Friday, December 21, 2012

Elder Allen- Mexico Torreon Mission

My name is Jacob Allen, and I served in the Mexico Torreon Mission.
     My Mission had 3 different states of Mexico which were all North of Mexico City, but south of the border states.  The three states are Durango, Zacatecas, and the little corner of Coahuila (which is where Torreon was). I lived in all three parts. The Torreon part has the most city and industry but its all hot and dirty with lots of grafiti trash and dirt. Durango is a little more green (depending on what part you're in) and Zacatecas was my favorite because it feels like you are in Europe with cobble stone streets and unique architecture. Not to mention all the cool cathedrals you can find in just about any area. It can get hot and cold wherever you are, but mostly because you don't have well built homes with AC or heaters to make living more comfortable. Because this is not the touristy part of Mexico don't expect any beaches, or ruins, or anything pretty really. I loved my mission, and the people there, but it is not ideal for a vacation. So you won't see any tourists around which is why we stuck out so much as missionaries. And the fact that all my companions were short dark Mexicans and I was a skinny tall super white gangly kid in a white shirt and tie didn't help either. There are rich areas and poor areas just like anywhere else. Rich in the city, more poor the farther away from the city you get.
Culture/Traditions you should know about...I arrived in Mexico on December 12, 2008. The day of the Virgin. I remember getting to my first area at about 7 or 8 at night. I set my bags down and we had an appointment that night so we left. From then on and all through the night I heard drums and saw people dressed like it as the year 800AD dancing in their traditional garments and yelling and singing "La Guadalupana". Mexico has it's own, brown, version of the virgin Mary named Guadalupe, the mother of Mexico. The only thing I could think was "what year did I travel to?" It was all very primitive with all of the dancing and shrines, and food sacrifices. They do this and have parties and parades many times a year with different saints that they recognize in the Catholic Church. You will have to ask your companion to make sure you know how to respect and recognize some of the traditions, cultural differences and gestures in Mexico. Like how to roll a tortilla correctly to eat with it. Or how to whistle for a taxi. Certain sounds and hand gestures are just as bad as swear words down there. For example, don't knock on the door with the pattern of "shave and a haircut, two bits". Don't honk your car in that pattern either. That's how they swear at each other. haha.  
As far as food is concerned, know your limits with eating. Can you eat a lot? Can you handle spicy? Are you a picky eater? Could you eat street vendor foods without getting sick? I LOVED it all. My mission gave me a diverse pallet that helped me to enjoy more foods when I came home. There were still a few things I didn't enjoy eating. Menudo tasted good except for the texture of the cow stomach they made it with. I wasn't good at eating things like chicken feet or pig ears. But most other things I got used to quickly and learned to love whatever was put in front of me so I wouldn't offend the members that would graciously feed us. Some of these people don't have food to give their own kids but they love stuffing the missionaries. They are very faithful in that manner. There are certain words and mannerisms that even your native companion might not understand because there are so many regional dialects and traditions. But they probably still know more than you so don't be afraid to ask questions.
Things I would say about pday- I washed my clothes by hand for a takes hours. But everyone should experience it so they can appreciate washers and dryers. You won't find any dryers down there. And a nearby member of the church might have a washer machine you can borrow if you are lucky. I always used my p-day for journal writing which i was grateful for later on. And we were allowed an hour in a nearby internet cafe to write an email home and write other letters. Ask missionaries who have lived in that area for what there is to do as far as touristy things. Missionaries would get together to play soccer a lot too. The most toursity things were the Christ statue in Torroeon (3rd largest in the world- compare to Rio de Janeiro) there was a cool mine in Zacatecas and there is a history museum and a gondola that gives you a view of the european style city with all the cool cathedrals. But that's about it. 
We had some fun mission lingo.  Chincua was what we used for girls. Like the equivalent of fiery dart. Chincua is a mix between chica and inicua (iniquitous). Most places in Mexico used musa (muse). Most popular in other Mexican missions was Frito for a missionary that didn't want to work. We used gandul. Don't ask me where that one came from. I think it's an old word in spanish that no one uses anymore. Those are the two main ones. I didn't use to say fetch until my mexican trainer got me saying it. Not sure if they still say that a lot.
A little bit of parting advice. The Torreon mission used to be the highest baptizing mission in the world about 10 or so years ago. But there was a lot of bad things that went on. There was the age of ANIMO where missionaries would use that word all the time and do anything for a baptism. Even some things that got them ex communicated. Missionaries have a bad reputation in some parts for stupid missionaries that did bad things and stained the name of the church. A lot of the work that we did with our mission president was picking up the pieces and defending our reputation as representatives of Christ. Be obedient and be successful. Don't let your companion, the members, or anyone else with a bad attitude discourage you from doing what you know is right. And that means following the rules. Have the right attitude and have fun. 

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