We had President Nunes and his wife Elis over for dinner and took a picture of them. He is only 30 years old and is really a dynamic leader.
You can see some of the decorations we have added to our apartment and the Christmas lights we have put up. Christmas starts very early here. Following are some of the decorations we have seen in Canela, the town next to Gramado.
As we were driving toward the big stone cathedral we were met by a Christmas parade with Santa driving the train. It is so nice to have a car and we are so blessed knowing we will be able to get much more work done. We were in Canela for the branch conference there. Our callings in the District mean we have to attend all the branch conferences, which are being held this month. Heidi was asked to speak in this conference about charity. She gave a great talk in Portuguese with lots of compliments from those who heard her. Here is a picture of the Canela chapel.
Saturday night there was a parent meeting at the Gramado chapel for all the parents in the branch,. The speakers included the Young Women President, all members of the Branch Presidency, and the District President. When the District President was speaking he asked us to come up and tell a little about our family and things we did when we were raising our children.
Some interesting things we have noted here in Brazil:
- Everything closes for lunch here from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. All the stores are closed at that time so you cannot do any shopping. The only things open are the restaurants and grocery stores. Everyone has lunch at this time and then they can take a little nap.
- Most plumbing here has small pipes, so their toilets cannot handle toilet paper. There is always a waste basket beside the toilet where you throw away the used toilet paper. Newer buildings have better plumbing and we are in a newer building where we can flush the toilet paper down the toilet, thank goodness.
- As you see above, Christmas starts November 1st and goes through the first couple weeks of January. Gramado and Canela are all decorated for Christmas and they receive up to three million visitors from all over Brazil during this extended Christmas season. Gramado puts on the Natal Luz (Christmas Lights) program at the little lake across from the chapel twice a week for this whole Christmas season. You would not believe the amount of fireworks that are set off during these two nights each week. And on several other nights they practice and set off even more fireworks. They charge about $50 dollars a ticket to get in to see the show, so they make lots of money to buy the fireworks.
- Everything takes a long time to get done here. It took us a week to get permission from the realtor to rent the apartment we wanted. It has now taken more than a week for them to come and fix the things that are not working at the apartment and it still has not been done. To get the internet in our apartment we have to first have a phone installed, which takes 5 to 7 days. Then it takes an additional 10 days for the internet to be installed.
- Rent is paid in arrears here, so we will pay November's rent in December.
- The car dealer where we bought the car let us drive it away with no money down and just a promise that we would get the money to them as soon as possible. It has been difficult to get a wire transfer done through my bank so it will be more than a week before the money is sent to the car dealer. In the meantime we are enjoying the use of the car. Our auto insurance gave us full coverage and said we would not have to pay for seven days. They are very trusting here.
- People are much closer physically here than in the U.S. All the women at church hug each other and give each other a kiss on the cheek. The men give big hugs called an abraco to each other and often to the women also. They stand much closer to you when they are talking to you than in the U.S. and are always touching your arm or hand. It is really fun to feel the love and warmth they have for each other and us.
On Sunday afternoon we went with the District Presidency and Branch leaders to see a big fazenda (farm) where they are planning a big campout for all the youth during Carnival in February. Carnival is like Marti Gras in New Orleans, and lasts four days. It is really very carnal and worldly during that time so the church tries to get the youth away from it all. Following are some of the pictures of the fazenda with beautiful forested land, lakes, zip lines and swings, rappelling from trees and a nice cafeteria where the meals will be served. It really is a beautiful place and should be a lot of fun for the youth.
There is a senior couple, the Egberts, that served a mission here from 2011 to 2013. They decided to come back for six months on tourist visas to serve some more. They are in Canela, the town just five miles away and part of our district. We had lunch with them on Sunday and again on Monday. On Monday the Porto Alegre Temple President and Matron and another couple serving a temple mission also came for lunch with the Egberts. We had a wonderful time with them and are glad to have the Egberts so close by.
Speaking of the temple, we had a beautiful trip to the temple in Porto Alegre, about two hours drive away from Gramado. We went there and back in two big buses and we had a great time being with the members from our district.
They light up the Christmas lights in Gramado at night and these pictures do not do it justice. The decorations and lighting are amazingly beautiful. Several of the main streets in town have these lighted decorations.