Life has been quite eventful since leaving Missouri. I suppose the easiest way to write will be to chronologically categorize the events since my departure.
I must admit that I cried a bit after reading the two letters left in my backpack. Brindi's in particular was quite touching, while Mother's was deeply inspiring. I naturally saw through your feeble attempts at concealing their presence and opened them while traveling. The plane ride to Salt Lake and bus to Provo was uneventful.
Life became much more interesting when I entered the MTC! We were enthusiastically welcomed by a group of hosts and given an address in a crowded hall (there were probably 1,000 new missionaries that day). We were then instructed to drop off our stuff and go to class. I entered my class in a surrounding frenzy of Portuguese words and phrases. I learned later that this was intentionally done to promote the idea of urgency in the classroom. I immediately started memorizing the basic phrases. My teacher, Irmao Cannon, is a very kind and intelligent man. He has an innate friendliness and likability that instantly draws people towards him.
I met my companion a little later. Elder McCrea is a large 19 year old Texan who spent a year at BYU before deciding to serve a mission. He is very friendly and prays more than anybody I know. He has been LDS all his life, and he took 6 years of Spanish beforehand.
My district is wonderful. Almost everybody has taken 3-6 years of Spanish before coming here. Despite that disadvantage, I am keeping up with the pace of the class fairly well! The Elders and Sisters are smart, capable, and oftentimes hilarious. I have received an interesting reputation since arriving. One of my nicknames is "Elder Dictionary", because I have a reputation for always correcting people on the correct pronunciation and spelling of Portuguese words and of the Missionary Rules. I told my district that this was not ok, because it says in the handbook not to give nicknames. For some reason, they just laughed at me. Huh.
My other nickname is Gali-Mama. My companion was chosen as the district leader, and with his distinctively masculine qualities, he was unquestionably the Papa of the group. As his companion, I naturally accepted the motherhood role, and I have grown to love all of my little filhos (children). They all call me Mama now. It's pretty great.
The days are fairly monotonous, but that's okay. Because I'm doing the same thing every day, time gets to be a little weird around here. I both feel like I've lived here my whole life and that I just walked in yesterday. We study Portuguese effectively 10+ hours every day (except and P-Day). 2 days after we arrived, we were informed that we would start teaching a 30 minute lesson every other day to an investigator named "Antonio" as a companionship...entirely in Portuguese. I basically had a long conversation with a stranger entirely in Portuguese. I did very well! We have since taught 3 other lessons and I think we will baptize him pretty soon (I actually asked him to be baptized the first lesson...nope).
I wanted to recommend a talk by Elder Bednar given to the missionary population a couple years ago. It is fairly long and titled "The Character of Christ". One word description? Life-Changer.
My P-Day is , and I will email again next week! I will write a letter in which I address everyone personally.