Last month President Lovell's brother Mark and his wonderful wife Vickie spent a few weeks in South America and they were able to come to Argentina and spend a few days with us! It was so great to see them!
You can certainly tell that they are brothers!
Mark is a geology professor at BYU-Idaho and there are many interesting geology sites in our mission. While we were in Neuquen together we drove out to Zapala (which is about two hours away) to find where the baca muerta shale formation came to the surface. It was so fun because Mark had his google Map on his I-pad and once we got to Zapala he directed us where to go. As we drove out into the fields and over the railroad tracks it was amazing that it was exactly how he saw it on the map! There was a part where someone had come and dug out the dirt to expose a big gully so we could see the rocks in all the layers. We got out of the car and walked out to explore. Mark was able to explain the formation of the rocks and how it was possible to get oil out of these kinds of rocks! It was also so amazing because there were also many ammonite fossils! We probably saw between 30 to 40 fossils...maybe I am exaggerating but there were a lot! We choose what we what we thought were the best to take with us.
Then we drove down to the railroad tracks where there were amazing rocks on the sides of where they cut the earth to put the tracks.
Another adventure of the day was that as we were driving home we were stopped by a policeman who told us that there was a "cut in the road". This is a common thing here in Argentina. If someone wants to protest something here then one thing they can is to"cut the road". They usually get burning tires and put them across the road so no one can pass. We don't understand why the police allow it but many times they will stop cars and direct them how to get around the burning tires. (A missionary has since told me that people here have the right to protest).
You can see the smoke from the burning tires!
This day the way to get around was out through a field. As we went through the little river and through the trees we were glad we had such a great car. We told Mark and Vickie and this was arranged especially for them so they could experience life in Argentina!
As we came out on the other side we could see the line of trucks that were waiting because they couldn't take the dirt road through the field. We were grateful that we had been able to go around it!
On Sunday we drove two and a half hours to 25 de Mayo for church. There is a branch there that is an independent branch so President Lovell presides over it as the mission president. They have a new building that we had not seen. It is a rented building but it is so much nicer and so much larger than what they had before! There is a wonderful branch president and other faithful members that are working hard to activate and baptize youth! He is having activities that are bringing them together. They also have three missionaries preparing to leave soon for their missions.
There were about 70 members there that day. It was great because one of them is an English teacher and sat by us during Relief Society and interpreted for Vickie.
We went to visit the Zuniga Family. They are one of our favorite families here and are also Service Missionaries working over the Pathway Program through BYU-Idaho. Because of Mark and Vickie's involvement with BYU-Idaho it was fun for them to meet each other besides just meeting some of the wonderful people here.
On Tuesday Mark and Vickie were able to go to the first Zone Conference of this transfer with us. It was fun for us to introduce them to the missionaries of the Neuquén Oeste and the Cipolletti Zones. The missionaries loved to see how much President Lovell and Mark look alike. Mark and Vickie shared their testimonies with the missionaries and Paul and Mark did some team teaching. That was really fun to watch. After the zone conference Paul was doing a temple recommend interview and one of our new missionaries came to me and asked if she could have a blessing. Since Paul was busy doing a temple recommend interview I asked Mark and one of our assistants to give her a blessing. That was a special experience for all involved!
They were so willing to help us in any way that they could!
On Wednesday we all drove to Barilcohe. We had Zone Conferences in the zones near there during the next week. But...we had also planned some time to do a few fun things with Mark and Vickie before those Zone Conferences.
We stopped at the Dinosaur Museum.
These were some rocks that had been turned into tools. Mark was so excited to see them because he had found one of these in Chile while they were hiking just two weeks before this!
There are some very unique rocks in Piedra del Aguila where we always stop for gas.
We had a great view of the lake and the city from our window in our Condo.
The sun rises were especially beautiful.
We enjoyed taking them to some of our favorite restaurants!
On Thursday we went to Cerro Leons Caves. They are some caves outside of Bariloche. We had a guide that explained many things about who discovered them and the tribes that lived in them but I loved it best when Mark was able to share about the different rock formations in the mountain and the caves.
There was one part that was very narrow between two of the caves that we crawled through. It was quite an adventure for all of us to shimmy though into a room with a lake!
On Friday we went the Black Glacier on the other side of Bariloche. It was a beautiful drive and we stopped at some of the scenic points to enjoy and take pictures.
The glacier is in a National Park. It is black because of the dirt that has blown over it. You can see the glacier right in the middle of the photo as it meets the lake.
There were huge pieces of ice that had broken off the glacier.
The day was absolutely beautiful. We hiked to the top of the trail to where there were some beautiful waterfalls and many interesting rock formations. The leaves on the trees had just started turning bright orange and yellow.
Besides the beauty of the glaciers there were many rock formations that became very interesting because Mark pointed out the columns, the different layers and the story of the history of the mountains. It was so fun!
When we returned to the lookout point of the glacier, all of the tour buses had left and we were there with just a few other tourists. Vickie was hoping and praying that part of the glacier would break off so we could experience that. I learned that when that happens that it is called "calving". It was so excited that as we were there and taking a few last photos that the glacier actually "calved" twice! It was so exciting!
The time went so fast and it was soon time to take them to the airport. All went well with check in. Just as we were planning to buy a little snack to enjoy before they left there was an announcement over the loud speaker asking that Mark and Vickie Lovell come to the check-in desk! They spent all of the time before their flight finding out that it is not legal to take fossils from the country! We were all so sad because they were such wonderful fossils! But...they did make their flight.
Now we are left with wonderful memories of time spent together and a different perspective of the land as we travel throughout the mission. Thank you Mark and Vickie for making the effort to come and see us!