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Just Called!

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Updated April 28, 2003 Jump to new section.

Congratulations! You've been called to one of the most exciting missions in the world. Venezuela is the oldest democracy in South America. It is also one of the most urban nations in the region. Please Add your profile. You may meet your MTC companion. Then, come back and read the rest of this page.

Be sure to read the page about your mission president: President Webb. This page is full of lots of advice, but if you still have questions feel free to email the site administrators or any of the alumni. The alumni love to talk about their missions. We recommend that you start with the most recently returned missionaries. They will have the most current information.

If you haven't just been called to the Caracas Mission, but you know someone who has, please consider the following: Invite your missionary to view this site; Add your missionary's profile to the database, so that you can keep us updated on his or her progress and receive email notifications when this site is updated; Create a web site for your missionary at Missionary World Dot Com. Display photos; Keep an e-Journal with letters, companions, areas, dates, baptisms, photos, and more; Post your Missionary's letters to home; Keep loved ones current on missionary experiences.

This page has been designed to answer questions of interest to those who have been recently called to the Venezuela Caracas Mission. Portions were compiled from
the Maracaibo page, the Barcelona page, and the Valencia page. Many thanks to Gayle Andrews, Jeff Bullick, Luis DeLeon, M. Hansen, David G. Pope, Collin Stevens, Jonathan Ward and Justin Yentes. Please send any questions you would like answered or any suggestions you have for this page. Alumni, please send any information that you think would be valuable to someone that has been recently called to the greatest mission on earth.

Use these links to better navigate the page.
Use the back button to return to the top of the page.
[What will my apartment be like?] [What should I bring with me?]
[What should I leave at home?] [Are Dockers™ okay?]
[Do I need an electrical power conversion kit?] [What sorts of things will I eat?]
[Should I wear glasses or contacts?] [How will I wash my clothes?]
[How long does the mail take?] [What kind of music can I listen to?]
[What kind of shoes should I buy?] [What kind of suitcase should I take?]
[Should I take an eighteen-month supply of tampons with me?]
[How often will I be able to attend the temple?] [Do the missionaries ride bikes?]
NEW![Will I end up in some other mission waiting from a visa?] NEW!
[Can I drink the water?] [What's the weather like?] [Miscellaneous tips]

What will my apartment be like?

Most missionaries live in apartment complexes in the area where they work. Usually, one or two pairs of missionaries will live together. All of the apartments have electric fans, usually one per missionary, to keep you cool and to keep the bugs off you. Morning showers will also keep you cool. Few apartments have water heaters. If you do have a water heater it won't be large enough to generate enough hot water for an entire shower (let alone two, three or four). The water in some areas is shut off periodically, for reason too mysteries to be discovered, so you may be taking some "bucket showers"while serving in those areas. In 1996, the apartment in Santa Teresa had a great view of a graveyard, and the church bell rang just outside the apartment. The reverberations shook the building!
Thanks to
Bryan Wilson for help with this answer

What should I bring with me?

This is probably the very most often asked question. Apart from
the official list, here are some suggestions.
  • Lots of antiperspirant and light clothes. Thanks to Evan Glassett for this suggestion.
  • Bank card with the Cirrus logo. This is the fastest and most convenient way to get extra money from your account in the United States. The current exchange rate will be computed at the time of withdrawal, and you will receive Venezuelan currency from the ATM. Bank cards with the Star logo on them might not work. Hopefully, the Banco Mercantil still accepts the Cirrus cards and will soon accept the Star cards. This would be another good question for a more recently returned missionary.


    Thanks to Matt Hirst for making this image available to the web master 05-24-2002

  • Batteries that can be recharged and a tiny recharger come in handy.
  • Blood pressure cuff. If you have any nursing skills, you should consider taking along your blood pressure cuff and stethoscope. One of the web master's companions finished her nursing degree before her mission. She had her blood pressure cuff with her, and the members really appreciated her attention.
  • Candy is a great way to break the ice with your new companion and roommates.
  • An international long-distance calling card. AT&T, Sprint and MCI all offer these products. These cards will help you call home at Christmas and Mothers’ Day without having to mess with calling collect and having your parents call you back.
  • A small hymnbook in English and two or three in Spanish.
  • Contact lens solution - you can find this in Venezuela, however, it is quite expensive
  • Flip-flops. You don't want to walk around your house barefoot. Get waterproof ones that you can wear in the shower. Seriously!
  • Foodstuffs you can't get down there. These make great gifts for your mission president’s wife and your first companion and roommates.
    • peanut butter
    • maple flavoring (or maple syrup)
    • root beer extract (or root beer)
    • Oreo™ cookies
  • Garments made of a cotton polyester blend. When buying garments to go on a mission, many recommend the cool mesh variety garments. Supposedly, they keep the heat off the best, but when heat is coupled with humidity, these feel like wet plastic! Sometimes the sisters like the nice silky ones, but these too feel like you are wearing a wet hefty bag! Cotton polyester blends are best. They absorb perspiration. They are cool and durable, and they are easy to hand wash. Also, be sure to take a good supply. You may have difficulty ordering them there! The webmaster made it through with only seven, but if she had to do it again, she would take twelve.
  • Handkerchiefs are good for wiping away sweat and dirt. You can use them to wipe your hands when no towels are available. They can serve as a napkin when none are available. They are just generally handy things to have around, but plan to get them very dirty!
  • Your personal first aide kit should include your favorite remedies for the following common ailments: insect bites, headache, diarrhea, sore throat, colds, fever and foot fungus. Mosquitoes often bite sisters from the knees down, and repellant helps a lot. Thanks to Christine Brame for help with this answer, June 20, 2002. Don't throw away the multivitamins that they give you in the MTC, take one every day. It is also recommended that you take 1 gram of vitamin C every day.
  • A normal set of sheets, not 2 flat sheets like the missionary pages say. Mattresses are almost always the normal size
  • Stamps. Your mail back home will go through the Church pouch to a post office in Salt Lake City. From there, you'll need a US stamp to send letters home. Your parents can send you more stamps if they have to. Try to get the peel-off sticker stamps, since the humidity often ruins the gum-backed.
  • Sun block. You don’t need to bring a two-year supply. You can buy it there, but it will come in handy right away.
  • Umbrellas are recommended instead of rain jackets because jackets are too hot, but rainstorms are usually brief; although they are intense and occur regularly, you can usually plan to be indoors during rain. Really! You probably don't even need an umbrella; although, a small one that folds up and sits in the bottom of your backpack may come in handy.

What should I leave at home?

Pack light if you can. You will be packing frequently, and you won’t always have companions to help you carry your bags from one bus stop to another.
  • White blouses are not recommended for sisters, but cream or tan ones are fine. Knit tops are also fine, but don’t try to get away with t-shirts.
  • Kodak Advantix cameras. Leave them home. Yes, they're fun to use but you'll never find film or anywhere to develop it in Venezuela.
  • A coat or jacket. There are no seasons in Venezuela. It doesn't get cold, at least by North American standards. If you ever wish for a sweater, I’ll be surprised, but buy one then.
  • The Missionary Guide in English. Send it home if you want or abandon it in your dorm room at the MTC. Even if you don't understand much in your Spanish edition, you and your companion will not be studying from the English edition.
  • Iron. Your roommates probably already have an iron, or there is one in the apartment that was left behind. Usually, but not always. If you want to be the iron-man/woman for your roommates the whole mission, then bring a compact iron or travel iron.
  • The big red Spanish book they gave you in the MTC. Someone else already left his or hers behind in your apartment. Use that one.
  • Your good suit. Elders will seldom wear their suits in the field. They are required to wear a suit coat often in the MTC, but only seldom in the mission field (zone conferences, funerals, etc). A good suit may be a liability, since you'll be reluctant about wadding it up into a corner of your suitcase, and it probably won't fit you or won't be as stylish when you get home. If you do need to buy a new suit for your mission, don't feel you need buy a super-nice one that will last the rest of your life.
  • Extra toothpaste, laundry soap, or anything-you-can-get-once-you're-there. Don't bog yourself down with too much extra luggage. At the same time, don't throw out what you have, just don't buy a ton of extra Cheer™ or Colgate™.

Are Dockers™ okay?

The papers they give you for the MTC say absolutely not, and don’t try to wear them in the MTC because they watch for that sort of thing. Honestly, though, in Venezuela, a lot of missionaries did wear them. They are durable and comfortable, so if you want to take Dockers™ to Venezuela just be sure to stick to dark colors. Also, if you bring only Dockers™ to the MTC, that constitutes a good excuse for you and your companion to take an approved outing to the mall. (And you thought that this was going to be a page of only good advice!)

Do I need an electrical power conversion kit?

Electrical devices from the United States will work fine in Venezuela, although most plugs do not have a ground. An electric shaver is fine.

What sorts of things will I eat?

  • arepas - unleavened biscuits made of corn flour, delicious.
  • arroz con leche - a dessert similar to rice pudding.
  • chicha - a drink made with rice, sweetened condensed milk, and cinnamon, delicious. Nothing at all like that Argentine drink you may have heard of.
  • empanadas - Deep fat fried, moon-shaped pockets made from corn meal and stuffed with various things including: cheese, beef, hamburger, potato, cazon (shark), pabellon (beef, black beans, rice, fried bananas).
  • hallacas - a Christmas specialty, not unlike tomales, but uniquely Venezuelan. You'll just have to try it, delicious. (Don’t let your companion tell you that your supposed to eat the banana leaf.
  • mondongo or morsilla (a soup of intestines) should be avoided.
  • pabellon - meat (carne mechada), black beans, rice, and fried bananas.
  • pasticho - Venezuelan lasagna that includes vegetables.

Do they recommend glasses or contacts for this mission?

Thanks to
Tyson Boyter for this question July 1, 2002
Due to the chance of infection, they recommend that gas permeable contacts. The transition from soft to hard may be difficult, but it should work out all right. You should take solutions and supplies to last your whole mission, and bring your glasses as backup.Thanks to Mike Summers and Diana Elquist for their help with this answer, July 2, 2002.

How will I wash my clothes?

Clothes washing can be done in the sink, or you can take your clothes down to a local Laundromat. Sometimes you can even find a full service laundry where you can just drop off your clothes and pick them up later that day. If it is done at home, you will have to hang dry your clothes, but it is a lot cheaper. A Laundromat, however, will save you time, and you will be able to do more on your p'day. Many sisters prefer to hand wash all their clothes, so bring things that can be washed easily.

How long does the mail take?

Mail is slow to arrive. Maybe about a month for a letter to get there and back.

What kind of music can I listen to?

Mission rules regarding music change with each president, and each president may modify these rules as problems develop. Try finding
the most recently returned missionaries in the database and sending one or two of them an email asking about the current mission rule.

President Hoffman started with a very permissive rule regarding music. Everything uplifting was fine. Many North American missionaries would bring LDS pop music from the Deseret bookstore. This music has very uplifting messages, but the melodies are very much like anything else you might hear on the radio which lead to conflicts with our Venezuelan companions who didn’t understand the lyrics, so they didn’t feel uplifted at all.

One of the webmasters companions had a very clever idea regarding local music. She wanted to collect some Venezuelan pop music to listen to when she went home, but she didn’t want to break any mission rules about listening to such music, so she only bought music in the CD format. As she only had a tape player with her, there was no temptation to listen to the music before returning home.

What kind of shoes should I buy?

Elders, get the good shoes. Really. Spend some money. Those $100 Rockports™ are great. Those $120 Doc-Martins™ that your-mom-doesn't-think-are-necessary are equally wonderful. You need them. You have permission to spend exuberant amounts of money on your shoes. Don't wait to buy them on sale, and don't save $10 on the almost-Rockports™. Go into debt to get the good shoes if you have to. (Rockports™ used as an example here, but I never heard any elder wish they hadn't bought Rockports™.) You can get your rubber-soled shoes re-soled in the field if they wear out.

Sisters: the web master hated her Rockports™. They were just so hot that she was terribly uncomfortable all the time. If you wear socks, you will probably have better luck with them, but I was much more comfortable when I bought myself a lovely pair of leather sandals like every body else; however, rumor has it that sandals are illegal now. If you seem doomed to wear those bulky-but-sturdy walking shoes, you can try making yourself more comfortable with some foot or baby powder, which is also widely available in Venezuela; however, the webmaster found that this was only helpful until about noon. The web master also tried wearing knee high nylons when she first arrived. They were quite uncomfortable and looked awful. All of my skirts were calf-length and the tops of my knee-highs were often visible. If you can make socks work for you, this is might be the way to go, but rumor has it that knee-high nylons are required for zone conferences and Sunday meetings. Contact the mission president’s wife for current dress code requirements (including blouses, hair and makeup). Click here for the mission address and phone number. Thanks to Gina Barker, Christine Brame and Kathee Lucero for help with this question, November 21, 2002.

What kind of suitcase should I take?

Get something durable, lightweight, and something that can bulge a little if it has to. Grandpa's old suitcases might do the trick. On the way to one missionary’s first area, all of the suitcases fell out of the bus and onto the freeway, and grandpa's heavy suitcase saved the day. They all got their suitcases back, but he’s been home three years and there's still gravel from the Caracas freeway in his suitcase.

Should I take an eighteen month supply of tampons with me?

Thanks to a current missionary of the
Maracaibo Mission for this excellent question. Elders may skip this part.
That depends on how fussy you are. If you don’t mind cardboard applicators, then you will be able to buy Tampax™ brand tampons in Venezuela. If you really prefer the plastic applicators, then you need to bring them with you. If you have trouble making room in your suitcase for all your tampons, try taking them out of the box and putting them in gallon-sized Zip-Loc™ bags. They might get a little squished, but they should survive all right, and they will take up a lot less room. If you prefer maxi pads, you might have the same trouble finding your favorite brand (with wings), but you will be able to find something (disposable). One of the webmaster’s Venezuelan companions was very opinionated on the tampon/maxi pad choice. She was of the opinion that tampons were wholly inappropriate for "good"girls and preferred to use maxi pads exclusively. Also of note: Many missionaries find the first few months so stressful that their bodies didn’t menstruate. If this happens to you, don’t worry. it won’t last forever.

How often will you be able to attend the temple?

Thanks to
Bryce Esplin for this question, July 11, 2002.
The web master served in Venezuela before the temple was built, but based on her experience in Oregon, she believes that the mission policy regarding the frequency of temple attendance will change often.

What about transportation?

There are only three cars in the mission: one for the mission president, one for the mission president's wife, and one for the mission office. There are no bikes in the mission because the traffic is so dangerous, and the use of public transportation is a wonderful way to contact people. Most of your getting around will be done by bus, taxi and on foot. Buses and carritos run routes throughout most of the cities and are fairly inexpensive. They can get you close to where you want to go, and your feet will get you the rest of the way.

Will I travel directly from Provo to Venezuela?

It’s very hard to answer that question. In 1991, getting a visa to enter Venezuela was the easiest thing in the world. The flight attendants handed them out just before passengers landed in Caracas. No kidding! Carlos Andres Perez was president, and in spite of his many faults, he encouraged tourism from the United States. Ever since Chavez became president, missionaries have occasionally had to wait for their visas. Sometimes, they only have to wait a few days, sometimes only a few weeks, but lately, the political situation has been very dangerous. It’s been at least four months since anyone has been called to serve in Venezuela.

The December group was the last group to register as current missionaries. They entered the MTC on December 11, 2002. That group included: Cameron Christiansen, Justin Gilbert, Chris Hare, Thomas Lowden, Jennifer Owens, Matthew Rusch and Anthony Selino. They completed their training February 11, 2003.

The November group entered the MTC on the 20th. That group included Matt Appel. They completed nine-weeks of training on January 21, 2003.

The October group entered the MTC on the 30th. That group included: Adam Barrus, Mike Call, Joseph Davis, Parker Donat, Bryce Esplin, Kimberly Kimber, Stephen Melson, Scott Peterson and Samuel Wilson. They completed nine-weeks of training on December 31, 2002. Elder Barrus is still serving in the Georgia Atlanta Mission. Elder Esplin served in the Alabama Birmingham Mission for nine weeks before being transferred to Venezuela on March 3, 2003. Sister Kimber served in the United States for ten weeks before being transferred to Venezuela on March 18, 2003. Elder Melson is serving in the California Oakland Mission. Elder Peterson is also serving in the California Oakland Mission. Thanks to Kirk Barrus, Aaron Burns, Jason Kimber, Kim Peterson and other family members for these updates, 03/11/03, 03/18/03, 04/26/2003.

The September group entered the MTC on the 18th. That group included Nathan Milward. He completed his nine-weeks of training on November 26. He served in the Texas Fort Worth Mission for three months. He arrived in Venezuela on February 17.Thanks to his family for this update, February 22, 2003.

The August group entered the MTC on the 7th. This group included Tyson Boyter, Zachary Edwards, Walt Garrett, Lorin Merkley, Valerie Prince and Ryan Willis. They completed nine-weeks of training on October 8, 2002. Elder Boyter didn’t have to wait for his visa. He traveled directly to Venezuela. Elder Merkley served about six weeks in the Idaho Boise Mission. He arrived in Venezuela in mid-November. The current unrest had not yet begun at that time. Thanks to Sister Merkley and other family members for these updates, 03/17/03, 03/20/03.

Can I drink the water?

No! Drink bottled water or soda instead. It can get to be expensive, but not half so expensive as illness. Seek out the joy that is Malta. Malta Polar is the best. At first, it will taste like shredded wheat juice, but many missionaries learn to love the stuff. Do not confuse Malta with cerveza (beer). The same company (Polar) makes them, and the bottles look the same. Soda comes in many interesting flavors, including:
  • Pepsi (pronounced pexi)
  • Sprite (pronounced esprite)
  • chinotto (lemon lime)
  • manzanita (apple)
  • pineapple (the webmasters personal favorite)
  • orange
  • grape
  • frescolita (red bubble gum taste)

What's the weather like?

Obviously, being so close to the equator, it is hot. Down in the plains (los llanos), the temperature was commonly about 35 C (95 F) -- and the humidity did not help at all, either. In and around Caracas, it was not uncommon for the temperature to be in the 35 C range, as well. However, the humidity down there was not near as bad, and it did cool off at night. In fact, many missionaries bought wool sweaters to wear in the late evenings when it was down right cold (by Venezuela standards that is - perhaps 15 C, 60 F). Thanks to
Christine Bramefor help with this answer, June 20, 2002.

Miscellaneous tips

  • Laminate everything you can: church pictures, your discussions, etc. Your discussions will probably get ruined if they are not laminated and/or bound together. You can have this done in the MTC.
  • Learn to lead music. If you can play piano, you will have the nicest baptismal services in the mission.
  • In the MTC, you will be taught not to use the familiar tu even with your own companion. This is fine for the MTC, as it fits in with the MTC culture, but don't take them too seriously, or assume that you won't use the second person familiar once you get to Venezuela. Learn tu. Other missionaries are almost always tu. Some Venezuelan sisters prefer to address the elders in usted. Some people you teach will become offended if you address them always with the formal usted. Some people not from Colombians always use usted, even with pets! Maracuchos (your companions from Maracaibo) use vos, so you should pay attention to those vosotros conjugations as well, and not just for reading your scriptures. One time a Venezuelan from Spain referred to her missionaries as vosotros, and the elder just about burst out laughing, but Spaniards really do use that form, and it isn’t strange at all.
  • You will get wet during carnival. Accept this fact now. If the kids on the street do not get you with water balloons, the members will get you with buckets. Just protect your books and enjoy the festivities. Don't participate in water fights yourself. It isn’t in keeping with the dignity of your calling.
  • Bring just a one-strap bag instead of backpack. They’re better looking than backpacks. If you plan to buy your bag at the MTC, consider bringing along a nice patch to decorate it with. All those bags end up in a heap at zone conference, and sometimes it’s hard to tell which one is yours.
  • Take the proper precautionary measures suggested in the MTC to avoid physical harm caused by contaminated food and water. Purify your water, clean your food, do not eat from street vendors. Stay healthy!
  • The entire country is beautiful. On your p-days, enjoy the outdoors of Venezuela. Take a hike. Visit a park or an aquarium. Take a trip to the docks at the harbor, look at the monstrous ships. Visit the Venezuelan forts from the colonial period. Get up early and watch the sun rise over the ocean. It is magnificent.
  • Follow the rules. They help protect you from all manner of danger.

***

Portions of this page were compiled from
the
Venezuela Maracaibo Mission Alumni page
by David G. Pope
the Venezuela Barcelona Mission Alumni page
by M. Hansen and Gayle Andrews and
the Venezuela Valencia Mission Alumni page
by Jeff Bullick, Jonathan Ward, Justin Yentes, Luis DeLeon and Collins Stevens.
Many thanks for their efforts.

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