Monday, March 30, 2015

"The Mango in the States is All a Lie."


These two weeks have flown by! But at the same time, it feels like Mexico is all I've ever known. It´s so crazy to me still that everyone around me except my compaƱero doesn't understand or speak English. I don't know why but that just blows my mind haha.

Well where to start...this week I have finally felt the effects of the Mexican food. For the first time I tried the famous Oaxacan Mole. Mole is a sauce that usually goes with some sort of meat. It tasted amazing, I can´t really explain it. Well the rumor is that it always makes new Americans sick when they eat it for the first time, but Elder Erikson said he never got sick from it. I´m not sure why it makes Americans sick, but for some reason it doesn't settle well to foreigners. I ate a bunch of it because it was so delicious, I couldn't stop. I finished my plate and sat there a couple minutes and I felt good.
Then suddenly, I knew it was a matter of time and it was going to come back up. I asked where the bathroom was and I made it halfway. Good thing the dining area and bathroom was all outside, so it's not like I made a mess in their house. Yeah, that was a fun time. The next day I had some mole fajitas and I kept it in :)

So we have been teaching a lot of investigators and the hardest part is finding where they live. The house numbers don´t make any sense and a lot of the time the houses don't have any number at all. The other day we were trying to find an investigator and this one guy started yelling at us.  

Ayee Gringooo! Gringos! And some other choice Spanish words. He was obviously drunk and wanted to mess with a couple white guys. This isn't too uncommon and whenever it happens Elder Erikson and I start speaking total gibberish to each other extra loud so the drunk can hear us. It usually confuses them enough that they leave us alone but really I just think its so funny. We came across this other drunk guy who was actually speaking some English mixed with his slurred Spanish. It was strange but he tried to call us over to ask for money. He asked if we speak English but we said we didn't. I said that I speak French and Elder Erickson said he speaks Russian.

For the most part, the people here are super kind to us and our area is super safe. I never feel like I´m in any danger and I love the people here! We have gone to teach this one member family a few times now and they pretty much live on the side of this cliff. They are super cool family but the parents aren't married. That´s a huge problem here, I guess they don't like commitment. Oh and also the father is pretty much George of the Jungle. He has super long hair and he believes in the Trinity, he doesn't believe that The Father, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost are 3 separate beings. We had a long discussion about it but he is never going to change his mind. Well other than that they are a super cool family and I gave the 7 year old daughter a US dollar bill. She was super excited. Yeah I have some leftover US money so I've been giving it away to kids. 

I love missionary work. Even though I can´t really teach or have conversations yet, I love these people. Oaxaca is awesome. The experiences I´m going to have and the people I am going to meet I would have never have dreamed of. The mission is such a special thing and that´s what I have learned in these first two weeks. I am so excited for these next two years and I wouldn't trade this opportunity for anything.

Also, I´m going to the temple on Wednesday! That's one perk for being in the city! I can´t wait even though I think its all going to be in Spanish...this will be interesting. Oh yeah and General Conference weekend is coming! General conference is the best thing ever for missionaries I have learned. Its better than Christmas.

The fruit here is also amazing. The members give us Oranges and Mango all the time. Our fridge is stuffed. Oh man...the mango here are out of this world. The mango in the States are all a lie. The fruit here doesn't look as good, but it tastes so much better. I think the fruit in the states are modified to look super good, but whatever they do ruins their taste. I have oranges and mango everyday here, its the best.

Don´t worry about me because I am doing awesome and I love it. Thank you for everything, I hope all is going well in the States! 

Con Amor, 
Elder Smith

Monday, March 23, 2015

One week down in Oaxaca


So I officially have one week down and a lot more to go in Oaxaca! I think its safe to say that it has been one of the toughest weeks of my life. Easily. Haha but don't worry I love Oaxaca and these two years are going to be the best years of my life, and the best two years for my life. 

I have learned a lot of things so far, but the biggest thing that I have learned is that I don´t know Spanish. I follow my comp around like a lost puppy. We are both new to our area, which is pretty rare for that to happen. Usually during a change, one of the companions has been in the area for a while and knows their way around. Elder Erikson and I have had to start from scratch. We spent a lot of the week meeting as many members as we can in our ward/area. Our area is called Violetas 2 (Violets). I know why its called that because there are violets everywhere here. The roads and house numbers are super confusing and our area is pretty much on the side of a mountain. Every morning we need to climb this ridiculously steep hill to get to where most of the people are in our area. It has to be like a 45 degree slope for like 30 yards.
View from the airplane, flying to Oaxaca

So we´ve mostly met and taught lessons with miembros and menos activos (members and less actives) but we have a few progressing investigators and some street contact appointments coming up. It was just recently that they have had white missionaries called to Oaxaca. I thought that kind of funny haha. During the lessons, Elder Erikson starts teaching something and then when he looks over at me I know its time for me to say something. I have been doing the only thing I can kind of do. I try and follow what he has been saying the entire lesson then I try and bare my testimony about it, or just say a few simple things, anything I can come up with. I want to contribute more so bad, but I just don't have the language skills.

The toughest thing for me has been not being able to understand anything! Coming here I thought I would be able to pick up on most of what people are saying. Nope. They speak so fast and their accents don't help either. I get asked the simplest questions and it goes over my head. All I want to do is get to know the people, because they are such great people, but I can't converse for the life of me. It´s really been tough for me being so needy and lost all the time. Definitely a humbling experience so far. 

The Bishop and the Ward mission leader are super amazing. The Bishop reminds me of a Mexican Brother Bywater and The Ward Mission Leader is a real life Oompa Loompa. Hahaha he's 5 foot nothing, if that. They are the best though, and super helpful whenever I don´t know whats happening, which is all the time. Our Bishop has been a Temple President, a Mission President, and a bunch of other stuff. He is incredibly experienced. He also goes to Provo every year and he was ordained by Gordon B. Hinckley for something, I didnt catch what it was. 

Yesterday my compaƱero and I were asked to bare our testimonies during Sacrament Meeting. I shared the first vision and bore my testimony about Joseph Smith and the Libro de Mormon. I just do what I can haha. I said that I dint have the Gift of Tongues in my tongue and afterwards a nice lady told me I did haha. We are fed by a member every single day at 2. They have every meal a little bit later than they do in the US. Every meal we are first given some sort of soup (sopa) and then afterwards something with beans and tortillas. Coke here is HUGE. Its a strange day if we aren´t fed something with tortillas with a side of Coca. (Coke) Also, they never just have regular water with their meals. They call it agua but its some sort of water mixed with fruit juice. I have had agua de cucumber, agua de naranja (orange) agua de canteloupe and this one agua from Brazil made out of some flower. The Brazilian one is definitely my favorite. 

I´m going to try and wrap this up soon so I can post some pictures! Dogs are everywhere in the streets too. There are a lot of cats too but they are better at hiding. Haha there are dogs just sleeping in the middle of the street at every turn. I cant wait to learn Spanish so I can really start being an instrument in the hands of the Lord. I know I just need to be patient and work my butt off everyday, and the language will come. I know I shouldn't expect to be able to have a conversation after one week but it is really frustrating. 

We got our house all cleaned up and now it is actually really nice! There are bugs (mostly ants and cockroaches) everywhere in the house. But that's Mexico for ya. I shower with a bucket and later today I´m going to hand wash my clothes for the first time, yay! It´s definitely a lifestyle change. The last couple of days it has rained really hard but just for a few minutes a couple times a day. Its thunder-storming right now but it always stops for a while then it might pick back up. Also for the first P-day we went to Centro (the tourist area in the city) and I got a sweet Oaxaca style mochila (backpack). It was only 100 pesos (like 6 bucks). I´m definitely going to be bringing home stuff for all the bros in two years. My comp said he has sent home hammocks and stuff through fedex, and thats the only trustworthy way to do it. 

Thank you for all the prayers!

Con Amor, 
Elder Smith

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Made it to Oaxaca!


President Madsen is letting me email home to tell you that I made it and I´m alright! We got into Oaxaca around 6:30 last night and we had pizza and met my trainer. My trainer is Elder Erickson and he is super tall and from Idaho. I totally lucked out because he is incredible, I'm going to learn so much from him. Like I suspected I'm staying here in an area in the city. I forgot what the area was called at the moment. 

Today I'm getting trained a little more with just some orientation like stuff here at the mission home then Elder Erickson and I are going to our house and settling in, then I don´t know what were going to do. I realized don´t know any Spanish...but some other guys said they didn't know anything when they first came and that I shouldn't worry about it. 

The minute I met my trainer, President called us to his office to meet with him. He basically told us that we are replacing a companionship who was just sent home for having an inappropriate relationship with a girl in the ward. So my new ward might not have such a great view of missionaries right now because rumors spread pretty quickly throughout the ward. I'm so glad that I have Elder Erickson leading the way because I am a deer in headlights right now.

So yeah I will be alright but wow if i already didn't realize, I do now...its going to be a the toughest few weeks of my life. But everyone says they love it here, so I just need to endure until I start getting the hang of everything. 

Love you!

Elder Smith

Oh yeah and I already have had those famous Oaxacan crickets. I forgot what they're called. Juicier than I thought they would be, haha but they are super good and spicy! And there are wild dogs everywhere! None have attacked me yet though (:

I'll take some pictures of inside the house at some point. I didn’t realize that where I was going to live was going to be like all the other trash Mexican buildings. But it is like I've never seen before. Culture shock is still going strong. Soon were about to go find some members that are nearby. We've been asking people on the street if they know any members of our church. Well I mean Elder Erikson has been asking haha. He then transitions that question to trying to get an appointment to teach them. He does it so well. I can now say I'm living the missionary life. We also tried to call the Bishop from our ward but he didn’t answer...oh well we are trying to get some work today even though we both don’t know anything about this area.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Last week in the MTC

I can't believe that this is my last P-Day at the MTC!

The time really does fly by, and I've heard it goes even faster in the field. That's great if there is someone here at the MTC that will be going to Oaxaca with me. Especially someone who knows Spanish really well. That's strange he's not in my travel group. As much as I like it here at the MTC I am ready to go out and get my real mission started. 

It was so sweet that Josh was able to send a recording to you all from me. Josh and Tyler also left me a little note and an awesome MoTab CD. I really treasure their advice and loved what they wrote. I know that I am about to jump off the deep end, and I know I will never be able to prepare myself for that. I have been thinking a lot this week, that in my life, I have never been so desperate that all I could do was turn to the Lord. I have been blessed so much and I have been comfortable all my life. I know that this mission will knock me down to my knees, begging for help from my Heavenly Father because I will have no other option. I know that whenever that experience happens for me, I will be a changed person. 

This week we had Elder Quentin L. Cook come and speak at devotional! The MTC choir sang Praise To the Man. It was such a cool experience. Elder Cook spoke a little about the process for assigning missionaries. He said that the decision is of course a revalatory one and he personally looks and ponders a few things while making the assignments. He said that he tries to match the missionary with a mission president that he thinks they would thrive with. I thought that was really interesting. He said he also goes by which people the missionary needs to teach, and finally he takes into consideration what language the missionary needs to learn. Elder Cook described how spiritually draining the process is for the Apostles and what he said really makes me believe that my call is from The Lord. 

Also, this week we had a missionary from our district go home. It was tough on the entire zone. The MTC changes people, and I was able to see the growth of his testimony the 5 weeks he was here. If that Elder didn't have a testimony of the Church, he wouldn't have gone home. He went home because he found out that this whole mission thing, and our message is real. It sucks because right now he so ready to serve his mission but he knew that he had to go home. It is insane how much of a huge family we have become and we are all leaving each other on Monday. 

We have been told that our first convert is ourselves. I have already felt like I have changed so much and I haven't gotten into the field yet. I know I will be so humbled by the people of Mexico and they will teach me so much. I know that if I can share the simple and eternal truths that I know, the Spirit will be able to touch those who have been prepared by God to hear my message. Elder Cook also stressed that WE are the message. If I can have the Light of Christ in me, the people will notice that something is a little bit different about me and my message. And it won't just be because I am a goofy white kid in the middle of Oaxaca Mexico that they will think I'm different.

Love you so much!

-Elder Smith

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Mexican Consulate

So I'll start with my travel itinerary that I got today! I leave the morning of Monday, March 16 from the MTC at 4:35am. My flight from SLC is at 9:50 straight to Mexico City. I'm expected to arrive in Mexico City at 1:35 PM. I then have a flight from Mexico City to Oaxaca Mexico at 5:10 PM. So I have a 3 hour layover in Mexico City. I am supposed to arrive in Oaxaca at 6:25 PM. I am the only one in my travel group, except there are a couple Hermanas (Sisters) from our zone on my flight to Mexico City! They're serving in Mexico City. It is so exciting to get travel plans but now everything seems so real it's scary. 

Again everything here at the MTC is just more of the same. Some news is that I'm the District Leader for the last two weeks. I have a little more responsibility but its not as big of a deal as being DL in the field. President Doman wants everyone to experience some sort of leadership position. 

So going to the Mexican Consulate was an awesome change of scenery! After being in the same place, seeing the same things for a month makes any new thing an adventure. So knowing that I was going into the real world, my District gave me cash to bring back some real food. The Consulate was a sneak peak of actual Mexico. We walked in and it was stuffed with Mexican families everywhere waiting in line for whatever they do in a Mexican Consulate. It reminded me of a DMV but so much smellier and smaller. As soon as the little Latina police officer saw our name tags and white skin she took us upstairs where it was a lot nicer with a bunch of offices. It was really low key and the lady in charge was super nice. I had a preconceived notion that I was going to be interrogated. It was nothing like that. She asked us one question and it was "so where are you serving in Mexico?" I then got my picture and fingerprints taken and that was it. 

So on the way back we stopped at In 'n Out Burger! My second time ever. So I had $28 in cash from my district. I ordered 9 cheeseburgers and 3 orders of fries. It came out to $28.60. It was perfect hahaha. I had two white boxes of burgers and a bag full of fries. It was hilarious. I stuck the fries in my Man-Pack and carried the greasy white boxes of burgers back to the residence at the MTC. Everyone was at the residence getting ready for dinner when I walked in. I pulled out the bag of fries and everyone freaked out! I opened the boxes with 9 cheeseburgers and they got even louder! They went absolutely crazy! We got a picture of it so at some point ill put it up on dropbox. There are some more good pictures that I still need to put up before I leave the MTC. 

I am so jealous of the snow! We had about an inch if even that, and it made the mountains so gorgeous. Oh yeah and I freaked out when I heard the news about the BYU basketball game. Josh showed me highlights on Tuesday. It was so awesome being able to watch some more BYU basketball for the last time in a while. 

I know I'm going to miss the MTC but I am so excited to get to Oaxaca and continue this awesome adventure. I know my greatest challenges are ahead of me and I need to rely on the Lord and not on myself. That has been the hardest thing for me to do, I realize. Through the Lord I can move mountains and a lot of times I forget that. 

Thank you for all of your prayers and I hope all of my blessings go to the family instead of me.

Love you so much!

Con Amor,

Elder Smith