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,

(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!


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


Rob's Letter from October 13th...last Monday.  (Computer troubles'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!

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!