We left the MTC early Monday morning and arrived in Buenos Aires Tuesday morning a little tired. Our supervisor Gustavo Berta picked us up from the airport and gave us a mini tour to part of this huge city. Ít's amazing! We were going to go directly to the office but realized we needed to sleep, so finally he took us to our Hotel. We thought we would be moving into an apartment but it´s not ready so we have a very nice Hotel. The food here is great! We think we might be moving into the apartment at the end of next week. They are in process of getting it furnished. It will be nice to get settled.
Everyone here has been super nice to us. Later that day David Frol, the Welfare Manager, came to the Hotel to welcome us. He spoke to us in halting English and I spoke to him in halting Spanish. Bill speaks excellent Spanish. Yeah!!! After our meeting, Elder Bigalo (he's the area assistant to President Arnold) picked us up in a taxi and took us to his apartment for dinner. He and his wife are great and were very good about emailing us to help get ready before we left home. We had a great time getting to know them. We came home and finally slept.
Wednesday morning we walked to the Church Office Building. It is really nice, beautifully furnished and decorated. This is where we will work every day unless we are out in the field or traveling to projects in other countries. David took us on a tour and introduced us to many people. They are all very welcoming to us. Here they hug you and give a little kiss on the cheek. I like the custom. Since then we have been organizing our office, getting training (in Spanish) about the Humanitarian Work and trying to figure out what in the heck we are doing!
There are so many ongoing projects and many more planned for the year in both the Major and Area Initiatives. We are a little overwhelmed but with time we hope it will get better. There are a lot of changes going on right now with Chile coming into our area. Both counselors in the Presidency are being changed. One will be Chilean and the other will come from Uruguay. Also the manager of the Welfare Department will be changed in two weeks. There are several new senior missionaries who have just arrived. We think we will still have Gustavo to help us. We love him already.
When Friday came everyone in the office seemed quite happy. We went to dinner with three other couples to Las Caleras, a very colorful local neighborhood restaurant with tables outside. The food was excellent. It was great to get to know some of the other couples, the mission doctor, mission counselor and reactivation specialists. There are about 100 people working in the Area office so it will take us awhile to get to know everyone.
Saturday is P-day so this morning we went for a long walk and then found the church we will be attending. It is about a mile and a half from our hotel (about the same distance to the office but in another direction). It is a nice neighborhood near the church and there are a lot of American brand outlet stores. Rain is forecast for tomorrow so we may have to take the bus or a taxi to church. Did I mention we don't have a car. We can check one out from the office fleet when we have to travel in Argentina outside of the city.
After our walk we got cleaned up and then walked the opposite direction to meet the Bigalo's. They took us to see some of the sights and helped us start to learn how to navigate the City. There are about 15 million people in BA. We rode the subway, saw some government buildings, a beautiful cathedral and then an amazingly huge shopping center - indoor and outdoor. The ceiling of part of the center looks like a small part of the Sistine Chapel (see attached pic).The architecture is very European and interesting. There is a large Italian population here. You can also hear it in the language - kind of "sing song". I like it. Before we left the shopping center we saw an older couple dancing the Tango (see pic). It was really a fun afternoon and such a welcome experience after a challenging week.
We will probably just stay in our room tonight and eat fruit and try to find our clothes for tomorrow. We have been eating so much that Bill is freaking out and my clothes are getting tight. Aye, yae, yae! We will study our Spanish, the Book of Mormon in Spanish and our Humanitarian work and fall into bed. This has been a week of lots of adjustments but the Lord is blessing us so much. We feel very grateful and close to the Spirit.
Today on the subway I sat by a lady who is 96. I was brave and spoke to her in Spanish and gave her a pass along card with a picture of Christ. She was very happy. It was a sweet experience. On the way home Elder Bigalow gave one to a woman who happened to be a singer and she gave him one of her CD's. Who knows what may happen. Many people here seem to be familiar with the Church.
Bill and I are so grateful to have this experience and be able to serve at this time in our lives. We are really depending on the Lord, each other, and on your love and prayers. Thanks for your emails. We appreciate each of you and hearing about what you are doing. In our next update we will send you our apartment and area office addresses. We love you all and pray the Lord will bless you according to your needs and righteous desires.
Elder y Hermana Ashton