Monday, January 27, 2014

Mexico City Week 1 January 27, 2014

!Bienvenidos a la Ciudad de Mexico!

The plane ride into Mexico was absolutely insane! For most of the plane ride we were flying over the ocean and when the sun began to set, the sky was more orange than I have ever seen it. It was especially pretty because off in the distance, you could see the volcano in Mexico poking through the clouds. The sun went down and when we hit the coast of Mexico, all you could see were millions and millions of lights as far as the eye could see. I couldn't believe it.
Blurry View From the Air

We landed, grabbed our bags, and met up with the mission president and his wife. He told us to follow him and we walked out to the parking lot where we piled into a little van. He told us that he hoped we were really hungry because we were going to have a Mexican style bienvenidos. He drove us to a tiny taco shop on the side of the street and all 20 of us missionaries squeezed around the only table they had. The 'chef' cooked everything right there in front of us. On a long pole near a fire on the wall was a big hunk of meat and right above the meat was a whole roasted pineapple. The man would roll up a small tortilla, cut off a piece of pina, some meat, and bring it to us. This food is called 'tacos al pastor' and is SO DELICIOUS. 'Gringas' is another type of food that's pretty good. They laugh at us Americans when we order it because gringa means white girl. We also got huge mugs of ice cold horchata to drink...yummy!
Mexican Bienvenidos!

The driving here is LOCO! No one follows any rules whatsoever! We got to our apartment, grabbed our stuff and walked up to a metal door leading into a sort of porch (this is how every house is set up). We climbed the stairs, walked inside our apartment, and the smell was absolutely overwhelming... There was garbage everywhere! Nada was clean!
Old Apartment
When we started unpacking I kept thinking, "I'm going to have to live here for months..ah!!" I put my bags in my room, opened one and immediately noticed that tons of stuff had been stolen.  (all of my make-up, my hair dyer, alarm clock, probiotics, underwear, feminine items, all of the photos I brought with me of my family and every photo that I got at the MTC, all of my books and Spanish dictionaries, all of the books I had been given at the MTC, my precious Biscoff that my mom sent me) My heart sank, and I was on the verge of tears. Nearly half of my stuff was gone. I could not believe that within just hours upon arriving in Mexico, my things had already been keep myself from crying I kept thinking to myself, "Ok...the people here have close to nothing...I can survive..." and, "At least this will make a good story.." Oh the things I tell myself..haha.
New Apartment (We got to move!)
Am I in a 3rd world country? Yes! EVERYTHING is so different from what I'm used to in America.

My companion named Hermana Valdez. She is from Tampico Mexico and speaks zero English. Its pretty hard to communicate with her sometimes, but it's all good. Our roommates are Hermana Benson (my companion in the MTC) and Hermana Bravo from Ecuador. We are in an area called Parque and are the only missionaries in the area...hoping to convert enough people to make a ward here.

The cars: The majority of cars here are either Volkswagen bugs or vans. On a single street, there are usually around 10 bugs. A lot of the taxis here are Volkswagen buses that we pile into to get to church and stuff. There's a barrier between the driver and us and you have to speak and pay your pesos through a little hole in the barrier. To stop, you pull a little rope that connects to the front. And when you don't think that you can fit one more person, the driver will pull over and they squeeze right on in. Personal space doesn't really exist here..haha.

The houses:
The houses are side by side and are usually painted different colors. In a single house/apartment around 5 families live in all the different rooms; some downstairs and others up the stairs onto the second floor. The roof of each house is where people string their clothes to hang dry.

Every day when my companion and I go to visit/contact people, the men on the sides of the street cat-call like crazy! It's actually kind of they've never seen a white girl before. Everyone stairs at me...but hey...the more people that notice me, the more I can convert!

Lunch here is like dinner in America. It's the time when families gather to have a big meal together. Each day at about 2:00 PM, we eat at a members house and they make the best food ever. Tacos, floutas, sopa, homemade tortillas, jugo from scratch, etc. The food here is SO GOOD!

Here, the church is known for having a lot of money. We have to be very careful in what we tell people. We can't mention that there are computers or anything. Every chapel is surrounded by a 15 foot fence lined with razor blade barbed wire. How inviting..haha.

There is absolutely no hot water here. To heat water we either have to put a hot iron inside a bucket of water, or use a heating coil. WARNING: Do not put your finger inside a bucket of water when there is a heating coil in it! I learned that one the hard way. Each morning, I wake up early, fill each bucket with water, heat it with an iron or coil, go back to bed, wake up 30 minutes later, and put the buckets in the bathroom for everyone to use to shower.
Our Water Heater
The people here are the most kind, loving, and service oriented people I have ever met. They will do absolutely anything in their power to help you. They serve without you saying a word... They barely have enough for their own families and would still give you everything they had. They would feed you until you died! The Hermano that lives below us does so much for us. He brings us hot water in the morning to use to shower and his wife sewed us curtains for all of our windows. I can hardly believe how loving these people are. They make me want to be better.

Friday we went to immigration near downtown Mexico City to get our Visa pictures taken. We woke up at 4:00 AM and found a Taxi bus to take us to the Metro. We got to the Metro, bought our tickets, and walked through a maze of underground tunnels/stairs. Never in my life have I seen so many people in a single area. Literally hundreds and hundreds of men and women were crowded, trying to get on the metro. Every time the metro came and the doors would open, everyone would push and shove each other trying to get a spot. It was like cows being herded into a tiny coral. We finally managed to squeeze into the Metro. People were literally smashed up against the walls and against each other. What a sight..I couldn't help but laugh the whole time.

I got to go to the temple visitors center to buy a few things I needed. The temple is SO pretty! Unfortunately its closed..but I was glad to at least see the outside of it.
Mexico City Temple
The kids LOVE me here! I catch them staring at me all the time. One of our investigators has a 3 year old daughter. Our first time visiting her she brought me a basketball. I spun it on to my should've seen the look on her face. Now, every time we visit them she brings me the same basketball.

The garbage trucks here are chariot looking trailers pulled by horses...just a tad different then America wouldn't you say?

Let's just say that Mexican food DOES NOT sit well in the stomachs of American missionaries. I haven't had any serious problems...but every single American missionary in our mission is just a tad sick. Some of the Elders have had some serious not making it to the bathroom in time.. I'm crossing my fingers that that never happens to me. One Elder (while in a member's home) got up, and started running to the bathroom...didn't make it. The members thought it would be a great idea to gather all the hairdryers they had and try to blow dry his backside dry..of course that didn't work.. I can only imagine the embarrassment. Pray that that doesn't happen to me!
Local Fruit called Semilla
I had my first baptism invitation this week! And they said yes! It was in the first lesson and was pretty scary to ask, but I'm so glad I did.

Lunch on Sunday was insane! They gave us so much food. We started with a huge bowl of soup. As if that wasn't enough, they brought us each a plate of french fries and a HUGE hamburger. (they like to make us Americans American food sometimes) We began eating and I hadn't even eaten two bites when they brought me yet another hamburger. I couldn't believe it... Here, when the people give you food, you eat it, every last bite. Hermana Benson was whispering to me the whole time, "Si se se puede..." But it wasn't over yet...out came the flan and cookies... If I come home'll know why..haha

The mission is hard...but it wasn't meant to be easy. If it was easy, everyone would do it! It's so comforting to know that we have the Lord on our side, tenemos Dios! When things get hard, he is there for us, siempre! I am so grateful for the opportunity to bring this gospel to the people of Mexico City. Thank you for all of your thoughts and prayers! I love you all!

Hermana Ingram
(or Hermana Instagram as they like to call me here)

Saturday, January 18, 2014

¡Hasta La Vista Los Estados Unidos!

What a week!  

First off...My mom is crazy!!!  Last Saturday, we finally got to go to the temple.  As a zone, we boarded a bus and went up to the temple to do a session together.  Afterwards, 3 of the sisters and I walked back to Wyview and got ready to go to Brigham's landing.  As we began to walk to lunch, I heard a very noticeable cat call off to my right side.  The first time, I tried to ignore it thinking that there was some creep in the road catcalling the sister missionaries.  I thought it would be best to not even look over there or pay any attention to it and I continued to walk.  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a big white car pull into the median and once again I heard a cat call.  White could say I was a little scared.  My first instinct should've been to run but I decided to glance over to see who it was.  As I looked over, I saw that the 'creep' was my own mom half hanging out of the window.  I stopped and my jaw dropped.  The words that came out of my mouth were, "!?"  I could not believe that my mom was right there in front of me.  After what seemed like 5 minutes of just standing there speechless, I jumped over the snow-packed curb and ran out into the middle of the busy road.  I reached my arms through the open window, hugged her, and gave her the biggest kiss on the cheek I have ever given.  With tears in our eyes, we said bye and she began to drive away.  A few seconds later she stuck her head out of the window and said, "I promise I'll stop stalking you!" followed by a, "This is the last time I will ever see you again!".  I'd would like to take a moment to reassure you mom, that I will only be gone for another 17 months and that, listen carefully, I AM ALIVE!  Later that night at dinner, I was stopped by a group of Elders and Sisters.  They asked, "Hey!  Is your name Hermana Ingram?!"  I said yes and they informed me that they had met  my mom at the temple earlier that morning.  Yes yes...she had gone to the temple on a rampant search for her daughter.  Oh mother... They continued by telling me my life's story.  Can you tell that my mom misses me maybe a little?  I wouldnt be surprised if when I go to Mexico she follows me there!  I feel the love mom!  And I love you....craziness and all!

This week's TRC was awesome!  We got to skype a sweet hispanic lady from Mexico. It was
definitely different than our normal face-to-face conversations but it was still a lot of fun.  When I sit 
back and think about it, I am amazed that my companion and I can skype a lady in Mexico who only speaks Spanish and have a full on 45 minute discussion.  I'm amazed!  

Once again, Elder Bednar and his wife spoke to us for Tuesday Devotional.  He was the last person we expected since he had come for Christmas.  He told us how he had received over 1000 questions from Christmas and he decided that for his talk he would choose a few more and talk about those.  As a choir we got to sing "Nearer My God To Thee".  It was sad thinking that that was our last time singing with the choir.  We sang our absolute hardest to make up for it.  

Wednesday was Visa Day!  Mom, you can stop sweating bullets now!  At about 10:00, about 20 of us missionaries boarded a bus and headed to the Trax Station near the old Tabernacle.  The whole top floor of the train was filled with missionaries.  
We rode it to the Mexican Consulate in SLC.  When we got there, it felt like we had been dropped of in the most ghetto and scary part of Salt Lake.  I felt like I was in a different world or something.  Everything seemed rough...I don't know if it really was or if it just seemed that way considering I've been in a missionary bubble for the past month.  We walked into the consulate (the front door had bullet holes in it) and we all sat down.  A little hispanic lady called each of us up, one by one, to get our pictures taken and to get finger prints.  I felt like a criminal or something.  Us missionaries were the only white people in the whole place and none of the people there spoke very much English  When we had all been called up, one of the workers, who stood about 5'5", got up and stood in front of us.  In his Hispanic accent he said, "Now I have a few things I am required to say to you before you leave..."  He paused and then pointed right at me and said, "Don't steal the pretty Mexican boys from our country."  I expected him to laugh and continue with something more serious but instead he turned around and walked away without saying a word.
I CAN'T BELIEVE THAT I LEAVE FOR MEXICO MONDAY!  This month has flown by!  It feels like yesterday that I was the scared little missionary being dropped off at the MTC.  I'm definitely going to miss the MTC and I'll especially miss all of the people I've met and the friends I've made. However, Monday starts the journey that I came here to begin.  It's going to be a wake up call for sure considering no one will speak English.  I'll probably have a companion that doesn't speak a lick of English.  I finally get to eat REAL food and not cafeteria food...HALLELUJAH!   I'm nervous but I know that there are people to meet and places to go!  It's weird to think that from here on out I'll be writing home from Mexico.  I CAN'T WAIT!  ¡"Estoy muy animada!  ¡Les quiero mucho!  ¡Hasta la vista los Estados Unidos!  ¡Hola Mexico!  
Last Gym Time

Consulate Trip

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Week 4 in the MTC

I am having the time of my life here at the MTC. To all of those people who told me it was prison....Y'ALL HAD IT ALL WRONG!!!

Not much has happened this week but we have been teaching a lot of lessons. Sometimes we even teach up to 4 lessons a day and afterwards your brain feels like it has turned to mush because of all the Spanish you've been speaking and hearing.

This past Sunday was fast Sunday. Fast Sundays at the MTC = the longest days ever. Sacrament meeting was a lot of fun though because the district that was leaving got to bear their testimonies and sing their "going away" musical number. Those sisters and Elders feel like family to me and it was really sad hearing from them one last time. During sacrament, Brother McCracken's (branch presidency member) visiting grandson got up to bare his testimony. He has Down's syndrome and when he got up I immediately started smiling. (*Hailey's aunt has Down's) He stood up to the microphone, started speaking, and none of us could understand a single word that was coming out of his mouth. In the middle of his testimony, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a crinkled piece of paper. We didn't know what the paper said or what this boy's words meant, but it was amazing how the entire congregation felt the spirit so strong. After he finished, brother McCracken got up and explained that that paper that was in his grandson's hand was an obituary of one of his best friends whose funeral they had attended just the day before. That right there was proof that the spirit can testify even when none of the words are understood. At the end of sacrament, the leaving districts sang the EFY medley and I remember sitting there thinking that in less than 24 hours, I may not see any of them ever again and that things just weren't going to be the same ever again. But at the same time, I was so excited for them and the adventures that each of them were about to begin.
The Leaving District

The Last Gym Time
Later that night, we gathered as a zone to sing a hymn before we went back to our apartments. It is tradition for us to sing hymn #88 (a hymn found only in the Spanish hymn book) when anyone is leaving. The love we have for each other is insane! I will never forget those nights we sang that hymn.

We were able to be hosts this week which means that we got to show the brand new missionaries where to go and stuff. Buses would come and missionaries would begin to poor out. We would grab a few missionaries, find their bags, take them to their apartments to drop their things off, and take them back to be guided to their classes. I remember stepping out of that bus not too long ago! It's crazy to think that I've been at the MTC for almost a month!

TRC has been so great this week. We are teaching real investigators who have real interest in the gospel. Sometimes, it can be a lot of pressure but mostly it is an absolute blast. Our investigators are usually from another country and don't speak English so it feels like we are in Mexico already! I have been taller than every single one of them...I'm getting a taste of what Mexico will be like in every way;) We have one investigator named Ivette. When we walked in for the first lesson, she was noticeably sad and depressed. She didn't smile the entire time we were there and at first it was very intimidating. She told us about how she wasn't happy, that she felt depressed, and that it was mostly because her dad had been diagnosed with a sickness that was very dangerous. As we began to teach her, she began to ask questions on questions on questions. We could tell she was very interested in what we were teaching. We left her with an invitation to pray (she's never said a single prayer in her life) and a chapter out of the Book of Mormon to read (she's never touched a Bible let alone a BoM). Hermana Benson and I left feeling a little sad and confused about the lesson in general. The next day, we met with her again and she was a completely different person. So happy. You could see it in her eyes and countenance. She told us that after we had taught her the day before, she had gone home and prayed for the very first time. She said that immediately after ending her prayer, she felt that depression completely disappear. That morning, she had received a letter from her dad whom she hadn't talked to for over 6 months. In the letter he told her that his medical results had come back and that it was a miracle because the results had come back and the sickness had disappeared. Two miracles in a 24 hour span and she recognized it. Hermana Benson and I were on top of the world when she was telling us this. We taught the rest of our lesson and invited her to say the closing prayer for us (we taught her how to pray during the lesson). She was extremely reluctant when we first asked her but we were patient and she finally agreed to pray for us. Let me remind you that this was her second prayer EVER! Talk about an amazing prayer! I can't wait to see where this goes!

Elder Toala was supposed to leave last week with the rest of his district but had to stay this week too so that he could go to his mom's funeral. It was a lot of fun having him around for another week. The night before he left, we all gathered and sang our famous hymn #88 and as we sang, not a single zone member didn't have tears in their eyes. He's like an older brother to us all. After saying our last goodbyes we went to our apartment and set an alarm for 4:00 AM so that we could see Toala off the next morning. 4:00 came and we met up with a few other zone members to say our last goodbyes. The 4 girls across the hall had prepared a Samoan hymn to sing for him one last time. (it was the same hymn Toala had sang in sacrament a few days after his mom had died). With teary-eyes, we all shook his hand one last time and off he went.
Saying Goodbye to Elder Toala
I can't believe that I have been in the MTC for a month now and that I leave for Mexico in a little over a week. It's true what they say: time flies when you're having fun!

-Hermana Ingram
Hermana Benson, Call, Amis, Ingram

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Semana Numero Tres

This week was a blast!!

We got to experience TRC for the first time and it was a lot of fun. TRC is when people from outside the MTC come and we get to teach them a lesson. They are usually hispanic and what's unique about it is that they act as themselves, even if they are members. So we get to teach them and actually help them with trials they are facing in their lives. I'm really excited because in a few weeks, we will get to skype Spanish-speaking investigators from all over the world. That will for sure be a Spanish slap in the face when that day comes!!

Breakfast With My District

There is an Elder in my zone here named Elder Toala. He's a 6'5" Samoan football player for the University of Washington. Seriously the biggest guy I have ever met. I have become such great friends with him. The day after Christmas his mom passed away. There is nothing more sad than seeing a guy that big cry out of pure sadness. He's one of my best friends here and it stinks not being able to give him a big hug and tell him that everything will be ok. He is such an amazing example to all of us. His testimony is one that I will never forget. He is by far THE strongest (spiritually) guy I have ever met and he inspires all of us to be better people. It's amazing how something like that can bring us all closer and build each of our testimonies of the plan of salvation. He might not know it, but this trial in his life is helping all of the people around him. On Sunday, I witnessed a sacrament meeting that will stay with me for years to come. Elder Toala sang a Samoan Hymn with another Samoan sister in our zone. Toala had a hard time getting the words out because he was so emotional (by the way he has the voice of an angel). As they began to sing, the spirit poured into the room. Though none of us knew what the words meant, we all knew exactly what the message was: that families are forever. When they finished, Toala leaned to the microphone and whispered with tears in his eyes, "Love you mom." Everyone in that room had tears in their eyes too. I will never forget that sacrament meeting. I know without a doubt that Toala's mom was there.

I also got a calling! I'm the Zone Leader for the Sisters! It's so crazy to me because I remember when I got set apart as a missionary, the words said that I would have many sister leadership roles on my mission. I guess it's already being fulfilled! We haven't gotten any new districts to our zone yet but we will this upcoming Wednesday. I remember feeling so new to this MTC experience and looking up to the Hermanas who had been here and it's weird to think that that's who I am now. My roommates and I are thinking about freaking out the new sisters somehow...suggestions would be greatly appreciated;)

18 + Pounds of Books

One of the members of the branch presidency, named Brother Dowman, has practically become my dad away from home. He played BYU football back in the day and when he learned about my love for sports he got THE biggest smile on his face. He loved hearing my story about how I came about serving a mission and tells me how proud of me he is everytime I see him. I love hearing from him because he speaks to us like he's our coach or something. The look on his face when I compare gospel principles to sports is priceless. His wife is also the best lady ever. She always tells us three things when she sees us: 1) Work harder than everyone else. No one, no one, no one works harder than you do. 2) Love like you've never loved before. Everyone wants to feel loved, even the rough ones. 3) Laugh! Have fun! I literally live by these three things while I'm here. I LOVE LOVE LOVE the Dowmans. They will be lifetime friends of mine for sure.

Feliz año nuevo!!! On New Year's Eve we invited the sisters from our zone over to our apartment and we drank Martinellis, had all sorts of treats, blew up a bunch of balloons, etc.


We didn't have a bottle opener for the drinks and as I was trying to open them, I cut my hand pretty bad (but it's fine now). We ended up using our big metal front door to get them open. We celebrated a little and then at 10:25 (lights out at 10:30) we went back to our own apartments. My roommates and I took the mattresses from our beds and moved them into the living room and had a big slumber party. I set an alarm for 12:00 AM and we turned out the lights. Midnight came, we jumped up, grabbed our kazoos, ran out the front door, stood on the balcony, and watched all of Provo celebrate by shooting off fireworks. It was funny to look down the street and see all of the other missionaries on their balconies giving little cheers every now and then. I remember standing there just taking it all in...though different, it was a fun way to celebrate the beginning of a year that will be different from every year I ever live.

Hermana Slumber Party

I love you all sooooooooo much! I think about you everyday!

-Hermana Ingram

P.S. Mom, I can literally envision the joy on your face as you pulled out each hair ball from the vacuum. Pure. Joy.