December 11 - Happy Birthday Heidi
All the Elders and Sisters in our missionary district came to our apartment to celebrate Heidi's birthday.
Ken was called to serve as Branch President of the Gramado Branch of the church here. He chose two of the established brothers here as his counselors, Brother Toni Pimentel and Brother Luis Machado, and kept the executive secretary that had been with the previous branch presidency, Brother Ronaldo Oliveira. The call came at the busiest time of the year for a branch president, when all the members need to be interviewed for tithing settlement. The branch was split at the same time so half the members are now in another branch, making it easier to do the interviews.
The District President (like a stake president) for the Gramado District is a dynamic young man, Antonio Nunes. He just graduated from a local university and invited us to his graduation ceremony. It was an interesting event and was a lot of fun. Here are some pictures of the ceremony.
They had the valedictorians of each college give the challenge to all the graduates in that college.
After each graduate received the diploma and cap he/she would get a picture taken with the dean.
For one of our p-days we went with the two Egbert couples to Mini Mundo (Mini World), which is a little park here in Gramado with lots of miniature sized displays of different places in Germany. The man who built this was a German hotel owner who wanted to make a place for his kids to play that could teach them about Germany.
There was a miniature airport with Mini Mundo Airplanes.
There was a place to kiss the bears, so the Egberts tried it out.
I had to have my picture taken with the beautiful witch that was wandering around the park. She later gave each couple a Hydrangea plant to take home.
We participated in the Christmas party with the Petropolis branch, which before the division was a very small branch meeting in a school in Novo Petropolis. Here are pictures of the party.
We also participated in a Christmas party for the Gramado branch.
Heidi organized a group of Relief Society Sisters to perform the "Twelve Days of Christmas" with words made up in Portuguese about relief society. It was a smashing hit.
On one street in the center of town here in Gramado they have reindeer that are painted by different artists each year. Here are samples of what they look like.
In Canela, the town next to Gramado where the Egberts live and serve, there is a beautiful big stone cathedral. Here are pictures of the outside and inside.
The LDS chapel in Canela is just a couple blocks from the cathedral.
On Christmas Eve the missionaries serving in the Porto Alegre temple, along with the temple president and matron, came to Gramado to spend the night. We all went out to a fondue dinner.
This is Elder and Sister Denney, temple missionaries. They spent the night in our apartment.
This is Elder and Sister Anthony, temple missionaries.
There were three courses for the dinner, first cheese fondue with lots of vegetables and bread to dip; second this meat and a hot piece of granite to cook it on with lots of sauces to put on it; third was chocolate fondue with lots of fruit to dip in it.
After dinner the Warthens were staying in a unique hotel, with rooms made out of old wine storage vats. They wanted to show us so we went by to have a look. The rooms are three stories and are very rustic. The first floor had a sitting area, kitchenette, and bathroom.
Christmas day we were invited to a member's house for a big Christmas dinner along with the four sister missionaries serving here in Gramado.
We also were invited to Kassandra's house that night for another Christmas dinner. They have a cute little dog that we love to play with. His name is Pimentinho.
This is Kassandra's daughter Angelique with Pimentinho dressed up.
Just after Christmas we had transfers and our District Leader, Elder Seidmann and his companion, Elder Collect, an American, were transferred. We were really close to them and had them stay with us a few nights when they needed to be in Gramado early. We took them out to dinner on their last night here and then took a group of Elders out for ice cream just before they left.
Between Christmas and New Years we received a call from President Nunes saying that nine members of a family from Sao Paulo were in town to see the big show, but they could not find a hotel (no room at the inn). He asked if we could take four of them in to sleep at our house. So we had guests that night, two on our sofa bed and two in our spare room.
We were invited to Kassandra's house for New Years Eve dinner. She went all out with the decorations, especially the centerpieces. Kassandra runs the bed and breakfast where we spent the first two weeks here. She is a dear friend now and helps us with many things.
New Years day we started out with a Missionary District Meeting. These are all the missionaries in our District.
These two sister missionaries just arrived this week and work in the Gramado branch. They are gung-ho and already have a baptism planned for this Sunday.
After our District Meeting the four Egberts came with us in our car to see the sights. The first stop was Lago Negro, the beautiful lake close to our house. Sister Ann Egbert started out in the luggage space and then Heidi took that special seat since there are only five seats in the car.
On one edge of the lake there is a little grotto with statues of Mary, one black and one white, along with a nun.
After the lake we went to one the portals at the entrance to the city of Gramado.
We then decided to drive down to valley below Gramado and Canela. It is a beautiful area with farm lands, flowers and jungle.
We came to a place where there is an eco park, and a restaurant called Berga Moto. We checked out the buffet and decided to stay for lunch. We ate out on a porch surrounded by beautiful jungle. That was the best food we have eaten in Brazil!
After eating we went for a quarter mile hike through the jungle up to a beautiful waterfall.
We have been adding to and updating our apartment. We added the palm tree, mirror, Christmas tree, Christmas pillows and a rug in our living room.
We take these stairs up to our second floor where we have our master bedroom and a guest bedroom along with two full bathrooms.
There is a balcony out this door that overlooks the hotel next door.
We also have a large jetted tub on the third floor.
We took the two sister missionaries from the Petropolis branch to visit an investigator family that lives about an hour's drive away from Gramado, way out in the countryside. There is one 17 year old girl in the family who is a member having been baptized a couple months ago when she was staying with her uncle in Canela. On the way back we stopped in Novo Petropolis and visited the Labyrinth Maze made from plants. We were able to finally find the middle of the maze and get our pictures on the platform.
Sister Rocha would really like to meet Canyon after her mission.
There are so many beautiful flowers here in Gramado, we just love it. I think people here like the color of the flowers, so lots of them paint their houses purple like the flowers. Courtney, you would love it here.
We love the hydrangea (Hortencias in Portuguese) flowers so much we have them always in our apartment.