Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Joyeux Noël

This week was a blast! We had Christmas Eve, Christmas, and Elder O's birthday all in one week. Now we'll have New Year's Eve and New Year's Day this week. Let's just say there have been a lot of piñatas.

I'm glad things are going well at work for Dad and you are all having so much fun this Christmas season.

I'm also so glad I could talk with you on Christmas! It's such a blessing to have the technology available to talk with you guys face to face from so far away. I look so forward to talking with you all in just four short months!

Alex sure is such a fun cousin. What a riot it must be to have so many fun cousins together for basically a week straight.

Christmas was full of lots of food and so many nice members who shared their Christmas with us.
 Our Christmas tree, which we plan to leave up forever.  We found lots of random Mexican things to decorate the tree with.  Also, I discovered that the Costa Rican flag folded in half looks like a French flag.
 We spent the Christmas week trying to hide from the heat and sun.  Not like any Christmas I have ever experienced.
 Elder O's birthday celebration!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Almost Christmas!

Yesterday Club America won the Mexican league championship! Number 1 team in Mexico! I'm a happy camper. There were a lot of people last night driving around in pickup trucks throwing Fireworks and shouting, ''America! America!’'

The game was apparently fun to watch because the other team started to get really frustrated, threw some punches, and three players got ejected, basically handing the win over to America. America is now the all-time record holder for Mexican championships!

I'm really grateful I went to Mexico on the mission. It has taught me that worrying about your daughter because she won't practice the piano is possibly the easiest trial somebody could hope for. I look so forward to raising a family and having all of those Little things come up. It's a lot easier than things I see people here having to deal with.

Transfer news! Elder Ortiz and I will be together until the first week of February, so we'll be celebrating Christmas together.   Vamos a festejar como unos ticos locochones (a tico is somebody from Costa Rica).

I randomly ran into my old companion this week!

Can't wait to talk to you guys on Christmas.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Club América

I'm glad that Zacky dude made some sweet money selling cocoa last weekend.  What a cute kid.

I love the coke can Nativity you sent me. It knocked my socks off. That's both outrageously hilarious and outrageously Mexican.  I love how it takes all of Christmas down to the basics.  Nothing fancy to distract from the true meaning of Christmas.

The weather in Poza Rica has been quite pleasant these past few weeks. It's a nice place to be in the winter because it's just hot enough to be enjoyable without being overly scorching.

I'm not playing as much soccer in Poza Rica as I did in Xalapa (with Elder Valdès that was basically a requirement for Mondays), but I still do enjoy playing. Our recent converts all like Club America and they're keeping me updated on the league results. Looks like America might win it all this year! That'd be fantastic.

My package was already in Xalapa but President is waiting until the Christmas conference on the 18th to hand over all the packages. I sure hope I will be with Elder Ortiz for Christmas!

Don't worry, Mom. In just 4 months and 20 days you can talk all day long with me and hear my voice as much as you'd like. I'm not quite sure what I'll even talk about but I will likely tell all the mission stories I can remember.

I sat down last week with the David Lanz book and played through the whole album. Hurray muscle memory!

A random nighttime selfie.
 Taking a picture of a man taking a picture of a duck.
 I had my first barbecued steak this week.  I miss America.
 Club América is in a position to win the finals this week.  We are all excited about that.
 My buddy loves Club América as well.
 I'm still not too great at dribbling the ball, but I can actually kick it now.
 Mondays we play fútbol in the mornings, and it is always so fun to do something different.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Poza Rica!!!

Poza Rica is actually quite like Papantla! The barrio PetroMex borders my area from Papantla, I believe. I thought they'd put me smack dab in the middle of the city, but I'm on the outskirts. All the jungliness and hills and all. This week it actually got relatively cold, but not too cold. I'm glad I gave my winter jacket (the black one) to Elder V. He must be freezing in Xalapa! 

My new companion's name is Elder O - ¡y es Costarricense! My streak of companions from different countries continues. He's awesome. It would be nearly impossible to be a better companion than Elder V, but Elder O looks like he's going to tie it up. I have more in common with him than any other companion I've had, even going back to Vegas. First off - He speaks English! Not only does he like it, but he also prefers it to Spanish! In that aspect he and I are twinners. In the house we talk in English and out working we talk in Spanish. Secondly - he loves music! We have awesome guitar/harmonica duets in the house and for comp study we sing hymns in parts. Third off - he's a total nerd! he loves to read, likes Star Wars, the Lord of the Rings, history, economics, so many geeky things I hadn't had in common with any of my companions until now.

My plan to tell everybody I'm from Spain is working out quite well. They all believe it. When people find out I'm from the states they ask, ''Then how do you speak Spanish so well? Your accent is completely native and you talk so fluidly!'' Elder O is a jokester as well and is totally cool with playing the silly ''where's he from'' game. After a while of people saying I'm from Spain, he will say - ''Just kidding. He's actually French!'' or, ''He's from England!''

I have had about 10 people this week tell me that I look like Daniel Radcliffe. I don't know if it's the Poza Rica eyesight or what, because nobody in Xalapa told me that. Possibly something to do with my glasses, I think.

We have three baptisms programmed for this Sunday. They're all cool and come to church and the activities on their own.

We'll see how these last five months fare! So far the people are a lot more open than the Jalapeños. Also, my area is at least 15 times as big, which helps a lot. There are people who haven't heard of us before!

I said goodbye to my Xalapa family...
 My new companion.
 A random guy painted silver and juggling machetes.  No big deal.

Saturday, November 15, 2014


Ah! Transfer news! I'm going to Poza Rica! The PetroMex ward. Yes, the ward has so many members working for PetroMex that that's the name of the ward. My companion's name is Elder O. I know two Elder Oand I'm not sure which it is. He's either Mexican or Guatemalan. I hope he's fun and a hard worker!

Huela a miercoles, yes. But the good news is it's winter time so it won't be very hot there anymore. Also, I because I can't smell, the oil stench in the air won't affect me.

Yes, it will be warm, but not the overwhelming 110 degrees like it is over the summer. I travel there tomorrow morning.

I'm happy you got the photos from Sister Isis.  She told me that she sent you the quinciñera photos. She was just waiting for you to respond all day Sunday. I love that family and will really miss them.

I had an interview with President Greer on Thursday - in his Honda Odyssey! He had told the whole mission he was going to do interviews in our houses, but he ended up doing them in the car while Sister Greer talked with the other companion in the house. He sure has a tough job figuring out all the transfers and keeping tabs on 230 missionaries.   We also talked about his new grandchildren, how I felt about my testimony, and other random things. Today in his letter he thanked me for my attitude.

I can't wait to meet the members in Poza Rica!

A swarm of bees!!

 Subway here is like subway at home.   Just no spinach.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Dia de Muertos

This past week was fun! Sadly, this week shall be my last with Elder V. Of that I am 99% sure. There's no way to tell, as President Greer could always surprise us, but 3 transfers with one companion is a good chunk of time.  I am so grateful I have spent such a length of time with Elder V.  He is so great. I expect to get transfer news this Sunday. My best guess is I will be  likely finishing my mission in my next area. Hopefully it is so - the longer I spend in one area, the quicker time seems to fly by!

One thing is for sure - whatever my next area may be, there will be more people to teach there. I'll arrive at my next area with a very positive spirit and ready to work for 5 and a half more months!

As of today I have 5 months 26 days left... having fewer than 6 months until you go home is a weird feeling. I am finally starting to feel like this adventure is going to be over soon.  I have loved this adventure, but it will be so fun to be home with my family.  I am so grateful I was called to serve my mission in Mexico, and feel like I really am Mexican on the inside as my MTC companions told me.

Yesterday A was baptized. He is a very special convert. The way he got to know the missionaries, how he received the message, how he has changed and how he is now such a spiritual person have all impressed me. The stories are long to tell by email but I'll gladly tell them when I'm back home.

It is always so fun and interesting to see Dia de Muertos in action.  The colors are so beautiful mixed with the creepy skeletons.  I love Mexico.

Three colors of corn!

The baptism yesterday.

 One of the many alters we saw set up on Saturday.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Tacos al pastor y Fanta....y limones gigantes

What a crazy week for you at home indeed! 

My week was a little less crazy... I am actually out of ideas as to what to write. Toward the end of your mission you do start running out of ideas of what to write a lot easier. Only two more months until Christmas! I look forward to skyping the whole family again.

A will be getting baptized this Sunday! He has progressed very well and keeps all the commandments we teach him.  He is truly an incredible man and I am blessed to have met him and teach him.

Yesterday the other elders in the ward baptized somebody... and the doors to the font wouldn't open up, so nobody could see the baptism. Because we're in a chapel we have to go to another chapel to baptize and we didn't have the key. That was interesting.  We will have things all figured out for next week for our baptism.

We returned the fish alive, no worries.

 The city of Naulinco as seen from Xalapa.
 This is the lucky little guy I gave the Hot Wheels car to.  What a treasure you (Mom and Savanna) found at the store.  Thanks for sending it to me to give away.  Mexican fútbol team Hot Wheels!
 This is a lime.  I didn't believe it, either!!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Feeling better

I'm entirely better thanks to the gallons of electrolites I chugged. Also the fact that I rested all day.  I think I just was severely dehydrated, and some fluids and rest were all that I needed. 

Woah... your record has been ruined... but at least you goofed up the date in advance and not after the ACT had already been administrated. I'm glad Jake is doing so well in school. (Note from Mom: I sent Jacob last weekend to take the ACT on the wrong day...)

That's a hilarious story about the tortillas chips! ¿Cuáles son los totopos más ricos? Here I'm not exactly sure, everybody tends to eat a lot more tortillas than tortilla chips. Still, how funny to ask the Mexican family and ignore you altogether. The good news is that when it comes to cultural comments, it's difficult to offend Mexican people. Personal comments obviously impact them a lot, but culturally to them everybody is the same.  It's a little detail of Mexico I will miss a lot in six months.  (Note from Mom:  at Winco I was buying cilantro and so was a cute Mexican family next to me.  A white lady came up and asked the Mexican family (and not me) what their favorite brand of tortilla chips was and on what aisle to find them. I couldn’t believe it.)

Six months is a whole lot shorter than two years... man, in three months, I will only have three months left. That is so weird.

Brother A told me I should write a little book called ''Mis tropiezos culinarios'' (my cooking stumbles... or something... I'm not exactly sure how to translate that) when I get back home detailing all of the things I ate in Mexico and how those foods have eliminated my fear to eat anything. I think it would make for at least a fun blog post! 

A is progressing super well. I'm so happy to have found another prepared person in my area. If President hadn't closed the 3rd area in this ward, we wouldn't have been able to teach him, but we got the part of the area where A lives. What a super golden investigator! He accepts absolutely everything the gospel asks of him with such joy and professionalism I can't believe he's a real person. He has gone through many sad experiences recently and realizes that if he had kept all the commandments since the beginning then he would not have any of the problems he currently does. If everything works out well, he will be baptized this Sunday. If not, maybe sometime next week or next Sunday.

Apart from him, we're still having trouble finding people who want to learn and change, but I'm happy knowing I found the people the Lord put there for me to find.

We currently have a fish in our apartment. We asked an inactive sister at her doorstep if there were anything we could do to help her and she said,''Yes! give me one second.'' She went back into the house and came out with a little fish tank in hand. ''Could you watch my fish for a few days?  They're going to fumigate my house because of a rat infestation and if I leave the fish here it will die.'' Well, even though technically we're not allowed to have animals in the house... we did ask if we could help you... so... we'll take your fish. We're going to return the fish today. 

You have no idea how big of a hug I am going to give you when I come back, Mom. I could almost feel that moment while pondering one night this week. It was so special. You and Dad really are the best parents ever. If I learned two things on the mission: 1, I have the best parents ever. I'm so glad I have always treated you with love and respect. 2, Everything works out in the end. The Lord sometimes asks us to pass through trials that we can't understand but we have to take the leap of faith and realize that all things to Him are one eternal round.

My cute little friend loves Harry Potter so much that she wore her cloak to church this week.
 After soccer this morning.
 Do you like my Paris-St. Germaine jersey?  I found it at the market here!

Feeling sick....

What an excellent week! I look forward to all the Portland adventures I will do with you guys when I'm back. 6 months 15 days and counting...
I'm glad Jake is doing so well with European history. I'm also glad that the office is doing well! That's an answer to many prayers. 

Today I went on a little first world adventure, as well! Elder V and I went down to Plaza Crystal, the biggest mall in the mission, and walked around taking a look at everything. It reminds me of home... even all the store names are in English... We went to McDonald's for lunch for the fun of it.
Okay, today I am feeling really sick. I felt a little off when I got up and we went to go play soccer right away. Bad idea. Next time I will refrain from playing... especially from playing so hard. I felt completely out of it. After hot chocolate, some powerade, a banana, and a trip to get a peek at first world life again, I'm feeling a little better. Nonetheless if I stay the same tomorrow I'm not getting out of bed. Rest is the best medicine. No, I didn't drink bad water. I'll make sure to buy lots of electrolite drinks and rest up a lot this week. Fortunately every house in the mission is well equipped with medicine for every need. I already took fever medicine. Tonight I'll ask Elder V for a blessing and with that and the power of prayer I'll feel better in no time. Lesson learned: if you feel bad, don't play soccer. I hope I'm just extremely tired and not feeling well. That would be ideal.
It feels great being in the coolest city in the mission for six months. The Lord blessed me dearly to be in Xalapa all summer. Veracruz gets very hot and humid, except Xalapa, so I'm a lucky dog to avoid 100 plus degree days like the ones I had in Tuxpan.

This week we found the most golden investigator I have ever met. His name is A, a 48-year old lawyer. The Lord has truly been preparing him to receive the gospel. He's also one of the few people I have taught in this area who is just so ready to learn all about the gospel. Just like M, A is a lawyer, which made Elder V and I laugh a little bit. Let's just contact all the lawyers in our area, then!
Want money?
Funny graffito on a loan afiche we spotted.

My collection of World Cup Coke bottles.

Monday, October 6, 2014

More from paradise

It's actually true - when the mission starts winding down, time goes faster. What a blessing I'm experiencing.

Elder V and I had a fun week, as usual. We're still struggling to find interested people, but that doesn't bug me. I think that's why President is keeping me here for so long. He knows that I'm totally fine with just working hard and doing my best - I don't need to see "results" to be happy.  I have been able to love the members and get to know them in such a great way because I have been here so long, and that is such a great blessing to me.  I absolutely love this ward and the families I have been able to fellowship and serve during my stay here.  I am a happy person.  I am in Xalapa, Mexico and that is something to be happy about.

One member got quite offended this past week. The second time something like this has happened on the mission. Elder V and I were talking together in ''tú,'' as we always do. She told us to stop doing that and to talk in ''usted'' because that's what the rule is. She had never told us that in the 5 months I've been in Xalapa. We told her quite jokingly (because we always joke around with that sister) that the rule we actually have is to use ''usted'' when it is culturally appropriate (because that is the actual rule) and that talking to another person of one's own age in ''usted'' is actually culturally inappropriate. Elder V and I continued conversing in ''tú.'' We have no idea what happened in her brain that night, but now she's extremely angry at us and won't talk to us or let us into her house. It caught us totally off guard because we always joke around with her like that and she jokes around back. Last Friday I guess she was fighting some kind of internal battle and our innocent comments pushed her over the edge. I'm so sad about the misunderstanding, but that's alright. Hopefully she will realize there was no harm intended at all. Don't worry. Las cositas así ni sueño me dan. (Things like that don't affect me at all.) Just thought I'd share a random story with you about how people can choose to be offended. (See Elder Bednar's ''And Nothing Shall Offend Them'')

Speaking of Elder Bednar, General Conference was a blast. I love watching it in English, so I set up the Gringo room again and we starting watching in English. When it was announced that there was going to be a talk in Chinese we were all totally surprised. When the translation dub began, one Elder commented, ''So this is what the rest of the world feels like...'' I agree with you, I think the 70 who gave those talks in other languages did it to show the other cultures that they are important and to show that the gospel is the same worldwide. The 70 who spoke in Spanish do have excellent English skills. Elder Gavarret visited the MTC while I was there and that awesome Puerto Rican doctor is basically American.

For the two Spanish talks we simply pulled up Canal Mormón and started watching the talks in Spanish. I wanted to do the same for the Portuguese talk, so we tried it, but the other 4 gringos didn't understand any of it and we changed back to the dubbed translation. Spanish and Portuguese are so similar! It makes me laugh how similar they are. I guess I'm just able to hear through the accent or something. I understood about 95% of the talk in Portuguese. The translation for the Chinese talk was super cool. In any case, I loved the fun addition to conference.

Thanks for the yummy treats with French packaging!
 My little friend showing me Los Voladores in her school workbook.
 I found the greatest América souvenir of all time at the market.
 The best haircut place in all of Mexico.  Well worth the $3.70.  It is the most I have paid for a haircut in Mexico, but nobody does a better job.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Six more weeks in Xalapa!!!

Woo-hoo!!!!! You're never going to guess what transfers are!!!! Exactly the same! I'm staying with Elder V another transfer!!!! Ya-hooooo!!!!!!

It was absolutely unexpected. I had actually already packed my bags. I'm so excited: 1, being in one area for four transfers. That's a typical amount of time for a missionary to be in an area but it had never happened to me. Now it will! 2, being with Elder V for another transfer is going to be so fun. 3, more time to live in the coolest city of the mission!

Turns out I will be 6 more weeks with my Salvadorean companion. Quite excellent news! He is doing better about his dad's death. When he goes back to El Salvador he wants to study civil engineering. The nerds who plan out bridges and roads and all those things.  He is super smart.

What a stressful week for you at the office! At least things could all get figured out.

Dad sent me the pictures of the lawn - it does look significantly better than it did last week. I miss the good old northwest forest we have right behind our house.

Oh, Savvy boo... I remember that was the first week I spent away from home, too. Now here I am for 104 consecutive weeks away from home.

What other news do I have for this week...

One of the ward members brought his family to church last week... and nobody in his family is a member! We had three investigators at church Sunday thanks to him. 

I'm still so happy at transfer news that I can't even think of what else to write! Oh, yes. A few weeks ago you asked me what to say in Spanish if something went bad. Two Mexican idioms in use are ''Te chupó el perro'' (the dog sucked you) and ''te cargó el payaso'' (the clown picked you up). You can change the object pronoun however you'd like to give it a different meaning. I've been meaning to write those for a few weeks but I always forget.

Until next week.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Moving along

Crazy how quickly time can go, and yet it seems like it has been forever.  Right after winter officially ends, I'll be back at home with you guys! Only 7 more months to go... these will be the fastest months of my mission. I know it.

Correct, transfers are coming up next week!  I likely won’t be with Elder V after that, but I look forward to whatever adventure lies ahead.

Not a whole lot of exciting news to share with you this week... lots and lots of people contacted and not a lot of people who are interested. M is the strongest convert I've had on the mission. After reading and praying about several talks from last general conference about a month ago he received a strong confirmation of the gospel's truthfulness. He recognizes the Holy Ghost, reads several chapters from the Book of Mormon every day, and looks forward to going to the temple soon. He is experiencing eternal blessings from the 30 seconds we spent saying hi to him in the street one day.

It's been raining hard recently. (Is it proper to contract ''it has'' in that manner?) I know it rains a lot in Oregon, but the rain that pours down here almost daily astounds me. Today when we went to play soccer the field had a giant puddle in the middle. That made it even more fun.

With Elder V things are going well. We still keep talking about soccer and everything else that keeps him happy. He seems to be getting over his dad's death, but he still gets very tired frequently.  He is so strong to have handled this burden.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Fiesta time

 I'm so glad everything went well for Zac's baptism!

I love when the Lord performs tender mercies for us like that without us knowing. How fun to have Betsy at the office!

I love hearing the news about all of the kids.  It helps me remember that my family back home is real and not just some crazy memory or imaginary thing to me.  I miss so many things about home, but I am so happy I am in Mexico.

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day... I miss singing hymns in English. Hymns are definitely not at all the same translated.

This week was kind of rough for us workwise. Now that Milton and Julia are members we're kind of left without people to teach. There's not a lot of people who are ready in this moment to accept the gospel. Thankfully Dad gives wonderful advice about what to do in this type of situation!

Friday was the Noche Mexicana and it was a blast. I think more than 1,200 people showed up. That's greater than the number of active members in Xalapa! Zazil-Ha and Abril along with their entire dance group danced all the traditional Mexican songs and I was almost tearing up because after every dance tiny little Abril would always look right at me and give me the most darling smile. Because their mom was busy changing their outfits after every dance she couldn't take pictures. I took lots of pictures and gave them all to Sister Isis, who probably sent them to you yesterday. Today is going to be my last Mexican Independence Day in Mexico ever... well, the 16th is technically the actual holiday, but everybody parties the day before. Our curfew is at 7 o'clock tonight so we will be safely back home before the real party starts in the city tonight.