First Week – August 26, 2014

Sorry for the formatting on this letter. I had to open the email in ‘basic HTML’ format, because it wouldn’t load the other way, and I wanted every second to read your emails and talk to you. The enter key doesn’t work, so this will be one big block of text. Lo siento.
I think that last Tuesday was the most emotional day of my life. The first plane ride was scary. I was all alone, no other missionaries from Boise. I think there’s only one other from Idaho, in el CCM, or MTC. I don’t even know who he is, so I was kind of excited to run into an ordinance worker in the Guatemala temple who had that old man, Eastern Idaho accent. He was from Jerome.
Back to the journey: In Salt Lake, I was going to my gate, and I found myself among friends. There was a group of about ten/twelve missionaries leaving SL. On the plane flight, somehow, I don’t remember how; I got into a conversation about the Church with a man named Steve from Australia. We talked most of the trip, and I answered a few questions he had. That was a nervous experience, but he was really nice, and eventually we also got talking about our family’s and about America and Australia. He has three kids and owns a company that sells outdoor equipment in Australia. He thought Americans are nicer than he was expecting, and he likes the country. 
There was a layover in LAX before our next flight, and more missionaries joined our group. There are maybe twenty elders in our group and three hermanas. I was okay on the flight in.

The man I sat next to on the flight into Guatemala with was a native coming home. His father had passed away that morning. When gave him my condolences he smiled and said, ‘It’s okay, it’s part of life.’
There is so much to tell you. We only have an hour to write, and my hour is half over. The airport was very modern, and we had no trouble with customs or immigration. While waiting outside for the bus, some of the Elders got their shoes shined by a guy, and gave money to a crippled beggar. 
The ride to the CCM was on an old yellow school bus. The traffic is crazy. And there are lots of mopeds and motorbikes. All of the police officers wear knee high rubber boots and wear bright safety green vests. They also all seem to pack large weapons. Shotguns and small machine guns. That’s all we’ve really seen of the outside.
El CCM is nice, the more you get used to it. But it’s also very rigid. But once you figure out how to take care of yourself you stop chafing at it. The joke some elders make is that this is what Spirit Prison is like. The building is surrounded by walls, and all vehicles pass through a gate. The church also outfits its guards with a nice uniform. Their guns aren’t as big as the cops, haha.
We have no real free time, which is hard. The only way to de-stress is joke around and talk to guys at meals. We have about a half hour to write in journals in the evening. The motto of Presidente Cox of CCM is ‘exact  obedience.’ I respect him, and I think his calling gives him power to comfort and help us.
The workout time is pretty much directed by us individually. There are some free weights, and running/ cycling machines, and a basketball court. I lift every two days, but most of the time, I just spin on the bikes.
Apparently they try to keep elders who have gotten into the field away from us in the CCM so we can ‘experience it ourselves.’ I like my teachers here. They’re good.
I have learned a lot of Spanish. I was stressed about the language last week, but after being around some of the elders who have been here a while, I really have no concern. I’ll learn as much as I can here, and then I’ll be at the deep end figuratively when I get out with a companion in the field.
What else? You asked if I’m getting to know people; I talk to lots of elders. There are sisters, but we really aren’t supposed to say much more than hola to them. That’s alright. No distractions that way.
There is so much to say, but my time is almost up. I’m glad to hear you’re all keeping busy. I love you.
Elder Schafer

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