It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas



I’m a day late writing my blog because yesterday one of the volunteers for the Giving Machines messaged us that he was sick and wouldn’t be able to fill his shift. Ron and I left church after Sacrament Meeting and headed to the mall to take his place. I’ve been lining up the volunteers, but this is the first time we’ve taken a shift. It was a fun and interesting experience. The first hour and a half were sloooooooow. No one came to donate, and we couldn’t get anyone to show any interest. Then we had a huge group show up. They were all from the Laureles Ward, and after their church meetings, they all came together to donate. We had so much fun talking with them, helping them with the machines, and taking their photos. I had a long conversation (well, long for me) in Spanish with two women, and I think we communicated quite well. In fact, I got quite a bit of practice speaking and listening while we were at the mall. I’d probably pick up Spanish a lot faster if I had to use it all the time like I did there. After the Ward left, we had several other smaller groups come up, and we ended up having one of our best days yet. As we were planning how to promote the Giving Machines, we discussed having a flyer for the volunteers to hand out, but we dismissed the idea because Alfredo said they’d just end up being thrown away, and we agreed he was probably right. However, our volunteers have been saying they thought it would be good if they had something to hand out. So we made little cards that say the Spanish equivalent of “The Giving Machines make giving something to someone in need as easy as buying a candy bar” and list the locations. They also have a QR code on them that links to maquinasdedonacion.org. This weekend was the first time we’ve had them at the machines to hand out. I gave out several. Towards the end of our shift, a man carrying a little boy came up and asked me, “What is this?” His tone implied that he kind of got the idea but wanted it clarified. I had Ron talk to him. He ended up buying something. As he left the booth, a woman walked up to him and took the little boy, so that I could tell she was with him. I recognized her as a woman I had given a card to a little earlier. So I think the cards do help generate interest.


     

This photo is for my brother Eric and his wife, Laurel. They and some of my other siblings have so generously sent us money to buy things in the Giving Machines. When I told Eric what we'd purchased with the money they sent, he said those were probably the best gifts they'll give this Christmas.

We had some fun Christmas events this week. On Thursday, the Young Men from the Lomas Ward came Christmas caroling to us. (The Lomas Ward is an English speaking Ward which we attend.) We knew ahead they were coming, and they planned to come to each of our apartments individually. However, their ensemble included a trumpet and a saxophone, and when they started caroling at the Wrights, it was loud enough for us all. Since there is a large open area outside the Wright’s apartment, we all congregated there, and they caroled for us all together. Besides the trumpet and sax, they also had a violin and a guitar, which accompanied some of their songs. It was fun for us, and their leaders told us later that the boys enjoyed it too. 

On Friday, we had our 2nd annual Christmas dinner for the Teca Once staff—however, it was a breakfast this year, because that is when we could get the entire staff together. Ron organized it. We had Chilaquiles, enfrijoladas, and a breakfast burrito bar. Chilaquiles are totopos (thick corn chips) covered in a red or green salsa (we had green) with shredded chicken, onions, crema, and cotija cheese. There is a woman who sells them on the street outside our office building on Wednesday and Friday mornings, and people line up to buy them. Ron ordered them from her for the breakfast. Enfrijoladas are kind of like enchiladas but with beans instead of meat or chicken, and breakfast burritos are a gringo dish. It was a feast, and as usual, we had way more food than we needed. Ron and Ginny Zapata gave beautiful messages, and we presented each of the staff members with a wrapped gift that was a crystal cube with the 3-D image of the Christus lasered into it. It was a nice celebration!

Vickie Deaver was in charge of our table decorations and did a lovely job. She and Pat Wright salvaged the pine boughs from a clean up project the city was doing along our street, and they gave the table a very Christmasy feeling.

      

Pat Frandsen took this photo of the group at the breakfast, which is why she isn't in it
     
These two work togehter at the front desk of Teca Once, and we've all enjoyed watching a bit of a romance blossom between them.
     
These are the people who take care of us at Teca Once!

One evening we walked with the Deavers to Prado Norte for dinner. On the way we came across a Christmas tree lot selling real, actual, fresh Christmas trees. They were firs, and when I closed my eyes and breathed in their scent, I could have sworn I was back home in Idaho. I think that smell more than anything else made it feel like Christmas to me. I’m used to snow and cold for Christmas, and It’s been hard for me to catch the holiday feeling when the weather is as lovely as it is here. However, we’ve been looking at the weather forecast for Shelley, and that has squelched any homesickness I have been tempted to feel.


The Christmas tree lot also sold pinatas, poinsettias, and even cinnamon scented pine cones. If the smell of the trees hadn't put me in the Christmas mood, the pine cones would have.

On Saturday, we went with the Wrights and Deavers to see the Basilica of Santa María de Guadalupe. We planned to take one bus to Campo Marte and then catch another one to the basilica. However, when we got to the Campo Marte, we found out the other bus was shut down and wouldn’t be running for another 45 minutes. We debated catching a metro but realized it would take us such a roundabout way that we’d be at least 45 minutes more getting to our destination. So we decided to walk along Reforma and take the Deavers to Chapultepec Park, which they hadn’t been to yet. We could then catch the bus further up the road when it started running again. It was a lovely day, and we had a nice time walking. 

From the bus going along Reforma, we could see an army of city workers planting the last of the poinsettias along that avenue. I made Ron take a photo out the window. 


Eventually we did make it to the Basilica of Santa María de Guadalupe. Santa Maria de Guadalupe is the patron saint of Mexico. She is reported to have appeared to Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin four times in 1531. The last appearance was on December 12, which is now celebrated as the Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe. We hear that thousands of people visit the basilica on that day and crawl on their knees across the stone courtyard in front of the basilica. We didn’t go on the 12th, so I can’t verify that, but we were there later that same week, and we did see one woman doing it. There are several buildings on the grounds of the basilica, and they are all surrounded by lovely gardens. We had to climb a lot of stairs to get to the upper most chapel, but from there we had a great view. When we came back down, we noticed several women and girls all wearing white skirts and blouses with intricate embroidery on them. Pat Wright is so friendly and strikes up conversations with everyone. (I need to be more like her.) She spoke with some of the women and drew the rest of us into the conversation. They were a group of indigenous women from Hidalgo. They perform traditional dances. They had just finished a performance, which we missed. They were fun to talk to, though most of it had to be translated for me. We took pictures of them, and they took pictures with us, and we ended up feeling like old friends. The people here are so open and friendly that it’s easy to feel like you’ve become friends quickly. We had one Uber driver who drove us back from the Gran Sur mall one day. He and Ron had a lively conversation. At one point Ron told him we had a lot of friends in Mexico. He immediately said, “Now you have one more.” You’ve gotta love that attitude!


If the basilica appears to be tilting in this photo, it's not because of the camera angle. It really is leaning that much. The floor inside was on a definite incline.

This ia another angle that shows how much the building is leaning.
     

     

     
They had this nativity set up, but instead of a baby Jesus, it had a baby seat where people could set their own children and take their picture.

     
The view from a landing half way up the hill.
     
Ron and the Deavers on the last flight of stairs--almost to the top.

     
The stairs all had these lovely vine covered arches over them.

     

     


     
I loved the detail land tile work on this old building.

     
Our new friends

By the time we were done exploring the grounds around the basilica, we were all hungry. We took a bus back to an Argentine restaurant Jerry Wright had seen on our way to the basilica. I don't know if the food was really as good as it seemed or if we were all just really hungry, but it was the best steak I've had since we came to Mexico. After we finished eating, we decided to go get churros. As we walked along Reforma, we came upon a large group of people dressed in traditional costumes. We spoke to some of them and found out they were dancing groups representing different regions of Mexico, and they had just finished doing a street performance. (We missed a lot of dance performances that day.) However, we did get to see their lovely costumes.




Have a wonderful week and a Merry Christmas! We love you all and miss you terribly, but we also love Mexico and the people here.

 

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