Green Cards and Flat Bottomed Boats


We got our green cards this week, which means we are now legal residents of Mexico! Although we are area missionaries, the Mexico City West mission is assigned to take care or our temporal needs, so they got all the paperwork ready for us. Then Thursday two cute, young missionaries met us in front of our office building, ordered an Uber, and escorted us to the Immigration building. They made sure our papers were all in order and sent us in. I was a little nervous because we had to go through the process separately, and I don’t speak Spanish well. I was worried I wouldn’t understand what they were asking me or that I wouldn’t be able to answer something important. Then I thought, “What’s the worst thing that could happen? They might decide I can’t stay and send me home.” That didn’t seem too bad, so I calmed down. Between my limited Spanish and their limited English, we managed to get the process done. I even had one exchange which gave me more confidence when it comes to trying to speak. The woman who was taking my picture for my card said (and this is an exact quote), “He removed his necklace please.” She didn’t have the pronouns or the tense correct, but I understood what she meant and I removed my necklace. So I guess the words don’t have to be perfect for communication to take place

I didn't intentionally wear green on the day we got our green cards, but it seems appropriate.

Our department has three full-time employees--Gustavo (the director), Armando, and Lucero. Then there is us, a couple of volunteer missionaries, who really don’t know much. Just before we arrived, Lucero put in her notice. Her husband is going to graduate school in Utah. They’ve already moved, so although we’ve been working with her, we’ve only met her online. She will continue to do what she can remotely until the end of December. She is very capable and will be hard to replace. Since COVID, many of the church employees do a lot of their work from home, so we don't see Gustavo and Armando every day. On the days Armando is here, we share an office with him.

We put in a lot of hours in the office this week. Not that we got a lot done. Everything we do is a learning process, so it takes a while, which demonstrates even more the importance of Gustavo finding people to hire. Ron struggles with computers, and I struggle with Spanish, so I help him and he helps me. We figure between the two of us, we make one complete worker. Ironically, I have become the “translator” for the office. I wrote some items to promote the “Light the World” campaign and translated it into Spanish with Word. I guess that put it into Gustavo and Armando’s minds that I could do that, because they sent me stuff in Spanish to translate into English and stuff in English to translate into Spanish. However, the process isn’t perfect, and we do a lot of proofreading after Word translates (Ron the Spanish stuff, and me the English stuff). We were writing letters to local communications specialists throughout Mexico. They needed a lot of the same information, but each letter needed to be personalized. I wrote the first one in English, translated it into Spanish, and Ron proofread it before we sent it. We then had Word translate it back to English so we could edit it for the next recipient. However, it didn’t translate back to exactly to the original. We had seven letters to write that way, and the whole process felt a bit like the game “telephone” where you line up and whisper a phrase into the next person’s ear, pass it down the line, and see how much the phrase has changed by the end.      

Saturday most of our Teca Once group went to a place called Xochimilco, which is called the Venice of Mexico. To understand Xochimilco you have to understand a little of the origins of Mexico City. The Aztecs believed that their god had told them that when they saw an eagle eating a snake while sitting on a cactus, that would be a sign to show them where they should build a great city. Eventually they did see an eagle eating a snake while sitting on a cactus—on an island in the middle of a lake. So they built their city on that island and some smaller surrounding island. Then they created manmade islands to farm on, so at that point, their city was a series of islands with canals running between them. When the Spanish came and took

over, they filled in most of the canals with dirt to expand the city. Consequently, Mexico City is not built on very solid ground, and it’s sinking several inches each year, which probably explains the rough shape the sidewalks are in. But back to Xochimilco. It is an area where some of the ancient canal system is still intact. It’s been turned into a tourist/party area where you can hire a boat to take you out in the canals. The boats hold up to twenty people and move along by the sheer manpower of a guy pushing it along with a long pole. They have chairs down the sides and tables down the middle of them in case you want to eat while you ride. We saw groups varying in sizes from two people to groups large enough that they had to have two boats tied

together. There were groups having birthday parties, couples having romantic dates, and even a church service. Smaller boats holding mariachi or marimba bands would pull up beside the tourist boats and for a price would play music. Other small boats sold food or trinkets. It was all just a big floating fiesta! All along the shore were houses, restaurants, and stores—mostly plant nurseries—where you could have your boat pull over. A couple of places advertised that they had really big snakes you could see. At one, a guy was holding the snake, and it was huge (see the picture). Manuel, the guy who was running our boat, said that was just the baby, and that the place had a snake

that was twenty feet long. I’m not sure if that was true or if he was just giving us a hard time, but I wasn’t about to go check it out. One island had a whole bunch of dolls hanging from trees, stuck in a fence, and lying on the ground. It was kind of creepy looking. Manuel said the legend is that a hermit lived there alone and found the body of a little girl who had drowned. A little later he found a doll near the same spot. Assuming it was the little girl’s doll, he hung it in a tree to appease her spirit. However, he believed she was haunting the island, so he kept hanging up more and more dolls. Other people have hung dolls there too.
The creepy doll island

After taking pictures all morning, I made Ron take one of me to prove I was there too

Ron demonstrating the correct way to eat a taco--you hold the taco still and move your head

Besides the boat rides, there are hundreds of booths selling things as Xochimilco, and I had a lot of fun shopping there. I bought a blouse, a tablecloth, and a vase. I made the purchase of the blouse on my own, without Ron’ help. I did have Marsha Walker help me pick it out, but she knows about as much Spanish as I do, so I made the transaction on my own. I was having a hard time deciding what style to buy, and Marsha said, “Try it on over your clothes.” So I stood there in the little booth and tried on blouses. When I took off a blouse, Marsha and the little Mexican lady stood close by me and held down my t-shirt so it wouldn't rise up and cause me to flash the crowd. It was a bit of a process, but I did find one I liked.

Me showing off my purchases

On our way to Xochimilco, our Uber driver pointed out a plant market. Ron was interested in that, so when the rest of the group was ready to head home, we headed to the plant market instead. It was just a few blocks from Xochimilco, so we walked. It was an open-air market with booths just like at Xochimilco except that it was all plants or other landscape related items. Ron wants to start a container garden on the roof of our hotel. He’s asked for permission to do it, which he hasn’t got yet, but he’s acting as if he has. He bought a pot, seeds, soil, and a strawberry plant. He truly is a farmer at heart.

A booth with every color of bougainvillea possible--it was gorgeous

I’m going to end on a more serious note. I’m sure most of you heard about the missionaries who were attacked and robbed at a zone conference in Torren, Mexico. Some of you have even reached out to us to make sure we’re okay. I appreciate your concern. Torren is much further north than we are, but it is still part of our area. It was sad and upsetting to hear about this incident. I know that every place has people whose intentions are not good, but the vast majority of people we have met here in Mexico have been warm and open. I do not know if the men who robbed the missionaries were motivated by greed or desperation born of poverty, or whatever, but I do know that the only permanent answer to evil in any form is the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is that gospel which motivated Ron and I to come to Mexico, and it is our hope that our humble efforts can help to move that gospel message forward. We are grateful that none of the missionaries were harmed physically and pray that they can all heal emotionally. We will not allow this incident to lessen our love for this beautiful country we have the privilege of serving in or for the people who live here.


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