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