Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Feliz Navidad!

From July 28, 2015

Hermanas Glauser and Houghton.  Hehehehehe.  Love you all.  P.S. isn´t the CCM beautiful!?

Dear Family, Friends, and Wonderful People,

Feliz Navidad!  These are our two (random) Christmas trees
 (which our progenitors acquired somehow)
I have less than a week left in the CCM, and it´s weird to say the least.  My district and generation is now the oldest, and my zone will have 3 other districts that are younger than us by Wednesday.  Ew.  But it does encourage the Elders to (occasionally) be serious and set a good example.  It´s fun, and we´re still learning SO much, ever day.  Teaching lessons in Spanish has become  a lot easier, although I´m sure my grammar is horrible, and occasionally, when I say something that I think makes perfect sense, my investigator/teacher just stares at me with a blank look and I know I´ve missed something!  In other news, we celebrated Christmas in July on Saturday (complete with Christmas trees, Caroling (in Spanish AND English), and "presents" (riddles and jokes)).  We said "Feliz Navidad" to everyone we saw, and many of the Mexicanos were confused--we explained and they still just thought we were weird.  

Okay, other awesome/funny moments from the week include a visit from the Director of ALL international MTC´s in the world, and a talk from him.  He showed us pictures of all the others MTC´s (in places like Ghana, South Africa, Madrid, Bogota, the Phillipines, New Zealand, etc.) and they are ALL beautiful (everyone really liked the England one especially Luke!).  For your information, the Mexico MTC is the second largest, and can house up to 1200 people (I think we have about 600-700 people here right now), but is spread out on 95 acres.  Whereas the Provo MTC (the largest) can house 3000 and sits on roughly 35 acres.  So I guess you could say we´re blessed beyond belief!  Also, they don´t have palm trees, random flocks of green parrots, or perfect weather  in Provo :)  All bragging aside, it is gorgeous here and I will miss it a LOT.  

Also, when the Director spoke on Sunday, the MTC choir sang the EFY medley in Spanish (if you have not heard it, it is AWESOME, and powerful, and wonderful) and I loved it.  The best part is when the choir joins together and sings "Como el ejercity de Helaman, Debemos obedecer, Seremos misioneros del Señor llevando al mundo su verdad" (We are as the Army of Helaman, we have been taught in our youth.  And we will be the Lord´s missionaries to bring the world His truth).  This line is especially powerful when sung by about a hundred Elders and Hermanas.  

On a less-spiritual note, one of the Elders in our zone told a story one evening that went like this: "So I played the susaphone (tuba) in high school, and one time I was standing in formation, just chilling there, and this clarinet player just ran into me!"  End of story.  We all sat there waiting for the punch-line for about 10 seconds and then fell over laughing.  It´s nice to have a fellow-tuba player in the District though!

Okay, in case you were wondering if we got anything productive done this week, we are currently learning about present subjunctive in Spanish, and we just finished going over the two separate types of past tense (preterite and imperfect) and conditional verbs.  Also, I´m currently working on memorizing D&C 4 (in Spanish, of course).  And, in the mean time, there is an epidemic in the CCM and several members of our zone have contracted a nasty virus with fevers, unhappy tummies and the works.  I´m praying I don´t catch it before I head out on Monday, and we´re all under strict instructions to NOT shake hands with other people, and to WASH hands ALL the time.  

Now that you´ve heard way more than you wanted to about my life, PLEASE send me some info. about your own!  I love to get emails, and I ESPECIALLY love letters and postcards!

I love you all, be safe and happy!
Hermana Houghton

This is the gym where we... play ping pong.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

"Week 5"

At the Mexico City Temple
So, I've only been in the CCM for 4 weeks (not even until tomorrowtmorrow), but because of the system for counting, this is technically week 5 for me, and that's crazy!  I leave in less than 2 weeks for the Field, and I got to visit it today!  We went to the temple visitor's center, which was GORGEOUS.  Unfortunately, we can't got in the temple right now because it's being renovated, and the open house will start about the week after my companion and I get into the field.  We did get to talk to the sister missionaries serving in the Visitor's center, which was cool.  They are in the Mexico City East mission, like me, and they told us that in May all of the Americanas (American sisters) left, and they only have about 4 right now and they're all brand new.  However, there are 30-40 sisters total in the mission, and we probably won't be in the Visitor's center (at least I think that's what she said).  With quite a bit of concentration, I can understand most of what people say to me (as long as it's mostly church-related, because that's most of what I've been learning), but speaking is taking a bit longer.  

Speaking of speaking Spanish, Hermana Glauser and I got to teach a REAL investigator this week (yes, in Spanish).  The lesson wasn't perfect, but it went pretty well, and she committed to baptism at the end, which was way cool.  We also taught our other investigators (Giovanny and Juan Jose) a fair bit, and got a new one (Jorge Wooldston).  These investigators are actually just our teachers in character, but they speak full-Spanish, and stay in perfect character, so it's still exciting.  Teaching is getting easier, as is preparing, and planning lessons as a companionship.  It takes a while to work out some kinks and learn how to be unified when you teach, but it's well worth the wait.

Add caption
Anyway, the district is still hilarious.  We graduated to be the oldest in our zone this week, and got a new district last week, and we will be getting another this week to replace the two that have left.  (BTW, brief rundown for those non-RM's: Districts are made up of 6+ elders and Hermanas, and a few districts put together makes a zone, eg. I'm in zone 12, district C).  Also, our zone's service project (every week) is to welcome in the Newbies on Wednesday nights.  It's a lot of fun, but it takes a few hours to get all the elders and Hermanas to dinner, through emailing, through brief orientation, and with all their stuff to their houses).  When our generation of Americanos came in, we had 75, and that was the biggest they've had all year.  However, this week, we're getting 106ish Americanos, and today 150+ Latinos came in.  It's going to be CRAZY.  But, they just finished upgrading the Comedor (Cafeteria) to accommodate all the new Elders and Hermanas.

Ok, lots has happened, and I will try to get some pictures out to you all.  I just wanted to finish with a bit of a poem that I wrote. 

When the load becomes heavy
And the journey seems long,
You can think of your Savior,
For This is His Song:
He-says Ï love you, I love you,
Much more than you know,
So I lived my life perfect,
And-died for you to go
Back home to our Father,
Who loves you so much
And our Heavenly Mother,
With Her warm, gentle touch
You see, fam'lies are forever,
With Dad, Mom, and kids,
And we all work together
To-be clean from our sins.
We each have a part
In our Father's great plan
You, child, are no different,
You must lend a hand.
A burden is given
For each one to bear,
We all have our trials,
And our things that aren't fair.
But just know, dear child
That this journey will end,
In the warm, loving arms,
Of your very best friend.

Spiritual message: Sometimes life is hard, but with some Eternal Perspective, and the help of our Savior, we can be hopeful and happy!

Love you all!
Hermana Houghton

P.S. A shout out to my devoted friend Katherine Hohne. . .I got her postcard!

¿Cómo Están?

From 14 July 2015

¡Familia y Amigos! ¿Cómo Están?

It's so good to hear from you all!  It has been a great week at the CCM, with lots of food, lots of laughs, and LOTS AND LOTS AND LOTS of studying.  Now, I'm not murmuring here, but we study SO much.  It feels like we study for two days each day we have class, because we have a morning block with Hermano Soto, language study, doctrine study, and teaching our investigator (Juan Jose aka Hermano Soto), and we have an afternoon block with language study, doctrine study, and teaching our other investigator (Giovanny aka Hermano Osorio).  And of course there's an hour of study before breakfast, 2 hours after lunch, and 2 more hours after dinner.  Anyway, all that studying means we're learning FAST.  Hermana Glauser and I teach 6-9 lessons this week, and although our Spanish is nowhere near perfect, we're starting to get our routine of studying, planning, and giving lessons down.  We've had some good feedback from our teachers (that's the best part about having your teachers be your investigators) although they stay in perfect character during the lesson.

Now, some highlights from the week (besides studying and teaching): I gave a talk on Sunday about the Holy Ghost (almost entirely in Spanish) in front of the branch, branch presidency, and a member of the CCM presidency and his wife (Ahh...).  On Sunday afternoon we watched a recorded devotional of Jeffrey R. Holland (another one) where he pounded the pulpit quite a bit.  I don't mean to reveal any MTC secrets here, but he was pretty adamant about our need to convert at least one person on our mission--ourselves.  Some of my favorite lines from his talk were "Missionary work IS real life, with a capital R and a capital L...if you ever fall away from the church after serving a full-time mission, you'd better hope you don't meet me down a dark alleyway!...I am pretty biased about this, much of the time I want to revoke free agency, wait a second--is this pulpit grounded?"  It was a pretty great talk, and those were just the funny lines. I love Elder Holland!  Also, have I mentioned that my district is hilarious?  Every night we are excused from study at 9:25 to go back to our houses, and on the way we stop in one of evacuation-earthquake circles pictured in a previous email (called the Circle of Happiness) and everyone has to say one nice thing about everyone else before they can leave.  It's a great tradition, and often results in a good hearty laugh (which we all need after a day of studying).  The other night, Hermana Glauser was trying to compliment the Elders by saying I like your faces (sometimes our compliments are weird) and accidentally said "Me gust sus carnes" which means I like your meat".  Laughter ensued and escalated when she tried to say that "mistakes are okay" (steaks).  It was Houghton-worthy. 

BTW, Dad, I finally figured out why we're not allowed to play contact-sports with the Elders.  Elder McVicker got a really bad bloody nose during soccer, and Elder Nelson got a black eye in Basketball.  Oh!  Speaking of Elders, when everyone gets to the CCM, they teach the Elders some basic rules.  #1: If you are in-line for food, you ALWAYS let the Hermanas go ahead of you (no matter how many there are, or how long the line is)  This means that we NEVER wait in line for food, which is weird/nice.  #2: Elders always have to carry chairs and such for Hermanas when we go to have class outside.  Anyway, it's pretty funny because every morning the elders in our district leave a bit before us for breakfast, and we always pass them in the line.  Also, another funny thing about the CCM is that throughout the day you can hear cannons/fireworks/guns going off in the distance.  It's a bit disturbing for the first bit, but they're quite common-place now.  My companion compares the CCM to the Hunger Games because we're inside a barbed-wire fence, everyone's sorted into a district, and cannons go off randomly.  Some of the Elders have taken to saying "muerte" every time we hear one.  Oh, goodness, there's so much to tell you all.  Our district has decided that the normal days of the week no longer apply to us: Sunday is Sunday still, Monday is Friday, Tuesday is Saturday, and Wed-Saturday are Thursdays 1,2,3, and 4.  This is actually a pretty good representation of our schedule.

Okay, don't let my un-spiritual "highlights" fool you, I'm spending LOTS of time studying the gospel and the language, and I'm probably working harder than I ever have before.  My spiritual thought for the week is this quote from Elder Holland's talk: "work as hard as you can until someone tells you it's time to go home." This quote wasn't a main focus of his talk, and it's directed to missionaries mostly.  However, I think it applies to all of us as we're working through the good times and the bad times of this life.  We don't get to be here forever, so we  had best work as hard as we can until someone (Heavenly Father) tells us it's time to come home.

I love you all!

"Week 3!"

From 7 July 2015

Hermanas Glauser & Houghton

I'm not going to lie, the CCM is the best!  It's also super-hard and I spend 12+ hours per day learning Spanish and such.  But it's great :)  

Dear Family and Friends,

This week has been a whirlwind of learning, growing, eating, not-eating (fast sunday), and Spiritual growth.  I have now graduated to a third-weeker (that's what they call it, even though we've only been here for a week-and-a-half) and while the classes are getting harder and they're asking us to plan more and study harder than ever, it is great.  My investigator from the first week (we taught him 5 lessons) became our afternoon teacher on Friday, and it was super-weird.  His name is Hermano Osorio and he pushes us (and checks-in to make sure we're working) to plan more and work more diligently to learn Spanish and prepare ourselves spiritually as well.  Hermano Soto (my morning teacher) and Hermano Osorio (my afternoon teacher) are acting as investigators that we teach every other day (one on each day) named "Giovanny"and "Juan Jose." On Thursday my companion and I have a "field trip" to finish up getting our visas (there's an extensive process once you get here in Mexico to get all the paperwork cleared up), and then in the afternoon we are doing our first TRC.  TRC is when you teach a volunteer investigator who may be a real investigator, a less-active, or a member.  Of course, all of our lessons are in Spanish, and I think we have improved quite a bit since lesson 1, but it still takes quite some time to explain things, and talking to Latinos when they're speaking at normal speed is quite difficult.  Our teachers talk slowly and simply so we understand most of what they are saying, but lately they have begun to ramp up the speed so we get used to listening to normal-speed Spanish.

Anyway, we did celebrate the 4th of July here.  There are actually a lot of Americans, since most of the Latinos who come through only spend 2 weeks, and the Americans are here 6.  The Comedor staff made hamburgers and apple pie for lunch, and a fruit tray of coconut, watermelon, and blueberries arranged as an American flag.  Then, in the middle of comida (lunch), some elders placed a tiny American flag atop the drink machine and began proudly singing the National Anthem.  The Americans all stood up and sang along, and the Latinos took pictures. Then, they didn't feed us dinner or breakfast because of fast Sundays.  You should have heard the elders complaining about the 24 hour fast!

My District

In other news, I realized that my guessing of Minnesota mission calls has finally yielded results.  My entire district (except for my companion) is going to Minnesota Spanish-speaking!  It took me long enough to realize...  So that's what's happening here.  Oh! and my district played basketball and tennis this morning for our P-Day, because my companion LOVES tennis, but there are only 3 raquets.  The grounds here are spacious and beautiful, and there are tennis courts, a few fields, a track, several basketball and volleyball courts, a work-out room with stationary bikes, a weight-room, and a full gym (and foosball and ping-pong).  So we stay busy and have a lot of fun.

On a more spiritual note, this Sunday we got to listen to Elder Bednar's MTC devotional, "Becoming a Preach My Gospel Missionary," and it was awesome!  The prophets are so inspired, and being a missionary puts you right in-line for their excellent counsel and advice.  Also, I've joined the choir here.  We only sing for our Tuesday evening devotionals, but it's all in Spanish, and it's pretty fun.  Oh! BTW, on Sunday nights we get to watch a "movie" (usually a church-bible video) and this Sunday we watched "The Testament".  Some of you  may have seen it, it's about a fictionalized story of a boy and his poor decisions in the Americas right before Christ visits.  Anyway, there is a bit of romance and kissing (very pg), but it was SO funny to be in a room full of missionaries for it!  My companion said "I felt like I needed to close my eyes or something!".  Anyway, I trust all is going well in the U.S!  I did hear that Elder Packer died, which is very sad.  We will probably watch his funeral here on Sunday or something.

I hope you all are having a fantasmical Summer!

Lots of love,
Hermana Houghton (#3)

P.S. I apologize for this random conglomeration of thoughts and experiences...

This is our House.  It's adorable.  And PEACH! colored.