Monday, April 27, 2015

Coming home!

Abram will be coming home this Wednesday night!  His letters the past few weeks have been more of back and forth working out logistics, registering for classes this fall at BYU, and stuff like that.  I was out of town last week and didn't ever get around to posting an update or pictures.  It's a two for one this time.

But two very special things happened in the last weeks of the mission.  A very special family got baptized, and so did an adorable little girl.  Abram says that is the highlight of how he could have ended his mission.

Also, Poza Rica is the hottest place in Mexico.  Hot and humid.  Temps drop to around 110 at night, but it has been really oppressive heat for the past month.  Coming home to Oregon will be quite a relief.  Abram actually said he was hoping to finish his mission in the heat of Poza Rica so that coming home to cool Oregon will be ever more exciting than ever.

Anyway, we're pretty freaking out excited that he will be home after two years.  Here are the pictures from his last couple of weeks.

A happy baptism day for this family.

 Abram loves this family so much, and will miss them a great deal.
 This is his new favorite picture from Xalapa.
 A typical park in Poza Rica.
 Happy 20th birthday to Elder Cox!
 This family lived in the north of Mexico for a while where they perfected the art of making the best burritos in Mexico.
 Fútbol buddies.
 A spider on a 117-degree day.
 Sideways, sorry.
 A baptism for a sweet little girl.
 The best paper maché gift a missionary ever received.
 The kids surprised Abram by dumping a bowl of pancake mix over his head as their way of saying goodbye.
 Four buddies together for one last time.
 Abram said goodbye to Elder Garcia this morning.

Abram will go to the mission home tomorrow, and then on a bus to Veracruz Wednesday morning.  He flies home with two other Elders from Portland, so that will be a fun adventure for the three of them to come home all together.

Monday, April 6, 2015

23 days!

This week should be a memorable one. On Sunday we are have a baptismal service programmed for a whole family! It shall be the first time in my mission that I'll baptize a married couple and their children. Well, more precisely, they only have one child. Little K is the most spontaneous child I have met. He's also the Plants vs. Zombies expert. I have had wonderful experiences teaching them and feeling the Spirit become more and more prominent in the home. My ''cookie mom'' from this ward is helping us by friendshiping and praying and studying the scriptures with the family every day of the week. I'm really so glad to be going home on such a positive note!

Who looks more dead, the cat or I?

 The sweet family getting baptized this week.
 Silly selfie.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Catching up

The past couple of weeks didn't bring a letter from Abram, rather just some back-and-forth chats making plans for registering for school this fall and such.  But we did get some fun photos.

A Oaxacan taco treat.
 Birthday pizza for this abuela.
 A giant rain storm.

 A beautiful sunset.

 My favorite food--mole!
 At the park waiting for the other missionaries to arrive and play fútbol.
 My favorite icon I have found in Mexico.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Sending a missionary to Mexico (what you need to know)


I'm Abram's mom.  I've been posting his letters and pictures to this blog for almost two years now.  I know that when searching google for terms like "Xalapa mission" or "LDS missionary mexico" a lot of traffic is sent to this blog.  I'm hoping this might help some of you who are preparing to serve in Xalapa, or the Veracruz and Tampico missions as well.

What clothes have been the best?  We got all of Abram's shirts at Costco.  12 short sleeve and 1 long sleeve. They have lasted entirely longer than the shirts that other missionaries bought at one of the predatory missionary stores along the Wasatch front.  Those shirts won't last six months.  Six of the twelve that Abram took are still holding together, although getting a bit tattered.  They aren't pretty, but they are still working.  I'm glad we bought 13 shirts so he could rotate out the really gross ones.

Buy the cheapest suit possible.  Your missionary will only be wearing it at the MTC and to zone conferences on the mission.  Luckily Abram and his dad are the same size, so we just sent him with one of his dad's suits, and it has been perfect.

We got all of Abram's dress pants at Ross for less than $20 each.  I bought 10 pairs, and five of them are still in existence.  They were Calvin Klein brand, and they have help up remarkably well.

The mission material said to bring a raincoat, umbrella,  jacket and a sweater.  There are areas of the mission that do get cold, and there is a definite rainy season.  My advice is to go ahead and buy a good quality lightweight and WATERPROOF rain jacket (Mt. Hardwear has an excellent one).  The missionary will need it in most areas of the mission.  However, umbrellas, sweaters and jackets can all be purchased for a good price on the mission, and aren't worth the space in luggage to haul to the MTC and all around Mexico.

The most important purchase is shoes.    If a missionary needs a new shirt or pair of dress pants, those can be found in Mexico.  But the really good shoes he or she will need....not so much.  Don't even look at the missionary mall or Mr. Mac.  Those shoes will not hold up, and will likely not offer the comfort and support that two years of being actively on your feet will require.  Abram took three pairs of shoes with him.  First, a good pair of typical Sunday dress shoes.  We bought these at Nordstrom Rack.  They were excellent quality and very comfortable.  Those shoes he has mostly worn just to meetings and church.  They are completely worn through.  His every day shoes were the Danner Romeo office 4" boot.  They have endured countless days of walking dirty, rocky streets.  They are made to be comfortable and to hold up under severe conditions.  The nice thing about these besides the sturdy sole is the higher top that keeps the rocks and dirt out of the shoe.  He has had a problem with one area of one sole coming off of the shoe, but that is easily repaired in Mexico.  The very best purchase for sure was the Danner Striker Torrent 8" (non-insulated) police boots.  It might not be the most fashionable shoe to wear with dress pants, but let me tell you, these boots will survive anything.  They are entirely waterproof and are made to withstand extreme wear.  If you take one piece of advice, please get these boots.

Everyone should also bring a pair of soccer cleats.  Futbol is a way of life in the Xalapa mission.  Be prepared to play.  You can buy them down there (they are called kidding), but you might as well bring some with you. If you don't play soccer, go outside and start kicking a ball with your brothers and sisters.  You need to play soccer in Mexico.

Sister missionaries, you should not listen to any of that stuff above, other than get a good raincoat.  Putting together things in my head, if I were going to serve in Xalapa, I would take a bunch of cotton knit skirts and dresses.  Lands End is your friend.  Their cotton knit skirts and dresses are really comfy and well made.  I would also buy every color of t-shirt available at Target.  You are going to sweat a lot.  Really right now the knit fabric skirts are everywhere, and they are super cute.  For shoes, I would probably buy Sorel shoes.  I'm not talking snowboots.  They have an amazing collection of flats and other office shoes and booties that are made to last, and made for comfort.  Many of their styles are waterproof, too.  The other shoes that I would recommend Also a pair of Keen sandals.  Hair accessories will be a must as well, so ribbon headbands are something I would also bring in every color. That tropical heat is no place to try to have fancy hair, so pull it back and put in a cute ribbon headband.

How do I mail stuff to Xalapa?

As far as mailing boxes to Mexico, we have been very lucky.  I sent a package every month to Abram, and they all made it.  Keep in mind the mission office only delivers the mail on the first Wednesday of each month (including pouch letters), and a USPS package takes an average of 3 weeks to arrive at the office from the US.

For every package I shipped, I printed a 4" color image of Guadalupe and taped it to the top of the box.  One thing you need to know about Mexico is that nobody messes with Guadalupe.  Abram has not even had a package opened or inspected.  They just move on through.  I print the postage online through the USPS website.  This saves about $5 per package.  You can also just click a box and the post office will come pick up your box the next morning from your doorstep.  You fill out the customs forms online, just say what you are sending is a gift, itemize it, and you are set.

For postage online, you can choose Priority or Priority Express.  The express will add about $10 to your package, and it will arrive about a week earlier, but there is no guarantee.  Postage for regular Priority is about $30 for the first two pounds.  Each additional pound is $2.  This works for packages up to 9 pounds.  So if you are already spending $30 to send 2 pounds of sour patch kids, you might as well get some more treasures to fill the box up a little more!

From time to time Abram needed things available from the LDS online store.  In this case, you can use the Mexico LDS online store--and even shop in English.  Everything will ship from a warehouse in Mexico and will get to your missionary very quickly.  Twice Abram had companions who did not have adequate scriptures, and I was able to order scriptures for those missionaries right from the Mexico website and not have to ship anything myself.

Abram's favorite things to get in packages was candy.  Also fruit snacks and random US snacks. He said it helped him remember that his family at home was real, and the gringo candy was fun to share with his Mexican friends.  I also from time to time would send Matchbox cars and bouncy balls for Abram to give to kids he met.

It's crazy how a place you've never heard of can instantly become your favorite place in the world when your kid is called to be a missionary there.  Abram has loved all of the areas in the Xalapa mission, from the high mountains of Puebla to the coast of Tuxpan, he has loved all the people and the members of the Xalapa mission!  Good luck.  You are going to love Xalapa.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Six weeks!

The package from last month finally arrived, and we were all so happy.  I had completely forgotten about delicious Scooby Snacks crackers, and my companion was freaking out that you can actually buy those in real life, and that they aren't just in a cartoon.  They reminded me that home is real, and not too far away.  I am also happy that you sent so much candy that I can share easily with all the niños around here.  It is so fun to share gringo candy with them.

Transfer news - I will be finishing the mission in the PetroMex Ward with Elder G. Just as expected. It feels so weird to start the transition into my last transfer ever.  Only six weeks left of my mission. 

We had a nice weekend with the baptism and confirmation of Carlos! He is the epitomy of living the law of consecration without having worldly goods. He works going around the city collecting garbage and recycling materials and taking them to the recycling plant, which is certainly not the stablest form of making a living. Things are complicated more by the fact that he lives in a little shack taking care of his 5 grandchildren, whose parents live far, far away and want nothing to do with the kids anymore. But he knows that he cannot turn his back on the hungry and needy, even if it means that he himself will not receive any worldly benefit at all. Life is hard for him. I imagine those kids almost never have breakfast. One of the tenderest moments of my mission was buying wafer cookies and juice to eat for breakfast with all the little kids during the baptismal service. I will never forget that feeling.  Such a good man, and such sweet little niños.  I will sure miss Mexico.
There's a Mexican modismo for catching someone red-handed: te agarré con los manos en la masa.  This is what that looks like.  We were making tamales.

 Just a random guy trying to help a stuck possum.

 We named this a watermelon spider.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Shoes--and 7 weeks to go!

Well, it's good I'll be home soon.  My shoes are definitely showing the wear of 2 years on a mission.  The office boots are actually in okay shape, I just have to get the front part of the sole sewn once every three months or so. The sole is getting a bit worn, too, but nothing compared to a normal pair of shoes. I actually gave the office boots to Elder G last week because his third pair of shoes already got worn down to the point of inusability (not sure if that's a word or not) and we have the same shoe size, so I just gave him those boots. The police boots are still 100% good to go. A little discolored but in perfect working condition, and still completely waterproof. That's the pair of shoes I'll have on in the airport to save three pounds in my suitcases. Those boots were definitely the best purchase for a missionary.

The Sunday shoes I brought, I will most likely be leaving those shoes here, as well. The left shoe is currently ripping in the back where the heel connects to the sole and the soles are about .03 centimeters thick now so I basically feel like I'm walking barefoot.  Those just get worn to meetings.

You'd be surprised how much I have walked in Mexico... probably more than Dad has run since I've been on the misión….

The only shirt I will be taking home is one that Elder O gave me a month ago that looks new. The rest of my shirts are completely trashed. The yellowness comes out after a good wash with bleach, but the necks are all starting to wear out and I've sewn up the sleeves of about 5 of the shirts at this point.

I'm down to six shirts and 5 pants, which means exactly half of my mission wardrobe has disintegrated.  Surprisingly, I'm still good on socks. I've only had one tear in the whole misión.

Elder G and I look forward to the last week of this transfer. We've been seeing a lot of blessings in our finding efforts recently. Most of the investigators we currently have are thanks to one street contact I made in December, Abraham. He is such a great guy, still hasn't gotten baptized, but thanks to him we went with his family and found Ilse, and his family has given us bounteous referrals to go out and talk with. Thanks to one invitation we made 3 months ago we have seen dozens of new faces coming to church and learning more about the góspel!

You can sign me up for the 4th of July 5k, s'il te plait! I'll do the shortest race so I don't hurt myself trying. I will do  my best to beat Savanna, but her legs are so long that I don't know if that is possible.  It was nice last Winter in Puebla because it was so freezing cold that I still got to experience the seasons. This year in Poza Rica I really haven't felt winter, though, so kind of the same deal as Troutdale, I suppose!

I only have a month and a half left now... that sure feels crazy! Next week I will write with the last transfer news I will ever have for my whole life. The most likely news is that I will stay here with Elder G to finish the misión, but anything is possible.

That's the most likely option. President Greer is faced with difficult choices as he will have so many missionaries going and a smaller amount arriving - this requires that certain áreas be closed. When áreas are closed transfers get even crazier. however, it's pretty likely I'll finish the misión here in Poza Rica.

All the missionaries who were together in the Macuiltepetl area of Xalapa are mostly now here in the Poza Rica area. 

At this same conference, I ran into nearly all  of my companions I have had on the mission!  That picture is at the top.

Monday, March 2, 2015

A rainy week (8 to go!)

Elder V is back in my ward, and I am so happy.  We all are working hard and having fun working together.

The current countdown is a quantity of days inferior to 60. Now that is crazy stuff. I get super excited for Mondays, too. It's weird to think that being a missionary is the only time of one's life that one comes to like Mondays above the other days of the week. Usually Monday is the least anticipated day of them all, but for a missionary that is certainly not the case. I'm pretty sure the last three days will be like you say - Tuesday I'll head down to Xalapa and Wednesday head down to Veracruz in a rented bus that will have at least 40 other missionaries in it.

What on Earth is a soap dispenser? I had actually forgotten that laundry detergent is not also used as hand soap.

I guess I somewhat look forward to having my own room again. The weirdest adjustment, I believe, will be not having to be with somebody 24/7. The first few days will definitely be dedicated to some great slumber parties with the guys playing cards and games and talking and wrestling just like the good old times.

I will actually be getting the package tomorrow! President is coming to Poza Rica tomorrow so we can watch Meet the Mormons as a zone.

Gene is finally retiring... he sure did have a great impact on my life all four years of high school, more so than any other teacher I had. 

What I can hardly believe is that general conference is in just a month. After conference I'll only have 3 weeks left.

The first trampoline I have seen in two years!
 Elder G with some cool kids.
 A lot of rain, and no umbrella.  At least my feet stayed dry!