companions. I am currently with two zone leaders...again...imagine that. It's like dejavu all over again. :D I'll only be with them for the 2 weeks leading up to transfers, then I will be with another missionary who lives in the same house as us. I am currently serving in Juiz de Fora in a part called Manchester (Mon-shes-teh). My companions' names are Elder Perez and Elder Veloso. Elder Perez is from Chile, but he speaks fluent English because he spent a few months in the US. Elder Veloso is from Northeastern Brasil (a Nordestino) and speaks a little English. When I introduce myself to people, I often tell them that I'm a Nordestino also. Speaking of which, introducing myself to people is really hard. No one knows New Hampshire here (heck, no one knows NH in the US either). I tell them that I live north east of Nova York. Also, no one can say my name. "Ayer" doesn't mean anything. They don't use y's in Portuguese. Instead of making my name sound all cool and latin, I just give people the English pronunciation (air) with a Portuguese accent. However, here they don't say their r's really, so our name usually comes out sounding like a half-hearted breath (eh).
There are lots of funny, different things here. Bus rides are crazy. We get to ride the bus a lot. You enter in the front and then proceed to a turnstile (is that the word?) where you pay 2 reais and 5 centavos to ride the bus. Also, ketchup and mustard here really aren't that enjoyable. We only take one hour for lunch and then 0 hours for dinner. We might eat something when we get home, but I don't really because it's late. Between sweating and eating, I feel like I've already lost ten pounds, and it's only been a week and no worm! Speaking of which, I've already had the water here...unfiltered. I don't have a worm yet, but my companions tell me that Juiz de Fora is known for having pure water. Also, I already have a farmer's tan after a few days. I don't think that you'll be able to recognize me after two years! Here, my white skin really stands out. At one door, an old woman grabbed my hand, kissed it, and told me that all the girls at Church must love me. My companions told me later that she was on drugs, I agreed. I never realized how strange it would be surrounded by people that don't look like me. Once in a while, I can pick out someone who looks like an American. Also, I was not preapred for the langague overload. Sometimes I have this strange expectation that everyone will finally stop playing around and starting speaking ENLGISH. Well, it hasn't happened yet. I don't think that it's ever going to happen. Also, other really funny things. Like Sarah, I have been drinking a lot of Coke. The Coke down here is really different than the coke in the US. It's really good! I'm told that it has a lot of extra chemicals in it that make it that way. Also, the people here have a flour (farinha) that they put on their rice and beans. It's good. Also, I showed a picture of Mom and Dad to the other missionaries in our apartment. One asked if Mom was Elaine S Dalton. Later he asked if Dad was a Seventy. It was really funny! There were lots of other fun things that I wanted to tell you, but I can't think of any more right now. Oh yeah, I've become a professional city walker. I stare straight ahead, walk really fast, and try not to look naive and American. The only thing I lack is that I still say hi to everyone that I go past.
I have really been working on talking to everyone. Portuguese is really hard, and I'm doing pretty well at it compared to the other Americans. I get really frustrated with myself sometimes because I can't say what I want to say in the moment that I want to say it. So frustrating! It's especially frustrating because I've already learned somewhat how to teach people. I know what I want to say, but I'm getting in my way. There were a couple days at the beginning when it was really hard. Then the other day I had a realization. I was reading Ether 12 about faith and trials of faith. I asked myself, "Do I believe in the promise of the Lord?" Ether 12 said that we can live with surety if we believe in the Lord. The Lord has promised great blessings to His missionaries. Do I believe in them? Do I believe that He will fill my mouth with the right words if I open it? From that moment, I made a promise to myself that I would put my faith in the promise of God and talk to everyone I meet. I want Him to be able to trust me with the holy gifts of the Spirit. Since then, it has been a lot of fun. COmpared to West Virignia, there are so many people to talk to here! I have been doing my best to always be stopping people and talking to them and inviting them to learn more. Sometimes the situations are really strange and awkward, which makes it all the more fun. I just have this idea in my head that I'm already a chubby, white, American, Mormon missionary, no one can blame me if I make things a little awkward. Plus, I can't understand what they're saying 3/4 of the time. It's so much fun! I really do love being a missionary and being able to talk to everyone about the gospel without fear, and I have been able to see my Portuguese skills imporve in the last few days. What a blessing!
The trip-ship situation has been going alright. West Virginia got me ready for third-wheeling it, even more so now since everyone else speaks Portuguese. :D Well, things aren't bad at all. THings are wonderful! I love Brasil! I love the people here! There are so many good people that want to hear the good news of Jesus Christ restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith. There is so much joy in our message! Like in my other zone leader trip-ship, I walked into two more baptisms. Their names are Eduardo and Luiz. They are brothers. It was a really great experience.
Well, I love you all! Know that for sure! I use what you have taught me to focus on the work at hand and thrust in my sickle with all of my heart, might, mind, and strength! Love you!!!
Love, Elder Parker Ayer
P.S. Elder Veloso is a professional recorder (flauta) player! :D