Monday, December 29, 2014

2014-12-29 ¡Feliz Navidad!

Dear all:

Well, that was my first Christmas as a missionary. It was great to be able to Skype with family, and more family than I usually get to see at that!

(Rob's Mom says...here's a bonus shot of Rob's face on our computer on Christmas Eve!)
 

Actually, we unfortunately didn't get to do too many Christmas-y things. We definitely talked a lot about Christ, and la Dádiva (the Gift), but we spent almost all of Christmas Eve and Christmas out working. Which wasn't easy, let me tell you, because not a lot of people want to listen to missionaries during the holidays. We ate dinner on Christmas Eve with the bishop and his family, which was really nice (and the dinner was delicious), and we got to talk to our families. I'm going to say it again, it was really great to see you all!!

Let's see, where did I leave off... it's been a couple of weeks now.. Oh yeah! New companion! His name's Elder Anaya, he's from Texcoco, Mexico (the state of Mexico), and has been out in the field for a little over a year. He's also nineteen, and it's a lot of fun having him for a companion. Also, his English isn't that bad, so I have help during the English class we teach!

I'm attaching a couple of pictures... the first is a little old, Elder Cortez and Sister Jones (let's see if you can guess which one she is... yes, it's that easy) are no longer with us, but you can see our new zone leaders of the last transfer, Elders Charlton and Suárez. Be warned, kids, it's true what they say: if you don't quit doing that, your face will freeze that way. Don't see it? On the left. No, but seriously, they're both really fun and it's been nice to have another gringo in the district.
 
 The second is my new comp, Elder Anaya, who had to have an ingrown toenail fixed recently by our friendly neighborhood friend-of-a-nonmember-spouse-of-a-member gastrointestinal specialist/surgeon. That's right. We know people. Gotta love Mexico.


As for the work here... it's going really well. We've run into a couple of difficulties recently with a few investigators (family problems), but we're continuing to work with them and help them. In fact, this Sunday it's possible that every companionship in the district will baptize an investigor. It's going to take a lot of work, though, and a lot of prayer. Like Gordon B. Hinckley (I think?) said, we're going to need to get on our knees and pray like everything depended on God, and then get on our feet and work like everything depended on us. 

Another thing... we worked really hard this week to find people to teach, and we actually found a decent amount, the most promising being references from members, including one woman who's the friend of a member who couldn't meet with us for a lesson until the next week (we're going to meet with her in about an hour), but almost no one showed up to church. The people we passed by for told us that they couldn't, or they didn't answer the door. While that's disappointing, this woman I mentioned, Gudelia, who's not even officially an investigator, showed up to church with her friend. We only invited her in passing, and she actually came. That is practially unheard of for us. All because her friend went and brought her. So, what am I trying to say with this? Think of your friend. Yes, that one. Maybe those ones. That you once thought, "Wouldn't it be nice if they were Mormon? They could really use the Gospel in their life." Invite them to church. Even better, invite them to listen to the missionaries. Even better (this is what this member did), bring the missionaries with you to visit them. You'd be helping the missionaries, sure, but most importantly you'd be being a good friend, and a good member. Every member a missionary.

I love you all, and I hope you're all well. That's all for this week, but don't forget to write! I may not be able to answer everything, but I try to read what I get, and I love letters!

Elder Rob Weatherford

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

2014-12-15 Sueño con una Navidad blanca (I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas)

But, no, it's not going to snow. I'm pretty sure I can say that for sure.
 
Let's see, what happened this week...

Well, for one thing, we had investigators in church! With one family especially, super special, the father came for the first time. I was super excited to see them! They said they would, but they've had trouble in the past, and we can't pass by for everybody, unfortunately. We're still working to find new people, which right now has been pretty hard. But, I have hope for this upcoming week.

On Saturday, we were able to attend and participate in a Christmas concert in Orizaba. There was a missionary choir that sang a little bit with a string quintet put together from the stake. There was also a member who just so happens to be a professional pianist, who also played. It was a fun time--there were both spiritual and "fun" songs, and we got to share "The Gift" video with everyone there.

I tried candied coconut for the first time this week. Really good!

No joke--I narrowly missed my third encounter with dog urine from the roof this week. I mean, come on!

I met a clown this week with my companion! We were having lunch with a member family, and they had a friend over, who just so happens to work as a clown. And I think he just came from work, because he was in full makeup with the red nose and everything! Oh, and it gets better... he gave me his business card when we met, and so I stuck it in my shirt pocket. Big mistake. You see, that is also where I keep my "Él es la Dádiva" (He Is the Gift) cards. Which just so happen to be exactly the same size. So, when we make a street contact later that day, when I pull out a card to give to this lady, I almost (I'm so glad I looked!) give her Moñito's ("Little bow tie") business card with his picture on the front and everything. I glance down, stifle a snort, casually slip it into my coat pocket, and pull out a different one. Luckily, my companion still had her attention, so she didn't notice. But my companion sure noticed when I gave up trying to hold back my laughter a little ways down the street.

Ah, yes... transfers. I'm staying here! I'll remain in Mendoza, but Élder Cortéz is moving on to be zone leader Córdoba, about a half hour away. So yeah, this will be my first transfer without my trainer. I'm now a "full-fledged missionary." The work goes on! And I realized, I just turned three months old! I was set apart three months ago yesterday. It feels like a lot longer, but I hear that the time starts to go faster. All right, now I'm rambling. I'll miss Elder Cortéz, but I wish him well in his new assignment, and I get to meet my new companion tomorrow!

Until next week!

Love, 
Elder Rob Weatherford

2014-12-15 Something I've noticed...

Kathy:  I kind of think maybe Rob didn't exactly intend for me to post this, but I think it's good for those who I know are keeping up to see.  He won't be too mad!  ;) 

You know, I'm pretty sure the missions are in a drought of leadership. They're sending more and more greenies to the front lines. You should see the poor sap who just got called as our new district leader to replace Elder Cortez! Seriously, though, this is happening more and more. I guess this is what the general authorities meant when they said that we need to prepare more and more early for a mission. Really goes to show the importance of seminary! Anyway, I love you all, and I can't wait to talk on Christmas!!

Love,

Elder Rob Weatherford

P.S. Remember that poor sap I mentioned? Yeah, that's me.

Monday, December 8, 2014

2014-12-8 Christmas is Coming!

Greetings and salutations from... No, don't worry, I'm still in Ciudad Mendoza. Transfers don't happen until next week! And, they come a week early because of Christmas. Which isn't a problem, unless you consider that it cuts my training short by a week. But don't worry, I haven't considered that.

This week's been pretty busy, with surprise divisions happening and everything, not to mention the approach of the end of my training. Because my comp's the district leader, I get the opportunity to do divisions with one of the zone leaders, and it's always a great experience. I also got to manage the phone! Ah, phones. How weird it was to have one in my pocket again.

We had a people come to church today that haven't been able to before! The father had to work, but the mother of this family (I love going to visit them--they live in humble conditions, but they seem really prepared to accept the gospel) was able to come to church with a couple of her kids. Not many of our investigators have been going to church, so that was really nice to see her take the plunge and have a good experience.

There's actually a lot of activity going on in Mendoza right now. The Day of the Virgin is approaching, and so for a couple of weeks before there are lots of people in the street with lots of loud instruments. The "parades" are called pilgrimages, I believe, and from what I understand they involve more travel than a normal parade. But I really don't know too much. There's also a lot of Fireworks, but not the kind I'm used to. These sound more like gunshots, and there's just a loud flash. They're called "cohetes" (rockets) and they go off at all times, both day and night. This morning I was woken up by one of the pilgrimage groups marching down our street with drums and trumpets, at five thirty in the morning. Finally, they passed, and I settled back down for my last hour of sleep, when *BOOM* someone sets off a cohete. They take their Day of the Virgin very seriously.

And yes, Christmas is coming! I can't wait to talk with you all on Christmas. I'm also really glad, Dad, that Bishop Caussé was able to hear your arrangement in Stake Conference! All I need now is for ME to hear the arrangement.

I love you all, and hope you all have a good holiday season! Don't forget to check out christmas.mormon.org! Or navidad.mormon.org.

Élder Rob Weatherford

Saturday, December 6, 2014

2014-12-1 Thanksgiving! Wait, Thanksgiving?

Yeah, definitely forgot that this Thursday was Thanksgiving. I remembered last week, but not writing it down was a mistake. It's not like there's anyone in the country to remind me, so it completely skipped my mind. It was a good day, I guess.

We just had a really great stake conference this weekend! Our mission president was there, and a seventy--Elder Jorge Sandival. I took a lot of notes and learned a lot, especially in the priesthood sesión on Saturday. Strong testimony combined with a thorough knowledge of the scriptures, not to mention apostolic authority--it's a really special experience. On the way to the first sesión, however, I'm pretty sure I got peed on by a dog. Again, from the roof. It was probably the same one. It wasn't in torrents or anything, but I got sprinkled on. I thought, "Oh, it's beginning to rain," but nope. Not a cloud in sight. That's when I smelled it. Yep, I'm pretty sure it was dog urine. Ah well.

And, speaking of things falling on me, I got hit on the leg with something on the bus. I looked, and a large screw had fallen from the ceiling. I looked at my comp, and we both laughed. Those buses are literally falling apart.

If you haven't seen the He Is the Gift video, I recommend it. It's really short, but it helps remind us what Christmas is all about. Check out christmas.mormon.org, and learn more about the Gift. No, not das Gift, Dad. That's what the street vendors sell (pause for laughter from those that speak German. And that appreciate my humor). (Note from Rob's mom:  For those of you who *aren't* German speakers, "das Gift" means "poison" in German.  ;) )

Everything's going well, I love you all, and can't wait until Christmas. Won't forget that one!

Elder Rob Weatherford

Monday, November 24, 2014

2014-11-24 ¿Ya tengo dos meses? Y, ¿sólo tengo dos meses? (I'm two months old? Only two months old?)‏

Wow. Look at the time. I turned two months old on Wednesday. In the field, at least. Pretty soon I'll be old enough that I'll start including the time I had in the MTC when people ask me how long I've been a missionary. All told, it's almost been ten weeks!

As promised, here is the photo of my oddest snack (I'm sorry, I know it's a cultural thing, but for my culture that qualifies as odd) to date.
 



I've had the opportunity to go on divisions twice in the past two weeks with the district leaders. Really good experiences, and they've taught me a lot. I'm excited to go out and implement! Unfortunately, not one of our investigators came to church. Some let us know before, but one family that we were sure would show didn't. It's a little disheartening, but that's the way it is. We do all we can, and then leave it to God, who always gives us our free agency. As his tools, though, we'll continue to teach the importance of Sabbath day worship, to make sure everyone understands what is being promised if they can do their part. Check out Doctrine and Covenants 20. And 3 Nephi 18. And the other scriptures. All of them. Check out all of them. You'll thank me later.

I can't remember if I've mentioned... about a month ago, I went to Veracruz (port city, mission offices) and finalized my visa, so I should be good for my whole time here. At least, I think it was about a month. It might have been last week. Or yesterday. Time here is like for the Pevensies in Narnia. And, at times, like for Rip Van Winkle.

Food... the food's REALLY good here. I've had homemade tamales, tacos (here, they're very different. And, much better!) and, of course, the grasshoppers. Todavía me falta la iguana. Un día de estos...
It's true, there's a lot of chile here. Spicy is the norm. Also, there's a lot of lime. With practically everything. And, of course, the tortillas. Super delicious! Sometime soon, I need to try tacos al pastor. It's all the other missionaries talk about. Well, that and the Gospel.

A pair of sisters in our district just had a baptism on Sunday. His name is Jesús, and he's seventeen. I can't talk much about it, but he had a lot of trouble he had to go through to make it to this point. His baptism was a really special experience.

All right, that's all for now. Pray, read your scriptures, and don't let the bedbugs bite! Bite them first! With lime and chili powder!

Elder Rob "Güeroford"
 
The view from our apartment window

Homemade (not our home, of course) tamales! I know, a lot of food pictures...
 

Monday, November 17, 2014

2014-11-17 ¡Chapulín!‏ (Crickets!)

Greetings, all, from the beautiful Ciudad Mendoza.

First things first, I believe a while ago I said that I was in the northwest area of the mission. That was patently untrue, and I apologize. The mission is shaped roughly like a boomerang, and I'm smack dab in the middle, if farther out west. If you can find Córdoba on a map, then follow it out to the left and down a little, you should be able to find Orizaba, our stake's namesake. I'm a little farther out to the west from there.

This past week we had transfers! As a trainee I didn't, technically, but pretty much everyone else did. I'm now the only United States citizen in my district. United States of America, that is. Although this transfer (I THINK that's the English word for it... here they're called "changes") is only five weeks instead of six, so they'll come again a week or so before Christmas.

Everything's good, here! The work's progressing, and there's a family that's doing really well, with baptismal dates for December. They were a reference, too, from a member, so remember--do someone you know a favor and let the missionaries share the gospel with them!

Apart from the occasional military or police truck driving through, things have been relatively quiet. Oh, yeah, I don't think I've mentioned them, yet! Yeah, there's a large police presence here in Mexico. But it's not so much in quantity as in quality. As in, the police here literally carry around assault rifles instead of the pepper spray/pistol/baton combo you might see in Kirkland. Every so often, trucks from the military or the police (I've seen names from at least three different branches of the police... I'm curious about how many they have) with three or four officers in the back, in full SWAT gear (vest, helmet, balaclava, everything) with their rifles just pointing out the sides, scanning everybody. I hope they use their safeties. I suspect it has to do with drug traffic prevention, but I honestly have no information on that, just the ginormous guns. But they're really friendly.

And occasionally, stores will hire guards (I think they're privately hired, but again, I have no real idea) to, well, guard their stores. I once saw a man, again in that full SWAT gear, with ski mask and everything, carrying an assault rifle, guarding the front of a small bakery. I guess they have really, really good bread?

Aaaand, on to the title of the email. ¡Chapulín! My comp and I bought a couple of tortas (really good sandwiches--sorry, my Argentinian friends, not cake--they sell here) to eat in a park near the center of the city. A lady passed us, shouting out her edible wares, but we let her pass us by. At least, until I heard her yell out, "¡chapulines!" I turned to my comp, and said, wide-eyed, "¿De veras?" (Really?) He made a face, affirmed, and said, "Si quiere," (If you want to.) and gestured to the lady. I promptly ran after her and purchased my first ever cup of grasshoppers. No, really! Pictures to follow next week, if I can! A little bit of chili powder, a lime squeezed over the top, and you just munch on them. They were about an inch long, and very crunchy. Roasted, I think? I was so excited I didn't ask, just checked that they were no longer moving. Yes, I felt a little weird eating them, but how could I possibly let that opportunity pass me by? Ten pesos (less than a buck) for a small cup! Yes, that's the "weirdest" thing I've tried so far here. The food here is delicious, including their local insect life. But don't worry, Mom, I haven't tried any of the cockroaches in our apartment and I don't intend to.

I'm feeling more and more comfortable with doing the work here. It's still a bit difficult, at times, because going up and talking to strangers has always been against my nature, but this really is different. I have divine help, and I'm not here to make small talk. I'm here to invite others to come unto Christ to gain eternal life with their families. I study, I practice, I approach others, I'm rejected, I'm accepted, I teach, I explain, I invite, I rejoice with those that discover the happiness this message can bring, I'm devastated when they don't realize the importance of what we're offering, and my goal is to be better every day, a better missionary, a better person, a better instrument in the hands of the Lord. The only way I'm able to do that is by relying more and more on my Heavenly Father, to show me where I'm doing well, and especially where I'm not, to help me improve. I have a lot to learn, but I'm glad I have this opportunity to do so, the chance to really dedicate myself completely to this.

Con mucho amor,
Elder Rob Weatherford
 

Note from Kathy (Rob's Mom)

Sooo, just a quick note to clarify...Rob didn't have time to write a group letter last week.  Hopefully he'll have time this week, and I'll get it up here on the blog asap!!  So glad people are enjoying reading his letters!!

Monday, November 10, 2014

2014-11-3 Week... I don't actually know. It's not two years yet?

Dear All:

At times, sure, the time flies by, but it's hard to believe that it hasn't even been two months since I was set apart.

Bueno. ¡Hola hola, caracola! (Shoutout to my MTC comp, Elder Brown)

I'd like to start out with something that touched my heart. In a Sunday School lesson, in the Gospel Doctrines class, the subject was baptism. The Gospel Doctrines class is for both those taking lessons from the missionaries prior to baptism and also for recent (within a year) converts. During one of the discussions, one of the recent converts showed the class the photo of her baptism. It was a photo of her, her family, and the missionaries that converted them. She had it glued inside the front cover of her scriptures. When my comp asked her about it a little later, she showed us that in the back, she had a picture of the temple glued inside the back cover, with the message "This is the goal" written in Spanish. She and her husband will have been baptized one year ago this month. That was really beautiful to me, and I can't wait for them to experience the joy that comes with being sealed together in the temple for time and all eternity. That's the goal of missionary work. Not baptism, because that's just the gate to the path of exaltation. Eternalization... that's one of the most important messages I'm here to share. Families can be together forever. 

All right. For lack of a better segue, I'm going to just say it: From there, I'd like to move on to Dora the Explorer. I caught my companion singing quietly to himself one day, a song that seemed very (unfortunately) familiar. When confronted, we discussed it a little bit. He was surprised to learn that in the United States, it actually teaches Spanish! Apparently, everywhere else (or, at least in Argentina and Mexico) it teaches English! So, we have phrases, like, "Swiper, no swiping!" changed to, "Zorro, ¡no te lo lleves!" (Fox, don't take that!) ("¡Ah, rayos!") We also have Frosted Flakes (Azucaradas) with good ol' Tony the Tiger ("Tiger," pronounced "teeger," different than the Spanish word for tiger, "tigre"), who says, "¡Son grrrriquísimos! ("They're 'riquísimos,' they're really delicious)

Also, Mom - What I told you, about trusting more in the Lord than in myself and my language abilities, I'd like to explain a little more. Right now, for me, it has more to do with leaps of faith. I still study like crazy, and do all I can to learn how to speak and understand the people, but that's not trusting in myself more than the Lord. I need to work hard to be worthy of the gifts of the Spirit, including the gift of tongues. The times when I would prefer to keep my mouth shut because I don't know if I'll be able to communicate what I feel I should, those are the times when I need to trust God and open my mouth anyway, because following a prompting is more important than hesitating to speak even when I don't know exacly what to say, or even if I'll be able to express myself exactly the way I want to. I still struggle with it, but right now that's what relying on the Lord more than myself means to me.

Los quiero muchísimo,

Rob

Monday, October 27, 2014

2014-10-27 Pics! Finally!

Dear Family & Co.,

Finally got the pics! At least, some... I'll send some more after this if I have time. First, and most importantly, we have a photo from Cielo's baptism! And, I present to you for the first time, my comp, Elder Cortéz! And don't worry, I was only a little sunburned.

Second, my first selfie! Ever, I think! I'm very proud. And also disappointed in myself... Ah well. The backdrop is the view from the top of Necoxtla: my área, Ciudad Mendoza (Mendoza City)! To the left, at least. To the right is the adjoining área, Nogales, and you can see a tiny bit of Orizaba to the far right.
 


Now then, the week! It was a good week... I went on divisions with one of our zone leaders on Wednesday in Nogales, and got to see a different style of missionarying. It was actually really good, and I learned a lot.

Something that I love about my companion is the little English that he does know. He's picked up stuff from various American companions, and so occasionally he'll use an English phrase in a very Spanish accent, and it cracks us both up every time. One of his favorites is "freaking." He uses it like the elder in the best two years uses "flip." "Freaking perro" (dog). "Freaking camión" (bus--they're super run-down, noisy, and every bump is like skydiving without a parachute). Or, my favorite, occasionally after a difficult lesson, "Freaking Satanás" (Satan).

I also had my first "major" blunder in Spanish on Wednesday. Ah, it was super embarrassing. Ok, here's how it went down: I think I've mentioned before--all across the mission, the missionaries eat lunch with members. So, Elder Cortés (note the "s," not "z." He's the zone leader) and I were with a very pleasant older sister for lunch, who served us something called "memelas," which in this case were essentially tortillas spread with beans, cheese, and pico de gallo. Extremely delicious. This sister asked me if I would like some chile on mine. (Side note: The people here and extremely nice, and will ask you if you'd like something even if it's a lot of trouble for them. Once, during a different lunch, a member asked if I'd like some more wáter. When I said yes, he left the room for a few minutes, then returned lugging a new gigantic jug. I didn't know he was out! If I'd known, I would have declined, or offered to help bring it in. So, keep this in mind when you read my response.) I didn't know if she had chile available, and because I knew that if I said, "sure, thanks," and she didn't, she would make it right there in front of me. So I wanted to say, "Oh, sister, I don't mind either way, thank you." That way, I was thinking, if she didn't have any I could save her some effort. Now, the only phrase I knew for the sentiment expressed in English as "I don't mind either way" (or "I don't care," which can vary significantly, given your tone--think about it) was "no me importa." So, very kindly, I told her that "no me importa." Elder Cortés leaned over and muttered, "Elder, you shouldn't say that." After his explanation, my apology, and a few days, I can laugh about it. Luckily the sister wasn't offended. Apparently, I had said "I don't care" in Spanish, but with the English equivalent of "Shut up/stop talking, I don't care about what you're saying!" As my companion would say, "Freaking diccionario."

One more thing--it's really funny, but whenever someone from México speaks in "mock English," what they'll do is add "-ation" to the end of every other word. A couple of elders explained it to me--apparently, that's what English sounds like. "Action," etc. So, they'll say things like, "chocolazation," or "hamburguesation." And no, the fact that the only examples they gave were of unhealthy "American" food words was not lost on me.

That's it for this week. We have an activity in the planning, a health seminar that our misión leader proposed, that should be a great draw for people and hopefully also result in a few more investigators. I love this ward, I love this work, and although it's hard at times I believe it's where I'm supposed to be, and that makes things easier. And the times where everything falls into place, you're being led by the Spirit, and you can tell that the investigator senses it, too... Those are the times that stick with you.

Con mucho amor,

Rob
 
(Kathy says, "And, from last week, the photo Rob promised to Matthew of him using the train tracks as a walkway!")
 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

2014-10-20 First Baptism!

Dear All,

Yep! First baptism! Her name is Cielo (I'm fairly positive first names are ok), and she was extremely happy to get baptized. She was already an investigator when I arrived, but my companion announced to her (and to me, at the same time, funnily enough--Read: It was not funny to me at the time.) on Monday that I would be the one performing the ordinance, if she wanted. So I baptized for the first time yesterday! It was a really special experience, and I was blessed to be a part of it. We the missionaries slapped together a hymn that we sang at the service (Divina Luz--Lead Kindly Light), and... I don't know. It was really something special.

Oh, yeah! I mentioned a day trip last week, and then completely didn't mention anything at all more about it... Heh heh. Sorry, I had, like, ten minutes to write. Ok. The trip: I mentioned that Ciudad Mendoza is practically surrounded by mountains, right? Well, last P-day we climbed one. Not really. We hitched a ride on a truck (my Argentinian comp calls them "piratas," but I think they're just called "camiones" --trucks-- by the people here--like a bus, but a little more... well, like a truck) up a "cerro" (hill, but it's pretty much mountain-size) called Necoxtla  to a trail, and then hiked up to the top. The view was absolutely stunning. You could see our entire área, the next área over, and part of Orizaba, the huge town that our stake takes its name from. Oh yeah, and occasionally the keyboard corrects my incorrect Spanish (it's called English), so there may be a few weird things going on with my writing. Sorry.

Let's see, what else happened this week... I almost got peed on by a dog. On a roof. I was surprised while contacting when a stream of urine rained down about seven feet from where I was standing. My companion and I laughed about the close call, but only after taking shelter under the overhang.

There's a really annoying song that's played by the "panadero" (bread-seller, Baker) truck that drives around everywhere. Actually no, not everywhere. I think he actually follows us. It goes something like, "El panadero con el pan, el panadero con el pan. El panadero con el pan, el panadero con el pan..." (The Baker with the bread) Repeated. Ad nauseam.

Let's see, what else... Matthew! There are railroad tracks that run right through Mendoza, and we often use them as a walking path. Don't worry, we move to the other set when the train comes. But I took a picture with the train for you!

Something funny I noticed: I don't know why, but some foreign words with a "t" or "ts" sound are pronounced like a "k." So, this week I had "peeksa" (pizza), lent my companion a "Post-ik," and did not drink any "Peksi." But I did like how here, they use condiments on pizza, like kétchup or hot sauce. It tastes really good, and it's expected!

Final thing I found amusing: It's common to put "No parking" (no estacionarse) signs in front of gates to driveways, because they aren't always easy to notice, and I asume because also without the sign, people wouldn't care and would park there anyway. Anyways, there's a sign that I've seen a few times that I love: "Respeta mi espacio y yo respeto tu coche." Respect my (parking) space and I'll respect your car. Ah, the attitude of the people here. I love it :)

All right, that's all for this week. I love you all!

Rob

P.S. I figured out how to send photos, but they take FOREVER to download. I'll need to download them first, then write the email. So, next week... I know, I know. I have the pictures, I promise. They'll come.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

2014-10-13

Rob's Letter from October 13th...last Monday.  (Computer troubles here...it's getting fixed!)

Ok, very little time, so this'll be a mini-email.
The work's going reasonably well, there have been some great moments and not so great moments that I won't write about now because I'd like to give them a little more time in a later email.
Oh, and again, no pictures. Sorry, this time it's that THERE'S NO TIME. We took a day trip today, which took a lot longer than anticipated (more about that later), and so I have much reduced time. 
Daily schedule... We don't do any cooking, really, at all. We have lunch at two every day with different members (we're working on asking less-actives... I know, sneaky. It's for a good cause.) We don't really eat dinner, just a snack after we get home at night, and usually cereal for breakfast. But it's ok, because the members stuff us during lunch. And the food here is, of course, delicious. There are tortillas with everything, and also limes are extremely prevalent. They're squeezed over everything. Also, flavored water is big. People will often just chuck fruit with water into a blender. It's great!
I'm sorry, I forgot to talk about Conference in the last email, and I barely can right now. It was great! I watched a couple of sessions in English with an Elder who spoke decent English, but I wanted to give him a chance to hear it in his native language, too, so I watched most of it in Spanish. Again, it was great! It was especially amazing to hear the elders who spoke in Spanish, because it wasn't dubbed! And there's one joke I don't know exactly how they translated into English... I unfortunately don't remember his name, because I don't have my notes with me, but he shared the saying, "Él que no sirve, no sirve." He who doesn't serve, doesn't serve, literally, but it's funny because "no sirve" in Spanish means something more like, when said of an appliance, "doesn't work," or "is good for nothing." Also, did you know that Richard G. Scott speaks Spanish? He actually does his own "translation," by which I mean he records himself saying his talk in Spanish before the meeting, and they overlap it when he actually gives the talk instead of having it translated live. I didn't know that!
One more quick thing that I love: In Spanish, "Chucho" is a common enough nickname for the relatively common "Jesús." And so, my comp told me, it's not uncommon to hear people say things like, "Amo a Chucho." (I love Chucho.) And, best of all, one time we encountered a taxi-driver who had one of our pass-along cards with a picture of Jesus on his dash. When my comp asked him about it, he replied, "Chuchito me protege." Maybe it's just me, but I found that super funny. Ok, gotta go! Love you all!
Rob

Monday, October 6, 2014

2014-10-6 First week in México!


First of all, I'm sorry, I don't have any pictures. I'm on a computer in what my companion told me is called a "ciber" (you pay to use computers), and I don't know if there's a place to upload pictures, and absolutely no time to figure it out. I'll try to send more next week. Sorry...

Ok, where to begin? Let's see, last time I emailed I was in the MTC... Yup. Finished that. It was good.

No, really, it was great, but it already seems like an eternity ago! I had great teachers, an amazing district, and an awesome companion, but if I want to even hope to cover my first week in the field I'm going to have to gloss over the end of the MTC.

Monday morning, one week ago: I leave for the SLC airport VERY early in the morning. I fly. I call home (which was great), and get to talk to everybody except Matthew, who's at school. (Sorry, Matthew! Email me and I'll email back! I still love you!) I fly some more. I make it to the airport in Mexico City and through customs, which took a while. I manage to track down, with another gringo temporary companion, a phone card to call home again, to talk and hopefully catch Matthew. I FINALLY manage to get one ("Try the 7-11." "Oh no, we don't sell those here. Try the pharmacy." "Oh, we're out. Try the pharmacy upstairs." "Oh no, try the pharmacy downstairs." "We did, they're out, too." "Oh, try the other one downstairs." --Author's note: How many pharmacies does one airport need?!-- And remember, no one here spoke English) Anyway, finally got a phone card, called home. I get to talk to my mother for a little bit longer, and then when she goes to get Matthew, the phone card, which tells me I still have time, cuts out, and I have to go catch my flight. Again, Matthew, I'm really sorry.

Oh, yeah: On the flight from LA to Mexico City, I had my first gospel conversation as a missionary in a language besides my own! Of course, right? I am going to Mexico, after all. Only one unexpected detail: It wasn't in Spanish. I have the window seat, and as I squeeze past the lady already seated in the middle I excuse myself politely, in English. She kind of smiles at me, but doesn't respond. "Of course, silly," I tell myself. We're flying to Mexico! After a couple of minutes, I ask her in Spanish if she's heading home. This is when she turns to me and says, in broken English, that she speaks Portuguese!! She was actually extremely nice and patient, and we proceded to talk on and off for the duration of the flight about various topics, but mostly about the gospel that I was going on a mission to share. I would speak to her in Spanish, which she could mostly understand (the two languages being similar enough), and she would respond in Portuguese, with a few English words thrown in to help with my comprehension. I would repeat the question or comment as I understood it in Spanish (rephrasing when the two languages wouldn't compute), and she would affirm if I was right. We both were patient, and it was a really great discussion! I left her with a pass-along card (which I translated into Spanish for her), and we went our separate ways.

Eventually, I made it to the Veracruz airport, and we all (a group of eleven elders from the Provo MTC) were met by the mission president and his two AP's. A nice man named Bernardo took our luggage in a separate truck, and we headed to the parking lot. When the lights to a minivan flashed, I though, "Oh, cool--we get to travel in a few minivans as the official mission vehicles!" I was about 1/3 right. All fourteen of us (count us again, fourteen) rode in ONE minivan to the mission home, a drive of about twenty minutes. The row of seats in the back were taken out, and eight of us crammed into that space (that's where I was), four in the row meant for three in the middle, and the president and one lucky long-legged elder that sat up front. Pictures to follow when I figure out how to send them. It was actually a really fun experience, at least looking back!

Let's see... I got my mission area and my first companion/trainer! His name is Elder Cortéz, and he's from southern Argentina! He's really great, has a lot of experience here, and has been a great help. And he speaks very little English. My second day in the field, I leaned over to mutter a quick question to him, and accidentally did it in English. His look of complete bafflement quickly reminded me where I was, and after a mental facepalm I tried again in Spanish. That's probably been one of the biggest challenges for me so far, kicking my habit of speaking in English. Oh yeah, and my area! I'm in Orizaba, in the northwest area of the mission, in a place called Ciudad Mendoza. It's quite beautiful here, and the heat is tolerable so far. So, when I got my assignment, they told me it was actually pretty cold in Orizaba. I guess what they meant was, it only stayed around the LOWER 80s. Although I guess it does cool down during the thunderstorms, which are fairly frequent... In all seriousness, it's supposed to get colder in the winter. I might even break out my coat. It's surrounded on three sides by mountains (which are practically furry with trees, and very close). In the view from the window in our apartment, at night there's a mist around the tops of the mountains, so you can't see where they end and the sky begins, rather just a dark mistiness. But what you can see are the lights of the houses on the mountain, so at night when you look out straight ahead it looks like there are magical lights ascending up into the heavens. It's actually a really amazing sight.

Yes, I'm having all of the problems with my name that people told me I've have. Elder Cortéz introduces me, "And this is my new companion," and the person's gaze falls to my nametag, and they all get the same expression. It's kind of a mix of bafflement and the facial equivalent of "What in the name of all that's holy...?" And then they try to pronounce it. I'm laughing as I write this. Most start out "Water..." but due to the accent it comes out more as "Oh-ah-dthair..." and then they'll usually look at me for confirmation. I'll smile and tell them they're doing great, but if they prefer, "Elder W" is just fine :) I'm really growing to love the people here. The members are so kind, and even when passing strangers on the street the custom is to leave them with a "Buenas tardes" or the equivalent depending on the time of day.

A couple of days ago, our landlord came by to collect the rent. My companion (oh yeah, forgot to mention--he's also the District Leader) had to take a call, so I chatted with the landlord for a few minutes. When my comp was finished, I went to finish writing in my diary, and my comp finished up business with him. When he left, the landlord called out, "Nos vemos, güero!" and after a second, the realization came: "Hey, that's me!" So I got called güero (Mexican equivalent for the Latin American universal "gringo") for the first time this week! It was actually pretty monumental for me.

What else... I had a lot of firsts this week. I guess that makes sense, it being my first week in Mexico. I did my first street contacting, placed my first Book of Mormon, invited somebody to be baptized for the first time (she said yes!), and just yesterday, as we got in a taxi to head back after a lesson with a family, my companion (with absolutely no warning) hopped in the back, leaving me to take charge of the conversation with the driver. It was a little intimidating at first, but it went well. He declined the baptismal invitation (haha--just kidding), but we left him with the address to the church and (I think, from his demeanor) a few things to think about. I'm really enjoying the work here. I'm writing a lot about the culture and other experiences right now, because everything's so new and I'm still adjusting, but the spiritual work's picking up and it's going well.

And more about the baptismal invitation: Her name is D (maintaining privacy), and she cleans the house and watches the child of a family in the ward. She took a couple of lessons from us, and my comp asked me before the lesson to be the one to give the baptismal challenge. She's very thoughtful, and I think that she's realized her family could really use the gospel. But I was super excited that she said yes!

All right, time's up. This email's been longer probably than future ones will be. I love you all, and love hearing back from you!

Rob

Monday, September 29, 2014

2014-9-29 fast phone calls...

Note from Kathy:  Today, Monday September 29th, we've thus far had two fast phone calls from the boy.  The first was earlier this morning from the LA airport saying he was on the way to Mexico!  Then, just now (about 4 pm Seattle time) we got a fast call saying he was IN MEXICO CITY awaiting the one-hour flight to Veracruz!  Very exciting!  He's had a good trip so far, although the only conversation/questions he has had about his mission was in Portuguese, Broken English, and his own Spanish.  Wow.  He sounds good, though!  We are excitedly awaiting the email for next week!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

2014-9-23 First (and Last) Email from the MTC! AKA, Viva Las Vegas!

!Hola a todos!  Forgive my occasional lack of correct Spanish punctuation... I don't know how to make the MTC keyboards do what I want. Upside down punctuation won't actually be upside down right now, and accents will follow their letter.  But anyway...

I know it's been almost a full week since I've entered the MTC, but this is my first P-day, so I haven't had a chance to email until now.  I sent a quick letter last week (our branch president allowed it), so hopefully that arrived. Now, for the news... Yes, this will be my last P-day in the MTC if everything goes according to plan--I'm set to leave early (very early) on Monday morning, hopefully to arrive in Veracruz that night!  I'm really excited, although I don't know if I feel ready to teach.  Although I had a great experience on the plane back from Vegas.  Oh, yeah, I didn't mention that.  I took a day trip to Vegas yesterday.  No big deal.  Hit the slot machines at the airport, played some rounds of poker.  You know, missionary stuff. Actually, I went with a small group to the Mexican Consulate there, and got my visa!  Granted, it took about two minutes, and the other eighteen hours were spent either in travel or just waiting, but they needed an appearance in person, so...but I got it!  And although yes, I was joking about the gambling calm down, Mom), there honestly were slot machines in the airport. A LOT of them.  No joke. 

And, on the plane back, I say next to this really nice lady who asked me about my nametag, which led to a long conversation (the whole flight, actually) about missions, religion, education, and the Bible.  It was really great!  She asked a lot of great questions, and I had the opportunity to talk about some of the things that I believed in, some perspectives that I had as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and some of our views about the Bible and the nature of God.  I left her with a pass-along card and encouraged her to check out the Book of Mormon sometime.  I don't know if she will or not, but it was really great talking to her, and it made me a lot more confident in--no, that's not it exactly...a lot more conscious of my calling as a missionary.  I could feel it as I was talking...it was different than anything else I'd felt before.  Like authority, I guess, would be the best description I can come up with.  A in, I could feel my calling, that I had been called to do exactly this, to teach and invite others to come unto Christ.  It was a really great experience.

OK, on to the nitty-gritty!   I'm actually in the west campus, formerly part of Wyview Apartments, so I need to take a bus whenever I need to travel to the main campus.  We're all Spanish-speaking here, so I can call out a "Buenos Di'as" without having to worry about getting a weird look back, like we might on the main campus.  My companion's name is Elder Brown, and he's really great.  My whole district is, actually.  There are six e'lderes and four hermanas, and only Elder Brown, Elder Rasmussen, and I didn't learn to speak Spanish growing up.  To help you understand that, the rest are Elders Martinez, Sandoval, and Nun~ez (I can't do n~ either.  I guess I'll have to wait until I get to Mexico.  Funnily enough, it looks like the machine that does the nametags couldn't either--it looks like the tilde was chiseled on by hand), and Sisters Ramos, Jua'rez, Ojeda, and Gutie'rrez.  Yeah. So
we aren't actually given any time to study the language, just personal and companion study, and everything, both teaching and being taught, is in Spanish.  But it's actually really great!  Speaking with fluency is the only problem, and it's coming.  I just take a little longer to formulate what I'm trying to say to teach effectively and legibly than most of the others (again, see the listed last names).  The food is good, the teachers are great, and practically everyone's a missionary, so there's a lot of politeness and smiles going around. 

My District

I actually really love my district (my class--we're organized into districts by class, so my district is comprised of the people I see for twelve-something hours each day--nine of those in the classroom, some days--so we get to know each other pretty well).  Two of the elders are going to Honduras, two of the sisters are going to Mexico City North, and the rest of us are going all over Mexico, the states, and Central America.  Elder Martinez is from Texas, and he loves this hot sauce called Cholula that happens to be stocked by the MTC cafeteria.  He LOVES it.  As a district, we go through literally about a bottle a day, and not everyone else uses it, or uses that much.  The joke was made that it he kept it up, when we next played soccer he'd be sweating Cholula.  He's also the "class clown."  One time, when he and his companion were leaving the classroom to go down the hall to one of the bedrooms that was functioning as our "investigator's house" (our classrooms are actually the living rooms of various apartments in the Raintree apartment complex), he yells back to us, "!Llene la tina, se vas a bautizar!" (Fill up the bathtub, she's getting baptized!) This was their first meeting with her, before they'd even met.  That kind of gives you an example of his personality.  Elder Brown's a great companion, and we have a lot of fun.  He took four years of Spanish in high school, and he works really hard to be led by the Spirit, so we get along well.  He's also very humble, and wants to be the best missionary that he can be.  


Yup.  That's us.



Today we went to the temple, and it was great!  We spent a while afterwards outside, and it was beautiful.  All right, I'm running out of time, so I have to go now.  !Los quiero mucho!
 
Quick note:  Would you mind emailing me Elder Bednar's Christmas devotional titled, "The Character of Christ" ?  We watched it at the main campus on Sunday, and it was really great.