.Our long-awaited "Trém ao Mar" (Train to the Sea) finally came. On Wednesday, April 29, we took the busses to City Centro, then a taxi to the Golden Tulip Hotel, where we met Larry and Kay Brown (sr. missionary couple serving in Curitiba South Mission) and five other LDS couples for one day of their tour. That night, we ENJOYED dinner at Outback--the salad and steaks were amazing! The next morning,, we rode to the rodoferroviária (terminal for busses and trains), and boarded one of several Serra Express tourist "cars." Our tour guide spoke Engish, then Portuguese for the mixed group. The train passed through Curitiba and into fields and forest patches of Paraná pines, past the area of Pinhais (barro of Curitiba), then up into the mountains.
The Serra Express wound up and around in the South Atlantic coastal mountain range. The growth in the rain forest was very dense and offered a great variety of foliage, colors and visual textures. We passed a reservoir that had submerged an old electric plant, leaving only the tall smoke stack visible. A large pine tree was growing out of the smokestack, apparently the result of birds building nests and dropping seeds. The tracks passed through 7 tunnels, and over 13 bridges that were built in the early 1900's, and overlooked river rapids and huge waterfalls. The following pictures are only a few of those we took...a thoroughly enjoyable time.
We passed several abandoned buildings and old resort camps where serious hikers stay before climbing Mount Massif. Because the day was overcast and misty, we couldn't get very good looks at the mountain tops. Near the crest of the mountain, the train came out of a tunnel, then went around a corner where it felt like we were flying--actually, the tracks were built on the side of a cliff. Later, I'll try to find and insert a picture, so you can see it and get the effect.
We slowly rolled into the quaint little town of Morretes (Mo-HAY-tees), where we found stands to sell arts, crafts, bananas and fruits, breads, flowers, etc. The city has a lazy river running through it, which is flanked by beautiful hotels and restaurants. In the center of town was a large, very old catholic church. We spent about 3 hours there, and found some treasures to bring home!
We had lunch at Morretes, then drove in a large van to another old coastal town called Antonina, which was named after the Portuguese King's son, who died at about 8 years old. We drove through and walked around the old, old Catholic church and other ancient buildings, some of which were abandoned and had great historic value. We stopped at a candy factory and had ice cream cones. Our camera was too full for more pictures, but I'll finish our story. We returned to Curitiba in the big van, which drove up and over the mountains on a windy, cobblestone road that was made originally by slaves, about 1300 years ago--very well maintained. As planned, we said good-bye's and took a taxi to the Cabral bus terminal, then rode the bus back to Bocaiúva. Good day.
Not near as many Elders and Sisters are coming to Brazil now, and all areas are being cut back. Bocaiúva has been VERY lucky to have had 4 Elders for 1 1/2 years. But our baptisms have been fewer for several months now, and there are "issues" between the Elders and the leaders of the ward and grupo. It is our turn to lose a "duplo." We now have only two -- Elder Alvarado from Texas and Elder Hinckley from Indiana. They're really fine young men, who have to fill the shoes of the four Elders from before. They are BUSY, searching for members homes, marking their own trail. We'll help where we can. We sure do love these young men! And they are so appreciative of our American cooking.
Dennis has thing about Volkswagon bugs, or "fuscas" [foos-kuz]. Here in Bocaiúva, they are everywhere! We've asked several people why there are so many Volkswagons here. The answer? They are cheap and dependable. Actually, we think it's because their engines are not computerized, and are so simple that most anyone can work on them. They seem to have 9 lives, and are constantly being worked on to keep going...and going...and going. We wonder how some of them can keep going--then we learn that a lots of them are kept to sell the parts to keep other "bugs" going...going...and going.
Wow! With less than a day's notice, in an emergency transfer, we sent away three of "our boys." Elder White, our district leader for two months, was transferred. After just two weeks in Bocaiúva do Sul, Elder Gold was transferred to another area. And dear Elder Rodriguez was transferred too.
Elder Rodriguez, a native of Peru, came straight from the São Paulo MTC and has been here seven months. He was probably glad to have new opportunities. He was "shell-shocked" when he first came in October, found himself surrounded by three tall American Elders and an American "casal" (senior married couple). We watched him become a true leader when given opportunities to lead out. It was fun to watch him grow. We will miss all of these Elders and wish them well!
It seems that part of my mission here in Bocaiúva is to help the missionaries with their mending and darning needs. I've re-sewn seams, replaced buttons on ripped out fabric, formed new pockets from ripped-out linings of shoulder bags, fixed zippers, shortened pant legs, repaired ragged edges, filled in holes ripped open by angry dogs, and given new life to favorite ties and almost-dead book bags. I'm sure glad that I learned from my mom the lost art of DARNING--she was the master of darning and re-darning. I'm getting pretty good at interweaving my criss-crossed stitches to form new fabric where gaping holes had been. I'm glad the elders ask; I'm grateful that I can help.
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Elders Ferreira and Araujo left after lunch in Eduardo's car. The four of them barely fit. When they saw the luggage coming back with Elder Gold and Elder Alvaro, they knew there was no way to get everything into the car. So they sent their luggage with Eduardo, and the new team of four Elders had to take the bus HA! When Eduardo dropped off all that luggage (6 large pieces), we thought: They must be American--yep! Elder Gold is a Navajo Indian from the Four Corners Area of New Mexico. Elder Alvarado, from Texas--his Dad is Mexican, his mom is Peruvian. Elder White is still district leader. Below are Elder Gold, Elder Rodriguez, Elder Alvarado, and Elder White.
There were big changes this transfer day. Elder Ferreira (from São Paulo) and Elder Araujo (from Rio de Janeiro), both from Brazil, were in Bocaiúva do Sul only one transfer, or just six weeks. We were surprised to learn that they were being transferred so quickly. Before they left on Transfer Day, we had our last almoço together. It had a southern/Texas theme, in honor of Elder White, our district leader from Texas. We had BBQ ribs, baked beans, coleslaw, etc. More Elders to miss . . .
JOSÉ AND ILDA (In Portuguêse, "José" is pronounced [djo-ZÉH], NOT [ho-ZÁY], as in the Spanish "José.")
We found out from the Elders that José's birthday was the next day, and that they didn't have plans to celebrate. So we invited them over for a Family Home Evening and surprised them with a little birthday party. After a gospel message by Elder Rodriguez, the activity was: everyone had a knife to help frost the cake, then enjoyed licking off the knives and the bowl. I sprinkled coconut all over the cake, placed 7 candles for his 73 years. José made a wish, blew out the candles, then opened the gift from Dennis. It was a leather Brazilian wallet (Dennis got for himself, of course). Their grand-daughter Leticia came with them. Thanks to Elder Ferreira and Rodriguez, the evening was great.
Notice Ilda's black t-shirt: "Olhos de Aguia," which is a theme for the Universal Church, to which she has belonged for years. She was a leader, has many friends there. She was in charge of donations, and was considered to be one of their healers. Accepting the message of the Restored Gospel and switching their membership and allegiance to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has been hard for them, since she has dear friends constantly trying to "save her soul." We're trying to help, and our friendship is growing daily. They both have strong testimonies, and need continued support and learning.