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 Off to Brazil

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Borghild Bergstedt Paulsen

Another nice trip was in 1962. Finn had been called to preside over the south Brazil mission in 1961, and before Christmas of 1962 they invited us to come down and spend Christmas. Far was feeling quite well again after his operation in April 1962 for cancer of the prostate. We had even been on a trip to New York in August to visit Kristine and Lynn, who were married in 1961. So we got ready for our Brazil trip.

We left Salt Lake about 10 a.m., and four hours later we were in New York. Kristine met us at the airport. We stayed there two days. They took us to the airport. It was in the evening when we took off. When we were seated, we were sharing the seat with a woman from Uruguay who had been visiting in New York. When she learned we were going to Rio de Janeiro, she asked us if we had ever been there before. We said, "No." She said, "Well, you exchange places with me" (She was sitting by the window). "I can sit on the inside because I've been there so many times and you must see Rio when we land." I was pleased to be able to rest my head on a pillow propped against the window, because I was very tired and I felt that if I didn't sleep I would probably be air-sick. Well, I fell right asleep and slept until they brought supper. I fell asleep again until they said, "Breakfast is being served. We will land in Rio in half an hour." When we arrived in Rio, we got out of the plane and were walking to the terminal, when I heard someone calling me with a Norwegian accent, "Borghild!! Borghild!!" I thought I was hearing things. That sounds like my own name. As we neared the building we looked up on the 3rd floor verandah, and there stood Finn and Sara. They had been calling me. They weren't allowed to come out. We had to go through customs and meet them.

Finn took us right to the hotel and then ordered a taxi for the whole day and took us all over this beautiful city of Rio. We went out in the country to so many natural beautiful spots. We stopped on the way by the sea and had a delicious lunch of shrimps. I love all kinds of shell fish. The driver showed us many interesting things. He spoke Portuguese, and I understood many of the words because they resemble English and Norwegian. Sara couldn't get over it. She said that when she first came, she couldn't understand one word, they all seemed to run together, and "here you can pick out all these words." I said, "Well, that's because it's Norwegian or English. Otherwise I couldn't." We had a wonderful time on the Copa Cabana beach there. Then we flew to Curitiba, where the mission home was. When we arrived, the children had bouquets of flowers for us and were so happy to see us. They drove us up to the mission home which was just like a castle. It was called the White Castle by the people in Curitiba and was considered the most beautiful home in all the city. It had beautiful gardens and inlaid walks of white and black stones. And that was our home from Christmas until February. In the meantime we traveled a lot. We went with Finn to conferences, mostly by taxi plane. There could only be four of us in the plane including the pilot.

President Hugh B. Brown and President and Sister Theodore A. Tuttle, who presided over the South American missions, came to visit the mission, and we all went on a trip to the Iguazu Falls, which is way out in the jungle. President Brown's daughter and her friend were also with us on this trip. We flew by plane to a settlement which was a two-hour jeep ride from the Falls. There had been so much rain that it was doubtful that the plane would be able to take off. But finally the weather cleared briefly, and we were able to go. It was the only plane that took off for days. The air was rough. l got so air sick that I almost wanted to die. It didn't look too hopeful to land because of the rain. We had to land in a dirt field that was nothing but mud because of the rain. We hired a jeep that took us from the little settlement where we landed out to our hotel at Iguazu Falls. Three countries come together at this spot -- Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina. The waterfalls at Iguazu were simply magnificent. I think it is considered one of the seven wonders of the world. The road to the Falls was very bumpy and rough. President Brown was sitting with the driver in the front seat, and every time we bumped up and down he gave a holler. But you could tell he was enjoying it. I was still sick. When we got to this beautiful, modern hotel in the middle of the jungle, it was just unbelievable. They said, "Now, maybe we ought to take a little nap before dinner." So they all went to take a nap, but when I looked out of the window from my room and saw a big beautiful swimming pool, I decided that I could rest anytime and I was going to take a nice swim in this warm water (I had brought my bathing suit with me). When we met at dinner, they were talking about who had napped and who hadn't. When they heard that I had gone swimming someone said, "Why didn't we go swimming too; we didn't sleep anyway." Although I doubt if any of them had their bathing suits with them or could have rented one.

We had a wonderful time while we stayed there for two days. We had a guide who drove us over the river right close to the falls. You had to know how to navigate or you would have gone right over the falls. He took us right over to the edge of the falls on a small island, where we talked and had pictures taken. We took nice walks through the dense jungle and enjoyed the sight of the falls from many different vantage points, When it came time to leave, we were on one of the few planes that was able to take off because of more rain. President Brown was able to meet all his appointments when he left Curitiba.

We had many nice trips when we were down there. In February we had been on a long trip in an air taxi to a conference with Finn and Sara. On our way back, we stopped in Porto Alegre. That night we found out that Far's cancer was recurring. There was blood in his urine. This of course put a damper on everything and made us all feel pretty bad. We got home the next day and took him to the doctor who spoke very encouragingly and said, "He'll live to be an old man. But if I were you I would take him home to see his own doctor." So we arranged to get off as soon as we could and flew back to New York. Kristine met us at the airport again and the next day we flew home to Salt Lake. I remember Far saying how sad it was to leave Brazil, and the family there felt pretty bad too. I think we all felt that this was the last time that they would see Far alive. We had previously decided to stay in Brazil until April. Then we were going to fly from Curitiba to Oslo and spend six months in Norway, and maybe come back to Brazil again in the fall and have another summer down there when it would have been winter here. In spite of everything, we did have a nice summer at home. Far had to take x-ray treatments. Although he didn't feel very well, I think he did enjoy the summer. We both did. I was able to stay home and take care of him, and it was such a beautiful, long summer. We practically lived out on the front porch. He had a fish dinner, which he loved, almost every day. If people sent him anything, they sent him fish. I hope they do know how much he appreciated it and how much he loved it. In spite of the cancer, we enjoyed our last summer together. We ate nearly all our meals on the front porch until the last of November, the weather was so beautiful. After that we had to stay in the house.

On the 8th of December, we were invited to Abel and Bonnie's for dinner and to celebrate Abel's birthday. Far was able to go, although he was pretty weak by this time. Coming home and helping him up the steps, Abel said, "Well, this will be the last time Far will walk these steps." And it was. From then on he seemed to be through with the world. He didn't seem to worry about business or anybody any more. Even up to the last night he lived, he didn't give up hope for recovery, however. That night I could feel his hands were getting cold, and I was afraid the end was pretty near. He said to me, "I just can't take this any longer." I said, "Well, would you feel like it would be good to be able to go now?" He waited a minute and said, "No, we can't give up." So he went back to sleep again. I felt his hands every so often and he kept getting colder and colder. Towards morning, I knew the end was near, so I phoned the children, and about 6 o'clock they all came. Finn was in Brazil and Kristine was in New York, but Art and Berg, and Carl and Abel came. We stood around the bed. He kind of motioned to me, and I said, "Do you want something to drink?" And he said, "Yes." I gave him a drink, and we waited a few minutes and he got a little restless again. I asked him if he wanted another drink. He just shook his head and then he was gone. So it was a beautiful death. It was just like a candle that had been blown out. This was Saturday, the 28th of December, 1963. After the mortician came to take his body, we all went up and picked out his clothing and his casket. We got his announcement into the Tribune and the Deseret News. The viewing was on Sunday. There were so many people who came. They stood in line for blocks, and many couldn't get in because of the crowd.

The funeral was Monday because the next day would be New Years Eve. We were really surprised the way people turned out for his funeral. When we walked out of the Relief Society room into the chapel and saw the large congregation, I just couldn't believe it. The chapel was filled to capacity, even out into the cultural hall. Far always felt badly because he didn't finish out his mission in Norway in 1913-1914. The war had broken out, and the missionaries were all sent out of Europe. Far had spent several months in a sanitarium with tuberculosis before his release to come home. I felt that his funeral service was like a missionary farewell, that this was another mission he was going on. Everything turned out so well. The flowers were beautiful. The speakers were fine. Nothing could have been nicer.

When it was all over, Kristine, who had come home for the funeral, wanted me to go back to New York with her, which I did. I stayed there until the first part of March, when Lynn was offered a job as the Manager of the Clark-Leaming store in Ogden, and they decided to move out west.

We loaded everything on two U-Haul trailers (mostly furniture). Kristine and Lynn each drove a car pulling the trailers. On our way out, driving over a mountain pass in Wyoming, the wind was so terrific and the road so slippery that it threw us right over to the edge of a big canyon. Kristine was able to stop the car, although one of the wheels of the U-Haul had gone over the edge of the road, but it held. I remember how I held little Melissa and jumped out of the car because I was sure it was going to go down the canyon, and Kristine did the same. While I was standing there my dress blew right up over my head, and other cars were coming down this steep slippery mountain. But we were able to get help through the Highway Patrol, and they pulled us out with a "wrecker". We got on our way again and made it safely home, although we had a difficult time getting over the summit in Parley's Canyon There, two young men, who had been out rabbit hunting, came along in a jeep and pulled us up to the Rasmussen store at the summit. We were then able to drive on down the canyon and home. It was dark then. We knew that there had been a higher power with us and that our time and mission weren't fulfilled, so that we were able to make it home. When I think of it now, it makes me shiver. Whenever I see a U-Haul trailer, it makes me feel the way I felt at that time.

Before we left New York, Finn had written and asked me to come down to Brazil as soon as I could. They were going to have a Relief Society conference, and Sara wanted me to be down for that. As soon as I got home, I got my ticket and flew right down to Brazil. Each time I had been flying through New York, Kristine had always been there to help me get to the right place. I had always marveled how she was able to do it. I had thought I could never do it. But this time when I was on my own, there was nothing to it. They gave me detailed instructions at the Murdock Travel Agency as to just how to transfer planes in Chicago and Miami, so I didn't have to ask a soul. When I got to Sao Paulo, Finn was there to meet me. We flew to Curitiba, which was almost like coming home. I stayed with them until August 1964, when Finn and Sara were released. I enjoyed every minute of it. The country is so beautiful. I was able to go with the children frequently when Sara was too busy. We went for long walks. They belonged to a swimming club where everything was just tip top. The meetings, the testimonies of the missionaries and Saints, and the association with the missionaries coming and going was really an experience that strengthened my testimony. It was inspirational to see the change and development in the people who were baptized. It just seemed to change them overnight. It was all so wonderful that I'll always be grateful for the opportunity I had of being able to go down there.

Coming home, we were able to visit many parts of Brazil, including many cities where Finn had labored when he was a young missionary down there. We also were able to stop in New York for the World's Fair. When we arrived home, it was thrilling to see all the people that were at the airport to meet the family. You could see that they were loved. It wasn't just relatives, but there were so many friends happy to see us. And we were happy to be back, although it was somewhat sad to see the close of this chapter of our life. But it had been a wonderful chapter, and we will ever be grateful for the opportunity to try to spread the gospel in Brazil. I had so many wonderful experiences when we went to conference, and I bore my testimony. Even if the people didn't know English, they frequently came up to tell me they understood everything I had said. I remember in one place, there was a little old German brother who had lived in Brazil for many years. He had kept up the German language and hadn't tried to learn the Portuguese, which was typical of many German immigrants. He came up to me after the meeting and said, "You know, when you bore your testimony you spoke as if you had just arrived from Hamburg. I understood everything you said." It made me feel good to be able to bear testimony in the foreign country and be understood.

One of the comical experiences I had down in Brazil was when the Miss Brazil (who was also chosen as Miss Universe) was going to come to Curitiba and speak to the people there. I asked the girls if they wouldn't like to go down town and see her. They didn't seem too interested, but Louisa said, "I'll go with you." We walked down town and stood on the curb until Miss Brazil came by, and we saw her up close. We found out she was going to speak in another part of town, so we decided to go over there. There were thousands of spectators gathered, and for 6-year old Louisa to see her would be hard. We saw a little balcony on a big building. I said, "I saw a few people go up there, so let's go up and we can probably see her from there. We went up, and as we stood there (waiting to see where she would appear from) the crowd started to yell, "Hooray! There she is!", pointing to me. They threw their hats in the air and everybody made a lot of fuss over me as if I were Miss Universe. (The Brazilian people have a great sense of humor). Of course when I saw what was happening, I laughed and hurried down the steps; so did the other people who were there. Just as we got down, Miss Universe stepped out from a door on to the balcony where we had been standing. When we got home, they were just serving dinner. When we told them what had happened, they were all sorry they hadn't been there.

One day we read in an American magazine about a Brazilian woman who had promenaded around, covered with all kinds of strange decorations -- gum and candy wrappers, and various trinkets, thinking she was a royal personality. Since she was from Brazil, we were very interested in the pictures they had of her and got quite a kick out of it. On our way home, we stopped in the city called Black Gold, Brazil. Who should we see on the street but this very lady, with all her decorations on, coming right up to me and putting her arms around me. She had a moth-eaten fur piece around her neck, although it was a warm day. Strange happening.

Another thing I will always remember was when Far and I took the children down to a beach for a few days. The beaches of the whitest sand in Brazil stretch for miles. We enjoyed going in the ocean and tumbling on the big waves of the South Atlantic, which has the warmest ocean water I have ever been swimming in. While we were tumbling in the waves, Susan who was about eight, got caught in one and didn't seem to be able to get a foothold. She was going around and around, and it scared me stiff. Finally, she did get her feet on the bottom and up she came with a smile as big as all outdoors, with her big dimples, throwing her head backwards just as if nothing had happened, happy as a lark. Also when we went swimming at the club, there was a very high springboard about 30 feet high. Shauna, Margie, and Susan jumped from that. Some of them were pretty scared, but it didn't seem to bother Susan, and we all got a kick out of watching her.

Another thing that was different from anything I had ever seen was the cemeteries in Brazil. Many of the graves had beautiful little doll-like houses built over them. In this house you would see artificial flowers, doilies, and pictures of the deceased from childhood till death. We found it interesting to take walks through the various cemeteries.

While I was down there, I was reminded of a dream my father had when I was a child. He dreamed that he had been to another country where everything was so beautiful, green, and pretty with vivid colored flowers. He described trees that somewhat resembled our Norwegian pine trees. As the trees grew, the bottom branches fell off until there were only the top branches left, making them look like umbrellas. Of course he had never seen anything like that before. The day after he told us about the dream, my oldest brother Johan came home from the office and said to my father, "Tonight there is going to be a lecture given in the city. The lecturer has been to Brazil where he has taken a lot of slide pictures. I would like you to go with me." My father said he wanted to go. In those pictures he saw the very trees and scenery he had dreamed about. The tree is called the Parana Pine, and it and grows profusely in the state where the South Brazilian Mission was. When I saw those trees, I remembered the dream my father had years before.

One of the most memorable times in Brazil was the occasion when we went to another city to witness a baptismal service. There were six people being baptized. Four belonged to the same family. One of them was a blind boy. They were very poor. I remember that the river where they were baptized and the scenery around it was one of the most beautiful sites I have ever seen. The sun was just setting over the river. Here, the elders baptized them one at a time. One couldn't help but think of the baptism of Jesus Christ and Joseph Smith.

I have often longed to take another trip back to Brazil and now it looks as if my longings will become a reality in just a few weeks. I am planning to take a trip with Finn and Sara to Brazil, South Africa, Norway, Denmark and England. We plan to leave on the 28th of December. Sara's sister, Margaret, and her husband, Charles Merkley, are also planning to go on the trip with us. As a Regional Representative of the Twelve, Finn will be conducting regional conferences in Brazil and South Africa.

This brief collection of experiences is not intended to be a complete story of my life but only a few highlights that came to mind as I talked to Carol about some of the things that have happened to me in a very rich and happy life. I feel that I have always been blessed with good health, and I am most grateful for the Gospel that came to me in my youth and for the direction it has given my life.

My family has always been and continues to be my greatest source of satisfaction and happiness.

I look forward to many years of joyful living with my family.


December 6, 1970

Transcribed by Carol Paulsen


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