Feliz Navidad

Merry Christmas! Or should I say, “Merry day after Christmas!” We had a fun week leading up to Christmas, though it was tinged with a little homesickness. The Giving Machines continued to take up the majority of our time and attention. Thursday we took the Wrights with us to the machine at Town Center el Rosario. The Frandsens and Deavers met us there, and after they all made donations, we went to dinner together at Chilis. Yes, that is the same chain as in the United States. As far as I could tell, the menu is pretty much the same too. It was a fun evening that was a mixture of work and play.

    

Missionaries from two of the Mexico City missions are manning the Giving Machines four afternoons each week. We arrived at Gran Sur when these two were just finishing up. Ron bought them milkshakes and we took this photo together.

A couple of weeks ago, the Zapatas told us their daughter Sarai would be coming to visit them. We met Sarai when we went to Merida with Living Legends, and we said we would love to see her again. Last Monday, Manuel Zapata, Sarai, us, and the Everetts went to Que Lata for dinner. (Ginny Zapata was in Veracruz with their other daughter.) Que Lata is our favorite place to get authentic Mexican tacos. It’s just a step up from street tacos since it has tables you can sit at. We had a fun evening, and it was such fun to see Sarai again. She teaches English to middle school aged kids, so she speaks English well. Manuel only speaks English a little better than I speak Spanish, so the conversation flitted back and forth between the two languages.



Speaking of Living Legends, which I did in that last paragraph, when they came last spring, they hired a travel agency to take care of all their travel inside Mexico. The agency had a man named Luis travel with the group to make sure everything went well and to take care of things that didn’t. He was really a nice guy, and everyone came to love him. He especially became friends with Moises, who was one of the directors for the Living Legends, and Alfredo, who works with us. There were several times during the tour when we could see that Luis was touched by the Spirit. This week Moises messaged us that Luis and his whole family are going to be baptized. That was the best Christmas gift we could have been given!

Last week we told the Deavers about Lincoln Park. They hadn’t been there yet and wanted to see it, so we told them we’d take them there Friday evening. The Davises and Wrights joined us. We planned to take a bus to the Auditorio Nacional and walk from there to Lincoln Park. We did do that, but doing it wasn’t quite as easy as we expected. We walked up the hill to the bus stop where we often catch buses. The first bus that came was so full we couldn’t all get on. That’s saying a lot, because we’ve ridden some buses that were so full that people were hanging out the doors and those of us who were inside didn’t even have to hold on to anything to stay upright when the bus swerved around corners. The next bus passed by the stop where we were waiting without even slowing down. We could tell it was really full too. The next bus did the same. At that point we debated calling an Uber or going somewhere else. Fortunately, we were able to get on the next bus. It was starting to get dark by the time we arrived at Lincoln Park, so we didn’t spend a lot of time there. We mainly just crossed it to find a restaurant in the Polanco neighborhood that surrounds it. As we did, we saw stands selling poinsettias and real Christmas trees. Even though they were for sale, they were arranged beautifully, and we loved looking at them and smelling the trees. Polanco is a lovely neighborhood with a lot of old Spanish style mansions. Some of them are now embassies. Others have been turned into apartments, shops, and restaurants. It is a fun neighborhood just to walk through. Deciding which restaurant to have dinner at was challenging because there were so many. We asked a group of young women which one they would recommend, and they gave us two options. We chose one called Mandolina, which is in part of one of the old mansions. I think everyone enjoyed their food, so it’s a place we’d go back to again.


     

All of us standing on the steps into the building which houses the Mandolina. You can't see much of it, but maybe enough to appreciate the size and craftsmanship of this old mansion.

Saturday, Christmas Eve, most of the Teca Once missionaries went to the CCM to help with the activities for the young missionaries. We had to leave before 9:00 in the morning and we didn’t get back until almost 10:00 at night, so it was a full day. That was good for me, because I’d been feeling a little homesick being away from my family for Christmas, and being involved at the CCM helped with that. They had all the couples who went there to help draw numbers to determine which couples would pair up. We got paired with Barry and Jill Lloyd, who live by the temple. They are humanitarian missionaries, and we interact with them quite a bit since our department covers the humanitarian projects. They are such dear people, and we always enjoy the time we get to spend with them. They will finish their mission in January, and we will miss them. At the CCM, they had stations with different activities. They divided the missionaries into groups and had them rotate through the stations. Some of the activities were fun and active. Others were more spiritual. We and the Lloyds were assigned to go through the rotations with one of the groups. We had fun playing ping pong, laughed as we watched pinatas being attacked, and loved hearing the missionaries bear their testimonies of Jesus Christ. The evening activity included a Posada. This is a Mexican tradition which usually takes place during the evenings of December 16 to 24 and commemorates Joseph and Mary’s journey to Bethlehem and their efforts to find lodging. Groups of people carry candles (or in the case of the missionaries, lights on their cell phones) through the streets and stop at houses to ask for lodging. They are turned away until they reach the designated home where they are invited in for a feast and a party. For the Posada at the CCM, they had the senior missionaries go to different houses in the complex and turn the group away when they came. When the group came to my door, I said, “No hay espacio. Salga! Pero primero, una foto, por favor.” (There isn’t room. Leave! But first, a photo, please.) Ron laughed when he heard I’d said that, but I did get a photo of the group and he didn’t, so… The Posada ended at the auditorium, where there was a beautiful Christmas program. President Kirkham said it was like a Primary nativity on steroids, which pretty much summed it up. At one point during the day, we had a little break while everyone changed clothes and got ready for dinner. There was a baby grand piano in the lobby of the building we were in, and some of the senior missionaries gathered around it and sang Christmas hymns. I think that was my favorite part of a day that turned out to be wonderful overall.


One of the activities had each district create a "Gratitude" poster. It was fun to see what they came up with.
     

     

     

This was one determined young man. After he finished his turn, I told him I had a photo he'd probably want. When he saw it, he said, "Heck yes!" So I sent it to him.
     
This is the group I turned away during the Posada
     
The weather here has been a little chilly, but nothing compared to what we hear it's like back home. This is what it looked like at the CCM on Christmas Eve.
     


Christmas Day we went to church, opened our few presents, and talked to our kids and grandkids. In the afternoon we had a Christmas dinner with the Teca Once missionaries and a group of immigrants from Russia, who are attending our ward while they are waiting to go to the United States. The dinner was really good, and we tried some Russian dishes for the first time. They were pretty good. The Russians told us the names of the dishes, but I couldn’t understand them when they said them, let alone spell them. Some of the Russians served missions together, and as we spoke, we found out their mission president was Brent Rawson, who grew up in Shelley and who we know! So we took a picture of us all together, and I sent it to him. He responded saying these people are “the best.” We don’t know them that well, but they seem pretty great to us. One of them is being sponsored by a missionary companion who lives in Boise, Idaho, and that is where he is headed. He is from Siberia and he likes to hunt and fish, so I told him he’d feel right at home in Idaho. After dinner, Pat Wright had us all draw slips of paper out of a hat to determine the parts we would play in a reenactment of the nativity. I was a wiseman and Ron was a shepherd. She said we had two minutes to come up with costumes, though we probably took five. It was funny to see what everyone came up with. We had a lively nativity. As they were leaving, one of the young Russian women told us that when she is with us, she feels like we are young. That was a sweet thing to say to a bunch of old, senior missionaries.

I took this photo of our dinner table from the balcony a couple of floors up. It was decorated so lovely!

     

This is Jake. He has Down's Syndrome and is in Mexico with his parents who are serving as missionaries. His mom, Debbie, told me they took him to the store and showed him pictures of the missionaries, and he chose what to get them for Christmas. For me, he picked out the earring I am wearing in this photo.
     
Here are the Deavers playing Mary and Joseph, and Dave Barnett playing the donkey.
    
This is Ron as a shepherd. The new bathrobe I got for Christmas came in handy for his costume.

Our Christmas celebration was different than usual this year, but it was still Christmas! I look forward to celebrating next year with family back in Idaho, but I will remember this year fondly.

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