Tuesday, December 31, 2013

¡Adios, amigo!

Why must my entire mission be so unique and interesting?... Guess what! Special transfer news at 5:00 - Elder S goes to Xalapa tomorrow and I get a new companion. His name is Elder Se. I met Elder Se the first day in Mexico because from my 'generation' there are like 30 gringos and he was the only Mexican and I was the only one who could talk with him while we waited. Let's hope he's just as fun! That'll be hard to beat...  I'll be a senior comp again. Special transfers hardly ever happen... they're sending Elder S to work in the mission offices (he also preaches after 4 PM each day) and he is getting three extra weeks for reason X and reason Y. The good news is he says every single package I get he'll send it up to me de volada! 

Elder S was finally going to be with the same comp 3 transfers and he just didn't make it! In any case, I don't have much time to write today because we have to go back home so he can pack his suitcases and clean up the house. We didn't really get a whole lot of warning time!  Thank you, Elder S. I'll miss you, buddy!

Well, what a fun week with Christmas time in Mexico! My favorite part was definitely the Skype call to my family. Needless to say being ripped off of my Mother's day call only made the Christmas call more special. It was also special because our friend was nice enough to lend us his computers.  

This week we worked our butts off finding and searching every nook and cranny for somebody who might want to come to church... and nothing came through. Thankfully, as we were just on the brink of disencouragement, our favorite sister of the branch told us that her granddaughter wants to get baptized. It was a very special lesson because it was the first person I have found who wanted to be baptized before we even taught her. She'll be baptized this Sunday because she's gone to church before (and her grandma's an angel)! 

Again, I apologize for not having much time, but you know, ''I'll go where you want me to go!''' says Elder S.

I love you!
 Lost in Translation.  ¡El freno de cafe!

 This is my pig.  His name is Francisco, and in a few short years a family will eat him.
This is our angel member who will have her granddaughter baptized this weekend.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Almost Christmas

For the first time in my mission, I met somebody (not a missionary) who’s not from Mexico! I was walking down the street with Elder S when we both spotted a gringo in the distance. Now I realize how seriously out of place I look! We both went running to say hi to him. We only talked for about 30 seconds – he is a high school exchange student who is studying in Teziutlán and came out to Teteles to buy some random thing and that’s all he had time to say before he got in a taxi back to Teziutlán. But still, the first foreigner I’ve seen. Mexico is a closed country in that sense. Basically the only people here were born here and they’ve never moved.
Another interesting incident this week: A lady, who is investigating the church and is the mother of a member, called us on Thursday and asked if we would give a blessing to her mother who had fallen very ill. It turns out her liver was basically 90% gone and the doctor said there’s nothing that can be done. We went to give the blessing and the Spirit indicated that she wasn’t going to live, so that is exactly what the content of the blessing I gave was. A while after we had left the house, she died. It’s the first blessing I’ve given like that.
9 people who we are teaching showed up at the church yesterday.  It was awesome.
Ways to celebrate a Mexican Christmas:
1.       Decorations! Buy a fake cheap tree and put a couple of ornaments on it. Don’t get too fancy. Put one strand of lights on your house… somewhere… in a random fashion. Too many lights just scare people away. Also, make sure there’s a gigantic Santa Claus or virgin in one of your windows. And… that’s about it. People don’t go all out here, but they do the same kind of decorations on a minor scale.

2.       Go ahead and treat the 24th as if it were Christmas Day. Open all your presents and do all your festivities and just be lazy the 25th.

3.       ¡Piñatas! Buy piñatas as if it were a birthday party. Break them all in a row on the 24th singing the piñata song as the whole family takes turns. This tradition I plan on adopting.

4.       Bake pinguilos! It’s the Mexican Christmas bread. It basically looks like elephant ears but I’m pretty sure it’s not the same thing.

5.       Everybody drinks a lot of fruit punch. Legitimate fruit punch that they spend hours and hours preparing to make sure it’s perfect. Then you get little pieces of pineapple and so forth in the bottom of your cup to eat after you drink all you can handle.
Other than that, Christmas isn’t a whole lot different here! I mostly think it’s funny that piñata sales go through the roof.

This was our branch Christmas party that my companion and I organized.

 Changing out the gas. One nice thing about Mexico is that each time trucks drive by playing a different song depending on what they sell and if you need something and recognize the song you run outside and whistle. ¡Listo! Delivery at random.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Sheep do our yardwork!

Hello, world!

So it turns out this week is Virgin Guadalupe week… woulda thunk… it was very hard to teach people out here in rural Mexico because they were all too busy either dancing and lighting fires. The 12th was particularly crazy because it’s Virgin day. The whole world was out on the street going loco.

Something very funny this week was when we mowed our lawn. Here’s how you do it in rural Mexico: You find the local shepherds and ask them to come to your house with their sheep to eat your grass. The shepherds follow you herding their sheep in the street over to your house and you watch the sheep eat away. The best part is they do it for free! We traded our long grass for the service of having the grass removed. Barter and trade is a pretty sweet deal.

I’ve started collecting all sorts of Mexican coins. There is a special edition of 5 peso coin that has the face of a Mexican Independence or Mexican Revolutionary figure instead of the number 5 on the front. They are quite rare because the banks have incentivized that they don’t go back into circulation, so the collection of all 50 is worth 400 dollars! So far I have 11 of the 50. My goal is to complete the collection before I go. Also! I have found a bunch of old Mexican currency and have a lot of the old 1 peso coin to give to all the family as a gift.

On Saturday we had a stake Christmas dinner. More than anything it shocked me to see how many members there are in a ward! After being in a branch for so long, I had forgotten there was such a thing as youth or young adults and the like. There were like 400 people who were members packed in the cultural room! One part of the activity I liked was they had a fat guy in a Santa suit and beard and all the people were swarming over to him to take pictures instead of listen to the musical talents on stage. The whole deal was pretty funny and I enjoyed interacting with a whole stake of members in a night.

This Friday for the FHE party the missionaries are going to put on the Branch Christmas activity! Elder S and I are going all out for this one and everybody is assigned to bring a special Mexican Christmas food, so we'll see how it goes. 

This was the day we got the lawn mowed.
 Traditional Guadalupe celebrations.
 I think this guy on the road was drunk and decided to sleep there.
 A selfie in my new abrigo.  It is soooo cold here.
 Photo effects without a computer.  Iron Man!

Aubs, good job in school. You survived and you had fun, which is what freshman year is about. Hopefully your study skills are top notch and the rest will be easier for you.

Jake, prepare to be a missionary. It's quite an adventure at the least. Make sure to raise Sycther well. Also, remember, you can always dye your hair if you want.

Joel, keep those laughs a coming. Your charm is what earns you As in high school - I definitely saw that, too.

Noah, protect the white package at all costs!! Code blue, buddy, code blue!!

Savvy, I didn't know you were growing out your hair until I saw your picture! How awesome are you? Too awesome. ;)

Zack, can you send me more art? It brings smiles to me and my Mexican friends when we see your pieces of art come in the mail. Draw Elder Sanchez playing the electric bass so I can give it to him!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


Elder Dorrough and Elder S are staying together yet another transfer! Sweet!  In any case, I am very happy because Christmas is going to rock with my cuate Elder Sanchez as my comp. I am so happy.

We had a very interesting week! For starters, we got to perform a baptism in this area. Actually, we performed two. Our investigator V got baptized as did the 8 year old T in the family that has just come back to church. A soul was saved and really a whole family. It was also pretty cool because we basically had a day off. We have to travel down to the city to use a chapel to baptize which is like an hour away. We baptized V soon after Church so she could be with her family in the afternoon and then after we came back we went straight back to the same chapel to baptize T and then traveled an hour back again. Afterward we ate cake, coke, and tamales, the perfect Mexican combination of refreshments. Brother R (her dad) also ran over a dog on the way back home in the car. We all started busting out laughing so incredibly hard as we saw it in the headlights and felt the bumps. ''Creo que aplasté un perrito. Ni modo.''  It was actually sad, just so unexpected and random!

Friday we had a Mission Christmas Conference in Xalapa. Half of the missionaries from the mission went down to Xalapa and we had our only day off of the whole year. President and his wife gave talks, we watched some silly videos of missionaries, and we got to share talents. In any case, it was a fun day off just sitting and chatting and relaxing with a whole bunch of other missionaries and no stress. I got the Christmas packages! The candy canes actually made it whole! I don't know how, but it surprised me. Elder S: The house smells like chocolate. 
Me: Wait, chocolate smells?

President’s talk on Friday is definitely the turning point for this mission. The theme of the talk made me smile – scripture study as missionaries. President said, ‘’We are not here as missionaries to teach Preach My Gospel. We are here to teach the scriptures - and Preach My Gospel is our guide to help us teach the scriptures effectively.’’  He spent his time teaching us about how our use of scriptures as missionaries should be the same as Christ’s – any time people had a question he would refer chapter and verse to the answer. It is a mission rule now to read the Book of Mormon every morning as if it were a novel, and we are required to read the whole book in order at least once each year. Also, after zone conferences and things like that we usually did a little competition in which President has a couple candy bars up front and he asks a question and we have to flip open and find the answer in Preach My Gospel and say what page it’s on. The Elder who finds the page first wins the candy. He said now we’re going to change that – he’s going to read a scripture and we have to find it in the scriptures, with the same candy reward. You’d never guess who won four Snickers bars on Friday.

Today I spent all day in what are definitely the coolest ruins in the whole world! It's a place called Cantona in the northern part of Puebla (which is still in my branch) and it's ginormous. We spent about 5 hours hiking the whole thing and that's only 1.5% of the city that's uncovered! It was built in 900 BC  and the whole history of the city goes hand in hand with the Book of Mormon, including the details of how the priests did their work. It's awesome. I'll attach pictures!  The drive is super easy on the freeway with no bumps. So worth it. Not like Caracol at all. This is the greatest place I have seen because you can walk everywhere and on everything.

Catona is slightly huge and awesome.

Aubs - keep up the good college work as you wrap up finals here. Get some sleep.}

Jakey - please learn how to play Blowing in the Wind. I'd appreciate it as a coming home gift.

Joel - thanks for being spunky and laughing at the less-than-intelligent girl in your class.

Noah - my Red Sox buddy. Thanks for keeping me posted on the news and updates.

Savvy - keep on running and stretching and doing amazing athletic things! I want to be the brother of an Olympic medalist.

Zack - I miss you and miss seeing you grow up. I look at pictures of you sowing or doing whatever and think, how did he grow so much?

Until next week!  I love you!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Hace mucho frio!

For starters - I had a wonderful interview with President this week. He had to send two Elders home last week so he went around the whole mission to do interviews with everybody. Fortunately, I was able to clear up a lot of misunderstandings and I finally heard what I have longed to hear for 7 months. ''Well, as Preach My Gospel says, missionaries who are learning a new language need to memorize words and phrases to be able to teach, which is why I have all missionaries memorize the lesson plans in Preach My Gospel." (At this point I get really worried.) However, I love your Spanish. Your Spanish is very good. You also know the scriptures very well. So you can teach however you want.'' (At this point I jump out of my chair in joy.)

It made me feel a lot better about being here in the mission. Every day after that interview all I could think was ''thank goodness I learned Spanish before the mission. Above all the other blessings it has brought me, the blessing of freedom is the sweetest.''

This week was extremely cold. And I mean - extremely cold. It felt like I was in a snow cave 24/7 and it was almost unbearable! After several people in the village died of hypothermia, our thoughts were confirmed that it really is colder than normal. The newspapers have pictures of farmers just lying dead by their sheep. So yeah. It was cold. It got down to 0 degrees Celsius here and it's likely it will snow this month! How cool is that? If I stay here this next transfer I'll put out the money to buy an abrigo, but if I get sent somewhere else I won't need it and it's not worth all that money for just one week. Therefore, I'm hoping I will get through this week alright! So far with my chamarra, hat, gloves, scarf, boots, sweatpants underneath and double socks I'm fine, but when in a few weeks a heavy coat will definitely be needed.

Another note: one of my police friends got kidnapped! Turns out he had a debt to some people he was working with to get over to the United States and he couldn't pay the debt, so... they kidnapped him last Monday and nobody has heard from him since, not even his police friends. In this county that means he's in pieces in a river somewhere. Elder S and I received the report when we showed up to teach him a lesson and he wasn't there. We went to the police station and they told us what happened. They've been looking for him hard all this week but they can't find him and his phone is turned off. We talked to the mission president about it and he says that we will be alright. The weirdest thing was in October we taught another man named with the same name who was going to come to Church but he died of a heart attack the Friday before. ''¡No más vamos a enseñar a ningún hombre que se llama L....! ¡Mala onda!'' Don't worry, we are totally fine. Mexico is a scary place but missionaries have special protection.

Our first week here, we got to know a family who hadn't been to church in a while, and they have come every week since. I feel very special about this family because now the dad is a counselor in the Elder's Quorum presidency, his wife is now straightening out her life, their daughter of 19 years is going on a mission, and their 8-year-old daughter is going to get baptized. In an FHE we did with them this week, they committed to get sealed in the temple. How cool is that? Another family in the Celestial kingdom. All because one day we stopped by and shared the love of Christ with them. Eternal blessings from small actions. Truly by small and simple means are great things brought to pass.

Quote of the week, a Mexican Elder attempting to speak English: ''I like food Mexican.'' (Much laughter.) ''What, what I say?''  It was so cute and so funny at the same time.  It's what the gringos sound like to the Mexican missionaries.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Poco a poco

Nowhere in the rules does it say don't make friends with the local police, so that's what we've done. We commenced our friendship when we heard somebody shout ''Elderes'' (which usually means an old investigator is calling us) and we turned to see it was a policeman! Not alarmed, we started talking to him and he said once a long time ago he saw a pair of Elders and they said they'd go to his house but never did. Oh, well! The next day we stopped by the city hall and made friends with all the city police. They all listened to Lesson 1 and said they are interested and we handed out the Book of Mormon to all of them. They actually are reading and praying and they don't work every other Sunday, so we know that 'poco a poco' they are going to come into the fold. I'm totally content with sowing where the ground has never been sown. The coolest part about having police friends is that they give you free rides whenever you ask for them. I wish I could send you my video of how the view is from the police truck in the back! But getting rides from the cops is super fun.

Something my comp and I did this week to try to find new investigators was give a presentation at the big annual Teteles AA meeting. Of course, in rural Mexico a large meeting in the cultural center means 150 people, but it went really well for us and we both got little plaques of recognition for helping out. And of the 150 people we invited to Church... nobody came this Sunday. But, there are now at least 100 families who have never heard of the Church before who now have a pamphlet and our phone number in hand who know the nice boys in white shirts who say drinking is bad and will be more open in the future. We are sowing where it has never been sown, and I am content with that.

I again express my gratitude for Elder S. He has made the past few months of my mission fun and enjoyable despite all that goes on here. He has likewise appreciated me because we have been very successful in making our own circle. In two weeks with transfers it's likely we won't be together still.  He is seriously the best.  Me cae bien.

This photo was after we gave our fun presentation on ''self esteem.'' We basically took scriptures and replaced the word ''autoestima'' for ''faith'' or ''goodness'' or other such words and made a great, Music and the Spoken Word neutral like presentation out of it. It was a fun task to compose

This is the Branch President's son. He invites me to come eat dinner at his house every night! 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Greetings from rural Mexico!

Glad to know all the family is doing well. I remember how excited I was to come back home after just 4 months... I can't even imagine 2 years...

How the mail works here is we only get it once per month when the Zone Leaders or somebody goes to Xalapa to get the mail at the beginning of the month. So if a package is sent usually 3 weeks before the first week of the next month, I get it then. Otherwise I wait until somebody goes to Xalapa again. The good news is my brownies made it this month even though you sent them on the 21st! So I hope I can get them before this transfer ends in case they transfer me, which I hope they don't.  But you never know!

It has been a pretty fun time here. Yesterday I gave a talk in Church that the Branch President told me about a grand total of 5 seconds before I was to speak. I decided to share my feelings about not only reading the scriptures but also feasting upon them and the necessity thereof. Afterward, the Branch President got up to affirm my words. He said Mexico suffers from a horrible disease – ignorance. He continued to explain that the reason people here still worship images of an invented deity many years after the Spaniards left is because they simply don’t read the Bible. And members of the Church will really come to an understanding of all things simply by actually reading the scriptures.

In my talk I apparently was also too colloquial (I was never taught formal Spanish, sorry) and used a ‘strong but not vulgar’ verb when describing how people should be reading their scriptures in compared to how they just plain don’t. The President also commented on that afterward and told me ‘’If your skin weren’t so white, everybody listening would think you’re a Norteño from the way you talk.'' He commented to probably not use the verb ‘tragar’ (which I think means to swallow in an animal-like context) from the pulpit again, but he laughed about the whole matter because I’m an American so it's whatever. In March of this year Elder Richard G. Scott (who went to Argentina for his mission) gave a talk in southern Mexico and used the word ‘stupid’, which is vulgar in Spanish. Everybody got shocked, but the point got across. The members said I did the same thing, so there you go.

Something fun I did this week: Hitch-hiking! That’s right, because when your mission is ‘coda’ (cheap) like mine, you have to save money somehow. So far we’ve made good friends with the whole police station here in Teteles so they give us rides when we need them. I taught them how to say ‘’We’re the cops’’ and ‘’Put your hands up’’ in English and they’re all giddy about it. One of them is going to give me one of his police jerseys as a souvenir. How cool is that? We also accidentally hitch-hiked to a Church Conference with an Area Seventy on Sunday. We thought the van was a public transportation combi, but it turned out it was just a regular family in a 15 passenger van. They said they’d give us a ride anyway because they were going to the supermarket that’s right next to the Stake Center and because people in Mexico are all really nice to white boys in ties. Of course, we gave them a copy of the Book of Mormon and we’re going to talk with them later this week. I like handing out that book.

Our FHE parties on Friday nights are also turning out to be a lot better. A few weeks ago one of the members stole 150 pesos from an investigator and everybody freaked out, a family went inactive for probably all eternity, and nobody came to the next two FHE parties. However, by the power of prayer, the investigator started coming back to the FHE parties and for the first time came to Church on Sunday! It’s a major accomplishment to bring somebody to Church in this area because the Sabbath day is an unknown concept to the people here. Sunday is party day, apparently. Anyway, we’re having a lot more people come to play random fun games with the Elders on Friday nights.

One of my investigators has asked a special favor: He is collecting all the US States quarters and he was wondering if you could help me finish his collection. Massachusetts, Delaware, Oklahoma, Hawaii, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, and Nebraska are the only ones he is missing. Also any of the random territory quarters you can find. Be on the lookout and when you send them, hide them amidst cookies or something! He is one of the coolest dudes I’ve met in Mexico. He worked in the circus for 8 years in the states so he speaks English pretty well and he also has a nerdy foreign currency collection. He says if you are able to send the quarters that he’ll reward me. He already gave me several very old Mexican coins from the era before they changed their currency with the economic crisis in the ‘90s, which I appreciated a lot in my nerdy foreign currency collector way I do.

 I love you! Talk to you next week!! So close to Christmas!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Oh, Mexico

I didn't print off letters this morning because I was busy learning how to cook from a chef of a 5 star restaurant from Playa del Carmen in the part of Mexico just north of Belize. He is a missionary, but before the mission he was a pro chef for 6 years. Then he got baptized and left on his mission at 25 years old! Anyway, he taught me how to cut avocados and tomatoes (which I'm not scared of anymore after all the wicked things I've had to eat in Mexico... my only fear that still exists is mustard...) and how to just do all sorts of fun things. It was the zone P day activity, but really it was me, my companion, and the chef making food for everybody else who doesn't even say thank you. But it was alright because the food was excellent and Elder U is hilarious.

Another thing you can do to make memories in Mexico is help your branch mission leader artificially inseminate his cows. In few words, it is the most interesting service I have ever given. It just made me laugh that I'm out here in the middle of nowhere Mexico with this cute little Mexican farmer helping him produce more cows for his farm and it's just totally normal for him to be out there in his overalls all day on the farm milking and everything. I like my area.  Oh, Mexico.

Another thing you can do to make memories in Mexico is talk all day long with your companion. Elder S is hilarious. I cannot count the laughs that we have had. The funniest thing we do is label things as ''jaladas'' (the word means something like rip off or ridiculousness.) For example, somebody informed us that God can only ward of the devil with a cross in hand. Another example is the road 'improvement' here in rural Mexico... they just threw pavement on top 'al azar' and now the road is one to three feet higher than the curb. Excellent for dropping off people in Taxis or Combis. Another was the professional locksmith who said the door handle we bought couldn't be installed... so we talked with our neighbor who brought over a screwdriver and put it in. We tell so many funny stories at night. I just really like my companionship. It rocks.

Another thing you do to make memories in Mexico is just love the people. I'm glad there's no rule prohibiting that.

I am doing well and things are great.  I love you and miss you.

This is what it looks like when you have 5 Mexicans and one gringo in a Taxi.
Cooking lessons for P day

Monday, October 28, 2013

6 months down! (18 to go)

Finally! Just like what happens on a normal mission, I get to stay in an area with the same companion for more than only 6 weeks. It's actually good luck that I get to stay here at least another 6 weeks! This is a huge blessing, because first, I get to be with my amigo Elder S another month and a half, and second I get to work in an area that I just got used to and actually know how to orient myself and get around. Now that we know all the members really well it will be easier to work with them, too.

Another part I can't wait for about being here another 6 weeks is that I will get to experience the coldest cold Mexico has to offer. The days of proselyting in sarapes shall come. (Big Abram smile) Also, the stores here are beginning to sell gloves and hats! I will be staying at least until the week before Christmas, methinks.

Really, I am very grateful I can stay another six weeks. My life was starting to become highly irregular and it just added to the stress that everything was changing all the time. Graduate from high school, work all summer (literally), go to BYU 4 months, have a completely different 4 months the next semester, go to the MTC with 2 companions, go to Vegas with 2 more companions, survive another 6 weeks with even 2 more companions, get transferred, and then get transferred again! Second to how awesome Elder S is, I really wanted to stay here just to finally not pack up a suitcase and move again. And the blessing has come. I feel a lot more relieved just to know that I have a 'home' for another little while. Even though we're going to move down the street because the house we're currently in has demons, I'm just moving across the street.

So the house doesn't actually have demons, but some very odd things have happened. Now that I can't use my special curse to break technology my anti-tech waves are seeping into the environment. So far, my razor has come to life, our light bulb spontaneously exploded, the door just broke, the microwave turned into a time machine, the light in the bedroom randomly turns on at night, we have a hole in the floor, and objects in the house move around at night and end up in different places in the morning. Mostly the house is just old and the one across the street is new, doesn't have mold on the walls, and can be dedicated by us without having been used by previous missionaries who got kicked out months ago for not working. There's some random news for you.

Also, my glasses finally arrived! The squeaky wheel gets the grease. I called the place every single day for two weeks after the date they said they would be there to pressure them into getting the product to arrive in case the mission transferred me, and on Saturday they came!

Also, I found this week a family I would consider to be ''golden'' investigators! I was riding in the combi (the decked out van) and had a prompting to stop a little bit sooner than we usually did. I obeyed the prompting and walked about 30 seconds when a man called out: ''Hey, ministers! I have a question!'' Turns out he's the head of Alcoholics Anonymous for the whole region here and he invited us to give a 1 hour talk in November about the religious aspect of avoiding alcohol. To like 2 thousand people. Of course we said yes. (That is a lot of potential investigators.) We then gave him a 1 minute lesson about the apostasy and he said, ''I am going to your Church tomorrow with my whole family. When does it start?'' He came to Church with his wife and 2 kids all on his own! The closing hymn was ''I Am a Child of God.'' After singing the hymn, he told me, ''I know this Church is true just because of how beautiful this hymn makes me feel.'' Yes, that's called the Holy Ghost. We gave each of them a Book of Mormon and he asked if he could take home the class manuals as well. We meet with the family Thursday and I know it will go well for us.

Love you!

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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Adventure to Yohualichan

Today for our preparation day, some members took us on a very exciting adventure.  We had to get up very early to get our usual laundry and shopping done, and then we were off to see the ruins!  We drove about 3 hours to find them, but we finally got there.  And it was awesome.  Our guide was named Valentino and he told us the history of Yohualichan, the ruins in the pictures. 
 There's this game all the ancient civilizations used to play kind of like basketball. Well, this is the largest field of the ball game in all of Mesoamerica! The walls are 90 meters long, which is the record length for any ruins yet uncovered.

 I was trying to hard to not get car sick...and then I took this picture and nearly barfed.  Luckily, I was able to fall asleep and the carsickness was gone.  If you look at a map of how to get here, you will see why I was so carsick.
So, people actually climb all the way up this pole and then dangle themselves from the top by a long rope and spin in circles. Yeah. Let's say I climbed high enough.
 An example of a Catholic prayer in Nahuac and in Spanish.  Many people up here in the mountain villages still speak only Nahuac.

I love serving here in the mountains of Mexico.  I love the people, I love the villages, I love the food.  The people here are so kind, generous and humble.

Mom, please bring warm chocolate chip cookies to the airport in 18 months when I come home.  I have missed them ridiculously.

Monday, October 14, 2013

El Dorito

 I realize I didn't ever send a picture of the dog bite! It's all better now, but this is what it looked like.

My Luchador name is ''El Dorito.'' It goes with my title Elder and my last name Dorrough, which is funny because 'El Dorito' literally means 'the cute little Dorrough'.
Sarape!!! It is quite warm and assuming I stay here for the winter I will actually get to wear it while I proselyte! So fun. At least those rules are lax!

Huipiles!!! I got one for Mom and one for Heidi.

If any other family member wants a sarape or huipil, they're about 20-30 bucks each. I am saving my own tourist money for future things, but if Dad or somebody wants one I'd just take out money or something. Considering the rate at which my clothes and possessions are disintegrating here, I have space in my suitcases to take them around. This is the best area in all of Mexico to get them!

 (The E means no parking.) ''Tires slashed for free.'' The sign made me laugh so I took a picture. Spanish is so silly.

This week I went on splits with my District Leader, Elder D. He's the bomb. He made the remark during the day that of the two gringo Elders in Mexico who can actually speak Mexican, they're right here. He learned Spanish just here in the mission and he learned it by total reliance upon the Holy Ghost. He has a softer voice so when he speaks in Spanish he just sounds like he's from a south part of the country. Because I learned from my Norteño friends everybody thinks I'm from Obregón because of my accent... which is funny. I'll have to ask Alejandro and Alejandra where their parents are from. Anyway, he's a convert of just a year before the mission, but man is he a convert. It was THE BEST to just talk all day in him with English about random gospel things. That's what I did all day before Mexico and it felt good to have a 24 hour period of that again. The scriptures and Apostle's words really are just more special in the first language.

We had a blast at our party/family home evening this Friday. 20 kids showed up and only four adults did. So, we had a blast. It was actually when I was on splits with Elder D, and the talk about just relaxing and following the Spirit sprouted from the family home evening. We played random games like no other with all of the adorable Mexican children. It was so stinking fun to just serve people like people. It reminded me of stories of people coming from Europe to see the prophet Joseph Smith expecting some stern old man like Moses... and when they saw him running around in the grass playing ball and goofing around with all the children, the new converts didn't actually believe he was the prophet! Yet that characteristic is exactly what made him Brother Joseph.

My favorite thing I did was cut corn for a family. We showed up to teach and I felt to ask instead, Can we help you in the field? The lady hopped right out of her seat and grabbed us two machetes. Off we went! We spent three hours just chopping and piling corn stalks to be gathered later on. I love good old fashioned hard work. It feels so satisfying and the time just flies! Going about the rest of the day preaching in dirty clothes is fun, too. Plus, we have now gained the trust of the lady.

I want to send several pictures today, so I'll leave the letter here. I love you!

Elder Dorrough

Monday, October 7, 2013

This week in Teziutlán

Yes, I got the pouch mail! I actually got about 10 a month ago and 10 more this week. The thing is that the mail only comes once a month to missionaries who aren't in Xalapa. Sister Eliason always times her cards perfectly. It makes me laugh because they're always the most recently sent yet they always arrive with the older mail. It's like she's spying the mission offices and writing accordingly. It makes me laugh.

The other packages arrived with all their contents in order! Just put la Virgen de Guadalupe on the box and we're good. The Piano Guys books also came. That Jon Schmidt is hilarious. His sidenotes... yes, he is a human being. Feel confident in sending more goods to your son who so eagerly awaits them. ;)

Yes, that was definitely the best General Conference ever.  Even President Monson said so. Period. Every single talk. I loved it.

It really was a conference of warning. I can't wait to study the Liahona magazine when it gets here. I also appreciated the repeated use of 'Not only... but also...' by Elder Cook. It made me smile because seemingly nobody but Mr. Pierce and I ever follow that rule.

Basically my whole week was focused on General Conference and arranging a Gringo room so that I could watch it in English. Even the Mexican Elders who don't understand a word of English say it's better in English. Apostles just have magical voices.

In other news, this week President came to a zone class we had. He came to do interviews afterward. Mine was pretty short - I just asked that I stay in my area at least another transfer. 'I have 8 companions in four areas in 2 countries in four transfers. I would like a little regularity in my mission and to stay here at least a little bit more than a transfer.' He told me I will stay as long as he gets results.

The culture here is quite fun! Members are used to things taking a long time so they just take hours out of their day to help us. It's fun hiking around with helpers finding houses in random places. The whole place isn't totally rural, but a lot of inactive members live way out in the backwoods and we've got to go find them. I really am grateful for America's highway system and road management. Even though I still might complain that the freeway is too narrow when I get back, I'll be grateful that at least I have a place to drive. Or a thing to drive! Nobody has cars here. We go around all day in decked out 15 passenger vans that serve as big taxis. Fun times.

I love you! Enjoy the pictures!


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

It's raining, it's pouring

Don't worry about sending me gloves or anything! When it gets cold enough for me to need them, they'll be available and I'll just get some here. I'm making do with my warm jacket. The people say it isn't even cold yet... I hope I stay all winter to get the full adventure out of this place.

There's been a whole bunch of stuff going down with the schools here, too! Apparently the government wants to privatize all schools but the teachers don't want that because then they have to work 6 years longer, or something. Just what I've gathered from the strikes in Tuxpan and way out here in the middle of nowhere. Sometimes they even block the roads!

Thank you incredibly for the Danner boots. 5 months in and they're still intact. They are also totally waterproof, as my picture of me walking through the flood will show. What a great purchase, especially for my new rural area!

Things that I like about my new area: The members. Here in rural country where only one member owns a car, the people are all so patient and don't expect things to just instantly appear. 'Hey, would you like to walk 45 minutes with us to a lesson?' ?Sure, why not?' And off we go hiking in the mountains! The Branch President is the bomb. He is only 28 and he says he wants to feel like a missionary forever, so sometimes he spends all day with us. He really loves Elder S and me because we work hard and love people.

My comp... is the greatest. We have laughed so stinking much. He's a real human being who loves people and knows how to teach because he is actually converted to the Lord.  We let the Holy Ghost do all the work.

We got absolutely lost the other day and ended up in Teziutlan way far away without knowing how to get back to our villages. We decided to go to a certain point and just wait. Not one minute later, we hear a car honking -- the only member in our branch who has a car just happened to pass by us exactly as we were waiting where we felt we should wait. He drove us back to Atempan. That miracle is an evidence that the Lord always guides His servants, even when they are not aware of it. Truly, the Gift of the Holy Ghost is constant companionship.

We did get our money! We still lack a cell phone which makes working a lot harder, but hey, we're in the middle of nowhere. ''Es México. No pasa nada.'' I have said that about a million times

recently, and I love it.

Photo time! If you have questions, respond fast.

I love you!
I hope John Denver's "Christmas for Cowboys" comes true with wide-open cornfields and hot chocolate.

Monday, September 23, 2013

No rabies, and a new area

I am opening a new area out in the middle of rural nowhere! The branch is called Teteles, but my area consists of the entire area outside of Teziutlan on the mission map. It's gigantic! It's the biggest area in the whole mission! And I love it. I live in a village called Atempan and the other villages I will be working in are Teteles, Hueyapan, and Yaonahuac. Including a dozen or so 'pueblitos' in some of which the people don't even speak Spanish, they still speak Nahuac or Maya. It's quite the exact opposite of my 'Downtown' (centro) ward in Tuxpan, but I am so excited for this adventure!

I spent most of this week just plain getting to know the area. Thankfully, my skills at directions have been slightly improving on my mission... at least to the point where I know how to get home. We found one house by pure luck 2 minutes before we had an appointment. We just stopped by, read a chapter from the Book of Mormon, and showed the family that we loved them.

Guess what! Hueyapan is known as La Tierra de Sarapes. (Note from Mom--our family is obsessed with Sarapes). You know what recuerdo I'm buying in that village. And what I'm wearing home on the airplane. Ohhhh yeah. In one of the little villages in my area there is apparently an expert sword maker, and my Branch President said he'll take Elder S and I down there one P day.

My companion Elder S is the man. The first thing he said when we got to the house: ''El Espíritu Santo no puede morar en una casa sucia. Vamos a limpiar.' (The Holy Ghost cannot reside in a dirty house. We're going to clean.)  I was going to do that anyway, but we got off on the right foot because he thought just what I did. We are super good friends. I am exceedingly grateful the Lord has blessed me with the gift to be able to communicate with the people here. It is truly such a great blessing. When we were talking about our previous areas, he talked about how bad Poza Rica smells. I said I can't smell, but I've heard Poza Rica smells like Wednesday. (That's an extremely slang way of saying something smells really bad. Actually, don't say it in front of people who aren't teenagers.) Elder S fell over laughing his lungs out and said, ¡Este cuate sí habla español! (This dude does speak Spanish). It really does help me to get along better with my comp, being able to really talk to him.

I've really enjoyed just telling stories with him back and forth and talking about the home life and telling jokes and working hard and just having so many good feelings I haven't had since my weeks waiting in Vegas. I really like Elder S.  Today we got frustrated because we don't have money for food or transportation and we don't have a phone to ask why we don't have money. So I taught him about catársis. We took a machete and just chopped a tree to pieces. Then we felt better and went off to the cíber to write letters. I'm actually laughing right now because we decided we'd mow the front yard with the machete, too. It's Mexico. Why not?

Good news on the dog bite is that I don't have rabies.

As for clothes, I bought a very warm chamarra and a suéter to wear around because it does get pretty cold. Surprisingly, there weren't gloves or warm hats because they don't arrive until October, but whatever! My chamarra is pretty warm. I also bought an air heater because neither my companion nor I could sleep the first two nights. We got probably 30 minutes of sleep between the two of us because we were so cold. It felt funny drinking hot chocolate with a family instead of mango water... what a change of climate!
 My comp and me.  We both look a lot better after we have had some sleep--this picture was after one of the freezing sleepless nights.

 I thought for sure I wouldn't see any cedar trees on my mission, but here I am by my cedar tree.

This is my branch president.