Happy Easter!

We just celebrated Easter, the day we remember the most joyous event of all time—the resurrection of Jesus Christ! Ron and I, like many of you, spent the week reading about and contemplating the last week of Jesus’ life, His atoning sacrifice, His death, and finally the glorious pronouncement, “Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here but is risen.” (Luke 24:5-6) The center of our celebration was attending Sacrament Meeting and taking the Sacrament in remembrance of His atoning sacrifice. Then in the evening the Teca Once missionaries got together for dinner. Sister Camejo, one of the new missionaries, wanted to fix the dinner. We all offered to help, but other than desserts and fruit, she did all the prep herself. She wanted to share an authentic Mexican meal with us, and she did. It was fun to try the different taco fillings she prepared, though none of them were like what we call “tacos” in the United States. We were also able to visit with each of our children, so it was a good day for us.

Ron and Zoila Camejo, who did all the cooking

     

We managed to get all of us at tables in the Davises' apartment.

     

Easter is a major holiday in Mexico. In fact, the entire Santa Semana (Holy Week) is widely celebrated. Spring break is centered around it so that the children get the entire week off, and Thursday and Friday are national holidays, so a lot of businesses are closed. Many people take the entire week off. Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, our wing of the Area offices was like a ghost town. Other than us and the other senior missionaries, I only saw three other people there. From that, we knew it would be almost impossible to get anything done on Thursday and Friday, so we quickly pulled together a 24-hour trip, got permission from the Area President, and Thursday took off for Cuernavaca with the Deavers. Maribel, who is helping me with Spanish, told me about some gardens that are just outside of Cuernavaca and said I should go see them, so that was the plan. However, our first stop was at Tepoztlan (not to be confused with Tepozotlan, which we went to a couple of months ago with the Wrights.) It is a little colonial city about a half hour outside of Cuernavaca and is an official Pueblo Magico (Magical Town). The traffic coming out of Mexico City was very heavy. It should have taken us an hour and a half to get there, but it took twice that long. We debated skipping it and going straight to Cuernavaca, but decided not to, and were happy we didn’t. Tepoztlan sits in a little valley surrounded by mountains. The center of the historic district is the Exconvento Nuestra Señora de la Natividad (the Former Convent of the Nativity), which was built between 1560 and 1588, and which is a UNESCO heritage site. Sadly, it was damaged in an earthquake in 2017 and they haven’t finished repairing it, so we couldn’t go in. We did get a glimpse over the walls surrounding it from a rooftop restaurant where we ate dinner. We were also able from there to see the Pyramid of El Tepozteco, which sits on top of a tall, steep mountain outside of Tepoztlan. A path leads up the mountain to it, but we read that it is a strenuous hike, so we were satisfied with gazing at it from afar. The block around the Exconvento was filled with booths selling all kinds of things, and we had fun doing a little shopping. We were surprised at how many people stopped us after seeing our missionary name badges. Most of them were members of the Church, and we had fun visiting with them. At one point, Ron and Tom had walked on ahead when a group of three women stopped me and Vicki. I don’t speak Spanish well, but I am ahead of Vicki, who has only been here six months, so I had to take the lead in the conversation. I didn’t understand everything they said, but I do think we managed to communicate. I did understand that they were a mother, her daughter, and her granddaughter. The men were with us when a man with two teen-aged boys stopped us. As we started talking, one of the boys said, “Oh thank goodness, people who speak English!” It turned out the man was his grandfather, who he, his friend (the other boy), and his family were visiting from California. A little later his parents joined us, and it was fun to visit with them in a conversation which swung back and forth between Spanish and English. Later at the restaurant, our waiter came to our table to take our order. He looked Mexican, but he spoke to us in English with no trace of an accent. We asked where he learned to speak English so well, and he replied that he was from Jackson Hole, Wyoming. We exclaimed, “We’re from Shelley, Idaho!”  Jackson Hole is only a couple of hours from Shelley, so it was like running into a neighbor.     

I took this photo from the rooftop restaurant where we ate. If you really zoomed in, you might be able to see the pyramid, which is sitting on the right edge of the dip between the peaks.

     

Vicki zoomed in with her phone to take this photo. You can see the pyramid sitting just left of center.

      

I enjoyed shopping at the booths....

     

....Ron preferred shopping here.

     


We spent the night at a hotel in Cuernavaca. I booked the hotel after looking at reviews online, which is always a little dicey, but it turned out to be a really nice hotel with comfortable beds and a nice pool area. Cuernavaca is known as “the land of eternal spring.” We’ve been told that people in Mexico City go there for the weekends to enjoy the “nice weather.” We found that hard to believe since to us, the weather in Mexico City is about as perfect as it can be. And indeed, we didn’t find the weather in Cuernavaca better—in fact to our minds, it was worse. It was hot! Tom Deaver kept checking the temperature on his phone, and at one point it hit 95 degrees Fahrenheit and was still climbing.

We got up early Friday morning so we could get to the gardens early in the day before the heat hit full force. "The Gardens of Mexico" covers about 150 acres and contains eight different gardens styles. It seemed a little odd to be in Mexico but walking through a Japanese garden or looking out over a formal Italian garden. However, it was odd in a fun way, not a bad one. Vicki Deaver loves flowers and gardening as much as I do, so we were in heaven. One section was a labyrinth, with paths that wound around between hedges like a knot. At some points we would have sworn we were going in circles, but eventually we came to the end and realized we hadn’t been. At points in the labyrinth there were open spaces with sculptures in them. I think that was our favorite section of the park.

   

"The Gardens of Mexico" prided itself on being eco-friendly. These shade structures in the parking lot were actually solar panels.

This lovely lake was just inside the entrance.

    

     

     

I thought this was a cute picture of Ron and Tom walking along a bamboo lined path.
    
The tropical garden included a greenhouse full of blooming orhids.
     

     

The Italian garden
    
The Japanese garden
     
Vicki Deaver in the Japanese garden.
     
The paths in the labyrinth when under AND over tunnels like this one.
     

     

Tom Deaver said I should have kicked my feet up in the air for this photo.

We got home from Cuernavaca in time to go up to the pueblito with the Frandsens and the Camejos. The community was celebrating Good Friday and the Catholic church was open. We are seldom able to see inside it, but that evening they had the doors thrown wide open while the Mass was going on. We didn’t want to intrude on their worship, so we didn’t go inside. Instead, we stood outside and watched. A group of people who were also waiting outside were wearing long black tunics. Tracy Frandsen was the first of our group to go over to talk to them. The Camejos were next, and then the rest of us. The people told us about their traditions, which included a procession which was going to begin as soon as the Mass was over. We would have liked to have seen it, but it was getting late and we were exhausted from traveling, so we left. We stopped at a booth selling bread and Ron bought a large, almost loaf sized, sweet roll. A boy who looked to be about 10 was at the booth. Ron asked him what the roll cost. The boy said 100 pesos. that is about $5 US and seemed high, but the boy didn’t budge, so Ron paid him 100 pesos. When the Camejos heard how much Ron paid, they taught him a new Spanish verb, “estafar,” which means “to swindle” as in “You just got swindled by a child.”

The entrance to the church grounds in the pueblito.

     

     

Us, Tracy Frandsen, the Camejos, and our new friends who taught us about their traditions. We always love learning how other people and faiths worship and honor Jesus Christ.

     

The little salesman who sold Ron a roll that we dubbed "Pan de Oro" (bread of gold.)

Saturday we and the Deavers went to the Frida Kahlo museum in Coyoacan, which is one of my favorite communities in Mexico City. I’m not a huge fan of Frida Kahlo, but Mexico loves her, and the museum is considered one of the top sites to see in the city, so I figured we should go see it. It is called La Casa Azul (the blue house) because the outside walls are painted a bright cobalt blue. It is the house where Frida Kahlo was born, where she grew up, where she lived with her husband, Diego Rivera, and where she died. It was interesting to see this place that was so integral to her life. I especially liked the kitchen and the studio where she painted. She had a large easel which was given to her by Norman Rockwell. If I were to try to think of two artists whose style and messages seemed opposite, I couldn’t come up with two more different than Frida Kahlo and Norman Rockwell, but I guess talent admires talent. It was also interesting to learn more about her life, which was quite tragic. The house and garden were lovely, but had a melancholy feeling about them.  We weren’t allowed to take photos inside, but we could take them in the garden, which the house was built around.


      


     


After we finished at the museum, we walked to the historic plaza of Coyoacan. The Frandsens met us there for dinner at a restaurant they recommended and which sits just off the plaza. As I said, Coyoacan is one of my favorite places in Mexico City, but that day it seemed like everyone who hadn’t left the city for the holiday was in Coyoacan. The Deavers hadn’t been there before, and I’d told them how much I liked it. I think they wondered what I saw in it, because being there with such a large throng of people that it was hard to see anything. I told them they’d have to go back on a normal Saturday when there is just enough of a crowd to feel festive. But despite the crowd, we did manage to have a fun time.

     

The Deavers at the fountain at Coyoacan. It took some patience and a bit of editing to get a photo without a whole crowd of people in it.
        

This statue is a real live person!
    
Ron ordered this salmon for his dinner. The menu said it was topped with escamoles, and Ron almost changed his mind when he looked up escamoles and found out it is ant larvae and pupae. It is also known as Mexican caviar. It actually tasted good, and the dish was delicious.
     
Guacamole, always a favorite!

I’m going to close with this poem which has been precious to me for decades. It seems perfect for honoring Easter because its message speaks directly to the meaning and purpose of Christ’s atoning sacrifice. It is one thing to say, “Jesus atoned for the world,” but it is another thing completely to be say, “Jesus atoned for me.” This poem expresses that beautifully in a way that speaks to my heart. It was originally published in the April 1985 New Era. The author is Margery Stockseth, and it is entitled, “He Thought of Me.”

I am worth the coming down,

the silence

in return for mockery.

I am worth the thorns,

the bleeding back,

the wincing, weakening steps to Calvary.

He suffered these and thought of me.

He could have halted soldiers

with a fiery eye,

And pronounced death

in words that rang

from marble palace walls,

And in the garden dreamed instead of prayed.

But as the glistening crimson beads

slipped from his face,

He thought that I was worth the price he paid.

I’m blind to what

he sees in me,

Yet I know thorns

and what it is

to wince and weaken.

Gethsemane and Calvary—

He suffered so

and thought of me.

 



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