Tuesday, September 29, 2009

...Past the one month mark, and another soaker

Elders Titus, Fujimoto, Burt, Yuma and Ghormley

Looking down at the front landscaping of the MTC from the 6th floor

It’s crazy to think I’ve been here for more than a month. It’s really flying by, but it’s because we’re busy all of the time. This week we had “TRC” where we practice teaching the first lesson in Portuguese to a couple of random LDS locals. We get recorded and get to watch it later and review our mistakes. It was interesting. Elder Burt and I did an awesome job. We work really well together. His Portuguese is way better than mine, but I’m still pretty decent.

Last week, Elder Burt got into a discussion with some Brazilian elders about soccer. They were really going at it (he used to play soccer before coming down here, and was as good at it as I am at racing my bike). I got lost after the 2nd sentence, and it was kind of awkward, standing there not knowing what they were saying. He took a lot of Spanish, and it has really helped him to learn Portuguese.

The language is coming along. I can teach the first lesson (restoration of the gospel), and the shorter version of lesson two (the plan of salvation). I’d say I’m about the 3rd best in the class.

Elder Santos (one of our Brazilian roommates) is finally coming out of his shell. We played some Uno last night, and he really enjoys it. Elder Rodrigues still doesn’t talk. He is super shy. He won’t play Uno with us. Hopefully he will open up, but he’s only got two more weeks to do it! (The Brazilians don’t stay at the MTC as long as we do.)

There isn’t too much that’s exciting, honestly. We’re in class all day and when we’re not, we’re doing other indoor, sheltered, boring things. The food is pretty much the same. We always have a meat dish, like chicken or steak. Lots of rice and beans, a roll, fruit, like watermelon, guava, papaya, stuff like that.

Yesterday, we were sitting in class and noticed it had turned nearly pitch black outside. It had been sunny 30 minutes before. We informed Irma Aline, our teacher, and she said, “It’s because it’s going to rain very a lot.” (Seriously, that's how she said it!) Immediately after this, I saw a drop hit the leaf of a palm tree. Elder Burt and I realized that our windows were open. We raced up to the 6th floor (there are no elevators, just LOTS of stairs) but by the time we got there Elder Jensen’s bed sheets were soaked and the floor was wet. Within 45 seconds the weather went from dry to monsoon. The rain was like nothing I’d seen before. Horizontal, I’m not kidding, and each drop was massive. The wind was super fast and the lightening to thunder ratio was less than a second apart. The storm drains were like fire hoses and we would have had mass flooding, but it all ended in 10 minutes. That night, the skies were clear.

I’m really happy to be here in Brazil. It fits my personality. I was originally disappointed that I wasn’t called to go to Europe, but I realize now that the Brazilian “chill” attitude fits me to a “T” and I don’t think I would have had as much fun in Europe as I will have here.

This Friday we will have our first proselyting attempt. Our goal is to hand out 4 Books of Mormon in two hours. Did I mention that people don’t speak English here? It should be very interesting. Stay tuned!

Until next week – Tchau!
--Elder Titus

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Half Way Through the MTC!

Elder Ghormley, Elder Titus and Elder Yuma

Southern Sao Paulo in background

Courtyard inside MTC

WOOO HOOO!!! Half way done!

This week went by really fast. Fairly uneventful, and will continue to be for the next 4 weeks until I get out into the field where the real action is.

Some Highlights:

On Wednesday, we went to the police station to get finger printed and to get our pictures taken. It was an interesting experience. Criminal missionaries!
Last Saturday, we had a "milestone," where we had to pass things off. This week it was to teach the first lesson in 15 minutes, in Portuguese. Elder Burt and I rocked it, and were the only ones in our district of 12 to finish in the 15 minute time limit. It was pretty fun. Elder Burt is ridiculous at Portuguese, it's nice to have him as a companion so when I don't understand what someone's saying, he can help. We work well together and we've become good friends.

So, I was walking to my room one night and this Brazilian elder comes up and asks, "You know Billy Jean?" I laughed, "Well of course I know Billy Jean!" Then I started humming it and we shared some sweet Michael Jackson dance moves and finished off with a high pitched classic MJ squeal. Great times!

They took our two rooms and made three, so that there are 4 Americans in each, and each room
was ready to receive a set of Brazilian elders. We got our new roommates this week. Elder Santos from the Amazon and Elder Rodriguez from Curritiba, down south. Elder Santos looks like one of the rebels from the movie, "The Rundown." He speaks very softly and has sort of a Sean Connery accent. Elder Rodriguez is also quite shy. He has a wicked hair part and a unibrow. He's taller than me. Last night we all played the card game "Uno." I guess it's pretty universal.

My District, with Irma Elias center left and Irma Aline center right

One room got a guy from Mozambique. He's waaaay cool. He came here with only one tie (the book suggested 6 to 8 ties). He's super humble. He will be serving in Mozambique. They speak Portuguese there.

Some quick stats:
400 missionaries here at the MTC, mostly American
Brazilians stay for 3 weeks; Americans stay for 9 weeks
In the field, the ratio is 60% Brazilian to 40% American

Until next week...tchau!
Elder Titus

Front of the MTC

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Busy, Busy, Busy...

So the top photo is the group of missionaries that I flew out of Dallas with, and on down to Sao Paulo last month. And the second photo is of the favelos, or poor area of town. Kind of scary over there. Sorry about last week. That was the nastiest storm and heaviest rain I have ever experienced. And that’s saying a LOT, having been born and raised in Seattle! I wasn’t able to send photos last week, but have two for you this week. They are harder to upload than I thought.

Things are going quite swell. I don’t really have any free time at all, and only about 30 minutes of email time a week. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday are the same schedule. 8 hours of class every day separated by lunch. No breaks. Mostly Portuguese class, with some gospel principles mixed in, then translated to Portuguese. It’s nuts. However, we are really blessed here. I have been told that other people have tried to learn with the church’s exclusive program and they cannot keep up with the missionaries. Things come so fast and they stick with you. I can pray in Portuguese and I can teach the first of four lessons already, as well as handling regular conversation.

I’m starting week 4 of 9 this week and it feels like I’ve been here for 2 weeks.

On Thursday we’re supposed to get Brazilian roommates moving in with us. Two of us will move out to another room, and two Brazilians will move in. So that should be fun. They are called Brasileiros in Portuguese.

So last week Elder Fenstermacher went home. This was a big shock to our district (of 11). He left for personal reasons. He was replaced by two elders that have been stuck at the Provo, Utah, MTC for 2 weeks because of visa problems. They’re names are Elder Ellis and Elder Fujimoto. They seem pretty cool and are meshing with our group very well.

The food here is getting better, but it’s still weird sometimes. Breakfast is the worst meal of the day. Sandwiches every day, containing bread, bologna, and cheese. That’s it. One day a week we get pancakes, however, the syrup is extremely bitter, and its spicy, so pancake day actually sucks. Sometimes we get cereal, it’s stale, but it tastes okay.

On Tuesdays we have p-day, or our day off. Half the time we go to the Campinas Temple, and the other half we have a day of our own. Today is a day of our own. We still have to get up a 6:30, but you can go take a nap later. We get to walk within the 6 block boundary around the MTC, which consists of a lot of little businesses that were once garages. They are so random. There are two businesses devoted completely to toilet items such as seats and scrub brushes. Other things are like candy stores and stationary stores. Everything is ridiculously over priced. A notebook at the stationary store is 7 reis, or about 5 dollars. In the states it’s like 50 cents.

If you have a sidewalk in front of your business or house it’s your responsibility to take care of it. Most people decorate it with tile, or cobbles. So every section of the sidewalk is unique. Or some people don’t take care of it at all, so it’s all messy.

Sao Paulo is ridiculous. 20,000,000 people here. Muitas, muitas pessoas. Lots of people. Skyscrapers as far as the eye can see. I tried to send a photo of the city, but ran out of time. Hopefully next week!

Friday, September 11, 2009

WOW! What a Storm!

Sorry for the delay. I was sitting at the computer on Tuesday, uploading photos to send and along came this HUGE storm! It made the Seattle rain/lightning storms look puny in comparison. I'm totally serious! And then BANG! The lights went out. So, no photos this time around. I’ll try again next week. That storm was awesome!

Things are going really swell here. The MTC is very intense. This is my schedule:

6:30 AM, Wake up, although I mostly get up at 6:20 to beat the 6:30 rush to the showers. 5 minute shower.
6:55 AM, Head to breakfast, fully dressed in white shirt, tie, slacks.
7:30 – 8:15 AM, Personal study time
8:30 – 11:45 AM, Class with Irma Elias (3.25 hours straight)
11:45 – 12:45, Lunch/naptime (a 20 minute power nap does wonders)
12:45 – 4:15, Class with Irma Aline (3.75 hours, no breaks either)
4:15 – 5:15, Dinner, followed by a few rounds of Ninja Destruction
15 minutes of MDT (Missionary Directed Time)
Gym until 6:30 PM (Usually volleyball) Get re-dressed
7:00 – 8:00, MDT, where we usually learn more Portuguese
8:00 – 9:00, Companion study. Read “Preach My Gospel,” and do flash cards with Elder Burt
9:00 – 9:30, Daily planning in classroom
9:30, Snack time; usually chocolate milk and cornbread
9:45 – 10:10, Banana Fishing* or other craziness (usually with Elder Chrisney from next door)
10:10 – 10:30, Get ready for bed and write in journal.
10:30 PM Bed!

It’s pretty intense. We’re in that same room for 9 hours a day. Even though it is supposed to be two classes, it is more like one class split into two parts. Irma (Portuguese for “sister”) Elias doesn’t know English very well. When speaking to her, you have to go very slow and make it super simple, often times using hand gestures (kind of like charades!). She says things like “contact eyes,” instead of “eye contact.” On the other hand, our other teacher, Irma Aline, is fluent in English.

In class, we are learning mostly Portuguese, along with a little out of “Preach My Gospel.” I have learned more Portuguese in 2 weeks than what I learned of Spanish in two years. I’m really excited!

Well, times up! Hopefully I can get the photos uploaded on Tuesday.

*Banana Fishing: Take a broom and attach a banana to it with thread. Lean out of window and swing the banana in and out of the window one floor below. Hilarious!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Stay Tuned...

(From Derek's Mom) There appears to be a breakdown in communication between here and Brazil. I was expecting an email 9-8-09, but it never arrived. I'm not sure what to tell you, except to keep checking back. I'm sure something will show up -- hopefully soon!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

My First E-mail Home!

I did not really prepare for this message. I have learned my lesson. Next time I’ll be more organized.

The plane rides both went well. Our plane from Dallas to Sao Paulo was delayed two hours, so we all (25 of us) played Ninja Destruction. You get in a circle and you get one attack to try and chop the hands of the people around you, going in a clockwise order. But when you attack, you have to stay in that position, so it makes it a bit like the game Twister.

Sao Paulo is ridiculously large! I guess it´s like the second or third biggest city in the world, next to some city in India. Everywhere you look there are skyscrapers. For miles and miles! it makes Seattle look like an ant next to a human. No joke. And the smog is ridiculous. I´ll send pictures next week. I´m at a cafe with Neanderthal computers and we´re not allowed to bring our cameras outside of the MTC (Missionary Training Center). The 5 computers inside the MTC are taken and you´re only allowed 30 minutes here. So next week I’ll send pictures. Look forward to the photo of the favelas (shanty towns made of cardboard and tin piled high and together). They actually have those. It´s weird because the city is way wealthy but outside the city they have the poorest conditions you could imagine. Middle class here in Sao Paulo is our lower class up there, and upper class is basically non existent so far as I’ve seen.

When we got to the 7 story MTC building we were warmly greeted, and then fed lunch (rice and beans). My companion is Elder Burt, he´s way cool. He´s from Logan, Utah, and loves soccer. There are 3 companionships per room. We share with Elders: Webb, Parrot, Ingram and Fenstermacher. That night we had banana/chocolate/cheese pizza. It was interesting to say the least. Possibly acquirable.

We always have sandwiches for breakfast. Just bread, a piece of cheese and a piece of ham. No other options for condiments, and a banana and hot cocoa. The weirdest meal I´ve had so far was a potato gelatin casserole with red hotdogs spaced out in it, with a side of fried eggplant, a roll and downed with some cashew juice.

Classes are going good. We´re in class for 8 hours a day, separated by lunch, and with two different teachers. Irmas (Sisters) Elias and Aline. Irma Elias doesn´t speak much English, but Irma Aline is way cool and speaks pretty fluently.

The MTC is mentally exhausting. You’re up at 6:20 AM, bed by 10:30 PM with no breaks in between. Shower, eat, study, class, eat, class, study, plan, exercise, eat, study and sleep. Rinse and repeat.

Portuguese is coming along pretty good. We can all pray, and we´re learning how to testify, along with other standard conversation. We sit with the Brasileiros (Brazilians) at lunch and work on conversations. Those guys are way nuts and know the most random English.

Today is P-day (Preparation Day). We went to the Campinas Temple and did a session. When we got back, we explored the 5 block area that we´re allowed too visit. We got some candy, and I got some mango juice. Kinda weird.

Oh yeah, in the middle of Sao Paulo is this river, and it is way sick. It’s grey because it’s filled with sewage and litter. I guess down a ways it naturally rids itself of contaminates through rapids and other rivers. But up here, there is no life in it.

We played some volleyball, too. The Brasilerios are pretty good. They don´t allow soccer here because the Brasilerios get too competitive. Bummer for Elder Burt! I guess I will most likely not be on a bike, because of the crazy drivers in Brazil. But maybe it’s different in Londrina. Oh yeah, so we estimate our mission to about the same size as Montana. So it’s pretty dang big.

Walking through the market today, I finally realized that I’m in Brazil. We’ve been cooped up so much that I haven´t really been feeling it, but it’s there. And it will be more realistic when we go proselyting on day 51 in the Wallstreet of Sao Paulo.

Again, sorry for the randomness. They don´t really want us to email other people, so if you could let people know what my MTC address is, they can write to me if they want (that would be really great).

Oh yeah, I´m called Elder Chee Toos in Portuguese. I’ll be sending you a more in depth, organized message next week.

Elder Titus