What a great Skype visit! The best Mother's Day event!
Elder Blackford looks healthy and happy! He absolutely loves being a missionary and loves where he is at. He has a great companion. They get along well and are super busy. So busy, he says, that they can't even find enough time to visit all the people that members have referred to them!
Elder Blackford and his companion live close to the church building and he says that they can walk to all the investigators' homes. Even here, very few members have cars.
The town where he lives is Caucaia do Alto. Here is a small map section.(see point A on the map) Sao Paulo is on the top right and Caucaia do Alto is the bottom left. The information I could find is that the population is about 30,000. Google maps estimates about an hour to drive to Sao Paulo. If you move up and to the right just a bit you see the city Cotia. That is the name of Elder Blackford's zone and has about 180,000 people.
Here is a picture of the chapel in Caucaia do Alto where Elder Blackford's ward meets.
A few members in the ward have restaurants where the Elders can eat if they do not have appointments with members or investigators. So it sounds like they are well fed!
With the next transfer cycle at the beginning of June, there will be 47 new missionaries coming into Elder Blackford's mission. A lot of training and preparation is being done as they get ready for part of their mission to be split off and form a the new Sao Paulo West mission. Part of Elder Brad Dial's mission will be split off to form the new mission also. So, depending on assignments and when Elder Dial returns home, there is a possibility that the two will be in the new mission area! Elder Blackford is fairly certain that he will be in the newly formed mission since the Cotia zone will be included and he doesn't think it likely he will be transferred out this soon.
Elder Blackford didn't know the name of the spider but he says they have very large, poisonous spiders there. He said as long as you go to the hospital if you get bitten you will be fine. Not very comforting to Mom! When asked if he and his companion kill them, Elder Blackford said he throws rocks at them. Nice.
Maybe Elder Blackford purposely waited to share this little tidbit with us. The area where he was assigned in Sao Paulo - the Grajau area - is the 2nd most dangerous area in the city. I'm wondering if we will hear more stories later.
We heard more about the foods he eats. The family where he was skyping with us was hosting a barbeque. The lady of the house brought in a plate of food for Elder Blackford so we could see what a typical meal looks like. It looked quite yummy! We also got to see a lovely looking dessert that is apparently somewhat similar to a mousse. She also made some comment about our family and Elder Blackford turned to us to tell us what she said, except he repeated it in Portuguese! He immediately realized what he had done and we all laughed. Not helpful to hear it twice in Portuguese.
The member whose computer Elder Blackford was using came in and talked to us for just a minute or so. He speaks English quite well. He is Portuguese but teaches English to businessman who want to learn English for business interactions. He told us how much the ward loves Elder Blackford, that he is a great missionary and that every ward needs a missionary like him.
The week prior to our Skype visit, Elder Blackford had forwarded an email that I thought he sent accidentally because it was all in Portuguese. He said later he realized that was a problem because Mom doesn't speak Portuguese! Anyway, the email was from the mission office requesting information as they begin to plan Elder Blackford's return! He is not happy about the idea of his mission coming to a close. Even though it's 6 months out they have to begin making plans. So right now it looks like Elder Blackford will be completing his mission at the end of November!
We all enjoyed talking and laughing with Elder Blackford. While we miss him so very much it's great to see him so happy and loving this opportunity.
I think that pretty well sums up the news and information we gained during our Skype time. We are super thankful for the technology!