Monday, December 29, 2014

Week 49 Skype! December 29, 2014

Family pic 2014
Tuesday everyone was preparing for Christmas day. Here they have "posadas" which is a Catholic/Mexican tradition at Christmas time where families throw parties outside of their homes and invite friends, family, and neighbors. What makes it different from any other party is that they brake a bunch of piñatas in the street and the kids go home with bags of candy. They also make "ponche" which is like a Mexican version of apple cider but made with fruit like apples, guavas, peaches, pears, and sugar cane. The market at this time is absolutely filled with all sorts of piñatas. Christmas just isn't Christmas without hundreds of piñatas!
Piñatas in the market
Tuesday as we were walking to an appointment we passed a truck full of live turkeys. Turkey dinner doesn't get any fresher than that! Also, the streets are filled with poinsettia trees (called "noche buenas" in Spanish which is also the phrase they use here for Christmas Eve). Turns out the trees have always been there but I hadn't ever noticed because it isn't until December that the leaves turn a vibrant red. They make this concrete jungle I live in just a tad prettier!

Wednesday....Feliz Noche Buena!! (Christmas Eve) It rained all day Christmas Eve and it was FREEZING! But, while everyone else here was dying, I was loving it! The cold made it feel a little more like the Christmas I know. Here in Mexico Christmas, like every other holiday, starts the beginning of an all night party which means lots of music, dancing, and "borrachos" (drunks). For that reason, we had to be in the house at 6:30 PM. Our neighbors are definite partiers...they were partying ALL NIGHT. Women, children, men, old people, everyone!
Humble Christmas 
Thursday....Feliz Navidad!! There isn't anything quite like waking up to the angelic voices of your drunk Mexican neighbors singing love songs...Merry Christmas to us! We got invited over to the Ayala Family's (my converts) for lunch and they fed us all sorts of traditional christmas Mexican food. First: Romeros.
Romeros is basically grass in "mole" with potatoes. The only part I'm a fan of is the mole...the grass? Not so much. But, if any of you would like to relive Christmas Mexican some mole from the Mexican market, add some freshly picked grass from your front yard, and you're set! Second: pozole. I've talked about pozole before but it's basically a sort of corn kernel soup. (pork and hominy stew) I'm a big fan of it! Third: pierna (leg). Pig's like Mexican version of baked ham in the states. Fourth: Bacalao. Bacalao is a mixture of who knows what. I do know however that it has green olives and shrimp...the rest is a mystery.
After being fed by a few other families (I felt like I was going to explode) we headed over to the Lopez family's house to Skype our families. Talking to your family after so long is the best! I first introduced them to the Lopez family and for some reason I got really emotional and started crying. My family is doing great! I brought my guitar and we sang some Christmas carols which was a blast! Unfortunately we were interrupted some 20 times because the electricity kept going out on our street....but it was amazing nonetheless. I love my family! Only 4 more months until I get to Skype them again! And only 5 more months until I see them in person!
(note from mom: "Meeting" Hermana Lopez made me cry too. It's nice to know someone in Mexico loves her so much)
Friday we were able to find a few new investigators one of which is a 15 year-old boy named Abraham. He's not the typical teenager though...he's actually one of the most respectful and sweet kids I've met here. His prayers are hilarious sometimes because he talks to God as if he were giving a speech. For example: "Please allow me to overcome any temptation that may come my way. Temptations can be spiritually and physically endangering and could cause harm that could be lethal." It's pretty funny but in a sweet way because since he's never prayed before he tries to talk to God in the most formal and respectful way possible.

Culture note: One of about every American missionary´s pet peeves about being here...sidewalk/street washing. Let me explain. The people here wash everything with a broom: windows, walls, cars, and worst of all...the streets and sidewalks. About once a week the people here fill up a bucket with soapy water, scoop handfuls of water out onto the street, and sweep the water around with a broom to "clean" the street. It's been so long that I don't even remember what we clean with in the States!! When I get home and you see me washing the street with a broom...well you'll understand why.

Culture note: public wouldn't believe it here! There are a few types... There are taxis from both the state of Mexico and the District. State taxis don't have a meter so you're able to bargain (or what I do...wait until we arrive, speak in broken Spanish, hand him the amount of money I want to pay, and with a big smile say "Gracias!" in the most American accent I can pull every time!) District taxis have meters so there's no bargaining. There are "combis". Combis are normally white Volkswagen buses that drive back and forth between destinations. They put a sign in the front window so that we know where they're headed. When you flag them down they stop and the door flies open. You get in and pass 7 pesos to the front where it's put through a little hole in a wall separating us form the driver. When you want to get off you have to yell that you're getting off, the door opens, and out you go. There are "micros". Micros are like giant milk man trucks but with windows. They work almost like combis but they're bigger, slower, and they only cost 5 pesos. People say they're also a little more dangerous...there are stories of men that get on, and, holding the driver at gun point, change the route and kidnap everyone on board... But no worries! We're safe! When you want to get off of a micro you simply push a button on the ceiling, the doors open, and you hop off as it comes to a rolling stop. There are "mototaxis". Mototaxis are little 'people trailers' pulled by a motorcycle. We usually take them for short distances and if we're in a hurry. There are also "bicitaxis" which is about the same but the driver is using a pedal bike. Bus stops don't exist here! You simply have to flag down any passing bus and you're good to go!

Sunday Bryan got confirmed! His mom couldn't come so he came all by himself! He also saved up and bought me a small gift...he said it was in case I got changed from the area. Coming from the kid who can barely save enough money to put food on the table...THAT meant a lot to me! In sacrament meeting we had sweet bread in place of normal bread for sacrament...that's the 5th Sunday in a row! Maybe that's why we're having so many people at church! Hermana Lopez (my convert) gave the class in Relief Society and did a better job than the RS President herself! But shhhh! haha For only having a few months as a member...she did AMAZING!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Week 48 Feliz Navidad! December 22, 2014

Merry Christmas from Ingram and Lopez (in their hand embroidered muumuus)

Tuesday Hermana Lopez and I headed to changes. Hna Lopez actually ended up with Hermana Bennett (my last companion) and I ended up with Hermana Santos. My new companion is super sweet. She's 22 and she's from Tamaulipas Mexico. She talks in the tiniest little voice...she doesn´t have a mean bone in her. She already graduated from college in communications. Before the mission she worked as a sort of local newscaster for her town. I´m sure going to miss Hermana Lopez....we had a lot of success together but I'm ready for another successful cycle with Hermana Santos.
My new companion Hermana Santos
Wednesday and Thursday were pretty long days...we couldn't find anyone on their house...and the time seemed to drag. But you keep pushing through! Thursday in the afternoon NO ONE was home! We passed for everyone without any luck. After about 2 hours of searching I had thought to try and find a little 10-year-old boy that hadn't been baptized. They NEVER EVER let missionaries inside...NEVER! So, we had never been able to teach the kid. But, I felt like we should we started walking down his street and about 10 feet from the door he came out. Right in that exact moment! And, for the first time in almost a year, they let the missionaries in! I don´t think that that was coincidence! Long story short, we are now preparing him for baptism! Little miracles!
Hermana Luque played the piano for our duet
Friday was the "Cena Navideña" (Christmas Dinner) as a ward and it was an absolute blast. My comp. and I got there a little early to help prepare the food. (They were expecting somewhere around 250 people so we had to make a lot of food.) A TON of people came including almost all of our converts. It's the best thing in the world when converts get involved in the ward! We began with a few musical numbers and then it was my turn. Hermana Luque (from Argentina) and I had prepared a flute/piano duet... "What Child is This" and the ward loved it. It was a blast! I really feel at home with the ward here. I've seen this ward come so makes me so happy!!!
Always a treat when President Stutznegger comes to church
Sunday was a GREAT day! The president and his wife visited our ward and brought their son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter. I was so happy to see them there. All of our investigators showed up and loved the church. The president's daughter-in-law had prepared a special musical number on the piano to Silent Night and it was amazing. NOBODY here in Mexico plays an instrument and they don't sing either. So..musical numbers don't exist, no one even knows what they are. To have her play was amazing and the spirit was super strong...they all loved it. After a few more speakers, President spoke and just about made everyone cry. It's a huge sacrifice as missionaries for us to be here and leave everything behind. But to me, it's an even bigger sacrifice for him and his wife to be here for 3 years. What a great example!
Bryan's baptism
After church Bryan got baptized and one of the best parts of it all was that my convert, Luis Lopez, was able to baptize him. He was SO so so excited to be able to baptize he could barely hold it in. Who knew he would come so far so fast! Bryan is a great little kid. He's 11 years old and works harder than I've seen any other kid work before. About 4 months ago, his mom broke her ankle which put her completely out of work. No work here means no food on the table...literally. So, Bryan, an 11 year-old boy, started to work to support his family and to put food on the table. An 11-year-old!! That would never pass in the states! But he's such a great example and works so hard to help his family. So now, he and his mom are members and are able to see the blessings as a family. What a miracle!!

Feliz Navidad!!
Hermana Ingram
Fun at changes

We helped build a house this week!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Week 47 Mission Christmas Party and Service December 15, 2014

Photo cred: Sister Stutznegger
Hola amigos y familiares,

Wednesday we met as a mission in the Stake Center for our mission Christmas party. We began with a devotional and each zone sang a Christmas hymn. We also watched the "El es la Dádiva" video that the church just came out with. From there we started our mission talent show. Some of the talents included: singing, playing the piano, dancing, funny nativity skits, rapping, etc. It's crazy what a bunch of missionaries can come up with for a talent show!
Photo cred: Sister Stutznegger
Hermana Lopez and I performed in the talent show too...I played the guitar and she sang Silent Night. It was actually a lot of fun...and my comp. has a really good voice so it turned out super well. We all changed and there were all kinds of sports going on: basketball, soccer, flag football, and I brought a tennis ball to play wall ball. We walked outside to eat lunch and I immediately picked up a football and one of the Elders ran up about 10 feet in front of me and put out his arms to receive the pass as if I were a 3 year-old. I told him to back up and he took 1 step back...annoyed I reached back and threw it pretty hard at him. He wasn't even able to catch it and he had a look of pure shock on his face. Well, I told you to back up didn't I??!! We also ended up watching "Frozen". It turned out to be a pretty fun day over all!
My MTC district reunited
Later Wednesday night some of the missionaries in our zone came back to the church and we brought 2 big thermoses of hot cocoa and a few bags of bread. We took it to a medical clinic a few streets down and passed out food to everyone waiting outside to get into the hospital (probably around 100 people). Their faces lit up as we passed out hot cocoa in the cold. Afterwards we gathered together and sang Christmas hymns. The people loved it and kids watched us in amazement with their mouths open wide. Then we walked around and talked with the people and handed out Christmas cards. I remember one lady in particular who was sitting on the street with her head in her hands. I knelt down and touched her shoulder. Surprised, she looked up and I handed her a Christmas card and wished her a Merry Christmas. She started to bawl and thanked me. The people waiting are usually very sick or have loved ones inside who are sick. I don't know what she was going through in particular but I could tell she was very grateful. It was a great experience. It's amazing how such small acts of kindness can have such a big impact on people.

Burning a shirt in honor of one year
Thursday.....HAPPY YEAR MARK!!! A year ago I was walking into the MTC and saying my last goodbyes to life as I knew it! Crazy! Now here I am a year later in the middle of Mexico City! It's amazing how time seems to fly!!
Chicken feet for lunch
Thursday everyone spent the time praying to their Virgin Marys. Mexico City is just about 100% Catholic and they absolutely adore the Virgin Mary. They call her "La Virgin Guadalupe". In just about every street they have built little glass and cement boxes with 5 foot tall virgin Marys decorated with flashing lights and surrounded by candles and other saints. Any time they are in the street and they pass a virgin, they make sure to cross themselves. It's interesting coming from the most Mormon place on Earth to the most Catholic place on Earth. But what an experience!

Friday...Happy Day of the Virgin! Virgin day is probably one of the most celebrated days in Mexico: it's the day they celebrate the Virgin Mary. Thursday we had weekly planning in the Stake Center (which is near on of the main streets here called the Zaragoza) and as we were leaving we could see people walking down the Zaragoza. We walked a little closer and saw thousands and thousands of men, women, and children walking. Most of them were sporting some sort of Virgin Mary attire: shirt, cape, etc. Many others had big Virgin Mary paintings onto their backs with rope. And for probably every 10 people there were men carrying huge (life size) Mary statues. I've never seen anything like it. We went back to work and were able to ask some members about what we had seen. Turns out they were all walking to a place called "La Villa" to see one of Mexico City's biggest Virgin Mary statues. And to show their faith and devotion they walk the journey from all over. Some even make the walk from other states for days and days just to see it. And Friday is an entire day dedicated to her. Which is why we couldn't leave to work. All night you could hear the explosions of fire works and people chanting in the streets. By the time we got home Thursday night people were already gathered around their virgin boxes praying, singing, and chanting. What a culture difference!
One of my favorite ladies in Mexico (a non-member)
Saturday we went and visited one of our recent converts and right away we noticed that the right side of her face was SUPER cut up and bloody. It looked like someone had taken a small knife and had slashed her face a few times. Of course we asked her right away what had happened and I didn't expect her answer. Apparently she was walking through the Tianguis with her mom and kids and her mom accidentally bumped a lady (the Tianguis is incredibly crowded so it's normal to bump someone or be bumped by someone) and this lady turned around and punched her mom in the face. So, she stepped in front to defend her mom and the lady kicked her full on in the knee. As she bent over in pain the crazy lady grabbed her by the face and began to dig her nails into her face...and she wouldn't let go! Trying to defend herself she reached one of her hands out and that's when the lady started to bite her finger. She was a crazy crazy lady! The police came and broke it up and she was left with a bloody face and a bitten finger... How crazy is that!
Picture with Hombre Araña (Spiderman of course)
Later Saturday night we taught our investigator named Laura. Her husband is in jail, she's pregnant, has two kids, she can't find a job and it's Christmas. She has absolutely nothing to give her kids. They don't even have the money to eat sometimes. She was crying...and to be honest I wanted to cry too. Saturday I had been thinking about spending my 2nd Christmas here in the mission and I had started to feel bad for myself. I miss my family and I miss Christmas at home: Christmas trees, lights, music, decorations, EVERYTHING! And Saturday morning I wanted to throw a pity party for myself! But talking to Laura made me realize that I have it good! I have absolutely nothing to complain about!

Sunday Susana got confirmed and Laura and Yaeli also go baptized. They were happier than ever!

Hasta próxima semana,
Hermana Ingram

Monday, December 8, 2014

Week 46 December 8, 2014

46 weeks in Mexico City and 6 weeks in the MTC add up to 52 weeks. Hermana Ingram has officially been out for 1 year this week!
Christmas in Mexico

Tuesday was a LONG day! Monday night my companion was throwing up all night...which meant that Tuesday was definitely a no go to work. In the morning we took a taxi to one of the mission doctors and he blamed it on stress....she's throwing up her guts because of stress?? He told her to read a little stress booklet and to call him the next day with a report on how she was feeling. The doctors here....the other day one of the missionaries went to the doctor for stomach pain and he diagnosed her with salmonella and prescribed her with medicine! To no surprise, she didn't end up having salmonella at all...crazy!!! Anyway, we stayed in the house all day which meant lots of studying for me!

Wednesday my comp. woke up feeling a lot better so we were able to go out and work. Susana (our investigator with a broken foot) passed her baptismal interview which was exciting.

Quick cultural note: I have never seen more Jello in my entire life. It's ridiculous. You can find jello on just about every street corner here in all shapes, sizes, and colors. They make the jello in little cups, flip them out onto a small sheet of paper and then line them up on carts to sell. Does it taste good? No way! But everyone here loves it. They even come onto the buses and metros carrying little glass boxes full of jello cups.

Thursday was a pretty normal day. We were walking in the street when an orange splattered right in front of us. Somebody tried to hit us with an orange! We've grown so accustomed to little incidents like that and have learned that it is better to act like nothing happened. So, we kept walking. But that was definitely a first!

Thursday night we helped the Ayala's paint their house. It's a custom here to repaint your house before you buy a Christmas tree which means that just about everyone is painting their houses right now. By the end of the year everyone's paint is chipping off so it's pretty necessary.

Drunk men come up to us every what's one more? Never did I think that I would grow so accustomed to it...but I am! I guess that's what happens as a missionary in Mexico! I remember first getting here and feeling pure fear at the sight of a drunk man on the street. I always thought the worst. Now, almost a year later it's actually an entertaining experience. They come up to us and we are able to have a conversation. I'd say that about 90% of them recognize us as missionaries and beg us to help them quit drinking. The smell of alcohol is normally overwhelming. Saturday a skinny man walked up to us and, as always, asked us to help him to quit drinking. He stepped back, clasped his hands together, closed his eyes, tilted his head upwards, and said, "Pray for me!",and stood there waiting for us to pray for him. He finally realized that we weren't saying anything and got a little angry. He put his hand out toward us and angrily said, "I command you to leave Satan!" as if we were possessed or something. Honestly, I couldn't help but laugh...that doesn't happen everyday!

Our investigator Susana got baptized on Sunday! She was SO happy! And we had a problem I've never had before...the water ended up being boiling hot! So hot that neither her nor the guy who baptized her could get in the water. We normally have a problem with the water being ice cold! 

Overall we are seeing a lot of success here in our area. We are working harder than ever! We have honestly been able to see miracles here! It's amazing! Thanks for all of your thoughts and prayers!

Hermana Ingram
Revolution Day Memorial in Central

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Week 45 Happy Thanksgiving! December 1, 2014

¡Feliz Día de Acción de Gracias!

Thursday morning at about 9:00 my comp. and I met up with Hermana Benson and Nance and our convert Gerardo took us to meet up with the rest of the Hermanas at the mission offices.
20 Hermanas in one Combi
From the offices a combi (small Volkswagen bus taxi) picked all 20 of the Hermanas up and drove us to the President's house for a Thanksgiving Day dinner. Turkey, ham, rolls, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce...does it get any better?!

I was definitely a little sad knowing that my family was eating together in St. George...corn pudding, Lion House rolls, homemade pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin roll, etc.... But it's going to taste that much better next year! I brought my guitar with me and we all sat and sang...that was a blast! President Stutznegger and I played and sang "Para Bailar La Bamba" which was funny. My comp. is actually a really good singer so we spend a lot of time singing and playing.

Before leaving President Stutznegger gave us each a flu shot and we all packed back into the combi and headed to the Metro station. What a blast!!
The BEST mission presidents in the world!
Sunday we went to church, ate, and then came back to the church to prepare everything for Blanca and Rafael's baptism. Before the baptism ended, Blanca got up to share her feelings about the baptism and she couldn't help but cry. She kept saying that everything changed when the two "angeles" came into her life. She couldn't stop telling everyone how happy she was. It's truly amazing to see the happiness that the gospel brings people in their lives. And to be a first hand witness? Or better yet the means by which people find that happiness? There is literally nothing like it.

To be honest, the mission is absolutely exhausting. There are days when I wake up and wonder how in the world I'm going to continue this for another 6 months. Each day is tiring but amazingly we always manage to find a way to pull through. I can't believe I've been doing this for almost an entire year times it seems so robotic: wake up, exercise, shower, get ready, personal study, companionship study, language study, leave, teach and preach, eat, more teach and preach, go home, plan, study, go to bed, and repeat. Every single day. It's hard sometimes...but at the same time there isn't anything better I could be doing.

Well, I know it's a little late.. BUT since it was Thanksgiving I want to tell everyone how grateful I am for them. I'm grateful for my super awesome mom and all the things she does for me. She's practically wonder woman for crying out loud! My dad for being such a hard worker. My sister Hannah for being the craziest, funniest, most spontaneous sister in the world. My brother Harrison for his great smile! I've heard he's become quite the ladies man since I've been gone ;) My little brother Hayden for being the thoughtful kind kid he is. I'm SO grateful for my family! I'm grateful for a soft bed, hot showers, clean water, a stove, ice, cars, cleaning supplies, dish washers, refrigerators, running water, washers, dryers, trees, flowers, mountains, snow, EVERYTHING! The list could go on for miles! Don't forget to be grateful everyone!
Thanksgiving Dinner at the mission home