My First Week in Bolivia!

Hi everybody!

Ths last week has been CRAZY! So much has happened that I can´t possibly write it all down in one email, but I shall try. We left the CCM Monday afternoon. Our van was an hour late, so we were stressing out pretty hard, but we made it to the airport with an hour to spare. While we were there, we met a French guy who asked us about our religion, and we were able to give him a pass along card. It was pretty cool. The flight to Peru was six hours, and honestly the nicest plane I´d ever been on. It was also kind of boring because we couldn´t watch movies, but that was okay. When we arrived in Peru it was night, so we couldn´t see any of the city, but the lights were very beautiful. From there, we took a tiny little plane to Bolivia at 12:30 AM. It was exhausting! We arrived around 4:15 in the morning, and our mission President, his wife, and two Elders were there to greet us. They are all so wonderful. They took us to a really nice hotel where we slept until noon. Then we had training stuff and whatnot at the President´s home, and at night we went our for dinner….to Papa John´s! Yum, pizza!
The next day was spent getting visa stuff done for us newbies and training. Hermana Jensen and I are the first gringo Hermanas to arrive here in 16 months! Other hermanas arrived here with us, but they were all Latina. In the afternoon, we went contacting for the first time. I´m so amazed how nice everyone in Santa Cruz is and how open they are about talking about religion. At the end of theday, we went to an Italian restaurant. They had a very interesting take on Italian food.
And then the next day, I met my new trainer, Hermana Knighton! And as you might have guessed by her name, she´s white! It´s really funny actually because there are only two white trainers, and Hermana Jensen and I got both of them. However, it´s been really awsome having Hermana Knighton as my trainer. She helps me so much with my Spanish, and I´ve really learned a ton from her in just these past few days. All I can say is, the gift of tongues is real! My first area is in Tarija, a city way down south. There´s only three different cities that Hermanas are allowed to serve in, so I´m really gratfeul that I got assigned here.
So, what´s the culture like? Pretty amazing if you ask me! The driving here is no where near as terrible as it is in Mexico or the Philippines. If I absolutely had to, I feel like I could get behind the wheel here myself. I won´t do that though because my chances of dying would significantly increase. The people are super friendly and really nice. And there are also about a billion and a half dogs! Like, I knew there were strays here, but Bolivia is like, the country of dogs. They´re just everywhere, and of all different breeds, too. A lot of them just like to chill on the sidewalks, others like to chll on the rooftops. Seriously, everywhere. The most unique pets I´ve seen so far are a rooster and a lamb.
The food is sooooooo good! Lunch is their major meal here, and it comes in three parts: soup, a plate of meat/pasta/rice/vegetables, and dessert. I gain about 10 lbs after lunch everyday. But then I lose some of it by walking up and down all these hills in our area! My stomach is having a bit of a hard time adjusting to the food though….The first day, Hermana Knighton and I had to make an emergency trip to the church so I could use the bathroom. Haha it was pretty funny. Sorry if that was TMI though! I had my first salteña today! It was delicious. One of the major highlights was definitely on my first day when we kncked on an investigators door and they let us hold their new born puppies!! The little doggy fell asleep n my arms and I was soooo happy.
Something that´s really funny though is, of course, how many people just assume I´m Latina! The only reason people believe I´m nt from around here is because I can´t fluently speak the language. Someone actually pinpointed me as being from Argentina, so that´s cool. I´m actually the first  North American companion that Hermana Knighton has has, and she´s been here for 16 months!
I absolutely love all of our investigators. Rossio is a recent convert to our church, Hermana Knighton had been teaching her for 6 months before she decided to be baptized, and before that she had been taught by the Jehovah´s witness for 7 years. She was looking for the truth for a long time, and I´m just so glad that the missionaries were able to help her find it. We´re teaching her husband now. He keeps resisting baptism because he thinks his Catholic baptism was good enough. Last night, we taught them a lesson with Presidente Rodrigues (he came down for the first Stake Conference here because techinically he´s the stake  president). They had me bear my testimony of prayer in Spanish, and afterwards, Hermana Knighton told me that the Spirit was so strong right after I spoke that Presidente Rodriguez invited Sandro to be baptized! Haha Sandro still hasn´t completely said yes, but I think there´s hope for him, I´m just really grateful that the Spirit can work through me despite my inability with the language.
On my first day in the field, Hermana Knighton and I were out contacting and looking for the homes of some possible investigators. There was one point where I got confused and stopped in front of a house because I thought it was our destination, but then I realized it wasn´t when Hermna Knighton kept walking. However, she noticed that I had stopped so we decided to knock on the door, and a nice woman opened it and agreed to let us come in and teach her! She was really open to our message, and we have another appointment with her next week! Looking back on that experience, and I know it was totally a spiritual propmting to stop there, and I hope she continues to have the desire to hear us.
That´s all for now folks! Although I will say that if any of you want to send me letters or whatever, that´s totally awesome, but just so you know the mail system is backed up for about a month and a half. So now´s an okay time to send Christmas cards.
Love you all!
Hermana Ius
Update: Here’s a note from Hermana Ius’ companion that she wanted us to include!
Hey I love your daughter so much! she is learning so fast spanish and she is my angel. I know I will learn so much from her.. and she is helping me remember english! Be so proud of her! I know she will change so many lives here including mine 🙂

We played a little welcome to Bolivia joke haha with the chicken head but don’t worry she didn’t have to eat it!

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