Monday, January 27, 2014

Buenos dias from Papantla!

Elder C is my new companion. He is the youngest Elder in the whole mission! He turned 18 in June and left for the mission in October. He just ended his training. I've put a big emphasis on the Spirit with him. He's definitely very very calm... almost too calm at times, but it's better than uptight.

And my house! It's so wonderful! I can't even believe it's Mexico. Apart from the humidity and Mexican food in the fridge, it would look like any other American dorm apartment. The best part... I STILL HAVE HOT WATER! I greatly appreciate the Elders who found this place because I will be very comfortable living here for 4.5 to 6 more months.

Biggest shocker of the week - in Teteles about 35 people on average attended Church, of whom 4 were missionaries and 10 were little children who aren't members. This Sunday more than 230 people attended the ward meetings. And they stayed all three hours. (jaw dropping) I didn't even know what to do. It scared me at first. The sad part... there's only a keyboard in the sacrament room... and the piano is in the primary room. I don't know whose idea that was, but at least I can play on an actual instrument for the bajillion little kids to sing like angelic monsters.

Papantla is all hills. Up and down and up and down and my legs get a great workout every day. I love it because some of these hills really shouldn't be legal. There was actually one case 2 days ago in my area of a car that hit and killed a lady at the bottom of a hill here (and because this is Mexico there's still blood on the street) but with my guardian angels I know traffic is of no concern to me.

Thanks to my fun zone activity at the beach, I don't have a lot of time to write today, but I am very excited to be in Papantla.

Love, Abram
My last picture from Teteles.  By the famous Atempan school mural with Tigger and his arm coming out of his head.

 My companion and I at a recent convert's house.
Papantla is all hills.  This one is about a 70-degree climb.  This should not even be legal.  I do love this city.  All of those hills are covered-up Aztec ruins, and Tajin, some of Mexico's most famous ruins are in my ward.
 From our zone activity at the beach today.

Monday, January 20, 2014

¡Hasta luego, Teteles! ¡Te adoro!

The changes formally arrived... both my comp and I are going! I will miss this beautiful place a great deal, but I have worked hard and hopefully left this place better than when I came.

Things I'm going to miss about Atempan and Teteles:
The Church bells. The 400 year old Catholic churches that to this day still ring the bell every hour so all the people know what time it is. It's one of the first things I noticed arriving here. As you know, I am very audio-oriented in my observation. Who knows how it will be going to civilization and having to look at my watch again...

Locuras. Mexico is basically one big relaxed go with the flow system, but here in Teteles it has been extraordinarily fun to see how people deal with problems with as little involvement as possible. For example, when a car crashes into a light pole, everybody simply drives around it in the street instead of cleaning it up. A week or so later the government will get it, no worries, guys. Or the fact that everybody steps in the new wet pavement just because and nobody says anything.
Hermano C. He made my life here liveable. The coolest branch member a guy could ever ask for.

My little house. I live in a little neighborhood of equal houses, but it's the only one in my whole area. The rest of the place is dirt floors with metal sheet walls. It did make me so grateful to be living with a comfortable roof over my head and a ghetto water heater in the back to take warm showers.

Combis - combis are a Puebla thing. The rest of the mission is all Taxis or buses.

Nahuat - how is it that people in Mexico don't even speak Spanish still? Is it just my way of thinking or is that a really weird thought?

The economy. Yes, there are some nice parts, but the many of the people live very sad lives in poverty. It breaks your heart, and also makes you so appreciative for the basic things I have.

One thing I'm not going to miss is the universal mindset. I talked about this with my comp. As soon as you cross the mountain from Teziutlan to Atempan, you discover everybody has the same brain. They're all just as tradition bound as they were 400 years ago and it's almost impossible to change. It's not even a matter of being right or being happy, it's a matter of doing what your parents did just because that's what you do even if it makes you horribly miserable.  It sure makes the missionary work slow here, but the branch is full of happy people who are making something of their lives.

Thankfully we did find three golden investigators who actually  were baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ. It may not be like the rest of Mexico, but the Church slowly is growing out here in the mountains.

The baptism today! What a special way to end my time here.  She is my favorite convert of the mission so far. She is such a sweet lady. She's the one that more than 4 months ago Elder S and I got to her house and the storm had knocked over their cornfield so I said, ''To heck with teaching, let's fix up your crops!'' And we spent 4 hours chopping and stacking corn. She's the one who was robbed by a 12 year old member at a family night in the house of prayer. She's also the one whose mother died soon after I gave her a blessing releasing her from this life. More than 4 months of teaching and progressing and she finally nourished the seed that was planted in her heart so it grew. Such a special day today - and likely the only Monday baptism I'll have!  The niños are her grandchildren, and they are so adorable.  They just said goodbye to me and gave me besitos.  I will miss them.
 My comp has been so fun.  He is a hard worker and likes to be goofy.
 I took a picture in this same spot soon after I arrived here 4.5 months ago.  I will miss this beautiful mountain valley.
 My comp and I took some cool shots in the moonlight.  I was pretending I was a model.

My last letter from Teteles,

Elder Dorrough

Papantla, here I come!!   My new adventure will be super fun--my new companion is from Bolivia!

Monday, January 13, 2014

This week

The park in ''downtown'' Hueyapan. The sun has been out for 4 days in a row and we saw a radical change in temperature from -1 degree and icy to about 20 degrees and sunny overnight. It was really weird, but we're enjoying it!

Well, what did I do this week... at the end of the week in Teteles it's really hard to remember what we did. All I know is I worked my keister all stinking week and my comp happily marched along for probably upwards of 15 km a day teaching and preaching.

Things with my comp are good.  One thing he pointed out (because he has also realized that this area is quite difficult and no matter what missionary is here and no matter what he does the baptisms will be low here for some time) is that in comparison to other areas this area is extremely hard because the people are, well, very closed. He told me that in order to see even one soul come unto Christ in a place like this you have to work your tail off just getting that one person to come to church, to read and pray about the Book of Mormon, and take the initiative to endure. ''Now that you have four months working as hard as we have these past two weeks, when you get transferred to another area you're going to see huge miracles. Working in the same way with a more open area in Mexico, you're going to see a lot more miracles.'

I've been spending more time in Hueyapan recently and have picked up a little bit of Nahuat. (I think that's how it's spelled.) It's still incredible to think that over 500 years after Columbus landed there are still people that don't even speak or understand Spanish here. So far I just know the pronouns, a few other words, basic grammar structure... let's just say I know why Mexicans are grateful the Spaniards gave them their language, because it's a lot more efficient than what they spoke beforehand! Notokai Elder Dorrough. (Me llamo Elder Dorrough)

Some big missionary changes in Mexico were announced this week.  One of them was that in all Mexico the Latino missionaries are required to study English an hour a day. Instead of District classes being in just Spanish they will now be 50% English and 50% Spanish.  Not that speaking Spanish all the time ever bugged me!

Monday, January 6, 2014

¡Feliz año nuevo!

This was an interesting week. Elder S left at 6 in the morning on Tuesday and it wasn't until the next night that I really started to miss him. I realized why... I hadn't made another close friend in 8 whole months.

So, I went on exchanges Friday with Elder D, my District Leader! It was the best day of my mission. I just worked hard contacting referrals and teaching all day long until 9 o clock. Elder D got to see all the people of my area but also got to meet J, the girl we baptized 2 days later. She is our newest member, and her grandma is an angel.

We came back to my modest home... Then the party started. It began with a gingerbread house. I finally bought aluminum foil to make the base so we got started! The artsy fartsy side is Elder D's work. The not as artistic but equally as tasty side is Elder Dorrough's work. Let me tell you that eating just a gingerbread house for breakfast is probably not a good idea for your tummy. We stayed up laughing and joking and having an awesome time. Elder D has also become a good friend of mine. We may or may not have kept curfew. ''Elder Dean, can we stay up late talking?'' ''I don't know, let me ask my District Leader...'' So I got to share with him many aspects of my life and family and personality that I haven't shared with anybody for a long time. 

In the morning Saturday I finally had the comp study I've been wanting to have since I left Vegas over 6 months ago. We were able to listen to Conference talks and discuss their content and significance for us. I finally felt like Abram again! It was fantasically splendiferous.

Things with my comp... well, they're interesting... he's from Monterrey and that's basically all he knows how to talk about. He's very proud to be from Monterrey. The fun part is he's my first Norteño companion so we both talk the same. 

I had a super fun New Year's Eve with fireworks... yes!

Until next week!
Love, Abram