Friday, March 29, 2013

Culture Shock

Hola familia!

I cant believe I've already been in Mexico for a whole week! how crazy is that?! so first i will talk a little bit more about the area and other different things here that I've noticed and then ill talk about what I've learned so far. So I have a big list so I'm just going to put it all in a giant list.

-So there are Taxis EVERYWHERE! and they make the sound of a police car so it sounds like there's police cars everywhere, but its really just taxis

-Everyone has gates outside their house, i guess for safety reasons, so we never actually knock on a door, but just tap on the gates. haha, weird huh

-This week i've had chicken fried steak, hot dogs, and spaghetti, but all were served with salsa and guacomole. Haha funny story, at the Contreras family house they served us straight up jalepeños on the side, but i couldnt tell what they were so i ate one, after my drink was gone, and my mouth was on FIRE! but i was trying to hide it but my face turned bright red and my eyes started to water so they all laughed at me. haha
- No one drinks water here, its all juices or coke or pepsi
- Literally every time i tell someone I'm from Dallas they ask about the Cowboys
- Everyone tries to speak English to me, even kids we pass on the street
- I'm pretty sure they breed their dogs with hyenas here. They all are super freaky looking!!
- Favorite foods of the week: Campachanas, and Chuletas. I would tell you what was in them, but i don't even   
  know! haha, so google them :)
- For the most part everyone is SUPER nice here and willing to help us out. There haven't been Elders for a few    
  months so the whole ward is way excited to have us here.
- Church is way different! It looks nothing like any church I've ever been in. And there was only about 70 people, 
  the pianist could only play the top note, and only 9 people in Elders quorum. But it was really cool!
- There's ALWAYS fiestas here! There was a super big one a couple nights ago right outside our house so we 
  didn't get any sleep, it literally is never quiet here
Okay so now for the other stuff. We met a TON of people this week. We met all of the active members of the ward, and we have a couple new investigators too. But this week is... holy week i think its called? the week leading up to Easter? So everyone is out of town, so we are probably going to be with members a lot this week. But some highlights, we met a lady who we had on our list who was baptized about a year and a half ago but doesn't believe in the Book of Mormon anymore because she got the idea that we teach that it's better than the bible. Which isn't true at all! so we had a really good discussion about that. And then we visited her neighbor, Rodrigo, he is a one legged man but one of the coolest people I've met here. he is a very faithful member of the church and his testimony of the atonement is way strong. This week has been tough because like i said before we have had to start from scratch. But we kinda know the area a little bit better now and we have a couple new investigators so that's good. But we can't meet with them for a few more weeks because everyone is gone this week! One thing I've had to work on a whole lot is patience. its really frustrating to never know whats going on, because i am learning how to be a missionary and how to speak Spanish  So EVERYTHING is new to me. And like i said everyone speaks super fast here and uses words I've never heard so its been tough. But i know i will learn everything little by little. So I've definitely had to work on my patience a lot this week. A scripture i really like this week is 3 Nephi 27:20-22. Which talks about following the example that Christ set for us. I shared it with a few people we talked to and it worked really well, Christ set the example for us, he showed us what to do, all we have to do is follow the example we set. The gospel is so simple. I was reading through my letters today and Kendall asked if you guys could send me pictures, and.. you can! so please do! i would love to SEE whats going on! Haha, i have my chord plugged in right now so i am going to try to send some pictures of Mexico and the MTC! Love you guys! Idk exactly the best method of how to respond to all of your emails but i am going to do my best! I love you guys and pray for you every night!
Elder Bird

Friday, March 22, 2013

I'm In Mexico

Hola familia!

So President Swapp gave me permission to email you guys to let you know i am here and safe. You guys should be getting a letter from me in a few days too but this is way quicker. So i´m in a little ´´ciber´´ right now to use the internet. So I first want to apologize for not calling from Mexico City! I had to go through customs and then we got lost and luckily Brother Midgely was actually on the same flight and helped us out! what are the chances. So i only ended up having about 20 minutes to make a call but i could not figure out the phone for the life of me. Something about everything being in Spanish... haha. But I asked for help but no one could figure it out either and my card wouldn't work so that was SUPER frustrating. I was way bummed! But i´m so glad i got to talk to at least a few of you. That made me way happy.

But we got to Monterrey safely and when we got there we were greeted by President and Sister Swapp and the AP Elder Peterson. They are way nice! So they took us back to the mission offices where we met up with all the other Elders who came in that day (we were the last group to arrive) and then we had dinner and got our stuff for the next day and went to a little house right by the mission offices where all 21 new Elders slept. So we just slept in one giant room with all the mattresses stacked right by each other. Haha, so that was fun. And there´s no AC anywhere so it was way hot! Also the cockroaches here are HUGE! they´re seriously the size of small dogs. There was one in the shower with me (which was cold). Haha, and you know how much I LOVE bugs! But anyways so the next morning we just had a brief training meeting and then met our trainers and got our assignment! My first companion is Elder Islas! He is from Pachucha and he is 21 years old. He also speaks little to no English. Which, even though has been hard, i know it will help me in the long run. He is way cool and nice, he just talks super fast.  So we took a taxi from the offices to the bus station to go to our area. The drivers here are crazy! I thought I was going to die the entire time. They don´t wait for anyone! So we then rode a really nice bus to our area, Zaragosa. The bus was crazy too though, it reminded me of the bus from Harry Potter. Haha, but then we got here and had to figure everything out because only the zone leaders knew we were coming so they had to help us find our house and everything. But I´ll tell you a little bit about the area. It´s about an hour and a half away from Monterrey. And we are opening the area, which means there haven´t been missionaries here for months so we have to start completely from scratch. Which is okay, it´ll be a learning experience. So the last few days we've been walking around getting to know the area and introducing ourselves to all the members and stuff. It´s tough because everyone talks sooo fast here. it´s so hard to understand. I have no idea what´s going on like 87% of the time. But i´m learning. 

So I don´t have my camera on me right now but i will on p day, which is Monday, so I can send pictures then. But everything here is soooo different than anything i´ve been around. The houses are all really small, and all connected. And the houses are connected to the stores and everything. So there´s a drink store literally right across the street from our house, like 5 feet away. And there´s always these cars driving around with speakers blasting trying to sell stuff like fruit or other Hispanic food. It´s kind of annoying. Haha, they drive Elder Islas crazy! There´s ALWAYS kids in the street playing soccer or doing something. It´s never quiet anywhere, even at night. And there are SOOOOO many dogs. I swear most of them don´t even have homes. But there are sooo many dogs, it´s crazy. Our house is actually pretty big. It´s only me and Elder Islas, which he said was weird to only have 2. But we have no stove or oven or microwave, no hot water, no AC. So it´s been kinda hard adjusting to not having the normal comforts that i´m used to. But i have a lot of pictures so i´ll send those on Monday. Umm.... i carry around a little notebook with me and everytime i hear a word i don´t know (which is like every 13 seconds) i write it down and ask Elder Islas what it means. But a lot of the time I cant understand the words he uses to describe it, because he does it in Spanish, so I end up having to look everything up in the dictionary. Haha, but it´s all good. Elder Islas is way nice about it. Also something weird here, is their big meal is at 2 everyday. Not at night for dinner like in America. So yesterday we went to the Relief Society president´s house and had Chicken Cordon Bleu.. haha. great first meal in Mexico. And today we went to the ward mission leader´s house and had really good tacos and enchiladas  We´ve met a lot of people today and talked to a lot of people so it´s been really good. 

Also the whole pesos thing is throwing me off too. A dollar is worth like 13 pesos, so i bought  some food yesterday(because we had absolutely nothing in the house) and it cost $150 pesos or something like that. But the sign for pesos is the same as a dollar sign. So it´s way confusing. Haha, but yeah. I really like the life here, it seems really simple. I´m definitely being humbled everyday.The area is a little scary in my opinion, but i´m getting used to it and the less i think about it the better i feel. I know God is watching over me.  Also, apparently the mission is splitting in 3 months? I did not know that. So I might be in the Santillo mission instead of the Monterrey mission in a few months. So... yeah! i didn´t know that. So i´ll keep you guys updated. And i´ll write you more on Monday  i don´t have much more time. I love you guys! and i hope everything is going great! i still don´t know exactly how mail works, i know we get DearElder, but how or when, i don´t know. So for now just send me emails! I Love you guys so much and miss you!

Elder Bird

Friday, March 15, 2013

I'm Going to Mexico!!

Hola mi familia!
Les extraño mucho! Yo he recibido mis planes de viajar hoy. So I´ll give those to you first so you guys can set up your time to be free. I leave from Salt Lake at 8:15 a.m and go to Dallas (go figure...) and i get there at 12:05 Dallas time. Then I have a layover until 2:45. Then at 2:45 I leave from Dallas and go all the way to Mexico City, which makes zero sense. Haha but I'll get there at 4:20 Mexico City time, or 5:20 Dallas time (i think). I will be in Mexico City from 4:20 to 7:00, and then we leave at 7:00 to Monterrey and we will get there at 8:42 pm! So it will be a SUPER long day! This is all on Monday the 18th just in case there was any confusion.  So I'm super excited! I can't believe it's here! It doesn't feel real yet.
So this week has been crazy busy. First off, I've been sick. Alllll week. It's been horrible. I have strep throat that I'm still trying to get over, so hopefully I will get over it by Monday. But Tuesday night I came back early and slept all night, and then Wednesday we got to go to Salt Lake to go to the consulate and I felt awful all day. Which is lame because we met so many cool people! i just couldn't talk to anybody. But it was cool to go out and meet people. So we got to ride the train down there and then we were interviewed by the consulate in Salt Lake about why we're going to Mexico and stuff. The lady was really nice and she had family in Monterrey! She said they love it there. Also, last Friday night we had a sub teacher who served in my mission! He got back 4 years ago but he had so much to tell us about it. He told us that the food was way good, and that it's SUPER hot all the time. He said it's pretty dangerous and he had a lot of scary moments but as long as we're obedient then we have nothing to worry about. His testimony about the mission and how it changed his life was really strong and made everything feel more real. I seriously can't believe that I'm going to be in Mexico in 3 days. It's so crazy. But anyways I'm sorry this is coming in so late and I don't have a lot time because it's so late but i will be able to talk to you guys in a few days anyways so I will be able to tell you more about what's going on.  I love you guys and I can't wait to talk to you all! And i promise my next letter will be way better! I love you guys! and I'll definitely be needing your thoughts and prayers this week as I go to Mexico. Again, I'm way excited to talk to you and I will tell you guys a lot more when we talk. Make sure everyone is free during that time on Monday so I can talk! Even if it means Kendall skips work. :) Love you!
Elder Bird

Friday, March 8, 2013

Only 10 Days 'Til Mexico

Hola familia!!!

So I have officially been a missionary for over a month. How crazy is that?! I feel like I just got here yesterday. Time is seriously flying by and i can't believe I only have 10 days left before i'm in Mexico! i'm so excited to be in a different country with a whole new culture. I think it'll be so cool. I should be going to Salt Lake sometime in the next few days to talk to the consulate about my Visa (which i'm super excited about) and then i'll get my travel plans. So as soon as I know i will let you guys know so we can figure out what time I will be calling you guys! I can't believe my time in the MTC is almost up. As excited as I am about being in Monterrey, I'm pretty sad to leave the MTC, especially my district! Like I said before only 4 of us are going to the Monterrey mission so I won't see the other 6 at all. Which is way sad! we've all gotten so close and learned so much from each other. I realize more and more everyday why I was put into this district. I learn something from every one of them everyday and they have all, in their own ways, made me a better person. They're the best! It's definitely made my transition into the mission so much better. Oh, so good news of the week: Elder Keenan got pushed back a week! So he isn't leaving on Monday! He will be leaving with the rest of us. Which was so exciting, it would have been awful to have him leave early. So that was exciting! But all our really good friends in the zone are leaving this week, which is a bummer! But we're excited for them. Umm, funny story of the week: Elder Newman ripped his pants! Haha, it was sooooo funny. He just bent down to get something during class and we all heard the loud ripping noise. And his face was priceless! It was too funny. My district is sooo funny, I wish you guys could meet them. We also got to usher the devotional on Sunday, which was kinda cool.  Basically, we just had to stand at the bottom and look super intimidating, which for me isn't hard. Haha, and we got front row seats for the meeting! We had the Provo temple president come speak to us and he was really really good. We also got to host again this week which was really fun. We had a much "smaller" group of missionaries come in this week, with just under 500 come in. So we didn't get to meet as many new missionaries. And we also didn't get any new roommates! Wooh! But we got 2 new mattresses so we will probably get roommates next week for the last few days that we are here. The weather here this week was sooooo nice! So we did a lot of our studying and class discussions outside which was really nice. Both of our teachers are out of town this week in Vegas. One is going to the basketball tournament for BYU (so jealous) and the other is going there for.. something. Haha, i don't remember. But that means we'll have subs for the next few days. But we already met one of our subs and he's way cool! He served in Alabama and he started off as an English missionary but halfway through he got put in a Spanish area, so he had to learn everything in the field. Crazy huh? It makes me feel a lot better about my Spanish hearing stories like that. This week has been ALL about the subjunctive, which for me is SUPER confusing. So it's been a little frustrating, but i made a goal to only speak Spanish this week, even outside of class, and it's helped a ton! I definitely am feeling a lot more confident and my biggest problem now is just getting all the specifics of the grammar down. I just can't wait until I have my first dream in Spanish, that'll be so cool! Haha, but my Spanish has come such a long way. It's really cool. I decided that I like speaking Spanish a lot more than English, it just sounds a lot cooler and it rolls off the tongue better. Haha.

Umm, so this week my teacher made a really interesting comment. She said that she believes that humility is the most important trait. Because if you are humble, then everything else will follow. And I thought about it a lot, and I think it's so true! Humility is so key. It's what allows us to make changes and grow because we are aware that we don't know everything and that there are places for improvement. This goes along with my favorite scripture of all time, Ether 12:27. It also allows us to put other people before ourselves and be more receptive to serving others and to have more Charity. With humility, comes obedience. Which is so important on a mission, and just in general. We have to show God that we are willing to put His will before ours, and that is when we will be blessed. I've really felt so blessed while being in here as I have put all my time and devotion and trust in God's work. Remembering that this is His work that it's not about me at all has been really important to learn here. (I'm sorry if this email seems like it's all over the place, the computers are in the laundry room and everybody and their dog is in here so it's super loud and really hard to focus) Something i've been trying to do this week is memorize more scriptures. My goal is to memorize 2 a day, and so far so good! It's so nice to have them when I'm teaching an investigator to be able to use scriptures to apply to them. Also, I'm so close to finishing the Book of Mormon! I've kinda been stalled this week because I've been focusing more on the lessons in Preach my Gospel but I will definitely be able to finish this week before i leave which was my goal! Setting goals has helped me so much here because it's helped me notice my progression and it helps me focus on specific things that I want to work on. A scripture that I memorized this week that I really liked was Alma 37:6-7. Which talks about how it's by small and simple things that great things are brought to pass. Which is so true! To get the big end result that we want, we HAVE to do the little things everyday to get there. 

Congrats to Weston on getting baptized buddy! that's so awesome! Also thank you to the Leckies, Knudsens, and McCotters for your letters the past few weeks. I love hearing from you guys!

Audrey.. no letter :( write me this week!

Caden, same thing.... what the heck! I heard you were a stud this week in basketball though. Way to do me proud!

Grant! Thanks for writing me this week! I'm so sorry about your knee! that sounds awful! are you still on crutches? is it healing at all? Let me know how you're doing! Loved hearing from you this week!

Kendall: I already wrote you:)

Mom and Dad, thanks for your letters and DearElders this week! I love hearing from you guys and hearing everything that's going on. 

Well my time is up, and I feel like I was all over the place in this email. But I'll let you guys know about travel plans and all that soon! Love you all!!!

Elder Bird

Friday, March 1, 2013

Half Way Through MTC

So I am officially halfway done with the MTC. how crazy is that! I only have 2 and a half weeks left, that blows my mind. Time has gone by so fast the past couple weeks, it really feels like I just had P-day yesterday! But I'm on the downhill now and I'm getting more and more excited every single day to be in Mexico! I can't wait to be out there. I'm really excited to just be in another country and experience another culture! So before I start with the good stuff about the week I'll start with some sad news. Elder Keenan is leaving in a week and a half:( it's so weird! he's the only one in our district who is leaving early, so we are getting his travel plans today and he leaves 2 Mondays from now! Super sad! So for the last week here I will be companionless... so sad. 

Haha, but this week has been great and SUPER eventful! On Saturday night we did what is called TRC, where people volunteer to come in, usually members, to just talk to us! So we talked to 3 different people, and just talked to them and got to know them and then just applied  a gospel principle to their life. It was SOOO cool! Because it wasn't staged like our investigators that we are teaching, but it was with real people as themselves. We talked with a girl who was on the BYU rugby team! Pretty cool. Everyone was really nice and it was so cool to talk to them and bear our testimonies to them. It got me REALLY excited to be out in the field! And then on Sunday me and Elder Keenan volunteered to pass the sacrament to our branch, which has 4 districts, or about 50 people in total. We literally were ONE cup short, so we had to go get another one. Haha, it was kinda funny.  The highlight of the week was definitely on Tuesday night!! We had a devotional, like always. And my district always goes to choir so we will be guaranteed a spot in the main room just in case an apostle comes to speak to us. And there was a rumor this week that an apostle was going to come, but there's a rumor EVERY week that an apostle is going to come so I didn't get my hopes up. But we were sitting in with the choir a few minutes before the devotional started and we still didn't know who the speaker was, and all of a sudden it got really reverent and quiet and everyone stood up and in walked Elder M. Russell Ballard! So cool! He brought such an incredible spirit, and other than general conference it was the only time I had ever been in the same room as an apostle. So that was super super cool! He talked about Christ's atonement and the power of missionary work and how to be more confident and bold in sharing this great message. It was a really great talk! And it was an unbelievable experience to be so close to an apostle. On Wednesday our district got chosen to host the new missionaries. So basically what we did is we were at the curb when the new missionaries got dropped off and we waited for them to say their goodbyes and then took their luggage and helped them get settled into their room and find all their books and classroom and stuff like that. So that was pretty cool! we had soooo many new missionaries come in this week but somehow my room avoided getting any new missionaries so we still only have 4 people in our room! Which is way nice! we are one of the few people on our floor who have that. It was interesting seeing all the different reactions from the families when they dropped off their missionary. Some were crying a lot, and others were just like "see ya later!" Haha, I guess everyone is different. But something I've been trying to do this week is to find ways to love people and to show I appreciate them. We've had that thought drilled into our heads here at the MTC and I'm learning how important it is to love others, regardless of who they are or the differences you have. And it's REALLY easy to love the people in my district, because... they're awesome! and super funny! But I never realized how much of an impact you can have on someone else, and the littlest things you do or say can make a HUGE difference. So look for opportunities to serve! Even if it seems really small and insignificant, it could make a lot bigger difference than you think. This week, Elder Newman has been sick in bed all week! So we've all been taking shifts hanging out with him in his room. Which is actually pretty nice to get some peace and quiet and extra study time. But he literally sounds like he's dying when he coughs, he's got a throat infection mixed with bronchitis, poor guy. But he's getting a little better now and he should be back in class tomorrow, but now he got his companion Elder Hamm sick! So I'm just praying I don't catch anything! For this week's Sunday devotional our district got chosen to usher, which should be kinda cool! And it means we'll get really good seats. Umm, it's always so hard to compact a whole week's worth of events into one e-mail, it's so hard to know what to say. This week I've been trying to strengthen my testimony on the Book of Mormon, I've been slowing down and trying to get everything i can out of them and it's amazing how many incredible lessons and scriptures there are! I love reading them now and the spirit that it brings.

Grant! your letter cracked me up! I forget how clever you are. Haha.  I LOVED hearing from you and how much of a stud you are. And thanks for that fact about the goldfish! 90 pounds? That's crazy! You should try to put a crazy story in every one of your letters. I told all my roommates that story and the other one you told me that happened at school, which I won't put on here so i can save you from embarrassment. Haha, but write me again this week please! and let me know how your knee is! Kendall and Dad told me about that and I heard you were on crutches? I'm sorry! That's no fun, but you were definitely in my prayers all week. And Caden and Audrey, write me this week!

Kendall, your letter made me laugh too. I could almost hear you telling me that whole story, all in one breath. Haha, I love how you would always tell me every single detail about your day and about.. you know who;) You better keep me updated! If my math is correct, and it USUALLY is, your birthday is this week on Wednesday! Happy Birthday to you! I can't believe you're 17, that's crazy. You're only like 2 years away from marria... I mean college! Haha, but I hope you have a GREAT day! and just know I'll be throwing a party in here on your behalf:) 

And you guys will all be getting a letter in the next few days from me! I promise!

Also, thank you guys so much for the package!!!  It seriously saved my life! :)

Ahh, I wish I had more time to write you guys more about what happened this week but unfortunately my time is up! I PROMISE you guys will get pictures sometime before I leave here! I think I figured out a way to get them to you! so we'll see if it works. I love you guys and miss you a ton!

Elder Bird