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.