Sunday, March 29, 2015

Brazil Area Presidency

The highlight of the week was our meeting with the Area Presidency of Brazil on Tuesday. We spent quite a bit of time last week and Monday getting our presentation ready. We were able to present our plan for technology specialists in Brazil. They seemed to like the plan and gave their approval to go ahead. Elder Costa said he would send a letter to all of the stake presidents instructing them to have a technology specialist by a certain date. That will help our recruitment efforts.
Area Presidency of Brazil
We'll introduce some of the senior couples and our co-workers as we go along. We'll start with the Ferguson's since they will be returning home in a couple of weeks. They have been serving in the temple and helping out in Travel.
Elder & Sister Ferguson
There are nine regular employees of the Church working for ICS, seven in our office and two at the CTM (MTC). There are also others who come in and help as needed.
Filipe who is preparing notebook computers for workers
Badu who works right next to us
Cintia, a technical guru and leader
Sometimes someone will bring some treat for us all to share, like green corn ice cream.
Ice cream break
As we go to and from the office we often run into younger missionaries. There are thousands of missionaries from Brazil serving all over the world.
Sisters in the grocery store
Sisters in front of the temple
So far we spend most of our time in the office getting ready for training of technology specialists. Paulo, the supervisor, has asked us to give a half-hour session each morning on leadership training (in English) so others can practice their English. That means more preparation. We walk to work every day. During odd hours we walk along a busy highway. Sometimes we walk through  the neighborhood and enter the back gate that is open at certain times during the day. On Wednesday we were able to see two pica-paus (woodpeckers) on the way. They are rare in São Paulo.
Pica-pau on the wire
We usually go across the street to the food court in the mall for lunch. Most of the places have a discount for church employees (including missionaries). The temple has reopened so we were able to eat in the cafeteria on Friday. 
Food court at the mall
On Thursday we got to the office early (7am) for an hour-long taxi ride to the national police office so we could get our identity cards. We waited for awhile until Fabio (our helper) came with eight missionaries from the CTM. Four were from the USA so visas are stating to come.
Police offices in São Paulo
Weekdays in Portuguese are named after the market (feira) so on Friday (sexta feira) we went to the market with the Halls. We were surprised at how good the produce looked. Diane got a cheese pastel (a fried "pocket") which she ordered herself in Portuguese. 
Stacked oranges - I want the one on the bottom!
Buying pears
Soaking pears in chlorine water
On Saturday we got brave and went to downtown São Paulo by ourselves. We caught a bus which took us to the downtown bus station then walked all around. We took the metro to get back close to the bus station and found the right bus back. We made it back safely, since São Paulo is known to be a dangerous city.

Praça da Sé is considered the center of the city. The main cathedral (Sé) is there. The park is full of people sleeping on the street (mostly hippie-types rather than homeless), bathing in the fountains (soap and all), and picking pockets. Contrast that with the people inside the cathedral worshiping Jesus Christ in the manner they have learned since youth. 
The municipal cathedral
Are we in Minas Gerais?
Statue bedroom
 There were a lot of streets blocked off for pedestrian-only shopping. There were also goods spread out on the streets.

Street vendors
We walked through Praça da República, which was peaceful. Two ladies stopped us and talked with us. We assumed they were members of the church.
Walk through Praça da República
 Across the street was a Communist recruitment campaign. I guess this is expected seeing that the President of Brazil was a Communist.
Come join the ranks
We saw some colorful churches,
Yellow church
train station,
Trains going both directions
 and even stopped for a water break when we were too hot and tired.
Water in a drought
 We stopped at the Museum of the Portuguese Language where we watched some video presentations and learned more about the history of Brazilian Portuguese. We got in free today.

Museum of the Portuguese Language
A long wall of videos
A cartoon we liked
 We then walked through Parque da Luz before returning by metro then bus back home.
Little house in Parque da Luz
Meetings were rough today. The sound system wasn't working well and it was hard to hear - hence, hard to understand. I checked out the wireless microphones they were trying to use for the combined Priesthood/Relief Society meeting.
Well, we are techies, aren't we?
We heard a piano playing church songs this evening so we went to investigate the source. It was the Correa's right below us. It ended up they were having a birthday party for Sister Correa so we crashed it.  He is serving a mission as the Executive Secretary for the Area.

This is the door to our apartment - nicer than most doors in the building
So, we have been in Brazil for two weeks and have been moving too fast we haven't had time for shell shock yet. That should come next week.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

First Week in Brazil

We survived the first week in Brazil. It has been busy! After stake conference Sunday we were invited to dinner by Elder & Sister Zaugg. Elder & Sister Hales joined us. The Zauggs are the Area Auditors and the Hales Self-Reliance missionaries. It was great food. The Swensens (Area doctor) came to visit us later in the evening. We have instant friends here.
The Zauggs, Hales, and Sister Wheeler
Monday was our first day in the office. We were up by 6am and at the office by 8am for a devotional. We got our cubicles set up, but had to switch places so I could be on Diane's right side so she could hear me. We had a brief break in the morning for office exercise.
Exercise break
At lunchtime the senior couples had a song practice for a special activity coming up next month. We only had half an hour to go to the mall for some lunch. It didn't give time to find some gluten-free food before we had to get back for another meeting. We did find some rice cakes, however, to take back to the office. The power went out at the mall as we were leaving. Shortly after the meeting started the phones started to ring. The Internet was down so everyone jumped up and started working on it. It seems that a truck hit a pole and took down a fiberoptic Internet cable. Later in the afternoon we met with Emerson, the director of ICS for Brazil.

Emerson - ICS director
At 5:30 pm we had a Family Home Evening activity with the other senior couples. We meet in the Area office building. It included a light meal, which was good because we got little to eat for lunch.

On Tuesday Diane translated some documents. She does a good job in both languages, only needing a few corrections. We worked on a presentation for a meeting with the Area Presidency. Elder Costa is our Area President. The meeting was postponed from tomorrow to next Tuesday. They are still working on visa issues for missionaries. We were able to go back to the mall and find some gluten-free food (we hope) with the help of some of those we work with. We left the office a little early so we could go to Walmart and pick up some things we needed for the apartment.

Wednesday was a big meeting for Church employees across Brazil. We went early and helped set up the Webcast equipment. Brazil is in real financial difficulties because of mismanagement and corruption in the government. This affects salaries for the church workers here. Since we had another song practice we brought our own lunch to eat. We did go over to the mall with other couples to see where we could get cash from a teller. 
The parade of senior missionaries going to the mall

After work we went by Pão de Açucar (a grocery store) to pick up some food. It's hard to get the basic supplies to get started, but we actually found some gluten-free items, such as frozen pizza. The Halls (Area legal counsel) paid us a visit in the evening.

Sometimes we gat random visitors in the office. Thursday morning Ana, who works in travel, brought her daughter, Daniela to visit us. Daniela served a mission on Temple Square. Another visitor was President Mazzagardi from the Area Presidency. We had a delightful chat.
Ana and Daniela
 Emerson asked for a picture of us with better resolution to send out as an introduction. We couldn't find one in the office so we returned to the apartment to look for one. When we were ready to return it was raining - no, it was flooding! We couldn't even get across the road because it was filled with water. It finally let up enough for us to cross.
The flood is almost gone by this time
On Friday we finally got our phone working so we could call home. We have a nice view from our window, which includes the stake center. We have a view of the temple from our bedroom.
Our view from the living room 
 In the afternoon we had a meeting with Emerson and Paulo (the office supervisor) and went over our "Vision" of our work with technology in Brazil. This is the presentation we plan to give to the Area Presidency on Tuesday. They seemed to like it. Emerson then took us around to introduce us to all the departments in the area office. We took the back way home, which was more relaxing. You do need to watch where you are going, however.
Now this tree has roots!
 In the evening the DePaulas visited. They work in Family History. He was born in Brazil, but raised in the states. This is their second mission to Brazil. The Swensens invited us to the High Priest party for the Morumbi ward. It was a Mexican taco bar with music and dancing. It was a lot of fun. The tacos were chips with all the toppings. I liked it better than the real tacos.
Our music - very nice!
Los dos señores
Dance time
Saturday was our preparation day (or in other words our play day). We met the Halls in our courtyard so they could take us (they had a car) to the fruit market followed by the candy store so we could stock up.
Apartment courtyard
 We then went on a bus with them to Embu das Artes, an arts and crafts city about 45 minutes out of town. We are "old" people and get to ride the buses free. There are a lot of shops, restaurants, and booths set up. It's a nice change from the city. The Halls have their son Randy also serving a mission with them. After lunch we had a "tapioca" which was ground tapioca fried in a pan and filled with chocolate.
And she didn't even buy anything
Lunchtime in the square
Our musical entertainment
A typical crafts gallery
Making "tapioca"
The streets reminded me of my old days in Brazil with the paralelepipido (cobblestones) for streets.
Street in Embu
There are two wards meeting in our building, the São Paulo 5th Ward and the Morumbi Ward. Many of the senior couples attend the Morumbi ward because it is smaller. We decided to try the São Paulo 5th Ward because it is easier to remember the name. One starts at 9am and the other at 9:30 am. We showed up at 9am then waited until 9:30 for the 5th Ward.
The Stake Center where we go to church
We walked around the building and looked at the flowers while waiting for church to start. We enjoyed meeting with the members. Diane found a new friend, Isabela, a young girl who wanted to try out her English. A family in front of us was using the pew in front of them as a quiet book, taping flannel board cutouts to the back of the pew. During the meeting a sister took a small child up to her husband (a member of the bishopric) to tend while she went out to change another child. We both gave prayers in Sunday School.

We were able to get a little rest after church.
 We decided to take a little walk and find some of the chapels in the stake. We made it to one chapel, but decided the other was too far so we returned home.

LDS chapel
Old man along the way
 It was good to get back to our apartment
Our apartment building
Yes, it has been a busy first week in Brazil, but we are happy to be here.