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Monday, August 27, 2012

August 27, 2012--Week 26


Just before I type anything else I just wanted to send you some quick encouragement on your Spanish :) because seriously I don´t think I would have remembered how to say 0-30 after my first year of Spanish, let alone my first week.  I also remember how incredibly awkward it felt trying to say the words.  Of course, with Chris in my class we just made a game out of it and said it all completely wrong on purpose.  But I remember being so frustrated because I knew that Ms. LaMotte and the native speakers in my class were pronouncing the words completely differently than I was, but I just didn´t know how to make my words sound like that.  I definitely also see now that once I really started trying (probably not until I took my Spanish conversation class at BYU), I started improving really quickly.  I´m positive that you´ll learn quickly, even if it seems ridiculously difficult and foreign.  This week, for the first time in my mission, I had someone tell me that I talk like a Mexican.  He basically told me, "You don´t look like us, but you talk like us."  That was a huge confidence booster for me, and it´s incredibly rewarding to look back at where I started in Spanish 1 to where I am now.  Just keep up the good work and rely on the Lord. :) The gift of tongues is incredibly real.  I love you!

Elder Nickerl

Dear Family!

This week has been awesome!  Right now I am doing great.  I´m very happy and content, in spite of the fact that we´re going on 48 hours without power in our apartment (which means no fans so sleeping is not very much fun), and also we just ran our of water (we can´t turn on our pump because it´s electric), and all my chorizo went bad so now I´m just living on eggs and tortilla and it is not very tasty.  But I am doing wonderfully and supposedly somebody is supposed to be going to the apartment in a little bit so hopefully we´ll have that mess sorted out soon. :)  We’re doing great with our investigators right now.  We have one sister who just moved here who is the little sister of the Relief Society President, and after two lessons with her this past weekend she has a baptismal date set for the 15 of September.  Also, the family who came to church the last week is progressing really well.  They didn´t come this week, because the mom works every other Sunday, but we´ve helped them resolve a lot of doubts this week and they´re now reading the Book of Mormon.  If all continues to go well, we´ll be blessed with the opportunity to baptize all of them in this coming month.  

Also, here we are in the last week of this change.  Elder Alonso is going home next week, so I´ll be here with a new comp in a week.  There are a ton of people leaving in this change and the next, so we´re thinking my next comp is going to be an ex zone leader or ex assistant (zone leaders and assistants in their last change get the chance just to be senior comp again).  I guess we´ll see next week :)

1.  Do people there work out (exercise) like they do in the U.S.?  Are people fitness conscious like they are here?

People here are so not health conscious here.  At all.  I think in the entire time I´ve been here I´ve maybe seen a total of 10 people running or working out in some way.  Also, they consume a grand amount of tortilla, rice, and beans here, with not too many vegetables, so that´s also a prevailing factor.  But something that a lot of people have here that isn´t as common in the states is that almost everyone works in some type of manual labor, and they do almost all of it without machines.  Also, all the housework is without machines, just a broom and a mop.  Imagine washing clothes of an entire family by hand in a concrete box in Bluffton in the summer, and you have close to the right idea.  Nevertheless, there are a lot of overweight people here.

2.  What are the basic styles people wear?  Are there certain brands that are popular (that we would know anything about)?

Basically, the style here is about the same as Provo:  whatever happens to be popular in the States, just 2 or 3 years late.  Almost all the brands are the same as those in the States.  They wear a lot of Hollister type t-shirts with plaid cargo shorts or jeans and stuff like that.  There´s a lot of different stuff too, but I don´t really know how to explain it, nor do I really remember what´s weird and what´s not anymore.

That´s pretty much all I have for this week, email me real quick if you have any other questions :) I love you very much!

Con amor,
Elder Nickerl

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

August 20, 2012--Week 25

1.  I noticed from the photos that you sent last week that you are using your backpack.  Have you decided that you like it better than your shoulder bag?

So the situation with my backpack is basically that the shoulder bag that I bought from that guy in the centro in Tapachula broke already.  So I´m back to my backpack.  Which I kind of like better anyway because I can hold more stuff if I want to and also I don´t think it´s going to twist up my back.  And, since it´s made by UnderArmour and we bought it in the US, I´m hoping it will last me more time than the shoulder bag.

2.  Are you feeling okay?  You haven't mentioned much about your health--I hope that no news is good news.  I can only imagine that it was a huge shock to your system to walk so much and to eat so differently.  I hope that you have adjusted!

So basically I´m doing well healthwise.  The only complaint I have right now is that we just got back from a zone activity (that´s why I´m writing so late), and we played soccer in the sun for hours and I got schooled by the Mexicans basically.  So my head kind of hurts and I´m going to be way sore but it was fun.  But I´m pretty accustomed to the food and heat here, even though the first couple weeks threw me pretty hard for a loop healthwise, and I was pretty sick.  But President told us that we shouldn´t tell our families when we´re sick while we´re sick, and I didn´t want to worry you guys, because it wasn´t really that big of a deal.  Every once in a while someone still gives us something weird to eat and it makes me sick, but that´s why I asked Mom for the Pepto Bismal, and I take a pill and makes me not sick again.  

3.  Adam wants to know if you gotten to eat any bugs yet?  :)

Well they don´t really eat bugs here that much.  The only really weird thing I´ve eaten so far that I did not like at all was panza.  Which is cow stomach.  And it smells horrible.  Like seriously apesta bien feyo.  I ate about a half-kilogram of tortilla and another half-kilogram of lime water to be able to down it. 

So, we had a baptism on Saturday!  Because it was a boy of 10 years who got baptized (I know that sounds funny, I don´t remember how it goes right now) we actually did it in this bathtub thing that´s in the church (the branch rents a house, it´s like a jacuzzi style bathtub).  Also, we couldn´t find baptismal clothes for him, so his jumpsuit was an adult size.  It´s a little big.  

We´ve been teaching Gerardo for a couple of weeks, his mom is a member who recently reactivated (a few months ago).  His stepdad is going to get baptized too, he´s super solid and their family comes to church every week now, but they´re working on some complications with papers in getting married so we have to wait for that before he gets baptized.  That´s a really common problem here.

I never sent or took a picture of our beautiful chapel in Tapachula, so I did today at the activity (we played at this soccer field that´s right next to the Indeco/San José building).  I really miss having an established chapel like this with air conditioning and a baptismal font and all that awesome stuff.

This is part of our lovely house.  For the record, those dished are all clean, that´s just where we keep them.  Also, the non-iron thing about my shirts didn´t really end up being too true, so I have taken up ironing my shirts every day, and there is our lovely ironing board.

This lizard was like a foot long.  Just chilling right outside our house where we do our washing.  I used the 64x zoom on my camera.  And it turned out way clear.  I was impressed.

This was right after the baptism.  We have a lot more members in our branch, but most of them are slackers and did not come to the baptism.  We´re hoping that as we keep having baptisms, they´ll get animated a little and support us a little more.

Turns out I don´t actually have more emails to send.  Just wanted to say thank you for your prayers, especially in your being more specific.  This week we found two people (a mother and a son) on Friday, and on sunday they came to church.  We´re really excited about teaching them.  I love you sooooooooo much!!!

Con amor,
Elder Andrew Nickerl

Monday, August 13, 2012

August 2012 Photos

We walk this railroad bridge a couple times a week.  It´s a nice shortcut to another part of our area.  We do most of our work here in Huixtla and in another group of colonies just outside of Huixtla called "Vida Mejor" (made up of Toresillas, Carlos Monte Mayor, Cañaveral, Hortencias, y Vida Mejor).  The bridge takes a 45 minute walk and makes it into a 25-30 minute walk.  It´s nice. 

Here I am on the same bridge... 
Quick side note, the little hump on the hill on the left is "La Piedra de Huixtla".  I want to hike up there one p-day.  We´ll see if that´s actually doable, though, because supposedly it takes 5 or so hours to get up there.

We attempted an action shot (not too much action, just walking), but we couldn´t get the timing right and we had to get to our appointment.

 The next couple are just going to be shots of el hermoso estado de Chiapas.

We´re teaching a sister who lives about 100 meters away from this river.  We´re hoping that within a couple weeks she´ll be baptized in it (yes, this is a "baptize in rivers" area). 

This photo would be a lot better with two people in baptismal clothing, but like I said, hopefully that one is coming soon. 

August 13, 2012--Week 24

Hello!  As always, it is really, really great to hear from everyone.  I keep wanting to use my time to talk with you guys about what´s going on in your lives but I believe I´m still on strict orders from Mom... :p

1. Tell us about some of the people you are teaching and how the work is progressing in Huixtla.

These couple of weeks have been kind of tough actually.  Almost all of the people that we found my first week have disappeared, and we´re back to knocking doors all day again.  I´m starting to see kind of a problem here that we didn´t have in San José, Tapachula.  Just about everybody is willing to listen to us.  But the problem is, all they want to do is listen.  When they realize that we're not only there to talk at them, and that we actually want them to help them make changes in their lives, they don´t want to listen to us anymore.  So, we teach a ton of lessons, but waste a grand amount of time in teaching people who have no intention of changing.

2. Is your apartment in Huixtla nicer or less nice than the living conditions in Tapachula?  How about the other people's houses?

I really like our apartment here.  It´s a lot more like an apartment in the United States (with the lack of all the normal technology things: air conditioning, hot water, an oven, a washing machine, and that it's still made out of concrete).  We actually have a kitchen sink here, which is pretty sweet.  And the bathroom is actually normal sized, not just a 3x3 foot cube.  Í’ve been pretty bummed though because there is not a spot to hang my hammock.  So that´s disappointing.  Other people's houses just depend.  The majority of people have houses of at least concrete.  The really poor people though just have a roof of "lamina" (which is like a metal sheet kind of thing) with walls of wood or cardboard.  Sometimes it really amazes me how it is that they can stay standing.

3. How are you doing with clothes/shoes/ties/socks? Are you getting tired of your ties?  Are your shirts and pants holding up?

I´m doing great on clothes.  New ties would be kind of cool I guess (gifting ties to people, members and other missionaries, is a really big thing between missionaries down here).  BUT only if you can find them really cheap.  Because they do get pretty destroyed down here.  As for shirts and pants, I've got more than enough right now, which I´m sure I will be verrrrry grateful for in a year (Elder Alonso has two pairs of pants and a few shirts left finishing his mission, so he has to wash his clothes almost every night haha).  My shoes are also holding up pretty successfully.  It´s super nice to have two pairs at once since we get rained on just about every day.  They´re starting to show a little bit of wear, but they´re holding up really well.  I´ll let you know if I need more at any point, although I may just buy some new ones down here.  Apparently the brand "Flexi" here is pretty nice and reasonably priced.  I´ll let you know once it becomes a problem :)

I love you all tons and you´re constantly in my prayers.  I hope each member of our family can always remember how much we love one another and show it in every action, because I can promise you all (as well as Dad I´m sure), that once you´re on the other side of the world you realize that there is nothing more important.

Con amor,
Elder Andrew Nickerl

Sunday, August 12, 2012

August 6, 2012--Week 23

Buenas tardes :)

1. Dad wants to know if any of the people you come into contact with during the week speak English at all?  Does your companion speak any English?

In San José, Tapachula, Elder Howell and I talked to five people during our time there that spoke English pretty well (three of them being people that the Jehovah´s Witnesses sent to talk with us, which was a lot of fun).  Three of those five lived in the States for long enough to learn it pretty well, one just took a lot of classes in the university, and the other was an English teacher there and had done some of both.  Since getting to Huixtla, I have spoken with no one here who speaks English (well enough to be understood in saying more than "good morning", "good afternoon", or "good night"), with the exception of the first councilor in our branch presidency who knows quite a few words in English.  Elder Alonso also knows a good amount of words and grammar and stuff too, but has only had one gringo comp other than me his whole mission, so he hasn´t had much time to practice his accent, and it´s just easier to speak Spanish.  It´s ridiculously hard to speak English with people here, because the way we speak English in American is a nightmare, and I have a harder time thinking how to simplify what I say into simple and perfectly grammatically correct English than I do just speaking in Spanish.  So usually I just stick with Spanish.  I do get to speak English once a week though at district meeting (all the zone goes to the stake center in Tapachula).  Not too much though, because nobody else in my district is from the States, so just a little bit before and a little bit after.

2. With such a large area, do you take the bus some places? Especially if you are going to one of the outlying towns?  If so, is it expensive?

The buses here a very interesting experience.  They aren´t a "bus" like you would think of, more like a big van with seats in the back.  They call them the "combi" or "microbus".  They just cram people in even when there´s not more room, and when you want to get off, you just yell "baja porfa".  There are different routes and we take them quite a bit.  The buses are really cheap though, usually 5 pesos per person (except for the one that takes us to Tapachula is 15 pesos).  But we spend most of our time working here in Huixtla, as just the town alone is a pretty big area for just two missionaries. 

3. Do you find with a native companion that things are very different than with an American companion?  The work ethic or way of doing things?  Or, are the differences things that would simply be different from person to person anyway?

I haven´t noticed too much difference, apart from speaking no English.  The differences really are just more person to person kind of thing I think.  But, I´ve only had two comps to judge by, so we´ll see.

4. With a smaller branch instead of a well-established ward, do you have less people feeding you meals?

Yes, so far we´ve had members feed us about 2/3 of the time, and it´s the same couple of families the majority of the time.  The branch is small, but we have some really solid members.  The Branch President and his family are awesome, as well as the first councilor and his family. 

5. Did you get your second package yet?  I'm really anxious for you to get your camera battery charger...

Yes!  I actually just got it this week.  The zone leaders went to their training in Tuxtla that they go to at the beginning of each month and they brought it back for me.  Along with my order from church distribution (in which they sent me a sacrament tray instead of one of the DVDs I ordered. I´m going to call them about that tomorrow).  I took a ton of pictures that I was going to send this week, but I forgot to take my triste camera to the ciber.  Side note:  I have recently learned that they say a lot in Mexico "triste" + noun.  Which is just "sad" + whatever word.  But it´s great because it´s like saying "flippin" and then a word.  So that´s a lot of fun... Anyway hopefully the remembering of bringing my camera next week goes better.  But thank you a ton for the package.  It was great, and the almonds are awesome.  The white chocolate ones especially were a big hit with Elder Alonso and me.  Also, the 4th of July decorations made me remember to tell you how Elder Howell and I celebrated.  We flicked matches all over the house, since they´re made of concrete (the houses, not the matches) it doesn´t do any damage, and it was kind of like fireworks.  So that was a lot of fun too... I have a really cool scar on my forearm from one that hit the ceiling fan and came back and got me. 

Love you and miss you all tons!!

Con amor,
Elder Nickerl