Feliz Navidad

 


Happy day after Christmas! I hope your holiday celebration was wonderful.

Things were really slow in the office this week leading up to Christmas, which meant we had time to go do fun things. Monday we took off with the Wrights and Cluffs. We caught a bus just up the hill from our hotel. There was a man standing on the bus playing an old battered guitar and singing at the top of his lungs while we rode. He wasn’t the best singer, but he’d be in the running for most enthusiastic. I was impressed with how he managed to stand there while the bus jerked and jolted along. I only saw him lose his balance once, but he stuck his foot out and caught himself without missing a beat on his song. Ron gave him a good tip, which he well deserved.

Mexico City has a ton of museums, none of which we’ve visited yet. The plan that day was to visit the Museo Nacional de Antropología. When we arrived there, we learned a very valuable lesson—all the cultural museums in Mexico City are closed on Monday. Even Chapultapec Park, which houses several museums and the Castillo, is closed on Monday. Instead of going to the museum, we walked down Paseo de la Reforma. Booths were set up all along the sidewalk, selling all kinds of things. It was fun to look at everything and do a little shopping.


After the museum we had planned to go to the Zcalo, the historic central plaza of Mexico City, to see the Christmas lights. When we were done shopping, we decided to head there even though it was a little earlier than we’d planned. We caught a red double decker bus. We rode up top so we could see the city while we rode. That was a pleasant ride, but it didn’t take us all the way to the Zcalo. So, we got off and caught another bus. This was not a double decker bus, but it probably had more people on it than the other one had. The seats were full, so we had to stand in the isle. We crowded in and figured it was as full as it could get. We were wrong. For the next three stops, fewer people got off than got on. They kept saying to crowd back, but we were already crowded back. At first we had to cling to bars to stay upright, but after the second stop, the bus was so crowded that holding onto the bars wasn’t necessary. We were so crammed in that there wasn’t enough room to fall over, so when the bus jolted or swerved, we all just kind of swayed together en masse. The door to enter the bus was at the front by the driver. The door to exit the bus was in the middle of the bus. Ron and I were in the isle between those two spots.  I wondered how people would manage to get to the middle of the bus to get off when their stop came. Well, I found out. Between me, Ron, and Ron’s backpack, I thought our spot in the isle was full, but this really big guy shoved his way between us. That pushed me down to where I was almost sitting in the lap of the person in the seat I was standing by. Ron said he was lying on top of the woman in the seat he was by. This was not a comfortable ride, but it was kind of funny. After we got off, Ron said he was pretty sure he’d been violated three times on that ride, but it was okay because he was pretty sure he’d violated three other people. Jerry Wright got a kick out of that. Later he said, “Ron’s going to make an appointment with the bishop, he’s not sure what he’s got to confess, but after that bus ride, he’s pretty sure there’s something he needs to confess.”

 


I’m glad we got to the Zcalo early so we could see it in daylight. The square wasn’t just decorated, it was filled with a huge holiday carnival. Thousands of people were there, probably tens of thousands. There was a Ferris wheel and other rides, booths with games and booths selling things, and two stages--one with a show for children and one with a woman singing Christmas songs. She was singing American songs in English. It felt Christmasy to us, but most of the people there probably had no idea what the words said, or if they did, what “winter wonderland” means. However, there was a “ride” where they could get a taste of winter fun. They had built a large structure which had two slides down it. The slides were covered with ice, and the kids slid down them on tubes to give them a taste of sledding. It was so fun to watch how much the kids loved it. The line snaked around like the rides in Disneyland, then went out the entrance of the carnival area and halfway down the block. Ron figured it was at least a quarter of a mile long—just to take a five second ride on a tube.

The Mexican version of  a sledding hill


The terrace where we ate

For dinner we went to a restaurant which was in an old building just across the street from the cathedral at the Zcalo. The maître d led us up two flights of old stairs to our table, which was on an open terrace which looked out onto the cathedral and the historic part of the city. He told us about the history of the building. It was originally part of the cathedral complex. Later it was an orphanage, then a hotel, and now a restaurant. The food was really good and company was great. As we ate, the evening turned to dusk, and the lights in the Zcalo came on. After dinner we were able to walk around and enjoy the Christmas lights. We decided to take the metro (subway) on our way home. On our way to the station, we came across a shop selling churros, and we couldn’t resist. The churros were filled with chocolate, cream, Nutella, or caramel, and they were delicious.

The outside of the restaurant

Inside the restaurant.















The view from the terrace where we ate





We spend a lot of time in Ubers. Ron is good at striking up conversations with the drivers. They usually ask what we’re doing in Mexico, and that makes a natural opening for him to tell them that we are here with La Iglesia de Jesucristo de los Santos de los Últimos Días (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.) He asks if they’re familiar with the church. Most aren’t. He’ll then say that we are sometimes called “Mormonas,” which they’ve usually heard of, but that isn’t the real name of the church. Sometimes they’ll have questions and he’ll discuss religion with them a little, but usually the conversation will go on to other topics like family, how good the weather is here, or what foods we should try—we’ve been given a lot of recommendations on dishes and restaurants. This week we had one man, who after Ron told him about the name of the church, asked, “What is the difference between your church and the Catholic church?” Ron said he’s found that most people don’t really understand in-depth the doctrines of the church they belong to, but this man did. Our ride was over twenty minutes long, and Ron and the driver spent the whole time talking about the structure and doctrine of our church and how it differs from Catholicism. I could understand most of what they were saying, and it was really an interesting conversation. Ron left a pass along card with the driver. He does that often. We wish we could track those cards and see what happens, but for now we have to be content with planting seeds.


Thursday we went with the Hansens, Davises, and Walkers to La Ciudadela, which is a huge indoor market filled with hundreds of booths of leather goods, pottery, clothing, jewelry, and just about any handcrafted item you can think of. One of the first things we saw when we walked in was a Mexican flag. Ron stopped and said, “I’ve been wanting one of those.” I about croaked, because he told me he wanted one several weeks ago, and I had one I’d purchased wrapped and sitting in my closet at our apartment waiting for Christmas. We were with the Walkers. I pulled Marsha aside and told her I already had a flag for him. Meanwhile, Tim was looking at the flag with Ron and encouraging him to get it. As soon as she had a chance without being conspicuous, Marsha told Tim. Then they helped me discourage Ron from buying it without giving away that he was getting one for Christmas.


It was fun for me just to look at everything at La Ciudadela. We’ll definitely be going back there when we’re close to going home. I love the pottery and hand-blown glass goblets. I’d take home a full set of pottery dishes and goblets if I could figure out how to get them there without having them break. Meanwhile, I just drool over them.

We ate lunch at a cute little restaurant in the center of La Ciudadela with the whole group. Again, good food and great company. We feel so blessed to be living where we have so many other missionary couples to associate with. We know that isn’t always the case for senior missionaries, and we are grateful for all the new friends we’ve made.


You can see why I'm drooling over the pottery!


Our driver on the way to La Ciudadela told us we should check out Mercado de San Juan which is only about three blocks away from La Ciudadela. He said it had a lot of good places to eat. After we finished shopping at La Ciudadela, the Hansens and Walkers headed home, but the Davises went with us to check out Mercado de San Juan. Although La Ciudadela is a place tourist often visit, the surrounding area isn’t touristy, so it was fun walking between the two markets and seeing the authentic shops and businesses. From what the driver said, we expected Mercado de San Juan to be full of restaurants, but it turned out to be a big food market with some tiny eating spots in it. The market was full of booths selling fresh produce on one end and fresh meat on the other end. A few booths sold spices, candy, bread, cheese, etc. but mostly it was fresh stuff. The place was busy with people buying food for their Christmas celebrations. We are going on a trip next week, so we didn’t want to buy much, but one very persuasive salesman got hold of Ron. The salesman gave us samples of tons of fruit, and we ended up bringing home more than we planned. The meat market was interesting—any kind of fish or sea food you can think of, whole chickens and geese, and even whole suckling pigs. I wasn’t tempted to buy anything there, but it was fun to see.


Would you prefer a Christmas goose or....

...pork for your holiday dinner?



Christmas Eve all the Teca Once missionaries got together for dinner. The Hansen’s hosted. Their traditional Christmas Eve dinner is prime rib, and they bought and prepared a huge one for us. The ovens here are a little finicky, so it was very impressive that they managed to cook that hunk of meat to a perfect medium rare. We ate like kings and had enough left over for Christmas Day.



Our Christmas Day was different than normal, but we enjoyed it. We slept in, and then opened our gifts to each other after we got up. We were able to video chat with each of our children and grandchildren, which took a good deal of the day. In the evening we got together with two of the other couples and played games. I was prepared to feel homesick on Christmas, but I passed the day just fine. What I wasn’t prepared for was today. I looked at all the Facebook posts of family get togethers, and that made me homesick. Even the pictures of the snow back home made me miss Idaho, and I hate the cold! We’re loving being here and serving a mission, but today I wish I could transport home for a day and hug my kids, grandbabies, and dear friends. I’ll be fine by tomorrow, but the ache I feel today reminds me how blessed I am to have so many people to love and miss.





Comments

  1. Dear Searle’s, we enjoyed reading all of the wonderful places you visit and eat meals at! Such authentic Mexican food! We haven’t had Mexican food here in York yet! We’ve had tea (dinner) at many members flats and each has been great. Curry, English scones and clotted cream, Thai and much more. Christmas is beautiful serving the Lord. We do miss our kids now and then, but it’s quite infrequent. Gods blessings.
    Merry Christmas 🎄

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  2. Your experiences and the pictures are so fun. What an amazing experience you are having. We did get snow here but I wouldn't be too homesick about it. It's freezing cold here. We continue to pray for all the missionaries. Someday, when we grow up, we want to go on missions like you!!

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