What Day Is This?

 


The Living Legends last performance in Mexico was on Friday, and we arrived back in Mexico City on Saturday. We slept a lot yesterday and today are trying to get our feet back on the ground and come up from the blur of events that has been our lives for the past three weeks. It reached a point where we didn’t even know what day of the week it was, let alone what the date was. We just went by what was on the schedule for the next day—was it a performance day, a travel day, an outreach day? A week ago on Saturday, we saw an advertisement for Mother’s Day. It seemed to imply that Mother’s Day was coming right up, and that surprised me. I checked online and found out it was the next day! I had no idea we were that far into May! Thank goodness the photos on my phone are in order and I have the schedule for the tour, or I wouldn’t be able to begin to keep track of all that went on.

  


             Following the performances in Mexico City, Ron and I drove to Puebla with Michelle, who we work with in the communications department. We left early in the morning because it was May 5, and we wanted to be in Puebla for the celebration of Cinco de Mayo. The United States has the misconception that Cinco de Mayo is Mexico’s Independence Day. It isn’t. That is September 16. Cinco de Mayo commemorates a battle in which the Mexican army defeated the French army. Most of Mexico does not celebrate it, but Puebla does because that is where the battle took place. There they hold a reenactment and a parade. We did not get there in time for that. However, for several days around Cinco de Mayo they hold a huge fair in Puebla. The Living Legends were invited to perform at the fair, so after checking into our hotel, we headed there. The traffic going to the fair was unbelievable. We got in a line of cars that was several blocks long and moving at less than a snail’s pace. We would have just parked the car and walked the last several blocks, but there was no place to park. Finally, fearing we would miss the performance, Michelle and I got out and left Ron to inch along to the parking lot. However, once we were in the fairgrounds, we realized how massive they were, and we had no idea where the stage for the performance was. We asked someone for directions and were sent to the complete opposite side of the fair. When we got there, we found out that was a different performance. Michelle finally got hold of Viridiana Lechuga, our local communications director in Puebla, and she told us where to go. It was inside a large convention center where all the sales booths were set up. In the center of the building was an area roped off for a stage, where free entertainment was provided. We missed Living Legends’ first number, but fortunately they were alternating their performances with other groups, so even Ron made it there for two of their numbers. After they performed, we had some free time to wander around and eat fair food. Ron was approached by a woman offering him a sample of a drink. She said the word “cranberry,” so he took it. But when he drank it, he realized it wasn’t cranberry juice. That’s when he noticed the sign on the woman’s booth, which said, “Cranberry Mezcal.” So Ron can now say he really has had a taste of Mexico.

Fair Food in Mexico!
    
I loved the woven ceiling inside the convention center where the fair was held.

           


    The following morning we had a few hours before we had to be at the theater, so Sister Lechuga had a group of Young Adults meet us at the zocalo in Cholula. (One of Ron’s great disappointments was learning that Cholula sauce is not made in Cholula Mexico.) They took us to the Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de los Remedios, which is a Catholic church that sits on what looks like a large hill. The hill is in reality a pyramid called Tlachihualtepetl, which means “mountain made by hand.” It is by volume the largest pyramid in the world. It is not known whether the pyramid became buried and overgrown naturally overtime, or if it was intentionally buried to hide it from the Spanish. It has been partially excavated and sometimes tourists are allowed to go inside, but not that day. So we had to be satisfied with hiking up the hill to the church and seeing the spectacular view from the top. After that, we had some free time to shop at a little market in Cholula. A man was playing a drum at one of the booths which had a large open area in front of it. Some of the guys from Living Legends started taking turns doing dance steps to the drumbeat. Soon a large group was gathered around watching. That is one of the fun things about travelling with a group like Living Legends, you never know when spontaneous dancing is going to erupt.

This is a model of the pyramid mound with the chapel on top
    
The amazing view from the top of the mound
   
The woman on the left is named Mercy. She works on the Puebla communications committee. She wanted to have her picture taken with us because she said her children don't believe she knows some "celebrities." I don't think we convinced her that even after meeting us, she still doesn't know any celebrities.
   
The communications department in Puebla organized a lovely dinner for us before the performance there. They even had an orchestra playing at it. They were very good!

 


              We had a neat thing happen at the theater in Puebla. Alfredo, who is from our department, had the burdensome job of dealing with all the theaters, getting contracts signed, and making arrangements. He was feeling frustrated with the manager of the theater in Puebla because the man was not cooperative at all. When we arrived at the theater, we could see that the manager didn’t seem very excited about having us there. Besides dancing, the Living Legends sing together beautifully. In fact, they could probably tour as a singing group. They have several songs that they would often perform as a way of saying “thank you” to people. They sang for the theater crew in Puebla, including the manager. The song was in Tongan, but before singing, one of the girls explained that it was about the sun rising and chasing away the darkness. She then said they liked to compare it to Jesus Christ who is the light that chases away the darkness in our lives. Even though we could not understand the words, the song was powerful every time we heard it. That power was not lost on the manager of the theater. When the song ended, he had tears running down his cheeks, and his demeanor towards the group completely changed.

               The following morning, we headed back to Mexico City to catch a flight to Merida. Jamie, the director of Living Legends, realized shortly after arriving in Puebla that she had left her passport, wedding ring, credit card, and cash in the safe of her hotel room in Mexico City. She called the hotel and they were holding them for her, so we offered to leave a little earlier than we planned and take her to get them before going to the airport. This meant driving through more of the city than we would have had to otherwise, and that led to a little run-in with a policeman. We were able to get off with paying a “fine” which took all the cash we had on us. We use our credit cards as much as possible, but some places in Mexico require cash. So there we were, heading to the airport to leave for a week with no cash on us. We usually use our debit cards to get cash, but we don’t normally carry those with us. I had gotten PINs for our credit cards before coming to Mexico in case we ever needed them, but we had never tried them out. When we arrived in Merida, we found an ATM. Ron couldn’t get his to work, but mine did. When we heard the machine start counting out the cash, Ron said he felt like he’d just hit the jackpot on a slot machine.

 


              We arrived in Merida several hours before the Living Legends did. Michelle offered to take us to Progresso. We didn’t know what that was, but agreed anyway. It turned out to be a cute little seaside community just outside of Merida, and we got out first glimpse of the ocean in Mexico. Michelle’s family often vacationed there when she was young, and she enjoyed showing us around. She introduced us to marquesitas, which are kind of like a crisp crepe topped with whatever you choose and rolled up. We chose Nutella and bananas. It also included cheese, because the name comes from “mar” which means ocean and “queso” which means cheese, so marquesitas always have cheese. It was delicious!
     
Rosa fixing our marquesita. She told us her name was like "Rose" from the movie "Titanic."
     



 


              On Sunday, families in Merida took the Living Legends students to church and then to their homes for lunch. The rest of us were on our own. The Zapatas, who are serving in the area office and live in Teca Once, are from Merida. They have a daughter, Sarai, who lives there. We called her and arranged to go to church with her. She was so darling! It was such a pleasure to meet her. She was teaching the Young Women that day, and I went to class with her. Even though the lesson was taught in Spanish, I was able to follow it well enough that I even answered a question…correctly…in Spanish! Following church, we went to dinner with Sarai. It was fun visiting with her. We told her that her parents sometimes play games with us. She said, “You need to watch out for my mother. She cheats.” Then she laughed and said, “Don’t tell her I said that.”

 


              The theater in Merida was a cool old building that was built between 1900 and 1908. It had obviously been very grand in its day. It is now showing a bit of wear but is still stately and beautiful. We went to the historic part of the city several hours before we had to be at the theater so we could explore. We hadn’t planned on doing any shopping, but we ended up buying a lot of stuff. We weren’t the only ones. After Cholula and Merida, most of the girls in the group were wearing Mexican dresses. It was such a beautiful area, but the temperature was 103° and the humidity was high, so we were happy when we could escape into the air-conditioned theater. However, the heat and humidity took its toll. After the performance that evening, two of the girls passed out, mainly from dehydration. We always had paramedics on hand at the theaters, and they got used that evening.
How could we resist buying something from these cute women!
    
The lobby in Teatro Jose Peon Contreras, where Living Legends performed in Merida
    
     
The chandelier and ceiling inside the theater
     
I loved seeing the costumes laid out ready for a performance. It might look like chaos, but there is definitely organization in this chaos.

 


              The following day, Ron and I drove with Alfredo to Cancun. Michelle went with Living Legends on their bus, which was stopping at a lot of sites along the way. That left us on our own for the evening. Our hotel was in the hotel district but on the lagoon side not the beach side. Swimming is not allowed in the lagoon because crocodiles live there. However, we just had to cross the highway (albeit a very busy one) to get to the beach side. We walked along the beach a little that evening, then took a bus into the city. I can’t remember what we were trying to find, but we didn’t find it. What we DID find was a row of cute open-air restaurants. We had dinner at one of them. It was delicious, and had we had more time in Cancun, we would have returned.
Dressed up for an evening out, wearing the clothes we bought in Merida.
     
Our hotel in Cancun

     
We did manage to find about an hour to spend on the beach in Cancun,
     

         

          The following day Living Legends was going to Xcaret. We decided to splurge and go also. We’ve heard Xcaret described as the Disneyland of Mexico. I don’t know it that fits because it really isn’t the best place for young children. However, for adults, it’s awesome! One feature is a lazy river, but not like any lazy river I’ve been on before. To go in it, you put on a life jacket but don’t get a tube. Then you float along through underground tunnels and canyons. Ron got out early, because he was holding the key to one of the bags we’d all put our belongings into. Most of the students were ahead of us, and Ron figured they’d be anxious to get into the bag when they reached the end. There were several points along the way where you could get out early, and he figured he could reach the end faster by walking than by floating. I stayed in with Michelle and Jaime. It took us about an hour to get to the end. Xcaret also has an awesome butterfly house and aviary. We loved the colorful birds. Our favorite was seeing the toucans. I’ve seen pictures of them, but they are even more amazing to see in real life. Sadly, my phone died before I got a photo of them, but I'm sure if I had, it wouldn't have done them justice. That evening we attended the Xcaret Mexico Espectacular, an amazing show which chronicles the history of Mexico through songs and dances, beginning with the Mayans. It really was spectacular!


     

    

     

Iguanas were all over the place at Xcaret. This guy was good enough to pose for me.
     


     


 


              Marco Parroquin, our local communications director, had arranged for a press conference for Living Legends the following morning. It was at 9:00. We had an outreach with Anáhuac, one of Mexico’s leading universities, at 11:00. I wondered why Marco had scheduled them so far apart. In my mind, you show up at a press conference, the reporters ask some questions, then they leave to go write their stories. It takes half an hour tops. I forgot, I’m in Mexico. The press conference was held at a restaurant where we had breakfast and visited before getting down to business. That’s one thing I love about Mexicans, they are as focused on people and relationships as they are on business. Anyway, we ended up having to rush to make it to Anáhuac on time.


               Anáhuac is affiliated with the Catholic Church. Living Legends taught the students they met with a Polynesian dance. Then some of the dance professors from the college performed for us. The head of cultural events for the university spoke at the end and said how the light in the eyes of these students and in the eyes of the students at the university gave him hope for the future. Living Legends ended the meeting by singing the song I spoke about earlier and again explaining the meaning. After they were done, the man came over to me and Ron. He said what a gift it was for his university to be visited by these young people who spoke of Jesus Christ and had such a light about them. We told him what an honor it was for us to visit this university where we could be with other people who shared our faith in Jesus Christ. The man had such a sweet, humble spirit about him. Speaking with him was such a sweet experience.




Michelle, Marco Parroquin, us, Alfredo

 


              The last performance of the tour was the one in Cancun. I would have thought that after watching the program so many times, I would be tired of it. However, I actually felt sad knowing I would never be able to watch it again. As we were greeting people that evening, I met a darling young couple from Canada. They had been in Cancun for two months with his job. She had checked what was on at the theater just to find something new for them to do. They came having no idea what “Living Legends” was. I showed them where to get tickets and then sent them the program in English over WhatsApp. I spoke with them again after the performance, and she was beaming. They said they loved cultural dancing and it was the best show of that kind they had ever seen. I introduced them to Jaime, and they asked if they could follow the group on social media. The next afternoon as we were sitting in the Cancun airport waiting for our plane to take us back to Mexico City, I received a WhatsApp message from her. She thanked me for helping them and for introducing them to Jaime. She said it would be fun to see us again. I told her if they get to Mexico City in the next year, let me know and we’d love to see them again. I was sincere in that. They had such a sweet spirit about them, and in only a few minutes, they felt like old friends.


The entrance to the theater in Cancun
     
These faces have all become so dear to me. From the left they are Michelle, Moises and his wife (he was the tour director from BYU), Alfredo, Jaime, Kevin (the technical director from BYU) and us.

               So much of our mission so far has been focused on the Living Legends tour. We have no idea what we will be doing now that it is over. All the work and stress we put into it was so worth it. We felt a lot of opposition as we worked to make arrangements, but we also saw many tender mercies and little miracles that made things work out. In the end, the performances were all met with enthusiasm. Many hearts were touched by the performances, by the firesides the group put on, and by other interactions they had. I can honestly say, it was a great success! Personally, we had many special experiences and now carry with us memories from it that we will cherish forever.

              

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