Friday, November 1, 2013

Chocolate y pan de muerto
Tonight we are going to the Feria National de Chocolate in Coyoacan! We are excited!  Not only is the Plaza Hidalgo in Coyoacan beautiful (built in the 1500's by the Spanish, Coyoacan is where the Spanish set up their government as the conquered the Aztecs.  The buildings are beautiful, the streets narrow and cobbled, the traditions still very much Latin.)  Tonight's traditions include pan de muerto (a citrus flavored roll, covered in granulated sugar, with a little spider/skeleton shape baked on top.  You can see pan de muerto in the picture above.)  Halloween is celebrated here--the children go trick or treating, but the real celebrations are the days following Halloween--the Dias de los Muertos.  We had no trick-or-treaters last night--which was really sad.  We spent the night cooking and pulverizing pumpkins so we could have pumpkin pie and chocolate chip pumpkin nut cookies.  Not sure what it will taste like, but it took 3 hours to cook one pumpkin and osterize it.  Sure is easier buying a can at the store!  :)
We have discovered many things about Mexico.  1:  There is a limited amount of gas coming into our departmento (apartment).  If we want a shower, we can't use gas anywhere else.  If you want to use the oven, you can't wash the dishes or cook on the stove.  If you want to wash your hands in hot water, you can't use gas anywhere else.  If you want to run the washer, you can't be cooking at the same time.  The water drains and sewage system are not great--not good enough for garbage disposals, anyway.  We have wet and dry basura (garbage) and have to take it out every day.  2:  There are a limited number of kinds of beans in the dry bean aisle (which takes up a WHOLE aisle in the grocery store).  No navy beans, kidney beans, split peas, etc.  I guess that means no 9 bean soup for us!  3:  There are limited frozen foods available.  No frozen dinners, etc.  We can buy limited ice cream, no frozen juices (but they have AMAZING boxed juices by JUMEX.  4:  All milk has been irradiated and is in boxes on the shelves.  Irradiated milk is awesome.  It tastes great, doesn't need refrigeration, and can be stored in cupboards or wherever.  Unfortunately, the only flavored milk we can find is in little lunchbox size containers--all chocolate.  We are missing Shatto milk!  5:  Amazon doesn't work down here.  Who knew that Amazon was such a big part of our lives.  We keep saying, don't worry, we can get Amazon to ship it.  NO!  NOT POSSIBLE!  In Mexico, Amazon only deals with Kindles. 5:  American made/style stuff is very expensive.  We found a Bed Bath and Beyond where we can buy stuff for our home--but the stuff is expensive.  Also, electronics are pretty high here.  We needed an LCD Projector.  You can buy one in the US for $200.  Here it would be over $500.  Not a problem, we just use the President's.  7:  The Metro is fast, but if you take it during "rush hour" (most of the day) be prepared to be a sardine--literally.  People continue to push into the train even when there is NO room.  We got on the train at 9 am on Wednesday morning, squished against the doors and with hardly room to breathe.  At the next stop, 5 more people got on.  At the next stop, 3 more people got on.  Like, REALLY?  No more Metro rides before 10 am.  8:  It IS possible to find shortening, you just have to go to an importer (Aladino's) and pay $10/can.  (It is worth it.)  9: Not all panaderias have great bread--some have stale or so-so bread.  BUT, because there are panaderias, no one uses their oven (if they have one) for baking--they just buy pan.  We will probably have to buy a tabletop electric oven.  There is no other way to get our oven over 300 degrees, and Mantenimiento doesn't understand.  10: This is a beautiful place to live.  The climate is perfect--rain comes mainly at night, with warm temperatures all day.  We were told we needed coats--but the days we see people wearing coats are days when it is in the upper 50's.  The homes (inside the high walls) are beautiful and colorful.  The side streets look like they were transported from the 6th century and are charming.  There are 500 year old buildings everywhere--along with gardens, sculpture, plazas and tons of flowers.  11:  The people are wonderful.  We have yet to meet someone who doesn't welcome us to Mexico and try their best to help us.  Things are different here--but not that much.  12:  There are WAY too many cars.  Oh, for rush hour in KC!  Driving here is something else--lines on the road are truly suggestions, and lights are generally obeyed, but not always! 
Until next time! 
The picture below is Plaza Hidalgo, Coyoacan.  Notice the fountain has coyotes on it--for Coyoacan!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

 It has been a long time, but we finally have some pictures, so I will post with them.  The pictures above are our apartment complex with its cobblestone streets, beautiful gardens (all 3 windows belong to our apartment--and looking outside at the gardens is always beautiful!), and our kitchen.  The kitchen is a tight squeeze for two, but they managed to install a washer/dryer combo and refrigerator/freezer combo--so we are happy.  We are working hard on teaching English to the 77 Latino Elders/Sisters in the mission.  In another week, we get another 14 Latino missionaries--so we are trying to get ready for them, too.  We don't have internet or phone service yet, but we can talk with the missionaries through the mission "red" (Spanish for internet).  Reception is iffy, but we can usually get hold of them when we need them.  We are traveling everywhere either by foot or taxi--getting a lot of exercise.  We live in Coyoacan, which is a tourist spot (it is where the Spaniards settled initially when they came to the area to challenge the Aztecs).  There are a lot of beautiful homes (all hidden behind walls), churches, parks and streets.  People are friendly, and speak muy rapido.  We are members of the Pedregal Ward, and I (Joni) am playing piano for Sacrament Meeting--since there was no one in the Ward who could play.  It was a really humbling experience to listen to their voices the first Sunday being raised in familiar hymns--minus organ or even piano.  Their hymnbook is about half the width of ours, and a few of the hymns are different--but I am enjoying being at least a little useful.  It is an interesting Ward, being composed of people who live near the Universities in Coyoacan (there are a lot of Universities in Coyoacan).  We have students, professionals, and a lot of very humble people.  It rains here all the time--but because of that it is very green with beautiful flowers everywhere.  The sidewalks and roads are (often) moss-covered, adding to the beauty of the area.  We are adjusting to the constant 60-70 degree temperatures--as my mother would have said, it is always "sweater weather" in Mexico City.  It is a beautiful city with just about any and everything you could want to find.  Archaeology, History, Architecture, Modern conveniences, Malls (with more expensive merchandise than we have at home), Tiny tiendas, etc.  3 weeks into the mission--and so much more to learn!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Just thought it would be a good idea to show you our Mission Apartment.  Not really!  We arrived on Monday afternoon with only short (15-20 minutes) delays with immigration.  When we had passed through customs, we met Presidente Valadez and his wife--who were most gracious and helped us get our bags to the car and loaded up.  They took us to our apartment, which they had never seen, but no one was there to let us in (in Mexico, all apartmtents/homes have locked entry doors--you can't just walk in).  They called FM (who was in charge of finding the apartment) and they weren't anywhere near, so we went to dinner and then on a shopping trip to the local super WalMart.  Much larger than our super Walmart!  Having never seen the apartment, it was tough to know what we needed or could do, but we bought some basics and then headed back.  FM was there, and let us in.  Above you see the apartment.  It was less than 200 square feet and extremely cramped.  But we were tired and stayed and unpacked while everyone left.  The next day we were picked up by the Presidente and taken to a training/transfer meeting.  17 new elders and us arrived on Monday!  10 were from the US, 7 from other Latin American nations and Mexico.  We went into the training session with the Assistants while the Presidente interviewed the Elders.  Sister Valadez arrived halfway through for pictures with the new Elders (for them to send home, I guess), and afterward she and the President cornered us to let us know they were horrified by our small accomodations.  Apparently President Valadez called FM and reamed them about the apartment--and they got to work looking for a new place.  Meantime, the Valadez' told us to pack up, because we were moving to their home that evening for as long as it took to get a new place.  We spent Tuesday getting acclimated, Wednesday looking for apartments.  Very discouraging--we found one 5th floor walkup, and no others that were within the range we could spend (Church rules, no ours).  We walked and drove all over Coyoacan, writing down telephone numbers for "For Rent" ("Se Renta") signs, but didn't have much luck.  Most were either too expensive or too far away. Thursday we went back to the chapel for more training, but this time the President placed us with the Latin Elders, not the American ones--which means that ALL the instruction was in Spanish.  I think Tom got most of it--I probably got 60-75%.  Afterwards, the FM people buttonholed us and showed us an apartment they had found.  We then went with them to look at it.  The apartment is a 2 bedroom, ground floor  apartment (apparently there aren't many elevators for apartments in Mexico).  It has a pretty good size "sala de estar" (living room) and area for a dining room table off the living room.  It has a small kitchen with room for a full size refrigerator (apparently in Mexico, apartments are fitted with small refrigerators and separate freezers--not good) and a place for stackable washer/dryer.  It also had space for a dishwasher--but there were no hookups for one, so we will not have a dishwasher.  Not many people in Mexico have dishwashers.  No disposal--that is also rare in Mexico.  We will have to separate our "basura" (trash) into organic/inorganic and then take it to the front of the complex.  Haven't had to do that since Heritage Halls!  There is a tiny bathroom, all in green (Tom's not-favorite color), but it is pretty marble.  There are MANY apartments buildings in the complex.  It is very well landscaped and maintained, and has security at the gate controlling access--also many security guards roaming the grounds to keep things safe.  Once inside the complex there were lots of people out strolling, playing with kids, etc.  There is NO furniture, but FM is going to strip one of the temple apartments of its furniture to furnish our apartment, and will but the washer/dryer and refrigerator.  They are also spending today fixing all the broken outlets, rescrubbing the floors, disinfecting and (I hope) debugging it, fixing broken fixtures in the bathroom and kitchen, etc,  We think it is a very nice apartment and are looking forward to moving in next Wednesday.  We have a problem with transportation--doesn't look like we will have a car--but there is a Walmart Supercenter a few blocks away (across a VERY busy highway)--and we can always take taxis--which are everywhere.  It is also a long way from the Mission Office where we will be working--but there is a Metro stop a few blocks away, so we will probably use that.  It continues to be an adventure!
Last night I attended RS with Sister Valadez and watched the Ward Family History Specialist teach 8 sisters how to use Family Search--also very interesting.
Have to get to Missionary Work now--we have been asked to design ways to more effectively train the Elder on how to use, FamilySearch and learn English.  Apparently it is as high a priority in the Church to teach native speakers English as it is to teach English speaking Elders the language of the country they serve in.  None of the above are being done very effectively right now, so that is our charge.  Life is certainly interesting!

Friday, August 30, 2013

All finished at the MTC.  Above is  picture of the Schlagers (BS1st Ward), Us and the Winters (KCNorth Ward, Liberty Stake).  We were the group from Missouri, and really enjoyed each other's company.  The Schlagers are going to the Phillipines as MLS and Office Missionaries.  The Winters are going to Texas with President Ames as Office Missionaries.  We FINALLY have visas and airplane tickets to Mexico, and leave on Monday at 7:20 am.  We will arrive in Mexico City around 3 pm.  Finally!  Today was another great day with our wonderful MTC teachers helping us learn to work with Ward Councils and inactive or less active members--always with love and concern.  What a great week this has been.  The role-playing has been exhausting, but we have learned a lot and practiced more.  Tomorrow we are doing laundry (in the MTC laundry room which has to have about 100 washing machines), studying Spanish, then finally (sometime) getting to bed.  Right now we are trying to figure out what to send home and what to take.  We are missing our children and grandchildren--and wish we could admire Walker's missing tooth in person.  We are excited to arrive in Mexico City--and just got an email from Presidente Valadez saying he and his wife would be waiting for us.  The adventure begins. 
I'm posting a picture of ALL this weeks Senior Missionaries so you can see what a great looking bunch of seniors we are!  :)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Today was a non-MTC day!  We spent the entire day on the Frontrunner--pictured above--which runs from Provo to Ogden.  We rode from Provo to Murray, then hopped on the Trax train, getting off at the Bee Ball Park.  We then had to hike 4 blocks to the Mexican Consulate to be interviews for our visas.  Apparently, Mexico doesn't issue visas without a personal interview.  Hence, it was Tom and I along with 10 energetic young Elders.  It was an adventure!  We didn't return until around 4 pm, making it too late to do anything except go to dinner and crash.  We highly recommend the Frontrunner to anyone in Utah.  It was clean, comfortable, fast, and really quiet.  Riding it was a treat.  Hard to say that about Trax!  The consulate said that they would get our visas finished by Friday.  The Church is sending someone to pick them up.  We have two reports of plans for our flight out--one is Saturday (a little early, we think), and the other is Monday morning (like, around 6 am--which means we are up around 3 am)  Not too happy about that one either.  One way or the other, we WILL be in Mexico City next week!  Hooray! Now I am truly getting nervous about language skills!

Monday, August 26, 2013

I'm sitting looking out across Utah Valley enjoying a beautiful sunset an looking at flight possibilities to Mexico City.  We checked in this morning and received all kinds of information--including the news that we do not yet have a visa.  However, the travel department has talked with the Mexican consulate and they are going to squeeze us in on Wednesday for an interview and issuance of a visa.  Travel Services said this is GOOD news, because it means we WILL get a visa on Wednesday.  We are therefore looking forward to leaving Provo sometime this weekend.  We had a pretty non-stressful day today--most of it spent in orientation and meeting other senior couples.  There are only 22 couples this week--there will be 72 next week! We are blessed to have made many new friends.  We spent a few hours studying this evening, and are now getting ready to turn in.  We start at 8 am tomorrow for Preach My Gospel training.  We are missing family and friends.  We are also enjoying watching the 3500 young missionaries who mill around everywhere.  They have such enthusiasm that it is catching.  They are also very patient, courteous, and just plain nice people.  We are honored to be here with them.  We enjoyed having a Maschger family Skype this afternoon--as well as a quick chat with Kristi.  And we are really enjoying crossing paths with Michael McCarty, who we see every   day.  I can't tell you how great it is to see someone from home!   Until tomorrow....

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Well, we are here!  Arrived at the MTC Sunday evening in time for a quick meal and Sunday devotional.  LOTS of Elders and Sisters milling around.  We sat with 5 other senior couples during the devotional, so got to meet a few other seniors.  Hopefully there will be lots more arriving tomorrow morning.  We officially check in at 10 am.  Had a great day yesterday shoe shopping with Paddy and sampling all the desserts at Kneaders--thanks to a great waitress who decided to give us extras of everything.  Missing our grandkids and children--and all our friends at home.  Love to all.  We will know more tomorrow!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Spent a great last week in Blue Springs, topped by seeing great friends and family members for our open house on Sunday, August 18.  The Open House was Caryn's idea--we were really absorbed in learning Spanish and packing our house up--but with her urging it was really great.  Friends from the Stake, Ward and work came to join us, eat a little guacamole and taquitos, and talk about old times and upcoming adventures.  We enjoyed having a really full house--followed by a trip to the McCarty's to say goodbye to Michael, who will be entering the MTC on Wednesday, August 21.  Had one last tutoring session on Monday, then proceeded to pack, clean, organize, dust and prepare for our trip to Utah.  We arrived in Utah on Thursday, Aug 22nd, and spent some time with Julie (Tom's sister) and Dave, then on to Paddy's apartment to spend a few last evenings with my sister.  On Friday we woke up to a flat tire on our rental car, so we drove back to the airport and exchanged it, arriving late to the Immersion MTC.  Had a great day of practicing and studying Spanish, followed by a visit with Tom's cousin Brent Ashworth and his wife.  Very interesting time talking about family history and past memories of family members.  Saturday has been a day to repack, gather our thoughts, shop for shoes (Joni) and get prepared.  Tomorrow, on the 25th, we will drive to the MTC and check in a day early.  Still no word on Visas--so we don't know when'/if we will be leaving, but we have exchanged some encouraging e-mails with Presidente Valadez and are looking forward to being in Mexico City and finally being able to pitch in and do the work we need to do.  I'm sitting in my sister's apartment now, looking across the street at the Church Office Building and Temple Square, and am thinking how great it is to be a member of the Lord's Kingdom and part of this work.  What a privilege to have Him trust us enough to send us forth to help others.  Hoping for connectivity at the MTC so I can continue there....

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Almost time to go!

Guess it is officially time to start a blog on our Mission to Mexico City.  We received our call in May to the Mexico City South Mission, and have been working (hard!) for the last 3 months on language instruction and packing up.  I can now converse (haltingly) in Spanish, but am doing much better.  We are working on grammar, flashcards, and Predicad mi Evangelio!  We spoke in Sacrament Meeting last week, and are having an Open House this evening to say goodbye to friends and family.  We fly to SLC on Thursday, spend Friday doing another immersion day at the MTC, then officially enter the MTC on Monday the 26th of August.  The Missionary Department has told us there is only one other senior couple in Mexico City South--and they live at home.  We're not sure what that means, except that we will probably have to set up an apartment, and that this is an exciting time in Mexico City!  Yes, we are feeling a little nervous--and Yes, we are feeling excited and are ready to go.  Yes, we will miss our children and grandchildren, but are counting on blessings for all of them.