Sunday, February 27, 2011

Vendimia Week Begins

Argentina may be best known for its beef and tango, but few realize the quality of the country's unique wine. Grapes flourish here in Argentina's central valley, east of the Andes in the Mendoza region. Sixty percent of Argentina's exported wine comes from Mendoza. The crop has struggled in French vineyards, but due to a perfect combination of growing conditions like high altitude, strong sunlight and protection from the Andes, grapes are happy in Argentina. Mendoza's backdrop is spectacular with snow-covered Andes looming high against the horizon. The area is popular with outdoor enthusiasts for climbing, mountain biking, kayaking and rafting. Mendoza is normally a relatively laid-back town, especially when compared to Buenos Aires (its bustling capital city). The streets are wide and traveled by vintage European cars and bicycles and large, shady trees overhang the city's sidewalks and cafes. It really is too bad that the cities of Argentina have not been cared for properly, and the infrastructure updated, so that they would be a tourists destination spot.

The start of the Vendimia week (the grape harvest celebration) we have seen many venues going on. The last Saturday of the month of February is the blessing of the crop at the local Cathedral. Then the party begins. Above is a picture of a seadoo race on the little lake we have close to our home. I don't know if the city only has three seadoos but it is the first time in 3 years I have heard the roar of a motor craft engine. It was music to the ears. The first vendimia celebration in Mendoza Province was back in the 17th century, but the first official festival became in 1936. All week down our street (Avenida Emilio Civit) there are tents set up for the wine tasting ($1 a glass) and other ethnic foods, and local crafts. Next Friday night around 11:00 they will start the parade of floats being moved from their position in the park San Martin, to the beginning of the parade (also on our street). We probably won't sleep much that night. Saturday will be the 6 hour parade with floats, horses, authentic gauchos, beauty queens, and dancers representing various provinces of Argentina and other Latin American Countries. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights will be a special extravaganza in the Greek Theatre in the San Martin Park. We actually have never been, since it starts at about 10:30 and goes till 2:00 am.

Last night was the official opening, with choirs and presentations in the Plaza Indepedencia. The whole month there have been tango demonstrations, orchestra and choir presentations. The fireworks display is larger and longer than any I have ever seen in the states. It went on full throttle for at least 20 minutes, with not a second of interruptions. Below is a short video taken about in the middle of the demonstration.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Week Finishes With A Bang

A friend of my mother's came to visit us in Mendoza. Her name is Caroline (Crawford) Vond. She was born and raised in Mendoza, and after joining the church went to the U.S. and has lived there since. Her family was quite an influential family back in the day and owned lots of land, cattle and vineyards. She and her second husband came to visit her family during a very exciting time- Vendimia. That is the harvest of the grapes. Stay tuned, and expect more pictures next week.
Yesterday was a storm to remember. It started to rain, then thunder, then hail. It was coming down so bad we had to have Elder Quebbman brave the pelting hail and open the drainage ditch along the edge of the chapel/office. You can see the water flowing in.
Our cute Elder Cabranes catching the hail. Though it doesn't show up, he brought me a piece that was just a bit smaller than a golf ball.

The aftermath outside the gates of the office, showing the street and sidewalk. This storm destroyed the grape crop in LaValle and part of Maipu. It shredded the leaves and grapes right off the vines. It was a devastating storm, destroying roofs and breaking plate glass windows.
Elder Campbell and Elder Quebbman who had to save the office from being flooded.
A fun video of a the Elders below, braving the storm to do what boys love to do most- get their clothes wet. They left that afternoon to go home to find their pension flooded and the upper floor where we have 6 sets of bunk beds for the visiting missionaries to sleep over on-flooded and the mattresses all wet because the roof tore off.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Another Good Week in Argentina

We went to San Rafael for a few days, for a training meeting with our missionaries and a meeting with the Stake President. We stayed at our favorite hotel, Algodon. We wore ponchos because it was raining outside. There was a hail storm the night before which is very common in San Rafael. The young lady is Paz (Peace). She handles the reservations and has become a friend to us.
At Algodon there are vineyards and orchards that are being worked at all times. We took a golf cart (shipped from the US, they are unheard of here) around the property. It is hundreds of acres of vineyards, apricot and membrillo orchards. Also there is an old olive orchard that they are trying to cultivate back to production.

If there is a cold night during the time the fruit is developing, along the dirt roads are these barrels ready with wood to start a fire to heat up the orchards. Below is a picture of the stacks of wood that are around the entire orchard areas. They are also oil pots around the perimeter.
President showing us his favorite grape, a muscatel. It is the most fragrant and sweet of all the grapes we have tasted (and we are getting to be experts). We are sure we are the only ones in Mendoza who go around tasting grapes, go on winery tours, and never drink a drop of wine.

To get the Andes into perspective I took this picture on our way home from San Rafael. The darker mountains in the back ground would be about the height of the mountains back home in Utah, around 10-11,000 feet high. The peak behind it (above the clouds) would be twice that size, over 22,000 feet. It is not the famous Aconcagua peak, but it still is more than 22,000. There are around 6 peaks in our mission that are that high or higher.

It is summer in Mendoza and the fruit and vegetables are at their very best. Here are some strawberries and peaches from our local fruit stand. Notice how red the berries are. They are picked one day and sold the next so they are fresh from the fields. There isn't anything better than the fruit in Mendoza.
There is one negative though about buying the fruit, and that is the need to thoroughly wash everything. The grapes were just rinsed, but we need to put a little bleach in the water when we clean lettuce, spinach or chard.This peach has two hearts
When you buy watermelon from Mauricio at our local fruit stand, you just tell him if you want half or a quarter. They let you test a piece to see if you like it. Now, that is something I will miss. This watermelon is the most sweet, juicy watermelon I have ever tasted. Wish I could send you some.
These beautiful missionaries were part of a local choir we needed to put together to sing at the Saturday "future missionary" training meeting with Elder Aidukaitis and Elder Spitale. I wish I could explain the feeling that we had as we watched over 500 potential missionaries get off buses in white shirts and ties (or dresses) and walk through the plaza into the stake center. We have never seen so many youth in one place in our time here in Argentina. We have 100 of those ready to fill out mission papers. We saw with our eyes the future of the church here in Argentina. Now if we can keep them committed and coming to church.
Our wonderful choir sang "Called To Serve" as we walked up the middle aisle of the chapel. In Spanish there are four verses of that song, not just two. It was reported to me that after, the next speaker had a few tears in his eyes. There is a powerful spirit when the missionaries of the Lord express their testimony through song.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

February Consejos

Not that they need any introduction, but Elder Cabranes (secretary) and Elder Quebbman (finance) were introduced to the Zone Leaders as the new office Elders. These fine young men were called back into the office to fill the positions that Elder and Sister Nope left. This is the second time for each of them and so we are eternally grateful for their sacrifice to come in again and serve with us.
Our New Zone Leaders
(left) Elders Abella, Moncur, Roberts, George, Esplin
We look forward to serving with them, and watching them mature in their new positions. This is one position where we see most of their growth and desire to become a great leader. They never disappoint us. This is the training ground for life.
More help out on the streets. Elder Campbell and Elder Leal will become traveling assistants, with their junior companions. They will help us in the training of zones with the new 8 focuses of the church.
WINNERS OF THE MONTHLY ZONE COPA AWARD!!! The Chimbas Zone won the Copa for January. They raced to the finish. Congratulations Chimbas Zone and their Zone Leaders, Elders Gomez and Leal.
Past due awards given out at this Consejos were- August 2010 District Leader award for Elder Benitez. This award is given to the District Leader who has the best numbers on his key indicators.
For December 2010, the Best District Leader Award goes to Elder Esplin
For January 2011, the Best District Leader Award goes to Elder Moncur
For October 2010 the Best District Leader Award goes to Elder Burr

Mission News

We said goodbye to Elder and Sister Nope, one of our senior couples last week. They needed to return home to take care of some family needs. We have appreciated so much their wonderful work in the mission, and will miss their friendship and expertise that they brought to us in the office. We wish them the very best and extend our gratitude to their family who loaned them to us for a while.
We love our Assistants and all that they do to support us and the missionaries in this mission. We get pretty close to them during their stay in the office. We want to thank them for their great work.
(left) Elder Frischknecht (AP) Elder Leal (TA) Elder Hopkin (AP) Elder Sorensen (TA)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Speaking at the Godoy Cruz Girls Camp at Camp Bautista

Here we are at Camp Bautista in Lujan, speaking to the young women at their girls camp. I spoke on gaining your own personal testimony of the Savior, and President spoke on chastity. The evening was really warm and quite lovely. The girls were having a great experience and the theme was concentrating on having a teachable heart.
I greeted each young woman with the usual Argentine double kiss on the cheeks. You would have thought we were movie stars or something, they all wanted pictures with us.
President as he was speaking to the young women of the Godoy Cruz Stake.
There I am speaking about remembering how I felt when I was their age, a timid young girl not knowing where life would take me. All of my fairy tale dreams have come true- well except for the castle and the servants to clean and cook. But my prince arrived and my wonderful children who have brought great purpose into my life.
These are their wonderful leaders who have worked so hard to prepare this week long event. Notice the other blond- Linda Hunt, an American who has lived down here for 8 years with her husband. They are the reason many of these events take place and are well planned.
If you look closely you can see the red hearts they are wearing around their necks. Each day they earn a colored bead that is added to the necklace (with the values colors).
I wanted to show their faces, aren't they beautiful people?