Sunday, May 1, 2011

Monday April 25, 2011 - Happy Easter!!

Happy Easter everyone!! I hope you had a wonderful Easter weekend. It was really good here, except for the fact that the city (Moderna) was almost dead; all of Semana Santa (Holy Week, or the week leading up to Easter) is vacations from school AND work, so a lot of people were gone for the holiday. We had some good lessons, it's just that the streets were empty. I'm especially grateful for the opportunity I had to think about the Atonement and Resurrection of the Savior and partake of the sacrament.
AND THANKS FOR THE PACKAGE!! When Carlos dropped it off, he told me that you all said you love me and know that you're doing well, and that really is the best gift for me : D. What a wonderful person for doing that for us! I really really appreciate it. And I appreciate even more what you sent! The Get Rowdy shirt is super sweet, the Cox's honey is even sweeter (literally, yum!), the Bullfrog and Clear Care I'm very grateful for, ALL OF THE EASTER CANDY (even if it's not the point of Easter, it does make it that much sweeter ; ) ), the notes from you all (thanks Mom Sam Dad and Julia! And especially from Trevor and Robert! What a surprise! Could you tell them HI and thanks for me? Those notes are the most important to me), the beer nuts, the Silly Putty : D, and definitely the banana bread (did I get it all?). All of my roommates liked the package too : D; they were sampling all the candy and things. I plan on bringing the banana bread to District Meeting tonight to share with the zone. Actually, my roommates asked me (and thru me, you) for the recipe for banana bread (and from me, corn salad, if possible), so that we can make it ourselves. Of course, it will always be the best when you make it, Mom : ).
About the phone calls: I still don't know what day it will be, but I'll let you know as soon as possible. I hope it won't conflict with your trip to Salt Lake, Mom; I'm sure things will work out. It sounds like, how it works, is that I will give you the phone number of the chapel here in Monterrey (Colonia Fabriles, on the corner of Emiliano Zapata and Nueva Rosita), and you are the ones who will call me. I'll let you know more of the details as they come it. I also wanted to let you know, Mom, that because you'll be calling me, that I won't be able to leave a voicemail on your cell phone! I was thinking that we could work out a recording solution, like sending cassettes (or MP3s, if possible), back and forth, or something like that. I hope you don't mind! I'm really looking forward to hearing your voices too.
So yeah! It's been a great week. As you can tell from my letter to the President, we had a lot more success this week, with lessons and new investigators and even a baptismal date! I really feel blessed for that. Zone Conference was also really really good! I learned a lot, even though it was all in Spanish (actually, Pres. Walker complimented me on how much my Spanish has improved! I'm really grateful for that). We had some good FHEs (including the popular Orange Soda Cake : D), a bit of exchanges, watching the Testaments, LOTS of growth as I mentioned a little below, and overall good good stuff. I'm excited to give it another go this week!
I think I'll bring it to a close this week. I love you all so much, and I'm especially grateful again for the package! You are the bestest, and I pray the best for you. Keep strong in your faith, remember what Christ did for us, and know that I am doing just fine. Good luck with everything, especially Sam with finals (gig 'em!), Julia with Prom (eek! Hope it's fabulous, Julia! And have fun with Allen, good for him for asking you out ; ) ) and graduation : O, Dad with work, and Mom with all the wonderful things going on at the house (wow! I'm excited to see how things will look!).
You are all awesome!

Monday, April 18, 2011

April 18, 2011 - Another P-Day!

Hello Hello Hello, everyone! How've you all been? It's great to write you all again. I think I should have a little more time this week (sorry again about last week) to write, so here goes! We're at a different "cyber" (internet cafe) this week, and writing a little later in the day.
First, here's a bit more down low on Hno. Carlos' visit to Houston. I talked to him yesterday, and he told me that he leaves on Wednesday to Houston (probably arriving late) and returns to Monterrey on Sunday. He has your number, and I also gave his sister (whom I suppose translated for you when you last visited?) the home phone and Mom's phone, so they can communicate when to bring by the package. I also told them that it would have "fresh things" so I told them to expect meeting up around Saturday or so. Hopefully they can coordinate when to meet up with you, like last time, but there's the low down. I also plan on giving Hno. Carlos my letter tomorrow or today, so be excited for that! : D
OK! So what's been up? I've been giving (and have coming up) lots of talks and stuff this past week. Yesterday was the Missionary week, when my companion and I and the ward mission leader give talks, and I talked about La Semana Santa (the Holy Week, or this week before Easter) and the Atonement. Here in Mexico the schools give two weeks off for this week and next, and it seems like a reasonably big deal! Yesterday there were several people we saw that were carrying around woven palm leaves and small bouquets (for Palm Sunday, of course!), and I expect there will be even more activity for Good Friday and especially Pascua (Easter). So yeah! My talk went pretty well; Elder Alegría told me that he understood it quite well! I especially was grateful for the opportunity to prepare and give it, as it gave me a witness that really Jesus Christ lives! : ) This week is Zone Conference, and we all have to prepare a talk for that (President will pick 2 missionaries to give them during the conference). AND next week I have the lesson in Gospel Principles on Gifts of the Spirit! Super lesson action! Not that I don't teach much to begin with ; ).
But I've been well. Just trying my best every day! I've also tried harder this week to be upbeat, happy, and supportive of Elder Alegría, as my senior companion and district leader and all that. It's actually kind of fun, because he is learning English (he's actually quite good, and he learned it all during the mission!) and he likes to spend P-Days only speaking English! It can be a little tough for me, because I'm so used to speaking in Spanish and I sometimes forget how to say things in English : D.  I've really learned a lot from him. He's a wonderful friend and a great missionary! He likes doing simple things like make my bed every day or shine my shoes : D, which is actually really cool. He also asks me about song lyrics (he likes to sing and play guitar, and he writes songs as English practice), or tells me about manga or anime or his plans for the future : ). He can be a little tough and straight-forward at times, but he has a lot of insight. I think he's a great companion.
Whew! I need a writing break. How about some photos? I do have to say, I'm a little annoyed by the person playing their death metal on the other computer behind me, but what can you do. My roommates before Elder Muñoz left (Elder Amador and Elder Elizarraraz are still here), A piñata that looks suspiciously a lot like me (but not; it was for 2 elders that left last transfer, which is it has 2 hair colors),  and me eating an elote. I probably shouldn't send any more, so the internet doesn't explode.
I hope you enjoy the photos! And I hope you know I love you SO SO much! You really are the best-est-es (?), and I love hearing from you every week. Good luck with everything that's coming up this week! AND JULIA, especial good luck on your college choice! I know you'll make the right one. I love you very much!
I think I'll close with this for this week. I look forward to talking with you all on Mother's Day! Be yo self, do yo thing, stay cool!
Love very much,
PSPS I'm not sure how the calls for Mother's Day will work, but I'm sure President will talk about it this week, and I'll let you know.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

April 4, 2011 - This is the 181st Annual General Conference...

Hello Everyone!!! I hope you all are doing swell!
Before I write what's been up the past week, I want to apologize about the shortness of my emails of late. I know it doesn't leave you much idea how I'm doing. We write emails at the internet cafe of a member, and he prefers that we only write for an hour (to write President Walker, read at least part of your emails, and write you all). I'll try to make better use of my time, but I'm sorry that you have to suffer. I love you all TONS and I am so happy to hear from you all every week!
I'll try my best today and next week to get a letter written, so I can send it out with Carlos when he goes up to Houston in a week or so! That way you don't have wait 2 MONTHS (gross!) for this letter : ).
Conference was really really good. They set up a TV in another room for the English elders, and I really enjoyed it. SO many good talks! And we took a trip to Carl's Jr (hawaiian grilled chicken salad and choco malted crunch malt; strange that the majority of the words there are in english) for lunch on Saturday (Hna. Rivera brought us tacos and jicama for lunch on Sunday, and we ate together in a room in the church). There was so many good talks! I like what was said about the Rome temple; sounds intense! Also got a little trunky : P, with all the talk about families and marriage and things. Just save it til after the mission! But seriously, I'm really excited to get the conference issue (we get it here in english too), so I can reread them and apply them to my mission.
As Elder Alegría is new in the area, I've been in the lead, which has been kind of exciting. As I mentioned to President Walker, We've been meeting a lot with members and less-actives to try and start strengthening the ward, as it's still somewhat small and lacks somethings like activities and home teachers that we feel could really help.
Guess what! In honor of our Hatfield Men family tradition, I got ice cream for my roommates and I, and we ate it last night in memory of you! It was quite tasty : D, fresa (strawberry) and nuez con almendra (maple nut, I think).
We also had a wild time after transfers, as there was a load of new missionaries that didn't have their visas, that had to stay in our house! They were about ten in all, news and their trainers. Our house is quite large, and we have extra mattresses for just this kind of event, so it went pretty well. They went around in our areas and contacted people, which helped us out too. The cool thing is that Elder Funke, Elder Muñoz's old companion, was among them! He got a free day to contact and meet people in his old area, a really rare opportunity. It especially helped his recent convert Hno. Bernardo a lot, esp. with Elder Muñoz leaving. I also liked getting to know Elder Funke a little more; Elder Muñoz talked a lot about him, and he really is a cool guy.
Fiddlesticks I'm sorry family, I don't have much time left. I'll try to get in a little about Elder Alegría. He's from Queretaro (near Mexico City), has a sister there and a mom in Canada (cool, huh?). He plays guitar and likes to sing and compose in English (all learned on mission). Also really likes anime and drawing cartoons/manga and stuff like that. Wants to go to BYU after the mission, either as an actor or doing something with graphic design/drawing. Also knows a lot of self-defense. Has an interesting conversion story: was actually inactive for quite some time! has about 18 months on his mission, really liked serving in Matamoros. I've gotten along with him pretty well! He has a lot of similar philosophies with missionary work (like working with members and asking inspired questions). I hope that I can learn a lot from him and work well with him these next days and weeks.
That's it for now! I think we'll have time for letters later today, so I'm excited for that. Again sorry about the lack of info; I really do love you all, and I thought of you a lot during Conference. Please keep strong in the faith! I love you so, and I know the Lord is blessing me and you.

March 28, 2011 - Feelin' HOT, HOT, HOT!

Hello All! How are you?!? I'm excited to hear how everything's been going! It's getting hot hot hot here in Monterrey! I'm even sweating a little as I write you : D. For example, yesterday it was about 36 deg Celsius (or 96 deg F) during the day, and it was 91.5 deg F inside our house last night as we went to bed (at least we have fans)! Ugh. I'm definitely drinking lots of water and putting on the sunscreen. No bad sunburns yet, thankfully (I hope. We don't have many mirrors in the house).
So the big news from this week is... TRANSFERS! And Elder Muñoz is leaving! He's the new zone leader in Nuevo Laredo (on the other side of Laredo, TX), along with Elder Almaraz, a good friend of his, so I think that should be good. I'm stickin' here in Moderna, and my new companion is Elder Alegría, who will also be our new district leader (I keep thinking of that other Alegría, if you know what I mean ; ) ). I don't know much about him, except that he's coming from working in Matamoros (I think) and he has about 18 months under his belt.
So WOW! It's pretty exciting. I'm sad to see Elder Muñoz go; I still feel like there's a lot I could learn from him, and that I didn't take full advantage of that : /. On the other hand, I am excited for a change, to meet Elder Alegría (I hope he's a cool person and a good elder), and to see what he has to offer. It's interesting to be getting into the "rhythm" of different elders, since I'm used to so few. Wish me luck!
Also, THANKS A TON FOR THE PACKAGE!! I got it on Tuesday, and it was great! It was also fun talking to Hno. Carlos; he was surprised by how tall Dad is (He's like, what, 2 meters??) and also his knowledge of French cars, namely his Puegot (?). There's a lot of those here, as well as Renaults. But I digress. I enjoyed most of all the pictures. It was wonderful to see you all, Chicago, Christmas, Brazos Bend! Thank you for those. And for the cereal (that granola is SUPER chocolatey! Thanks!) and the MINTS!! The Thin Mints were well received! And the postcards (I loved Julia's : D) and the Toblerones and all the SWEET Texas swag! I gave my roommates a few postcards and things, and they enjoyed them. AND last of all, the great posters of the Temple and the First Presidency! I really enjoyed all of it, and I really appreciate you putting it all together. I may have a few things I will send to you/ask of you this April, if it's alright with Hno. Carlos, but I'll let you know a bit more down the line.
Phooey I don't have much time left. I love you all a ton, and I hope you have a great week. I'm super excited for GENERAL CONFERENCE, and I hope you'll be able to watch it all (it'll probably be in Spanish for me : /; at least I can read the Liahona next month for better understanding)! Keep the faith and rock on! You're all in my thoughts and prayers, and I'll talk to you soon.
Hey Dad! Thanks a lot for the email! I loved hearing about Steph and Matt, and I'm glad that they're doing well and that you had a good talk with them : ). And thank you so much too for the advice you gave on the appointments! It really helps me a lot, and important to remember : D. I love you so much, I love hearing about all that goes all, and I hope you have a great week. I'll be missing you and Sam during the priesthood session! Enjoy some ice cream for me (I don't think I'll be able to, because in Mexico the members fast during conference)!
Hey Julia! I'm glad to hear your trip to teh Y went well! I love you a lot and know you'll make a good choice. By the way, a couple of elders have asked me: ever thought about going on a mission? Think about it! Good luck with the college choice and school and all that!

March 21, 2011 - Come, come ye saints!

No toil or labor fear; but with joy, wend your way! : D

How are you all doing this fine day? It's Monday/P-Day again, a bit cloudy here down south, and I'm feeling happy and glad to write you all. Actually, the sun is starting to peek out a bit.

Thanks so much for sending that package! I'm excited to receive it, and I'm so grateful that Carlos was willing to do that for us. I've met him a couple times, and he seems like a nice person. I'll let you know if there's anything else I need in the next couple weeks; there might be a couple things. And thanks for the info on Japan, Dad! I'm glad to hear that Alex and the missionaries are OK : ).

Yeah! As you can maybe tell from my President's letter, the past week was pretty low with la obra misional. We had a lot of trouble with our appointments, people forgetting or just not being home, this or that or the other. It can be hard at times, especially when I would just like to teach and help someone, but so many things pop up that nope. I don't know; I'm not sure how to explain it. I don't want you all to think that things are bad or I'm down or anything; it just wasn't a very good week for proselyting.

On the other hand though, I'm really starting to get in synch with Elder Muñoz! I realized that I still have trouble with confidence and really just teaching the doctrines of the Restoration and the Gospel, while I've been focusing on teaching to people's needs and teaching by the Spirit. AND, Elder Muñoz is an awesome teacher of doctrine! I'm sad it took me so long to realize, but I want to try and learn from him how to teach all the doctrine and things I should teach that are in my head but hard to put out in Spanish, in a way that is clear and simple and understandable. I think, as Elder Muñoz described it, I was trying to run (and trying to explain to Elder Muñoz how I like to run) without really knowing how to walk yet (or at least I've forgotten some, as I did spend 2 months in the MTC). : D Like you said, Mom, just give myself time to learn and do it!

I also have gotten closer to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ this past week. I've been having a little trouble with confidence and feeling able to do the work, not really enjoying it. But then I had an experience that really showed me that Heavenly Father loves me, is proud of me, and that despite my weaknesses, if I do my best He will testify of me through His Holy Spirit. It's something I never want to forget, and something for which I'm so grateful! Really it made all the tough stuff from the past week worth it.

So what else has been up? The trip last week to the Citadel mall was fun; I actually found a new foil and cutter block for my razor (picked that up quick; I couldn't find my model in the US)! Elder Muñoz got a new pair of shoes, I checked out the Rayados jerseys (I want to pick one up. The Rayados are the local team here in Monterrey (with 4 champ titles!), but the jerseys are WAY expensive: like $60-70 dollars, or 898 pesos!! I think I'll wait on one of those : D), and got some ice cream (they actually had Mint Chocolate Chip!! YES). I also had 2 exchanges last week, when my companion and the companion from another area switch places (I think I've talked about those before).

Hey I guess I don't have too much time left. BUT, I do want to answer a few things! GOOD LUCK with your trip to BYU, Julia! I hope you enjoy your visit. It really is a nice campus, and I hope you get a good feel for it. Just take your experience and what you've heard from everyone (and get the Lord's opinion, too) and go for it. 

I only have a few minutes left! I LOVE YOU ALL A TON! I hope you have a great week, and I look forward to talking to you all soon.


Monday, March 14, 2011

March 14, 2011 - A quick one today!

Hello Family! My apartment is planning on going to "Citadel" (a mall) this P-Day (also haircut; no time last week, because we played soccer. SUPER fun! I even had a few goals : D), so I don't have too much time to write today. I'll try to get in as much as I can. I haven't read your emails either, but I'll try to respond to your questions.

First, with the package! Sounds great; I'll give him the info. I'm not sure what his plans are, but I'll give him your cell phone and hopefully he can coordinate with you. I don't know if he speaks English (I hope so!), but I'm sure we can work it out. As for things I might need/like...could you send me some Yorks? The selection of mint-flavored anything is very minimal. It'd also be cool if you could include some Texas representation for the 3 other elders I live with (stickers, pins, etc); they were asking me about it and I thought it would be neat. And maybe some cereal? It's kind of expensive and not much of a selection here, but I know it's bulky, so don't worry too much about that. Other than those things, I'm doing quite well! Nothing else really comes to mind about needs or whatever.

Did you hear about the earthquake in Japan? I've been wondering about the situation for a while now, especially with Alex and his family. Are they over there? Are they alright? What's the damage like? What sorts of things are being done to help?

Things have been going pretty well. The work has been rough this week, with lots of appointments falling through and little progression. I've been very grateful for tender mercies this past week, for a great companion to work with and support me (and I him), and nice members who, although they don't always have time to accompany us or help us more than give us food, are really nice and supportive, especially our recent converts in the ward. We had a great Stake Conference this past week (Pres and SIster Walker gave talks, and they were really good! : D).

I've also had a few interesting food adventures this past week: Nutella breakfasts (on bread with milk and orange), french toast, "torta" of scrambled egg and banana, campechanas (again : d), brownies, "Blue Power Licuado" (smoothie with banana milk blueberries and strwaberry yogurt), SUPER delicious tropical granola I found, AWESOME "Nieve Jalisco Style" (flavored shaved ice kind of, but with "agua de frutas." hard to describe, but really good), Coca-cola in the bottle (really is a part of the culture here. Coke even has a returnable glass bottling program that's sweet), tostadas of avocado/tuna and potatoes/ceviche, CARNE : D, creme-filled pan dulce (looked like a bee abdomen), tasty beans (mashed with chorizo, kind of like your bean dip, Mom), fruit salad (with cream and yogurt, plus various fruits, like melon or banana or apple or raisins), and food with garlic (SUPER delicious, because I guess Mexicans don't use it very often, and you know how I feel about garlic : D), and yeah! : D

Fun story about Daylight Savings Time: Apparently Daylight Savings doesn't start in Mexico until April or May or so. However, I use my atomic clock as my alarm, and it automatically sets itself with the atomic clock in the US! So I woke up at 6:30 as usual, told everyone that it was 6:30 (everyone was like "whoa, thanks for telling us Elder!") and I was prepping the shower when Elder Muñoz came and told me it was still 5:30! So we ended up sleeping another hour. Kind of silly! : )

Well I better send this off so we can get to our comida (lunch). I love you all so so much, I really appreciate your emails, and I hope to talk to you soon! Thanks for the package, too!


Monday, March 7, 2011

Monday, March 7, 2011 - We don't need no stinkin badges!

HELLOOO Everyone! : D It's wonderful to get to email you all again, and hear from you! It's a really nice day, and I'm feeling super great. I have a lot of interesting happenings that I want to get down, so I haven't read your emails yet, but I'll get to those in a sec.
First off, I FINALLY received the FIRST letter from Mom and Dad here in Mexico!! It looks like it was postmarked on the 7 of February, and I received it on 3 March. A little lame that it took almost a month, but I'm just happy to read your handwriting and hear how things are going. It was a tender mercy for me, especially about your contacting in Japan, Dad, and that missionary email on obedience that you included, Mom! Thanks a ton.
Second off, A cool thing happened yesterday. I was talking to the member family, the Ovayes, who lives next door, as they offered us some carne asada (yum! and super nice). Apparently, the brother of the wife has relatives that live in Spring, TX! We got talking about Texas and stuff, but then he told me that he was going up to visit on the 18th of March, and he offered to deliver a package to you all if I needed anything! Wow! He also mentioned that he could deliver something from you all down here to Monterrey as well. WOW! I thought it was super nice of him, and I told him that I would ask you all. What do you think? I don't really have anything to send home as of right now, but if you haven't sent the memory cards and stuff yet, maybe this would be better! Either way, that's really cool to have people so close that connect us! : D Let me know soon, so I can tell him and give him our address. Thanks!
Whew! That's a lot, and I haven't written too much on my week yet. Definitely the highlight of the week was my interview with President Walker! It was just really great. I went in with a number of questions that I've had for a while, and he really helped me feel much better about them and my work here. We talked about communication and working together for a common goal, working with the ward, church attendance, contacting, a little about Mexican culture . . . I really came out feeling so good, so full of joy, ready to tackle the work! I wish we could have talked more (and he felt the same, too!), but at the same time, it will tide me over until the next one (in 3 months). I hope I'm not making it out to more that it was, I really did enjoy it.
What else happened? We had exchanges on Tuesday (which actually have been happening a lot), when I led in our area with Elder Hurtado while Elder Muñoz exchanged with Elder Fletcher in Azteca. Leading the companionship is actually kind of tough, especially if plans fall through, but it's good practice. A lot of times you don't always feel you know what you're doing, but then you just do your best and know that the Lord will make up the rest. Elder Muñoz put me at point on Saturday as well, which was tough at times when I would get nervous or scared to speak, but he told me that I did well in taking initiative and striving to do my best. And that's what counts! We were talking yesterday about applying more what I've learned and what I am learning, and he helped me feel a lot better about my confidence and just trying things out, with teaching and finding and everything. Really, our focus and goal is the people, helping them to come unto Christ, and our skills and teaching just help us accomplish that. I did feel better though, and I look forward to giving it more of a try.
¿Qué mas? I was talking with Hna. Rivera yesterday (she serves us the comida on Sundays: "burros" = burritos and tostadas) about different Mexican foods, and I started thinking about different foods that I miss. It would be fun to expose the Mexican population to such wonderful things as Banana Bread or Funeral Potatoes or Jello Salad or Waffles (alas, I looked today for fun and couldn't find any waffle irons)! Could you maybe send a couple of your favorites, Mom and Dad? No big deal; just something fun to make on a P-Day or whatever. Also, I really enjoyed my fast and the sacrament this week! Really they are special.
It looks like we're wrapping up here. We're planning on getting haircuts and playing soccer at the stake center in a bit! I'm not sure if I'll have time for a letter, but I'll try.
I love you all SO SO MUCH and I wish you all the best this week! Keep in touch, and keep on rockin'. I'll try to send some pics or more goodies next week. I know the Lord is with us and helping us!
Lovin' you lots and lots,
psPS Check out Doctrine and Covenants 31; it really helped me when I was having a rough time this past week : ).

Monday, February 28, 2011 - Wow! It's March!

Almost, that is!

How is everyone? I'm emailing a tad late today, as we did laundry first. Actually, I don't have a whole lot of time : (, but I'll try to say as much as I can.
First, LETTERS I'VE RECEIVED!!! I received a pouch letter from Sis. Sunshine last Monday the 21st, sent on 31 Jan; a card and valentines from Grandma and Grandpa H on the 26th (sent on 2 Feb), and a letter (non-pouch) from Sis. Sunshine on the 26th, sent on the 7th of Feb. Kind of slow : P! I'm disappointed that you still haven't received any of my letters, and I haven't seen any of yours, but what can you do. On packages, Elder Amador said that they need to be sent to the mission office, and suggested using UPS overnight (for speed I guess). I've seen elders receiving packages from USPS (like you said, Mom), but I don't know how long they take to get here.
Thanks for the debit account info! And especially thanks for watching it for me; it helps me feel better about using it. I'd like to use it less if I can, so you don't have to reload it often. Soriana is the shopping center where we buy groceries and supplies and stuff; it's like a Mexican Walmart (though there are Walmarts here too : D) (and no HEBs are close. Rats!).
You needn't worry about the memory, I still have room for 1050 more pics or so. If I need more memory, I'll buy another card (thanks!), but I should be good until the package comes. Thanks a TON for the family tree! That's super awesome. The last photos I received were in the Christmas package you sent. 
And CONGRATS JULIA!!!!!!!!!!!!  That's super awesome that you got into BYU! I'm so happy and excited for you. I know whereever you choose will be great. Good luck with the tour and choice!
And thanks so much for your emails. They really help me out and lift my spirits! This past week has been a little tough for me (though with plenty of good stuff too!), and I've missed you too. I've thought a lot about you all, and I love you so much. I'm so grateful to be a missionary, and I'm so grateful for my testimony. I know what's in the past is in the past (as hard as that is), and that the future is a ways away, so I'll do my best to enjoy the present.
I hope you all have a wonderful week and I'll talk to you soon. I'll try to get off a letter with more happenings if I can.


Monday, February 21, 2011

Traba-traba-trabajando duro

¡Hola Hola Hola, Familia! How are you all? I'm excited to get to write you all again and hear all the fun stuff that's happening on the other side of the border. I'm doing pretty well! It's nice and warm here, with sun (but not too much) and some heat (but not too much) and shade (just enough). I'm enjoying the weather, actually! It's around 85 F or something during the day, 75 at night. I'd better enjoy it while I can; it's going to get intense!

Have you gotten any of my letters? I sent one last week (it should have left here on Thursday), and I'll try and write another this week. I still haven't gotten any of yours...seems to take a while!

So what's been up? I did give a talk yesterday! It actually turned out well; I felt I had the Spirit's help, as the words flowed easier than they usually do, and it was a good lesson for me, and probably some of the members too : ). I talked on hope, what it means in everyday life, and that we need to just keep going, even when we don't see the blessings from our efforts at first (it was adapted from a talk I outlined in the MTC).

The work is moving along, and I'm trying to get more invested in the work and the area. I'm excited for Nailea's baptism this Saturday; she's already read the Book of Mormon twice (we still have to teach her a few things, but that IS quite impressive)! At times it's tricky to mesh my and Elder Muñoz's teaching styles, but it's something we're working on.

Notable events from last week: tasty meals, helping a young family (the dad is a counselor in the bishopric) move furniture into their new house (really nice, and rooftop too!), leading a companionship exchange for one day (it's a different mindset to be the one leading, or the "senior companion," at times a little tricky, but good), weekly planning and district meeting and a new roommate (from San Fran, and perfect Spanish AND English) and coordination, a few blessings of health (always a priviledge : D)... yeah! We also had a good FHE with one of the member families, and I got to meet one of the sons, Pilar Diaz, who actually is the same age and served a mission the same time as you, Sam! Pretty wild : D. He's into drawing and stuff, and he showed me some intense sketches he made while he was out.

Hey! We were doing a little family history stuff with Bernardo, one of E. Muñoz's recent converts, and I realized I can only remember my history up to my grandparents! Could you maybe send me a copy of my family tree? It'd be fun to see and remember them all, and I could also show others, too. Thanks a lot! 

And if you could, could you get the balance of my checking account? I'd like to know, as there's a few things I'd like to buy.

Well, before I wrap up, I want to tell you a little bit about CAMPECHANAS. They are a variety of taco here in Monterrey. They are usually made by taco vendors on the street, and are primarily composed of steak and "trompo." Trompo is pork (I think), sliced into sheets and stuck on a spike in such a way that the sheets form a spinning top shape (hence "trompo," or Spanish for top). The trompo is then cooked right next to the flame and rotated vertically, while the vendor slices off meat from the other side. It's actually tasty (though probably not very healthy)! We had some when I arrived (my first night) and the night before my roommate Elder Thomas went home. Usually you're given green salsa, limes, and a mix of onion and cilantro. Yum!

I love you all very much! I miss you a lot, and I hope you all are doing well. I can't wait to be home with you all again, but at the same time I'm grateful for the opportunity I have to serve and learn and really know the gospel. I hope you have a MARVELOUS week, and I hope I will too! We can share stories again this time next week! : D

Keep on rockin',

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone! : D I love you all bunches : D! And thanks for the e-card, Mom, I wish I could give you a hug, too! : )

AND CONGRATULATIONS JULIA!!! I'm so happy and proud for you! That's awesome that you got into A&M, and I hope and pray that BYU will be smart enough to accept you, too. It'd be sweet to see you around campus when I get back, but more than anything I'd like you to have a choice. Congratulations again, and good luck with school and everything! : D

How are you all? I'm doing wonderful! It's a bright and shiny day, and I'm excited to be here. Our zone has plans to make hamburgers this afternoon at the Zone Leaders' house, so that should be delish (I want to show them how we make hamburgers in Texas : D). It's also exciting because transfers are tomorrow! Elder Thomas, an elder from Lehi, Utah, goes home on Wednesday, which is super exciting. It's got all of us thinking a bit more about  life after the mission than we want : ). I'm really excited for him! I wish I could have had an opportunity to know him longer, but what can you do. Elder Muñoz and I are sticking together another transfer here in Moderna (which, I learned the other day, is the westernmost area in our mission! We have 3 colonias/areas in the city proper; I kind of wish we had more of the city, as it seems like a cool place and I'd like to be able to see more of it, but I'm glad to be in the East Mission), which will be ROCK AWESOME! We already have plans to get to work this transfer. Actually, we have baptismal dates lined up for the next 3 weeks, and E. Muñoz really wants to push for a baptism every week!! We'll see how it goes, but it would be super intense. Oh, and E. Muñoz will be the new district leader.

Sorry I didn't write a letter last week; with the longer email and everything we did (eating, shopping, laundry, cleaning), I chose not to send one. I'll try to write one this week, if I have time! I can print out the emails here, which I've been doing for the past few weeks. And it's up to you if you'd like to send me letters; I enjoy the emails, and I haven't as of 11:33 am received any letters from you yet, so it's up to you. I always love receiving them, but most of all I like to hear from you.

Well I wonder what I should write about? How about this: I'll tell you what's happened briefly, so you all know how my week's been, but I'll put more info in my letter. I don't want you all to go without knowing, but I want to have something worthwhile to write in my letter! Let me know how it works.

I hit my 6 MONTH MARK on Friday! It didn't really feel any different than any other day, actually : D. I remember E. DeBaltzo and other missionaries saying that their 6 month marks were kind of trippy, like time is going too fast and they feel they haven't accomplished much. For me, I feel both, that it's hard to believe that it's already been 6 months, but then I can look back and say, Yeah, it's been 6 months : D. E. Muñoz thinks that maybe it's because I just arrived in my mission and still getting used to things, which is probably true. I just don't want to look the other way, because 1.5 years still seems like a long time, but as you always say, Dad (and I always tell myself; it's like my mission mantra), "One Day at a Time" : D. So yeah! I'm excited that I made it this far, and I hope to keep on going strong.

I went on a trip to Immigration on Wednesday and got my for-reals VISA! It lasts one year, and looks like an ID card.
I did better on this round of cold weather that just went through (it didn't feel quite as cold!), I think. With bundles and 3 blankets, we did pretty well. It's starting to warm up, and I think I've already sunburned twice! : / I need to be more vigilant with that. I just feels weird to do it in the winter, every day.
I almost lost my voice this past week? I guess from the cold or something. As a remedy, I drank honey and lime juice (they don't seem to have lemons here, but they have lime with EVERYTHING). I'm fine now.
I didn't end up giving a talk; it might be next week. I know what I want to talk about though: Hope and Enduring to the End. I'm still on the piano, though! I'd like to try to practice more, so it's not just one note at a time, but more like real playing.
I'm getting comfortable with Moderna and Monterrey! I'm really glad about it, because it allows me to focus more on the work. I also bought a pillow last week (about 8 dollars) that I'm very excited about: my very own pillow, that I can take around with me! : D

OH!! Mom and Dad, could you please send me the balance on my debit card? It's tough to keep track of expenses when everything's in pesos, and I'd like to know how much money I have on the card. Thanks a ton!

We also had some really good lessons last week that I'll try and tell you about in my letter!

Well, I think that's about it for this week. I love you all bunches and bunches, and I hope that things are going well for you. I am wonderful! Despite the occasional toughness, tiredness, or homesickness, I'm glad to be here and serving the Lord and the people of Moderna. I'm grateful for the testimony I have, and I want it to grow every day. I really appreciated the testimony you shared, Dad, and I value yours too, Sam and Mom and Julia! I'm so grateful for you all, and blessed to know that you all have testimonies, too.

YEAH! : D I'm just so happy!! I hope you have a great week, stay safe, and TTYL!

<3, Oli

Monday, February 7, 2011

Mexico is not as hot as you think

Hello Everyone!! : D I love hearing from you all every week! It's been a pretty long week for me, and I'm grateful to know how you're doing and everything : ). It's been a good one, though!
I've been pretty good, except the cold. BRR!! I guess I'm not used to it, but it was suuuper chilly this past week. I was wearing my wool cap, my sweater, my gloves (I shared my other pair with Elder Muñoz), my raincoat with zipout liner, long sleeves, almost everything I had, out walking and proseltyzing. It got down to about -5 degrees Celsius, which I guess is around 23 degrees Fahrenheit, at night! Apparently it's been the coldest it has been in like 15, 20 years here. The worst was the buildings: they're pretty much all made of concrete, with no insulation, so it was 45 deg F inside our house, at the lowest point (I could see my breath!)!! We were fine though, thanks to 3 blankets each : D. And I got through it! It was an experience, one fun to look back on : ) (except I hear we're going to have MORE cold weather later this week! I hope not : /). It's part of being a missionary! Yesterday was quite warm though, with tons of sun; I need to start being more mindful of wearing sunscreen. Really, weather here is just as weird as it is in Texas. I'm glad to hear that you all made it through the cold OK on your side.
 So yeah! I sent you a letter last week, though a member who took it to the post office on Thursday, I believe. We'll have to see when it gets there! Would you like me to continue to write letters? I can keep doing it if you'd like, but emails are faster and easier for me. Just let me know! As for mail on my end: the zone leaders go to the mission office to pick up mail every Tuesday and give it to us the following Monday, at our district meetings (the whole zone does it at the same time, in the Moderna stake center). Which I suppose means that any mail that you send this week, if it gets here by next Tuesday (I'm not sure how long it takes to get to the mission office), I should get in 2 weeks : /. Too bad it takes so long, but I'm content with printing out emails and such. Whatever you'd like to do!
 What else has been going on? A ton, that's what! : D We didn't talk last Sunday, but we do THIS Sunday, so I need to start preparing for that; I guess it's every 2nd Sunday that we give talks. I DID play the piano though!! Our ward doesn't have a pianist, so I volunteered to play. I only played the melody with my right hand, one note at a time, but it helped with the hymns. Hopefully I can start practicing and preparing more for the hymns beforehand. It's kind of exciting! I enjoyed fasting as well. We did it a little differently: we started our fast Saturday afternoon, after our comida (the daily meal that Mexicans eat around 2 pm as the largest meal, as opposed to dinner. We eat la comida every day with members), since we would eat la comida again on Sunday around 2 pm. I really enjoy the opportunity to fast each month, especially for others or things I need. And our meal afterwards was super tasty! : D
One thing that amazes me about Monterrey is how people are so prepared by the Lord. It's actually easier than you might think to walk up to people on the street, talk to them a little about the gospel, and make a return appointment! We made 45 contacts last week, 3 of which really stood out. One, with a lady named Leticia, we met on the street, and we could tell she was having a rough day. We told her a bit about the church, and she told us of some problems that her daughter was having. We sang a hymn, and she allowed us to come visit her later that day. And on only her second visit, she accepted a baptismal date (though she didn't come to church; I hope she's still working to read and pray)!! Another, Miriam, was a simple contact outside her house. But when we came and visited her and her husband Abraham, she was really touched by our introduction, saying that she had prayed to God to know what she would do, and that we were like messengers from God. Both she and her husband committed to read the Book of Mormon, and I know the gospel could help them so much. The last, Juan Carlos, I didn't meet until yesterday (I think my companion E. Muñoz contacted him before I got here or something), when we had our first visit. However, he had already read several parts of the Book of Mormon (up to about Jacob, plus jumped around to other places), had already prayed to God about it, and received an answer! He understood everything, eveninfant baptism (read about it in Moroni), and committed for a baptismal date, on our first visit, for the 20th. His sister committed too, even though she hadn't read the Book of Mormon yet! Truly amazing. I'm also really impressed with Bernardo, E. Muñoz's recent convert, for his humility and desire to learn and keep going in the church.
My companion, E. Muñoz, has been great, too! He's from Mexico City, and was actually baptized when he was 14 (his sister and his grandma are the only others in his family who are members). He likes to sing pop songs of all kinds, is looking forward to marriage : D, likes to joke around a lot, and is a really hard working missionary. He's really been helping me with my Spanish, and he knows some English, which is a lifesaver for me and helps me learn better too, I think. He's been out for about 11 months. In some ways it was hard for me to adjust to him, because I'm so used to working with Elder Jardine and teaching a certain way, and he does things differently. He's really helped me out though!! He understands what I'm going through, is willing to try some of the things that I've learned, and really has helped me get used to Monterrey and having a new companion, doing things differently, in a different place. I've learned, too, that I can't expect him to be the same as my trainer, that we are equals in this process, and that I need to work to see the good things he does and try to suggest things in a helpful way. I really am blessed to have him as my companion.
My area is good too! Though living conditions are quite poor, the quality of the people that live here impresses me. The members are super nice and solid, even coming out with us to lessons pretty regularly. I don't know; I don't really like to talk about the living conditions here. Our house is actually pretty nice, though dirty (we're going to work on that today) and a little cold-feeling at times (all the floors here are tile or concrete, and our house doesn't have much decoration, which makes it feel a little sterile, but it's really a nice house). Unfortunately I don't know the address, sorry!
Whew this email is getting pretty long! I probably should wrap it up for now. I hope I answered most of your questions! I love you all so so much, and I hope you have a wonderful week. It really lifts my spirits to hear from you and hear of your testimonies. I'm grateful to be on a mission, and I hope you all are doing well too. Talk to you soon!
Love, Oliver