Sunday, May 18, 2014

We're Back!

Funny that it took me about a month into my next trip to Mexico to realize that I should be keeping a blog.  It took me a whole other day to realize that I already had a blog for Mexico, so I'mma gonna use it.

This time I'm in Mérida!  This trip is different, which has taken some getting used to, but it sure is a great trip as well.  This time I'm not on my own -- I have roommates!  The group is a little larger, there are twelve of us, and I'm taking classes at La Universidad Modelo, a Mexican university.  But, and perhaps the most sensational part of the trip, this time we have planned excursions!

We've already been to Dzibichaltún, Uxmal, and Celestún.  And we only have Chichen Itzá and Sotuta de Peón left, so I'm really far behind.  I'll try and catch up, along with adding my notes from my daily musings.

Finally got this blog started.
Well... ¡más vale tarde que nunca!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Staying in Contact

A few weeks ago I had the wonderful opportunity to have a friend, Beto, from Irapuato come and visit.  Well, actually he came to visit his then girlfriend, now fiancé, to put a ring on her finger and make things official. But while he was there he got to stay with me,which means that I got to have full-length conversations in Spanish!  My how I had missed that.  When planning for Beto to come I had thought that we would have him sleep on the couch, but when he arrived and as I was about to explain to him the sleeping arrangements I had a though, what would a mexican do if they had me in their home.  They are so hospitable, and so I offered him my bed and I slept on the couch for the few nights he was there.  Late, on the night before we was to go home, we even got to play some Super Smash Bros together and I had tons of fun while my roommates laughed to here me jeering and crying out in Spanish while playing the video game.  Overall it was a wonderful week that really brought me back.  I had forgotten how much I had missed it.  I need to make sure that I have a good Spanish conversation at least once per week.

But one of the best parts of this experience was the chance that I had to send a note back with Beto to give to my host family.  I wrote about some of the experiences that we had shared together, including some of my lingual mistakes and crazy stories.  I had a little section addressed to each of them wherein I addressed some of the special times we had shared and asked questions about their lives and interests.  I am glad that I had that opportunity to remember them and the fun times that we had shared and, in a way, relive those moments with them.

I talked about the time I used completely incorrect words to apologize for the broken tile on their staircase.  I mentioned the teeth-brushing dance parties that I tried to instigate with my younger sisters, and the times where we shared favorite songs with each other.  I reminded them about how I was the most chicken of them all and didn't like watching all the scary movies that they like.  I assured them that I am still an avid superhero lover and a kid at heart.  I asked the kids about the games that they play and the friends that they had.  I, unfortunately, forgot to mention Psycho, their dog - a huge Rottweiler puppy that had absolutely no self control, haha, I would always say that he is psycho, and his name is Psycho too.  It was great to be able to reminisce about the summer while I wrote the letter to them.

I was happy to receive this notice on Facebook from Hermana Navarro the following Monday: 

"Querido ben ayer me hiciste llorar pero de felicidad, gracias por acordarte de nosotros, te amamos mucho y nos da gusto que estes feliz en tus estudios. me entregaron tu carta al empezar el sacramental y ya sabras todos querian saber que decia, daira,saul,etc... asi que la tuve que guardarl y al estar en la comida la saque y la lehi,nos reimos,te extrañamos,etc, etc, ojala pronto puedas venir te prometo hacer rica comida y claro montañas hawaianas,ja,ja,ja, te mando un abrazo con mucho cariño de parte de todos."

I'm so glad that I get to stay in contact with my host family.  They have become a special part of my life.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Post-Field-Study: The Effect of Retrospect

It has now been several months since I have returned from my muse-ful experience in Mexico, and it has certainly been interesting to see those three months in retrospect.  As I look back in this very blog I found a list of what I was hoping that I would accomplish during my time in Mexico.  Here is a link to that post:

But, to sum up, my main goals were as follows:
1. Learn Spanish
2. Collect "Pioneer of the Faith" stories
3. Get to know the Mexican culture
4. Build lasting friendships

As I look back I can see that I was able to accomplish, or at least get underway, each of those goals.  I still have a lot of work to do in improving my Spanish skills, but I took the dreaded "Oral Proficiency Interview" and scored an "Advanced Low," meaning that I have about the language skills of a returned missionary, and that I can hold a conversation easily with native speakers.  I still make mistakes, and have a lot to learn, but I would consider myself conversationally fluent.

I also did collect a lot of great stories! It was a great experience to be able to talk to the members of the LDS church about how they or their families met and joined the church.  I still have all these stories, and sharing them will be another goal for another time all together (transcription in a foreign language takes FOR-EV-ER!) but I have started and in fact have another blog where I posted just a few short stories so far.  Be warned- they are in Spanish.  Here is the link to that blog:

As for the last two goals, I was able to get a lot of experience with Mexican culture, eating the food, learning the idioms (and the double entendres behind them), and just getting a feel for Mexican life.  Obviously three months is not nearly enough time to gain an accurate representation of what it means to be a Mexican, especially for a tall, white, gringo with an accent, but I have learned a lot that I didn't know before and done a lot that I never had before, and this experience has given me a lot to think about, especially in that retrospective light.  There is a sense that if I don't hold on dearly to these things, small in number though they may be, that they will slip from me like a dream.  I do NOT want this to happen.  Mexico has become a part of who I am.  Because of this, my final project will be an essay about how my experiences in Mexico have shaped who I am, and changed me for the better.  More on this later.

As for the final goal, I am glad that I can say that I have made several friends during my stay in Mexico, and that I am still in contact with quite a few of them.  Most importantly, I feel, is my host family.  I miss them often and I wish I could go back and visit.  I'm so glad that I was able to have this experience with them, that they were so kind to share their home, food, and lives with me.  We still talk, but I am really looking forward to seeing them again in person.

Well, that's a quick update.  More to come later on that effect of this retrospective thought!


Monday, July 2, 2012

Meta Reality in a Business Analogy

These past few weeks seem to really have been flying by.  They've been filled with interviews completed, surveys passed out, YSA activities, and surveys never returned (sort of the frustrating part) but the project is moving forward.  I have just a few more interviews to do, but I'm hoping to start planning the final project this week.  I want to get my introduction written and have an outline for the rest of it, that way I can simply fill in the stories of the members as they come.  I hope to be able to get this project enough underway that the members will be able to continue it after I leave. It is, after all, their project and not mine; I am just the initiator of it.  I also have this crazy idea that I will upload my project to the internet, that way the members here can all get online and write their own stories and it can become a virtual database of inspiring, personal, and local stories about members of the Irapuato stake.

It's hard to believe that I already have been in Mexico for 2 months, and during this time I have learned a lot.  I have learned, mostly, about the difficulties of undertaking a field study.  Working alone in a foreign country with a language that you are still learning has its many challenges.  I know that I'm not supposed to come home from my field study and talk about what I learned about myself, but I definitely have been learning a lot about how important it is to know yourself in order to work well and productively.  I think that we sometimes forget that when we work alone we don't really work alone, but with ourselves, and it is important to remember to treat ourselves well as we work towards our goals.  In our daily field journals we kind of need to be Sherlock Holmes in order to view not just those around us, but the reasons and patterns that we ourselves follow.  I think I explained this concept well in my field notes the other day by comparing my field study to a business:

Today I realized something interesting, and that is that a field study
is like a one-man company.  Not only am I all the workers in all the
different departments (office boy, interviewer, clerk, etc) but I am
also in charge of planning for the future, of productivity, of HR,
employee morale, and customer satisfaction.  I am every employee and every
boss.  The trick is being a good boss to yourself, and giving your
best work as an employee.  Just as a good boss needs to treat his
employees well and show that he or she loves them, so I need to do so
with myself, and, in like kind, I need to reciprocate that by being a
good, hard-working and dependable employee.  It really is a rather
interesting analogy which, if I can master, can bring me light years
ahead of where I currently am not only in productivity, but also in
understanding myself and how I work with myself and others.  Hmm, if I
can learn how to teach myself, then I will be much better at teaching
others.  If I can love and lead myself, then I will have so much more
of an understanding and a preparation to be able to do so with others.

Now to apply some of these findings and get to work getting to know better the language and the people here.  My next blog post should incorporate some of what I have learned from the application of this knowledge, and, hopefully, talk a little more about the actual progress of the project that I came here to do.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Guanajuato and Project Perspective

Guanajuato is amazing!  This past weekend we went to visit Guanajuato, and I've never been in a more romantic/ cool looking city.  I love cities that are built on hilltops, so that you can see all the houses and different neighborhoods spread across the valleys and hills.  Below the city is an intricate tunnel system of roads and free parking for University students.  Above the ground, around the hills and between the markets and museums lies a network of callejones, or little pathways paved with cobblestones.  Of all the streets and callejones in the city, nearly half of them have a specific story and a special history.

Our first night there we were taken around on a guided tour of the most romantic parts of the city (including El Callejón del Beso) by a callejoneada, or Mariachi Band.  They sang cultural songs, told stories and jokes and provided great entertainment.  At the beginning of the tour the all had us promise to ourselves that we would leave behind any worries and have a good time, and that we did.  That is to say, we did until we got home that night and ate the pizza that we had bought on the street.  We were up all night... I'll leave it at that.

The next day we went to see the mummies of Guanajuato, and they had one mummy there that had only passed away in 2001.  There is a unique phenomenon in the soil there that causes the bodies to mummify quicker than anywhere else in the world.  Before and after the mummies we just went exploring/window shopping.  I got a painting of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza and a sweet fadora, which I am pretty excited about.  I also found a luchador mask that was Captain America themed!

In our group meeting this week Tanner and Yvette were able to get some really great ideas to get their projects moving, but I still felt that my project was rather stagnant.  However, after talking with Tanner and Jonny on different bus rides I felt first, by Tanner, inspired to re-think my project, and second, by Jonny, to further the idea that I had of a collection of conversion stories.  I might even be able to hold a fireside at the end of July and present some of my information to the stake and have a bunch of these pamphlets full of conversion stories that I will pass out for free.  

Thinking about these pamphlets made me realize that I wanted it to be the collection of conversion stories, and thinking about the conversion stories, and with some help from Jonny, I was able to not only find new purpose in my project but to find new methods to collect my data.  I may not even need to have a whole lot of interviews if I can find other ways to have the members share their conversion stories with me.  I want to re-write the encuesta that I pass out each week to a different ward, and I want to encourage the members to even type of their stories and email them to me – anything that I can do to increase the amount of stories that I can share.  In the front of the pamphlet I also would like to share my testimony and what I hope that my pamphlet will do.  I want to aim for 30 stories.

Monday, May 28, 2012

A Few Weeks In

Wow.  Mexico sure is great.  These past few weeks have been very interesting indeed, and I've been able to spend them kind of just getting used to Mexico.  Several really cool things have happened since I have arrived...

I find that I am understanding a lot more and my Spanish is improving (YAY!!!).  I make sure that I am reading in Spanish every day (El Libro de Mormon, Harry Potter y El Prisonero de Azkaban, lo que sea) and what helps a lot is just being able to get out and talk with people.  This helps my comprehension as well as my speaking capability.  Some days are better than others and at times it is hard to express myself, but I'm trying to have patience and inasmuch as I have done so I am beginning to see that I really have been getting quite better.

I have gotten to meet a lot of cool people.  Joshua and that family that I mentioned before with the book store have proven to be great "gatekeepers," meaning that they have opened doors for me in the community.  They live right in the middle of town so whenever I need to know where I can do something or need a place to sit and think for a while they are there for me.  I have almost become part of the family there as well.  Joshua and I are great friends, and Carmen, the mother, and I really get along.  The other day I was just walking into the shop when Carmen was walking out to go and pick up her niece from school.  She asked if I wanted to come along so I did.  We picked up her niece and went shopping and just spent time together.  I am beginning to learn that spending time together (especially if their is food) is an important part of the culture here.  What a wonderful cultural aspect.  I wish that things in the US were more like that.

They are also good friends with Martin, a history expert at the museum across the street whose job is basically just to help college students with their research.  Martin has been extremely helpful so far because even though he doesn't have information concerning the LDS church, he has tons of information concerning the history of the state of Guanajuato.  This is great because for my classes I need to be read quite a bit about the history of the area here, and because Martin has provided me with so much, I basically can choose to read about the things that most interest me.

I also have gotten a good start to my project.  I have completed two interviews so far which have helped me think more about how my project is going to work methodologically.  I decided to create a survey for members to fill out if they have interest in the project, and through this manner I will be able to get contact information for those who have an interest and are willing to share more, possibly in an interview.  What is more is I will be able to prepare more individualized questions for the interview based off of the information they provided in the surveys.  I started passing them out yesterday in one of the wards and they were way more popular than I anticipated.  I still have several wards to go to, but I can't wait to start getting back some of these surveys and really getting to work on the project.

All in all, I have really been enjoying my time here.  The only real problem that I have had is that sometimes I have been having a hard time getting out and about to get things done.  I always have course work I can do at home and it is tempting to stay inside out of the sun, but I also love just getting out and talking to people.  I have taken some time to get settled and to figure things out, and I want to be better at getting out and making things happen.  I feel like I have the tools that I need, and tengo muchas ganas de estar en trabajo y tener éxito (I'm excited to get to work and start seeing things happen).


Friday, May 4, 2012

¡Que Simpáticos Son!

They are so nice here!

I have only been in Mexico for 4 days now, but I am quite "whelmed" as to how nice they are here, indeed it may be said that I am "over"whelmed with joy because of it =) Everyone is super helpful.  In my prep-course they talked about the different stages of culture shock, being the honeymoon stage (everything is new and interesting here) the irritation phase (things should be like they are at home) the adjustment phase (just like it sounds) and the bi-cultural stage (Yay, I love both places!).  Besides a little bit yesterday when I was feeling slightly sick (all good now =) ) I have definitely been in the honeymoon stage, and I hope to keep the two middle stages as short-lasting as possible.

So, cool things... I already I have made several friends... we went to go see The Avengers on Wednesday and while waiting in line I met a family just as excited to see it as me (which is saying something, I brought my captain america shirt solely for that movie). They were excited to meet me because Felipe was really tall, but not as tall as me.  We´ve become friends and should meet up sometime to practice our Spanish and English respectively.

Today after the others left for the Racheritos I went and ate a huge lunch of delicious rice, beans, and puerco in a picante sauce, complete with lime and onions and everything authentic. I filled myself up for like $2.40 USD! Then went and spent an hour in the Museum of the City of Irapuato learning about the history and the culture here. I love museums and could spend tons of time alone in each. On the way back towards my apartment I decided to stop in a "libreria" (bookstore) and the guy behind the counter was playing guitar, so after talking for a bit he let me play his guitar (we both love the band Coldplay). We were talking and I mentioned my project about the history of the LDS Church in Irapuato, and he told me he had a friend who was Mormon... which happened to be one of the few people that I know so far in my 2 day stay in Irapuato. Long story short, we´re going to get together to play guitar, platicar (chat, converse), and help each other learn each other´s languages.

On my way home I saw a little girl asking for her dad to pick a flower from a high tree, I asked if they wanted help and helped them choose a good one. I met the whole family there in el centro and they were just so kind and talked with me for a while.

What a great place this is.

Basically, I´m seeing every sign that everything I hoped for and more will come to me in these few months in Mexico.  Each day I am learning more Spanish... the more I come to know the members here the easier my project seems to be able to complete... with every person that I meet I am reminded of how kind and hospitable these people are... the city is beautiful... I love spanish music and food.

Todo me trata bién =)