Cute Families and a Charming Town

One of the projects I’ve been working on the past couple of weeks is the final report on the Giving Machines. Among other items the leaders in Salt Lake asked for in the report was accounts of people’s experiences with the machines, so I have been collecting those. One day when we were at the machine in Rosario, the Moderno family from the Palmas Ward came. We wanted photos we could use to help promote the next campaign, so since we had Pat Frandsen with us, we asked if they would mind if we took photos of them. They said that would be fine. However, we need signed release forms from them to use the photos, plus I wanted to hear their story of going to the Giving Machines. The Lomas Ward is the Spanish speaking ward we sometimes attend, so Ron called them and asked if we could take release forms to church for them to sign. Victor, the dad, said how about you come to dinner instead. That sounded like a great offer to us, so Wednesday we did just that. It was fun to play with the kids. Don't Eat Pete was such a hit with the Zapata's grandchildren last week, so we took stuff to play it with the Moderno family. Their Giving Machine story is pretty amazing. They had heard about Giving Machines before and were excited to learn they were coming to Mexico. There was one little problem, Victor had been laid off from his job eight months earlier. They were living on their savings and odd jobs he could find. They could have said, “Giving Machines are a great idea, but we’re not in a position to donate anything this year,” but they didn’t do that. They believed the Giving Machines provided an opportunity for them to teach their children about sharing with others who have less, and they were determined to participate. They told their children about Giving Machines and that they would be going there together as a family to donate. Their oldest son, who is nine years old, got really excited and said he wanted to take some of his money. At the machine he bought a gallon of potable water with his own twenty pesos (about $1.) We asked him how that felt. He said he knew people need clean water to drink, and it made him happy to know he could give them some. I thought that was really sweet.

I got a fun message from Shanley Searle Nii, who is the daughter of Ron’s cousin Scott. It included a photo of her children holding the January issue of The Friend open to the page of the story I wrote about a little boy here named Helaman. What cute kids! Getting that note and picture really made my day.

When the Frandsens were serving at the CCM, Pat helped with their Facebook Page. One of the features she did for it was a video series called “We Each Have a Story” from Elder Gong’s April 22 General Conference talk. For the videos, she would interview missionaries at the CCM sharing inspirational experiences. Then Tracy Frandsen’s assignment was changed from being the CCM doctor to being an Area Medical Advisor, and they moved here to Teca Once. At that point Pat started working with our department. When we heard about her video series, we thought it was a great idea and could be expanded to include inspirational stories from members all over Mexico, not just missionaries. We translated the title to Spanish as, “Cada uno tiene una historia,” and have spent the past several months finding people for her to interview. Alfredo created a playlist for the videos on the “La Iglesia de Jesucristo en Mexico” YouTube channel and has now started posting them. The videos are in Spanish, so many of you may not be able to understand them, but here is a link to the playlist in case you’re interested in checking them out.

Cada Uno Tiene una Historia Playlist

Most of the Teca Once missionaries were going to the pyramids with Nacho on Saturday. We and the Wrights had already been there with him and so weren’t going, but that didn’t mean we didn’t want to do something fun. We kicked around a few ideas, and then Thursday night settled on going to Tepozotlan, which is one of Mexico’s Pueblos Magicos (Magical Towns.) These are small towns which have “magical” qualities, such as rich folklore or historic value, and of course, they are villages which have maintained their original architecture. We’ve been to a few of them, which I’ve written about previously. We thought it was going to take over two hours to get there and thought that might be further than we wanted to go for a day trip, so we decided to go Friday night and come back Saturday. When I booked our hotel, I got this note back: “Because we know how confusing for foreigners the name of the towns in Mexico could be, please verify that you want to visit us in Tepotzotlan, State of Mexico (World Heritage Site and where the National Museum of the Viceroyalty is located) and don't confuse it with Tepoztlan in the State of Morelos, very far away from here.” That made me laugh because I figured it had to have come from experience. Then when we checked how much an Uber would be to take us there, we were surprised to see that it was only going to take an hour to get there. After thinking about it, I think maybe when we were first checking how long it would take, we did just what that note was warning against, confused Tepozotlan with Tepoztlan. Fortunately, we went to the right town and found the hotel without any problems.

Ron and Jerry checking in to our hotel. I thought you'd like to see the cute lobby.


We walked through this cute courtyard to get from the lobby to the rooms.
This was the hallway just outside our room. Ron laughed that I was taking pictures of the hallway, but I thought it was cute.


This is the cute street our hotel was on. All the buildings were little hotels, but it looked to us like they had all once been homes.

Tepozotlan was originally a little pueblo outside of Mexico City, but development has now reached it, so if you didn’t know you’d left the city you wouldn’t be able to tell you had. However, as we reached the town, the buildings all hearkened back to an earlier era—not a modern one to be seen. After checking into our quaint little hotel, we walked to the Zocalo, through a park by the cathedral, and to an artisanal market. We were a little dismayed that it was a Friday evening, but the Zocalo wasn’t very busy and about two thirds of the booths in the market were closed. I worried that maybe this Pueblo Magico was struggling. However, one of the people we talked to told us not to worry, things would be better on Saturday. We went to a restaurant one of the directors at the office had recommended to Pat Wright. Our dinner was wonderful. I’d say it was probably the best food I’ve had since coming to Mexico and probably one of the best meals I’ve had period!


I was slightly tempted by this item on the menu because I figured if I was ever going to eat worms, I probably wouldn't find a place they'd be prepared better than there. In the end, I opted for a fillet without worms.

The view of the zocalo and cathedral from the terrace of the restaurant where we ate.
Thie massive statue of Jesus on the cross sits in front of the park. It looks as if it was once standing up. You can get an idea of how large it is by comparing it to the people walking by it.
The view from the park to the front of the cathedral

Vine covered arches led through the park to the museum.

This sign in the park on the cathedral grounds made us laugh. Translated it says, "God wants your conversion not your garbage."

Ron in the Zocalo

Saturday morning we went to breakfast at a little restaurant several people had recommended. It was called Casa Quintal. We’d passed it the evening before when we were on a quest to find churros after dinner—which we did. Again, the food was great! We ate breakfast early by Mexican standards because we had a reservation with a guide at 9:30, so we were the only ones in the restaurant. We received attentive treatment from the staff and had a great time.

This was Ron's breakfast...
...and this was mine.

The staff at Casa Quintal stressed that they had good hot chocolate. When we saw that it cost $4, we were a little surprised, because that seemed a bit high for Mexico, but we decided to buy one cup for each couple. When ours arrived, this is what it looked like.

And this is what the Wright's looked like.

This is the artist who created our cute hot chocolate masterpieces. We told him they were almost too beautiful to drink. He made them by pouring cream out of a little pitcher.

There were murals on the walls all over the town. We saw this one as we walked from our hotel to breakfast, and I thought it was a fun one.

Our guide was named Pepe. The hotel helped us arrange for him to take us to Arcos del Sitio, which is an aqueduct built in the 1700s by Jesuits. It was intended to take water from the hills outside of the city to Tepozotlan as well as other communities along the route, however, it was never completed because the Jesuits were expelled from Mexico in 1767. We knew the aqueduct was outside the city, but we had no idea how far. It took an hour to get from our hotel to the site where the aqueduct is located, but it was worth the trip. Plus as we drove, Pepe told us the history of the town and area around it, which was all really interesting. The aqueduct was amazing to see, and it was amazing to realize that it is over 250 years old and was not only still standing, but was in good enough shape that we could walk across it. The area around the aqueduct has been turned into a park with hot air balloon rides, horses, cabins, etc. One attraction they had, which Ron couldn’t resist, was a series of ziplines. He and the Wrights rode them while Pepe and I walked from point to point so we could take photos and videos of them.

Pepe explaining the aqueduct to us.

Here we are standing in a 250 year old aqueduct.

Suspension bridges like this crossed the gorge that ran through the site.

As Pepe and I were walking through the site, we came across some burros.

Ron getting suited up for the ziplines.

Here's Pat coming in on the first zipline.

This video will give you a feeling for the ziplines:

Having heard how cold things are back in Idaho, I almost feel bad saying that we were so warm by the time we got done at the aqueduct that we decided to stop at this man's shaved ice stand. It literally was shaved ice! It was cool to see how he did it.

When we returned to Tepozotlan, I found that my concerns of the evening before were unwarranted. The area around the zocalo was bustling with people and most of the booths in the market were open. We had fun doing a little shopping, and then we went to the National Museum of the Viceroyalty, which is in the complex built by the Jesuits, and which includes the cathedral there. We hired a guide named Marta to take us through the museum. She told us the history of the city and area, and her version was not the same as Pepe’s so we’re not sure which one to believe. The complex was so large that we could have spent a couple of days there. We rushed a little at the end, and ended up in the gardens, which I wish we would have been able to spend more time in.

The booths lining the Zocalo
These dancers were performing what I assume were traditional dances in the open square of the zocalo.


This chapel had several of these large altars covered in gold leaf.



The ceiling
A smaller side chapel still had the original Talavera tiles. They had a raised walkway through the chapel so we didn't actually walk on them.
A detail from the wall of the smaller chapel.
A courtyard in the Jesuit complex.
Walking around the orchard and garden area.



Getting an Uber to take us home was a little harder than we hoped it would be. However, there was very little traffic on the autopista, so once we did get a driver, our ride home only took 45 minutes. The hotel at Tepotozolan was “charming”, but charming often means uncomfortable beds and little or no hot water. We were pleasantly surprised to find that our hotel had plenty of hot water, but I was happy to get back to our bed at Teca Once.



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