A Whirlwind Week

Our new home--Teca Once

We arrived in Mexico a week ago today, and what a whirlwind of a week it’s been!

Last Saturday we got up really early, left the MTC, and headed for the Salt Lake airport to fly to Mexico. Travelling by plane is stressful to me—getting to the airport on time, getting checked in and making sure the baggage isn’t overweight, going through security, and now all the COVID precautions. I calmed down a bit once we were on the plane and was able to rest a little, although it was crowded and having to wear a mask makes me feel a claustrophobic. When we arrived in Mexico City, there was the stress of going through customs, getting our luggage, and maneuvering through throngs of people. Everything went well, but I was feeling uptight. Then we went over to a little secluded nook, and I waited with the bags while Ron went to the restroom. There weren’t very many people around, so I took my mask down. As I did, a scent hit my nose. We have visited Mexico a few times, but it’s not as if I’ve spent a great deal of time here. However, as I smelled that scent, it seemed to be the scent of Mexico. It felt familiar and comforting to me. The stress ebbed away, and I felt like I was home.

We were met at the airport by Armando, who we will be working with in the communications department. He arranged for an Uber and rode with us to our apartment building, Teca Once. Pat Wright, one of the other senior missionaries, was waiting by the door for us with a wonderfully warm welcome. She showed us two options for our apartment. We chose 501, which is on the top floor, but there is an elevator so that isn’t a big deal—as long as it is working. One morning it wasn’t, but fortunately we were on our way down, so using the stairs was no big deal.

We got our luggage into our room, rested a little, and then went to dinner with the other senior missionaries who live at Teca Once. It’s a tradition they have that when a new couple arrives, they take them to dinner. Including us, there are eight couples living here. One is leaving in two weeks, so then there will be seven. Everyone was so nice and welcoming. Another couple, the Davises, arrived Friday, so the dinner was to welcome them too. Our group was large enough that we had to be at two tables, so the Davises switched tables with us halfway through dinner so everyone could talk with both of us.

Inside our church building

Sunday morning we watched the Spanish ward’s sacrament meeting on zoom, which was nice because I could ask Ron when I didn’t understand something without being disruptive to the meeting. Later we attended the English ward in person. We walked to church, which is uphill from our apartment building. I am surprised by how many hills there are in Mexico City. I don’t know why I always pictured it flat, but I pictured it wrong. There are hills everywhere, nothing is flat. Our ward meets in an elegant old house which has been converted into a church. 

Monday we went to the church’s offices. They are in a building that is only about as far from our apartment building as the width of a freeway, but we cross three little roads separated by two islands to get to it. It takes a security key card to open the doors to get into the offices on the top floor, which is where our office is, so Pat Wright walked over with us to let us in. When you get out of the elevator on the penthouse level, the offices we are in are through a door on the right. To the left is
The church offices are in the building on the
right. Our apartment building is just out
of the picture to the left. These are the roads
we cross.

the door into the area presidency’s offices. It takes even more security to get into there. Pat showed us around the offices in our wing and introduced us to some of the people there. However, a lot of people weren’t in. They are just barely opening back up from COVID here, so many people are still working from home.  Next she took us over to the area presidency’s wing. They weren’t there. This week is a conference with all of the mission presidents in Mexico, and they had already left for it. The Burton’s, who are executive secretaries to the area president, were there, though just about to leave for the airport to go to the conference. But they did take time to let us see President Pino’s office. It has a panoramic view of the city which is stunning.


Next we went to our office where Armando was working. He took us to see the rest of the church offices on the two floors just lower than the penthouse and on the ground level floor. One thing that is different here is that the ground level floor isn’t floor 1, it’s floor PB (which stands for Piso Bajo not peanut butter.) What we would call the second floor is floor 1 here. After the tour, Armando talked to us about what the communications department does. Then Gustavo, the communications director for the area, came in. He, Armando, and a woman named Lucero are full-time employees of the church for communications in Mexico. Gustavo talked to us about our responsibilities will be. Some of them have to do with projects that I will talk about in later posts. One, which we are very excited about, is to co-ordinate with the welfare and humanitarian missionaries on publicizing their projects.

Ron in our office, pretending to work

Our computers weren’t ready, so Gustavo told us to take Tuesday to get settled in. In fact, we’ve had a lot of time off this week—it’s been a party week! We stopped in at the office on Tuesday and went to the technology department to see if they had a charging cord for our church phone. While we were there, Ron saw two computers with our names on them. He asked they guys when they were going to get them installed, and they said the next morning at 9:00. We were in our office at 9:00 the next morning, but they didn’t show up. However, with a bit of a nudge (nag) from Ron, they arrived a little before 10:00. All while Armando was talking to us, he kept telling us to be patient, which I think was his way of telling us to chill out and get used to the Mexican timetable. It's hard to imagine anyone feeling the need to tell Ron to chill, but here we are in Mexico.

It didn’t take long to setup the computers, but then we found that none of the Microsoft Office programs would work—we didn’t have licenses for them on our computers. It took several hours, multiple people, and two phone calls to Salt Lake, but we finally got them up and running. We also got temporary key cards to get into our office. Apparently they are having a hard time getting the chips for the key cards, so it will take time for us to get our permanent ones which will have our pictures on them. The security guys apologized that the temporary ones were old and didn’t have our pictures, but we were just grateful to have them. We’d been having to have other people let us in. Plus the floor is set up so that you go through two doors that have to have a key card just to go to the bathroom, so it was a little awkward to be without them.

On Thursday and Friday, we spent a few hours being trained by Lucero virtually—she was at her house and we were at our office. She speaks fairly good English, though she isn’t confident with it. I speak only a little Spanish. Thankfully, Ron speaks both. She would explain things as best as she could in English, but occasionally when she didn’t know how to say something, she’d lapse into Spanish. Then Ron would have to translate for me. Since I’m better at the computer stuff than Ron, it was sometimes a bit of a juggling act, but I think we got it.

As I said, five of the couples who live in Teca Once have been gone this week. We’ve been spending a lot of time with the Wrights and the Alsops, who like us stayed here and who have been showing us the ropes. We’ve been to Walmart and Costco—pretty much like the ones in the US. We also went to Chedraui, which is kind of like a Target but with a big grocery section. Our main forms of transportation are walking and Uber. We walk most places and Uber back when the bags are full. Several of the senior missionaries said they’ve lost weight since they’ve been here. We’d love it if that happened to us, but with the way we’ve been eating this week, it’s not likely. We’ve eaten at restaurants for either lunch or dinner almost every day. When we haven’t been at restaurants, either the Wrights or the Alsops have invited us over. We are really being spoiled!


Wednesday afternoon we walked up the hill to a little pueblita. Jerry Wright served a mission in Mexico when he was young, and he loves this section because it reminds him of then. It’s not as modern as where we live. The road up there is lined with low concrete buildings, one connecting to the next. They all contain little shops. In many cases the shopkeepers live above them. This pueblita has a lot of car repair shops, so cars are often parked right across the sidewalk. That isn’t a big deal, because it’s almost safer to walk in the street (as long as you watch for cars) because the sidewalks are so uneven. I tend to want to gawk around at everything while we walk, but one of the first things you learn here is to watch where
you’re stepping. The sidewalks contain a lot of steps, curbs, and odd things jutting up from them. Jessica Alsop has fallen twice in the six month they’ve been here and got a black eye each time. We hadn’t planned on buying anything at the Pueblita—we just tagged along with Bob Alsop so we could see what it was like. However, after passing several fresh produce stands, Ron couldn’t stand it anymore, and we went home loaded down with fruits and vegetables. Most stores here don’t have grocery bags, so you have to bring your own. We hadn’t brought any, but luckily the place we shopped had plastic bags.

Thursday we went to the Zocalo. It’s the original town square in Mexico City and is the second largest in the world. It is in the heart of Mexico City’s historical district, has a magnificent cathedral at one end, and is surrounded by amazing old buildings. The buildings have intricate designs carved into the stone and gorgeous old wooden doors. The Zocalo itself was just a big open area which has been covered with concrete. It contained vendors and performers—everyone just trying to earn a peso. Multiple streets converge at the square, and they are lined with stores. The odd thing there is that each street has kind of a theme, and most of the stores on the street follow that theme. For example, the street we walked in on was formal dresses. That’s it—not everyday dresses or Sunday

dresses. Most of the stores exclusively sold formal dresses, and they were gorgeous! Adjusting to prices here has been a bit tricky. You look at the price tag and it has a dollar sign followed by an exorbitant number. Then you have to remember that it’s pesos not dollars. It’s about twenty pesos to one dollar. One of the missionaries told me to look at the price, drop the last digit, then divide in two and it’ll give you roughly the price in dollars. Some of the formal dresses had prices on them, and we were stunned to find after doing the math, that they were less than $200. These were dresses that would cost several times that in the US.


Friday night we went with the Wrights to Garibaldi Square. To get there we first took a bus. The city buses here are small, maybe comparable in size to the really small school buses. We rode it for several blocks, then got on the metro, which is a subway. Doing both of those things in themselves was an experience. After the metro, we walked a few blocks to Garibaldi. It is a big open area surrounded by restaurants and vendor stands. Mariachi bands congregate there and for a few dollars, they will play for you. Most of the restaurants have outdoor seating and the bands come up and surround your table to play for you. This means that multiple bands may be playing at the same time, so it’s loud.

Choosing a restaurant was also an experience. Each one had multiple waiters standing out front trying to coax us in, and they aren’t subtle about it. We had narrowed it down to two that were side by side. Jerry got them to each bring us a sample of their tacos el pastor meat, and that was how we chose where to eat. After being on the bus and metro, Pat and I wanted to wash our hands. We asked the waiter if they had a place we could do that. He said, “si,” and led us into the crowded little kitchen and had us wash our hands in the cold water in their dishpan. We almost started laughing, but it was just part of the experience. Ron got two different bands to play for us. We danced a little to one of them, and he got up and sang with the other when it played “Guantanamera.” After dinner we walked around a little and got popsicles at a little

ice cream store. The popsicles were creamy and had real fruit in them--not like the icy popsicles we're used to. They were so pretty in the case that I had to take a picture of them. We had a wonderful time, but on our way home, the Uber driver told us that Garibaldi used to be safe, but now people get mugged there. We left just as it was getting dark, which was probably good, and we may decide not to go back there again.



This morning we took a bus and went with Bob Alsop and the Wrights to the tianguis, which is an open air market. It had tons of produce vendors and booths selling just about anything you can imagine. This time we were smart enough to take Ron’s backpack, and we brought it home filled with even more fresh produce. We have to stop eating at restaurants and start cooking!

A few people have asked me questions, so here are some basics. We are in a very nice area and feel really safe. We drink bottled water. Any produce that we aren't going to peel, I wash in a mild bleach solution. I'm not sure I really need to do that, but better safe than sorry. If you have other questions, let me know,

It has been a fun week, but so far it’s felt a bit more like a vacation than a mission. We are anxious to get to work. After all, serving the Lord is why we came to Mexico. All the fun we’re having is just a wonderful side benefit



Comments

  1. You’re really, really there! And have jumped in with both feet. Wonderful!!!

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  2. This sounds like most couples experience in the mission field. You have a lot of learning and some great times. The pic with Ron at the desk and computer brings back memories. Hope he finds the adjustment easier than I did Have a great week

    ReplyDelete

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