¡Feliz Navidad! Again, there is a lot to write about and not a lot of time. For starters, a few corrections. The weekly open air market is actually called the feria and the straws to drink mate with are bombillas not bombillos. Also, my assignment with the young men of the ward is better titled an assignment and not a calling, but I guess that's a technicality.
Eggs are expensive here- about $3.20 a dozen. I assume corn isn't subsidized here the way it is in the US and that is the reason. That would also explain why they use real sugar in soda.
They don't eat dinner here. Lunch is the main meal, and instead of dinner they eat once (pronounced own-say), which is translated to the number eleven. I've heard that they call it once because it symbolizes the Savior's dinner with His apostles as Judas betrayed him. So there were eleven. This is the reason that they always eat bread with once. It's a very light meal.
A pair of Testigos de Jehovah (Jehovah's Witnesses) stopped by our house last week. I'll take this opportunity to mention how much I respect their religion. They understand the urgency of the message of the Gospel and they dedicate themselves to their beliefs. They're a diligent and a loving people. I love the Jehovah's Witnesses.
Last week, I mentioned that mate is sanctioned by the Church and that it has caffeine. I'll take this opportunity to clear up some common misconceptions about Mormons and caffeine. Revelation was given to the prophet Joseph Smith from God that said "hot drinks" are not good for the body. "Hot drinks" has been interpreted to mean coffee and black tea by modern prophets, and so caffeine, hot chocolate, mate, etc. are OK. Only coffee (including decaf) and black tea are prohibited by the Word of Wisdom, otherwise known as the Law of Health.
I got my first kiss this week... When people greet others in Chile, it's normal to give them a kiss on the cheek. Yesterday, my companion and I shared a little bit about the Church with a young woman. As we said goodbye, she gave my companion a kiss. He took it like a man. When she tried to kiss me, I cringed and pulled back, but she got me. Ayayay... It was pretty embarrassing and I offended her, but my companion explained that as missionaries, we are supposed to stay focused on the work, and not have physical contact with women. Luckily, she understood and we went our separate ways.
I'd like to talk a bit now about my schedule as a missionary. The day for missionaries in most places begins at 6:30 and ends at 10:30, but here in Chile, where people get up later and go to bed later, it's more effective to start at 7:30 and end at 11:30. I usually get up at 6:30 or 7:00 in order to study a little extra. We exercise for a half hour every morning, spend an hour studying by ourselves, two hours of studying as a companionship, and one hour for non-Spanish speakers to study the language. Then we eat lunch, and go to work. On the perfect day, we go from appointment to appointment teaching the Gospel, and doing service, but that hasn't happened yet. We are supposed to be back in our houses by 10:30 and we have an hour to plan the next day, write in our journals, and prepare for bed. Our schedule is deviated a little on Mondays, when we go shopping, clean the apartment, do other necessary chores, write our families, and find ways to have fun. Every Sunday we have Church, and once a week, missionaries in the area meet in order to help each other out.
It's not very easy walking around all day in the heat with a bunch of people that you can hardly understand, but it's the most rewarding work I've done. I know the Jesus Christ lives, and that families can be together forever, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to spread the good news. Until next week amigos.
Editor's (AKA Dad) note: Ben says he has had fairly limited time on the computer the last couple weeks and there hasn't been time to upload pictures. He says he will arrange with his companion next week to go to the internet cafe a little earlier so they have some more time. Ben has made arrangements to Skype with us on Christmas Eve, and of course we are looking forward to that. We'll try to take some notes and make a blog post. We do pass along to Ben that his blog is read by many and the comments you make to us and he does appreciate it. The picture below is of Ben's zone, which apparently doesn't have any sister missionaries in it. Ben is in the second row up on the far left.