Cha-Cha-Cha-Changes

 

A lot of changes are taking place here. First, the Alsops are going home on Monday. They’ve finished their mission. The Wrights were leaving town, so they invited a group of us to go with them and the Alsops for a farewell dinner early in the week, and on Friday, the Teca Once women had a farewell lunch for Jessica. On top of that, the Alsops had us over for dinner a couple of times. Jessica is a great cook, and she was trying to use up what was in her fridge. She has fixed dinner for us a lot since we’ve been here, and Bob loves to go out to restaurants and often invites us to go along. We’ve joked that we’ll really miss them because now we’re going to have to start cooking for ourselves. But in truth it will be more than that. They’ve been our cohorts on many of our adventures, and we have many fond memories of all the time we’ve spent together and the fun things we've done. 

Another change is that today was our last day helping at the CCM (the Mexico City MTC). We said good-bye to our last two districts and branches 14 and 15 were disbanded. Those two branches were formed to help get the CCM through a stretch where they had more missionaries than usual arriving. Now the numbers have dropped back to normal. We have loved our time there. Ron was the first counselor to President Aguilar in branch 15. He and his wife, Blanca, are such wonderful people. They are warm, and kind, and wise, and fun. You can’t beat that combination. Plus it was so fun and inspiring to be able to spend time around the young missionaries. We only spent a short time with them, but we came to love them all!

Saturday Aguilars took us and the Thomases (the other counselor) for a farewell dinner. (We had a lot of those this week.) We live in Techamachalo, which is over half an hour from where they live when the traffic is good. (When it isn’t, it’s even longer.) The Thomases live by the temple, which is about an hour from us. The restaurant they took us to was about half an hour from there. The Aguilars insisted on picking up us all and taking us there and back home. It made for a lot of driving for them, but we enjoyed the conversation. As we were parking, Blanca jumped out of the car and took off. I didn’t realize what she was doing until the rest of us walked over to the restaurant and saw that there was a line nearly a block long of people waiting to eat there. She was in line saving us a place. They said there is a line there from the moment it opens in the morning until it closes. Fortunately, the line moved quickly. It was a huge restaurant—three stories tall with a large dining room on each floor, and it was packed. We and the Thomases were the only gringos in the place, which we took as a good sign that the food was authentic and good. In that we weren’t disappointed. It was delicious! We ate all different kinds of tacos, including one that President Aguilar handed Ron half of for us to try. I didn’t understand the word he used to say what it was, but as Ron handed me a chunk of it, Linda Thomas whispered to me that it was brains. My piece was big enough to be one big bite or two small ones. I decided to make it one bite so if I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t have to have another bite. However, it was pretty good, so another bite would not have been bad. Blanca taught us something interesting. If you’ve ever eaten street tacos, which are the closest you’ll come to authentic Mexican tacos in the U.S., you’ve probably noticed that they always come with two tortillas. I assumed that was because there’s always enough meat on them for two tacos. However, Blanca said the practice of having two tortillas per taco was started by moms who were trying to keep hungry kids fed. Tortillas are cheap and filling. By putting two around a little meat, which is expensive, the kids filled up faster. Besides the good food, one thing that made the evening fun was the good company. It helped that I have been doing better at understanding Spanish. There are still times I don’t get anything at all, but the past week or so I’ve noticed that I do understand quite a bit. We had one meeting with our department this week where I understood almost everything. That was a good feeling. It makes it much easier to feel like part of the group. I’ve even got a little braver about trying to speak.


     
Some of the delicious food we ate

Another change is the month when we will be returning home. As we considered going on a mission, we thought if we left in October and served for a year and a half, we’d get home in April—the perfect time to start working in our yard and garden and getting them ready for the summer. It was a great plan. But sometimes the Spirit has different ideas. It’s like they say: “How do you make God laugh? Tell him your plans.” Just yesterday the Church News posted an article about some changes for the Tabernacle Choir. One brief line in that article explains our change of plans. It says, “The choir also announced plans to travel to Mexico City, Mexico, June 13-19, 2023.” A few months ago, Gustavo told us the Choir was considering coming to Mexico. On top of that, he told us that Justin Smith had been hired to be in charge of the Choir’s tours. Previously, Justin was in charge of the tours for BYU’s performing arts department, and we worked with him to coordinate the Living Legends tour of Mexico last Spring. As Gustavo told us about this, I was filled with this intense feeling of excitement, and felt like this was meant to be. Although I love it here in Mexico, I have really missed being with my children and grandchildren, and have practically been counting the days until April, when I would be going home. After Gustavo told us about the Choir, we walked from the office to Teca Once in silence. When we got on the elevator, I said, “I’m going to say something I never thought I’d say. IF the Tabernacle Choir decides to come to Mexico, and IF our department is going to be involved in the planning, we could extend our mission.” Ron replied, “I was thinking the same thing, but I didn’t dare say it.” As the weeks since then have passed, those IFs have become definites, so a few weeks ago we sent in a request to extend until the end of June. We were approved two weeks ago. There are moments when I really feel homesick and think, “Why did we do that?” but then I remember the feeling I had when we first heard about it. I know that was the Spirit telling me it was what we’re supposed to do, and that tells me it will be a good thing. Multiple departments in the area office will be involved in the planning of the Choir’s visit. We’ve already been in a couple of planning meetings, and the scope of this project is massive. I’m sure we’ll just play a small part in the planning and execution of this event, but if enough people help, it’ll get done.


Meanwhile, we are gearing up for the launch of Illumina el Mundo (Light the World) and the Giving Machines. It’s only a week away, and we still have a lot to do! If at this point we were a month out, I’d feel comfortable. The great thing is we have signed contracts for the locations. Just like with Living Legends, getting that done was a major hurdle. We’ve looked at a lot of malls in Mexico City checking them out as possible locations. There are tons of them here, and they are as nice or nicer than any I’ve seen in the U.S. A month ago, we thought we had spots in two very nice, higher end malls. Gustavo had pulled a few strings to make that happen. However, right as they were getting ready to sign the contracts, one of the major department stores protested letting us in because we are a church. Gustavo tried to explain that the Giving Machines are not a religious project. There is no proselyting at them; they are strictly humanitarian. But that was to no avail. Fortunately, Alfredo had already been in contact with a woman who is an agent, and with her help he was able to get us spots in two other malls very quickly. These malls aren’t as high end but are still very nice—more middle class. When we visited them, they had lots of people, and especially families, at them. We’ve decided they might be the better options after all. On our visit to Town Center Rosario, we discovered that their security is really on the ball. I took multiple photos of our spot from several angles and locations. Then we were standing along a rail talking and a security guard came up and started speaking to us. I didn’t understand what he was saying, but Alfredo did. He told us the guard was concerned about all the pictures I was taking. Alfredo explained to him that we were renting that spot. He was very nice, and I never felt threatened, but it’s good to know someone will be keeping an eye on things.


This photo and the previous ones have Ron standing in the spots where the Giving Machines will be. This was the mall where the security guard came up to us. We were standing across the way by the Christmas tree when he did so.
     
The cards for in the Giving Machines arrived this week. These ones will be in the machines. The large ones like the one below will be for people to take their photos with to post on social media.
     


Here are a few random pictures from this week:

     

Another change this week--they took the Christmas tree out of our lobby and put it in the finance department. Then they put up a different tree in our lobby. Marybelle, the receptionist, gave everyone who was there that day a bag with about six ornaments to put on the tree. This is me with my dear friend Ginny Zapata while we were helping decorate the tree.

     

With the beautiful weather here, it is sometimes hard to feel like it's the holiday season. However, our visits to malls have reminded us that it is. I particularly loved this from a mall we went to this weekend.

     

There's hardly a store we have in the U.S. that they don't have in Mexico. This weekend we found a Bath and Body Works. I've been hoarding the last tube I brought of my favorite scented body lotion, but now I'm stocked back up!

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving this week. It will be a work day for us, but the Teca Once missionaries will be having a dinner together that evening. I think we'll even have turkey, and I know we'll have pumpkin pie. All we'll be missing is our family and friends from home.

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