Sunday, August 30, 2015

Two Months!

Image result for mexican panaderia
Marta's new favorite, Mexican Panaderia

From 24 August 2015

Woohoo!  I`ve been here for two months!! (CRAZY). My Spanish comprehension and speaking are rapidly improving, but I`m nowhere near fluent yet.  The Open House is probably the most exhausting thing I can imagine (because we are LITERALLY on our feet and talking to people (in Spanish) and smiling (which gets painful after 6 or 7 hours) for 12 hours straight.  Fortunately, we basically have Thanksgiving every day for Comida (we usually have 3-5 full dishes), so we have plenty of energy.  Also, you all should google images of Mexican Panaderias because they`re basically my new favorite thing.  In other news, we`re going to have (my first) baptism on Sunday, and I`m pretty excited!  But I also have to give a 7-minute talk in Spanish so that`s less exciting.  

Musings on Mexican/general human culture:

  • People love to talk
  • Mexican people cannot say no if you ask them to do something, but that doesn`t mean they are actually going to do it
  • Talking with older women in the Reception tent after the temple tour is dangerous because sometimes you will innocently ask how they are doing and they will launch into a story of an undetermined length in rapid (but quiet) spanish until one of their children comes to rescue you and tell them it`s time to go. 
  • My smile is my most powerful weapon as a missionary.
  • I realized that I`m kind of like Ammon among the Lamanites because I`m a random white person who wants to serve them.  (and I have a "disarming" smile)
  • There is a plan.  Heavenly Father`s time-line and people`s agency are two of the most frustrating things to deal with as a missionary, but they are incredibly important to trust.
  • We are INCREDIBLY blessed to have a whole, sealed family that is active in the church.  I pray every day that we can stay that way forever.  And ever.  And eternity.

I love you all bunches and bunches.  You are in my prayers!

Lots of love,
Hermana Houghton #3

Thursday, August 20, 2015


From 19 August 2015--Marta had a surprise P-day and we hadn't left any emails for her!

I assume crazy things are happening, and you`re all moving and shtuff, and I told you I wasn`t emailing until Monday, which was apparently a lie.  Sorry.  The open house is wreaking havoc on our schedule once again.  I AM emailing Monday though, so let me know what`s up!  I understand much birthday celebrating has occurred since my last email and I would like to take this opportunity to wish both Mom AND Dad a VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!  Welcome to year ·54 (right?)!  We`re working very hard, I`m learning Spanish even faster because I have to talk to SO many people at the Open house (usually by myself, but I can actually sometimes understand what they`re saying and asking me).  Most frequently asked question (post-temple-tour): what do the cows under the baptismal font mean?  Psshhh.  So hard to explain in Spanish.  But it`s awesome to see what awesome spiritual experiences people have in the temple, even before it`s dedicated.  I encourage you all to go online and check out the photos that I have been telling people exist on  Other fun news: Mexican food is crazy!  Comida (the big meal of the day) is HUGE.  Today we were fed (in one meal) a largish bowl of soup, a heap of mashed potatoes, 3 large pieces of fried-ish chicken, "salad"--couldn`t tell what was in it, but there was a lot of cream and wet lettuce, and jello/pink flan stuff for dessert.  Oh, and a large pitcher of lemonaide-ish stuff, an avacado, and all-you-can-eat tortillas (hot).  And an apple for the road.  And you`re not allowed to say no.  That would be rude.  Fortunately, I`m also standing up, talking, and walking all day, so it all works out for the best!  I love you all, the people here are crazier and more wonderful than you could believe!!

Lots of love,
Hermana Houghton

P.S. Hurray for Paul who`s on his way, and Tess who`s off to college, and Camilla who has her mission call, and all other people worth celebrating: your knee is in my prayers too Momma!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Week. . .2 I guess?

This is our apartment!  This is the inside of the building-ish.  We kind of have 3 front doors,
 but that´s just the way houses work here.
From 13 August 2015

Wow,  I feel like I´ve already been here forever.  But it´s great, and different, and rather exciting!  I´ll tell you all what´s up, and then I´ll try to answer some questions I´ve been getting:

Life: 6:30 a.m. exercise (running the stairs in our building, yoga, or calistenics (I´m confident saying Alison would be a little bit proud of me)
7:00 a.m. shower, breakfast (usually involves a banana, because they are the best)
8:00 a.m. (this is where it gets tricky) Plan a) Personal study Plan b) walk 10 minutes to the Micro (bus) stop, take a bus for 15 minutes across town to the temple, arrive (hopefully) by 8:30 and work the Open House until 3:00 p.m.
9:00 Plan a) Companionship Study 
10:00 Plan a) Training
11:00 Plan a) Language study
12:00 Plan a) Hit the streets and teach/visit people until whenever Comida is scheduled for 
2:00-4:30ish Plan a) Have comida for an hour at a member´s house (In Mexico, Comida is the biggest meal of the day, and usually consists of 3-4 courses including rice, soup, meat/main course, and dessert--you get stuffed) Plan b) at 3:00take a bus home from the temple (20-40 minutes depending on traffic), run to a member´s home for comida)
Post-Comida (3:00-5:00ish) Visit investigators, follow-up on refrences from the Open House, teach menos activos (less-active members), conversos recientes (recent converts), investigadores progresandos (progressing investigators), and also make citas (appointments) to teach more.
8:00 Be in the apartment, and plan the next day for half-an-hour
8:30 Cook/Consume food, or hand-wash some clothes if you have time
9:30 Prep for bed
10:30 Lights out...

So that´s my day folks!  We live in one of the nicest areas in my mission, so life is pretty good, and we have running hot water, electricity, and no cockroaches!  However, none of the water here is clean enough for drinking, so all of our drinking and cooking water comes from "garrafones" or big water jugs like you see in fancy office buildings.  It´s fun!  Other Culturally fun things: Today for the first time I rode in a Cambi, and on the Metro!  Here in the city, they have a lot of different ways to get around, and most transportation is really cheap, so we use it a lot.  Cambis are vans that act like buses, Micros are mini-buses that are usually stick-shift, very bouncy, and kinda crazy and full, Mexi-buses are like the buses on cables that you see in a lot of bigger cities, and the Metro is like the Subway, or the Tube.  And then, of course there are taxis!  It´s a party! 

Also, I am surprised at the way Americanism makes its appearance in Mexico.  For example, as I was getting off the extremely crowded metro and walking past these tents and open-air food stalls at the station we came across a gas station where they were blasting "Party in the USA" by Miley Cyrus.  As for food, you have to be really careful what you eat here because a lot of things aren´t sanitized, or they have things in them that will make a Gringo like me sick, so mostly we eat at home, and my cultural experience with food is limited to what the members feed us for Comida.  But the ice cream and baked goods are delicious!

Anywho, the work here in Bosques is a bit crazy because we have to spend so much time at the Open House, but I got my first fecha (baptismal date) yesterday!  Angie is about 23, and she didn´t quite know how she felt about the church, so we sent her to a HAS (Young Single Adult) conference and she just came back on fire.  I´m so excited for her!  We´re also teaching this adorable old man who works as a community gate-guard (but is also apparently independently wealthy...) who recently joined the church and last night we had to teach him the importance of marriage...  It was pretty funny because he was previously convinced that Single Life is really the best way for him. 

Spanish is hard, but bit by bit it´s coming along.  My companion helps a lot, and I´m soooo glad she´s a native speaker, because I probably won´t be paired with another one for the rest of my mission.  Also, I´m racing to bring it up to speed because I might be training in 4 weeks (AAAHHH!) 

I love you all and hope you are having a fabulous time in Tahoe (except for Mom and Luke apparently :( )

Hermana Houghton #3

P.S. Pouch mail is most reliable
P.P.S. Éxito to Paul and Tess who as I understand it are both heading off on new adventures this week!

AAAaaannnd my next P Day is on the 24th! because of the open house

Monday, August 10, 2015

A Gringa Giantess in Bosques de Aragon

From 8 August 2015

Displaying IMG_3707.JPG
What you can´t tell very well in this photo is that I´m standing on the ground
beside the sidewalk, about 6 inches below where everyone else on my step is standing. 
Yes.  I am a gringa giantess. Oh, and I´m taller than everyone in my zone
(14 people, 12 of whom are Elders)
Displaying DSCN0744.JPG
Our view out the window... :)

In case you were wondering, keyboards in Mexico are different, but I have mastered them.  Right now I´m sitting in an internet cafe in Bosques typing up a storm with my one hour of writing time.  I won´t be able to write again for a bit (not exactly sure when my next P Day is) because all of the Hermanas in my mission will be working every day at the Temple Open House starting next Friday, so they´re mixing up our P Days.  Anyway, Bosques is a lovely, crazy, extremely different town from anything I have yet encountered in the U.S.  The streets are all named after countries (but their names are in Spanish eg. Grecia de Aragon = Greece) and they´re organized based on continents.  They´re also cobble-stone, and most of them have gates and guards at the entrances.  The guards are friendly, usually, and we´re actually teaching a couple of them, which is interesting.  In other news, houses are different here, mostly because they have walls in front of them, so you can´t really see most of the living space at all.  It´s hard to describe, but very interesting to me.  We do quite a bit of walking each day, and probably rack up 4-8 miles depending on how many/where our appointments are.  Fortunately, the weather here is basically perfect.  It ranges between 55 and 80 morning to night, and sometimes it rains in the afternoon.  But it´s lovely!

Image result for montezuma's revenge meme
Oh, fun fact. For those history buffs reading this, do you remember Monteczuma?  He was an Aztec king I believe, and was killed by Cortez and the Spañards many years ago.  Well, nowadays, he takes his revenge.  The revenge of Monteczuma is what they call the digestive issues that most "gringos" experience when they come to México.  They put a lot of chili and tomatoes in sauces here, and even if the food isn´t that hot, Gringo stomachs are used to them, and all sorts of issues ensue.  I won´t go into detail, but I think it´s pretty funny.  Sometimes.

In other news, I´m taller than all of my 14-person zone (Gringa giantess...), and in a week I will be one of 6 Hermanas in the field!  To top it off, we´re actually getting 4 more Americana Hermanas in less just 5 weeks, which means that one of the three Hermanas (including me) that I came with could be training after a single transfer.  Also, I will probably only get one transfer (6 weeks) of training.  (For those of you who don´t know, usually, missionaries get 12 weeks of training in the field and don´t train another missionary for a bit after that).  But who knows what will happen!  My Mission President, it turns out, is very unpredictable!

Other insights:
1) Mexico City makes the United States look like a drab, waste of space.  Not that it is, it juse seems that way...)
2) God doesn´t ask us to give Him our strengths when we are serving Him, He asks for our weaknesses, and then He turns them into strengths (eg. language)

Hrrrmmm... What else?

Oh yes!  I love you all bunches and bunches, and I hope you are having  a marvelous day!

Yours Truly,
Hermana Houghton
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Our apartment in Bosques

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

In the Field!

Hermanas Houghton and Chavez
Dear everyone,

First day in the Mexico City East mission
with Presidente and Hermana Anaya

Here I am.  In Mexico!  It´s really weird, but also kind-of wonderful.  I´m serving with my new companion Hermana Chavez, and our area is Bosquez, Aragon.  It´s not too far from the temple and the Mission offices, which is really nice since we will be commuting there each morning (starting next Friday) for a few weeks to help with the open house.  I learned upon arrival that there are only 8 American sisters serving in the field right now, and two of them will be going home in a week-and-a-half.  In my mission, only Americanas serve in the field, and all of the Latina hermanas serve in the Visitor´s Center at the Temple.  That´s just fine except that a giant block of about 20 Americana hermanas left over the past two months, and now ALL of the Hermanas in the field have about 3 months or less.  And 4 more are coming in 3 months, so chances are high that I could be training someone then.  Woohoo!  Fortunately, my companion, Hermana Chavez grew up in Guatemala and speaks fluent Spanish and English (she moved to the States when she was 12 and her family lives in Florida), and is a great blessing to me.

On my first day (yesterday) we had Comida (the big meal of the day which we usually have aroudn 3-4), an hour of our half-P-Day to unpack, and then we hit the streets and visited and taught 3 different people.  Okay, so I mostly listened and nodded at appropriate moments, while Hermana Chavez had conversations with people.  We did help one woman named Esperanza (hope in english) make a cake, which was fun.

In other news, my last bit of time at the CCM was wonderful, but bitter-sweet because I knew I was leaving.  My former companion, Hermana Glauser, as well as one of our roommates, Hermana Gantz, are both serving here with me, and the three of us are being trained by the three Americanas who just finished being trained.  We represent all of the Hermanas in the field for our mission right now (WOW).  Fortunately, they´re calling in 80+ reinforcements for the Casa Abierta (Open House) for the temple, which starts next week.  They´re coming from the Mexico City North(east or west) and South missions.

Other fun facts/things I have learned in the past 24 hours:
1-Cross walks, speed limits, lanes in roads, and bus stops are irrelevant (sorry Dad)
2-I need to learn Spanish
3-Never walk or take a bus home from the bank. (take a safe taxi from an established area/company)
4-I need to learn Spanish
5-You need to wash all produce in sanitized water before eating
6-I need to learn Spanish
7-At the grocery store, you leave all of your belongings at the front with a desk-person, and then there are armed guards roaming around, but it´s basically like walmart, with a better bakery section.
8-Most of the music I hear is either some form of Mariachi, or American 80´s (more on this as I gather more information)
9-Pass-along cards are my new best friends
10-Figs actually taste pretty good.
11-Mexican people are NOT the same as Americans.  They´re different in many ways, some good.

Okay, I love you all and I have P-Day again on Saturday (and then I won´t have it next week because of the Open House) so I will write more then.  Shout out to my good friend Kathy for getting a card here before I even arrived!  It made my day!

Lots of love,
Hermana Houghton

The English translation of what (I think) Hermana Chavez/ caption to her photo was:
You welcome to Mexico and Houghton Gantz sisters who are very successful wherever they are 

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Write a Letter!

Some have asked for an address for Marta, and with a little experimentation, we've discovered that mail via the Mexican post takes about 18 days.   We can send mail a bit quicker and cheaper via  pouch.  Here are instructions.

Letters may be only one piece of paper (not lightweight notebook paper).  Fold the paper into thirds, and secure the long edge with two pieces of tape about 1" from each end.   Do not seal the ends.   Address the folded paper like an envelope with your name and address in the upper left corner and the following address for Marta.   Affix U.S. first class postage.

Sister Marta Irene Houghton
Mexico Mexico City East Mission
P.O. BOX 30150
Salt Lake City,  UT  84130-0150

I'll also post her Mexico City area address as soon as we hear from her (hopefully Monday or Tuesday).