Monday, September 22, 2014

Dia de Independencia and New Arrivals--all at the same time!

Last Monday, Sept 15, was Mexico's Dia de Independencia--the equivalent of our 4th of July.  The day was pretty quiet--with most people putting in at least a morning of work.  Tom and I got up and went to IHOP (we discovered an IHOP on University Ave.!) for breakfast.  When we got there, we discovered the place was packed with a long waiting line--seems we weren't the only ones who were thinking of pancakes, eggs and hash browns!  We had a great breakfast (which lasted us the ENTIRE day), then took a taxi to Plaza Hidalgo to see what was going on.  Plaza Hidalgo is the second most important plaza (after the Zocalo) in Mexico City.  We discovered a LOT was going on!  The place was packed.  There were numerous streets closed down for a carnival--where the owners (plural) of rides simply bring their trucks/rides in and park them.  No planning or organization, just a lot of carnival rides.  Most were small versions of tilt-a-whirls, etc.  Then there were the streets shut down for food vendors--LOTS of those.  There was a big stage being set up for the entertainment that evening, and another stage at the City Government building (Cortez' fort--only Cortez never used it) for the "Grito".  The "Grito" is the highlight of the day for Mexicans.  It happens at 10:45, and gives everyone the opportunity to shout (gritar) in unison, "Viva Mexico", or "Viva" whatever.  We stayed up to watch the Grito from the Zocalo, which was broadcast live, and several other Gritos across the country.  In the Zocalo, the President of Mexico leads the Grito, listing a long string of people, events or things that Mexicans have to be proud of.  Viva Independencia, Viva Mexico, Viva......  It was pretty neat.  However, the crowds become overwhelmingly dense, so we checked things out at Hidalgo, ate some pan from our favorite panaderia, strolled through the Mercado and bought a few trinkets, and then headed home.  As we headed out around 3 pm, the security forces were set up to inspect everyone coming in--and LOTS of people were heading in!

All this was complicated by the fact that 18 new missionaries arrived on Monday
--half of them in the morning from the CCM, the other half arriving at 10 pm from the US.  We welcomed them on Tuesday--after a good night's rest, and then got back to the work of getting things moving for the next group of 20 who arrive in 6 weeks.  It was tough to say goodbye to those going home--it always feels like we are losing our kids and grandkids, especially when we know we probably won't see them anytime soon.  We got some great individual pictures, but here is the group with the Valadez' at the Mission home....

Great Elders!  We will miss them all!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

A Week of Hello's, Goodbye's and the World Cup!e

Well, it has been a whirlwind week, as the week of transfers always is.  We were so busy welcoming and training, we didn't have time for many pictures, so I'm going to post Hermana Valadez' group photos.  We aren't in them, but our great missionaries are!  The first, below, are the missionaries who left.  We miss them--LOTS!  They have become part of our lives, and will always have a place in our hearts.  We love you Elder Frasier, Elder Baker, Elder Limb, Elder Carver, Elder Chavez and Hermana Santos!  You are the BEST!

The second is our new missionaries.  We spent all day Monday with the missionaries from Spanish speakin countries, then all Tuesday with the US missionaries.  Thursday was spent in training with all the trainers and newbies.  Tiring, but wonderful!

The other great thing about this picture is that it is the last that will be taken at the Churubusco Stake Center.  The Stake Center is closing on Sunday--and all 4 wards will be attending in other buildings.  The Church has decided to do a MUCH NEEDED renovation to this building, and it will be closed 1 1/2 years--won't open until long after we are gone.  The other great thing is how internations this group is, with missionaries from all over.  Only 4 are from Mexico! We areeet privileged to have so many young friends all over the Western Hemisphere...

And then there were the World Cup games....  The World Cup is a HUGE occassion in Mexico City. On the days that Mexico plays, there is hardly anyone in the streets--traffic is practically non-existant.  AND, all the street vendors haul flat screen tvs (!) with them, hook onto a signal somehow, and play the game for all to see.  The first time Mexico played, we had a hard time walking down the sidewalk--there were too many people gathered watching!  The second game they played was played in the afternoon and was in its final minutes when we walked home from the office.  When we left, the score was 0-0.  When we walked into our apartment complex--we were startled by the huge "ROAR" that went up from virtually EVERY apartment in our complex (hundreds of apartments).  Tom turned to me and said, "Mexico just scored".  We kept walking, a few minutes (like 2) later, another huge "ROAR"--"They scored again!".  We walked into the apartment, turned on the TV, and sure enough--both roars were scores!  We watched the remaining 10 minutes of the match with the rest of the complex, cheering when they did!  Everyone here has opinions on all the teams playing, their chances, best players, etc.  It's fun to start the conversations in the taxicabs--soccer can keep us talking for a whole 30 minute ride!

We have new sidewalks!  The city decided to pull up and repour the concrete on Universidad.  It is wonderful!  We no longer have to trip on our way to Walmart!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Soggy City!

June 10, 2010

We feel like we are living in Seattle.  In 2 weeks, we have seen the sun only yesterday--and only for a few hours.  The weather forecast is the same every day--rainy, with thundershowers (with REALLY hard rain) in the afternoon and evening.  Temperatures around 72-75 degrees each day.  I find my early years of living in Southern California, Hawaii and Florida have conditioned me to need the sun.  It is depressing to wake up to gray skies and rain every day.  The taxistas tell us they love this season of rain and cool temperatures--guess I'm not on board with rain and the subsequent mold and moss growing everywhere.  This is definitely NOT the Mexico of the movies!  However, there is a whole new crop of flowers growing everywhere, bright colors, beautiful aromas.  Where there isn't grass, there is bright green moss.  It is still a beautiful city with "OOOHs and AAAAHs" around every corner. We took a walk around the "unidad" (apartment complex) last night after the afternoon rains and it was really pleasant.  We found a California Pizza Kitchen and ate there last Friday after work.  The pizza was great--and brought back memories of the trip we took to Boston for the NSTA Convention.  We ate at the CPK at Copley Square--so, good memories!
They are tearing up the hazardous sidewalks on Universidad and replacing them!  Wow!  The sidewalks in Mexico City are awful--mostly because the beautiful trees that shade the streets have roots that need places to grow.  Those places are the sidewalks.  As a result, the sidewalks are broken up, heaved up, missing, or otherwise hazardous.  We had a great chat with a few of our sister missionaries last week about how many ways there are to fall flat on your face (or bum) while walking the sidewalks.  They all had multiple stories to tell about falling flat.  We try always to walk with our heads down and our eyes on the sidewalk, but we still stumble occasionally.  I am SO grateful that Coyoacan is replacing sidewalks!
We had planned to take a trip on Saturday by turibus and see the sights because sun was forecast.  Unfortunately, the forecast is now rain again.  AND, the YM/YW in our ward are going to be going to an old folks home to sing on Saturday--so they need me to accompany them.  Guess we will wait for another time for the turibus.  We did go to Perisur (Big, Upscale shopping mall) on Saturday.  They were having a Midnight Madness sale for 2 days, and it was crazy crowded with people.  We came home without buying anything but a tie for Tom and a hamburger (very good).  I can only compare it to Independence Center on the day after Thanksgiving--CRAZY!
Enough for today.  All is well!

Monday, May 12, 2014

May 12, 2014

Earthquakes and more....

The week started out great.  We spent Monday working on details for the arrival of our new missionaries (they arrived today).  Then Tuesday, we explored a new part of the city--Estrella--which is actually several "pueblos" which kind of grew together.  The result is that the streets are narrow and twisty, and it is difficult to get from one place to another.  We visited two apartments, one was gorgeous, one not so gorgeous--but both had been cleaned and were presentable.  We got a ride from a taxista in our ward who knew the way, but he had to leave us at the first apartment.  The missionaries then helped us get to the second apartment (you have to know where you are going and how to get there before you step into a taxi--this city is just WAY too big for any taxista to know the way.  The taxista that returned us home was interesting, filling us in on the Passion Play at Estrella--which is the 4th largest (according to the taxista) in the world.  Estrella is a hill, and every year there is a Passion Play about Christ's crucifixion in excruciating detail.  It is broadcast on ALL the Mexican television stations, with a blow-by-blow narration.  Kind of like the Macy's Day Parade, but with a totally different subject.  There are approximately 2 million people who throng Estrella on Good Friday.  The Elders have orders to stay in their apartments all day on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.  Not safe!  Wednesday was more work in the office, as was Thursday.  However, on Thursday, we had another earthquake.  This time we were in the office and evacuated with everyone else.  We stood in the streets for about 15 minutes, while the APs, the DLs and the President starting calling to be sure the missionaries were OK.  It wasn't too bad where we were, but elsewhere in the city electricity was down, cars were "wobbling" on the road, and people were evacuating like crazy.  It measured over 6 on the Richter scale, but was about 150 miles away.  We had some interviews in Culhuacan that night, and they felt the quake much more than we did.  On Friday, we had our "planning" meeting, in which we met with the President and figured out how to handle all the timing and details of the arrivals and cambios that were coming.  Saturday was supposed to be a quiet day.  We were woken up by Tom's phone at around 8 am, it was a message from the Hermanas in Taxquena wishing me a Happy Mothers Day--which is celebrated on Saturday in Mexico (a surprise to us).  When I got on the computer, I found an e-mail from Caryn asking how we had weathered the Earthquake.  Earthquake?  What Earthquake?  Seems there was one at 2 am, and it was a strong one.  We slept through it!  We did our chores and headed out--looking for an alarm we could use to wake us up the next time.  People basically looked at us like were crazy.  Apparently earthquake warning devices are not sold in Mexico.  We are going to have to order one from Amazon and have it delivered.  We ended up in the office working on the new transfer board (changing the mission organization)--when around 12:30, another quake struck!  It was over really quickly, so we didn't evacuate, but 2 in 1 day was enough for us!
What a week!  Two mother's days, three earthquakes, and a lot of work.  Glad we have a new one to work on!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Sunday May 4, 2014

The day started out beautiful--sunny, blue skies, warm.  Now it is gray and cloudy outside, the wind has picked up, and it looks like it will rain again like it did yesterday.  Thunderstorms in Mexico City are a far cry from the violent thunderstorms in Kansas City.  We watched a movie last night with the windows wide open, enjoying the sound of thunder in the distance, rain pounding down, but NO SEVERE WARNINGS, and NO TORNADO WATCHES!  I guess we are into the rainy season here--at least the weather forecast for the next week shows only a few days without thundershowers.  AND, our temperatures have dropped from the high 80's to the mid 70's.  I might have to break the sweaters back out.  Everyone at church today was huddling and shivering--we still think the climate here is perfect!

This week was marked by a venture to a new part of the city--Del Valle--which is further north (really, on the northern edge of the mission).  It is close to the airport, and the homes are more expensive, the streets wider and better kept.  We have two sets of sisters living in an apartment in Del Valle, and they had a repairman coming, so they needed chaperones.  We sat and waited with them for 2 hours--no repairman.  Eventually all of us left to do other things.  It was an interesting trip, though.  Del Valle is completely different from our part of the city--more modern buildings, office buildings, high rises, modern apartment building, etc.  An interesting look at how a 20 minute drive can completely change your surroundings.

We started the week out in the office again--I baked chocolate chip cookies and took them in.  Over a hundred cookies disappeared in about 10 minutes.  We had several groups of missionaries in for English evaluations, and did an update on our incoming missionaries.  All are from the CCM, and I think we are ready for them.  Tuesday we did an update on missionary telephone numbers.  Seems that a lot of missionaries have been shifting phones out of their areas--so we are trying to get the phones back where they belong.  That is an important issue, because referrals and other messages go to areas, not specific elders.  If the phones are moving with the elders, the messages aren't being delivered.  We think we are update now (we called EVERY area to check), but will be waiting to hear about updates....

We also have a new referral program--which took three calls to SLC to straighten out.  It looks easier and better--it will certainly be great if it gives access to the Elders to the Google Map aspect.  I'm waiting to hear back from the Elders this week.

Friday we had an all-day leadership meeting with the ZLs, APs and Presidency.  It was long but a good discussion.  Sure love listening to the leadership evident in these young missionaries!

Saturday we got up early, did our housework and headed for Plaza Hidalgo to take a tour on the Coyoacan trolley.  It was a quick 30 minute tour in Spanish, but a great look at this very old, very significant city we live in.  We learned all about Leon Trotsky (who died in Coyoacan, killed by agents of Stalin), Frida Kahlo (a modern artist, wife of Diego Rivera), saw the "house" where Cortes' men bivouacked, saw the street where there used to be a pyramid, which Cortes ordered dismantled and the stones used to build a church (which we also saw), plus lots of other things.  When we finished the tour, we went to our favorite pasteleria and got goodies, then hit the artisan's mercado and bought a light blanket (red and orange weave), and a hat for Tom.  We also took time to go into St. Juan Bautista, the church on Plaza Hidalgo, to look at the paintings, etc--since the church dates to shortly after Cortes.  There was a wedding in progress, so we stood in the back of the church and watched the wedding.  (Lest you think us rude, there were tourists all over the place, wandering almost to the altar as they examined the murals, ceiling, sculptures, altars built to saints, etc.)  We have been in the church 3 times now, and there has been a mass, wedding or other service going at all times.
Tomorrow we need to kick into high gear and be sure all is in readiness for our 9 new missionaries.  We think we are ready--but the week promises to be a busy one.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

April 27, 2014

What a great an uplifting week!  We started the week in the office, checking up on necessary details needed to welcome our new Elders and Sisters--all from Mexico and South American countries this time.  We'll miss welcoming Northamericans, but the following transfer (at the end of June).  The Office Elders are pretty much caught up--or ahead--of what we needed to get done, so I mostly worked on Referrals.  Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were Zone Conferences.  Zone Conferences come along every three months, and involve instruction from the President and his wife, his counselors, and whoever else he calls on.  This time, President Valadez and his wife took an hour each teaching about the importance of being disciples of Christ. based on Matthew 28: 18-20.  Once again, the President (who is one of the best teachers I have EVER had the privilege to listen to) hit a home run.  He picked the scriptural reference apart verse by verse with the missionaries, pointing out that being a missionary means that they are endowed with power, but that to access that power, they need to be strictly obedient.  He noted that the word disciple is rooted in the word discipline--and associated the two.  Then he directed their attention to "id y haced"--go and do--meaning that you have to actually DO something, and that something is finding and teaching.  He also noted that we are to "guardar" the commandments--meaning to not only obey, but to place them securely in our hearts and souls--such that they are a constant directing force in our lives.
Our part was reminding our Latinos that they DO need to be working on English.  We handed out slips of papers with reports on how they were doing on English--and hope to see a few more as a result.  We also talked with them about referrals--which are a bear to assign, since people apparently don't know how to write correct addresses.  They put down incorrect Colonias, Delegaciones and States (I can't tell you often I see D.F. placed in Aguascalientes--a little like saying that Kansas City is in California!  We do the best we can and send them out. Unfortunately none of the missionaries is reporting on what they did with the referrals, so it looks like they are disappearing into a black hole.  We also (we think) discovered that there are problems with the telephone numbers that the referrals are being texted to.  We will work on that one tomorrow in the office.
Saturday we attended the Ermita Stake Conferences.  We took the subway and arrived in time to greet our great missionaries (26 of them) and be invited to sit on the stand (unfortunately in my opinion--I just wanted to listen to President and Sister Valadez, who were talking, and then slip quietly out and go home.  No such luck.  However, it was a great meeting.  One of the Counselors set up a demonstration in which he had people running all over the chapel as an illustration of how missionary work should be done--by the members--which was a hoot.
This morning, we returned to Ermita for the Sunday session.  This time we had to do the speaking.  Each of our talks was VERY short, but I'm happy to report I managed to get through the spanish without major errors--only minor ones.  I'm feeling like a success!  Speaking in front of a stake full of people in a foreign language is NOT easy!
No fun pictures this time around.  Guess we need to get out more--although we are pretty tired from this week's travel by car, taxi, metro and foot.  By the way, the Ermita Stake Center is on a quiet, gated street.  Very charming....

Sunday, April 20, 2014

We take a trip to Veracruz and see Cuicuilco Pyramid

April 20, 2014

We have been so busy we haven't had time to do much more that work, go to church to teach piano (6 students now), and come home happily tired.  I can report that the weather in Mexico City is absolutely perfect! It is comfortably warm during the day and refreshingly cool at night.  Never too hot (although we are in the hottest month of the year now--so I may have to change that report) or too cold.  We have yet to wear heavy coats, mostly getting by on sweaters.  The flowers are beautiful and surround us everywhere.  We are so grateful that the window off our apartment opens to a small "garden" complete with jacaranda trees, rose bushes, geraniums, elephant ears and a host of other beautiful plants.  The bougainvillea is ALWAYS in bloom--and always is beautiful. The noche buena (poinsettias for those who haven't been to Mexico yet) are STILL in bloom and are beautiful.  We have hibiscus, bird of paradise, and a host of others I don't recognize.
On Monday night, the mission delivered two twin bed mattresses to us so two of our hermanas could spend the night.  So far we have no bedframes--but the mattresses worked fine.  Tuesday morning we got up early (5 am) and after time for getting ready, all 4 of us headed for TAPO, one of the big bus stations (it is right next door to the airport).  We caught a bus bound for Veracruz!  One of our two sisters(Hna Solarzano) hadn't had a chance to visit the temple before her mission began 2 weeks ago (she is from Nicaragua--no temple), so we got the privilege of escorting she and her companion (Hna Schuetz) to the Veracruz temple.  We rode a "luxury" bus--which is about as far from Greyhound as it is possible to be.  There are only 26 seats on the entire bus.  Each seat is plush, wide, and reclines almost fully--and comes with a footrest.  The windows are equipped with dark shades that shut out all light (although I chose to ride with my shades open--I wanted to see the countryside!)  There were tv/dvd players at each seat, and controls that allowed you to choose your programming.  Certainly changed my view (not favorable) about bus travel.  At 8:45 we left the terminal and spent the next 1 1/2 hours trying to get out of Mexico City--there was LOTS of traffic.  This is "Santa Semana"--Holy Week--and everyone was on their way out of town on "vacaciones".  A little like Spring Break on steroids.  The trip took about 5 1/2 hours, and took us through some wonderful scenery.  Everything from Popocatepetl to high plains (like Wyoming), plains (like the midwest), desert (like Arizona), and finally the plains of Veracruz and the beach.  It was fascinating to watch the countryside change.
Hna Solarzano Hna Schuetz, Hna Brailsford (back)
When we arrived at Veracruz, we expected to meet Joaquin's family, but had miscommunication and missed them.  We did, however, have a great experience at the temple.  We were back at the motel (a very nice Holiday Inn Express with the best breakfast I think I've ever had at a motel) at around 9 pm.  We finally made contact with Joaquin's uncle Luis at 9:30--and he picked us up at 7:30 the next morning and returned us to the bus terminal for our return trip.  Veracruz was beautiful.  The beachfront property looks like Hawaii, Aruba or anywhere in the Caribbean. A few blocks inland, it was typical Mexico--beautiful homes mixed in with homes not so beautiful.  The homes were much more widely spaced, though.  At times, I could easily have mistaken it for Ft. Lauderdale or Southern California. We arrived home around 2 pm and pretty much collapsed.  Traveling is not easy--even in a luxury bus!
Uncle Luis, Tom and I in Veracruz
Friday we took off early from work.  We had intended to go to the Zocalo to see the square and visit the Templo Mayor.  We were warned that with it being Good Friday, and with the big Cathedral that is on the Zocalo, it might not be a good idea to visit.  The catholic churches all celebrate the "Stations of the Cross", re-enacting the crucifixion and the events preceding it.   We decided to go to Cuicuilco instead.  Cuicuilco is an ancient settlement and religious center--probably the first in the Mexico City basin.  It has a unique circular pyramid.  We had heard about it, but never seen it--so we decided to go. What a site!  The pyramid is amazing!  It predates the Christian era by hundreds of years, and was the foremost city in the area in its time.  It was abandoned when the volcano Xitle erupted--several times--eventually covering all but the top of the pyramid in lava.  We had wondered where all the lava around Coyoacan had come from.  It was the same eruption.  The eruption spouted ash, then tons of lava that covered over 70 square kilometers--to a depth of many, may feet.  All the smaller structures at the site are covered with lava.  We learned that the area we live in is called "Pedregal" because in Mexico pedregal means "lava field".  (I thought it just meant rocky)  We walked all around the site, up on top of the pyramid, and to the few existing structures that are visible (not covered with lava).  It is a fascinating site!  Look it up on Wikipedia!
Anyway, yesterday was more mundane.  We went to Costco in search of a ham for Easter dinner (there is no ham in Mexico City, apparently!).  We settled for baby back ribs and strawberries for a pie (love Costco for fruits!).
I was scolded for not posting to this blog by a missionary who said his Mom found it and was disappointed that I had quit posting.  Sorry!  I'll try to be more faithful.
Our missionaries are the BEST by the way.  We love working with them!  They are los mejores misioneros en el mundo!  Hasta luego!

Circular Pyramid at Cuicuilco--most of it is under a lava flow!