Blake (Argentina Buenos Aires South Mission)
–Paraphrased from Blake’s mission interview–
For the most part, the areas were pretty similar to Utah and Sacramento where I am from. It got hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It snowed before I got there, but that was the first time it had snowed in 20 years. It was a lot more humid though. That was quite the shock. The summer rain storms would still be really humid and you’d be sweating but would still have to have a jacket on from the rain. We had a 45 minute walk ahead of us and the skies were clear and hot and it started to rain about 5 minutes into our walk. It was a light rain so we thought we would be fine, but it got so bad that the streets started to flood and we were drenched and dripping. We walked all the way back to the bus station and then came back with our umbrellas and jackets and it had all cleared up. We ended up being two hours late, but the lesson went really great still.
I was never robbed. I attribute that to being aware of my surroundings. There was only one time when I thought someone was going to try because he was staring at us. The people will let you know where not to go at night or you will get held up. Once during the middle of the day I noticed a guy that was following us for two blocks and a kid that was with us from there didn’t know what to do. We ended up just running. Most of the people were very accepting of us and if they saw that guy running after us they would have stepped in. You don’t want to fight them. Keep a few pesos on you in your pocket so you can take that out and give it to them. I never had to use that.
Shopping was always interesting to me. There were some very stark differences between the different areas. I was in a very rural area and there were maybe two blocks on main street where they had some shops. The prices were high so we never went into their. We lived across the street from a tiny grocery store. Frosted Flakes was the only American thing they had. They didn’t have vegetables and fruits in the same store. They had a store for fruit, a store for vegetables, and a store for meat. In another more high end neighborhood we had some very Americanized stores. They even had an American aisle where they did have peanut butter and oreos and everything we were used to. I never found any good macaroni and cheese. Our church building in one area was right next to a large shopping center. It felt just like our mall. They had the same Kodak machines you would see in Walgreens. They had the familiar restaurants in the food court. They had the same clothing stores, although their clothes seemed to fit differently. We had a Walmart in the mission where you could find all the American stuff you wanted. Our mission office is in a very downtown place. That’s where everyone would go. Every store was always packed. They had book stores, mate stores, and more souvenir type stores.
Don’t lean back on your being American. If I were to meet someone I would shake their hand, but there they will hug you and kiss you. Be open to that. Don’t hug and kiss the women, but don’t be creeped out or awkward about it. I didn’t look at them as being strange. It was a new culture to me and I was ready to embrace it. If you can make it a part of you and something you want to learn as much as you can it makes such a big difference in the members liking you and trusting you.
Kacy (Argentina Buenos Aires South Mission)
–Paraphrased from Kacy’s mission interview–
The mission doesn’t even have the city of Buenos Aires. Our mission is just south of the city. It’s a pretty ghetto mission, but that’s what makes it so amazing. There are a couple bigger cities like La Plata, which is the capital of the province. A lot of times the elders are in the bigger cities and the sisters are in the countryside. It’s maybe an hour or two from one side to the other. There’s also part of the coast in the mission that is far away. There’s a whole zone down there on the coast, but they are far from everyone else. I never got to serve there but it is really pretty.
Branches and Wards
There was a mix of branches and wards. There were only a couple of really big wards I served in, but there were a lot of less actives that we worked to find. I would say the church is still kind of young down there and people are still learning how to do their callings. It’s amazing to see how faithful some of them are.
One big difference is how they greet people with a hug and a kiss on the cheek. I remember people talking to us about this and how we weren’t supposed to let the men kiss us. The members are usually pretty good about that, but it’s hard meeting people that aren’t members. I remember seeing the men in the ward giving kisses to the other men on the cheek and I thought it was so weird. There are no personal bubbles down there. We would definitely hug and kiss the other sisters though. You have to greet everyone or they will be offended. It’s a really big deal. You say high to everyone and you say goodbye to everyone. Lunch is their big main meal. Everyone comes home for lunch. If they do eat dinner it’s late or sometimes it’s just bread. They’ll stay up late, even the kids. They always drink this thing called mate. It’s kind of like a tea with a bunch of herbs, sugar, and hot water. They pass around the same cup with the same straw and everyone drinks out of it. They don’t care about germs at all. A lot of people have to have their mate in the morning to keep them up and keep them warm. Because they would share that straw, they’ll share their cups all the time too. Usually with the missionaries they will give them their own cups, but if you get familiar with them they will maybe ask you to just share.
They love meat and are really prideful about how good their meat is. One thing that I loved is called milonesa. They fry it or they’ll cook it in the oven and they always serve it with mayonaise. They eat mayonaisse with everything down there. I didn’t mind it. By the end of my time there I couldn’t eat anything without mayonaise. They also have really good pasta. They make their own homemade noodles even. They always put a lot of oil in the things they cook and they will add meat and vegetables. Their desserts are so delicious too. They eat bread with every meal as well. They go out in the morning and buy their bread for lunch and dinner. In the panaderias they have facturas which are like pastries that can be filled with a fruit filling, chocolate, or dulce de leche. I loved them so much.
Amber (Argentina Buenos Aires South Mission)
–Paraphrased from Amber’s mission interview–
They just split the mission. They used to just have north, south, and east. Now there is a west mission, so our mission just got a little smaller. We used to have part of the coast but they gave it to another mission. The work is progressing fast because the members know how to work. It’s really unique about those areas. They understand the Gospel and it’s their life. It’s a really small mission. You can go from one point to the other in about five hours. You get to meet missionaries from every area because of that.
Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses?
They knew who we were. They knew we were Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses. Those are the two groups adamant about missionary work. They would stop and ask you which you were. They don’t hear the church’s full name that much, they know us as the Mormons.
Argentines were a little bit more on the stubborn side. The pope is from Argentina and most of the people their are very Catholic. The people from Peru were a lot more open to new religions and more open to praying and finding out for themselves. People from Argentina are also willing to listen, but it takes them long to make it click for them. I think the more you get to know them and let them know that you’re human beings and that helped me a lot to get to the hearts of the people.
We had bikes for about two of my areas and the other two we walked. In the areas I had bikes, they got stolen so we ended up walking. Only the elders in charge of apartments and the mission president had cars. They had good buses that got you around pretty well except when you’re in the smaller cities. In this mission you will walk a lot.
The biggest thing is to laugh at yourself, sometimes you won’t understand why they do what they do, but you have to keep your head up and you’ll get used to it. Try new things and don’t be afraid to get on your knees and ask specifically to like the food or connect with the members in a specific way. People in Argentina are really loving. They greet each other with a kiss and a hug. They are a touch feely people, and I’m not like that so it was a little bit difficult for me. The food I really didn’t have much of a problem with unless they fed us parts of the cow. That’s when you have to really pray and hope all is well. Learn about it and love it. You don’t have much time and it’s amazing how much you can miss it afterwards. In learning the language, I would just remember that the Lord loves you for who you are and it is important to go to Him always. Use your companions. You will always have one that is a fluent Spanish speaker. It took me a while because in Argentina they talk fast. Be patient.
La Plata, Argentina
La Plata is a bigger city and they have a ward. In Argentina you clap in front of the houses instead of knocking. In La Plata they had a little doorbell though and they had a little speaker you had to talk into. That was hard when we couldn’t talk to people face to face. I really liked La Plata because the members were incredible. I felt like there was so much to do. Our focus was to help less actives. The Church told us that we needed to focus more on less actives. We knew the members loved and cared about these people even if they aren’t coming to church.
We only had a branch that met in a tiny little house each week. It was so fun being able to leave with each of the people in the branch and they would show us who their friends were. We had a member that lived about 15 minutes away by bus and we went to go visit him and meet his friends when it started raining. The member was in poor health and he had crutches and we figured he wouldn’t want to go out with us anymore. We got there and he was still there! We had the most success there out of any of the areas in my mission.