Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year's Eve - 2013

Sister Vergara is kind and usually gives us a ride home from the temple on the days she serves with us.  One evening just to chat, we asked if they eat turkey for the holidays and she said "no."  She said they eat "pozole" and we didn't know what that was.  The next time she gave us a ride home, she invited us and the Days to come to their home for New Years Eve for dinner and she would pick us up at 7:00 p.m. She said she was having dinner early for us since she figured as missionaries we didn't want to be out late.

The Vergara Family now live not too far from our home.  They used to live in our ward but when her mother passed away two or three months ago, her entire family moved into the family home to be with her aging father to take care of him.  Sister Vergara and her husband have three children that we know of.  They have Eduardo who is recently returned from his mission in Guadalajara where he had served with Dave and Debbie; a son currently serving a mission in Costa Rica and a son who was recently married.  We entered their home going down some old cement stairs and they told us to be careful.  What we first noticed entering their home was the very large and beautiful pine Christmas tree on the right.  It was gaily decorated with ribbons, lights, ornaments and was at least 7 feet tall and about 4 feet across at the bottom.  The fascinating things about this real tree is that they brought it to the house mid-November and it has never had to be watered.  The needles still feel pliable and they said it would be mid-January when they take it down—a pine tree seemingly fresh all because of humidity.

We were warmly welcomed and introduced to her father who was watching Shrek Forever in Spanish on their wall mounted large flat screen TV not far from the Christmas tree.  The room also had a couch and a rather large dining table—say for 8 people and a China hutch.  Eduardo came to visit with us since his father had just gotten home from work and was taking a quick shower.  Sister Vergara, Bernicia, was preparing food in her very small kitchen and we asked if we could help but she said she was fine.  With the TV in the background and smells from the kitchen wafting to us and our visiting with the family, it felt homey.  Their other son and his wife were also in the house but were waiting for her parents to arrive before they ate.

Bowls of pozole were set on the table and Eduardo offered the blessing.  Also on the table was shredded lettuce, sliced radishes, stiff flat tortillas and hot salsa.  There were 8 of us around the table and the other son and his wife stood in the kitchen behind a waist-high wall that separated the two rooms and visited with us . Pozole is a soup with hominy and pork and onions plus two kinds of peppers and it tastes good.  The idea is to put lettuce and radishes on top al gusto.  They assured us that it wasn't picante but if we wanted hot sauce, they had it.  Dinner also included two kinds of tamales of chicken or of cheese.  She brought out green salsa to go with the tamales.  We thought our dinner tasted really good and we were finishing when three others arrived.  We recognized them from our ward and as it turns out, they are the parents and brother of the girl who married the Vergara's son.  This couple arrived plus their son who is the first Mexican missionary ever called on a mission to Rome, Italy and he will leave in March.

We had a varied conversation and it was all in Spanish.  It became apparent to us at some point that the newly arrived family couldn't sit to eat unless we left the table so the Days, Paul and I moved to the nearby couch.  Everything  was actually “nearby” since we figure their living room was about 10 feet wide and about 18 feet long.  We shifted to the couch and the other guests plus the newlyweds were served their pozole and tamales at the table.  Brother Vergara then sat in a chair close to us as we visited.  We had brought our banana slush to share as our family’s New Year's Eve traditional drink and they eyed it skeptically.  Paul put the slush in cups and Sister Vergara added our Squirt and Sherryl put the plastic spoons in it and Eduardo passed it around to group #1.  We told them that it was just lemon, orange, and pineapple juice with bananas and they were brave enough to try it.  The late arriving sister whose name we will one day learn, was hesitant and said there was too much sugar for her.  When she understood the lack of sugar she tried it but after a taste, sprinkled her drink with a healthy dose of tajin which is a mix of chilies, salt and dried lemon we can buy at the store and they season their food with it. The tajin was passed around and seemed to improve the taste for those new to our family traditional drink. The Days and us just sat and watched in awe. After our family drink, they passed around white cake with whipped cream on top.  There were 12 of us in all.  We didn't all understand everything that was being said but we thought they were most kind to invite us to their home.  We could hear the fireworks blasting outside as Brother Vergara drove us to our home about 10:30 p.m.

We usually don't make a point of staying awake to greet the New Year but we made an exception for this year because we are in Mexico.  We stood by our front door and recorded the sounds of the fireworks exploding.  There's nothing to see in this video but there is much to hear!  Happy New Year from Mexico!

Monday, December 30, 2013

A Few "Rules of the Road"

We do a lot of walking and are amazed at how few accidents there are when we perceive that the driving is rather--well, let's say it is "spontaneous."  We appreciate our friends offering us a ride from time to time.  We have seen very humble and non-aggressive people that we are getting to know rather well somehow change when they get behind the wheel of a car.  They are still friendly and nice and we appreciate their not "talking with their hands" as they drive; but their driving doesn't seem to match their personalities.  Their driving seems to match what is needed for the driving situation we find here--which makes sense.  Here are some driving tactics that we have observed:

When leaving a parking lot when trying to turn left cross four lanes of traffic, wait for a break in traffic and stomp on the gas to get into an available spot and then stomp on the break to get into position.

Stop signs are only advisory.
If you come to a stop sign and you can see that no one is coming from the side--just keep going.
If you come to an intersection with a 4-way stop and the car on the right has stopped--just keep going.

If you can get your car past a parked car leaving only 3 inches of space--go for it--3 inches is as good as a foot.

If you come to an intersection and want to cross it but there is a steady line of cars coming from the right, slowly edge into the middle of the intersection forcing the flow of traffic to slow and stop and then continue through the intersection.

Only put on your seat belt if the car's safety alarm won't otherwise stop beeping.

U Turns are allowed at any time in any situation so keep an eye out for the other drivers.

When you want to make a right turn but happen to be in the center lane, honk several times to see if the bus in the right lane will let you turn and cross in front of it.

Because of the unusual driving behavior that we are seeing, we really don't mind walking so much!  However we have developed some rules for ourselves as the pedestrians.  We do have to admit that our walking and maneuvering through and around the traffic has become very "spontaneous" as well. ;o)

Rule # 1:  The pedestrian does not have the right-of-way.

Repeat after me:  The pedestrian DOES NOT HAVE the right-of-way.

Rule # 2:  Look both ways before crossing a one-way street.

Rule # 3:   Don't assume cars will stop at a stop sign.

Rule # 4:  Don't assume cars will stop for you.

Rule # 5:  If a car is near you and honks twice very quickly--don't take it personally, you didn't do anything wrong--it is a taxi driver indicating he is available.

Rule # 6:  Walking across a busy road can be accomplished when you can see that all cars, buses and taxis have come to a full stop for a traffic light--but hurry!

Rule # 7:  When you want to cross a street, crossing mid-block is quicker and safer than crossing at the corner.  Just wait for a gap in traffic in both directions and hurry!

Rule # 8:  After a rainstorm and puddles have accumulated along the sides of the road, stay as close to the buildings as possible.

Rule # 9: Hold on to each other so if one of you sees an opportunity to dart across the road, the other can be advised and (a) stop the first or (b) join the first--depending on the situation.

Rule # 10:  When walking along the edge of a busy road or down a sidewalk, be careful where you put your feet!

Rule # 11:  If you make eye contact with the driver of the car and he hand signals for you to cross in front of him.  It will only be safe to cross in front of him. Don't assume the driver in the next lane will be so kind.

The Local Grocery Stores

 We have four stores to choose from which are within a one mile walking range from our home.  There are other grocery stores in town further from home but we haven't checked those out yet.  Each of our closer stores are actually department stores and they each have a large grocery section.  There is Soriana, Chedraui, H.E.B. and Walmart.  They are each quite large and we haven't really chosen a "favorite" store yet.  We like the yogurt at Chedraui and the fruit and vegetables at Soriana always look good.  Sister Day said she gets her hamburger at Walmart but that H.E.B. is where she usually shops.  H.E.B. has more of an "American" feel to it and of course, the prices are slightly higher but we can find things there we just can't find at the other stores like graham cracker pie crusts, shredded cheddar cheese, powdered sugar, and on occasion, russet potatoes.  Each store has a wonderful fresh bread section.  Anyway, here are pictures of what we see at the grocery stores and this is a mix of our four favorite stores.

Buying freshly baked bread.  At each store we pick up a pizza sized and shaped pan and mental tongs and choose the bread we want and then take it to the stand where they put it in a paper bag and put a bar coded price sticker on it.  From there we put the bread in our cart with our other groceries to take to the check out stand.  Of course, on Mondays about 6 p.m. a nice man comes by our home with his bicycle and basket selling fresh bread for less than what we pay for it in the stores.

 It may be these candy displays are special because it is Christmas time but there is a large selection of American candy for anyone willing to pay the price--but no York Mints. ;o(
It is quite normal to have big tubs of cut up chicken that is shown in front in this photo and in the back are tables with cut up beef.  At first it was a shock to see the unpackaged meat just heaped together but we are getting used to the idea..
There is a large selection of chips available.  We have actually only  bought one bag of chips and that was out of curiosity to see what they were like.  It was a mix and tastes good though it seemed salty--but then we don't eat much salt.

Add caption
 There is a large selection of fruits and vegetables.  Some of these things we recognize and some are new to us.
 Some things I am not sure that we will get used to but at least these pig heads were under glass and not heaped on a table.
The don't celebrate Thanksgiving Day here and the turkeys come out when it gets closer to Christmas--though in asking around, it is not a preferred food for some of our friends.

 There is quite a large selection of canned and bottled goods.  We just thought this clerk was doing an amazing job of balancing while stacking the shelves.
 Since Walmart is located on the second floor of the building, they have flat moving ramps to get people and carts up to the store.  The carts have metal wheels and the ramps are magnetic so the carts don't slip while they travel.
We took these two photos while standing in Walmart's "express lane."  Everyone stands in one line and we patiently move our way to the front of the line.  Once we get to the front, we are served from the first available clerk at one of the six available registers.  We all seem to move fairly quickly when using this express lane.

We were silly enough to do a little shopping during mid-day at H.E.B. on December 30th and we weren't the only ones that had the same idea!

Saturday, December 28, 2013


So let me tell you about Mario.  He serves in the temple and isn't hard to miss because he stands at the front desk to scan recommends as people enter but also because the right sleeve to his jacket is tucked neatly into the side pocket.  He doesn't have a right arm—from the shoulder.  We haven’t really had occasion to interact with Mario much in the temple.  One day while visiting with Elder Day in English, he asked if we had heard Mario’s story.  Apparently Mario was once married and used to work for the railroad.  He didn't have a happy marriage and his wife left him.  So he began to drink and one night while rather drunk, he decided to cross the train tracks.  He didn't make it across before the train came and it not only took off his arm but his right leg from the knee down as well.  He was wishing for death but because he was so thoroughly drunk and relaxed, he didn't die but was taken to the hospital and cared for there.  That’s where the missionaries found Mario and began to teach him the gospel.  Learning about the gospel and the plan of salvation gave Mario a reason to live.  So he recovered and is living his new life now.  Brother Day added that Mario doesn't seem to like North Americans and can come across a little bit gruff.  He is actually fascinating to watch in action and we see what he can do with one hand that usually takes the rest of us two.  Paul said that he was in the dressing room with Mario.  To put on his socks and shoes, Mario takes off his prosthetic foot and uses his one hand.  To tie the shoe laces, he also uses his teeth and then puts his leg back into place.  Paul also found him rather non-responsive to a chat.

So why would we mention people like Mario and Sister Salazar in a letter to family and friends?  Because they are the success stories about how knowing and living the gospel of Jesus Christ can bring meaning into peoples’ lives.  They are probably poor and Mario is severely handicapped but they are serving and have a purpose for living.  We don’t know the living conditions of the people here other than what we see as we walk around each day.  We can give people a peso here and there but we can’t change their reality.  However, knowing and living the gospel can change their reality in that it gives them hope and purpose.  They can pray to God and receive personalized direction.  Obedience to gospel principles brings blessings from God and those blessings will sustain them from day to day—long after we have come and gone.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Jesus' Hands

From Sherryl's journal 27 December 2013:

"I had time to stand in the hall at the temple this evening and look at the paintings.  A thought came—an understanding of maybe why Jesus chose to be crucified as His death.  Could it be so that He could have the scars in his hands?  Maybe they were the plan and not just what happened.  In every picture, I knew each was of Jesus even though they didn't all look alike-- because of His hands.  Whenever he appeared to anyone after his death, He didn't have to explain his identify or prove himself—He just showed his hands.  He doesn't need any other ID other than His hands and we all know and will know who He is."

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Our Christmas Day Adventure

We were delighted to spend from 8 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. talking to our family this morning but it is hard to take photos of how much fun we had with our many visits!  Thank you for taking time to share your Christmas Day with us!!
He welcomed us to the park.
After spending two and a half days inside the house entertaining and visiting, at 3 p.m. we decided to get outside and go for a "walk."  It turned into a much larger endeavor than we had planned!  We walked to the corner and caught the bus to the Metropolitan Park. Since our arrival, we have seen signs announcing this Moroleon and upon entering the park we noticed people entering the large convention center and it was this Moroleon . We discovered that it was a huge bazaar selling all kind of clothes, food and gadgets.  
 After looking around the bazaar for a while, we continued our walk out of the convention center which took us over the foot bridge and across a lake where we saw several crocodiles.  Also there were rides, a climbing wall, zip line and food to entertain the many people who decided to spend their Christmas day in the park.
One crock is in the water and three are on the bank
As we walked around the huge lagoon, we saw many families and couples enjoying their time together.  We also saw interesting trees, birds and statues.
The convention center is the big building across the lake.

We could see the Tampico Bridge in the distance and had heard there is a walking path over it and we continued our walk around the park to get to the bridge which is about 1 1/2 miles long.


We took some photos while walking along the bridge.
The people looked tiny.

Three ferries crossing Panuco River.
Water tanks on roof tops.

Our plan was to catch a bus and return over the bridge but there was a hitch to the plan.  We would have to walk a couple of miles more to get to the city.  That's when we remembered the ferry carting people across the river.  We learned that it would cost us 2 pesos each to ride the ferry so we joined the other 22 people on the boat and ferried back.  The idea of walking over the bridge again just didn't sound like much fun.
From the ferry we took a "collectivo" into downtown Tampico.  The collectivo driver told us his name was David, spoke broken English and showed us where to get the bus to get us back to our area of town.  From the main road, we walked a few blocks back to our little house.  What began as a simple walk, ended up being an adventure that took us 3 hours and we walked about 7 miles.  After that we were ready to be in the house once again.  What a very memorable Christmas day!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Dinner

When we saw the turkeys in the frozen section of the grocery store, we thought how nice it would be to cook one--however, we didn't want to cook a turkey for just the two of us. We talked to President and Sister Jordan and Brother and Sister Day to see if they would join us for a Christmas dinner on Monday, December 23 and they could.  Great!  So we bought a 6 kilo turkey--or about 13 pounds.

Monday morning finally came and we began preparing the food to go with the turkey.  Sherryl blended the fresh cranberry and fresh oranges for the family's traditional cranberry sauce and Paul was busy preparing our traditional yams and apples for our dinner.  A few days before, we had made our traditional banana slush so it was ready.  We lit our stove to heat some water and were on a roll. We prepared the turkey for the oven and when 10 a.m. arrived, we tried to light the oven--it didn't light.  We tried to light the gas burner again--it didn't light.  We went to the propane tank and were out of propane!

About 9:50 a.m. Paul called the propane people and she said they would be here in an hour and a half. That would still work because we had planned a little extra time to cook the turkey.  We asked the price of the propane and she said 7 pesos per liter and we have an 80 liter tank.  Hmm  We didn’t have enough cash on hand for the propane and needed to go get some.  We had an hour.  So we did a fast 12 minute walk to Soriana  to get 6000 pesos from our own checking account at the ATM.  Since we wanted rolls for our Christmas dinner, we picked a bag of rolls and headed back home but remembered we wanted to buy some honey as Christmas gifts for the Days and for the Jordans.  While walking back home, we decided to try a short cut from the main road to our road.  We ducked under a fence and walked to the house that sells cheese and honey.  We made our purchases and were back just before 11 a.m.  <whew> So we waited.  Brother Day had told us that the propane people were always on time and Brother Fuhriman wrote that they would arrive about an hour after we called them.  So we waited and waited and waited.  Paul called again about noon and was told they should have been there and are on their way.  We decided to pray for help that they would come soon.  Sherryl pealed the potatoes and got them into the pot of water to be ready to cook and we waited.   The scripture from Daniel 3:18 came to mind:  "...but if not..."  What would we do if the Lord choose not to hurry the propane men and cover our back since we hadn't thought to check the propane and call before the tank was totally empty?

When there simply wasn't time enough to cook the turkey for a 2 p.m. meal, we realized that we needed a plan.  What would we then do?  Plan A:  Since we expected the propane men to arrive before long, we thought to change our dinner from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. We called the Days and Jordans to move dinner to 4 p.m. and neither answered their phone.  Plan B:  Our new plan turned out to be that Paul go to Chedraui to get rotisserie chicken and Sherryl would make a 7 layer dip since we had refried beans, cheese and avocados--in case we couldn't cook potatoes.  Paul could get the few missing ingredients and hurried out the door. We would have visitors arriving for dinner in less than an hour.

Sherryl set the table for 6 and that's where the Lord came to our aid--with creative ideas. Sherryl realized the electric crock pot would work so she put the potatoes in the crock pot and turned it on high.  She began to make the 7 layer dip that turned out to be more like 5 layer dip.  About 1:50 p.m. the doorbell rang and it was the propane men.  Hooray! They drug their 100+  foot hose back to the tank and as soon as he turned the propane on, Sherryl lit the stove and it worked! Hooray!  She dumped the potatoes from the crock pot into a pan.  There wasn't time for yams to cook in the oven so she put them in the microwave.  Paul came home with the rotisserie chicken.  Sherryl noticed the yams and apples weren’t looking right in the microwave and needed to be covered.  She put a crock pot bag cooking bag over them and pushed those buttons again.

Paul washed the fruit and veggies and then started dicing the tomatoes to put on the dip--then the door bell rang and the Days were here.  We tried to be sociable as we finished things in the kitchen.  Before long President Jordan arrived and visited with the Days.  Paul was cutting up the chicken.  Sherryl whipped the potatoes and made gravy from two packages of turkey gravy mix.  Sister Jordan arrived with fruit salad with apples and pecans.  Our dinner was chicken; potatoes and gravy; yams and apples; cranberry sauce; papaya; rolls;  5 layer dip and chips; and a fruit salad.  Sister Day had made some carrot pudding like Paul’s mom used to make where you steam it in a can for a long time with yummy caramel sauce.

And guess what.....

Not only did we have a wonderful Christmas dinner, we had a story to tell of how it all came together as strains of Anne Murray singing Christmas songs gently played in the background!!  The uncooked turkey waits patiently in the fridge in a cooking bag.  Like they say around here, we will take care of it manana.

And the next day . . . 24th

With the oven working - we cooked the turkey and invited the other missionary couple, the Days, over for dinner.  The turkey turned out great and we were able to use a few of the left-overs from yesterday, plus the Days brought over a large dish of flan.  Paul has been looking forward to having flan for a long time, and this was no disappointment with whole strawberries and whipped cream on top.   Then with the Days, with 65° weather, we watched the movie "White Christmas."

Monday, December 23, 2013

Our Temple Workers Christmas Party

We had our Temple Christmas party on Monday, December 16 which is the only day the temple is closed besides Sunday.  Some ordinance workers could make it and some had jobs to go to and other responsibilities.  We began by having a temple session for the workers and we were to arrive by 9:30 a.m. After the session, the next thing on the agenda was to have an official photo of the temple workers.  The ladies were to wear a white blouse and a dark skirt and Paul said the men didn’t say a word about what to wear and most wore jackets and some didn’t but all had on a white shirt and tie.  The ladies were given a red and green ribbon corsage to wear.  It was a beautiful day with blue skies that arrived after several days of clouds and rain.  We were totally surprised at how well the picture turned out when we got it a few days later—the man with the camera didn’t have a tripod and just stood there and took the picture.  Of course during the photo shoot someone said “cheese” out loud in English and they all laughed and we all said a good old American “cheese” together for our official photo. Like most special occasions anywhere--about half those invited came to the party—keep in mind we really have about 85 temple workers.  

Here is a photo of a photo of the official Tampico Temple Ordinance Workers.

Back row:  Hermano Martinez; Ping; Day; Ortega; Dellez; Crockett Briones; Soriano; Silva; Pecina;Fuentes; Zaleta; Seguro. Middle row:  Hermana Rangel; Sanches; Day; Rodrigues; ;Rodriques; Vergara; Crockett; Briones; Soriano; Aguilar; Gonzales; Papadatos; Zaleta; Bonillo; Gonzales. Front row:  Hermana Nava; Nava; Salazar; Saldivar; Ruiz 

We then walked to the Stake Center next door for a program and it was a very nice program with a narrator reading the scriptures concerning the Savior’s birth from the pulpit—and of course, it was all in Spanish.  When the music director stood up, we followed the prompts and sang the photocopied Christmas songs about Christ’s birth.  President Soriano, our temple president, said a few words to remind us that Christ was born in April but we need to take advantage of this time of year when people come together to remember the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

The is the Tampico Temple Presidency the 2nd Counselor will arrive next month from Mexico City.  Pictured are
Hermano Miguel and Hermana Sariah Briones--he is the counselor
Presidente Juan and Hermana Christinia Soriano
We went to the Cultural Hall to eat—we were each to bring a dish of food to share.  The sisters were in the kitchen getting their food ready.  Tables and chairs were set up and it looked and felt like any special gathering.  That’s about when Bro. Day came up to Sherryl and said “You have 7 kids so you probably know how to organize people.  Get these ladies organized, they don’t know what they are doing!”  Taking the challenge in hand, she had the guys bring tables together and designated the areas and told people where to put the main dishes and desserts and drinks.  These humble people are very good at following directions!  We didn’t know what to expect for our first potluck dinner.  The food we can remember were three different kinds of meatloaf; spaghetti with a green sauce; several meat and sauce dishes; a big bowl of mashed potatoes; sliced local bread; a bowl of radishes; cups of cubed jello in whipped cream. Just for the record, might we point out that for this official Mexican meal, there were NO beans and NO rice and NO tortillas and NO hot sauce! Brother and Sister Day brought fudge bars made from their precious Nestles Chocolate Chips that they brought from the states. Someone had brought an ice cream cake made at the local Dairy Queen plus they had some small cookies covered with powdered sugar. So what did we bring?  We introduced many people to Paul’s wonderful Rice Krispie Treats.  Those brave enough to try this strange food that we brought really enjoyed them.  Only they shook their heads and asked if it was very cara [expensive] to prepare.  Maybe we were aware of the prices when we went to the store but we wanted to share so we bought what we needed. Out of curiosity, we just calculated the price of our treat to see just how cara it is:  Rice Krispies, 46.50; marshmallows, 24.90; coconut, 22.80; M&M’s 49.80 and butter 14.40 which is a total of 158.40 pesos or about $12.35.   So it cost us more than what we would pay in the states and a whole lot more than what they would spend here for a dessert.  Of course we will now have to check out the price of that ice cream cake from Dairy Queen!  Drinks for the meal were many fruit flavors of soda in 3 liter bottles and bottled water.  We enjoyed the meal and our time together. 
Hermanas Day, Briones and Crockett
Hermanas Day and Briones

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Hermana Salazar

From Sherryl's journal - 14 December 2013

When I am assigned to be the “greeter” at the temple, I stand by the front door and look out of the etched glass to see the buildings made of cement.  I see the people’s clean laundry hanging out to dry on the porches, on the roofs, outside the houses.  I see the palm trees waving in the breeze.  I see cars going by and the many city buses and taxis darting in and out of the traffic.  I wait to see someone walk through the parking lot and up the long driveway to the temple.  I wait.  A workman arrives in his truck wearing his jeans.  A sister comes in a taxi that brings her to the front door.  She pays the driver and walks up the stairs.  Another sister gets off the city bus and slowly walks towards the temple carrying a grocery bag in her hand.  She doesn’t have groceries in the bag, but her white temple clothes.  Two sisters walk together through the parking lot and up the long sidewalk talking as they come.  I wait. A brother arrives in a white shirt and tie.  Everyone is different and arrives how they can make it to the temple.  They arrive and I greet them and thank them for coming with a smile, a handshake, and sometimes, a kiss on the cheek.  Then the wonder of the temple begins and they all change into their white clothes and we are all the same.  The world outside doesn’t matter any more.

I think of Sister Salazar who serves in the temple as an ordinance worker like me.  She is efficient and knows how the temple is to function.  She knows the patrons by name and greets them.  She performs each ordinance lovingly and not with haste.  She has come to the temple to serve in any position or situation in which she is needed.  She does what she is asked to do as it is to be done.  I admire Sister Salazar.  I can learn from her.  I try not to think of Sister Salazar’s black and worn and misshapen shoes neatly placed in a corner in the sister ordinance workers’ dressing room but I see them. I see the extra white cardboard she has placed inside her shoes to protect her feet and perhaps to cover a hole. I see her thin dress.  I see her worn sweater.  She tells me that she places her clothes on top of the lockers provided for workers so they can dry from the humidity and be ready to wear when she leaves the temple.  I try not to imagine what Sister Salazar’s life is like outside the time we are in the temple.  We don’t talk much because we are here to serve.  I try not to remember that another ordinance worker told me that Sister Salazar has to travel to the end of some far bus route and then gets off and walks twelve more blocks to get to her home.   Her return trip is the same with a long walk and a long bus ride each time she comes to serve in the temple…but she comes.  Once she arrives at the temple, we are the same.  We are both temple ordinance workers.  The world outside the temple doesn’t matter any more while we are serving together inside…that is the wonder and blessing of the temple.

The Debit Card Saga

After waiting for over two weeks for our official debit card to arrive, Elder Jones from the Mission Office gave it to us last Monday [December 2] but were told we wouldn't have funds in it until the next Friday  [December 7th.] We walked to Soriano on Monday [December 9th] with full confidence that we could withdraw some pesos from our new debit card.  We went to the ATM with Paul at the machine and Sherryl casually looking around to see if anyone was watching us.  We were told to do this in our MTC security training.  Trouble is, our card didn’t work.  Paul tried it for checking and savings and credit and it didn’t work and said we had zero funds in it.  So we had a problem.  What to do?  We walked a few blocks and across a busy street to the mission office to ask why we had zero funds only to find the mission office door locked.  Now what?  So we decided to walk the blocks back to Soriano so we could use our own Visa card to get out some cash like we did two weeks before. So back at the ATM, Paul inserted our own Deseret First Credit Union Visa and waaalaaaa---nothing happened.  The ATM said that it was a “hot” card which we interpreted as stolen or has problems.  <sigh> So we counted what we had on hand and bought a few groceries before we walked home.

Paul tried to call our Deseret First C.U. to inquire about our Visa.  Trouble is that the internet wasn’t working well that day so the phone wasn’t working well either.  He used a few of our 100 free minutes on our local line to call them and we were told that our card had been considered “hot” because of $450 pulled out of the cash machine in Tampico, Mexico about three weeks ago.  Paul said that was a “legitimate” transaction and would happen about once a month but nothing else should have come out of the account since then and it hadn’t.  So they lifted the ban on that card and said it would be ready to use in about 5 minutes.  Paul called the Mission Office to talk to Elder Jones about our money.  Elder Jones said the internet wasn’t working well today so he couldn’t check on our account right then but would call us back—but he didn't.
On Tuesday, during our break at the temple, Paul and I  walked to the mission office to see Elder Jones and he was there.  We asked about money in our account and he checked and we have none.  He began to write to someone to ask about the money when he remembered something and realized he had made a mistake.  He can’t request more than 6000 pesos and we are to get 8000 pesos and he should have done it in two batches of 4000 but didn’t and the first request was denied. He apologized and requested our money again in two smaller amounts and we would have to wait again until Friday to get it.  We though we would be ok because our Deseret First account should work.  So again, we walked across the busy street and over to Soriana where Paul got out 6000 pesos out of our personal Visa account and Sherryl guarded his back.   Finally, on Friday, December 14, one month after our arrival in Mexico, we once again went to the ATM and our debit card now works!  
View of the Soriano Mall from the ATM.
Like the scriptures say, "For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things." [2 Nephi 2:11]

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Tonight's Party

We weren't invited--but we seem to be included in our neighbor's party anyway!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Family Letter - 8 December 2013

Well, this is a Family Letter--just so you know. I just don't know how to start it.  Hmmmm  .... how about......

Dear Family!

We have loved getting your emails and talking to you on Skype and/or FaceTime!  Thanks for thinking of us and keeping us in your prayers.

You might be interesting to know that Jen took up the challenge to send us mail to see what works.  We were told that she sent us (a) a normal letter through the USPO (b) a small package via USPO and (c) a letter [with no envelope as instructed] via the church pouch.   We have a winner!!  Any guesses on what has arrived?  One one of the three made it after only 17 days.  Welllllllll, the one pager with no envelope via the pouch is the winner!

We aren't sure how they celebrate Christmas here but we wonder if last night was an example.  Right over the chest high cement fence next to us is a play ground of sorts and we have wondered when it gets used.  There's a gazebo, climbing toy like in a park, an enclosed trampoline, and they advertise that they have a huge blow up slide.  It is quite a large area.  We came home from the temple about 7 p.m. and the air toy was up and there were kids there having a great time.  They were laughing and loud and we were happy for them.  These kids were ages about 8 to 12 years or so.  We thought it nice they were having fun.  About 8 p.m. we wondered how long this fun time would go.  About 9 p.m. we wondered and at 10 p.m. we wondered.  That's about when they got out the bull horn and the music was turned up higher.  Truly we didn't go out to see if it was the same kids there but there was some kind of kid party still going at 2:30 a.m. when Dad woke up for a few minutes.

Let's see....we have one "party" coming that I know about on the 16th [Monday and our day off] but it is with all of the temple workers.  We are to meet at the temple for a 9 a.m. session and then a photo.  So we are to wear [what else?] white tops with dark skirts/slacks.  Then we bring food and there will be pot luck.  Dad and I looked all over the place for Rick Krispies that are only available in one store-- H.E.B, marshmallows and M&M's.  You might think M&M's are expensive there but they are REALLY expensive here.  Anyway, we are making Krispie Treats and I doubt some of these people will know what they are.  I doubt I will know what half the food they will bring to the party is as well so I guess we are even.  They asked what we could do to help with the entertainment.  The former North Americans could (a) play wonderfully on the piano (b) play the violin (c) sing beautiful music--like Traci does.  We opted for (d) none of the above.  Rather a step down for them to have a non-entertaining couple here but I think they will adjust. 

Our life is getting into a routine at the temple.  I have finally memorized all of the ordinances in Spanish though I can't say them as fast as the natives and probably never will.  I feel totally comfortable and happy in my "happy place" doing the ordinances that I love.  I don't feel totally comfortable when someone looks at me and begins to talk.  They say their thing once and get a "deer in the headlight" look from me and then they say it again slower and more simply and in a good moment, I will be able to figure out what they are saying and can respond.  They are patient so that's good.  One of the temple presidency Hermano Briones likes to laugh so we get along ok.  Dad, Brother Day and Brother Briones were all working together putting the keyboard back into its box.  I watched for a minute and then said in my best Spanish "How many men does it take to get a keyboard into a box?"  Hermano Briones had a good laugh about that. 

Dad, of course, with his wonderful Spanish is doing great on that end.  He has officiated now in several sessions and has performed initiatories so often that he has those memorized.  He and I have been across from one another at the veil at least twice nice and that's special.  Yesterday was our usual 3 bus load of people Saturday, and on one session, Dad was the only officiator and I was the only follower so they know they can trust us with responsibilities.

Today while I listened to some General Conference talks, I worked on making a wire contraption where I can hang more family photos.  It is hard getting a nail into a cement wall but we have many wire hangers.  So I managed to make a place where I can hang more photos from an already existing nail in the wall.  I'll send you a picture after I get the photos to hang on it.  Life isn't simple.  Holly emailed me photos of most of her kids since Tyler didn't feel like cooperating at picture time. <sigh>  Niki reminded me of a family photo we took of them before we came down.  We remembered photos of Jim's family and Marian and Damon at their wedding that we could get our hands on.  I put some of them on a thumb drive.  Tomorrow we will walk a mile to the grocery store where they print photos [we hear] to get them printed [we hope].  Only the biggest they can print is a 6x8 and not 8x10 but oh well.  Then we will walk back home to hang them up [we hope].  Good thing we walked a lot to get ourselves ready for this walking mission!  

Well, it is after 10:30 p.m.!  How did that happen???  We loved watching the Christmas Devotional tonight and hearing the uplifting talks and testimonies about our Savior and the beautiful music.  Hope you got to watch it as well.  It was done differently and wasn't the First Presidency's Christmas Devotional as in the past and it wasn't the First Presidency's Christmas Devotional for Church Employees as was in the past past --like 20 years ago.  So things keep changing but it was still good.

We love you.  We pray for you.  Thanks for your prayers for us.

Mom and Dad

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Decorating for Christmas!

Welcome to our home!  
We have decorated for Christmas. 

We were happy to find this cute Nativity that now sits on top of our book shelf. 

This shepherd sitting under a palm tree with his little lamb is actually a water globe!  
See what happens when we shake it!

We thought this little statue of a pregnant Mary patiently riding the donkey to Jerusalem was unique.
Joseph has a blanket strapped to his back and is leading the donkey.

Here is our official Christmas Tree!  
It is 2 feet tall and is decorated with small boxes that light and blink.

We aren't sure how others celebrate Christmas in Tampico
but we are ready for the holidays. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

A Walk to the Zapatero

Between the green home on the left and the beige home on the right is a little walkway.
Each day we pass between these two homes, open a padlocked steel gate and walk about 50 feet to get to our home.
Today we are walking to the shoe store and decided to take photos as we went. 
These are the electrical boxes at the apartment complex not far from our home.

There are some many looking homes and the flowers are blooming.

We walked past a medical consultant shop and below shows the price for its services.

There are many beauty shops around. 
A nice looking apartment complex.
We pass through nice a neighbor hood.
We haven't needed a pharmacy yet but this one is not too far away if we do.

We could hear the kids playing behind the cement wall.
This guy was very creatively moving his goods from one spot to another.  
Here we are at the Zapatero!