Guadalajara


We just got back from Guadalajara where we’ve been for a week. We were there for FIL, which is short for Feria Internacional del Libro. Most of what we’ve read about it says it’s the second largest book fair in the world, but one source said it was the largest. Either way, it’s huge. I think every major book publisher in the world, as well as many smaller ones, were there. It wasn’t held last year due to COVID, and this year they limited the number of people who could attend, so we heard that it was about half the size of normal. Even at that, it was massive. It had booths with games, movies, and crafts, but mostly books—so many books, vast numbers of books. Sadly for me, they were mostly in Spanish.


Our booth focused on the Book of Mormon this year and included elements to show how it is a companion with the Bible, both of them testifying of the divinity of Jesus Christ. The pictures in our booth were a big attraction, especially the large mural of the Christus. One woman stood in front of it almost in tears. I couldn’t understand all that she was saying, but I kept hearing her say it was beautiful. After she left, Ron told me she said most of the pictures she sees of Christ show him looking emaciated and in pain, but the Christus, although it has the wounds in his hands and feet, shows him healthy and whole, reaching out to us—the resurrected Lord, not the suffering one.



The booth was staffed by volunteers, most in their late teens and early twenties and many of whom came multiple days. They were amazing and fun! The fair had been going for a few days already when we arrived. We had a little handheld device that you “click” to count and the volunteers used it to keep track of how many people visited the booth each day. When we arrived, the tallies for each day had been hovering between 150 and 185. Wednesday we were there for the last shift, which ended at 9:00. The numbers were going higher than they had previously, and the volunteers were excited that we might break 200. At 8:30 we were at 197, but the crowd had thinned down to almost nothing. Most of the volunteers had given up for the

day and were sitting around a table talking, but one girl, Kendra, was still standing at the edge of the booth, waiting for people to come. Ron went over to her and started to say it was too bad we weren’t going to make 200, but she stopped him and said yes we were. Her tenacity and faith impressed him. A few minutes later, two people walked up to her, and she had a good conversation with them. Now, with only 15 minutes left and some of the booths starting to close, we were at 199. Kendra still stood there. A few minutes later two more people walked up to her, and she started talking to them, but they weren’t actually IN the booth. Now I would have counted them, but the boy holding the counter would not click the button until they entered. The table the other volunteers were sitting at was situated so that they could look right down the line where the carpet in the hall met the carpet in the booth. They stared down that line, the boy’s thumb poised over the button. Then Kendra took one step backwards, and the people took one step forward and “click” they were over the line. Our tally for the day was 201. We waited until the people left to give each other high fives. After that day, our tallies got a lot higher.
Gabby teaching

Saturday was our highest as 403. That was another day we gave high fives to each other.

The youngest volunteer was only 14 years old and was named Gabby. To look at her, you might expect her to be a little nervous and shy to approach strangers and talk to them about the Book of Mormon, but oh how deceiving appearances can be. That girl would walk up to anyone, and the conversations she had with them were long. It was so inspiring to me to watch her standing there with a middle-aged man or a thirty-something couple, teaching them. She increases my hope for the future.

We weren’t allowed to “proselytize” at the fair, but we could talk about the Book of Mormon and Bible and answer questions. What we couldn’t do was ask people if they would like to have missionaries visit them. However, we had four or five people who on their own asked if they could, so we took down a few names. One girl was literally jumping from excitement when Ron told her he would give her name to the missionaries, and she jumped even more when he offered her a free copy of the Book of Mormon. Ron loved that. He loved the whole experience because he said it felt like a “real” mission.

Ron teaching--we were asked to dress
more casually than is normal for
missionaries so that we would be more
approachable. Ron was absolutely fine
with ditching the white shirt and tie.

Interacting with people was harder for me with my limited Spanish. However, I found my niche. Many people walking past would stop to look at the Christus. When I noticed them, I would say, “Quieres un foto con el Christus?” (Do you want a picture with the Christus?) I could usually tell if they responded yes, which most did. Then I’d lead them over and take a picture for them. I told Ron and the others that after that, one of them needed to come over because that was as far as I could get. One of the volunteers said I was the “fotgrafo official.” Most of the volunteers could speak a little English, so between that and my little Spanish we usually managed to communicate.

The Mexican people are so open and warm. One woman, who was a member of the church, came into the booth with her daughter. I asked if she would like a photo with the Christus. She said yes, but then began talking rapidly and even became emotional. I made out a few words, but not enough to follow what she was saying. Ron came over and told me that she was saying that her husband had left her a few years earlier, and that it was Christ who had helped her through that. I was so grateful at that moment for the requirement that we wear masks in the booth because I had been standing there smiling behind mine, totally oblivious to what she was saying. Once I knew what she’d said, I hugged her but really didn’t have enough                                                                                            Spanish to say anything. After I took her picture, she started talking

to me again. This time I was able to understand that she was telling me about her son who served a mission in Boston—she showed me pictures—and that she was a florist. I told her I loved flowers too. After our interaction, which lasted maybe ten minutes, she thanked me and told me that I was in her heart now. Her openness and quickness to take me into her life is quite typical of the people we meet. After a few days of working together, one of the young volunteers told me it made her happy to hear me speak. I’m not sure if she liked hearing me try to speak Spanish or if she liked that I kept telling them all that they were “el major” (the best.) Then she told me that I was now a very important person in her life. I’m not saying all this to brag. I really didn’t do anything special or extraordinary. It’s just that these people are so open and ready to accept another person. We see it in Uber drivers, who after a fifteen-minute drive act like we’re best friends. We see it in the woman who stopped on the sidewalk to see if we needed help when we were trying to get an Uber. We even saw it in the security officer at the Guadalajara airport who didn’t get too shook up that I forgot to take a bottle of water out of Ron’s backpack before going through security.

From the left: Armando, Elder Ochoa from the Area Presidency, Sister Ochoa, Lucero, Gustavo,
Kate, and us

The hotel we stayed in was just a few blocks from the convention center, so we walked back and forth between the two a couple of times a day. The first morning as we were walking to the convention, I realized I could smell chocolate. We saw a Starbucks across the street and wondered if they were making hot chocolate, but the smell seemed too strong for that. As looked around more, we realized we were walking past a chocolate factory. We got to smell chocolate every time we made that walk, and I realized that smelling chocolate is almost as satisfying as eating it.


Gustavo, Armando, Lucero, and Kate all went to Guadalajara too. They had other business to take care of some of the time, but when they were available to be in the booth, Ron and I were able to slip away and see some of the city besides the convention center. One day we went to an area called Tlaquepaque, which I won’t even try to tell you how to pronounce. It was once a town of its own, but it has now been engulfed into Guadalajara. It’s a fun area with lots of restaurants and shops full of artisan creations. Guadalajara is famous for its mariachi bands and tequila. We didn’t experience the tequila, but we did find a fun restaurant with a mariachi band. It was down a little hallway between a couple of shops. At its end, the hall opened into a covered courtyard with trees growing through openings in the pavers. I had a wonderful garlic shrimp dish. Ron had shrimp ceviche. He likes spicy food, but he said that was even a little too spicy for him, but it was delicious, so he ate it. On the subject of spicy, I am adjusting to eating things spicier than I could before we came here. On our last night in Guadalajara, we ordered guacamole. We’ve had it several times since coming here. Sometimes it’s mild and
The cute hall leading to the restaurant

sometimes it’s spicy. This one was definitely spicy, but I ate it anyway. Ron kept saying, “I can’t believe you’re eating this.” It did make my mouth burn, but I could handle it. That reminded me of when we ordered guacamole the first week we were here. That time is was about as spicy as this one, and I was disappointed because I couldn’t eat it then.


My unspicy dish
Ron's spicy one
A gazebo with a nativity in it in a plaza in Tlaquepaque




Templo Expiatorio


One afternoon Kate went with us to the historic center of Guadalajara. We saw lots of old churches, parks, and plazas. Christmas decorations were going up all over, and it was fun to see them, even though it does not feel a bit like Christmas to us—it’s way too warm. The high was 80° every day we were in Guadalajara, seriously 80°! (I’m showing my sadistic side by repeating that for all my Idaho friends.) In Mexico City, it’s been in the 70s ever since we got here. Yet, people here are wearing coats! I guess it’s all a matter of what you’re acclimated to. Anyway, we had fun walking around the old part of Guadalajara. I’d looked a few things up before we went, but mainly we were just wandering. Afterwards we had a woman who works for the church as a translator tell us about places we should have gone to see while we were there. I guess that will give us more to see the next time we are in Guadalajara.




Guadalajara Cathedral



This gorgeous gazebo was built in France, then
shipped across the ocean in pieces and reassembled here.


A giant nativity was being assembled in the plaza
and it was fun to watch the work

A monument built to honor some of the notable people from
Hidalgo, the state Guadalajara is located in.


We’ve been told things will slow down a lot in the office now. We’ll see. Maybe that will mean I won’t have so much to write. Or maybe it will mean we’ll have more time to explore fun things.










Comments

  1. Your best report yet! Well done. Love the food pics. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Love all the beautiful Pictures of the old cathedrals and churches there in Mexico. You are a huge blessing to these people who are so warm and welcoming. I know God places us and just the perfect location to serve our mission. We love you

    ReplyDelete

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