Monday, December 28, 2009
Wow. It sounds like the weather in Wisconsin is pretty rough right now. The other day we left the apartment at 7:30 in the morning, and it was mildly pleasant outside. I think that's the coldest it will get all year.
I got Clint's package on Sunday. It made my day. I'm loving the Celine Dion Christmas cd. And in case you were wondering missionaries can have a lot of fun with dollar store toys. I didn't get the packages from Mom, but I'm sure I'll get everything in the zone conference on the 22nd. Three zones are meeting together in Acapulco. It should be fun, but it will be 8 hours in a bus and 400 pesos to go and come back in the same day.
Yesterday we had stake conference. We had to travel an hour and a half to Lazaro. It was the first conference since being made a stake. The building wasn't designed to be a stake center. We couldn't all fit inside, so we met behind the church on the soccer/basketball court under a giant circus tent. It was a pretty cool conference. It had the theme of missionary work. Presidente Spannaus came and gave a great talk. I hope it motivated our two investigators that were there.
This week went pretty well. We found a lot of new investigators. We found a family that is way cool. The mom already accepted to be baptized.
I'm sorry I don't have much news to tell. I'll try to start writing things down during the week to make my letters more interesting.
I'll find out the number you can call on Christmas and what time you should call.
ps I included some pictures of a cool sunset, a kid in a bucket, and me doing some contacting
Dad might have thought that his birthday was pretty boring, but I had to check my planner to remember what we did that day. One family in the morning let me blow out a candle. When we ate, the mamita's family gave me some candy. And at night another family sang me the mañanitas. It was pretty exciting.
I got a new companion this week. His name is Elder Mendez. He is from Merida, Yucatan. I'm pretty excited to be with him. He is a good worker and obedient. I think we can have a lot of success together.
This week was kind of messed up and we didn't get much done because we had to move out of our apartment. But our new apartment is located in Pantla close to the church and the mamita. And the best part is the new house has air conditioning. It's amazing. It's just a little box air conditioner in the window, but I don't know if anyone else in the mission has air conditioning.
I talked with Elder Wiggins the other day. He goes home in a week. That's pretty crazy. Time goes by fast. His English isn't that great, but it should come back in a week or two.
Christmas is coming up, and yes Mexico does celebrate Christmas. Well, everyone except for the Jehova's Witnesses. The traditions are pretty much the same. But the people don't get as into it as they do in the US. I think it's hard to get into it when it's 90 degrees outside.
There's a lot of white people that have come here for the holiday season. I don't like them. The other day some lady yelled at me for hitch-hiking. And getting yelled at always hurts more in your native language. Then after yelling at us she didn't give us a ride and left us to continue hitch-hiking. I hate gringos. I'm so glad I'm a missionary here and not in the US because Americans are jerks and think they know everything. The people here are so much more receptive.
Today I found out that my old companion, Elder Macias, got his two suitcases with all of his stuff stolen on the day of changes. He went to help some sisters put their stuff in the bus, and left his bags unattended. He apparantly forgot about his bags for about an hour and we he went back they were gone.
Well, that's all the news I have for this week. I should get the stuff you sent me in the zone conference on the 22.
Thanks for all the letters. Other than the car accident it sounds like things went well over Thanksgiving. That's cool that you all got to meet together. I am glad to hear that the cougars won. I heard the game was pretty exciting and that the fans rushed the field afterwards.
I liked the pictures. Everyone looks the same except Zachary is bigger and Brooke is bigger too. I'm excited to see the new house. It looks pretty fresa (fresa if translated literally means strawberry, but it also means fancy or preppy).
Today we had changes. My companion got changed. I was kind of happy about that. I thought I was going to be made senior companion, but it looks like I'm going to be junior comp for a while longer. I just hope my new companion isn't as frito as my other companions have been. Our baptism for this week fell through because we found out she's not married. And one we had scheduled for 2 weeks from now is falling too. I hope my new comp can help me make some things happen in this area.
No, I did not sell my Mr. Mac shoes. I sold my $25 running shoes that I had had for over a year. The man that I sold them to is named Tamakuk. He has one eye, long hair, and walks around holding a crocodile. All the locals know him. I thought he looked homeless, but apparently he has a lot of money. I'll send some pictures next week. I finally bought a cable to upload pictures, but I forgot to bring it.
No, teaching in Spanish is not difficult. Some times I mix up my words or make stupid mistakes, but I can talk about whatever I want pretty easily.
It is weird that tomorrow is my birthday. I've never had a birthday in summer weather before. I'm no longer a teenager. We should have a zone conference this week or the next. I guess I will be getting several packages. I'm kind of glad I didn't get changed to another area because that means I can spend my birthday and Christmas in an area where I actually know people.
Well, I don't have much news. I can't think of any cool stories or anything interesting that happened this week. Oh, I learned how to use a machete. We helped clear out a field with some machetes. We also helped gather cement blocks to help build a tomb for the wife of some inactive member that died.
Ok well, take care.
Thanks for the letter Grandma, and thanks for keeping me in your prayers.
Clint, yes I did sell my shoes for $300 pesos, but I only had to walk barefoot until we got to the taxi. I found some other shoes in the zone leaders' apartment, so I ended up gaining $300.
That should be fun having almost the whole family together for Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving will be pretty lame here. Maybe we'll go out for tacos or something.
That was interesting about the Rough Stone Rolling guy. I'll have to read that book when I get back.
This week went by pretty fast. I left Tuesday morning for Guacamayas for divisions with the zone leaders. Elder Querry went to Pantla with my companion and I went to Guacamayas with Elder Arevalo. I was there until Thursday morning. It was an awesome experience. I learned a lot. We worked way hard, and we got so much done during the day. We didn't waste a minute of our time. I've always asked myself, "how is it possible that the zone leaders consistantly baptize 5 or more every change, and we seem to always be struggling to find one?" I learned that the zone leaders aren't any smarter than me, and they really don't do anything that I couldn't do. But they are obedient, work hard, study hard, and plan well every day and week. Maybe I will never be able to control what my companion does or force him to be obedient. But that should never be an excuse for me to slack off.
Things in Pantla are going good. We have someone scheduled for baptism this Saturday. Her name is Blanca and she is way excited. Her husband is an inactive member and her father in law and his family are good members of the ward. She is excited and already has a strong testimony.
We have two baptisms scheduled for the next Saturday. They are Jaqueline and her husband Albert. Jaqueline has come to church two times with the kids and Albert only once. They are also very excited. This week we helped them clear out the lot behind their house with machetes. That was pretty awesome. They have four little kids and one more on the way, and Jaqueline is just barely turning 22 this week.
We are teaching another man named Luis who is also way cool. He has come to church twice, but he needs to get married before he can be baptized. They are getting married in two weeks. He is way cool. His wife and mother in law are members. This week we helped them knock down a palm tree in their yard. All we had was an axe, but we got it down. My companion got pretty into it, but now his hands are blistered.
There are changes again next week. Time is flying. It will be sad if I get changed and won't be able to see our investigators get baptized, but we'll see what happens.
Ok well take care and have a great Thanksgiving.
We are finally starting to see results here in Pantla. This Sunday three families that we've been teaching came to church. We have a lot of people that we are teaching right now.
Today was a fun day. We started out playing soccer at the church. I was stuck as goalie because I still can't run very well. Then we walked to the beach. Then we decided to go to the nicer beach by climbing on the rocks. We climbed for a while, but eventually they stopped and it was just the ocean hitting against the cliff. There was a nice hotel above where we were stuck. We decided to climb in the back entrance, and I think we bugged the rich white people laying out. We eventually got to the other beach where we played volleyball for a little while. There was a guy that was walking on the beach with a baby crocodile. We walked up to see it, and he asked me how much I wanted for my shoes. He offered 300 pesos which is about 30 dolars. I only paid $25 for the shoes when I ought them over a year ago, so I thought it was a pretty good deal. He also let us take pictures holding the crocodile for free. Now, we just finished eating with a member and she gave us heart, kidney, and stomach soup. yummy.
Brooke, thanks for the letter and the pictures. Zach is growing up fast. It will be exciting to see how much he's changed when I get back.
Mom, I don't have a picture with president. We really only see him when we have zone conference every six weeks. But he's awesome. I like what he's done with the mission.
I don't remember which pictures I sent.
Jose and his family moved to Monterrey. We haven't heard from them, but we hope all is well.
Thanksgiving doesn't exist in Mexico, and yes I have seen a couple Christmas things. But it's still pretty early.
I think the swine flu left Mexico and went for the US, because I haven't heard anything for months.
Dad, of course we played with the crocodiles.
Last year I saw BYU women's soccer play agaisnt New Mexico, and there were some pretty crazy Mexican girls.
I like reading your letters about what's going on the world. All week I study church stuff. Sometimes it's nice to have a break. I especially liked hearing about the guy from Weezer. I always new he was smart. You should listen to the song where he talks about falling in love with the half japenese cello player.
Ok well I ran out of time. I love you all.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Wisconsin weather sounds pretty great right now. People keep telling me that the weather is supposed to cool down soon, but it seems like it's just as hot and humid as it was 2 months ago. Oh well, I'm kind of getting used to it.
Last Monday we went to Lazaro because we were going to do divisions with the zone leaders. We went up there Monday morning to play soccer with the elders over there. First we went to this place where the river meets with the ocean. Apparently in this place there are always crocodiles that hang out there. We got there and there was a big group of people and like 4 big crocodiles on the beach and another 10 in the water. Some kids had some meat on the end of a string that they would throw in front of the crocodiles to get them to leave the water. When they did that another guy would run and grap their tails. Things like that make me love Mexico. In the US there would be a park ranger there in 10 seconds to yell at everyone. After a while two trucks of federalis came and started taking pictures with the crocodiles.
After that, we went to go play soccer on the beach. We were playing in the sand without shoes on. It wasn't a great idea. My foot got smashed pretty hard by Elder Wiggins' companion. My foot was pretty swollen and I couldn't walk on it at all. After a while the pain was localized to one toe. I didn't know if it was broken or not. I spent the afternoon being carried around on Elder Querry's back. People were looking at us like "who are these two gay gringos?" We eventually decided to not do divisions, so we went back home. My foot still hurt pretty badly, so we decided to go to the doctor in Zihua. I hopped into the general hospital and the waiting room was full and there were a ton of people outside. They told us the hospital was full and sent me to the clinic. I thought I was going to have to hop there, but luckily a nice guy helped us out and gave us a ride over there. The doctor told me it's probably not broken but it received a pretty hard hit. He said to come back for an x-ray if it didn't get any better in 3 days. He gave me a shot in the butt and sent me on my way. It is impossible to go to the doctor in Mexico without getting a shot in the butt. It doesn't matter if you have a hurt foot or diarhea.
Well, for two days I couldn't really walk so we didn't do much. But on Wednesday we discoved that I could move on a bike because I didn't have to move my toes. Some members lent us some bikes and we were able to get back to work. We were on bikes for two days. I felt like I was in Best Two Years. It was cool, but the dogs attacked us more often on the bikes. I can walk better now, but I still have a limp. My toe isn't that purple anymore, and my foot doesn't swell up.
In other news, we are teaching a cool family. The wife was baptized at 8 years old, but has been inactive for about 15 years. We are teaching her and here husband. They are both really interested. We found them because the bishop decided to visit some inactive members in the area. Because of their visit the whole family came to church. Always do your visits. It doesn't matter how long they have been inactive for.
Now I'll answer Dad's questions. I don't know why that Elder doesn't talk. He just doesn't. He's Mexican and definitely knows how to talk. When he talks, he whispers, so I had to repeat everything he said.
My companion and I get along for the most part. He works a lot better than my other companion, so that helps. But he is pretty frito, which means he doesn't really care about the rules. But he usually respects me. The only days we kind of have problems are Sunday and Monday because Sunday he doesn't want to do anything and Monday he wants to stay on the internet all day.
There is now another gringo in the Zihuatanejo area. In the zone, there are 5. There are no sisters here. The sisters are all Mexicans. There are some zones that they don't send sisters to. The mission is about 70 percent Mexican. There are only 2 from South America.
Pantla is definitely not a tourist area, so there are no tourists in church. Pantla is a pretty ugly little pueblo that is kind of far from anything appealing to a tourist. Maybe in Zihua tourists might show up.
I enjoyed Mom's letter a lot. Keep up the hard work. Echele ganas.
Clint do you like your job? It doesn't sound like too much fun.
Dad, when do you have to stop riding your bike? Is there ever ice on the road?
Ok well, that's all for this week.
PS What is heveled? I know what disheveled is, but not heveled. (inside joke from Ross's letter)
Halloween wasn't too eventful here. There were a few little kids that dressed up and they had a neighborhood party. I hear that in some parts of Mexico Halloween is pretty big, but not really in the pueblos. The kids walk down the street or go to doors and yell,"Queremos Halloween" or we want halloween, instead of saying trick or treat. Today is Dia de los Muertos. Everybody has their shrines out with food and flowers for their deceased family members. Tonight I think there might be some big parties.
I am in Lazaro Cardenas right now. I am going to be in divisions with the zone leader until Wednesday. It should be pretty cool. I haven't been with another gringo since my dad, Elder Johnson. Elder Wiggins is in my zone again. He is here in Lazaro. But he goes home in 6 weeks.
This week we had zone conference. It was cool. I finally got the package. My mother knows me too well. I've been craving cinnamon toast crunch and nutri grain bars for months. Where were those pictures taken?
This week went by pretty fast. We had zone conference one day and divisions another day. I was put with a companion that doesn't talk, so that was an interesting experience. I had to teach all of the lessons alone. But I was surprised that I could actually do it.
I got Jenny's jackalope postcard. It was pretty cool. Mom said she wrote an email, but I don't think I got it.
Ok well I need to go, but I might write more later.
Friday, October 30, 2009
Here's the address:
Elder Bret C. Hansen
Mexico Cuernavaca Mission
Ave. Palmira #35
Cuernavaca, Morelos C.P. 62490
This week was kind of slow again. A lot of our investigators are kind of lame. In fact this week we dropped four of our baptism possiblities for this month. But I think this next week will be very busy. We have a lot of appointments scheduled. Tomorrow we also have the zone conference in Lazaro. That means we probably get to sleep on the floor of the church and leave at 5:00 am. Yay.
I found Clint's letter interesting. In our mission our Book of Mormons last us a while. We give them out on the second visit and only if they're not really lame. Finding them for a second visit cuts out like half of the new investigators, and those that read the pamphlet or are not really lame narrows it down to just a few every week. We have to be pretty careful with the stuff we hand out because they don't give us new stuff very often. Yes, we do find a number of people that have talked with the missionaries before. Pantla and Barrio Nuevo which is where the church used to be have been contacted to death by the missionaries. It seems like almost every one in Barrio Nuevo has talked with the missionaries before. But there are only 2 active families that live there.
I thought I didn't have any stories, but I just remembered a good one. So I thought it was kind of unusual that I hadn't thrown up for a while, but I think the Bomba cleaned out my system and gave me a sissy stomach again. Anyways, last Monday we were in centro of Zihuha. My companion was dragging me around to some stores, and I was feeling pretty sick. We went to the photo store, so he could print pictures. I started to feel really dizzy, and I ran outside. There was a lot of people outside, but I couldn't hold it in any longer. I found an empty spot between two parked cars and threw up a few times. Everyone was looking at me like "who is this drunk white guy throwing up in the street?" I'm sure the girl that was smashed up next to me on the bus on the way home loved the way I smelled. I felt sick the next day too, but I'm better now.
In response to Dad's questions:
This area is different from the last in that it is much more spread out. The houses are further from the church, so it is hard to bring people to church. But the people seem to be a little bit more receptive here. In my last area we got a lot more doors slammed on us. I say that figuritively, because most of the houses don't have doors.
We eat a lot of sea food. I've learned how to eat the fish that every one eats here. It has a lot of "espinas" (pokey things).
I still do eat frosted flakes or corn flakes in the morning. We have a mamita in our area. That means we eat with the same lady every day. If we have time, we also eat with her in the morning. But lately we haven't gone much in the morning. She cooks really good.
Yes, a lot of people work at the resorts. That is dream job everyone wants. But it is bad for us because they usually work on Sundays.
A lot of people are kind of familiar with the church. They know who the mormons are. They know we have "another Bible" and sometimes they throw out the name Jose Smith. But other than that they usually don't know too much.
Ok well that's all for this week.
I love you,
We finished six weeks here, but Elder Macias and I are still together. That wasn't a really big surprise.
On Saturday we went to visit an hermana that lives far away. It took us about an hour to get there, but it was worth it. She lives on a amazing beach. I found out where all the gringos have been hiding. The area is called Troncones beach, and it's apparently a pretty famous surf spot. The waves looked pretty sweet. There were a bunch of big houses owned by Americans. I saw two heavily tattooed white guys that run a surf school down there. At first I thought one of them was Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
I read a little bit of Tanner's blog. I couldn't help but laugh hearing him complain about their car's mileage limit being reduced. Occasionally we get a ride in the back of the pickup, but for the most part it's lots and lots of walking in 90 degree heat with 90 percent humidity. I guess everyone has a different mission experience. He was way pumped to find 6 new investigators in one day. With President Gardner, we were required to find 5 new investigators every day. There have been days when we find 10 or 15 in one day. I think the difference is that here in Mexico a ton of people listen to us but nobody will commit to anything. So we can be really busy visiting people, but none of them are going to go anywhere.
I appreciate the letters. Brooke, I remembered your birthday, but I couldn't really do anything about it. Also, it seems likes old age is hitting Dad pretty hard. He can no longer stay awake through a tv show or movie or anything past 9:00 pm.
Ok well, I don't have much more news. Thanks for the letters. Cuidense. Les amo un buen.
Monday, October 12, 2009
Happy Columbus Day! Happy birthday Zac!
Everybody seems to be complaining about the cold weather, but I'm pretty jealous. It's sooo hot. I'm wet from sweat all day long.
I guess I am pretty fortunate to be with all native speakers all the time. In this mission there are a lot more Mexican elders than gringos, and the sisters are all Mexican. So it is pretty likely that I will be with native companions my whole mission.
This week was pretty good. We had a baptism on Saturday. The baptism was cool, yet kind of sad at the same time. We have been teaching a family for a while and we challenged them for baptism on the 10th. It was going to be the dad, mom, and the two oldest kids. They all seemed to be way excited. On Friday, the day before the baptism, my companion and the district leader went to do the interview. The mom told them that she wanted to wait and that she wanted her kids to wait until they were older. But Jose, the dad, still wanted to be baptized.
The baptism went well. On Sunday he was confirmed. Later as I was teaching the gospel principle class, he started to tell me about the challenges he has had lately and he bore his testimony to me. I have never met a recent convert with such a strong testimony. I know that he is going to be a faithful member, and in time his wife will accept. I hope that one day he will have the opportunity to baptize his wife and children.
I will beging to answer Dad's questions. I am in a ward not a branch. This Sunday we only had 30 people in the church, but last Sunday we had almost 80. We don't have a chapel. We have a casa de oracion (house of prayer). It is a house turned into a church. It has a baptismal font behind it. And yes it is much more unified than the branch in my other area. (I forgot the word more in the other letter). The bishop is a convert of about 6 or 7 years. He's a good guy, but is a little awkward teaching a class. He tends to spit out every piece of information he knows which can kind of scare an investigator.
My companion is from Chihuahua, Chihuahua. He was baptized when he was ten, so I guess he is a convert. He said his family has been kind of off and on active and inactive, but since he came on the mission his family has remained active in the church. He is good at talking to people.
I'm glad to hear the cougars are doing well. I sing "rise and shout the cougars are out" to get my companion out of bed to have comp study. I don't think he understands, but it works.
Do we know if Kelli's is a boy or girl yet?
With respect to your vacation ideas to Ixtapa, I'm not sure if it would be that great. Ixtapa is pretty, but there is only one beach and not much to do. The town is new so there isn't that much stuff there. In fact, hardly anyone lives there. Everyone lives in Zihuatanejo, and Zihua isn't that tourist friendly. I've heard of some cool dive spots in the area, but other than that I haven't heard of much. I'd prefer going to Cancun or Cabo. But if the question is between Acapulco and Ixtapa, I would definitely pick Ixtapa. Acapulco is nasty. I was only there a couple hours, but the city is dirty, overly crowded, and from what I've heard pretty dangerous. I also heard the beach isn't that great. Ok well, I shouldn't think too much about these things.
This week, not too much happened. We were allowed to go the priesthood and Sunday sessions of conference. I enjoyed it a lot. I was able to understand a lot better that the last conference. The Spanish translater doesn't put much emotion in his voice. I could tell Elder Holland was speaking with a lot of emotion, but the translator was pretty monotone. It is true that the Spanish speakers record their own voice.
I got to go on divisions this week and I was senior companion for the first time. It didn't seem too hard. I don't know if I mentioned, I'm the only gringo in the Zihuatanejo area. So now even on p-day I have to speak spanish all day. It's not hard, but I miss having people that could keep me up to date on sports and news from the US. For example, I didn't know about the tsunami until today.
I am currently in the process of taking "la bomba" or the bomb. It is a series of 6 pills that are taken every six months to clean out the system of parasites. I've heard it can have some pretty intense side effects. Day one hasn't been too bad so far.
Alright well, I'm out of things to say. If you have questions about the area or anything feel free to ask.
Sunday, October 4, 2009
Thanks for all the letters. I enjoy hearing from everyone. I especially liked Mom's story. I will write Kelli back in Spanish next week so she can grade me. I don't have much time right now.
This week was great. I will share a cool experience. On Wednesday we went to visit a family that we had taught a couple times. When we went we felt like they were beginning to die on us. We decided to fast for them. The day of the fast while going to their house, it was especially hot and we couldn't get a ride. We walked for over a mile on the side of the road singing hymns as we went to keep our minds off of our hunger. Finally we got a ride. We arrived and the whole family was there. Right off the bat they started questioning us about why an angel would tell Nephi to kill someone. Eventually we resolved that issue and were able to move on. We testified a lot and the spirit was very strong. After almost 3 hours with them, they were committed to come to church and to pray that night. On Sunday we came to pick them up for church and they were ready. That's something that doesn't usually happen. They invited us in and told us that the day before their house had caught fire and burnt a hole in the roof and burnt their Bible and Book of Mormon. I think Satan really doesn't want this family to get baptized. But they had a great attitude about it, and were even joking about the sky light in their house. The whole family came to church and stayed all three hours and are excited to come to general conference next week.
The week ended great when Hermana Vasquez made us tacos al pastor with hand made tortillas. I finally saw the beach today when we went to Ixtapa to eat Domino's pizza. The beach here is gorgeous. I recommend Ixtapa for a vacation destination. I took pictures, but in this internet place I can't upload. I'll send them next week. Ok well, I don't have much time. Thanks for the letters and take care.
So, before I met my comp, a lot of people had told me some bad things about him, and I believed them. For the first week, I kind of judged him and I let his stupid stuff bother me. But this week I realized that as long as we are working I'm happy. I think he has changed a lot recently, and I need to be supportive and help him. He had a companion named Elder Snyder that really helped him a lot. When Snyder arrived, Macias was pretty dead and didn't want to do anything, But by the end of 6 weeks Snyder got him to work hard and have comp study every day, and they had success that change.& nbsp; How he did it was by becoming best friends with him. Macias told me that everyday at 9:00 Snyder would sit in his chair next to the bed of Macias and he would wake him up for comp study. Macias said would lay there, but Snyder would begin to read out loud from the Book of Mormon. Macias said he would pretend to be asleep, but he actually paid attention to what Snyder was reading. By the end of the change, they were having study time each change. The habits he formed with Snyder stuck with him, and now he wakes up at nine and we have comp study and we plan every night. It makes me wonder if I could have done the same thing with my first companion.
So, I will tell you a little more about the area and membership here. We have a ward here in Pantla. It was just made a ward about 2 months ago, and is pretty small. We have about 40 people on a typical Sunday. We don't have a chapel. We have a casa de oracion, which is a house turned into a church. I think we have to first fill this little house before they will consider giving us a chapel. What I like about the church here is that the members are much unified. It seems like almost every day there is some church activity. Last week, we had a Mexican Independence Day party in the church. The members drove around and picked up all the inactive members, and the church was full. We had over 80 people there. I20mentioned a little about the area last week. As I mentioned it is really hot, and unlike Houston air conditioning doesn't exist. It is a very coastal environment. There are palm trees everywhere. There are big hills that are full of dense, green forest. There are 2 big rivers that run through our area. We eat a lot of fish and seafood. Who would have thought that after 14 years in Texas I would eat my first crawfish in Mexico? The beach is apparently really close to Pantla, but I still haven't seen it. Oh well, maybe it's better that I don't. On Mondays we go to Zihuatanejo to use the internet, go shopping, and to have our district meetings. I occasionally see Americans here, which is kind of weird. Today I saw my first Asian person in six months. I have only driven through Ixtapa, but it seems pretty fancy. Right now it's pretty empty.
Alright well, this is getting long, so until next week.
Sorry my letters have been coming late. I've been writing every Monday. I don't know what the deal is with myldsmail.
Well, where do I begin? It's been a busy two weeks. I got transfered this week, so that's why I didn't write. I guess I will begin with my interesting transfer experience. The day started out good as we all met together in Cuernavaca with President. I got to see some of my friends from the MTC. It was fun to hear everyone's experiences in the past 6 months. One of my friends had been serving as a Bishop for several months. The Bishop had some serious medical problems and his senior companion was a bum, so after only a couple months in the mission and with limited Spanish ability he had to take over the responsibilities as bishop.
In Cuernavaca, I found out I was being transfered to the Guacamayas zone which is the farthest point in the mission. I took a bus ride to Acapulco with a bunch of other Elders. From there I was the only one going to Guacamayas. At 8.00 at night they sent me alone on a bus to Lazaro Cardenas. I was kind of nervous, but they assured me that someone would be waiting for me. I arrived at around 2:30 AM, and nobody was there. I waited and waited, and at around 4 I started to get pretty nervous. I searched my stuff for a number I could call on the pay phone. The only one I had was the number of our neighbors in Jona. At 5 I called them and asked them to wake up Elder Moscoso and have him call the offices and tell them where I was. He did, and they said the zone leaders would be there soon. I waited and waited until about 9:15 two missionaries showed up and told me I needed to get on another bus. I was apparently supposed to get off in Zihuatanejo, but nobody told me that. So at 11:30 after 2 days and 14 hours of bus rides I arrived in Zihuatanejo and found the missionaries.
My area is called Pantla, and we live about 20 minutes from Zihuatanejo. Pantla is another ten minutes from our house. This area is very different from my other area. The area is very big and includes a lot of barrios and pueblos that are located along the freeway. For some reason we don't live in Pantla, which is where the church is located and where about half of the members live. I hope we can changes houses soon. This apartment is pretty terrible in every aspect. First for the location. We start out every morning by asking rides from pickup trucks into Pantla. Also the apartment is probably a little smaller than my room in Texas. And in that room are two beds, 2 tables, a mini fridge, and some racks to hang clothes. We also have two folding chairs that don't fit in front of the tables because the tables are smashed against the beds. The shower works by pulling on a chain and water trickles down. I think I would prefer the bucket method.
This area is very wet, green, and hot. It rains a lot. Imagine Houston in August all year long. I have only seen the beach from the freeway, but it looks pretty cool. Ixtapa looks pretty fancy. It is kind of lame being in a beach town without being able to go to the beach.
My new companion is Elder Macias. He is from Chihuahua, Chihuahua. We've been working pretty good, but I think this companionship is going to be another challenge. With my last comp, we got along really well, but he didn't want to work. With this comp, we work more, but he kind of drives me nuts. Elder Macias is kind of famous in the mission. In just one year he has had 13 companions and 7 areas.
I will throw in a good story from this week. My first night here I woke up with rear end full of bug bites. After about 4 days they still were there, and in fact were getting more swollen. Last night we were with some members, and I explained my problem. The hermano inspected me in the bathroom. When I came out he was heating up some limes on the stove. I was kind of scared. He had me pull down my pants and he placed the hot limes on the insect bites. I don't know if it worked, but I think I need to go back for another treatment tomorrow. In the meantime, I am washing everything.
Ok well I have a lot more I could write, but I think that will do for now. Thanks for all the letters.
I included some pictures from my last week in Jona.
I'm glad to hear my fame is spreading. If it requires eating more caterpillars to create interesting stories for my fans to read, I'll do it. I've been informed that Dad began advertising my blog on the family email, and that I have at least one lonely reader in Eager, Arizona.
I also would like to thank Grandma Wiggins for the nice email. It was nice to hear from her.
Thanks for the letter Jenny. I saw your post, and I would like to clarify something. The tamarindo candies are pretty good, and the water isn't too bad. I'm starting to like it more, but I still get a little disapointed when we go to eat and I see the brown tamarindo water instead of a delicious agua de pina, guayaba, guanabana, jamaica, melon, or limon. Even the agua de pepino (cucumber) is pretty good if it has enough sugar.
This week not too much happened. My companion is kind of dead again, but I'm trying to not let his mood swings affect me anymore. Yesterday he turned twenty-three. It's kind of weird that he's almost as old as Jenny. Not that Jenny is old, but she is married and graduated and stuff. I gave him the tie from Brooke's wedding. Ties are pretty much the only gifts among missionaries.
This week we went to Cuernavaca so my companion could donate blood for one of our investigators. I couldn't donate because I don't have an ID. In Mexico, before you can get an operation you have to get two people to donate blood.
Something interesting that I would like to point out about the Mexican people is that they are very superstitious and they believe whatever gossip or thing they hear on TV or see on the internet. This week we were talking with a family and somehow the topic came up about some weird fish that they found in a pond in Cuautla. They showed us the newspaper article, and it had a picture of the weird fish and said it was most likely extra-terrestrial and had reportedly already attacked several local residents. I began to laugh. They asked what I thought, and I said I don't believe in aliens. They looked at me as if I was crazy. They then proceeded to talk about witches and vampires and all the tv shows and internet videos they had seen that prove the existence of those things. I kept my mouth shut to not offend. Also, someone told me that they had seen a video that showed how aliens were responsible for destroying the twin towers.
Well, another change is about to end and who knows what the wind will bring. Next Sunday we will find out. I think it will be very shocking if I leave this place. For about 5 and a half months I have been here in the same pueblo eating in the same houses. The branch members have become like my family. I've been with the same companion for so long I've kind of forgotten what it's like to be with anyone else. But who knows. Maybe President sees another couple of changes out of me in Jona.
Sea feliz. Sea mormon.
PS Here's some pictures of the local scenery and some cows that were walking down the road while we waited outside of an investigators house.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
I don't have any stories from this week that compare to the peanut field or cueclas. But I will try to search my memory for anything interesting that happened.
The house in Wisconsin sounds really amazing, and the weather sounds even better. Those pictures were pretty cool. It is really hot here. It used to rain sometimes at night and it would get cool. But it hasn't rained for a while and it is just really hot. Also our fan died. I bought a little one, but it doesn't help much. If I find out I'm staying another change I think I'll buy a big fan.
A question to dad. Have you given up on the Houston teams and started cheering for Wisconsin teams? Packers, Bucks, and Brewers? How are things looking for the upcoming college football season? How is BYU going to do?
So I found out that I am still alergic to peanuts. I accidently ate a dulce that had peanuts in it. My tongue started to swell and my throat got pretty tight, so I got kind of scared and we left to find a pharmacy and search for benedryl. But I started to feel better before we got there. I think it was just another sign that the Lord protects his missionaries.
I do have one good story for this week. So for the last several weeks or months I have been praying and thinking a lot about what we can do to help our investigators and to baptize. Because with my companion it has been pretty difficult to get him to contact or look for new investigators, I've been trying to think of how we can help those we already have. But it seemed like everyone of them had some problem that impeded them from getting baptized. One family came to my mind a few weeks ago. The husband is a member but his "wife" is not. The problem is they need to get divorced and then married. Because we didn't have money to help them we kind of put them out of our minds. Recently I noticed that even though her member husband only sometimes goes to church the nonmember hermana is always there. I felt impressed to help them, but I didn't know how. Well, on Tuesday for some reason I was given a new debit card, and was told to send the old one back to the office. On the card, arrived enough money to pay for them to get married. We are going to take them to get married next week and Hermana Cristina will be baptized on the 6 of September.
Yesterday I gave a talk. I talked about obedience, and I included a nice river story. I don't know if the people completely understood, because I think the idea of white water canoeing might be pretty foreign to the people of this pueblo. But I couldn't resist the temptation of throwing in a river analogy. Later in the day we were talking with our neighbors. She told me that when we talk like we're talking now you talk pretty normally, but when you speak in church you have a very strong gringo accent. But she said it was understandable. The Mexican people tend to talk a lot more directly. Oh well, I guess I will keep practicing.
I'm sorry I don't have much else to write. If you have more questions, send them my way.
Here's a picture of a funny sign I saw. It saw we give injections and sell popsicles. The other picture I think I might have already sent, but I wasn't sure. I took it while walking back from where we eat.
I'm glad to hear that Dad survived the Dairyland Dare. It sounded pretty intense.
Last week we weren't sure if the baby was a boy or girl. Are we more sure now? Does Aaron's new job mean no more Marriott discounts?
This week not too much happened because I got sick. On Tuesday night I began to get sick, and after a night of a lot of sweating and weird dreams I woke up with a 103 fever. I had to miss the zone conference which was held Wednesday. I had a fever all of Wednesday and part of Thursday. It was pretty boring being in the apartment, and I am glad to be back out.
But something cool did happen this week. Last Monday I was just about on the point of losing it with my companion. But on Tuesday morning he surprised me. He woke up early and then we had companion study for the first time in a very long time. It changed the whole day. The whole day we talked and got along well. The next day as I was sick he cooked me food. We are now consistently having companion study and we are working better and getting along better. I think I learned the importance of never giving up. If I had quit waking up on time or quit studying just because he wasn't I don't think he ever would have been motivated to change. Well, I don't know if I had anything to do with his desire to change, but now I need to support him so he doesn't fall again.
This week our random service act was helping our neighbor along with her son, daughter, and nephews search for cueclas. Cueclas are large caterpillars that live in a certain type of tree. We filled two buckets of them. My companion climbed the trees along with the 14 year old kid. I was in charge of catching them as the fall or picking them off the ground as they fall. It's great, because they emit urine as the fall or get picked up. So that was a great time. Later we were invited to eat some. They didn't taste that great, but they didn't taste as bad as I thought they would. I'll add some pictures at the end. Oh yea I also got chiggers all over my legs.
I'm sure if what we did was really that much of service, but it was good because it gave us a chance to get to know our neighbor's son and his kids that aren't members of the church. His wife was baptized but is now inactive. His kids go to church occasionally, but their Dad won't give permission to be baptized. Last week we wen't to their house to give the Dad a blessing and the house a blessing because they had been seeing things in the house at night.
You asked if there are any foods I like. I like pretty much all the food we get here. What I don't like is nopal (cactus) and tamarindo (a nasty thing they make candy and juice out of). I'm pretty much one of the only gringos that like chicharron which are pretty much pork rinds with chili on them. Last week I discovered that I love pitjaya which is the fruit of the cactus and tastes like raspberry. I love all the fruit here. Everybody has at least one fruit tree in their yard, and so we always get fruit. There are a bunch that don't exist in the US, and I don't know what they are called in English.
Ok well that's all for this week. Take care.
PS Here's some pictures of cueclas, but before you eat them you gut them and fry them. They say that with salt they can last for a year. If your interested I'll send you some.
I finally got the package with the rice crispie treats. I thought they might have gone bad, but Mom did a great job seran wrapping and double ziplock bagging them. They taste fantastic.
This week wasn't too exciting. On Wednesday we did another all day service project. I found out my companion actually likes doing service. I think he likes it because it is something different. This service project was much easier than the last one. Our convert Esteban takes care of a house, and he needed our help trimming some trees. There were a lot of trees. But this time we were fed twice, had one coke break, and we had all the water we needed.
So Dad asked me to talk more about the branch. Presidente Pedro has been the branch president since the branch was started about ten years ago. He is currently single because his wife left him over a year ago. Many think he might get changed in the upcoming ward conference. His brother, Ramiro, is the first counselor and is a returned missionary. His second couselor is named Ysaul. The secretary, Jose Luis, is a way cool guy. He is a convert of about five years. I always love going to eat at his house. Every time we go we end up getting out the scriptures and talking about about some doctrine. He has an amazing testimony and a great desire to learn. I think he is destined to become a bishop one day. In the branch there are two large families of members the Torres family, to which the President belongs, and the Espitia family. Together they make up at least a third if not half of the members that come every Sunday. The Espitia family is way cool because they all live in a pueblo that is pretty far away, but they come to every church activity.
This week as we were eating with Jose Luis and his family, a returned missionary that served in Jona came to visit. We talked for a while with him. It was cool to hear his stories, and to hear how much his mission has had an impact on his life. He also said before his mission, his family didn't even have money to buy him clothes for his mission, but now they have been blessed financially and even have a truck. He spoke of how his mission has put him ahead of his peers as he was looking for a job. He also talked about how he had a number of very difficult companions. Twice he had companions that were on the edge of going home and president told him that it was his job to help them finish their missions. He said that at the time he often did not enjoy the time with those companions, but looking back he can see that that he learned from those experiences.
Ok well I'm running out of time. I'll answer the other questions later.
PS here is a picture of us with our neighbors supporting the PRI party because they gave us free t-shirts. Also, the other is a cool picture I took while walking home from Tenango, which is a pueblo where we eat on Tuesdays and Fridays
Monday, August 3, 2009
Mural tribute to Michael Jackson
I'm glad to hear all is well back home. I appreciate the advice from everyone. Although right now I often feel like I can't take it, there must be some reason why I am still here. Apparently, the president has told several people that he wants to keep missionaries with their companions for longer periods of time. I guess it will just be something we have to get used to. On the bright side, we will all be better prepared for marriage by the time we finish.
This week I had an interesting experience. So I've mentioned that we have been teaching a man named Jose Cruz. Jose and his uncle grow peanuts. Because he is always busy, this week we told him that if he ever needed help we would be willing to do whatever. After a while he gave in and said the next day we could meet help him work his field. I didn't think it sounded too difficult when he described what we would be doing. We met him at 9, changed our clothes, and walked down the road until we got to the very last field. At about 10 we started working. The field had already been plowed and the plants were growing well in the soil. What we had to do was make little mounds of dirt around the plant until it was almost buried with a few leaves sticking out. We each had a little hand hoe thing, and we went to work doing two rows at a time. After about twenty minutes I wanted to die. After about an hour I already had some good blisters developing and some pretty sore legs and a sore back. We finished the first set at about 1:30, and we took a short break to drink some coke because we didn't have water. I thought we were done, but to my dismay we got up to start again. We didn't finish until 5. One can only go for so long on just coco puffs. We finally got back to the apartment and bought some tacos at around 8:00. The next day, I couldn't walk. From being in a hunched over position all day, my hamstrings were pretty tight. For the next three days, I could barely walk, and today is the first day things have begun to loosen up.
I learned a lot from my day in el campo. The life of a campesino is no easy task. I commented to my companion that I now understand why it is important to have an education. The campesinos or field workers are usually considered the lowest class of citizen because those that work the fields usually have little or no education and live in poverty. That day I learned the difficulty of the life they live, and now I understand more why so many turn to alcohol to take away the pain of life. I think my views definitely changed a bit. Also, I was given just one more reason to hate peanuts.
Ok well that's my big story for the week. I don't have much else to say.
I included a few pictures of the campo, some mountains near it, and a mural I saw in Cuautla in memory of Michael Jackson.
I am writing today which means I am here in Jonacatapec for another change. President didn't change anyone other than those that finished their mission or had their area closed. This president has some new ideas because he closed a number of areas, and I imagine he opened a number of areas as well. Apparently, president wants little movement in the mission right now so that he can formulate a plan.
I must admit I was disappointed to find out that I would be staying in this area again with the same companion. Two weeks ago he got way excited to work, but this past week was pretty much back to the way it used to be. Sometimes I get frustrated because I don't know what I can do to help us do what we need to do. But I will try to stay positive and not complain, and just hope it all will work out. I was pretty confident that some change would take place because with President Gardner he never kept two missionaries together for more than two changes. I guess this president has different ideas. But there must be some reason that I am here for another six weeks.
This week I had a cool experience. We have been teaching a man named Jose Cruz for a number of weeks. We have already taught him everything, and he recently started reading the Book of Mormon from the beginning. Every day we ask him if he has received an answer to his prayers, but every time he says no. On Tuesday, we met with him and we talked about what he had read. He said that he had read up to chapter 15 of First Nephi. I then asked if he understould Lehi's dream. He then began to tell us that he had had a dream very similar to Lehi's dream. He said that over the course of several years he has had the same dream several times. As he described his dream, it was exactly the same, and he said that he and his uncle were eating the fruit of the tree of life. We then proceeded to tell him that he had received his answer. He has commited to a baptismal date and came to church this Sunday.
To me that was a cool experience because it shows that God began preparing Jose to receive the gospel years in advance. It made me wonder who else is out there that has been prepared to receive us. I also learned from this experience that many times God wants to see how dedicated we are before he gives us an answer. It wasn't until after we had taught all the discussions and he began to read the Book of Mormon for himself, that he received an answer.
Yesterday, the US lost 5-0 to Mexico in the Gold Cup. This means that I have to some really hot chili. My companion and some member set the terms of the bet and I was pretty much forced to comply.
Next week if you can, I would like to know my line of authority.
I included some pictures from when I burned my tie and one of our chapel here in Jona.
Monday, July 13, 2009
I finally got to meet the new president. He is awesome. He has a very different personality than President Gardner. President Gardner was a tall, intimidating, powerful man. President Spannaus is a short, funny, sensitive man. I really enjoyed President Gardner and I have a lot of respect for him, but I am excited to see the changes that will take place with the new president. I can tell that he has great plans in store, and over the next few months we will begin to see a lot of changes take place.
President Spannaus is from Argentina, and speaks with interesting accent. The Argentine accent is Spanish with kind of an Italian accent. He is 48 years old and has 12 year old and 9 year old daughters. His wife is taller than he is. She is also a returned missionary. President Spannaus received an MBA from BYU, so although I haven't heard him speak English I imagine he speaks pretty well.
Today we played soccer in one of the oldest LDS churches in Mexico. It used to be school, and it still resembles a school in many ways. The institute building is also attached, so the entire thing is pretty huge. I got to play pool in the institute building which is something I thought I would never get to do.
This week it has been big news that a church leader from the mormon colonies was murdered by a drug lord. The Mexican news isn't too reliable, and the people that tell us the Mexican news are even less reliable. So maybe you can tell me how the real story went.
So last change I went on exchanges a lot with Elder Corzo in his area because our companions were lazy and wanted to be lazy together. Anyways, in those few days we got to work a lot, and I really enjoyed it. Today, I found out that three of the people that I found and taught a few times got baptized this month. Two brothers were baptized and are actively involved in the youth program. One of them went to the visitor's center in the temple last week. Their parents also attend church, but need to get married before they can be baptized. The other baptism is an old man that we found sitting on the corner. Apparently he is very excited and loves the church. It was very exciting for me to hear that news. It shows that I have made a difference in this area. I now know that with a few days of hard work miracles happen. Now, I just need to get my companion to help us do a few days of hard work here, in our area.
I am always surprised that Dad can write such long letters even when he is home living a normal life. I can't seem to write long letters even though I am in Mexico living an adventure. I figure he has more time to think write and think about it.
Jenny, I would not not think that a king trip would be too fun in a raft. It is late in the year and king is probably dead. Red moose is the only thing to hit, and it's not really anything in a raft unless you all sit the back and tie your throw rope to the bough line to see how much air you get. But I guess if you have nothing better to do and want to relieve memories, go for it. I am glad to hear you aren't selling out, and still can hang out with hippies at concerts. Maybe things will change in a few years when you become a mom.
Ok well, I don't have much time left, so bye.
PS Ask Kelli to translate the sign. You will laugh when you understand what it says.
Monday, July 6, 2009
The big news here in the mission is that President Gardner is now gone and President Spanaus is now in charge. A few people have met him, but I will have to see for myself what he is like. This Saturday we will have a zone conference and get to meet the new president. I am excited to see the changes that will happen in the mission.
This week nothing too exciting happened. Last week we found an investigator that is really progressing. We found him because we were looking for someone in the area book. We found out from a neighbor that the person in the area book moved, but I decided that I wanted to knock the house next door. It was a house with a big gate and a wall all around the property. My companion thought a narco (drug dealer) lived there, but I knocked it anyway. A man answered and let us in. The man named Jose Cruz takes care of the house during the week. We taught him that day and since have returned almost every day to teach him. He is not a typical investigator. He reads everything we give him, and he is understanding everything. He has accepted a baptism date. This is really exciting for me because I have never had a contact progress before. All the people we've baptized and many of our other investigators were found by missionaries before us.
Fourth of July was Saturday, but surprising as it sounds they don't celebrate it down here in Mexico. I did wear my red tie, white shirt, and blue pants to celebrate. But that was the extent of my celebration. Oh, I also wrote "the fourth of july" and drew some fireworks in my planner. We were going to buy a pizza in the night, but it was fast Sunday.
In other news, I ate my first chicken foot today. It actually didn't taste too bad, but it is mostly bone. Also, I've begun to eat more chili. Food without chili seems bland and boring now.
If you do send another package, send the best two years soundtrack and any other church music you think I could use. Candy is also nice.
I received a letter saying that our somewhat relative Jeff Wiggins got his mission call to Brazil, but I don't remember which mission.
Well, Wisconsin sounds pretty cool. I'm excited to see it.
I don't have much else to say, I sent the pictures I missed last week (Janice posted them on last week's blog a week later.)
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
I saw the pictures of the house. Wow. It is pretty dang fancy. I am excited to visit. It is weird that when I come home you will have lived in that house for a year and a half. My only suggestion would be a nice outdoor hot tub for Christmas in Wisconsin.
This week something happened that made me feel very stupid. I lost my wallet for a second time. I have no idea how but somehow it fell out on a bus again. I have never lost my wallet before, yet somehow I have managed to lose it twice in 2 months. I was very angry with myself. But I decided to pray and ask if Heavenly Father would forgive a stupid missionary a create a way for my wallet to return to me. Two days ago the office missionaries called me and told me that a man has my wallet in Cuernavaca, but he left to go to Mexico City. It might be a little harder to get my wallet this time, but I know I will get it soon. And I know that God made it possible for me to receive my wallet a second time after being lost twice on a Mexican bus.
I lost the wallet Wednesday as we were going to a large conference. My president gathered three zones together as he gave us his final advice before he goes home. He tried to fit everything into the conference. He talked about finances, marriage, the changes that will happen with a new mission president, and many other things. It was a great meeting. It was also nice because I got to see my MTC companion and other friend as well as Elder Wiggins. It is sad to see President Gardner go. I have a lot of respect him. But I am excited to see what the new president brings.
Sorry I don't have much else to say. I was able to read the letters sent to me, but now I can't open myldsmail. So Dad's questions will have to wait until later.
I attached a picture of Trevor and I for Grandma to put on her fridge. Also, some pictures of when my companion completer one year in the mission.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Happy Father's Day! This is the third consecutive Father's Day I have been away from home, and I don't know if I will ever be home for another. But I hope you had a great day Dad.
Congratulations Brooke! Before I left, I predicted 2 new babies and one in the oven. So far, I think I am doing pretty well.
I enjoyed reading about the trip to Italy. The pictures are gorgeous. It made me laugh thinking about you on the trains that you thought were gross. I imagine the buses in Mexico are probably pretty similar. Did you have to sit next to any chickens or a woman breast feeding?
This week I want to thank Clint for the advice he gave me. He told me that if I ever got really angry at my companion to iron his shirts. Well, I hadn't been getting along with my companion very well, but I thought I would just tough it out until the changes then I would leave and all would be well. But I ended up staying, and I think we were both kind of disappointed. Anyways, it was the first day of the second transfer, and my companion was sleeping in a lot later than usual. I thought he had given up, and I was just sitting in my chair getting angry. Then as I saw my companion's clothes hanging up in the other room, I remembered what Clint said. I ironed his two white shirts while he slept, and then I hung up one of my shirts with his.
He never said anything, but I noticed things were different that day and the following days. We talked a lot more during the day, and we actually contacted and worked. I hope it lasts. If anyone ever wants to give me advice feel free to do so.
Elder Wiggins is now my zone leader. I'm excited about that, but I still haven't seen him.
The rainy season started here. Before, it rained occasionally in the night, but now it rains every night and often during the day. I really like it. The rain isn't hot like it is in Texas. It's been much cooler lately. The other day I wore my long sleeved shirt for the first time since the MTC. When we left in the morning it was in the 60's. But it turned out to be a bad idea becasuse later in the day the sun came out and it was in the 80s.
I will respond to a couple of Dad's questions. I would definitely say that the people of Mexico have greater faith. We always begin the first discussion by asking if they believe in God, and so far nobody has ever said no. God is very much a part of the culture here. The problem is that everyone has faith and believe in God, but that doesn't mean that they keep his commandments.
One cultural difference is time. I have yet to get out of priesthood meeting on time. In fact it usually ends about thirty minutes late. Last week it ended about 45 minutes after church. Those 30-45 minutes can be a long time on a fast Sunday. Also when we visit people, it is expected that we stay for hours. We are not supposed to do that, but that is the way the people think and the way my companion thinks.
The people here also look for any reason to get together. There is a huge party for every occassion. For example, if my cousin's baby has a birthday then I have to go to the party. Also, the women have a relief society activity every week, and the once a month enrichment meeting is a pretty big deal. For the enrichment meeting last month pretty much the entire branch came including the men and children.
Ok well good luck with the house search. I will keep you all in my prayers.
Mom, if you can, try and update the blog. My fans are getting anxious. If you don't have time give the assignment to Jenny or Brooke.
Here's a picture of the road to one of the pueblos. Everything used to be yellow, but now it is green and pretty. I had to take a picture of the Texas sticker I saw on a mini van.
It is kind of sad to hear that you are officially out of Sugar Land, but Wisconsin sounds pretty nice. I could go for some Wisconsin weather right about now.
Today we had transfers, but nothing changed here. I am still in the same area with the same companion. I was a little disappointed. I was pretty positive that I was leaving, and I even started packing my bags on Wednesday. It is a pretty unusual situation. Apparently, President Gardner doesn't normally keep missionaries in one area for a long time, and he usually doesn't keep two missionaries together for more than one transfer. But I think he is testing me. Thursday we had interviews, and president gave me a lot of praise and said he saw great things in me. I was kind of surprised. He proceeded to give me a blessing and promised me many great things. I think he feels that this second change will show if I've got what it takes.
At first I was kind of kind of depressed to be in the same area again with the same difficult companion. But I've realized that my life here isn't too bad, and I have a lot to be grateful for. My apartment is way nice even though right now we can't afford to pay for gas to heat the shower. But I've become pretty used to the cold water. President says it is the nicest house in the mission. We don't have to wash our clothes by hand, and our neighbors give us gelatin almost every night. We get food every day, and I still haven't received anything too gross. The food is usually pretty good. Also, I get to spend the majority of the summer in a place where it isn't too hot and only rains at night time. Ok, it is really hot, but at least it's not humid. I will try to remain positive throughout this change and not allow my standards to fall.
This week I spent two days on divisions with another Elder. It was a great experience. We worked way hard and I learned a lot.
I don't have much else to say so I will answer some of Dad's questions from last week.
The town I live in isn't very big. The highway runs down the middle of it, and it maybe has a thousand people. Our area includes the main town of Jonacatapec and four other pueblos. One pueblo is within walking distance and the other three we have to hitch hike or take public transportation to get to them. We usually work in the main town, because we have found that it is very difficult to get people to church that live in distant pueblos and don't have cars. But we still have to travel out there to eat three days a week.
The town is pretty quiet and relaxed. I couldn't imagine being a kid here. There is absolutley no forms of entertainment other than a couple soccer fields. If anyone wants to do anything they go into the city 40 minutes away.
I'm not sure if there really is a nice or bad part of town. The nice houses are put right next to the little run down shacks. But if have a nice house that means you usually have a 20 foot wall surrounding the house. Usually the wall has barbed wire or broken glass bottles on top. We live in the only apartments in town. There are only six of them, and they are right along the highway which is really convenient.
There are dogs on the streets, but I've never had trouble with them. Occasionaly at people's houses dogs can get territorial, but if you pick up a rock they run away.
The food we receive is usually pretty good. I don't really like the candies with chili on them, but maybe in time I will. I do like the pork rind chips with chili and lemon. I also really love apple soda. I'm not sure why apple soda doesn't exist in the US. Also, there is so much fruit here. Mangos are delicious, but I still can't eat them with chili powder.
I don't think tourists come to Jona. Most people that live somewhat near the church are familiar with it, but it is kind of hidden. The church is just over a year old and is way nice. It is definitely the nicest building in town. The Catholic churches are hundreds of years old, but I bet their jealous of our soccer/basketball court and air conditioned building.
I received Clint and Grandma Hansen's letters. I always enjoy a good river story, and I am working on learning that scripture for you Grandma. And happy birthday to Clint.
I'm not sure if you can send cd's across the border, but it would be nice to have some more music. If you could make a copy of the best two years cd and maybe a kenneth cope or something would be nice.
I included pictures of me and President and Sister Gardner, our district in which I am the only white guy, and Esteban and Arnulfa's wedding/baptism party.
I can't help but think that today Teton High Adventure Base begins training. It is probably cold, rainy, and snowy there, but last year those were my favorite two weeks.
It is interesting to hear about Dad's fascination with turkeys. There are tons of them here, but I don't really like them. Maybe it's a little different when they are in forests and not walking down the road or in someone's yard.
Jenny, I hope you can make friends with the old people. As missionaries we talk to a lot of old people. Old people are usually in their houses during the day when we contact. Sometimes people don't want to talk to us, but will invite us in to entertain their old grandma.
Clint, it sounds we do a lot of the same things you did on your mission. We usually yell into houses saying, "Buenas tardes" (good afternoon). We teach a lot of first lessons but rarely a second one. People will set an appointment for us to come back and usually won't be there. Everyone always offers a cup of water and a lot of times food. You gave me some good ideas about having a group meeting in a neighborhood. I have learned a lot from my companion about the culture. I often wondered why everyone loves my companion when he is so lazy, but they don't like me. But I have begun to realize that he always relates very well to the people and he can always make conversation. I have started trying to speak more even though it makes me uncomfortable.
Brooke, I still want to hear about the Italy trip.
This week I had a weird experience. We went to eat with a member and before eating I felt fine, but after eating I felt terrible and threw up a few times. After throwing up I felt perfectly normal again. But Mexicans tend to overreact to such things. The family we ate insisted on driving me to the emergency room. Only in Mexico can someone go to the emergency room, receive doctor's consulting, get an injection, and a box of perscription pills for under five dollars. I was still kind of mad that I had to spend five bucks when I didn't even feel sick. I forgot to mention that the injection was in the butt. That was kind of awkward.
Yesterday I had a cool experience. We had just eaten with a family and we were sitting around. After a while of sitting I finally got us to leave. We went to visit a sister from the ward that hadn't gone to church in a while. She let us in and invited us to eat. What I didn't realize was that she invited us to an Herbalife salespitch meeting. We got some free smoothie things, and I got my body fat measured. I gained back a few pounds and I'm at what I was when I entered the MTC, but the man said I am still under weight. Anyways, the supervisor guy started talking to us, and the conversation turned towards religion as it often does with missionaries. We ended up giving a first lesson to the Herbalife guy, and he is really interested and wants to come to church. He asked when he could go to church before we even brough it up. I think finding this man was an answer to a prayer that I had made earlier in the day.
Yesterday we had two baptisms. It was a really cool experience. Esteban and his wife Arnulfa were baptized. Arnulfa's three daughters have already been baptized and are active in the church. Esteban and Arnulfa have been coming to church for over a year, but couldn't get baptized because they needed a divorce and then to get married. A divorce in Mexico is very difficult to obtain. But this week after much planning, a brother from the ward drove my companion, my district leader, and the couple three hours away to a judge that could get them divorced from their former spouses and married for a reasonable cost. The days leading up to the marriage were pretty hectic, but it was worth it in the end to see a family completed in the gospel. What was awesome was that everyone helped out. The elder's quorem helped pay for gas. Hermano Chucho volunteered his car and to drive them three hours to Guerrero and three hours back. Esteban is awesome. Every week he would come to church with his boots, big belt buckle, and nice cowboy shirt with the top two or three buttons undone. But yesterday after his baptism he wore a tie for the first time. I couldn't help but smile seeing an old tough cowboy wearing a tie. They are both so excited and are having a party to celebrate tomorrow. I was glad to be part of their baptism and I am appreciative of the missionaries that originally found and taught them over a year ago.
Ok well I'm running out of time, but it was nice to hear from you all.
It is kind of sad to hear that I will never be going back to my house, but it will be interesting to see what Wisconsin will be like.
Today we hiked to the top of a mountain. I'm not sure if it is a mountain or a really big hill. At the bottom of the hill there are a few ruins, but they were kind of lame. But at the top it was pretty cool. There is a big metal cross on the top. From the top you can see Popocatepel which is a huge volcano near Mexico City. Either the first missionaries or a group of apostles climbed to the top of that mountain to dedicate Mexico for missionary work.
This week, we worked a lot with a few people to get them ready for baptism. On Wednesday, we are taking two people to get married and then they are getting baptized this Sunday. These people have been going to church for about a year and a half, and all their children are baptized. They couldn't get married before because they both needed divorces, and a divorce is very expensive here. But we found a judge in a town 4 hours away that knows the missionaries and will marry someone if they have been separated from their former spouse for five years.
They are both incredibly excited.
I will try to answer some of Dad's questions. This week we didn't have much success contacting, but there are a few people that we have been teaching for a while. We found them knocking doors. I haven't ever had success contacting in this area before. I still haven't had a new investigator come to church. We usually teach a few lessons each time we contact, but they usually don't want a second visit or aren't there. Some want us to keep coming back and like talking with us, but for some reason we can't get them to church. Sunday morning we pass by the houses of our best investigators to take them to church, but they are never there.
My companion is from Tobasco. He is twenty two years old. He was born in Veracruz, but when he was three he was sent to live with his aunt in Tobasco. The missionaries converted his family and he was baptized at 13. His older sister, which is technically his cousin, served a mission as well. He told me when he was 18 he began to loose interest in the church, and he became a heavy drinker. But throughout this time his aunt made him go to church every Sunday even if his was in just jeans and a t-shirt. He began to be very miserable as he was no longer allowed to take the sacrament and lived unworthily. But one day he realized the cause of his misery, and he quit drinking and started wearing his white shirt and tie to church again. After some time, his bishop called him one night and told him that he had noticed his progress and repentance and called him to be the ward secretary. A few months later, he put in his mission papers. He plans on returning from the mission and studying petrochemical engineering and aspires to work for pemex.
The branch president is a long time member and his brother is the first counselor. His family converted many years ago, and they make up a large part of the branch. I don't really know the story of the second counselor.
I attached some photos from the top of the mountain.