Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Christmas and the Zocalo

Dear Family and Friends

I have had LOTS of problems trying to do this post.  IT TURNS OUT that some sites available in the US are BLOCKED here in Mexico.  So for you technical types, I now have a VPN that will allow me to do posts.

We have had some good work in the area office.  Michelle is processing the missionaries and I am now responsible for processing the recommendations for bishops, stake presidents counselors, and patriarchs.  I have MUCH to learn.

But, for the holidays the presidency and nearly everyone in the office is gone.  So we have had some fun times for the holidays.

For those who remember, we did drive by the old mission home.  Not too good a picture, but you will have fond memories.  No church offices there now.

All the missionary couples gave gifts to each other.  Michelle and I made these pretzels with melted chocolate and nuts or candies on top.

On Christmas eve we had a games night.  Mainly the men played and the women visited.  I did teach some of the brethren how to pay Rook - Hatch Rules.

In our apartment we have a "modern" decoration, a large pot with dead sticks in it, so we decorated it as our tree.  It was nice.

Michelle brought a few gifts for me, but I had to scurry around to get some for her.  I didn't have wrapping paper but we had bought a printer, so I printed some wrapping paper, and I wrapped one in the local newspaper, Reforma, just for fun.

On Christmas day we had a progressive dinner; we started in our apartment with appetizers.

We did find time to go to a very nice panaderĂ­a (bread store) close by.

Then the weekend after Christmas we decided to take the GRAND adventure, ride the bus, ride the metro/subway, and visit the main square downtown, the Zocalo.  We first rode a very bumpy bus to Chapultepec Park.  There were beautiful Poinsettias along the road.

Then we rode the Metro.  Very fast.  It runs on rubber wheels, so pretty quiet.  Often VERY busy.

We stopped at the LARGEST market in Mexico, the Merced.  They sell everything, and there are 20 shops in a row all selling the same thing!

In a metro station, they had a model of what the city looked like when the Spaniards first arrived.  It is kind of sad what happened after that.  One problem was the diseases the Europeans brought.

We visited the main cathedral on the main square.  Very large building, I thought about all the laborers who built that by hand.

The building is sinking, nearly all large buildings in the center of the city are.  You use to walk up about 4 steps to get into the building, then enter the building.  Now you walk up steps to get out of the building.  As I walked along I could tell the building had tipped some to the right and some down hill to the steps.  It only sinks maybe less than and inch a year or so.  The city was built on a lake.

I wanted to see the presidential palace but it was closed for remodeling.  This is where the President on independence days leads the nation in the "grito".  Viva Mexico, Viva Mexico, Viva Mexico!

There were all kinds of things going on in the square.  They had some people doing traditional dances and asking for money.

And SO MANY PEOPLE.  Every direction in and out of the square was this crowded.  See Michelle and the missionaries walking through the crowd.

We walked a long way, to the Latino America building hoping to go up and see the city, but the lines were too long.

We did go to the famous, House of Tiles.  This is the original Sanborns restaurant where Grandpa Hatch worked when he was a medical student in Mexico City.  His job was to go to the market and buy produce for the restaurant. (Note all the people)

Inside the waitress's wear the same uniform they did when Michelle lived in Mexico as a teenager.

In the history of Sanborns they told that back in the early days two noblemen arrive in fancy carriages at opposite ends of a narrow street, too narrow for the carriages to pass each other.  Neither was willing to yield to the other.  So they sat there for 3 days and 3 nights.  Finally the Viceroy came and got the agreement that both carriages would back up at the same time and go a different way!!

We did get to see the Palacio de Bellas Artes - the fine arts center.  Years ago all our family went to the national ballet there.

And we looked into the Post Office - Palace they call it.  Nice post office.

Then we walked back to the main square to see the lights.  Note the Mexican flag.  They had many activities in the square, including a long line to get into ice skating!  (Temperature was in the 60's)

Very nice lights, big crowds.

So then back on the Metro and then on the bus and then walk home.

PLEASE NOTE - I did NOT get pick pocketed like I have before.  One of the missionaries had a camera in a fanny pack he carried in front and someone unzipped the bag and stole the camera.

I think I can make some meaningful contributions in this calling.  I have had a couple of concerns.

1) How would my 4 artificial joints hold up?  We WALKED a really LONG way and things went really well.  I remember when I couldn't walk to the mailbox. What a blessing to walk now!

2) How would I do in Speaking Spanish? 
 I was praying about that and reading my scriptures.
     In Moses 6:32-32 I read where Enoch was called of the Lord: (I have been called of the Lord.)
     "Why is it that I have found favor in thy sight, and am but a lad, and all the people hate me; for I        am slow of speech;  . . . .
    32 And the Lord said unto Enoch: Go forth and do as I have commanded thee, and no man shall      pierce thee. Open thy mouth, and it shall be filled, and I will give thee utterance, "
I was inspired by that; I set my goal.  Just start talking and the Lord will fill my mouth, with Spanish.  So far it is going very well.
Spiritual Thought - Read your scriptures, the Lord will speak and help us in our daily concerns.
MERRY CHRISTMAS and HAPPY NEW YEAR to all of you!  We miss you!!
Dad - Elder Sandberg - Gilbert

Monday, December 22, 2014

12/22/14 - Veracruz Trip - by Michelle

12/22/14 - Veracruz Trip

Dear Family and Friends,

We hadn't even been in Mexico City for a week before we went on a little trip to Veracruz.  Six missionary couples drove there to attend the temple since the one here is closed for remodeling.  The weather was beautiful and clear so that on the way we had a great view of the volcano Pico de Orizaba.  We also passed mile after mile of corn fields that had been harvested and tied into shocks.

Veracruz is a pretty city on the Gulf of Mexico.  It has a mall and many modern hotels and restaurants as well as old colonial structures.   Note all the white buildings. 

Here we are eating at Chili's. We also ate at a great local seafood restaurant the next day.    

The temple is small but beautiful.  We attended sessions Thursday night and again Friday morning. 

There are usually only one or two sessions a day, but it was busy enough Friday that they had more. 
We had to wait 1 1/2 hours to get into a session that morning.  It brought back fond memories of our busy days in the Guatemala Temple.  See 2 buses in the parking lot of the chapel next to the temple which brought members from out-of-town.  We sometimes had 20 buses come to the temple on one day in Guatemala.
While driving through the city, we saw this cute burro-drawn cart right on the highway.  We also saw a convertible Porche in the same area -- an interesting combination of old and new. 
Friday afternoon we went to the old fortress, San Juan de Ulua.  It dates back to the days of Cortez and has served various purposes -- a port of entry, a prison -- a place rich in history. 
Over the walls of the old compound we could see and hear modern cranes working in the port.

It is very picturesque with towers, arches, thick walls and dungeon-like rooms below the surface.
That evening we walked along the beach and I waded in the ocean, but the water was too cold for swimming.  However, we enjoyed a wonderful swim the next morning in the hotel pool.

On our way back to Mexico City on Saturday, we played the tourists and stopped by some archeological ruins near Puebla that were only opened to the public in 2012.
They are called Cantona which means a large house.  Some have called it Caltonac which means house of sun.  It is situated on a high arid plain.

This was just the first climb with many more before we reached the top of the last pyramid.

Lots of cacti and volcanic rocks.  Note the distant point of a former volcano in the background.

View from the top.  Looking down on a pyramid, the expansive plain surrounded by tall mountains. 

 This is my second cousin, Lynette Romney Olson.  Her mother, Eula Lunt, was my mother's cousin a daughter of Heaton Lunt.  Lynette and her husband Craig are serving in the area offices.  We are being trained to take their place when they go home January 20th.  They leave big shoes to fill.

On our drive back to the city, we had a great view of Popo against a beautiful sunset.  I am thrilled that we have seen both volcanoes Popocatepetl and Ixtazihuatl within the first week of our being here.  This morning we saw them from the windows on the 11th floor of the office building where we work.  Popo was sending out smoke.  Mexico City is less smoggy than it was a few years ago.

Last but not least, we wish you all a very Merry Christmas.  Here we are standing at the entrance of the temple in Veracruz.  (There are poinsettias everywhere outside in southern Mexico!)  Going to the temple was a special way to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  We are grateful to be here serving a mission to help build His Kingdom.  And we are grateful for each of you. 

Michelle / Sister Sandberg

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Adventure Mexicano begins - Dec 14, 2014

We have had a wonderful introduction to Mexico.  Actually our missionary work will begin tomorrow, on Monday.

We really like our apartment.  It is in a hotel just across the street from the area office.

We even have a semi-automatic dishwasher; it needs a nudge now and then.

We went shopping, large stores, many items.  They have CostCo, Walmart, etc. here.

We had a great time at church today.  I understood almost everything in Spanish.  It was a spiritual experience for me.  I will add some comments about that at the end.

Notice the flowers in bloom, that is for those of you living in winter.

This is inside the nice chapel.

This is Michelle outside of our hotel in which we have our apartment.

And right across the street are the area offices in which we will work.

At church today Elder and Sister Stevens invited us to go with them to the temple to see the MTC choir sing and to see the lights.  They are the area medical people so they have a car; we do not.  

We said sure.  The traffic was good so it only took us about 1/2 hour to get there.

Right inside the visitors center we saw Nadine Cluff Yates, Michelle's second cousin.  Sorry the picture wasn't so good.

We also met the president of the visitors center and his wife, President Rojas.  Michelle knows them because some of their older brothers or sisters attended the academy with her.  Also their daughter Marcia married Adam Hatch son of Michelle's brother John and his wife Sandra.

We also met the Rojas at the funeral of Adam Hatch.

It was fun to listen to the MTC choir.  They are learning Spanish so besides singing, they also shared some short testimonies.   They were brave to speak in Spanish.  We watched in another room on TV because the main auditorium was completely full.

Afterwards we saw the lights of the temple.  Elder and Sister Stevens the area doctor have a car and drove us to see the lights.

We remember visiting the temple once before on a Sunday night when we were visiting Mexico City.

The lights:

Miracle Moment - Spiritual Thought
On Sunday our lesson was about Daniel and the dream of the stone cut out of the mountain without hands that rolled down the hill until it filled the whole earth.

As I sat there in our Spanish speaking ward I was very impressed.  We had an area 70, a counselor in the stake presidency, a bishop and his counselors, and all AP holders at the sacrament table - all local leaders from here in Mexico City.

I thought about my father-in-law Dr. Hatch and him coming to Mexico after the revolution, the only missionary in Mexico.  I asked myself, how did the Church get so strong in Mexico?

Then I thought about Dr. Hatch and his family coming to Mexico City when there were only 3 missions and not any stakes except one in the Mormon Colonies.  It was a definite sacrifice for them and the children.

Then I thought about all the missionaries who have served from the Colonies and couples who have served.  And all the missionaries from Utah, AZ, ID, CA, etc.  They came and taught people and had local companions here in the South and taught them the doctrine and policies of the church.  Those local  missionaries are now these strong leaders.

Then I thought of my father and mother, converts as adults, who remained faithful all their lives.  And all of this has happened in MY LIFE TIME.

It is a miracle.  And I ask, what will happen in the next 70 years?  It will be a miracle.

Dad, Granddad, Gilbert