Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Choir and The Culture

Just like anywhere in the world, we suppose, there is an adult session for stake conference on Saturday evening.  This posed a little bit of a problem for those of us who work in the temple.  We arrived at the temple about 7:30 a.m. and knew to bring our peanut butter sandwiches for lunch.  We also brought fresh fruit.   We usually serve until about 6:20 p.m. We wondered if we would have time to eat before the 7 p.m. meeting began.  We decided to go to the Italian restaurant across the street to give it a try.  This was a "first" for the Days as well as us.  It is called Tarentella and Sister Jordan said the missionaries love it because it is an "all you can eat" place.  We paid 120 pesos each [$9.09] and ate as much pizza and pasta with sauce and dessert as we wanted.  They have a salad bar but we never know if the lettuce has been disinfected and if hands are clean that prepare the food.  The food was good.

We are part of the El Jardin ward and the Madero Stake. We have been looking forward to stake conference just because there was to be a stake choir singing.  We wanted to hear an actual choir before deciding that most people here just can’t carry much of a tune!  Those in the temple and our ward make up for their lack of musical pitch by their enthusiasm and their volume. Granted, we have been spoiled by the magnificent choir we have in the Farmington 11th ward.  Anyway, let’s step back and I will give you a little lesson about “culture.”  It is hard to get an idea of what “culture” means until you are personally immersed in it.   Years ago, we read a book called The Public Man that explained how the Catholic Church has influenced the Latin American countries.  A few of the points we remember from this book are (1) it is not what you know but who you know that matters.  Generally speaking, the author believes that while at school or in business, the connections people make with people are as important or more important than the knowledge.  How has the Catholic Church influenced people in this?  Well, they aren’t taught to pray personally to God in the Latin culture because He might tell them “no” because they don’t see Him as their own personal Heavenly Father and He might not know them very well.  So they pray to Mary because if she approaches God for them—well, He won’t say “no” to Mary—right?!  Point (2) is that how things appear are more important than what they contain.  The Catholic Churches are gorgeous with gold and beautiful statues and reeking with wealth.  So the author feels that people are influenced that to “look good” is what is important.  Soooooooooooo back to the choir that sang at the adult session of our stake conference and our main session today.  Last night the ladies had white blouses and black skirts and a corsage or something on their blouses and the men had on their white shirts and black suits.  Today, all of the women were in matching red dresses with a white feather pinned to their shoulder and the men had matching red ties with their white shirts and dark suits.  They looked fabulous and therefore, through the eyes of the locals, they were a great choir!   No one seemed to care or notice that the piano needed tuned; they weren’t keeping together while they sang; once they did hit a high note, they slid down the other side of it; some tried to sing louder than the rest; they often sang flat, etc.  <sigh>  But they looked good and loved what they did and the entire congregation was well pleased.  So that is what counts.

We just tried to attach a voice recording of the choir but this Blog wouldn't accept that kind of file.  I sent the short recording to Jim who has the calling of his ward's choir director.  He listened and said "The better the choir sounds, the slower church membership is growing and vice versa.  Sounds like the missionaries are doing a good job!"

Friday, November 29, 2013

The Hair Cut

I mentioned to Paul that if I didn’t get a hair cut today then we couldn’t do it before Monday.  My hair is bugging me.  We walked to "El Vagabundo" [The Vagabond] near the  Soriano grocery store that a couple of North American sisters have told me about—the local sisters say it is too expensive and I need to go to "B Yes" near Walmart that only cost 40 pesos.  We found El Vagabundo and Paul went inside with me where at least four ladies in red aprons were sitting there watching TV and waiting for customers.  We walked in and I remembered the rules:  no small talk; don’t give an personal information.  The girl asked how much to cut off and I showed her about an inch.  She used clips to hold other layers of my hair out of place while she cut with scissors which was a "first" in any country.  She sprayed and cut and was systematically working her way around my head.  I was actually ok with what she was doing but would have felt better had she not been looking up to watch the TV screen from time to time.  Paul said I was running competition with the soapbox shoes this morning.  The cost for a haircut is 110 pesos for women [$8.39] and 100 for men [$7.63].  I just figured a tip was in order but I hadn’t asked anyone how much was normal.  So I probably wasn't generous--I will have to ask those in the know.  I think she did a good job on my hair and I certainly feel a lot better now!

The rest of the story is that I consulted with Sister Day on how much we should have tipped the girl and we didn't give her enough--as I had suspected.  So we went back to El Vagabundo on the next Monday and I recognized the girl and walked in and said I hadn't given her enough the week before and I was sorry.  She was quite thrilled.  I am sure we have made a friend.  

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Tampico Temple Grounds

One day on our daily walk to the temple we watched workmen building something on the corner of the temple lot and we asked what they were building.

They said they were building a "pesebre" or Nativity.  Wish we would have gotten more photos of this work in progress.

The Manger
We were surprised to see them digging large post holes in the temple lawn to make this very sturdy Nativity.

This is the Nativity in the evening.  The lights change colors and some times it looks  blue 
and some times it looks pink.

We think they did a good job.  It is possible to see this rather large nativity from the local streets leaving little doubt that the people who occupy that beautiful big building believe in Christ.

In addition to the Nativity, the workmen have put poinsettias in the flower beds for the holidays.

This will be the first of two Christmases we will be spending in Tampico.  We are going to learn how others celebrate Christmas without the snow!    

Monday, November 25, 2013


President Ralph Jordan and his wife, Claudia are the Tampico Mexico Mission presidents. They invited us to the Tampico Mission Home for Thanksgiving dinner on the Monday, a few days before the real North American world would be enjoying their turkey dinners.  We were grateful to accept their invitation and we asked what we could bring and she asked us what we usually like to make.  The answer to that is "yams and apples."  She said to bring those.  She said she had seen yams in one of the stores.  We walked to H.E.B. and saw the ugliest looking yams.  Every one of them had bad spots and the ones underneath were moldy.  We decided to take the ones that weren't quite so offensive and we bought some roma apples as well to take home.  When boiled and peeled, the yams looked good and we baked them together with the apples.  Since we were having Thanksgiving on Thursday we made enough for both days.  Simply bake the yams and apples at 350 degrees for an hour.  Here's your oven.  As things turn out, 350 degrees is about 176.

We then had a dilemma.  How would we carry hot yams and apples while walking a mile to get to the Mission Home?  We had to be creative!  We wrapped our hot pan in a red towel and then guess where we put Sherryl's green scripture bag!  Did you know that scripture bags are insulated and waterproof on the inside?  This one is!  The yams and apples were still hot when we arrived! Paul said he didn't feel any heat while carrying them.  Amazing, huh?!

The scripture case hot pad.

Tampico Mexico Mission Home

Sister Jordan prepared a wonderful Thanksgiving Dinner for the three North American couples serving in Tampico:  the Days, the Crocketts and the Jordans!  We are so thankful for family and friends back home. We are also thankful for the new friends we are getting to know.  We are very blessed!

Our Day at the Beach --A First

Elder and Sister Day actually have first names!  They are Vaughn and Jeanette.  They invited us to go with them to the beach.  We walked to the corner and watched for the local bus that had Playa Sur written on the front.  We entered the bus and paid our 8 pesos each and it was quite crowded but the people inside were nice.  Most of them were on their way to work at the Pemex refinery.

By the time we arrived at the beach, we were the only ones left on the bus.  Because it is winter now and the day was cool and breezy, the beach was totally empty except for us crazy North Americans and a few dedicated joggers.  The waves were exceptionally large and the tide was coming in.

There were wooden chairs and small wooden tables with palm branch umbrella stands that lined the long beach in double rows and the whole beach had the feeling of vacancy about it.  The black flag was waving to warn everyone not to get into the water.  We saw many different kinds of birds overhead and in the water.

  There were two piers and we walked the first which was 1 ½ miles long and 20 feet wide with huge cement blocks lining it and protecting it from the waves.  Most of the graffiti written on the huge blocks told us of God’s love or called us to repentance. We saw pelicans sitting on the water and they seemed to be there just to ride the waves and to enjoy themselves.

We saw fishermen with their poles going to fish in the water between the piers.  We saw a raccoon that Brother Day called “Harvey” and said he lives right there on the pier.  Harvey came right up to us and more or less demanded some food and stood on his feet waiting while Brother Day peeled a mandarin.
 But the delight of the walk and pier was the dolphins we saw and two of them seemed to be practicing their synchronized swimming.  There were two souvenir stands open so we browsed inside of them and actually bought a wooden dolphin that we have brought home and put on a shelf.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Our 24 November 2013 Family and Friends letter

Since Tampico is above the equator, Sherryl was quite disappointed to learn that we were going into winter here, instead of heading into the spring <sigh>. We think that means that it gets all the way down into the 60’s for a high and 50’s for a low temperature and it is cloudy.  We will see.  Today is the second Sunday that we have been on our mission.  Our Sunday meetings go from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and at the first of the year we will have the 9 a.m. “early” schedule. Getting to church means about a 20 minute walk for us but today we decided to get onto a local bus after walking for about ¼ mile to get to the main road and then we traveled for a mile or mile and a half on the bus.  The bus fare is 8 pesos for each of us or about 62 cents.  Once we get on a bus it is the same fare if we go for a block or several miles.

The sisters at church today were wearing their winter coats so it is cold to them at about 63 degrees. Our chapel will probably seat about 250 people.  There is a tile floor that goes throughout the building and there are individual chairs instead of benches in the chapel.  There are several regular classrooms as well as the chapel.  They have modern bathrooms but so far they provide toilet paper for us to use to dry our hands. They have a piano and Sister Day plays for our sacrament meeting.  She and her husband are temple missionaries from Layton and live not far from us here.  They have taken us under their wing and take us places or tell us how to get there.  At church, on a hot day, someone in authority and with the keys—literally-- turn on the central air while the meetings are in session.  It is quite common for people to arrive early as well as late and so far the meetings start only five or ten minutes late.  Paul said he counted 30 when the meeting should have started; about 45 there when the meeting began and there were about 60 when it ended.  It is common to see ladies in slacks at church.  The usual greeting between men is the usual handshake.  The usual greeting between women is a handshake accompanied by putting the right cheek to the right cheek and making a kissing sound.  People go out of their way to shake hands with each person they meet at church and we are included and welcomed.

So far we haven’t seen any Aaronic priesthood brethren helping with the sacrament. We were told there were 11 kids in their Primary Program.  Today they had three speakers and apparently the first lady was taking way more than her allotted time because the Bishop wrote a note and put it on the stand next to her and when she ignored it, he placed it in front of her and she decided it was time to stop.  The other two adjusted their talks to help Sacrament Meeting end about the time it should.

Our normal day at the temple begins at 9 a.m. We leave home shortly after 8 a.m. to walk the mile to get there.   The temple then closes about noon and we walk home again.  There are two big stores close to the temple Chedraui and Walmart.  So if we need anything from the store we walk to a store and carry our purchases home.  We are very much aware of what we are buying and will have to carry.  If we buy more than usual or don’t feel like walking a mile with them, we can catch a taxi for about 25 pesos or $2.31.  About 4 p.m. we walk to the temple again and will stay until about 9 p.m.  We have been told not to walk home at night because it isn’t safe so we either catch a ride with another ordinance worker or we catch another taxi.  That is our normal schedule from Tuesday through Friday but Saturday is quite another story.  Saturday is the day that makes us happy that we don’t have a car.  Why?  Because those with a car arrive at the temple at 5 a.m. to begin their day but us missionaries who can’t walk in the dark don’t need to be there until 8 a.m.  We continue at the temple until about 6 p.m. or about 10 hours for us and longer for those with the car.  Brother and Sister Day have Wednesday morning off so they don’t have to arrive until 4 p.m. so they asked us if we wanted another day off and we chose Thursdays.

Speaking of Thursday, we are sure you are all preparing for and anticipating a wonderful Thanksgiving this week.  Here, Thursday will be just another normal working day—even at the temple.  However, the two North American couples and we aren’t sure who else, have been invited to a Thanksgiving dinner at President and Sister Jordan’s home on Monday.  He is the president of the Tampico Mission.  Also, Brother and Sister Day and we will be getting together for lunch on Thursday in honor of Thanksgiving before we all walk to the temple to be ready by 4 p.m..  In honor of Thanksgiving, we decided that it was time to get the pots and pans out of their storage place in the oven so we can bake yams and apples to take tomorrow to help with dinner.  Speaking of pans, we were using the new saucepan someone bought for us to cook some oatmeal for breakfast yesterday and we heard a loud POP.  The cover to the rivet holding the handle on the pan shot across the kitchen so apparently our new pans aren’t exactly heat resistant.  Go figure!  The pan will still work with the rivet cover missing.

We have been asked what the best thing is that has happened to us so far. Probably the best thing is that we have attended a session of the temple every day as patrons and sometimes twice a day. We have been the witness couple about 3 times.  Attending so often, we are gaining a deeper understanding and perspective of God's plan for each and all of us. We like that. Paul has been the officiator in two sessions so far and we are learning the ordinances in Spanish and are able to help the other ordinance workers.  In a comparison, the Bountiful Temple has about 1500 temple ordinance workers and Tampico has about 85. We are needed here since many of the workers can only come once a month but several of them come two or three times each week.  So far, we only have a President and he has one counselor and another counselor will come from Mexico City in a month or two when that temple closes for 1½ years.  So regularly helping at the temple every day, are the Crocketts and the Days plus the President, his counselor and their wives.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Hanging Pictures

I haven't seen picture frames here but we have figured out a way to display our photos.  We have a 6 foot by 6 foot entry area and I wanted to hang the photos of our grandkids there.  Life isn't simple here since the walls are made of cement and we didn't have nails.  We did somehow inherit a hammer.  We walked to the local hardware store in a new area of town that we haven't explored yet.  This store looks like something you would expect to see in pioneer days.  There were a few shelves with canning bottles holding screws and nails and hooks.  Other items hung on the wall.  There was a screw driver set and a few rolls of wire and other things.  Paul didn't really know what I had in mind for the photos, he only knew that I needed wire and nails.  He talked to the man about putting nails into a cement wall.  Paul asked if he had a drill and he said "No. That is much too caro [expensive.]"  He suggested some little nails might work.  I found the thin wire I wanted hanging on the wall.  While there, Paul bought a rope he could use for exercising and rope is sold by weight and it cost us $8 pesos or about .61.  

A few of the local shops.

After our first bus ride that cost 8 pesos each to get a few groceries, we came home and Paul carefully hammered the nails into the cement.  After one of the nails gouged a chip out of the cement, we prayed for help and the rest of the nails went into the cement without a problem.  Sister Meza, our landlady, had left some clothes pins for us since we have a clothes line.  I am sure she will be surprised to see that I used some of them for decorating our entryway.  
Now we just need to find some vinyl letters to write something on the wall over the photos!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Name "Hughes"

Often when working in the temple we are performing ordinances for sisters from other countries. I struggle when I see Scandinavian names with all of their "J's" or the French with their many voweled names.  But we all do our best and know that the Lord will take care of the rest.

It was interesting to me to hear these Mexican sisters struggling with English names.  It just seemed like a big mouthful for them to say "Mathilda" or "Susannah" and even "Marie" isn't simple for them.  However the name that really threw them for a loop was the name "Hughes."

In Spanish, the "h" is a silent letter and the "g" sound is more like an "h" sound.  The "u" is an "ooo" sound.  So working with the Spanish alphabet, the word "Hughes" would come out sounding like "ooohees".  One sister just looked at me and asked for help.

They seemed relieved to have help saying Hughes correctly.

Monday, November 18, 2013

a little bit different....

This actually caught us by surprise.  We were walking around a very normal looking grocery store in Tampico and saw a table of raw unwrapped chickens sitting in the aisle on a table.  This helped us remember that the unexpected is to be expected!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Our Banana Tree

We were rather surprised that we have a banana tree with bananas!  This will have to be the "before" shot.  Not sure how long it will take for all of them to ripen.  Then comes the big question--what do we DO with all of those bananas?!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

We are here!

Our home is very nice and comfortable and about a 15 minute walk from the Tampico Temple. We have unloaded our bags and are making ourselves at home here and just about remember which light switch goes with which light.  Today was our first day serving in the temple and we are tired.  We have spoken more Spanish today than we have in many years.  We were willing and we were needed so it was a good match.  On Saturdays, people get together and come in buses from different stakes so the temple is busy.  The temple is small but it has every needful thing.  

Brother and Sister Day are also serving in the temple.  They are a couple from Layton and have taken us under their wing.  Paul wore his first short sleeved white shirt in 30 years to walk to and from the temple where he changed to his regular long sleeved white shirt.  The weather is very nice and warm and Brother and Sister Day told us to plan on a trip to the beach a week from Monday.  Apparently Monday is a national holiday and usually our P-Day but a stake has arranged to bring a busload of people to the temple so we will be there.  Last Friday was the start of Mexico’s big  “Black Friday” weekend where shoppers go crazy with reduced prices and the shopping will continue through Monday 

It is our first weekend here and we aren’t sure if the nighttime singing that we heard will happen each weekend.  We aren’t sure if these guys are drunk or they just can’t sing but a barking dog added a new note to their song as they continued their ballads this morning when we left our home to walk to the temple. 

We send our love to you and thank you for your support in our new adventure.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Our Journey South

Well, we have arrived in Tampico. We were in the Salt Lake Temple from Monday through Wednesday of this week for training along with 28 other temple missionaries who will serve in temples all over the world:  Hong Kong; Philippines; Boliva; Peru; Washington DC; Palmyra; Nauvoo; Tahiti; Canada; London.  Our training was in the Salt Lake Temple where we saw the temple training films, were able to ask any question that popped into our heads and had a rare historical tour of the Salt Lake Temple.  Then we were all off to our different temples.   

Our trip into Tampico via Houston only had one small hitch when the agent couldn't read Sherryl's visa number clearly.  So we ended up being the last to get through customs but finally made it.  As it happens, Sherryl remembered a small magnifying glass in her purse that she handed to the agent to help in the process.  So that's a tender mercy for sure!  I mean, how many of you have a magnifying glass in your purse?!  We were to be met at the airport by Brother Briones who is the 1st counselor in the temple presidency so we called him Brother Briones all evening only to find out today in the temple that we were actually picked up by President Soriano who is the Tempico Temple President.  Oops! 

Our granddaughter Marian and her husband Damon are living in our house in Farmington and taking care of it for us.  I have attached a photo of Marian and us in our official missionary name tags.

Day 4: Tampico. Here we come!

Mom and dad should be arriving this evening in Tampico. Here they are with all of their luggage, leaving the hotel. Their name tags are still in English, because using the temple as an MTC is so new that they haven't had time to get all the badges ordered yet. 

We stopped by the hotel to pick up Grandma's winter clothes, since they won't be needing them. The kids took Grandma up the elevator to the 15th floor, then down to the 2nd, then up to the 5th, then down to the 1st, then back to the 4th floor. They had a blast!! Grandma, was happy to be on solid ground again. It's amazing to think that it will be 2 years before we see them again, and how much things will change by then (and how much the kids will grow!).

Monday, November 11, 2013

Mission: Day 1

We now have name badges AND our passports AND our visas AND our airline etickets so now we just need to finish the training.  We spent the day in the Salt Lake Temple watching training videos plus we went on a session.  We had a lecture on security and they told us how to be safe--no matter what country we are "walk with a purpose" and "vary your routine" and "if you drive, don't stop to help anyone" and don't take anything of sentimental value and if you are robbed--let them take whatever they want.  We are part of a group of about 26 people and each set of couples are going to a different temple to be ordinance workers.  We are finding "small world" stories--like the couple from Farmington NM who know Kay and Ellvert because they served in the Albuquerque Temple with them--they will serve in the Manhattan Temple.