We survived the heat of San Pedro for the night and got dressed and ready to go meet up with Sebastian. Sebastian is a young man that used to spend lots of time with the missionaries. I didn't actually serve as a missionary in the branch he attends (I was in Rama Belgrano and not Rama San Pedro), but for some reason we have kept in touch all these years later. He ended up serving as a missionary in the Asunción mission where he met my little brother once.
We headed over to his house, stopping by the Panificadora Diaz, above which the missionary apartment still resides. The facturas were as delicious as always. Then we headed to Sebastian's house, where we sat and shared experiences and stories for a while.
I then asked if he would join us in the car to show us some of the changes that have occurred in San Pedro. We drove to the east side of San Pedro, where several new government housing developments were constructed, and in between were various asentamiento, squatter-style houses. Seba told me that people just broke in and took the to government houses, which were supposed to be assigned by some sort of lottery.
It was also apparent from within the city center itself that San Pedro had grown. While I do recall it was a happening city at night, I do not recall the quantity of motorcycles and scooters one now sees.
Later we had a nice little pie cooked for lunch filled with ham, cheese, onion, and zapallo. It was quite nice and we thanked Seba's mom for the rica comida.
We then drove to Parque Nacional Calilegua. We probably drove up about an hour and a half, but sadly we didn't have time to make it all the way to the town of San Francisco that I always wanted to visit. We got out a little late after lunch. And quite frankly, we had already given the little Chevy Classic more of a beating than it deserved.
We ended our time in San Pedro by parting ways at Sebastian's house and heading to Jujuy for the night.
In Jujuy we stayed at the Dublin Hostel en la Calle Independencia. This night we got a large private room, which was quite nice for a change. We walked out into the city and crossed the bridge heading to the old bus terminal. When I got a milanesa sandwich covered with fries and aji for about $1.50 USD, I remembered one reason why I missed Jujuy. After that we got an ice cream and hit the hay.
This was to be a big day, but I was a little nervous I had set my hopes to high for how magnificent it would be to go to church and see old friends in Monterrico. I am glad to say that the experience and reception was better than even I had hoped for.
We hurried out of the Dublin Hostel and barely made it to the Monterrico Chapel (actually a house on the plaza) by 9 am. At the moment only President Miranda (an old timer who I remembered for taking us in his pick-up truck to get panchos) and Juan Gutierrez (a mere teenager in my time who helped us missionaries immensely) were there. I wondered what had happened to the branch.
But as in all small towns, meeting start times aren't all that strict. The members did show up. In fact, more showed up than I may have ever seen in my time. Jose Martinez (the branch president in my time) and his wife Marce showed up. He was skinnier than ever, and I learned that he had nearly died with a sickness to the brain that left him unable to walk and was still recovering. But thankfully, he appears to be recovering and will soon be back to the lively, robust fellow he once was.
Then the Segovia duo came, as giggly as ever the sisters were. And then there was Hermana Rosalia Tarcaya, who I honestly had not thought much about recently. But upon seeing her, I was flooded with with memories of her going on visits with us and her little pomegranate tree. She remembered having shared a pomegranate with us.
Priesthood class was a little shakey (I had to remind the teacher that we were not in the manual from last year). But gospel doctrine class was well presented by a new member named Claudio.
In Sacrament meeting, I was asked to speak. So was Terry, but he was able to get out of it due to limited language skills. I think the Branch President didn't realize this because Terry reads Spanish aloud very well, and did so in class. We later realized that I could have translated, but it was a little too late to change things at that point. I feel a little bad as that would have been a great story for Terry to tell.
After church we went to the house of Hermana Rosalia and chatted for a while. She kindly offered us some mandarin-flavored juice and picked us some pomegranates that I unfortunately lost before we could eat them. She gave me her contact info to pass on to another former Elder and I left mine. She gave us some crackers for the road, and we departed.
We then the went to La Perla Pizzeria and visited the Segovia family. We had lunch with the entire gang, and even attempted to get a photo with all the sisters and parents. Something came out of the camera, which you will observe after I arrive home and post it. The visit was very tender and special for me. It was fun to see Gaby and Noelia's niece Perla all grown up, and as kind as ever (probably more so than before). It was great to have lunch with the new missionaries there. Over-all it was a warm, loving experience. I was glad to have Terrry there, too, so he could also know of the warmth and love I so often think on.
We had to depart after only a short visit. I think I was a little teary-eyed. But we were then received with the same kindness at the house of "Hermana Pepa" and Jorge. We talked about what plans they have, about what Jorge was up to, and about mine and Terry's lives in the United States. Pepa sent us away with food, water, yerba, a mate, bombilla etc. I don't think we knew what to do with all she gave us.
We then headed off in the rain, back to Tucumán to return our rental car. I, and it is safe to assume Terry, returned to Tucumán grateful for the goodness in the hearts of the members of Monterrico.
There was only one more day left in the Northwest, and I began to realize that I probably should have planned more time there. But perhaps there's a chance I may again return.
We rolled into Hosteria El Corte in Yerba Buena at about 9:30 pm and I started making plans to visit with some friends in Tucumán on Monday. This was the swankiest place in our travels so far.
We used our last hours with the rental car to drive up to San Javier and take in the view of the Christ Statue and the city. We quickly returned to the city, returned our rental car, and met Fátima in la Plaza de Independencia. Fátima is from Monterrico, but is now in her third year studying medicine in Tucumán. We went and got some delicious pasta in Centro. Then we left our bags at her apartment and took the bus to El Colmenar, my former mission area. We visited the Molina's house. Laura, the family daughter, is now a friend of Fátima. We passed a few hours there chatting about a million random things, and the Hermana Molina made us some pizza. We also tried stopping by the Venecia's house, but nobody was home (sad face).
We then went back to Centro, en route to getting our bags at Fátima's, and met up with Angela Estrada, who I will describe as a generally extraordinary woman of Rama El Colmenar. We went and got ice cream and caught up on what is new in Rama El Colmenar.
And just like that, we were getting our bags from Fátima's house and in a taxi on our way to the bus terminal. We got on our desired overnight bus to Córdoba, where we would change money and catch a bus to Bariloche.