After two months in the Language Training Mission (LTM), we were ready to leave and get to our mission! Although I had a good time in the LTM as I talked about in my previous installment here, after two months, I along with my district, were ready to get out in the “real world”. I had a friend from my home ward that had been there over 4 months waiting for his visa to Colombia or Venezuela, I don’t remember which. I think the church has gotten better with the visa problems, and doesn’t let missionaries languish in the MTC like they use to.
We left the LTM on a Tuesday, and a van drove us to SLC airport. We flew from SCL to Denver, but were an hour late due to a snow storm. It made a tight connection, and I remember running through the airport leading six Elders and three Sisters, as I was the “travel leader”. We made the flight, and then made two stops on our way to Miami (Dallas and Ft Lauderdale). We finally left to Santiago at 1:45 am for the eight hour flight.
President Bradford of the Santiago Mission picked us up at the airport in a van. He drove us to a hotel where we met our mission president, Pres Haymore. We had lunch with him, and then caught an eight hour train ride south to Concepcion. Then it was all day orientation, and finally getting our assignments. I was going to Osorno, another 6 hours south on a train. My first companion was Elder Rome. He was at the end of his mission, and was pretty laid back. I arrived in the afternoon, and he told me I looked wiped out, and to take a nap!
Today was P day. I got more sleep last night than I have in the past two months. Ten hours! It sure felt good. We walked out to the country today. It was real pretty out there, and green, green, green! We have a Zone conference tomorrow. I set goals tonight. Going to give 10 discussions this week, and speak Spanish four hours on the street.
As you can gather from the journal entry above, we did not have a wake-up time for P-day. We could sleep in if we wanted, and all the missionaries did. I thought that was normal until I got home and herd the local Elders say they still had to follow the same schedule for P-day. Makes no sense.
We did a lot of knocking doors on my mission, and I got pretty good at it. Part of what made it easy was the Chilean people. They were (are) very kind, and when they see two men (boys?) at their door dressed in suits, they would first invite us in and ask if we wanted something to drink, then they would ask what we wanted. We met lots of people that had never heard of “Los Mormones”, or they thought we were Jehovah Witnesses. That is now changed, and I doubt there is any place in the western world where there is somebody that has not heard of the Mormons. That would make knocking on doors pretty useless.
My next companion after Elder Rome was Elder Shafter. We didn’t get a long all that well. First he tried to tell me it was a mission rule to get up at 6:00 am on P-day! He would fall asleep during his nightly prayers, and I’d see him by the bed at 4 am still kneeling and snoring. I would call him on it and he would deny it. He had no explanation on why his knees were sore and he walked with a limp the next day! He would also refuse to tell people were he was from. That was a very common question when we were knocking doors. I would tell them California, and Elder Shafter would tell them he was from the city in Chile he had just served in (Chiguayante). He told me it was none of their business that he was from Alabama (which explains a lot)
There was a lot of German immigration to Chile around 1900, and most settled in the South. There were blond hair blue eyed “Chileans” with German sir names , good German bakeries, and the schools and hospitals had German names.
I had seven baptisms in Osorno during the four months I was there. A young man, David, a single older lady, Hermana Kramm, and two families, Marrian and Alvarez.
While a mission to Chile today is I’m sure much different, there are some things the same, like the good people, good food, and beautiful scenery.
My feelings towards my mission have changed as time has gone by. I still do have some good memories of my mission and some good companions that I enjoy friendship.
When I served my mission in Chile (1972-1974) there was only one mission for the entire country. And there was a great deal of political unrest. Salvador Allende, an avowed Marxist, was President when I arrived, and the country was slowly descending into economic and political chaos.
In September 1973, I was stationed in downtown Santiago, living with my companion on the fourth floor of a large home, directly across from the U.S. Embassy. On the 11th day of that month, we awakened to learn that the military, under the direction of Augusto Pinochet, had launched a military coup.
Allende and his supporters, who were well armed, were holed up in a huge government office complex/fortress in the heart of the city called “The Moneda,” about 12 blocks from where we were living. They refused to surrender. So, around mid-morning, two Hawker Hunter jets came out of the south and flew directly over our home en route to dropping over 20 incendiary rockets on The Moneda. I still have pictures of the jets and the explosions their munitions triggered.
For the next three days, there was a 24-hour curfew while the army eliminated pockets of resistance throughout the city, one of which included a sniper about 500 yards from where we lived. A stray bullet from that engagement came through the living room window of the family from whom we were renting our room on the fourth floor.
September 11 means something entirely different in Chile than it does in the U.S.
Eric, I heard all those stories from my Chilean comps! There was an office building in Concepcion that still had large 50 cal bullet holes in it. I remember the holes and the stories. I also personally saw Pinochet in a rally in Talca, but that is a story for a future installment.
Bishop Bill, I started my mission in Linares, so I know Talca well.
One part I left out is that, during the year leading up to the coup, there were countless street demonstrations, some of which were met with force by the police and the military. On more the one occasion we unwittingly walked into these events and were periodically on the receiving of tear gas and water cannon. And a few times we were pelted with stones by Allende supporters who were convinced that two guys wearing white shirts and neckties must be working for the CIA.
But none of this really fazed me. After all, I was 19 and, therefore, thought I was immortal. Now, coming off my second fusion surgery in the past three years, I’m not so sure.
While scanning Mormon Archipelago for the topics that seemed most appealing in the short amount of time I had to read, I saw the words “Si Vas Para Chile” and I couldn’t resist. I too served in Osorno but later, after the Chile Osorno mission had been organized. Many of your experiences and recollections match my own. Although I had taken a lot of college Spanish prior to the mission, it was still a challenge to be the only gringa in that first district with two Chilean Elders and a Chilean companion. The people were hospitable and many were willing to listen. The favorite city for me was Punta Arenas. When you were transferred there you were fairly certain you would stay for quite a while. I served seven glorious months in that city on the Magellan Strait.and tracked all summer long wearing a coat. Great memories. Thanks for the post.