Olá! So my first area in Portugal is Viseu... the coldest place on earth. I'm not kidding. I've never experienced humidity before, so this place is cold... it's also really gray and dark... and nobody smiles... and I'm the only white person. It's different. I'm in northern Portugal in the Estaca Coimbra zone. I don't know what language they speak here in northern Portugal because I'm pretty sure it's not Portuguese. I've spoken with people from Lisboa and Brasil and I can understand them, but the people who are from the north... I think they're speaking Russian... or Swedish mixed with Portuguese... and Spanish. It's definitely an adventure.
Olá familia! I sent out one small email to everyone else but here's the real email. I'm sorry if you can't read it. These keyboards are very different... my fingers are going to have to be re-educated.
Like I said, I'm in Viseu and I'm freezing. I take back anytime I ever said I liked the cold. I will never say it again... except maybe in July when I'm super hot. I might say it in July. There's a river that runs through Viseu and it's really, really, REALLY humid. I have never been so grateful for heaters in my life. Today the sun was shining though. I woke up and saw sunshine and I was so happy! For me, that was a miracle because this last week was one of the hardest weeks... ever.
Portugal is very different. Before my mission a bunch of guys from my ward at school that served in Brasil told me that I was really lucky and pampered because Europe was so much like America and I wouldn't have any good stories to tell when I got home. After my mission I am going to find them all. I'll be nice, but I definitely have some things to say to them. We can't drink the water here (the elders all say the water is fine, but Sister Fluckiger told us what happened to some elders after they drank the water.. yeah. I'm not drinking it), but sometimes there is warm water for showers. I feel pretty pathetic at night when I'm saying my prayers and I can't stop saying how grateful I am for the hot water... and the space heaters... and my fuzzy socks... and my fuzzy yellow blanky. Yup. I'm pretty pathetic.
Daddy, you wanted to know about the trip over. Well, I didn't sleep. I was awake for about 30 hours... and the jet lag has been terrible. I don't ever want to experience that again. You know it's bad when you fall asleep standing up. Fortunately, I sleepwalk so falling asleep while I'm standing isn't a problem. Anyway, on the flight from Salt Lake to Dallas I decided I was just going to talk to people. Turns out the man I was talking to is LDS and he served a mission in Taiwan in the 70's. He said a lot of things that I thought were really good pieces of advice but that I wouldn't need. How wrong I was! Everything he said has been applicable! It's crazy! All the stories he's told and all the advice he gave me have been things I've needed this week! We flew from Dallas to London and I was awake... the entire time... other than little bits of head nodding I didn't sleep. It was cool to fly over the clouds though. Our flight from London to Lisbon was late for some unexplained reason so after about six hours in the London airport we finally were able to get on our flight. We met up with a girl in our mission who had been serving in Chicago for several months, and at the mission home there were five other missionaries from the Spain MTC.
Thursday we took a four hour bus ride to Viseu and I learned what it's like to be the minority. I got told there would be white people here, but apparently that's only in the south during tourise season. I am literally the only white person here... except for one of the elders, but I get stared at all the time. Nobody here is blonde so my hair is definitely an item of interest.. and my eyes. Nobody has green eyes.
Anyway, the entire city is one district. The elders have one half and the sisters have the other half. There are two wards here and my companion and I are assigned to Viseu 1. The elders have Viseu 2. Everybody was so excited at church because of my last name. The number one question was, "Is Joseph Smith your grandfather?" No joke. Every single person asked me that or made a similar comment. Even an investigator said, "Smith? Like your prophet? He's your family?" Oh Viseu... it's so interesting.
Other items... there are cobblestones everywhere... and I hate them. I'm not very coordinated and I trip a lot. Everybody smokes... everybody. I will have lung cancer in 16 months. Soccer is everything on Sunday. Don't talk to them if they are on their way to the bar to watch a soccer game. Also, the Spirit messed up with the Gift of tongues. I've been speaking Brasilian Portuguese and I don't know how. I got told by one old lady, "You speak perfect Brasileira, but you're in Portugal. Speak Portuguese." People thought I had come from Brasil. I tried to not speak with a Brasilian accent in the MTC, but now that's all that's coming out of my mouth. I don't understand. The people my age think it's hilarious and they try to imitate me... oh my. They really are different.
This week was rough but we did have some miracles. Not very big, but important to me. Friday night I had enough. I told my companion that we were going to pray right there on the sidewalk because we didn't know what to do. While we were praying I remembered a story that one teacher had told about praying for some direction and then looking up and seeing someone right in front of them. I remembered that and when I looked up there was a guy walking our way. He's from Switzerland and he's heard of the church but the miracle is that he actually stopped and talked with us. For me that was huge. He didn't go to the other side of the street to avoid us, but he actually talked to us. It was a miracle!
I've been humbled a lot, and it's happened very quickly here in Viseu. I don't like asking for help, but right now I could definitely use it. If you could all pray for me that I will start to learn this language and that I will be able to work with my companion and figure things out I would be extremely grateful. Right now I need all the help I can get.
The church is true and I'm glad I get to be here even when things are hard.
P.S. Picture of the mission home in Lisboa and of the view outside our apartment.
My companion put up a Christmas tree and I finally got my stuff organized and I'm all moved in.
More pictures from the MTC that Sister Smith sent us today:
|Portugal missionaries with President Brough|
|Missionaries with Irma Kimball|
|Sisters with the Frandsens|