Tuesday, September 24, 2013

First Week in the Field!

Ahh!  So much to write.  It's been so long.  So this has been such an adventure already.  Hopefully this letter will have some organization.  But here it goes...

I'm in a trio with two other gringas.  One was in the ccm with me and the other has been out since January I think.  They're both awesome.  Our trainer is amazing!!!!  She is so happy and encouraging but at the same time she pushes us to do scary things.

Every day we wake up at 5 or 5:30, exercise, get ready for the day.  Then have 1 hour of personal study and 2 hours of companionship study and 1 hour of language study.  Then it's off to work!  We work until 9 with an hour for lunch.  We have a few ladies in the branch who cook for us.  We contact people (and whole buses), teach lessons, visit recent converts and inactives until 9.  Then 9 to 9:30 we have planning.  9:30 to 10:30 eat dinner and get ready for bed.  10:30 sleep!  

SO far all the food has been good!  Nothing too crazy.  But at the same time, keep in mind we can't eat with members.

Our house is one of the nicest Ive seen here.  It feels pretty normal for the most part.  But we shower with a bucket.  It's quite an adventure!!  I'm really fine with it actually.  It just kinda makes me laugh.  I just think, I'm in Guatemala right now showering with nothing but a bucket!  Who wouldda thought!  Ah!! Its awesome!  We can see 3 volcanoes from our house.  2 of them are water volcanoes I think.  But its really interesting.  Its a pretty view!

We have quite a few investigators right now.  Some progressing more than others.  I don't know any of them super well yet.  But I always get so excited to teach them because I already love them so much!  We have one who will be baptized after he comes to church 2 more times.  I've challenged 2 people to be baptized and they should both get baptized next month.  These people are so ready to hear the gospel!  They have such strong faith!  And it's amazing how willing they are to give us their addresses.  I feel like that would never happen in America. We have to contact 35 people everyday (which means you go up to a stranger and in Spanish say something like 'Hi we're missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints and we have a message about Jesus Christ.  We know that God has called a prophet today.  Can I get your address to share this message with you?).  10 of the 35 have to be families.  I'm sure they can't hardly understand me but they seem to get it.  I just try to smile as much as I can so they know that this message makes me happy.  I like contacting people. I'm not too afraid.  Ive come to accept that I probably sound and look like a fool.  I know I make mistakes but I just keep trying and trying.  I also really like contacting buses, which is where you stand at the front of the bus and yell (all this is in Spanish remember...) our message to the whole bus.  Then we squeeze through everyone and ask for their addresses to share the gospel with them.  Its so fun just yelling your testimony of Jesus Christ in a language you don't even know.  I just smile so big because it's so fun to try!

People say that my Spanish is really good.  I honestly know that it's not my words, it's the Spirit making everything clear to them.  I know for a fact my grammar and vocab and accent is awful.  But I'm trying and it's becoming more natural.  I can say a lot more than I ever expected.  I'm starting to understand a little more, some people better than others. Sometimes when I'm contacting or teaching I can really understand them very clearly.  This is when I know they're ready to hear our message.  The Spirit is so strong because this person needs the truth in their lives and Heavenly Father is even helping me understand Spanish to bring His children back.

President Brough (our mission president) is awesome.  He always tells us newbies that we need to suffer,  so we can work hard with all our might.  Sometimes I feel guilty that I'm not suffering enough, because I'm honestly so happy!  But looking back, it hasn't been easy at all!  The first day my toenails were bleeding because we walked so fast and so long.  I have shin splints too I think.  And I shower in a bucket.  And I can't speak the language.  And I'm away from my family and friends.  I look like a crazy person and I probably smell because I don't know how to shower with a bucket.  It pours crazzzzzy rain every day.  People reject our message and think I'm insane.  People laugh at my Spanish.  It's HARD!  But I don't even ever realize that I'm suffering because I am honestly so so happy to be here.  I don't even notice any of these things.  Everything is so awesome.  I get to be a representative of Jesus Christ.  I get to share my testimony with dozens of people every day.  I get to feel the Spirit so strong.  I get to have all these wonderful difficulties to help me grow.  It probably sounds sarcastic, but I really do mean it.  I LOVE that this work is hard.  None of these little inconveniences can get in the way of how happy I am to be a missionary.  I seriously can't help but smile all the time.  I know that this gospel blesses everyone.  I can see how it clicks with people's Spirits.  I'm so thankful to be here and be having these hard things so I can grow.  I know that Heavenly Father loves every one of these people so much and he wants them to return to Him.  I'm doing my best to help just a little.

Love you all!!

A sister in the area where Alexis is serving sent me this picture

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

I survived an earthquake!!

So I have dubbed this CCM the Adventure CCM.  There is always some kind of new element of adventure every single day.  So the other day we were sitting in class (Which is now in the outdoor workout room because there are so many missionaries)  and the ground starts moving back and forth!  Yes...AN EARTHQUAKE! And we were all so excited!  It was the craziest feeling.  Kinda like being on an earth sized water bed.  It was cool but afterwards our teacher was like 'Yeah that was just a small one, those kind happen all the time.'  But later we found out that it was bigger than we thought!  Apparently all the missionaries who get to have real classrooms inside the CCM had to evacuate!  And President told them it was a 4 on the richter scale (still not HUGE) but it could be felt through the whole country.  Since we have class out the back of the building we just went on with life like normal thinking this was just a typical thing that you just live with here.  But no!  In the mean time, the other missionaries were evacuating...WHAT! We all had to be ready to evacuate in the middle of the night in case there was an after shock.  It was so fun though!  I would say I wish another one would happen just for fun, but I'm sure that's not a good thing to wish for. So now I keep thinking there's another earthquake happening.  It's like those phantom cell phone vibrations.  Since I don't have a phone, I now have phantom earthquake vibrations. Sometimes the adventure is that the power goes out or the water goes out or there's a ton of rain or the schedule gets changed at the last minute, but this was by far the biggest adventure yet.
So Wal-Mart.  Weird experience.  We went to Wal-Mart and to a mall and it was bizarre because the stores were like we were in America.  But I knew we weren't!  It was hard to wrap my brain around.  But at Wal-mart I got a jacket (I got a large and it's still short on me.  The people here are teeny.), extra tooth brushes, mouthwash, little journals, pens, and slippers (wonderful idea.  Maybe the best purchase I've made in my life.).  So that was fun!  Then we went to the food court at the mall.  I got Pizza Hut and frozen yogurt.  They had Wendy's, McDonald's, all the normal fast food places you'd see in America.  And it was funny because they had like knock off American stores.  They had a store  called XIV Fashion and the logo and the store looked just like Forever 21.  But it wasn't!  It was pretty funny.  The people were so nice and patient with my Spanish.  It's fun to try to talk to them and we get so excited when they finally decipher our charades/Spanish.
The other day we were talking about Christmas traditions and I told everyone how we crawl down the hall to our presents.  I explained it like a normal tradition because it feels normal to me, but they all freaked out!  They thought it was sooo cool.  I explained how when you're all crawling into the room you experience Christmas magic at a magical perfect rate.  Now all the girls in my district are going to start that in their families.  We're trend setters.
Today we're going to the temple for the last time.  Which is sad because I doubt I'll be able to go again until after I get home!  Its been funny walking to the temple the last few time because it has been POURING RAIN!  We literally had raincoats, rain boots, and umbrellas and we're still soaked when we get there.  All the temple workers help us take off our giant boots and they go around asking if they can put our wet clothes in the dryers.  Its so cute!  Yet another reason why this is the adventure CCM.  You can't walk a block to the temple without drowning.
Before I forget, I don't know when I'll be able to write next because I leave the CCM on Tuesday (WOOOOO!).  But I don't know when my p-day will be in the field. I also don't think I'll get Dear Elders as much as I have here in the CCM.  But I don't know for sure.   It's so crazy that I leave next week.  I'm so excited.  I still love the CCM with all my heart.  But I am just soooo excited to talk to real people.  My Spanish is decent.  I can go a whole day without speaking English and get my point across okay.  But I'm sure it will be way harder in the real world.  I'm just so excited to get thrown into it!  Its going to be crazy and hard and way too much to handle, but I am so stoked.  8 of the 12 of us in our district are going to immigrations tomorrow to do some visa stuff.  Exciting!
I think dad asked about this.  But yes, Sept 15th is Independence Day here.  They don't light off fireworks or anything.  Mostly just put out a ton of flags.
So in the mornings we have class in a capilla (chapel) down the street by the temple.  And on Saturday there was a North American family (who we found out was the Bishop and his family) getting ready to clean the church.  So 3 districts helped out. It was so fun!  A church has never been cleaned so fast before.  There were missionaries everywhere!  It was so fun!
We started this game as a district where everyone has 12 straws.  And if you hear someone speaking English you say 'pajilla' (straw) and they have to give you a straw.  Who ever has the most by Monday gets a prize from our teacher, Hna Palacios.  Its been fun and I am so proud of how much Spanish we can speak.  We can go a whole day pretty easy now.  But I love Hermana Palacios.  She teaches us in the morning.  She's adorable.  She always has funny games for us to play.  The other day we played musical chairs to We Thank Thee O God For A Prophet, which was funny.  When you got out you had to answer a question in Spanish.  The Elders would almost sit on a Hermana to try to get a chair but then they'd back away all afraid to touch us.  It was hilarious. And yesterday we played Noah's Ark where you make animal noises and find your partner.  It wasn't as epic as at our house but it was so funny!
 Last night we had a devotional and Elder Duncan (a member of the area presidency) came and spoke.  It was really good.  Hna. Griffin accompanied a musical number and I turned the pages for her.  My musical talents are really growing here.  But Elder Duncan focused on working with less active members.  He shared a lot of stories and it was really powerful.  He said that every nonmember in this world is actually a less active who hasn't been baptized yet.  Everyone knew the gospel and accepted Christ before this life, we just have to help them feel that again.  So that was cool.  We had our last district testimony meeting after.  It was amazing.  I love my district sooo much.  There's like a club or something right next to our class in the gym so all during testimony meeting there was this obnoxious music!  But their testimonies were so amazing that that Spirit was still soooo strong.  It didn't matter where we were or what was going on outside.  You could tell that they were testimonies of representatives of Jesus Christ.  It's such an incredible feeling.  I know how  this gospel has helped me in my life, and I just hope so badly that somehow with all my inadequacies and awful Spanish that I will be able to portray this strong Spirit and help the people here experience the joy that I experience every day.  I know I'm supposed to be here.  I'm so happy! I love it.
Thanks for all your support and letters and prayers.  Love you all!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Soy una vieja


 I hope everyone is doing well!  We're emailing on Monday again because we have another field trip tomorrow!  We're going  somewhere every  exotic and foreign....WALMART!  So excited.  We were thinking of things we need to get at Walmart and it was like putting together a Christmas list.  You can tell we've been out of the country for over a month because we were way too excited to be wanting things like pens, and peanut butter, and jackets.  It will be an adventure!!! Probably just like the mercado (;

 Mom, Dad, Aunt Jen, Grandma and Grandpa Haymond...Thanks again for the Dear Elders!  Its always so fun to get them!  Sorry if it seems like I'm a little off answering questions that you write me.  I get Dear Elders a few hours AFTER I write my email, so it basically takes a week plus for me to get around to responding to anything.  But I'll answer a few questions from the Dear Elders I got last week.  So yes, my companion is going to Guatemala City Central mission also.  Our whole district (12 people, 8 hermanas, 4 Elderes) are going to my mission.  And I think about half our zone (so like....20 people probably) are going there too!  SO Guatemala City Central better be getting ready because they're about to get the best wave of missionaries ever!  We haven't had anyone come speak to us live for a devotional, which is really sad.  Every other weekish we get to watch a broadcast of an Apostle speaking at the MTC in Provo, which is way cool!  But not the same.  Its okay though.  We're small so I understand.  (They should come anyway though.)  The weather here is awesome.  It's rainy season until November so it randomly starts DOWNPOURING randomly throughout the day.  I thought rainy season would mean crazy continuous rain throughout the day, but it's only for a few hours at most.  But when its not rainy its super sunny!  Its just right.  Not too hot.  And I think we're at high enough elevation that I can't really tell that it's humid.  It's definitely not Colorado dry, but it's not humid enough to bother me which says a lot. But it is humid enough that your towel doesn't dry over night and wrinkles come out of clothes a little easier and my nails grow faster.  I don't get the monthly newsletter from my mission president.  It sounds interesting!!! Our Spanish fasts are awesome.  We have 3 this week, so only Spanish like every other day.  I love them!  Its so nice to prove to myself that yes, I can survive a day using only (poor) Spanish. That's cool that Brother Rockwood was here!  The world is so so small when you're a missionary.  Everyone knows everyone in one way or another.  The food is still amazing!  We keep saying that Carlos (The head cook guy) needs to open a restaurant in our mission, then one in America in 18 months.  It's so great.   We are so spoiled.  We're going to die without Carlos after we leave.  For the showering situation, Hna Griffin and I are spoiled.  Over half of the rooms have to share a community bathroom and walk down the hall to shower.  But our room has our own shower.  So its way nice!  And yes, I LOVE my mission.  Its amazing.  I LOVE the CCM still!  It is a lot of the same stuff everyday, but I'm not sick of it yet.  Its harder for some people I think, but I'm still loving it.  But every time I look out at all the cars  or walk past real live non-missionary people outside the CCM, I get SOOOO excited to go talk to people about the Gospel.  The people here are amazing.  I love them so much just from seeing them for the few moments that I have.  So I guess in that sense, I'm anxious to leave the CCM.  But I'm happy here for now.  Sorry if that sounded totally disorganized.  I just wanted to go through and answer everyone's Dear Elder questions.

 So, this week went by way fast.  Yesterday I was like holy cow, we're writing home again already.  It doesn't feel like much has happened!  I keep a running list of things to write about during the week so I don't forget (and it works as an outline for my email.  The emailing time goes by way fast, so its impossible without an outline.  Emailing is hands down one of the most stressful times of the week because there's so much to say and read and so little time.  Anyway....) but this week there's hardly anything on my list. 

 I forgot to say last time that stuff is sooooo cheap here!  It doesn't sound cheap because 8 quetzales = 1 dollar.  So something that's 200 quetz is actually only 25 dollars.  It throws my brain off big time.  But for example, I bought a mini Spanish preach my gospel from the distribution center for like...less than a dollar.  Maybe a dollar.  SO cheap.  And scarves at the mercado were like 5 dollars (and they probably even marked their prices up because we're gringos).  Its crazy how cheap everything is. 

 On P-days there are vendors that come up to the gate of the CCM and set up shop.  Its a really funny sight because you have all these missionaries reaching through the fence exchanging money and getting all kinds of goods.  They're members and they have all kinds of cool stuff.  Last week I ordered a scripture case. They make leather ones and will draw different churchy pictures on them.  I ordered one for my English scriptures with a picture of Jesus holding a lamb on the front and on the back a picture of this stone artifact they found here with the tree of life vision. I'm so excited to get them soon!!  They have a lot of other cool stuff too but they live in our mission and said they come to the mission office during transfers so we can buy stuff.

 I'm still sick.  Better than I was, but still a tad sick.  This week was the worst of my cold.  My lungs were so clogged with mucusy nastiness and they were hurting. I just did not feel good at all.  A girl in our district is a nurse so I had her listen to my lungs (mostly just for fun.  I figured there was nothing crazy wrong with me anyway).  The girls in my district are so fun, so of course this turned into a huge stethoscope fiesta.  We literally listened to each others lungs and bowel sounds for an hour.  We can make anything a fiesta.  That's how awesome the people in my district are.

 Spanish is going good.  Like I said, it helps a ton when I'm forced to speak it.  Its still FAR from perfect but I can say what I want in one form or another for the most part.  You learn a lot being around it all the time.  Its not like school where there's a vocab list.  You listen and figure words out by the way other people use them.  Then you just start using them yourself.  Its super interesting and feels way more natural than learning for 1 hour a day in school.  It makes me excited to study dual language immersion stuff.  This is definitely the way to do it.  It helps that I'm learning as a missionary too, of course.  I can tell that Heavenly Father is helping me.  And I just have to remind myself that if He needed me to be fluent right now, He would make it happen.  Awful Spanglish plus the Spirit is better than perfect Spanish any day.

 Also, I heard that my cougars lost their first game!  Not okay.  Luckily the MTC Presidents wife is a huge fan, so she told us about it.  But keep me updated too!

 Tomorrow all the nortes who have been here longer than us leave.  Which means we're going to be the viejos (aka the oldies).  Which is so weird because they seemed so much more experienced than us.  And now we're them!  it went by so fast.  I cant believe that I'll be out in el campo (the field. aka my mission. aka free from the CCM actually doing real missionary things) in about 2 weeks!! Its awesome.

 We've started teaching 'new investigators'.  We've been teaching our 2  teachers.  But now all the missionaries in our zone (so all the soon to be viejos) pick a profile of a nonmember friend or family member and act like them.  We teach one on one.  So one missionary acts like an investigator then we switch.  Its been really interesting because I think, okay if this missionary were teaching my friend I would want her to put everything shes got into this.  So it helps me put my best into my lessons.   Teach everyone like you would your own loved ones.  Which will be easier out in the field, but its a hard mindset to have when you're teaching other missionaries or teachers.

 Well...I'm sure I'll think of a novel worth of stuff to write the second I run out of email time.  But this is all for now!   I love this work and I'm so happy to be here!

 Love Hermana Haymond!

 **Lo siento for the awful punctuation and spelling on all these emails.  I'm an awful speller to begin with.  And my English as a whole is suffering big time right now.  I was rereading my journal the other night and one entry said 'I'm excited to write home tomorrow.  I really need to oahn to my family.'  I have no idea what oahn means in Spanish or English.  So basically my ability to speak or spell in any language is just not happening.  So sorry!  That's my disclaimer.

***Alexis' mom here writing now- I always go through and spell check her emails because I can tell her learning Spanish and typing on a Spanish key board are throwing her English off!  Although when she wrote about listening to everyone's "lungs and bowels" she wrote "bowls" so I am guessing she meant bowels but that seems funny so I am not sure what she meant there.