Monday, July 28, 2014

Adventures on Macuitepetl

Yes, I do remember the story of my toy rubber snake breaking when I was 3.  2 inches of the tail broke off of the 3-foot-long snake, and I threw the whole snake in the trash because I thought it was no good.   I can understand how sad Savanna was to get a scratch on her brand-new scooter.  I'm glad she figured out it wasn't such a big deal.  The same thing happened to me this past week with a Mexico jersey I bought. It got stained with black marker immediately after bringing it home and I thought it was all ruined. Of course I didn't cry or freak out like with the snake 17 years ago but it kind of frustrated me. It was mostly sad because I hadn't even taken the tag off and it was already stained. However, the stain actually washed out for the most part and looks a lot better. A good reminder to always be careful where you put your markers.  My comp said rubbing alcohol will take out the marker, but we didn’t have any.  I think it didn't go through the dryer. (Xalapa is the only city in the entire mission with dryers. Random thought.) In any case, I'll buy some rubbing alcohol and see what magic it can do. Also! Tell Dad I bought him a jersey, too. I bought one in each of the team's three colors - black, green, and red.

Yes, currently I'm going for a European look now that I'm becoming a Frenchman. Tomorrow I'm going to get the sides buzzed again and the top trimmed just a little bit. I've decided I look better with a real hair cut, even though a buzz is so easy. All I have to do is keep the sides buzzed every two weeks for my cowlick to not be so noticeable. Do you love how I can't part my hair formally but I can make it a ginormous swirl?

This week whilst reading the scriptures I found two I would not have been able to understand without knowing French: Jeremiah 10:22 and Isaiah 52:14. The noise of the bruit sounds pretty redundant so it made me laugh. I also recall the word appellation being somewhere in Alma or Helaman... but I'll be there shortly enough again and I'll find it.

This week I had my favorite meal of all time with members. We ate lunch with a couple that has been married for 65 years and have been members for 53 years. The brother is the oldest in the ward and two weeks ago celebrated his 90th birthday! They are the cutest, sweetest people ever. First off, when we walked in the door we felt like we entered the waiting room of the temple. It was so peaceful and reverent.

As for the food, not only were the meatballs and white rice absolutely delicious, but so was the homemade wheat bread. That's right. Wheat bread. Made by hand. Just like you always make for us. I an entire loaf because I was so happy to see such a treasure on the table. Apart from the food that reminded me of home, the company of the members was so precious. They were splendidly enchanting and continually joking with one another. When the brother was pouring us water slash juice he served us and then himself, and then he almost poured some into his wife's glass but set the pitcher back on the table. ''No, not for you. You're punished.'' Then he got more juice out of the fridge and told us, ''This one's sugar free'' and proceded to serve his wife. After the meal they told us the whole history of their family from the pictures they have on their neatly painted walls. It was so precious.

 Little A turned 9 this week.  Her mom invited us over for cake. 
 I found the perfect Mexico souvenir for me.  A copy of Don Quijote, en español!
On Friday we had a hilarious activity in the ward with games involving balloons, musical chairs, and finding candy hidden in flour. Only the pictures can describe the fun.

 Little J and I with our flour-covered faces.

After the taking candy out of flour without your hands game.  So much flour in the air and our faces.  Elder Valdés is the silly guy on the ground.

We spent some time today at the hill Macuiltepetl.  There is a zip line, a bird sanctuary, some ruins, a cave and a cool tower to climb on top.  If we ever go on a family vacation here, we can spend an entire day on this one hill.  There is a beautiful view of all of Xalapa from the top.

 A fun adventure to a cave (which was closed) today.

  Pictures from the bird sanctuary today.

 The view from the top of Macuitepetl Hill.

I had a crazy idea this week.  Rather than going out and trying to find people, we set up a table in the market with a sign that says Everything Free.  We had lots of people stop and talk to us, and we will do it again next week.
This is the sweet couple that gave me the wheat bread.  I had to take a picture of them with the loaf.  If you wonder why there is so much light in the picture, it is because they are so celestial they are about to be translated.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Tacos, toys, a mask and a mountain

This is a picture of Mount Orizaba covered in clouds.  It makes it easy for me to know which direction to go with this beautiful mountain as a reference.

Things have been getting to the offices faster now. The letters you sent got here in 2 weeks! I appreciated Jon Scott's random comments about faith and dark energy and nerdy things. It reminded me that the ward I grew up in is still real.

Thanks for sending me a jersey.  I can't wait until it gets here. The French uniforms really are so cool. If anybody in the family wants me to get them a Mexico shirt or jersey I can get those for ridiculously super cheap here.

French - I think with past participles it's only with verbs conjugated with ''etre'' that the number of e's changes, right? ''Nous sommes alles'' ''elle est allee''? What other random questions I had...

I love President Greer. The man is awesome. When I was talking with him I could feel a genuine love and concern. ''For the next 9 months I am your father, I am your bishop, I am your priesthood leader. You are my son and the Lord's charge for me is to take care of you.'' It was such a different feeling than the other interviews I have had before. 

President Greer asked me to tell you thanks for the blog. It helped him a lot to understand the state of the mission better when he arrived. He told me his philosophy as mission president is teaching us correct principles and letting us govern ourselves. The last thing he will ever do, he says, is try to micro manage everybody in the mission. So when I asked him if I could keep studying French during our language study time he said, ''That is your decision. Just think of how it will benefit you and if it's worth your time and you decide yes or no.''  Je connais la réponse.

Elder V is as awesome as ever. We're still not seeing a whole lot of visible success in this ward but I know the Lord appreciates everything we're doing as long as we give it our all and are diligent.  Loving the people here is the greatest work of all, and it's really easy to love the people here.

 There are two things that Mexican kids love to do in the street:  Play soccer and fly kites.  There were so many kites in the sky the other day!
 Brother R making Arabic tacos for us.  Yumm!
 "Dorro, ¡eres mi mejor amigo!"  This is A, my BFF here in Xalapa.  I told him if he could learn how to talk in English (his dad is learning English) I would buy him a Captain America toy to complete his collection.  So he learned some English from his dad and I bought him a toy.  He drew me a super cute picture to say thanks and gave it to me on Sunday.
 Another picture of my buddy A.
 This mask belongs to a different little kid.  I put it on and the family was like, "He's actually Captain America!!"

Monday, July 14, 2014

No cavities!

Could you please send me one French news article per week to print and read? From an original French source, not a translation. I would consider myself an intermediate French student at this point. Obviously I'll never master it until I can speak with somebody who speaks French but I want to learn all I can before I come home. Reading news articles will get me a lot of those phrases you can only learn by observation.  

We had lunch with a member yesterday and learned the news of the World Cup.  I know my friend Anton was very happy with the Germany win, and Grandpa must have been smiling from heaven.  Soccer is everything here, and I have learned to really, really love soccer.  And if Nike ever has any clearance France gear, I would love to have a cool French shirt.

On to the mission news. Elder V is officially my favorite companion I've had yet. He teaches well, he knows how to work with the Spirit, he knows the scriptures and can say many of them ad verbum, we get along awesomely, and he loves soccer. He's obsessed with soccer. His love for the sport is kind of rubbing off on me, I'd say. He is my fourth consecutive companion not from Mexico - Elder V is from El Salvador! In El Salvador they use US dollars so unfortunately I can't add to my foreign currency collection, but that's alright.

Yesterday we baptized V! Her mom was so happy. V's mom was baptized a year ago - she was introduced to the church by her boyfriend. She's been waiting for a long time to be sealed to him in the temple. When she was baptized her daughter didn't want to get baptized and she hadn't wanted to until she met me, which is when she asked her future step dad about getting baptized. So this sister is super happy because she thought her little angel was going to take years to decide but now she's already taken that decision and can go to the temple with her.

President Greer is as awesome as I thought. He sent us the Joseph Smith quote about being taught correct principles and governing ourselves. I like that a lot more than memorized lessons. We have interviews with him on Thursday and I know I'm going to love it. It's so sweet that his wife is learning Spanish. She called us this morning with a question for Elder V and I did some translation work.

No cars have airbags here

V at her baptism
I have never felt at home as I did at the dental office here.  And no cavities!!!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Giant shrimp, street tacos and ice cream

I'm glad you guys are having so much fun this summer. Good job on your half marathon, Mom. Only somebody as coordinated as you could cramp her shoulder in a race like that.

Can I take out some money for a dental cleaning? I'm 8 months overdo. The first counselor in the ward is a dentist and I actually would trust him to clean my teeth. He's super cool and has an actual dental clinic (it's not just his house like every other Mexican office I've seen.)

One thing I can say is that music plays a far greater influence in our lives than we may think. The sacramental covenant is to always remember him. When we do things that even so much as take our mind off the Savior or the ideals He desires us to uphold for even just a little bit we lose a great deal of the influence of the Holy Spirit. 

V got sick so she's getting baptized this weekend instead of last weekend as planned. 

I love President Greer. He is fantastic and the perfect man for the job. The first thing I could learn about him is that he loves his wife. He made that very clear. ''She is the best in the whole world and that's why she's my companion.'' Sister Greer is so sweet and she will have quite an adventure learning Spanish. He is also absolutely hilarious. Nobody could help but laugh the entire multi zone conference we had with him. So much improvisational humor.

What I loved most is that President Greer clearly has an understanding of the temple.  ''It's time for this mission to stop using the word 'baptism.' We have converts, not baptisms.'' And he helped the mission to learn about our real purpose. Page 1 of PMG: ''Invite others to come unto Christ...'' and he stopped it there. ''That is our purpose. Our purpose is to get people to come unto Christ." From the spirit radiating from the President as he spoke I could tell the temple is something that he clearly understands is very important. This mission is headed in a very good direction.

Transfer news: Elder G is going. I'll miss that guy. In his place is coming an Elder V.

President and Sister Greer
 Ice cream.  I have no idea what flavor, but it was delicious.
 giant shrimp
 Street tacos
 Blue Sour Patch Kids???
 I giant O.  It made me think of Oregon.
 A random fountain that lights up and does fancy stuff.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Baby shower

As to your comment about the iPhone, of all the 5 cell phones I had my iPod lasted me longer than all of them put together. I've recently been thinking about what I'll do about cell phones when I get back...

Today the new president gets here at night and we meet him on Wednesday.

Our district activity today: Volleyball in the park. It was quite a blast. We went all out on chips and soda because today is Elder U's last P-day of his whole life. He goes home next Monday.

Little Valeria is going to get baptized this Sunday, because her Mom was also baptized on July 6th, so we figured we'd make it a special day. Both Elder G and I will both still be here so that was no problem at all. She kind of reminds me of Savanna in her manner of telling you every little detail of what she's thinking. In our lesson with the family on Thursday night we had a very funny discussion about talking in ''tú'' versus ''usted.'' I have for some time been talking to all children below the age of 12 in tú (because otherwise they don't understand) and Valeria commented how I'm the first Elder she's heard talk like that. Then her brother chimed in. ''Well, when it comes down to it, we're all young people anyway. It's not like we're grandparents or the President or anything.'' Valeria said, ''Yeah, when they talk to me in usted I feel like an old lady!'' So now with their family we have permission to talk in tú to the kids. Sweet. Too much formality drives me nuts.

From what I understand about French, you basically talk to everybody in ''vous'' except for your immediate family and very close friends, correct? So the ''tu'' form is a very close bond? That's a lot simpler than the tú versus usted matter. I think one day I will write a book about all the situations to use which one and the other. But for reals, that's an idea I've had recently that I think could make some money in the future.

 This giant stuffed monkey in the middle of Mexico made me happy.
 We had some fun at a Mexican baby shower.  It was ridiculously more fun than I could have imagined.
 Our zone.