Greetings from Mexico! I made it! And I have so much to tell.
First of all, my companion. I just met him today. This weekend I was with another missionary temporarily because today was cambios (changes, what they call transfers here.) Here they don´t call them trainers, but tutors. And I am not a trainee or a son but a disciple. At first, I didn´t like that name, but then president described it as a disciple of Christ, not a disciple of our companion, and now that I understand I love it. My companion is Elder Gonzalez. He is from San Luis Potosi, and doesn´t speak English. (I'm glad that I already know Spanish, or this would be a lot harder). This transfer they are trying something different, where the zone leaders are not companions, but they live in the same house. Elder Gonzalez is one of the zone leaders. So my so mission so far I have been with zone leaders as companions. I don´t really know much about him right now, we just met a few hours ago.
I love President Mendoza. He doesn´t speak any English either. He is incredible. His wife is also very nice. For our first dinner, she wanted to cook us American food to help us feel at home. It wasn't American food, but it was delicious.
I don't know what the name of my area is, I just got here. But it is a city area (there are two types of areas, city or border). It is close to one of the most famous things in Monterrey -- El Cerro de la Silla, a beautiful mountain peak.
This mission is a lot different than Salt Lake. The people here are different and therefore the approach has to be different. Of course our message is the same. One thing that I love about this mission is the emphasis on working hard. I can´t describe how much my feet and legs hurt, nor do I desire to disgust you with a description of all the consequences of walking constantly, but it does feel good to know that I am truly working with all my might.
Mexico is a lot different than I expected it to be, and there is so much to describe. I´ll start with the only really bad thing and then tell you about all the good things.
The one thing that I really don´t like here are the streets. I live in mortal peril of them. The drivers here are crazy. There seems to be a mutual disrespect between drivers and pedestrians. Some streets have lines, but they seem to be more for decoration than anything. Turning signals and seat belts are also mostly for decoration. Putting on my seat belt when I get in the car just screams "gringo," but that is something I will gladly bear. There is a constant chorus of honking, usually either to let the car in front of you know that the light has changed (the split second it happens), or for the ubiquitous green taxis to signal to the pedestrians that there is no one in their car. Also ubiquitous are the bear bottle caps that litter the gutters.
This weekend I experienced my first famous Monterreyan rain storm. [Hurrican Ike? -- eds.] It rained a ton, and the streets were instantly flooded. Unfortunately, there was no taxi driver to offer us a free ride and hear about the gospel (see Preach My Gospel, pp. 157-158 [which tells such a story of a taxi driver in Monterrey]). The rain didn´t stop us though. We continued right on through it, and it was a welcome relief from the extreme heat and humidity.
I love the food here. I´ve heard about some things that I might not like so much, but so far everything has been delicious. Here the main meal is at 2:00, la comida (the food). That is when we have assigned meals with the members rather than in the evenings. You can see the influence of America in the food here. There are Carl's Jr, KFC, Pizza Hut, everything you can think of. Usually, though, these restaurants are the biggest and brightest building on the streets, a lot fancier than any fast food restaurant in the states. Everyone here drinks Coke, usually from glass bottles. I don't like drinking caffeine, but the people are offended if you don't accept what is usually the best they have to offer. Another interesting thing about the food here is that most of the time people don't use utensils. What doesn't come wrapped in a tortilla is scooped up in one. I love the food here and you would think that I am in danger of gaining weight, but I have heard that the average missionary of my size here in this misison loses 40 pounds in their first month.
Speaking of pounds, another thing that is different is the measurements. Kilometers, liters, kilograms, Celsius, and pesos are all things that I am trying to get used to.
I love the people here, even though I have difficulty understanding them a lot. Most are very poor, but they are always very kind to the missionaries.
There is no carpet to be found anywhere here. It is all tile. The churches are the same way. The chapel has a tile floor and no fixed benches. There are chairs you can put up or benches that can slide across the floor.
My first Sunday here was wonderful. I was asked to play the piano for the ward (here if you have 25 members you have a ward) which made me feel at home. Because the last Sunday was stake conference, it was time for testimonies last Sunday. Even though there are so many different things here, the testimonies were still the same, and were very powerful.
My time is nearly up. Before I go, I need to warn you about the mail. I here it is very slow. From what I understand, it is reliable, however.