As I've said before, we go together on Wedneday's to the special education school here in Bocaiúva. With Dennis's help in translating, I observed the teaching and behavior of a severely-effected autistic boy, Valdenir (whom they call Junior) and gave suggestions. One week, I prepared materials for a short activity; it went horribly. Junior became worse the longer we were there, and the more we talked to the teacher. I stopped the lesson abruptly, apologized and left quickly--even Dennis was frustrated by how fast I gave up. 'The next week, we held a meeting with the specialists in the school (psychologist, speech therapist, occupational therapist, media specialist). I apologized about the last week's lesson; I should have known it would not work. They appreciated that, I think, and were relieved. The speech therapist explained that they all needed to learn about autism, which is new in Brazil, and that they wanted to meet with us on a regular basis for trainings. They, in turn, will work with the teachers and the children. So, since then, we go every three weeks and meet with the specialists. We talk about how they've been trying to incorporate my suggestions; then, with Dennis's help, I give a short inservice training with handouts (translated into Portuguese) on basic principles of autism. They brainstorm about what they can do during the next few weeks. They have asked an American Catholic nun Irmã Kelly to join us and help with translation. She has been in Bocaiúva for 20+ years. They have also just learned that they'll soon be getting more autistic children and they want to be ready for them. This might be an exciting venture: Two LDS senior missionaries working together with a Catholic nun and education specialists to develop programs for autistic children! Stay tuned. Below are pictures of our "Autism Team," the school from an earlier posting, and the rather unique back (main?) entrance into the school on a hill.
On July 14, we attended our first Mission Conference, joined by the other 180+ missionaries in the Curitiba Mission. AND we were asked to speak, 5 minutes each--in Portuguese. We spent the day before preparing--for me, it was a word-by-word process with my trusty little English-to-Portuguese dictionary (I didn't trust internet translations). We were escorted by our four Elders on our third Omnibus ride into a new-to-us part of Curitiba. This trip required 5 busses to get there and 5 back. The Conference was held in a large renovated stake building, with flowers (begonias) and blossoming trees outside. Dennis was enthralled with the beauty of the building; I was amazed at the manicured landscaping, flower pots and beds and flowering trees. I thought, "Someone in Brazil loves beauty." When we entered, President and Sister Monteiro (pictured here) came off the stand to greet us and led us to the front row seats, presumably a place of honor. During the meeting, we both gave our talks. I did okay, but was glued to my paper (a first for me), afraid to divert from my Portuguese script. Every-one gave full attention, patiently encouraging me on, as I haltingly followed my script. One sister afterward thanked me for what I said, because she was struggling with the same feelings as had I talked about. Dennis, on the other hand, was as comfortable as I've ever seen him. Once he loosened up, he talked about how, when he was a young missionary in Brazil, he was determined to make the most of potentially bad situations. Moving to the side of the pulpit, he demonstrated how he practiced doing pull-ups from the bars on the busses, and practiced his basketball defensive stance to keep from being tossed around. The missionaries laughed long and loud. They loved him! After the meeting, we were taken to the head of the line, where we had first choice of three pieces of pizza (Canadian bacon or chicken--NO PEPPERONI!) and soda. Then they brought out dessert pizzas (chocolate & strawberries, banana pudding & peanuts). There were soooo many octagonal cardboard boxes, piled high! They were good, very different, but not as good as back home in the States! It was a fun, successful day!
Yep, Dennis has continued his early morning walks on Monday through Friday, as he has done for years and years. He loves being in the fresh air, alone, at sunrise. It is his special time. Every morning, he chooses another route and explores--sometimes staying within the city, but usually following roads and trails up into the forest surrounding the city. He always tells me the general area where he'll be walking, just in case . . . When he comes home, he opens the door, and shouts "BOM DIA!" (Good Morning!"). Don't worry, people. Senior missionaries can pretty much do what they feel is best for them -- at least here, and since we're the ONLY senior couple in the Curitiba Mission. While he is walking, I am usually at the computer or getting ready for the day. Our plan is that some day, on a "P-Day" ;) I'll go with him, so he can show me some of his favorite places. It might be a while before I'm ready for that, since no matter which direction we go, it will be UP! STEEP is not my favorite thing. Below are some of the random views he has found above the city. It is winter here from June through August, so fog is what we have almost every morning.
We have been teaching Paulo, a 6 yr. old non-verbal Downs syndrome boy for several weeks. He is learning signs so fast, and is starting to imitate [p, b, m]'s. Dennis translates for me when I need help. Paulo's 15 yr. old sister Larisa is his main caretaker, is such a good "mother" for him. She is an incredible, beautiful young lady! Their mother died recently of cancer; their father lives nearby, but does not help take care of the four children. The 19 yr. old sister Daniela works long hours for their support and takes classes at night, and 8 yr. old William often comes with Larisa for church, lessons and activities. On July 6, Larissa was baptized in Guarituba, "our" ward, which is 25 miles away. Her aunt and sister objected, but her father (legally responsible) gave permission. We were able to hitch a ride to attend and help with Paulo during the baptism. Dennis was asked on the spot to give a talk about the first four principles of the Gospel. He did a really good job. Afterward, we and the Elders went to the Rau's home (Grupo Leader's family) for Almoço (lunch). They live up in the hills about 15-20 miles from our Bocaiúva. Their house is surrounded by huge chickens and puppies. We had a wonderful meal in their small kitchen with cement walls.
Three weeks ago, Elders Ramos and A. Silva were transferred, and we received two Americans: Elder Christensen from Colorado (new district leader) and Elder Cortez from California. We enjoy being with them, and they take good care of us. They work hard, putting in l-o-n-g hours, mostly tracting, follow-up contacting, teaching. Here are pictures of the Elders and of yesterday's meal of Mexican food: Nachos, enchiladas, Spanish rice, refried beans, green salad, cereal bar (no Rice Crispies) and fruit salad. The Elders are excited to eat favorite foods from the States, other places.
What exactly is our calling? We do anything the Elders and Grupo Leader ask us to do that will help our little Grupo survive and thrive, so that soon they will be ready to become an independent branch ("ramo") of the Church. The families are new and want to learn. Lots of kids 7-17 years old come in off the street or with member friends--and of course, there are those who come just to flirt with the good-looking Elders. We teach Seminary 4 days a week, teach members and investigators how to have Family Home Evenings, and provide activities for pre-teen children who come to Mutual (our Grupo Leader says, "It's a miracle that they come at all," and does not want to tell them to go away until they are 12 years old). While the missionaries teach teenage girls, we are present and/or watch younger siblings. We work together to give speech therapy to a 6 yr. old Downs Syndrome boy. I play the Casio keyboard for Primary, Mutual and Sacrament Meeting, and have started to arrange special musical numbers for Sacrament Meetings. Dennis teaches the 8-11 year old Primary class, and I take care of Primary Opening Exercises, Music and Sharing Time, with the help of a newly-baptized young mother. We teach two English classes each Saturday. And we have unofficially taken over cleaning the church throughout the week and having it clean on Sunday, so that sisters don't have to sweep and mop on Sunday morning. That's a topic for another post...
In the community, Dennis translates while I teach the specialists at the Special Ed School how to best work with an autistic boy--something they do not know much about. We ride the omnibus to the ward in Guaraituba (25 miles away) for baptisms, and travel 35 miles to Curitiba to the Mission Office when requested. Tomorrow, we will both speak--in Portuguese--for 5 minutes at the Mission Conference in Curitiba, leaving at 5:30 a.m. AND we feed the Elders a big lunch (main meal here) twice a week. Assignments change often, but we work as a team, and love doing it.
GOOD SHOES ARE EVERYTHING! This is a picture of our main "battery" of shoes. Starting in the middle and working outward, we wear flip-flops when we shower; we wear slippers on the super-cold ceramic tile floors; we need sturdy shoes with THICK soles to walk anywhere; and we need good tennis shoes for hiking (Dennis only, so far) and outside projects (another topic). Last week, I was feeling down because two pair of my wimpier "walking" shoes seemed to be breaking down, and I could feel every rock. Even my best walking shoes seem to be feeling looser. Where can I get sturdy shoes with thick soles here?! How do I dare order some from the USA?! Answer: I was blessed with a "Tender Mercy." Dennis mentioned in-soles, and I remembered that I brought some (which I had hated wearing at home), just in case. I tried them....Yeah! Both wimpy shoes have now served me well an entire day and I came home at night without my feet screaming at me. Thank you, Heavenly Father. . .
I am finally ready to write about our challenges with WATER here in Bocaiúva. We are very careful with our drinking water, always drinking only bottled or boiled water. We are lucky to have a simple "garafá," or huge water bottle with spigot in our kitchen for our drinking water. The people who have grown up here have no problems with the tap water, but missionaries from USA do. At church activities and in people's homes, they serve punch made with tap water. We avoid drinking that, but sometimes do, relying on the blessing given before the refreshments or meal. There's usually bottled soda available. The sacrament water is from the tap--we drink that--it has been blessed!
With our first walk to town, we crossed a little bridge over a stream. We immediately recognized it as sewer drainage by the look and smell. Great. There are 2-3 areas on our walk where--under weeds, grass and refuge, we can smell sewage draining from the houses above. Double Great!
For the first two weeks we were here, we had no hot water for our showers. We heated water for "sponge baths," and dreaded taking our baths in the cold every morning. We wondered if this was typical and if we just had to live with it. Also, there was a horrid sewer smell coming from the shower drain. When anyone came to the house, the odor was so embarrassing. Again, we wondered if this was typical, and hesitated to complain. It took 2 weeks for others to realize from our comments that we really did have problems that needed to be fixed. The Mission President threatened to move us to another place; the owner came right away and fixed our water pressure, lack of hot water and sewer problems. Now, we no longer dread living here for 18 mos., and we are more accustomed to water issues here. "We'll go with the flow"--- uh, wrong choice of words!
In Bocaiúva, kitchens have one spigot for cold water. People wash their dishes with cold water, clean floors with cold water, and wash clothes with cold water. We bought a teapot and always wash dishes with hot water. Our washing machine is in the kitchen, so our laundry is done with cold water--and never comes very clean. Showers here are huge alien-like appliances that heat water passing through it. There is no barrier between the shower area and the rest of the bathroom, so everything has to be mopped and wiped down before we leave. I am still learning how to regulate the shower temperature, and have issues with cleaning and mopping with water at the church--but that's another topic for another day.