We arrived at the Santiago airport Sunday morning. They were still only operating at about 50% of capacity, and there were long waits. The passenger terminal is closed for repairs. We processed through immigration and customs inside of tents pitched on the tarmac.
The Dixons, the couple we are replacing, had waited patiently for two hours (actually, for eight days). They brought us to the guesthouse on the temple grounds and let us sleep. Later, they started orienting us to our duties in the area office building. They had to get in as much instruction as they could, as they were leaving on Monday night to return to their home in the States. Elder Dixon is eighty-one years old. What a trooper he is!
Monday began with a bang. We still had Dixons here for a few hours, but they had to finish packing, tie up loose ends, and still try to instruct us in the hundreds of details we need to know. They handed us the cell phones and we went to work in the clinic, located in the lower floor of the area office building. Dozens of people came by to welcome us, Chileans and North Americans. We met the temple president and his wife. They later took us grocery shopping. The area president, Elder Carlos Amado, and his first counsellor, Elder Corbridge, came into our new domain to say bienvenidos. They had just returned from Concepcion, where they had overseen the contacting of and accounting for every ward and branch, to be sure that all of the members affected by the quake had their essential needs met. We met mission presidents and their wives, the MTC president, and a number of other Sr. and regular missionaries and people who help us with all of the essentials for our new responsibilities. A surgeon who is very friendly to the Church came by to meet us. Later, he met us at a local hospital where we, along with Dixons, visited some missionaries who were patients there. Last evening we attended the weekly sr. missionaries family home evening and met even more of the 'older missionaries' like ourselves. We have been treated very well, by some of the best people you could want to meet. How blessed we are!
Today was sort of a 'baptism by fire' - I know that missionaries are supposed to PERFORM baptisms, not BE baptized. There were sick missionaries who had come in from the five missions that are close to, or within, Santiago. There were also a number of phone calls from further out, particularly the Concepcion area. The wife of one of the mission presidents in Concepcion wants to know if we can go down there, once we're settled, and help with some stress relief counselling. I told her that we'd love to. To explain, we are called to help with the health matters of ALL of the missionaries, young and older, but not with the members in general. Miraculously, there were no missionary deaths, and no serious physical injuries to any of the missionaries. They do need more help with water filtration, and things like that, in the Concepcion area.
Here in Santiago, other than the airport, there hasn't been a lot of visable damage. There wasn't even a 'boil' order for the public water supply right afer the quake. (It's nice to be able to drink water here right out of the tap.) The statue of Angel Moroni lost its trumpet during the quake, but now there is a scaffolding around the spire and I understnd that a new trumpet will be in place by tomorrow or the next day.
This is a beautiful, very modern city. The grounds that surround us here - yes, the temple grounds - are beautiful of themselves. When our apartment is ready to move into, another two days, we will still be only one-half block from the area office, the MTC, the temple, the distribution center, and the chapel where we'll attend Sunday meetings.
This is the guest house and MTC. This is where we are staying right now. It is right behind the temple. Our apartment is across the street from this building. We get to view the temple right out our living room window.
'Sorry for these disjointed thoughts, and no photos this time. I'll soon start to put down my impressions, observations, plenty of photos, and some interesting history. For right now, we are trying to get our bearings and get moved in. We are, however, extremely happy and feel very blessed to be here.
As they say here, Ciao!
(Oops, I just felt our first aftershock!)