Saturday, September 26, 2015

Personal History Confirmation from Down in the South of Brazil

I have a really good friend who happens to be my Home Teacher. He is assigned in our Priesthood Quorum, with our Bishop's approval and encouragement, to visit our family monthly with a teenage companion from the Teachers' Quorum They provide a brief, spiritual message and report back to our lay priesthood group as to how we're doing. He's available for spiritual needs, furniture moving, and other friendly services. My wife likes to give him cookies. We have him over for dinner and holidays now and then.

I've known him for quite a few years as we met him in our youth most likely in the Language Training Mission in Provo, Utah. But I got to know his good soul on our mission out on the Gaúcho Frontier in Rio Grande do Sul.

I was a zone leader in the São Borja District of members. We lived in Alegrete which was most central and my companion and I traveled by bus, to the cities of São Borja, Uruguiana, and Rosário do Sul to help the two missionaries in each of those cities and interview their candidates for baptism. It was in Rosário where my friend worked. For some reason, probably to save daylight hours for missionary work, we often traveled at night. Those rides were miserable sometimes having to stand in the blue haze of cigarette smoke for the two or three-hours they took.

Rio Grande do Sul State in Brazil
São Borja Zone, Porto Alegre Mission, 1977. The center, however is Alegrete, the heart of Gaúcho Brazil.
Alegrete and Uruguaiana are now Stakes. São Borja remains a Mission District. And there's a Temple in Porto Alegre!
Alegrete-Rosário do Sul, 107 Km. Alegrete-São Borja, 189 Km. Alegrete-Uruguaiana, 145 Km. Uruguaiana-Porto Alegre, 631 Km.

I remember celebrating my 20th birthday with my friend and his companion in Rosário. I recorded it in a letter home.
I did celebrate my birthday. We were in Rosário Saturday. They had baptisms, it was almost my birthday, we were hungry and I thought about that money Aunt M___ gave me. So we went and bought a “churrasco.” I don’t know if I’ve explained, but churrasco is like a “Smorgasbord” in the way that they have lots of kinds of food, but they serve it to you. And it’s beautifully barbecued all kinds of meat. They started with the barbecued sausage. I looked at my plate and said, “This is better than I’ve eaten in long time” and it was just the beginning. They brought us all kinds of salad and basic type food (rice and beans) we tried some of all and then they started bringing the “real” churrasco. Barbecued chicken and beef. Different cuts. Most of it rare. They serve it on shish-ka-bob spikes. Well, we walked out rather folded over. It was very good.
My friend recently shared with me what he had about that event in his journal. It helps fill out the story:
The leaders showed up again in the middle of the night but I guess I was sleeping so soundly that I woke up as they were knocking on our window.  Before I could get up they had opened the shutters and the window and crawled in through the window, laughing.  It was a pretty good trick. These leaders travel a lot and end up sleeping on crummy mattresses on the floor. I don't know if I'd like to be a district leader or not.
For lunch, we decided that we were ready for a change from the poor food S___ fixes for us. So, we went to the Quero-Quero just down the street and really gorged ourselves with churrasco, all paid by Elder Vaughn's aunt who sent him some birthday money.
I had forgotten all about climbing in the window! And I can easily recreate a memory of my companion at the time laughing in the night as he was eternally cheerful - sometimes to my annoyance for which I now repent. Laughing seems to fit for that night. I distinctly remember the "crummy mattresses" we slept on when we traveled. They were a heck of a lot better than the bus. And I certainly remember the Quero-Quero* - Best Churrascaria in the world!

There is another odd memory of sound attached to that event. When I think about that good lunch in the Quero-Quero, I hear ABBA's "Dancing Queen" in my head. That's a possible connection as according to Wikipedia, the song was released in the US in November, 1976. That's plenty of time for it to filter down to Brazil by the next June. It's probably just an odd quirk of my trivia-obsessed brain, but I'll have to ask my Home Teacher if he remembers what music was playing at the Quero-Quero. I guess it more likely could have been gauchesca. Still, we mustn't rule out Disco on the Pampas. It was a birthday party!

*The Quero-quero is a popular bird of the Pampas. It is the National Bird of Uruguay and the State Bird of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. There are numerous estâncias [ranches] and businesses named for the bird.

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