Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Elder Grinch ~ And playing Santa

From December 6, 2010
Hey everyone! It's another beautiful afternoon here in Mina. This past week we had a couple of pretty chilly days (I actually had to use a blanket at night - imagine that!), but yesterday and today it's warmed up a bit. It's still pretty cloudy today, though, which is nice. (They say you shouldn't start a novel with a weather report, and I think the same applies for a missionary letter. Let's get on to the stuff that matters.)
Well, the first cool thing to relate is that Yaqui (Yaquelin) was successfully baptized and confirmed this weekend. The baptism had a good turnout with lots of family and friends, her sisters spoke, the Primary sang a couple songs, and her dad baptized her. Yesterday her dad was able to confirm her and, since it was fast and testimony meeting, practically her whole family bore testimony. It was really neat. They're a strong family and everyone looked so happy to see Yaqui be baptized. It was a cool moment for us too. We've become good friends with her, and her family. I have quite a few pictures I want to send, including of the baptism, but unfortunately I left my cable in the house (do we call it a cable in English? The USB connection thing...), so those will have to wait until next week. Which is really a shame, because I have some pretty awesome pictures... more on that in a moment. :)
So, the baptism went through wonderfully. Our other investigator, Julieta, seems to have moved to live with her daughter... we haven't been able to get a straight answer on that, but looks like she won't be baptized this Saturday. Hopefully we'll be able to at least pass on the referral. We're now in a desperate search for people to teach, since we're kind of lacking in the area. One cool thing is that we received 12 referrals this past week from members. That's a lot for just one week, and we're in the process of visiting them to see if they're interested. This week should be a good one - lots of door-knocking and meeting new people, which is always fun. I'm excited for it.
Last Thursday we had our interviews with President Castañeda. The interview went really well, as always, and he gave me some great advice. I asked him about having the family come down to Mexico when I finish, and he said that won't be a problem. He told me that in March you should call the Missionary Department to coordinate your flights with mine and the details and stuff, and they'll arrange things, and at that time I'll set things up on my end with him, but that there's no need to worry about it until then. Kind of cool to know that it's more of a sure thing now. Are you still planning on coming down? I think that would be awesome. But no need to worry about it for another three months.
I received a package and two letters, the letters from Lisa and the package from Grandma and Grandpa Bown, Laura, Lisa, and Ben. It was great. They sent me candy (much to the delight of my companion), a BYU shirt (which I am currently wearing), a Libro de Mormón, and an instrumental cd called "Take Time to Be Holy" (which I really like. Very beautiful music). Please pass along my thanks to them; I really appreciate it. Yes, the present were all wrapped, but I couldn't resist the temptation and opened them up. Haha. :) So far that's all I've recieved, but I'll keep you all updated. Oh, and we were told that we can have the phone call home between the 22nd and the 27th, and we have an hour(ish) to talk, like the last time. Since this is the last week of the transfer, I'll wait to set things up until next week, but when would be a good time and day for you guys? Just let me know and we'll discuss more next week. I'm looking forward to it.
The President had some cool news for us - we're having a special mission-wide Christmas activity this Thursday. We're all heading to Villahermosa, and we're going to listen to a message by the President, watch some sort of video presentation, eat, take a photo together, and go through the Temple. I'm really looking forward to it. It's going to be a wonderful experience, and I just can't wait. :) It's been a while since I've been able to go through the Temple, and it'll be cool to meet up with old companions and such and chat with everyone.
Speaking of Christmas, we had the opportunity to watch the First Presidency Christmas Devotional last next, and man, I loved it. What a special message. I liked the fact that President Uchtdorf incorporated the Grinch into his message (which only started up once more my old nickname, "Elder Grinch," among the members here haha - their pronunciation of "greer" sounds like grinch to them anyway), and the themes of service and love. I loved the music of the Choir, especially "O Come All Ye Faithful" - I could really feel the power and beauty of the season with that hymn. I know the Savior loves us, and what a glorious thing it is to be able to remember him more fully in this month. I hope we can all find the true spirit of Christmas in our lives and can make this time of year one of service and love.
Well, that's all from me this week. I have a couple quick responses for this week's email...
Gabbie: Hey Gabs! First off, your Spanish is coming along nicely! And secondly, your emails are getting more and more inventive every week. :) They always make me smile. I'm trying to think of things to suggest to you for Christmas, but nothing really comes to mind, maybe because I've been away from civilization for 15 and a half months. :) Haha, just kidding, but I'll give it some thought and let you know next week. Mom says that you have a lot going on in school this week - I hope it goes well and that you can have a lot of fun while getting everything done. Thank you for writing me, Gabs, and I hope you have a great week. Te amo mucho! :) Adios!
Miranda: Sounds cool about the college plans. Whatever happens is cool with me, though I do think it would be a lot of fun to go to BYU together, still be living at home, sharing a car, all that. We'll have to see how things play out. But yes, a Jeep would be fine by me. :) Hopefully you are able to go snowboarding this week and that you enjoy it. Make the most of the snow and cold - I'm missing it down here! :) You mentioned how you like to live day by day... there's a quote by President Monson where he talks about how we need to learn from the past, plan for the future, and live in the present... something like that. It's good advice. Set good habits now so that when you hit college you can enjoy it to the fullest and don't miss out on anything. Also, enjoy where you are in life, because it only happens once. Those are my brotherly words of wisdom for the week. :) Thanks for writing and for being a good sister and friend. I appreciate it a lot. I hope you have a wonderful week. I love you very much! :)
Mom: Hi Mom! :)  Is it still snowing? Steve emailed me this week and mentioned a blizzard warning or something this past week, but said that nothing out of the ordinary happened. It made me miss the snow and the cold. The only thing cold here is the ice cream from Dairy Queen that's right down the road. :)  I can't believe there are only 19 days left until Christmas. We don't have any specific plans yet, but I'm sure we'll spend the day with members and celebrate it that way. We might do another gift exchange among missionaries, too, so that will be fun. No, no one recorded me singing... I hope. :) haha. It was cool to hear about the baptism of Wil - it's crazy to think that he's the last grandchild for them. Also, I enjoyed hearing about Reagan's trip to the dentist, and I'm surprised and glad that it went so well. That's cool - it sounds like little by little he's progressing and getting better. It'll be interesting to see what he's like when I get home, and to see the differences. Thanks for keeping me updated on the family and on what's been going on. I hope you have a wonderful week. I love you very much - thanks for everything! :)
Dad:  I'm glad you enjoyed the pictures; you mentioned the "squishy pulling meat off the bone" sound I used to hate, and now that I think about it, it doesn't really bother me anymore. I guess if I can handle pulling legs off a whole turtle then the turkey should be no problem!  Very interesting about the blog, and that it gets so many hits from all over the world. I figure it's okay if we just leave it how it is - unblocked.  And, hey, maybe someone stumbling upon it will become interested enough to request more information about the gospel. (anyone interested should go to http://www.lds.org/ and request some free literature, or a free bible! :)
I really loved the symbolism you mentioned about the Temple and the degrees of glory and all that. Since I can't always read thoroughly the email, I only scanned through that part, so I'll take some time to study it this week to really understand it, but it sounded pretty cool. Next week I'll also take some time to mention some of the cool things I've been learning lately. Thanks for sharing all that with me. Home teaching here kind of wavering between "decent" and "doesn't really exist," which is kind of sad. I've never heard of an investigator having home teachers assigned before baptism, either, probably because here most members don't even have home teachers that actually visit them. But that's why I'm here, right? - to build up the kingdom! :) I hadn't heard about Janessa - that's very cool that she's planning on serving a mission. Good for her. (I give my vote of approval. Hah.) Well, Dad, thanks for everything, and for always teaching me something new. I hope you have a great week. I love you very much!
Thanks, everyone for all your prayers and support. I love you all! Have a wonderful week! :)
Con mucho amor,
Elder Greer
From December 13, 2010
Hey everyone! Thanks for having me on the show today - it's great to be back. I see some new faces here today, as well as some old fans, so hopefully this will be interesting for everyone. You know, a funny thing happened to me on the way over here...
Haha. :) I'm not really sure where that came from. But it's been a great week, and I'm excited for this next one too. I don't have much time to write today, because with transfers and some other things we've been a little short on time. So I'm going to try and write as much as I can, and I'll make up for it next Monday when I have a bit longer to write.
First off, transfer calls came in yesterday. They usually call us Saturday morning, so we almost thought there weren't going to be transfers, but finally around 7 pm the zone leaders called and let us know the deal. My companion is taking off, as expected; he's heading to Benemerito, an area in Tabasco right on the border of Guatemala. He's pretty excited about it, though sad to leave Palmar. It's a great area, and he's been a really good companion; I'm sad we didn't get to spend more time together. I'm staying here in Palmar as district leader, and I've been given another assignment... trainer. Yep, that's right, I'm receiving a new missionary. :) The ZLs told me he's probably going to me an American, but nothing's definite yet. My comp heads out tomorrow morning and the new guy will get here around noon on Wednesday, so in the meantime I'll be with another companionship in our district. I am really excited for the chance to train. It's going to be different - if he is American, it'll mean a lot more talking and teaching and everything for me at first, until he gets a hang of the language - but I'm looking forward to the opportunity and I think I'll enjoy it a lot. Next week I'll be able to tell you all the details about my new companion (starting with his name). For now, I'm in waiting mode. :)
That means I'll be spending Christmas here in Mina, and New Year's too. That will be fun; the ward members are awesome, and it will be fun to spend the holidays with them. There's a stake activity on Friday and a Christmas devotional Sunday, and more things to come as we get closer to the 25th. I'm going to set everything up for the phone call this week. I'll figure out the day and the time (and, of course, the phone number), and I'll be sure to let you know next Monday. I'm really looking forward to the phone call - it's been 7 months since the last one. And this weekend I hit 16 months as a missionary... yikes. Time flies. :)
So that's that for what's coming up this week. Oh, and we have a special conference with President Johnson, the Area President. Should be cool. We're slowly building up our teaching pool; the referrals and door-knocking of the past week helped a lot, and we've met some good people. More info on that next week as they continue progressing. This past week was a good one, especially with the Villahermosa trip. We headed out in the wee hours of the morning, but I dozed on the three-hour bus ride and arrived in Villa ready to go. We took a mission photo, went through the Temple, ate a delicious meal, watched a video of the history of the mission (all the baptisms since July, video of when the President and his family arrived, different activities, etc.), sang Christmas songs, and received lots of candy as presents. :) No packages or letters for me, though I hope for something to come this week. I'll keep you posted, as always. Going through the Temple again was a wonderful blessing. I love feeling the Spirit there and being able to learn so much more. It was a chance to receive a lot of personal revelation and direction for my life right now. I'm diligently keeping a day-to-day journal, a study journal, and a "spiritual experiences" journal, so even if I don't remember to write something here, it's getting recorded. :) Also, I've mentioned having a few experiences in the mission and haven't given much details, and it will be awesome to be able to share those experiences when I get home. Anyway, this paragraph has been a bit rambling, but the trip to Villa was great, and I loved going through the Temple. :)
What else, what else... I forgot to mention this last week (I think), but I played Santa in an elementary school last Monday. A sister in the ward works there, and asked me to dress up as Santa so the kids could have their picture taken. It was an all-around awesome experience. It was so much fun to shout "Ho-ho-ho!" and "Feliz Navidad, niño!" and see the kids' faces light up. A couple kids were scared, too; one girl burst into tears upon seeing me. :) But the rest were excited, and several ran up to give me a hug and show me their letter. It was pretty neat, and the sister gave me a 2011 calendar with my picture there. If I have time, I'm going to send the photo today; if not, I have a bunch of them to send next week. It was cool to be Santa. :)
Well, I think that's it for me. Sorry it's a bit short this week. A few quick comments, and I'm outta here.
Gabbie: Hey Gabs! What awesome Spanish! :) Oh, and good luck with your health test! Except... I guess you've already taken it by now. Oh well. You'll have to tell me next week how it went. You are an awesome sister and I hope you have a great week. I look forward to talking to you too! See you next week! I love you very much! :) PS Chow for now! :)
Miranda: Hola!  Sounds like you've been having a fun, Christmasy week, what with school activities and snowboarding and all that good stuff. I hope this next week is just as good and that things go well for you. Thanks for being a great sister and friend. I love you very much! :)
Mom: Hi Mom! It was funny to hear your description of the Blizzard of 2010 and also very cool to hear about the things the family's been doing the past week. Please send my condolences to Grandma Greer.... or just tell her I hope she gets better soon, because "condolences" sounds way too formal. :) Anyway, wish her a speedy recovery from me. Thanks for all the love and support I feel. I hope you have a great week. I love you very much! :)
Dad: Hey! :) Quick comments from your letter - first, I used what you wrote last week about the Temple of Jerusalem and the Garden of Eden in my district class last week, and tied it in to humility and standing in holy places. It was pretty cool. Thank you for all the cool things you teach me and your great example. I love reading and rereading the weekly emails. I think about all the great times we've had, and look forward to more. In the meantime, though, the Lord has a work for me to do, and I'd better get to it. Have a great week! I love you very much! :)
Well, everyone, thanks for everything. Enjoy this Christmas season and do lots of good in the world. Enjoy the beauty in your lives and have a wonderful week. Hasta pronto!
Con mucho amor,
Elder Greer

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

From November 22

Hey everyone! Well, it's been another great week, with lots of changes and new things going on. It's another warm and sunny Minatitlán afternoon, but here I am in an airconditioned cyber with a new weekly letter from the family. Things couldn't be much better. :)

Well, let me start off with the important information. The transfers took place Tuesday night, meaning that Tuesday was my last full day in Paquitál. We headed up to Canticas for the day, so I had the chance to see a few people and say goodbye. I talked to Juan Carlos for a while - he had been kind of upset on Sunday, like I mentioned last week, but had headed down to the train tracks to cool off and study the Book of Mormon. When I talked to him Tuesday, he was up to 2 Nephi 26 - over a hundred pages in just a week. Pretty cool. He had calmed down and understood the importance of being confirmed. Unfortunately, due to the transfers, I don't know if he was confirmed yesterday or not, but I hope so. I told Elder Silva to write me and let me know if the confirmation went through, so with any luck I'll hear something soon. But Juan Carlos was doing a lot better when I left, and Perfecto was really excited for his baptism (as far as I know he was baptized Saturday), and I felt good about leaving the area in good conditions.

I arrived in my new area, Palmar, Tuesday night, and got right into the work the following day. Palmar is right near the center of the city (colonia Centro) where all the shops and more touristy things are, which is kind of cool. It's a fairly big area and has a strong ward (around 120 in attendance on Sundays). In the last transfer, my companion Elder Valencia baptized four people in Palmar (and seven people in the other ward he was formerly assigned to), so it seems like we'll be able to have lots of success here. However, we don't really have many investigators that we're teaching at the moment - all the upcoming baptisms that Elder Valencia had planned are for the other ward, Nueva Mina, which now has its own missionaries. In a way, we're starting from scratch, but that's okay. In the few days I've been here we've found a handful of people that we'll be teaching this week, and we're hoping to have a couple baptisms by the end of next week. I feel like Palmar is capable of giving great fruit; I think there's a lot of potential here, and it's time to open things up. I'll keep you all informed on the investigator side of things as we see progress.

Elder Valencia is pretty awesome. He's from Mexico State (you didn't know Mexico was a state, did you? :) haha), but lived in Arizona from age 1 to age 17 and then moved back to Mexico, so he actually speaks English better than he speaks Spanish. That's been pretty fun, even though we pretty much always speak in Spanish anyway. He's very easy to get along with, smart, and fun to be around. Beyond that, he's a hard worker and upbeat, so we're able to work really well together. I'm excited to get to know him better and work hard this transfer.

We live in what I imagine would be a pension from your mission, Dad; here it's a cuartería (technically a "roomery," meaning a cluster of rooms that are rented out to different people). Basically, a member family is renting us out a part of their house. It's small, but comfortable and has everything that we need. The plus side is that the family is always inviting us to dinner and breakfast. Yum. :) They're pretty cool and I've been getting to know them a little bit. The members seem really nice here. More on (huh?) that when I actually get to know them better. :) But so far so good! :)

Well, that's really about it. This Thursday the President's coming into town to do interviews, and I'm going to use the opportunity to ask him about you guys coming down to pick me up after the mission. I'll let you know what he says. The ZLs said some letters arrived for me and my companion, but we won't pick them up until tonight, so I don't know from whom. No Christmas packages yet, but I'm sure they'll arrive soon. :) That's it from my end - on to the better part of the letter.

Gabbie: Hey Gabberdee! ;) How's it going? You always make me laugh with your comments in the email, like when you tell me to guess and other little things. You're quite the jokester, huh? :) Sounds like your experience with Shilo (horse) was pretty crazy... I bet I would have been scared. I'm sure you handled it like a pro, though. :) How has school been going lately? Mom said you're reading The View From The Cherry Tree. I like that book a lot. What else have you been up to? What do you want Santa to bring you for Christmas? Excited about winter vacations coming up? When do they start? Well, Gabs, as always, thanks for being an awesome sister. I hope you have a great week. I love you very much! :) P.S. I have a secret for you, but just so Miranda doesn't understand, I'll say it to you in Spanish... ¡tú eres mi hermanita más bonita! haha... ;) love you Gabs!

Miranda: Hey! :) No worries about the lack of a letter last week. I only cried a little... haha. Just kidding. I understand how time gets. Sounds like you've been up to a lot of fun things lately. I've been meaning to ask you - have you received any Facebook friend requests (I think that's what they're called) from Mexicans? The members always want to see my pictures from home and they always ask everyone's name. I think a girl I met in Coatza might have added you on Facebook, and possibly others... up to you on accepting them or not, just thought you might like to know why all of the sudden a bunch of foreigners want to be your friend. :) But anyway, you sure made up for last week with what you wrote this week! You mentioned Sonny Hill, and it got me to wondering how all the rest of the missionaries from the ward are doing (only occasionally do I hear of them).  Pretty cool that you're already applying for college... the best times of your life are yet to come. :) Are you leaning to any particular one of the four you mentioned? Do any of them have a good reputation for the whole physical therapy field? How are the applications coming along, and when will you find out the results?  I personally love Shakespeare's plays - which one are you reading now? I also loved 1984, but hey, to each his own. :) It's good to hear that you're still enjoying school, for the most part. Keep working hard up to the last minute - it takes effort and self-discipline, but it's definitely worth it in the long run. Trust me on this one. ;) Well, thanks for writing so much and keeping me informed on what's going on. I hope you have a wonderful week and that you enjoy it. I love you very much! :) P.S. no creas lo que le dije a Gabs - tú también eres muy bonita. :)

Mom: I feel there's a special holiday coming up, but I can't remember what it is... oh, yeah, that's right. Thanksgiving! Hah. Just kidding. HAPPY BIRTHDAY! :) :) :) (I did, in fact, remember, but Dad helped me out with a giant reminder at the beginning of the email. Haha.) I hope you have a wonderful birthday tomorrow and that all your dreams come true. :) I wish I could be there - but I'll be there for the next one! And I'm sure that Dad, Miranda, Gabbie, Reags, and Nikka will make it a great day - they had better! ;) Remember, Mom, that I love you very much, and am very appreciative for the person you are and the example you set in my life. Have a great birthday. Say hi to everyone at the Thanksgiving feast; I'll see what I can whip up down here. But, as you said, the most important part is the giving thanks, and I definitely have a lot to be thankful for. You asked questions about the transfers and the new area - I'm not sure why so many missionaries came all at once, or why they didn't come two weeks earlier, and they haven't really told us, so I'm only assuming it was visa problems. I think the President only had a couple days' notice, which is why we didn't find out earlier. My new area is about 5 or 10 minutes in taxi from the old one, but it's a different stake (there are two in Mina), so I don't know if I'll see any members I know. Yes, I'm still district leader and senior companion (Elder Valencia has been out 6 months, by the way), and I'm excited to get to know the elders in the district and to be able to work with them. Most people don't have anything around their houses - either they don't have space (houses go right up to the sidewalk), or just dirt or weeds. Landscaping hasn't really caught on here yet. :) Our service projects are kind of random; whenever we get the chance, we do service, but so far we haven't established any sort of routine or system. Thanks for sending things for Christmas - I'll keep you posted (no pun intended - haha). Also, thanks for telling me about the girls and Reagan. It's great to hear that everyone's doing well and having fun. Sounds like Reagan's been mellow lately and enjoying himself. That's good. Thank you, Mom, for everything you've done for me. I hope you have a great birthday and week. I love you very much! :)

Dad: Too bad about Matt blowing out his knee (I hadn't heard anything). Say hi to him for me when you get the chance. I hope everything works out and he can go back to Brazil, but either way it's in the Lord's hands. I imagine it'd be pretty tough, but I'm glad he's accepted it. I hope he recovers soon. How many zones were there in your mission? Did you have more than one ward at a time? How many areas and companions did you have? (I'm sure you've told me before, but I forgot - hah). It's cool to hear that my emails are still being read by many. It would be interesting to know who reads the blog. Maybe you could try that "send a brief message to Elder Greer" thing again - might be cool. Oh, one more thing, now that I was thinking about your mission - one day I said to Elder Tanner back in Villa, "Blah, see, blah!" (without any context or explanation) and he replied, "Is that a mafia ghost?" Haha. Turns out we're both fans of Scooby-Doo. :) Well, that's it for me this week, I think. Thank you, Dad, for everything. I love you very much. Have a great week. Chow for now. :)

Thanks, everyone, for all your love and support. I love you all very much. Until next week -
Elder Greer

From November 29

Hey everyone! Good afternoon! Isn't the weather just wonderful? :) Well, for me it is - nice and warm and sunny... perfect for playing basketball and soccer and enjoying some pizza, which is what I did this morning. However, for you guys back at home... seems like things are a bit chilly. I miss the snow, in fact, but am also enjoying the warmth here. It was great to see the pictures from home and hear about all the snow. But more on that in a minute.
I am doing really well. Happy, healthy, and excited about the work. I don't have any regrets and, for the moment, life is pretty much perfect. I think that's more about being grateful and accepting the situation at hand than being placed in a paradise... but again, I'm getting ahead of myself. How about a summary of what I've been up to lately? Since you're all in agreement, I'll begin. :) (I remind myself of Gabbie now...)
Well, the work is moving along nicely. Things have been a little slow - I talked last week about the lack of investigators and all that. This past week we really focused on finding new people and being obedient and we were successful. President Castañeda has set a goal of 140 contacts per week per companionship, a contact being where we present ourselves as representatives of the Savior, bear testimony, and invite the person to hear our message. It's a pretty high goal, and we don't always hit it - it requires a lot of diligence, patience, and efficiency in the work, and sometimes we fall short - but this week the whole zone made it to 140. We were really pleased and happy to have made the goal, and we were also able to see the blessings throughout the week. And, of course, we will be further blessed in coming weeks as we continue to work hard and do even better than our best.
The Lord has really been blessing us. We have two investigators with baptismal dates, and several others in the process. The first is named Yaquelin (pronounced exactly like Jaqueline in English). She's a nine-year-old girl; all her family are members that were recently reactivated. We've been waiting for her dad to be able to baptize her, and finally everything's all lined up. She's going to be baptized on Saturday. We're really excited for it, and so is she (and the rest of her family too, of course). It's been a lot of fun working with them and I know the baptism will be a great success. Our other investigator is named Julieta. She's around 60 years old and her son is a member in another city in Veracruz. We found her knocking doors and she was very willing to accept us and our message. She went to church yesterday with her seven-year-old granddaughter and just loved it (I think that's partly because it was the Primary Presentation), and she's really excited to be baptized on the 11th. We're going to be working a lot with her this week, as well as focusing on finding even more people to teach and to keep the work moving forward. All in all, I'm very happy with where I am and the things that are going on, and I'm looking forward to the blessings and the experiences of the future.
That's really about it for the big news. I now just have a bunch of little stories or comments. First, last week we didn't have the interviews with the President because something came up on his end, but this Thursday we should have them. I'm looking forward to this as well, as I really enjoy talking with the President and always learn a lot from him. I received a little from Lisa last week. No packages yet. I'll probably receive whatever mail there might be next week, because I think we'll be having another leadership training. I'll let you all know more as it happens. November's drawing to a close and December's almost here... It's crazy. I can't believe it's almost Christmastime (or that Thanksgiving passed by without a sound), and that 2010 is fast drawing to a close. Time moves so quickly.
The ward members here are pretty awesome. The Relief Society secretary, Verónica, is about my age and is a really good cook. She gives us lunch about once a week and it's always something awesome. Last week our dessert was a banana split. This week she made us KFC (fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and cole slaw, all homemade), and for dessert gave us a strawberry version of key lime pie. It was delicious. The rest of the ward is really nice and they help us out a lot. Mom, you asked what the family that we live with gives us to eat for dinner and breakfast - well, I'll answer that fully further on, but one thing they let me try this week (my conmpanion refused) was turtle. :) It's something I've been wanting to eat my whole mission, and I finally had the chance. It was pretty tasty - it smelled like seafood but tasted like chicken. It was a little difficult prying the shell open, but once that's done, the legs and the rest of the meat pull off fairly easily :) My comp wouldn't try it though. Ha. I'll send a picture when I finish the email. Pretty sweet. :)
I forgot to mention last week, but my first Sunday here I gave a talk in Sacrament meeting. I spoke about being of good cheer and believing Christ - basically, a Dad-inspired talk. :) It went over really well. Every third Sunday we speak in church here, which I'm looking forward to. The stake choir is putting on a Christmas program in the next couple weeks, and while we were watching them practice yesterday they asked me to help out with something. What did I have to do? Sing a duet with one of the sisters for the rest of the choir. And, surprisingly, I did it without much problem. Let me explain. :) One of the songs they're going to sing is O Holy Night (which, by the way, isn't in the Spanish hymnbook either, but they found the lyrics somewhere). They're going to sing the first half in English and the last half in Spanish, and it sounds pretty amazing. But they were having a bit of trouble getting the hang of the English. The sister (around my age, I think) who directs the choir speaks fairly good English, and so I was asked to sing the song with her so that the choir could hear how it's supposed to sound. Now, all of you are familiar with my singing and my personality in general - but I did it without much hesitation. And it went over well. That's not to say that I sounded great (I actually have a bit of a cold right now), but I wasn't really embarrassed or shy about or anything.
Now, you may be thinking, "What have the Mexicans done with Justin?!" :) But really, it's just part of how the Lord has helped me develop my personality a little more and grow as a person. I feel like I'm a little more confident of myself, or at least a little more willing to put myself out there without worrying what others think. I'm becoming a little bit more like Casey. Hah. It's kind of cool for me, especially because it didn't really cost a superhuman effort to sing, it was actually not that hard. Kind of neat how that sort of thing happens. Just a neat little anecdote from this past week. :)
Today we had a zone activity. We played sports, ate pizza, and watched UP. :) And, Gabs, I absolutely loved it. What a good movie. And I think that's about it for me this week. Time for the better part of the letter, and then I'll despedirme. :)
Gabbie: Hey Gabs! Your email this week was probably the best one yet! (Mostly because it was full of all sorts of jokes and funny things). Dad sent me some pictures of your adventure and they looked pretty awesome. Your story about crossing the ice and then seeing it break afterward when Dad threw a rock was a pretty crazy one. I bet that was a lot of fun and made you feel like an explorer from UP :) Sounds like you're all having lots of fun with the snow. Have a snowball fight for me, okay? :) To answer your first question, no, I didn't really celebrate Thanksgiving. I spent the day thinking about all my blessings and wrote in my journal about all the things I'm grateful for, but that's about it - nothing in the way of food. Well, Gabs, keep having lots of fun and being the funny little girl you are. Have a great week! I love you very much! :)
P.S. Chow in Spanish (chau) and in Italian (ciau) means goodbye. So "chow for now" is "goodbye for now." Chow also means to eat a bunch, as in "chow down." I don't know if that one applies here though. :) Love you! :)
Miranda: Seems like it's been a pretty good week for you, too. Cool to hear that you finished with the BYU application. Yeah, I too felt a lot more excited about college once my application was in and I didn't have to worry about it so much. And at times I felt nervous or apprehensive about going to college, but once I got there I realized that I liked it a lot more than high school, as fun as high school was.  It was cool to hear about Thanksgiving, your adventures in the kitchen with your omelets, and driving (fishtail powerslide in the snow) up the hill with Dad. Haha. I remember doing that a lot and I always liked it too. Have a great week and remember that I love you very much! :)
Mom: Hey Mom!  You asked me about the island - it's pretty small and not too many people live there, but there are a few members and yes, the only way to get there is by boat. Maybe you can pull it up on Google Maps or something - it's at the southern end of Mina. About half my area was badly affected with the floodings from awhile back, and a lot of people are still recovering, repainting their houses, etc. We eat fish probably about once a week, most often fried and served whole, but sometimes prepared like the picture I sent.  Elder Valencia lived in Mesa, Arizona, and yes, he's pretty cool and very easy to get along with. The district is pretty small - us, another companionship, and the zone leaders. It's cool that way though. For breakfast the family gives us eggs, pancakes, empanadas, and similar things. Dinner is sometimes sandwiches, soup, fried bananas, and the occasional turtle. :)  Cool to hear about Casey being engaged - tell him congratulations for me! Thank you, Mom, for always writing me and for being so supportive. I love you very much and hope you have a great week! :)
Dad: Congratulations on the mortgage test! :) I knew you could do it... best score in the state?...the whole world? ha.  I really liked what you had to say in the day's sermon :) about gratitude. It's something Josh talked about in his email too, and I really liked the thoughts you mentioned. I'm going to study those this week, as well as President Monson's talk - thanks for sending that. The gratitude journal sounds like a very good idea, and I liked what you said about knowing now the things I didn't know at the beginning of my mission. I'm going to focus on using what I know to make the most of the time that's left. It's going to be a good time. :) Well, Dad, thank you for writing me every week, and for all the help you give me. I've very thankful to be your son, and to be a part of this family. Have a great week. I love you very much.
Well, everyone, thanks for everything. I hope that all's going well. See you all next week - chow for now! :)
 Elder Greer