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The Comodoro Rivadavia mission is in the southernmost part of the world. It is included in the part of Argentina also known as Patagonia. The area is a popular tourist spot, especially for glacier exploration, marine wildlife viewing and backpacking. The southern part of Argentina makes most of its money from tourism, petroleum and natural gas. Due to these sources of income, this southern end of Argentina is more economically stable than the north, tempting many from neighboring countries and northern Argentina to come live there in search for a better future.
Argentina’s population descends from immigrants that came from many different countries (mostly Italy and Spain), primarily during the 19th and 20th centuries. The Roman Catholic Church is the largest religious denomination in Argentina, and continues to influence Argentine culture and politics. The new Pope Francis, elected March 13, 2013, is from Buenos Aires. However, Protestant churches have been growing in popularity in recent years while participation in the Catholic Church has been decreasing.
Argentina has an urban society, with very little of the population living in rural areas. The country has strong traditions in literature, art, film, and theater. Tango music is a unique musical style that began in Argentina. Today The Cumbia (Argentine rock, pop, and electronic music) is the popular rhythms you will often hear as you roam the streets. Many regions also have their own traditional folk music and dance styles which they continue to teach and perform in their elementary schools. Soccer is a passion for all Argentinas alike and you will often be asked if you favor the team Boca or the team River.
The Comodoro Rivadavia Mission was created on July 1, 2013. Geographically, it is the largest of the Argentine missions. Thus, distance is a challenging factor for the growth and strength of The Church in this section of the world. There are three stakes and four districts, which consist of branches instead of wards (Rio Gallegos Argentina District, Rio Grande Argentina District, Ushuaia Argentina District, Caleta Olivia Argentina District, Comodoro Rivadavia Argentina Stake, Trelew Argentina North Stake, Trelew Argentina South Stake). Missionaries play a large role in helping members learn and providing opportunities to put their learning into action.
One of the most popular meals in Argentina is asado, the Argentine barbecue. Beef and pork sausages are the most commonly-used meat for these barbecues which are geared towards gathering friends and family, generally on Sundays or holidays. Simple pizza, pasta, and salads are other common dishes, a result of Italian influences. Empanadas are popular snack items, and dulce de leche is used in many dessert dishes. Also, to add variety, there are Peruvians and Bolivians who make delicious food from their differing cultures.
Their main meal of the day is lunchtime which falls around 1pm and then they enjoy taking a “siesta” (nap) afterwards if time allows. Breakfast is light, generally a few crackers or cereals with a cup of milk, liquid yogurt or mate. Supper, generally around 8 or 9 pm, is also relatively small, often leftovers.
Mate, the traditional drink of Argentina, is a mate gourd or cup filled with yerba mate, hot water is added and then the drink is sipped through a metal straw with a filter called a bombilla. While the bitter drink is often consumed plain, sometimes sugar, orange peel, or other herbs are added for flavoring. The Argentines can often be found drinking this at all hours of the day, even carrying around portable thermoses. Their custom is to share this with all visitors to their home. However, for varying reasons, missionaries are prohibited from drinking mate and are generally given soda or Tang instead.
In the larger cities there are buses, taxis and remises. Remises are like taxis except you generally call them up or go to their station to get a ride. Taxis charge per minute and remises per kilometer. Some smaller “oil-towns” have no public transportation. You will find that a higher percentage of southern Argentina residents own cars, due to the geographical separation making it somewhat of a necessity. Otherwise, there are larger, expensive tourist buses which travel along the coastal highway from town to town. If a missionary needs to leave their town for a zone conference, etc., those arrangements will be made by the mission office.
There is an abundance of stray dogs. Although minimal, there are reports of some biting missionaries. However if you act confidently, do not bother the dogs they will not harm you. In general, following the missionary handbook rules, such as traveling as much as possible in lighted areas and remaining together, will keep you safe.
Argentines are well-known for being boisterous, fun-loving, generous people. They are very open and have no problem with showing their affection, even to complete strangers. They greet each other with a kiss on the cheek, sometimes both, and often by first name.
Argentine Spanish is distinct in that it uses voseo instead of the pronoun tú. Every province has differing accents–living in the capital, you will probably encounter most of these. Argentines are quite casual with their language, using a lot of slang and other local words and phrases like “Che” (Hey you) and “Como anda?” (How are you?). However, missionaries are encouraged to maintain a formalness with their vocabulary. Upon arriving, listen carefully and ask lots of questions and you will learn soon enough.
The contrast between summer and winter is pretty extreme and it rains a lot throughout the year. A recommendation for elders, and possibly sisters, is to have a long, but thin, raincoat for the summer season and a long, thick raincoat for the winters. An umbrella would be useful as well. Sisters should definitely bring warm tights and/or boots. Also, bring sunscreen, bug repellant for the night time, and good sturdy shoes for lots of walking on unpaved roads.
The missionary apartments have “washing machines” something like this. You plug it into the wall and it agitates your clothes for a while and then you line dry the rest of your clothes. You may end up hand washing clothes in order to clean them better.
Av. Fray Luis Beltran N° 75
The Lovells (Neuquen) http://lovellsinargentina.blogspot.com/p/info-for-new-missionaries.html
Census 2010 information (scroll mouse over region for information): http://184.108.40.206/censo2010/
What items were hard to get or not available?
“Peanut butter! Not essential for everyone..but for quite a few. Most things are accessible; they are just more expensive there. For example: Sunscreen.”
What did you eat the most of?
“Pasta and beef”
What is the craziest thing you ate?
What advice would you give to someone going to this Mission?
“To sister missionaries- bring skirts that won’t fly up from the wind.”
What do you wish you had known before you served?
“How windy it got there.”